Posted in Annie Get Your Gun, Cole Porter, Mary Martin, Noel Coward, Oklahoma, Peter Pan, Rodgers and Hammerstein, The York Theatre Company, TV

Remembering Peter Pan

Mary Martin immortalized the boy who wouldn’t grow up when her Peter Pan flew across television screens in a televised broadcast in 1955, 1956 and 1960 of her Broadway hit.

Emily Skinner, Lynne Halliday, and Cameron Adams in the York Theatre Company world premiere production of the new musical revue, Inventing Mary Martin, conceived, written and directed by Stephen Cole, with music supervision and arrangements by David Krane, co-direction and choreography by Bob Richard and music direction by Lawrence Goldberg. The cast also features Jason Graae with Bob Renino on bass and Perry Cavari on drums. Now in performance through May 25 at York Theatre Company’s home at Saint Peters. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.

“Inventing Mary Martin,” a world premiere conceived, written and directed by Stephen Cole, is a musical revue about the titular star’s career.  The York Theatre production, through May 25th also touches lightly on her life. Mary Martin went from a small Texas town to Hollywood and on to Broadway and London stages. She was the toast of the town in any number of hits. 
Cameron Adams and Jason Graae in the York Theatre Company world premiere production of the new musical revue, Inventing Mary Martin, conceived, written and directed by Stephen Cole, with music supervision and arrangements by David Krane, co-direction and choreography by Bob Richard and music direction by Lawrence Goldberg. The cast also features Lynne Halliday and Emily Skinner with Bob Renino on bass and Perry Cavari on drums. Now in performance through May 25 at York Theatre Company’s home at Saint Peters. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.


Of course, she also had her share of misses, most famously in passing on the musical which came to be named “Oklahoma.”  
Emily Skinner, Lynne Halliday, Cameron Adams and Jason Graae in the York Theatre Company world premiere production of the new musical revue, Inventing Mary Martin, conceived, written and directed by Stephen Cole, with music supervision and arrangements by David Krane, co-direction and choreography by Bob Richard and music direction by Lawrence Goldberg. Now in performance through May 25 at York Theatre Company’s home at Saint Peters. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.

The talented cast recreating some of the songs along Mary Martin’s path include Cameron Adams, who sings and taps to perfection, Jason Graae as host and narrator, Lynne Halliday, and Emily Skinner. The latter is tasked with singing “Swatting the fly,” the big number from the show Martin, and her husband Richard Halliday, chose for her instead of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s iconic show. 
Emily Skinner in the York Theatre Company world premiere production of the new musical revue, Inventing Mary Martin, conceived, written and directed by Stephen Cole, with music supervision and arrangements by David Krane, co-direction and choreography by Bob Richard and music direction by Lawrence Goldberg. The cast also features Cameron Adams, Jason Graae, and Lynne Halliday with Bob Renino on bass and Perry Cavari on drums. Now in performance through May 25 at York Theatre Company’s home at Saint Peters. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.

The musical arrangements, by David Krane, of classic tunes by the likes of Noel Coward, Cole Porter, and so forth, are delivered by an  off-stage trio, led by Lawrence Goldberg on the piano, with Perry Cavari on percussion and Bob Renino on bass. 

“Inventing Mary Martin” is a tuneful and well-sung remembrance of the much-awarded star that informs rather than engages. 

For more information about “Inventing Mary Martin,” and the York Theatre Company, please visit  http://www.yorktheatre.org.
Posted in Anthony Rapp, Brian Yorkey, Idina Menzel, Kinky Boots, LaChanze, Michael Grief, moving musical drama, Pippin, Tom Kitt

If, then …The Tonys

We are still catching up with the 2013 Tony winners here at T and B On The Aisle. A case in point:  http://tbontheaisleatheaterdiary.blogspot.com/2014/04/matilda-is-just-right.html. Another is “Pippin,” winner as the best musical revival of 2013, along with Andrea Martin for a supporting role, and the extraordinary Patina Miller for “Best Actress in a Musical.” “Pippin” is still at the Music Box, but Patina Miller has moved on, replaced by Ciara Renee as the coyly named “Leading Player.” It’s likely that strongmen and circus acts were more revolutionary theatricalities in the 1972 original Broadway production in which Ben Vereern starred. Pippin, himself, is a silly twit overly impressed with his exceptionalism, and well-played by Kyle Dean Massey (in the current cast). He lacks the naive charm of, say, Candide, but Annie Potts is charming as his acrobatic grandmother.

Billy Porter, Daniel Stewart Sherman, and Marcus Neville (right) Photo (c) Matthew Murphy

On the other hand, “Kinky Boots” fulfills the razzmatazz its many Tony statuettes promised. Billy Porter, its rags to riches–or chorus to leading man at any rate, star is as fresh and peppy in his award winning role as Lola as if he hadn’t been doing this for over  year.  “Kinky Boots,” with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper 2013 Tony,) and a book by Harvey Fierstein at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, is a lively heart-warming joyful musical extravaganza.

Idina Menzel center with cast of “If/Then” from the creative team of Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Here we are in 2014, however so let’s put Idina Menzel at the top of the slate of Tony possibles in the bifurcated role of Liz/Beth, along with her quirky sometimes confusing show, “If/Then,” from the creative team of Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics) and Tom Kitt (music.) (Note that Kitt and Yorkey and Menzel are nominees, but the show did not make the cut. That’s a shame.)

LaChanze and Anthony Rapp in a scene from “If/Then.”
Photo by Joan Marcus.

“If/Then,” at the Richard Rodgers Theatre,  is about choice, chance, fate, happenstance, and possibility. It’s also thought-provoking and dynamic. Anthony Rapp, as Lucas, Liz/Beth’s best friend and maybe lover, is charmingly annoying, but in a good way. LaChanze is perky and positive as the accepting and open Kate.

Tamika Lawrence, Jenn Colella, LaChanze and Idina Menzel.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

Idina Menzel is a fierce and resolute performer; certainty pours out with every line and each note. These qualities add to the interest of her role as the vacillating Liz/Beth– two women in one. In “If/Then,” each path she might take is fully played out. The choices are all laid out for her and us.

Jerry Dixon, Ann Sanders and Idina Menzel. Photo by Joan Marcus.

One of these paths has Liz marry the hunky and handsome Josh (James Snyder,) whom she meets by chance at a park and runs into on a subway. The other has Beth flirting with her boss, Steve (Jerry Dixon.)

It’s a nice touch that she is a city planner, designing the pathways for so many lives in the big city. “If/Then” is an unapologetically urban, New York City centric musical drama. It’s smart, well-paced, –under the very able direction of Michael Grief–, beautifully designed–with a truly novel and delightful set by Mark Wendland–, wonderfully acted by a large, tight ensemble. It is also unlike any other musical play.

If I hadn’t seen it, Then I would have missed an exciting theatrical experience. Michael Grief does everything he can to clarify the dichotomies of the script. Pay close attention, but don’t overthink it. Enjoy  “If/Then” for the wonderful ride it is.

For more information about “If/Then,” please visit http://www.ifthenthemusical.com/. Also see my Tony predictions at VP (now The Wright Wreport), and here at TandB.

Posted in genetic illness, Jones, Marisa Tomei, Michael C. Hall, Sam Gold, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts, Will Eno

A funny thing happened when we met our new neighors

Terminal illness is seldom a punchline.

Except in Will Eno’s new drama, “The Realistic Joneses,” at the Lyceum Theatre through July 6th, where it is. “The Realistic Joneses,” is the playwright’s Broadway debut, and it features a starry cast.

This very funny drama has a very funky plot. The Joneses, John (Michael C. Hall) and Pony (Marisa Tomei) have moved in down the block from Jennifer (Toni Collette) and Bob (Tracy Letts) Jones. The new neighborrs drop in on a beautiful quiet night. Over the course of several encounters around town, it is clear that John is suffering from the same uncommon genetic disease that Bob has.

Michael C. Hall and Marisa Tomei as the new neighbors, John and Pony.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

If Eno has a point, it is buried in the diurnal rhythms of his play. Yes, despite its outlandishness, life in “The Realistic Joneses” seems very normal. A thin– more like a whisper of a– story doesn’t suggest much but an opportunity for crackling good talk and a slice of real life ordinariness.

Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, and Tracy Letts as Jennifer,
John and Bob. Photo by Joan Marcus.

All the revelatons in “The Realistic Joneses” come with terrifically snappy dialogue, delivered with a suave ease by an expert cast. Sam Gold’s direction keeps the scenes moving, and the sparkling wit flowing. Michael C. Hall’s quip-cracking John is expecially wonderful– maybe because he has all the best lines. Tracy Letts, the 2013 Tony Award recipient for Best Actor, is also especillay wry in his deliveries.The women of the quartet in “The Realistic Joneses” are natural and comfortable in the strange circumstances of the play.

“The Realistic Joneses” is a most entertaining and amusing tragedy you are ever likely to see.

For more information on “The Realistic Joneses,” visit http://www.therealisticjoneses.com.

Posted in Audra McDonald, Billie Holliday, drugs and drink, Jimmy Sonny Monroe, Lady Day, Philadelphi, Tony-worthy performance

A Blues Gardenia

Is there anything sadder than watching a great talent squander her gifts?

The image of Billie Holiday near her end staggering around a small bar in Philidelphia, distrubed playwright Laine Robertson so that “writing Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill was an attempt to rid myself of the ghost.”

It may have freed Ms. Robertson, but the ghost lives on at Circle in the Square where Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill plays through August 10th.

There is no joy in watching Billie Holliday (Audra McDonald) stumble around the stage.

Audra McDonald is “Lady Day.” Photo
by  Evgenia Eliseeva

By March of 1959 when she performed at Emerson’s Bar & Grill in Philadelphia, Billie Holiday had lost a good deal to her addictions. A felony conviction for possession of heroine cost her her cabaret license so she could no longer perform at clubs in New York. She spent nearly a year in a West Virginia penitentiary.

In 1948, after her release from prison, friends had arranged a Carnegie Hall appearance for her; although Lady Day was uncomfortable in white-run venues and toney spots, she sold out Carnegie Hall and gave it her best, singing 32 standards and her own repertoire, including her 1930’s hit “Strange Fruit.”

The pleasure in this play is watching as Audra McDonald turns herself into the embittered, nearly beaten Lady Day. Audra McDonald is nowhere to be found or seen in this performance. Her acting is a totally self-effacing feat; she disappears into the character. Abused, self-loathing and completely self-destructive, Billie Holiday still did not consider singing the blues. “I’m a jazz singer,” Lady Day says.
“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” is a one woman show with support from Shelton Becton who plays Jimmy Powers, Lady’s piano player and apologist. Clayton Craddock is on drums with George Farmer playing the bass in the three piece band backing Billie Holiday.

For more information about “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” please visit http://ladydayonbroadway.com/

Posted in Bullets over Broadway, Cinderella, Mamma Mia, news from the rialto, Phantom, Susan Stroman, Thursday is matinee day, Woody Allen

Broadway Melodies

Broadway welcomes the Thursday matinee! At last.

When I was last in London a gazillion years ago, I was thrilled to have the chance to go to a Thursday matinee, as well as the usual Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday ones. One more outing in a week full of theater adventures. I always thought it was a great idea to spread out the matinees so binge goers, and out- of-towners eager to see whatever was on on the Great White Way could do more with their week in New York.

Three shows now offering you the Thursday option are “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” ”Mamma Mia!” and “The Phantom of the Opera.” ”Matilda the Musical” (reviewed with the current cast in these pages recently) may give the idea a try this summer.

“Cinderella” now features the enormously likeable Fran Drescher as the wicked stepmother. The infectious gaiety that is “Mamma Mia,” which is also playing Vegas as it happens, has recently moved to the Broadhurst Theatre on W44th Street. “The Phantom of the Opera” is celebrating more than 25 years at The Majestic.

“Phantom,” “Mamma Mia!,” “Rock Of Ages,” and “Chicago” have long also had Monday night curtains, another great way to extend the Broadway week.

Charlotte D’Amboise as Roxie Hart with Ryan Worsing and
Michael Cusumano in a production of “Chicago.” Photo by Jeremy Daniel

This show does not have a Thursday matinee, or a Monday night, so you’ll have to stick to one of the more traditional days to see “Bullets Over Broadway” which, by the way hits the bull’s eye.

“Bullets…,” based on the Woody Allen film from 1995, and written by Mr. Allen and Douglas McGrath (who also penned “Beautiful…”) starts off with a bang– in case you’re worried that you are in the wrong theater, a machine gun sprays the play’s title on the inside curtain– and doesn’t let up ’til the final curtain drops. The musical’s style rings in a little like “The Producers,” which Susan Stroman also famously directed and choreographed. Stroman’s signature dancing in unconventional locales has a tap chorus hoofing fiercely on top of the train headed for out-of-town tryouts.

In an impressive cast, Nick Cordero is a revelation as the soulful thug Cheech. Marin Mazzie gives her all as an egocentric star on the wane. This is a Tony-worthy performance.


“Bullets” does something that Broadway hasn’t done since the beginning of the last century, using standards and in a way that generally is not done– the tunes, by Cole Porter and others– move the story along and further the plot.

Visit http://cinderellaonbroadway.comhttp://mammamianorthamerica.comhttp://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/new-york to learn more about Thursday matinees, or any other day you’d care to catch them. Go to http://www.chicagothemusical.com/index.php to find out more about “Chicago.” For more information on “Bullets,” visit http://bulletsoverbroadway.com.

Posted in Barry Mann, Carole King, Cynthia Weil, Don Kirshnew, Gerry Goffin, Jake Epstein, Jessie Mueller, rock and roll, singer-songwriters, Tapestry, The Shirelles

#1 On The Charts

The “jukebox musical” is no longer a term of endearment. So it’s a good thing that the jukebox musical has found its way to the other side.

It doesn’t matter that few would have a bigger jukebox than Carole King because “Beautiful-The Carole King Musical,” at The Stephen Sondheim Theatre, is  actually a “non-jukebox” musical. “Beautiful” is a story, almost a drama with a track, that covers Carole King’s journey from hitmaker to hit singer-songwriter. It moves from  1650 Broadway (“not the Brill Building”) to the “Tapestry” album and her appearance at the piano at Carnegie Hall. It is biography so it sticks to a timeline. The songs don’t move the story along so much as they are the story.

Jeb Brown as Don Kirshner, Jake Epstein as Gerry Goffin,
Jessie Mueller as Carole King, Jarrod Spector as Barry Mann,
and Anika Larsen as Cynthia Weil in
“Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” on Broadway at
the Stephen Sondheim Theater (c)Joan Marcus

Carole King (Jessie Mueller) had her first chart topper in 1959, when, at 17 she and her husband, lyricist Gerry Goffin (Jake Epstein), gave The Shirelle’s a huge hit in “Will You Love Me Tommorrow.”  From there the hits just kept coming, until one day, years later, Carole King began singing and playing her own music.

Rock and roll did not die, but as Gerry Goffin predicted, it changed under the influence of folk and split off into all kinds of pop and crackle from The Monkees to metal. For many practitioners in the medium, rock and roll went deeper and became more expressive than “The Locomoton” (another King-Goffin hit.)

Jessie Mueller as Carole King in “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”
on Broadway at the Stephen Sondheim Theater (c)Joan Marcus

“Beautiful” thoroughly integrates the music into the plot. “Beautiful” doesn’t take its legends too seriously. Jessie Mueller gets Carole King’s inflections and phrasing, but not just in a mimicky way.  It can’t be easy to personify Carole King when so mnay of us have known her so well and for so long. Jessie Mueller pulls this off as well. King has been a star for most of my life and much of hers, but she is not a glamourous presence. Mueller captures this too–, the simple girl whose genius is undisputed so that even she cannot deny it.

The Shirelles (L-R: Ashley Blanchet, Rashidra Scott, Alysha Deslorieux, and Carly Hughes) in “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” on Broadway at the Stephen Sondheim Theater (c)Joan Marcus

The excellent work by Jeb Brown as Don Kirshner and Jake Epstein as Gerry Goffin back Mueller up. Also outstanding in a great ensemble, under Marc Bruni’s fine direction, are Anika Larsen, charming as Cynthia Weil, and Jarrod Spector as Cynthia’s writing partner, Barry Mann.

“Beautiful- The Carole King Musical” steps out of the jukebox genre to deliver a moving portrait of its eponymous heroine, and the times in which her art was forged.

For more informaton about “Beautiful,” please visit http://www.beautifulonbroadway.com/.


Posted in AIDS crisis, Bobby Steggert, Fredeick Weller, guppies, Terrence McNally, Tyne Daly

What does moving on look like?

Bobby Steggert, Frederick Weller, Grayson Taylor, and Tyne
Daly in a scene from Terrence McNally’s “Mothers and
Sons,”
at the Golden Theatre. Photo © Joan Marcus

Loss can be a paralyzing experience.

In Terrence McNally’s “Mothers and Sons,” at the Golden Theatre, it is particularly difficult and the way forward is a slog.

It is more so for Katharine Gerard (Tyne Daly), the titular mother in this play, for whom the death of her son nearly twenty years ago remains a fresh wound.  She shows up at Cal Porter’s (Frederick Weller) door unbidden because he is her one connection to Andre. For Katharine, who is recently widowed, Andre was the only beacon of love in a bitter life.

Cal has not forgotten Andre but he has allowed himself some happiness. His sunnier present is with Will Ogden (Bobby Steggert) whose youth and disposition help them to make a home for their son Bud (Grayson Taylor).  The Ogden-Porters are guppies, an affluent gay family, something that was not even thought of while Andre was alive.

Frederick Weller as Cal and Tyne Daly as Katharine in a
scene from “Mothers and Sons.” Photo © Joan Marcus

Katharine did not expect this. She is a ramrod of indignation anger and vengeance. Andre’s death was cataclysmic. There should be no moving on. Cal has picked up the pieces as Katharine could not.

As Katharine, Tyne Daly is at once brittle and ascerbic. Wheeler’s mild-mannered Cal is the perfect foil for the hateful Katharine, whose grief is a heaviness that is only lifted in her very sweet and natural interactions with Bud.

Don’t shy from “Mothers and Sons” because it is a genuinely sad and moving play.  There is plenty of humor and wit to ease us along. The drama is well played by all the four principals, and well paced under Sheryl Kaller’s able direction, and well worth your time.

To learn more about “Mothers and Sons,” please visit http://mothersandsonsbroadway.com/.