Posted in #2015TonyNominations

The Overlooked

Airline Highway Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, Of the cast, only  K. Todd Freeman and Julie White were nominated for a Tony. David Zinn (Costume Design) and  Japhy Weideman (Lighting Design) were nominated as well.
Airline Highway
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, Of the cast, only
K. Todd Freeman
and Julie White were nominated for a Tony.
David Zinn (Costume Design) and
Japhy Weideman (Lighting Design)
were nominated as well.

Every year, we have the same complaints about the selections for the Tony Awards. Or more precisely, the plays and musicals the Tony committee left out from their lists.

Our objections are not to suggest that last year’s The Realistic Joneses (reviewed here) should have gotten Best Play honors. However, it should have made the list.

This year, the overlooked drama is Lisa D’Amour’s Airline Highway (our commentary here.) This vibrant piece should have been named in the Best Play category; it is superbly and stylishly presented with a set of a rundown motel in New Orleans that dramatically occupies the entire stage. Set designer, Scott Pask and director Joe Mantello both went unnominated.

Gigi, a revival that could have filled the fourth slot after On the Town and On the Twentieth Century, had only one nomination. We love Victoria Clark, the sole recipient of a Tony nod in Gigi, but what of Catherine Zuber’s luxurious costumes or Derek McLane’s lovely scenery? Gigi, an entertaining and all-around worthy production with a good cast,  was all but ignored by the Tony committee.

Clearly, not everyone wins in an Awards contest, but there should be moe runners on the field at the start. For instance, we are deeply committed to seeing a win for The King and I (see our review) for Best Musical Revival. We also favor The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time as the Best Play selection, as our commentary suggests.

Those toiling in theater play to a tough crowd eight times each week.We would just like to see their fine work get its due and hard-won acknowledgement.

For our Tony Double Jeopardy quiz and answers, visit http://wp.me/p5jq0w-sQ (Answers) and http://wp.me/p5jq0w-s5 (Jeopardy quiz) on this site. To see this critic’s Tony picks, please visit VevlynsPen.com

Posted in Tony Awards

Tony Double Jeopardy®**

 

3494He left the cast of Hamilton to star in this musical nominated for a Tony Best.

KevinDelAguila  and ChristianBorle Photo 1.(c)O&M Co.
KevinDelAguila and ChristianBorle Photo 1. (c)O&M Co.

He won a Tony for Peter and the Starcatcher and has a nomination for a supporting role in this Tony season.

He plays the Maurice Chevalier role to Victoria Clark’s Mamita now, but once upon a time, he was a “Phantom.”

He is a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and now is on stage at The Palace Theatre 8 shows a week.

Bomus Round:

This musical transferred from The Public Theater in time Tony nominations.

Second Bonus Round:

Kander and Ebb’s last collaboration finally reaches Broadway after taking a long circuitous route in out-of-town tryouts.

Find the answers at http://wp.me/p5jq0w-sQ

Watch the 2015 Tony Awards on Sunday, June 7th.

**Jeopardy® is a trademark for a game show invented by Merv Griffin.

Posted in 2015 Tony Awards

Tony Double Jeopardy®** Answers (or are they actually Questions?)

2. 3562Who is Brian d’Arcy James?
How many Tonys (out of its 10 nominations) will Something Rotten! win?

Will Brad Oscar and Christian Borle be speaking after June 7th?
Who is Christian Borle?

 

Who is Howard McGillin?
Why did the Tony committee ignore much of Gigi’s good qualities?

FairchildCopeBalletWho is Robert Fairchild?
Can An American in Paris win for Best Musical over Something Rotten!?

 

 

 

The family in "Fun Home." Photo by Joan Marcus.
The family in “Fun Home.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

Bonus Round:
What is Fun Home?
When will Hamilton open on Broadway?

 

 

Second Bonus Round

Chita Rivera and the cast of "The Visit." Photo Credit: Thom Kaine
Chita Rivera and the cast of “The Visit.” Photo Credit: Thom Kaine

What is The Visit?
Will Chita Rivera’s Clara prevail on Tony night, winning over the yet un-crowned Kelli O’Hara?

Watch the 2015 Tony Awards on Sunday, June 7th.

For the  Double Jeopardy quiz, go here: http://wp.me/p5jq0w-s5.

To see this critic’s Tony picks, please visit VevlynsPen.com

**Jeopardy® is a trademark for a game show invented by Merv Griffin.

 

 

Posted in musical, musical comedy, musical theater

Something with a breakfast theme

Brian d’Arcy James is having the time of his life.

In the context of Something Rotten!, at the St. James Theatre for what is destined to be a very long run, his jubiliation seems unwarranted.

1. 3566Nick Bottom, the character James so winniningly inhabits, is a failed playwright, who has lost the patronage of Lord Clapham (Peter Bartlett.)  Nick’s deep envy of Will Shakespeare’s (Christian Borle) meteoric success gnaws at him.

To help with the family finances, Nick’s wife Bea (Heidi Blickenstaff) disguises herself as a boy in order to work at menial labor. She says woman should be allowed to work; “it’s the ’90s, soon it will be 1600; there’s a woman on the throne….” Nick’s writing partner is his brother, Nigel (John Criani), a talented young man who admires Shakespeare.

Something Rotten B-Roll

Nick is reduced to  paying a soothsayer, Nostradamus (Brad Oscar), for ideas from theatre-future. The result of the collaboration between Nick and the psychic is the creation of the world’s first Musical. When Lord Clapham withdraws his support, Shylock (Gerry Vichi) offers his patronage, and complications ensue.

2. 3562Something Rotten!, with a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell and music and lyrics by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, is a joyous compiliation of Bard and Broadway jokes, wonderful dance and song numbers. Casey Nicholaw directs and provides the jubilant choreography in Something Rotten!

“Welcome to the Renaissance” is the anthem with which the Minstrel (Michael James Scott)  guides us into Something Rotten!

Rounding out the cast are the delightful Kate Reinders as Brother Jeremiah’s (Brooks Ashmanskas) daughter and Nigel’s love interest, Portia; along with a superb swing chorus in Something Rotten!

As for Tony nods, Something Rotten! has garnered 10 well-earned nominations, two of which have gone to Nicholaw for direction and dance-making. Something Rotten! is up for the Best New Musical of 2015 Award  Brian d’Arcy James got the nomination for Best Lead Actor; Brad Oscar and Christian Borle (a winner for Peter and the Starcatcher) are in competition for the Best Featured Actor distinction.

Something Rotten! is something deliciously witty, clever and entertaining.

For tickets and more information about Something Rotten!, please visit  http://rottenbroadway.com/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in The Long Running Broadway Musical

Going the distance

Long running Broadway musicals are an elite group. It’s tough to survive on the Great White Way.

The Phantom of the Opera logo from http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/
The Phantom of the Opera logo from http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/

A Chorus Line played an exceptional 15 years on Broadway; it closed after  6,137 performances and had a 2006 Broadway revival, after many worldwide productions from Sao Paolo to Belgrade, Seoul, Oslo and Warrnambool.  Chicago is still going strong, having begun its revival in 1996, after an Encores! production of the show; it had originally opened in 1975 and ran for 936 performances, closing in 1977. On the West End, Chciago ran for 15 years as well. Lucky number, it seems.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats opened in the West End in 1981 and then came to New York with the same creative team and ran from 1982 to 2000. Which brings us to the other long-lived Webber musical, The Phantom of the Opera, now in its 25th year on Broadway, opening in the West End in 1986, and on Broadway in 1988.

In 1986,  The Phantom of the Opera won the Olivier Award and the 1988 Tony Award for Best Musical, and Michael Crawford (in the title role) won the Olivier and Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Music.  Sarah Brightman played Christine Daaé opposite Crawford in that first Broadway cast. The Phantom of the Opera has lyrics by Charles Hart with additions from Richard Stilgoe, with whom Webber wrote the book. Like ChicagoThe Phantom of the Opera has been staged worldwide and has launched several US Tours, and spawned a movie version.

Today,  The Phantom of the Opera‘s official site invites you to buy tickets for productions from New York to Moscow, to Guangzhou, China among other locales. Having seen the original cast, and several productions since then, we are anticipating a visit to  The Majestic Theatre to see The Phantom of the Opera again soon.

You’ll hear more from us when we do.

In the meantime, plan your own visit to Broadway’s longest running musical at http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/new-york

 

 

 

Posted in drama

Down and out on “Airline Highway”

Airline Highway Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Cast List: Carolyn Braver K. Todd Freeman Scott Jaeck Ken Marks Caroline Neff Tim Edward Rhoze Judith Roberts Joe Tippett Julie White Todd d'Amour Shannon Eagen Venida Evans Joe Forbrich Leslie Hendrix Sekou Laidlow Toni Martin Production Credits: Joe Mantello (Direction) Scott Pask (Scenic Design) David Zinn (Costume Design) Japhy Weideman (Lighting Design) Fitz Patton (Original Music and Sound Design) Other Credits: Written by: Lisa D'Amour

Sometimes it’s those who have the least to celebrate who are most inclined to show gratitude and party.

The denizens of the Hummingbird Motel on Airline Highway, the title of Lisa D’Amour’s vibrant new play at MTC’s Friedman Theatre through June 7th, are such a community.

The parking lot on Airline Highway is about to be the scene for Miss Ruby’s (Judith Roberts) funeral. Miss Ruby is still alive, however, but she is revered and her request to be eulogized while she can still hear the kind words of the mourners seems perfectly reasonable.

The inhabitants of the Hummingbird are Airline HighwaySamuel J. Friedman Theatremarginal to New Orleans. They don’t live in the Quarter. They joke about never having been to the Jazz Festival. They eke out what little living they can by doing odd jobs, like Terry (Tim Edward Rhoze), or dancing in strip clubs, like Krista (the heartbreaking Caroline Neff), or hooking, like Tanya (Julie White.) Wayne (Scott Jacek) makes his way managing the Motel.

Airline Highway Samuel J. Friedman TheatreThe set (by Scott Pask), the ragtag two story front porch of the Motel and the lot on the roadfront, fills the stage. A parked car doubles as a buffet table on which Tanya, with the help of Sissy Na Na (the mesmerizing K. Todd Freeman), organizes the festivities.

The only one of the Humm ingbird occupants seeking to escape is Baitboy (Joe Tippett.) Technically, he already has. He moved to Atlanta with a woman he picked up when he worked one of the clubs; she has a lot of money, a business, and a large house. Baitboy, a nom-de-guerre from his old life, is known in Atlanta  as Greg; Greg brings his girlfriend’s daughter, Zoe (Carolyn Braver) to New Orleans where she wants to “research” the Hummingbird folk. Greg abandoned Krista when he left. She, despite encouragement that she reinvent herself from Sissy Na Na, can’t keep the lies she tells about how well she’s doing straight.

Airline Highway Samuel J. Friedman TheatreAirline Highway, like the Hummingbird family, has a big sloppy heart. Structurally, it suffers from having too many wonderful narrators. Structurally, it is also saved by its characters’ stories.  Airline Highway repects them.  by not treating them as colorful sub-cultural symbols..

The demi-monde Airline Highway depicts is operatic and grand. There is a free-wheeling quality to the play, and Joe Mantello’s direction of the superb Steppenwolf cast is excellent. Freeman and White both have well-earned nominated as Best Featured for their performances. David Zinn has the Best Costume Design nomination, and Japhy Weideman is nominated for Best Lighting Design,

For more information, please visit http://airlinehighwaybroadway.com/

Posted in magic, theater

Looking forward… Some off and off-off entertainments

It starts tonight:

Labyrinth Theater Company presents the world premiere of Melissa Ross’s Nice Girl, running from May 7–June 7, in Mimi O’Donnell’s directorial debut. (O’Donnell is the company’s Artistic Director.)
It’s 1984, and Nice Girl,  Jo Rosen is 37 year old, holds a dead-end job in a small Boston suburb. She still lives at home with her mother, settling into an unintended spinsterhood until a chance flirtation with an old classmate and a new friendship at work give her hope for the possibility of change.  Nice Girl is a play about figuring out who you are and letting go of who you were supposed to be.

The cast of Nice Girl features Tony-nominee Nick Cordero (Bullets over Broadway) as Donny, Diane Davis as Jo, Kathryn Kates as Francine and Liv Rooth as Sherry.

Performances of Nice Girl will take placeat Bank Street Theater, located at 155 Bank Street in Manhattan. Get tickets for May 12, 19, 26 and June 2 performances to participate in “An intimate Conversation Series” following the performance of Nice Girl.
For tickets and information, visit labtheater.org.

He’s been affiliated with TV shows like Mike & Molly and Two and a Half Men, worked as a stand-up comedian, and a written eight plays, Mark Roberts’ New Country, directed by David Harwell, opens on May 16th at  the Cherry Lane Theatre running through June 20th.

In New Country, country music star Justin Spears is a rowdy, ruthless popular guy. He’s getting married in the morning, so tonight, he’s out partying with his entourage. Will Justin’s career survive, or fizzle, after the raucous fun he’s having this evening?

For tickets and information, please visit rattlestick.org.

 

Christian Cagigal Photo credit: Julie Michelle Photography
Christian Cagigal Photo credit: Julie Michelle Photography

ONE NIGHT ONLY!

FRIGID New York @ Horse Trade will present a special one night only performance of Christian Cagigal’s Obscura on Thursday, May 21 at The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery) at 8pm.

Magician and storyteller Christian Cagigal, weaves sleight of hand, dark fables and strange happenings into an evening of magic and mystery. Obscura is performed under the eye of a camera and projected large, above Cagigal, so you can’t miss a thing.

Tickets may be purchased in advance at www.horseTRADE.info.

Following its world premiere on May 14th at the Orlando International Fringe Festival, Recollection Of Innocence, written and directed by Guy Kapulnik, will hold a NYC premiere from May 28-June 6 at UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1st Avenue and Avenue A.)

The production will feature James H. Best, Guy Kapulnik, and Sandra Glinka.

Recollection Of Innocence tells the story of Rafi who always aspired to become a soldier, so at 18 he joined the military to serve as an officer. When he finally returns to civilian life, recurring nightmares make it hard for him to have a normal life. Can Rafi be reclaimed by love?
For information and tickets, please visit www.horseTRADE.info.

Posted in based on an iconic motion picture, dance, love story, musical theater

Dancing in A New Musical “…Paris”

If it weren’t for Gene Kelly, Robert Fairchild told Dance Magazine, he would never have become a dancer. Thank you Gene Kelly! Your “American” surely inspired the one on the stage at the Palace in an open run.

3548That said, An American In Paris, A New Musical,  is an entertainment onto itself. Director-Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon has created dance numbers that shine. Craig Lucas has  devised a book based on the movie, but with its own point of view.

3546Jerry Mulligan, a Lieutenant in the US Army (Fairchild) misses his transport home from Paris. He wanders around, following a girl (Lise Dassin, played by the lovely Leanne Cope) he has spotted and lands in a bar where Adam Hochberg (Brandon Uranowitz,) a fellow American ex-pat welcomes him. Adam is helping his friend, Henri Baurel (Max von Essen) rehearse a nightclub act.

 

WartornParisThe setting is Paris just after the war, giving Bob Crowley (sets and costumes) a chance to show it in its wartorn stage, along with the more iconic visuals of the town. Bob Crowley’s costumes are period. Fairchild wears clothes inspired by what Kelly wore in the film with aplomb.

FairchildCopeBalletJerry is a painter and his patron, Milo Davenport (Jill Paice) is well-connected in the art world. This gives Crowley a happier palette on which to play with the sets design. The ballets within the musical offer another opportunity to create interesting new looks for An American in Paris for Crowley.

In Christopher Wheeldon’s imaginative and BIG production, ballet meets Broadway at every turn.

FidgetyFeetThe dancing is splendid, of course, and the choreography excellent. There are additional dance arrangments by Sam Davis, including the wonderful and jazzy, “Fidgety Feet.”

The cast is charming, with Brandon Uranowitz and Max von Essen standing out. The leads, Farichild and Cope, are lovely and, needless to say, but I will say it anyway, glorious dancers.

If you have missed Rob Fisher’s deft hand at his directing gig at Encores!, he is in the pit at An American in Paris, for which he adapted arranged and supervised the George and Ira Gershwin score.

For more information about An American in Paris, A New Musical, please visit their website.  Once there, note the banner proclaiming 12 Tony Award nominations, including one for Best New Musical. (We anticipated loving it: http://wp.me/p5gEnW-2n)

Posted in Interview Theater

The powerful and the personal in “Beyond Sacred” -Guest review by Mari S. Gold

 

Kadin Herring, Maha Syed, Ferdous Dehqan, Tiffany Yasmin Abdelghani, Amir Khafagy. Photo by  Adam Nadel
Kadin Herring, Maha Syed, Ferdous Dehqan, Tiffany Yasmin Abdelghani, Amir Khafagy. Photo by Adam Nadel

Five students file onto the stage and sit behind music racks holding scripts.
Arabic music plays. As the lights come up, each performer introduces him or
herself. One woman wears a hijab and long skirt; the others, three men and one woman, are dressed in jeans and tee-shirts. Accompanied by simple graphics projected on the screen behind them, punctuating their words with rhythmic claps, each performer tells a personal story of Muslim identity and history, before and after 9/11.

 

 Ferdous Dehqan, Tiffany Yasmin Abdelghani, Amir Khafagy. Photo by Adam Nagel.
Ferdous Dehqan, Tiffany Yasmin Abdelghani, Amir Khafagy. Photo by Adam Nagel.

This is documentary theater, part of an umbrella project: Beyond Sacred: Unthinking Muslim Identity that has been a focus for the year at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center (LPAC), presented in association with Ping Chong, a pioneer of media in theater who has created over one hundred works for the stage presented at major festivals and theaters worldwide. Ping Chong’s work runs through May 9th.
Beyond Sacred works to break down the xenophobic concepts of who and what Muslims are. It does a brilliant job, using performers’ personal stories, some presented verbatim, others scripted by Sara Zatz with Ryan Conarro. Ferdous Dehquan emigrated from Afghanistan at eighteen; whenever he’s asked where he’s from, someone says “oh yes, the Taliban.” (He explains that his family fled because of the Taliban but its all most people know of his country.) Maha Syed,
who has worked and studied all over the world and holds an advanced degree
from Columbia, is a human rights and gender equality advocate, (only twenty,
she’s already a powerhouse). She points out that worldwide, people call family
and friends at Christmas. “Why,” she asks, “does no one call us at our holidays,
Eid or Ramadan?” Good question. Kadin Herring, originally from South
Carolina, has a Baptist mother and a father who came to Islam through
Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam; with his father and brother he’s left the
religion but is participating here to put a positive spin on Islam identity. Super-
cool Tiffany Yasmin Abdelghani grew up strongly attached to her Trinidadian
heritage and was raised as a Christian, converting to Islam in her mid-twenties.
She wears the hijab out of personal desire to embrace her Muslim beliefs. Half
Egyptian, half Puerto Rican Amir Khafagy, a self described “Arab-Rican,”
makes the most of his outsize personality. In the post-show talk back, he
admitted that baring some of his personal feelings about his life and
relationship with Islam was a bit scary but necessary.

Kadin Herring, Maha Syed, Ferdous Dehqan, Tiffany Yasmin Abdelghani, Amir Khafagy. Photo by Adam Nagel.
Kadin Herring, Maha Syed, Ferdous Dehqan, Tiffany Yasmin Abdelghani, Amir Khafagy. Photo by Adam Nagel.

The performers were selected after a lengthy interview process and only met
one another through the script. Beyond Sacred was created using Ping Chong +
Company’s Undesirable Elements methodology, a framework that can be
brought to any community and tailored to suit its needs and particular issues.
Each production is developed with a host, community-based group with local
participants testifying to their real life experiences.

Photo by Adam Nagel
Photo by Adam Nagel

The result is personal, powerful and persuasive if everyone were exposed to Beyond Sacred the world would have a better take on what it means to be Muslim today. Describing the
performance, writer Sara Zatz said of its effect on people and communities,
“the concentric circles get bigger.” The sooner the better.

 

To find out more about Beyond Sacred: Unthinking Muslim Identity, please visit the LPAC site and for tickets to the performances, click here.

Posted in comedy-drama, musical theater

Greed, Justice and Revenge in “The Visit”

Chita Rivera and the cast of "The Visit." Photo Credit: Thom Kaine
Chita Rivera and the cast of “The Visit.” Photo Credit: Thom Kaine

Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s satire is a strange and very dark comedy, in the tradition of theater of the absurd. Dürrenmatt’s The Visit is a troubled vision of injustice and revenge.

Darkness is not unknown in musicals, of course, and Terrence McNally’s book from the play via an adaptation by Maurice Valency, with music and lyrics by John Kander and Fed Ebb, bring The Visit to Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre.

Chita Rivera and Michelle Veintimillia in a scene from "The Visit." Photo Credit: Thom Kaine
Chita Rivera and Michelle Veintimillia in a scene from “The Visit.” Photo Credit: Thom Kaine

The story cries out for a Brechtian treatment. As one would expect, Kander and Ebb deliver! The music (Kander) and lyrics (Ebb) are smart and funny.

The townspeople of Brachen, Switzerland, expect a savior in the returning Claire Zachanassian (Chita Rivera.) As a teenager, Claire was run out of town by the ambitions of her lover, Anton Schell (John Riddle as the youthful Anton, Roger Rees as he is now) and  false rumors.

John Riddle and Michelle Veintimillia in a scene from "The Visit." Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
John Riddle and Michelle Veintimillia in a scene from “The Visit.” Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Her immense wealth makes her visit home seem like a Godsend to the poor people of Brachen. Claire comes home expecting to buy justice. Her lover, a failed store-keeper, remembers her as a tender-hearted young woman. (The young Claire is danced and played by Michelle Veintimillia.)

Lovers’ memories are often discordant and dissimilar. Claire remembers her pain, and seeks retribution, or some may say vengeance. It is hopeless to expect that the

Roger Rees, John Riddle, Michelle Veintimillia and Chita Rivera in a scene from "The Visit." Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Roger Rees, John Riddle, Michelle Veintimillia and Chita Rivera in a scene from “The Visit.” Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

townfolk and their mayor, Peter Dummermut (David Garrison) could follow the moral compass set by Frederich Kuhn, the schoolmaster (Jason Danieley.)

The performances, under John Doyle’s direction, are all brilliant. Mary Beth Peil is particularly good as the embittered and unyielding Matilde Schell.

Chita Rivera, nominated for the 2015 Tony for Best Actress in a Musical, has 9 other nods–with two wins (for The Rink and for The Kiss of the Spider Woman)– to her credit, is grand. In her portrayal, Claire’s determination, buoyed by a worldly knowledge that everyone has a price, is laser sharp.

Graciela Daniele makes much of a less is more choreography, and stages a tap number so catchy you’ll be craving a pair of those “Yellow Shoes” yourself.

The Visit has taken a long and protracted road to get to Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre. Our patience in waiting for it has paid off well. The Visit boasts 5 Tony nominations, including one for Best Musical.

For more information, and tickets, please go to http://thevisitmusical.com/.