Posted in Balanchine, ballet, Boston Ballet is 50 years old, Jorma Elo

Thank you, Boston Ballet for Visiting

The Boston Ballet brought their 50th year party to Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater with two alternating programs of varied masterworks. The oldest choreography was from the Vaslav Nijinsky oeuvre, and the newest from José Martinez which had its world premiere at their home in February of this year.

The Boston Ballet’s rendering of George Balanchine’s “Symphony in Three Movements” is as perky and fresh of face as the expert youngsters in the company. The dancers are skilled; their presentation is precise and fluid. In a beautifully executed version of the Balanchine classic, John Lam is a standout.
Also commendable are the orchestra, under the leadership of conductor Jonathan McPhee, whose vigorous performance of the Igor Stravinsky score contributed to a magnificent production.

The wildly theatrical Nijinsky “Afternoon of a Faun” is brought to life by Altan Dugaraa’s marvellous titular beast. The costumes and sets by Leon Bakst hearken to the lavish original. 

Resident choreographer, Jorma Elo fashioned “Plan to B” for the Boston Ballet in 2004 (a year before he took up his residency.) It is a powerful and exciting work set to the music of Heinrich von Biber.

“The Second Detail,” set to the electronic pulses of Thom Willems, has a rehearsal atmosphere at once casual and formalistic. The troupe, as always, gives a superb performance of the complicated movements.

José Martinez contributes a very classic and classy piece, set to Liszt and played by solo pianos (Alex Foaksman and Frieda Locker) with the music coming from both sides of the stage. “Resonance” is simply gorgeous to hear and watch.

In Boston? Visit the Boston Ballet website,  for tickets. For more about the history of the company, see their Wikipedia listing. 

Posted in comedy, George Morfogen, Gus Kaikkonen, James Riordan, Jules Romains, Mitch Greenberg, Price Johston, Roger Hanna, scam, The Mint Theatre, timely

The Mistaken Country

There is something about the lure of the unknown that will turn men into adventurers.

James Riordan in “Donogoo” by Jules Romains. Directed
by Gus Kaikkonen
at The Mint. Photo: Richard Termine

“Donogoo,” at the Mint Theater through July 27th, is a tale of greed, mistaken geography, and the triumph of the imagination. Jules Romains’ delightful play originally opened in 1930 to great acclaim, saving the floundering Théâtre Pigalle from dissolution. 

Land speculation, gold fever, all roads lead to Donogoo Tonka, an error that turns into a scam. Benin (the superb Mitch Greenberg) plucks a suicidal Lamendin (James Riordan, who is fantastic) back to life. At the direction of the quack psychologist Miguel Rufesque (George Morfogen) to whom Benin sends him, Lamendin seeks out a stranger,  Le Trouhadec (the ever versatile Morfogen again), a disgraced geographer, to assist.

Le Trouhadec’s discovery, the lost city of Donogoo Tonka  may not exist. Lamendin sees an opportunity.With the help of a questionably honest banker, Margajat (Ross Bickell in top form), Lamendin forms a stock company to develop the mineral-rich city and its environs. Shareholders (Megan Robinson, playing all the women in the play, and Kraig Swartz, among them) begin to question the existence of Donogoo, but prospectors have already begun to turn the fiction into a reality.Le Trouhadec is vindicated.

The translation by Gus Kaikkonen, who also directs with a deft delicacy, is impeccable and elegant. The applause the sets, by Roger Hanna, and special effects, by Hanna with Price Johnston, elicit are well-merited. The exceptional ensemble are all in perfect step, doing justice to the material’s subtle and satiric humor. Among these standouts, Scott Thomas as Joseph, the sensible pioneer, catches the eye.

“Donogoo” is seriously funny, with a sharp and sincere wit. And this production is terrific.
The Mint Theater doesn’t just “find lost plays,” it uncovers their relevance.

For tickets and to learn more about “Donogoo,” visit The Mint’s website.

Posted in Bloom's day, Irish theatre, James Joyce, Malachy McCourt, Origins Theatre Company, Sean Mahon

What does June 16th mean to you?

There are just 198 days that follow to the end of the year. 

Thorsten Pohl Thpohl – Own work

But, the significance of June 16th to the lit. crowd is that in 1924 James Joyce declared it to be Bloomsday. June 16, 1904 is the date of the events in his very long novel “Ulysses” and the day is named for its protagonist Leopold Bloom. 

June 16, 2014 Origin’s First Bloom at Bloom’s Taven of course.
Photo by Jimmy Higgins.

Bloomsday, or for the Irish purists, Lá Bloom, is most often commemmorated with readings from the novel. In the interest of full disclosure and total honesty, I will admit that what I know of the work is from NPR’s presentation of the annual Symphony Space event. 

Origin Theatre Company, a New York City “gateway for European playwrights,” hosted its first ever Lá Bloom at the new midtown tavern aptly named Bloom’s. The bar provided an excellent full Irish breakfast and 7:30am mimosas served by a friendly staff; costumed actors greeted arrivals with flowers and flower petals. 

Malachy McCourt, gracious and charming, was on hand to kick off the readings. He chose a passage about Hell from Joyce’s “The Governors” but tweaking tradition is a lovely thing to do.  Ireland’s soon to be ex-Consul General, Noel Kilkenny told of his role in interpreting “Ulysses” for a Chinese translation long ago. Actors including Conor MacNeill (currently on Broadway in the “The Cripple of Inishmaan”), Sean Mahon (who starred on Broadway in “The Seafarer” and “The 39 Steps” and is featured in the film “Philomena”), Jo Kinsella (“For Love,” and the Irish Rep’s “Dancing at Lughnasa”) performed their Joycean catechisms with the joy befitting the day.

Here’s to the second annual Origin Bloomsday! A resounding chorus of what was dubbed “Origin’s First Bloom, at Bloom’s Tavern, of course” rang out at the festivities.

Learn more about the Origin Theatre Company by going to their website, Bloom’s Tavern is located at 208 East 58th Street, and on the web at

Posted in Allison Case, Bryce Ryness, Fly By Night, Kim Rosenstock, Michael McCormick, musical, musical theater, Peter Friedman

Under a starry sky

Patti Murin and Bryce Ryness
as Joey Storms in “Fly By
Photo by Joan Marcus
Henry Stram and Allison Case as
Miriam in a scene from “Fly By
at Playwrights Horizons.
Photo by Joan Marcus.
Adam Chanler-Berat as Harold,
Patti Murin as Daphne in
“Fly By Night.” Photo by
Joan Marcus.

Patti Murin and Allison Case
in a scene from “Fly By Night.”
Photo by Joan Marcus

Like the stars in big city skies, things are sometmes lost when the bright lights are found or turned on.

In “Fly By Night,” a musical at Playwrights Horizons through June 29th, two sisters from South Dakota find themselves under the bright lights of New York City.

It’s almost always better to be shown than told, so the early appearance of the Narrator (Henry Stram) in “Fly By Night” was cause for pause. No need to have worried. “Fly By Night” is for the most part a touchingly funny and lovely musical play. The ending (partial spoiler alert) is however a downer.

Miriam (Allison Case) reluctantly accompanies her sister Daphne (Patti Murin) in her quest for stardom. In New York City, Daphne meets Harold (Adam Chanler-Berat,) a sandwich maker with a guitar. Daphne also meets Joey Storms (Bryce Ryness,) a playwright determined to make her his muse. The triangle is squared off when Miriam meets Harold.

The story, conceived by Kim Rosenstock,who wrote it in collaboration with Will Connolly and Michael Mitnick, is part boy meets grils, and part “My Sister Eileen.” 

“Fly By Night” treads delicately over serious even sad themes. These include ambition, or the lack of it, achievement, and acceptance.

Oddly since this is a musical, the music goes unbilled  “Fly By Night.” We note that co-author Will Connolly is a musician and make the leap that he should be creditied with the music. The musical director, conductor and on-stage keyboardist is Vadim Feichtner, who leads Foe Destroyer (the band) with Chris McQueen on electric guitar, Daniel Garcia on bass guitar and keyboard, and Cade Sadler on drums and acoustic guitar.

Adam Chanler-Berat’s goofy charm makes his feckless Harold alluring. As Miriam, Allison Case is perfectly fidgety and uncertain, while her voice soars. Standing out is tough when the whole cast shines as it does here, but Bryce Ryness is wonderful as Joey Storms, the writer with too much to say. The veteran Michael McCormick, playing Harold’s boss Crabbie, gets a chance to strut his stuff in “Fly By Night” as well. There are a few too many eleven o’clock numbers, but thankfully Mr. McClam (Peter Friedman) gets his in and it’s a doozy.

So often, too many authors spoil the plot, but here three seems a good balance. “Fly By Night” is a musical about fate and the stars that, like its stars, is very appealing.

Visit Playwrights Horizons to learn more about “Fly By Night,” and to check for tickets.

Posted in A Gentleman's Guide Audra McDonald, Bryan Cranston, Bryce Pinkham, Carole King, Hugh Jackman, Idina Menzel, Jefferson Mays, Jessie Mueller, Kelli O'Hara, Neil Patrick Harris, The Tony Awards, Tyne Daly

Give yourself a BEST for a great Tony Ceremony

(L-R) Jefferson Mays as Henry D’Ysquith, Jennifer Smith, and Bryce Pinkham as Monty Navarro in a scene from 2014’s Tony winning Best Musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Walter Kerr Theater.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

The 2014 Tony Awards show walks away with a BIG Best! Imaginative, creative, entertaining–this was a Tony telecast that reflects the best of the theater it is honoring.

The June 8th broadcast of the 68th Tony Award presentation showcased future Broadway, and shows not in contention like “Cabaret” and a song from the 10th anniversary of “Wicked.”

Hugh Jackman’s skills and charm were so effervescently on display at the ceremonies. He sings, he dances, he patters, he flirts, he raps, Hugh Jackman is really a superhero. We are grateful that while he kicks butt as Wolverine, his heart belongs to Broadway, and on June 8th, he gave it full-out.

The deserving Jessie Mueller won as Best Actress in a musical for her portrayal of Carole King in “Beuatiful…” and had a chance to sing with King at the Tonys! I did not see this award coming, not because Jessie Mueller is not terrific, but because I was self-bamboozled into believing that “If/Then” would not be left out to dry. My prediction for a win for Idina Menzel did not come to pass, and I was also wrong about “Act One” getting the Best Play win.

“If/Then,” despite Menzel’s fans, will probably not survive their complete lack of Tony cred. “Act One” has announced it’s final week closing on June 15th, despite the set designer Beowulf Boritt’s 2014 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Play.

During the broadcast, “Bullets Over Broadway,” which also had no wins, and was not nominated in the Best Musical category, and “Rocky” (ditto) each had their shining moments showing off their best stuff on the big Radio City Music Hall stage. “If/Then” depended on a solo from Idina Menzel to pitch their show, and I’m afraid that wasn’t compelling enough to give it the oomph it needs to keep on chugging on the Great White Way, though they are still selling through October 12th.

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”— no surprise there with 10 nominations– got the big prize: It is officially the Best Musical of 2014 with “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” getting Best for Revival of a Musical.
Neil Patrick Harris, amazing as always, won as Best Actor in a Musical.

Also unsurprising was Bryan Cranston’s win for Best Actor in a Play for his performance as LBJ in Robert Schenkkan’s “All The Way,” which edged out the aforementioned “Act One” as Best Play of 2014.

Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” still has not won a Tony, and the Best Play Revival went to “A Raisin in the Sun.” Sophie Okonedo, playing Ruth Younger in the revival, won as Best Featured Actress in a play, an award that Audra McDonald got in the 2004 revival.  McDonald won her 6th Tony on June 8th for embodying Billie Holliday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.”