Posted in dance

The British were here, and have headed home

Expecting formality and tutus, the casual observer is presented instead with young men
in underwear, and gyrating young women meeting their every move.

Eric Underwood and Melissa Hamilton in Infra © ROH / Bill Cooper 2010 from www.roh.org.uk
Eric Underwood and Melissa Hamilton in Infra © ROH / Bill Cooper 2010 from http://www.roh.org.uk

The Royal Ballet Company paid a visit to New York City, under the auspices of
the Joyce Theater Foundation, after an absence of 11 years. In that time, many
of the troupe ‘s principals had rotated out and a new group of dancers arrived
with a programme of modern works (Program B) and some old favorites (A). The RBC is anything but stodgy. These dances for the most part brought a  welcome freshness to the David H.
Koch Theater stage.

Wayne McGregor’s “Infra,” set to a score by Max Richter, is a kind of deconstructionist version of ballet. There is lots of graceful and purposeful walking, including on the light screen (designed by Lucy Carter) where silhouetted figures appear over the heads of the dancers.

The program that follows briefly nodded at classicism. Calvin Richardson’s
Dying Swan is movingly danced by the choreographer and from the Frederick
Ashton repertory, Voices of Spring felt more like a send-up than a straight-up
classical interpretation. Christopher Wheeldon’s Aeternum Pas De Deux
exhibits classic and classy gravitas.

Each work is beautifully danced.

If “Infra” deconstructs, Alaistair Marriot’s solo “Borrowed Light,” set to an
equally modern piece by Philip Glass, re-constructs. The work is full of longing.
As performed by Marcellino Sambe, its grand pirouettes were superbly
executed.

The “If I loved you” pas de deux had the exuberance of young love; its leaps and
lifts were breathtaking, underscored by Richard Rogers’ music for Carousel.
Lauren Cuthbertson’s Julie Jordan and Matthew Golding’s Billy Bigelow gave
Kenneth McMillan’s choreography poignancy.

Last on the bill of the all new-to-this-reviewer pieces was Age of Anxiety; set to
music by Leonard Bernstein by Liam Scarlett, it is a short story ballet. Age of
Anxiety is an urban dance featuring tales from the barroom. Sarah Lamb and
Alexander lead the cast in this lovely and compelling dance drama.

New York was the Royal Ballet’s final stop on its US tour.

Posted in theater

Some things to look forward to in the coming weeks

There is always an embarrassment of riches in our fair city. So you don’t have to be embarrassed, we want to help you plan out your entertainment. Options abound in the next weeks, too. Warning: they are not in order of date or importance!

1. It’s the early bird that gets the worm: Thursday, June 25, 10:30 a.m
Recess Monkey celebrates the release of their 12th studio album, Hot Air, with a high-flying summer of all-ages shows (see video above), including this one in Madison Square Park. See Seattle’s acclaimed indie rock band for kids for free. Adults welcome.

2. Folk-pop musical MIKE, inspired by a headless chicken, premieres at HERE for a strictly limited engagement, beginning on Tuesday, June 23rd at 7pm.
Throes Theater announces New York premiere of MIKE, written and directed by Alexandra Zelman-Doring. This fanfare event is based on a true story of a headless chicken, and promises to offer plenty of surprises.

3. FRIGID New York @ Horse Trade is presenting the first annual Queerly festival June 25-July 3 at The Kraine Theater and UNDER St. Marks.
A black drag king does karaoke, there’s gay Canadian burlesque and comedy, and a queer sports rom-com in this festival of all things Pride!

4. Thus Spoke the Spectacle plays at The Kraine Theater, June 28th
Thus Spoke the Spectacle is a deconstruction of the media onslaught into an edgy transmedia rock experience. Original live music, spoken word vocals, video and lights combine in a  “review” of the news, advertising and hype that fills our world.

5.  the wild project, present Men on Boats through June 29th
 Ten explorers. Four boats. One Grand Canyon. A one-armed captain. Men on Boats is the kinda true story of an 1869 expedition to chart the course of the Colorado River.
6.  Horizon Theatre Rep presents Araberlin at the 4th Street Theater, July 2-19
Our fears of terrorism affect identity and lengthen the divide between peoples.  Tunisian playwright and actress Jalila Baccar’s play gets its first English translaton performance.
Araberlin is directed by the orizon Theatre Rep’s Artistic Director Rafael De Mussa, who also stars in the production.
7. Mark Roberts’ 8th play, New Country, extends to June 27th at the Cherry Lane
Is country singer and superstar, Justin Spears just a big phony, who uses everyone in his life?
Tomorrow is his wedding day, tonight, he’s gonna party! Fair Trade Productions, in association with Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, present New Country, A Comedy in Two Acts by Mark Roberts. Directed by David Harwell, New Country features Jared Culverhouse, Sarah Lemp, David Lind, Malcolm Madera, Stephen Sheffer and Mark Roberts
8. The Qualms at Playwrights Horizons through July 12th
Bruce Norris (Clybourne Park) has written another suburban tale, this one about wife-swapping newbies.

 

 

 

Posted in drama, theater

MTC presents Melissa Ross’ “Of Good Stock”

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It’s often hard to navigate the sensitive and precarious raltionship between siblings.

For the Stockton girls in Of Good Stock, at MTC’s Stage I at City Center through June 28th, growing up without their mother and with a famous father, looking out for one another is part of their lasting bond. (Extended through July m26th!)

Playwright Melissa Ross has a good ear for familial strife and tenderness. Of Good Stock is moving. The standout ensemble, lead by Jennifer Mudge and Alicia Silverstone, and directed by Lynne Meadow, is convincingly natural; we believe they are family, and that they care for each other.

Visit http://ofgoodstockplay.com/ for more information and tickets.

Posted in musical theater

“Drink with me to days gone by:” Cameron Mackintosh stages Victor Hugo’s revolution!

Love and honor are redemptive influences, and monumental themes against which to profile a life.

Ramin Karimloo is Jean Valjeam in "Les Miz"-Photo by Matthew Murphy
Ramin Karimloo is Jean Valjeam in “Les Miz”-Photo by Matthew Murphy

Cameron Mackintosh’s 25th Anniversary production of Boubil & Schönberg’s Les Miserables, at the Imperial Theatre, is about the triumph of the human spirit against adversity and misfortune. Victor Hugo’s novel, adapted by Trevor Nunn and John Caird, is the basis of this grand theaterpiece.

 Hugo’s epic is distilled into an operatic narrative for which Alain Boublil created the libretto and original lyrics in 1980,  in collaboration with Claude-Michel Schönberg and with English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. The music in Les Miz–as it is affectionately called– swells and falls lushly in rousing melodies.

The Barricades Photo by Michael LePoer Trench
The Barricades Photo by Michael LePoer Trench

The story covers alot of ground from a prison in 1815 to the barricades of the Paris rebellion in 1832. The revolution of 1832 was a kind of follow-up event. The Bastille was stormed in 1789 and the French had a new and beneficent monarch by 1832. Nonetheless, income inequality grew and the problems of the downtrodden poor worsened.  It is the student uprising in June of 1832 in Paris that is the culmination of Broadway’s big chronicle.

Les Miz is a stirring musical theater event.

"LookDown" from Les Miz in a photo by Catherine Ashmore
“LookDown” from Les Miz in a photo by Catherine Ashmore

Jean Valjean (Ramin Karimloo) is released from prison for stealing a loaf of bread to save his sister’s son, aided by a benevolent priest (Adam Monley) and then pursued by the strait-laced policeman, Javert (Earl Carpenter.)  The priest’s act of kindness towards him elevates the convict and transforms Jean Valjean into a man. Javert only sees things as black and white; those who once committed any crime will always be criminals in his world. Jean Valjean reinvents himself as a productive citizen. He finds purpose for his wealth in saving Fantine’s (Erika Henningsen, in a Broadway debut) daughter Cossette (as a child, Fabi Aguirre.) He owes a debt to Fantine because he ignored her plight when she worked in his factory.

Valjean is redeemed through his role as Cossette’s “father,” and as she grows into a young woman (Samantha Hill,) he finds another source of redemption in helping her lover Marius (Chris McCarrell.)

Les Miz's anthem, "One Day More" in a photo by Matthew Murphy.
Les Miz’s anthem, “One Day More” in a photo by Matthew Murphy.

All the humor in Les Miz falls on the skinny shoulders of “The Master of the House,” Thénardier (Gavin Lee) and his Madame (Rachel Izen.) They are comically corrupt and greedy souls who prey on those as poor and downtrodden as they themselves are. They are outlaws, with no revolution in them; their zeal is for acquisition and stealing. Unlike Valjean, and even Javert, these characters do not grow. Their daughter Éponine (Brennyn Lark, another fine Broadway debut), once pampered by her ma (the young Éponine, played by Lilyana Cornell) is a street waif in her father’s gang whose love for Marius gives her transcendence.

The costumes (by Andreane Neofitou and Christine Rowland) underscore the differences between the struggling poor and the well-to-do, and set the time for the action. The sets and images are based on Victor Hugo’s paintings and designed by Matt Kinley. The 25th anniversary production, at home on Broadway since March 2014, is directed with all its moving parts and grandiloquent staging, by Laurence Connor and James Powell.

As reincarnated here, it should have a long life on Broadway again. (We anticipated this visit here.)

For more information and to get tickets, go to http://www.lesmis.com/broadway/

Posted in cabaret

“A person could develop a cold….”

https://www.92y.org/Uptown/
https://www.92y.org/Uptown/

“I was gob-smacked,” Faith Prince says during a recent cabaret event. And, by golly, if the 92nd Street Y audience doesn’t get it!

Prince is giving that great anomaly, a daytime cabaret. (Did I mention how much I appreciate matinees?)

She is the consummate New Yorker (by way of a small  town in Virginia upbringing.) She is also a consummate performer. Her cabaret act offers many highlights, not least songs from her Tony-winning turn as Adelaide in Guys and Dolls. She also reveals just why she would have been a marvellous Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, if only… but let her tell it when you catch the act.

Look for Faith Prince on Broadway in The First Wives Club, currently in development soon. Or catch her in cabaret.

Posted in Long running musical, musical theater

Vive La Révolution!

There are not many things to inspire the complacent bourgeois to storm the barricades. This musical always has always succeeded in getting my blood up.

RaminKarimloo in "Les Miz"-Photo by Matthew Murphy
RaminKarimloo in “Les Miz”-Photo by Matthew Murphy

Les Miserables, at The Imperial Theatre since March 2014, first opened to Broadway acclaim where it ran until 2003, was revived in 2006, is a 25th Anniversary revival. The original production has been revitalized with a cast too young to remember the first time around.

Les Miz, as it is affectionately called, is a stunning masterpiece combining revolutionary zeal with soulful heartbreak, all set to stirring music and song.

Cameron Mackintosh’s 25th Anniversary production will mark our fourth chance to enjoy the show. We’re looking forward to reviewing (and re-viewing) shortly. In the meantime, for information and tickets, visit http://www.lesmis.com/broadway/

Posted in Uncategorized

Asleep for 100 years

Asleep for 100 years.

Ratmansky’s The Sleeping Beauty today at the Met, is part of the 75th Anniversary celebrations of the ABT.

More and tickets at http://www.metopera.org/metopera/season/abt/the-sleeping-beauty

Posted in theater

Love the matinee

Often ridiculed– Terrence McNally’s It’s Only A Play is not alone in making fun,–matinee audiences are a big percentage of the eight-days-a-week box office.

Photo from "The Phantom of the Opera" by Matthew Murphy
Photo from “The Phantom of the Opera” by Matthew Murphy

We are unabashed advocates for the matinee: a show and you still get home for dinner!

The diversification of the matinee is another cause to which we adhere.

Phantom, for instance, is offering a THURSDAY matinee. Now that Jason Alexander is stepping in for Larry David in  Fish in the Dark, that show has a Friday matinee: wow! (Fish in the Dark plays at The Cort Theatre through July 18th, and no Sunday matiness.)

If more productions chose an off-beat calendar, the ardent matinee goer could see 4 maybe 5 shows each week.

A Monday matinee may be too much to hope for– only a few productions even offer a Monday show, including the aforementioned Phantom and the also long-lived/loved Chicago each have a Monday night performance.

Tuesdays are wide open for an expansion of the ultimate in an early curtain. Think of it as a way to pack the house with people who are only in town for the week. They get to make the most of our great creative industry, and the producers get an audience that has the time and money to spend watching a show. Likewise, those unwilling to go out at night, but eager to see more and more of what Broadway has on offer.

Monday nights, Tuesday matinees, Thursday afternoons, and now Fridays too– we could be in a theater nearly every day of the week. Sundays, Saturdays and Wednesdays are still a given for most shows. For the audience, it’s clearly more chances to enjoy a Broadway show. For producers, it’s more opportunities to offer their spectacles to a diverse audience.

Posted in comedy, dance, drama, musical theater, theater

Post Tonys: Double “Jeopardy®”** Part II

 Ken Watanabe and Kelli O'Hara in "The King and I"
Ken Watanabe and Kelli O’Hara in “The King and I”

My streak continues, so handicapping the Tonys should definitely not be my day job. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time did get Tony attention and commendations I anticipated, including one for its superlative direction by Marianne Elliott. Likewise, I got it right when I predicted that LCT’s The King and I was the Best Musical Revival of 2015. For Kelli O’Hara, 6th time is the charm!

Here is my post-Tony Double Jeopardy (the run-up is here and here) column:

1. Christian Borle took one for the team.

  • How long will Something Rotten! contine its reign at the St James?
  • Was it wrong to wish this charmer of a musical would walk away with most of its 10 nods?
Oscar Williams, Zell Steele Marrow Sydney Lucas- photo credit Joan Marcus
Oscar Williams, Zell Steele Marrow Sydney Lucas in a scene from “Fun Home”- photo credit Joan Marcus.

2. I labelled it “the new kid on the block,” but never thought this Broadway transfer would run away with so many of the big prizes, including for Best Musical of 2015.

  • What is Fun Home?
  • How many Tonys did Fun Home win?
  • Answer to the answer: Didn’t you see it coming when Sam Gold won for Best Direction of a Musical, Lisa Kron got the Tony for the Best Book and Kron and Jeanine Tesori won for Best  Lyrics and Music?
  • Bonus #2: This win, for the Best Leading Actor in a Musical in Fun Home, is Michael Cerveris’s 2nd Tony. In which Roundabout production did Michael Cerveris win his first Tony?

3. Chita Rivera stars with Roger Rees in Kander & Ebb’s final collaboration, the adaptation of a wry Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s satire.

  • What is The Visit?
  • Can this dark musical win the hearts of Broadway audiences?
  • Bonus #1: Is an City Center Encores! production in its future?
  • 2nd Bonus: Will The Visit ever be a long-running Broadway staple, like say Kander & Ebb’s Chicago?

4. The Night They Invented Champagne is an anthem to celebratory cork popping.

  • What is Gigi at the Neil Simon Theatre?
  • Can putting its best foot forward, as the production of Gigi did on the Tony telecast, help this tuneful revival survive and perhaps thrive on Broadway?

5. A frequent contender for the Award, Kelli O’Hara had five nominations before her win for Best Leading Actress in a Musical on June 7, 2015, which was also a grand night for her co-star and the LCT production.

  • What is The King and I at the Beaumont?
  • Who is Ruthie Ann Miles?

6. Quirky and unusual themes were well-rewarded at the Tonys this year.

  • What is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time?
  • For which other recent production did Marianne Elliott win a Tony for Best Direction?
  • Bonus answers: When did Alex Sharp, this year’s Best Leading Actor in a Play, graduate Julliard?
  • Additional Bonus referencing “quirky-themed”: See Fun Home, #2 above

7. The broadcast on CBS on June 7, 2015 joyously showcased New York’s major creative industry: Broadway, it’s synonymous with NYC.

  • What is the 69th Annual Tony Award television show?
  • Who are Kristen Chenoweth and Alan Cumming?
FidgetyFeet from "An American in Paris"

8. Gene Kelly starred in the movie from which this original musical was created, and Christopher Wheeldon, who won the Best for his original choreography.

  • What is An American in Paris?
  • Is it destined for a long stay at the Palace?

9. In the end, it’s about the performances, the staging, the costumes, the content.

  • What is your favorite Broadway show, now and for all time?
  • How many of the current productions have you/will you see(n)?

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

Posted in Musical drama, musical theater, musical theatre, musicals

“The Music of the Night”

After 11,000 performances, a musical drama could be forgiven if it began to show some wear.  In theater time, a run of more than 25 years is a very long lifetime.

The Company in “Masquerade” in a photo by Matthew Murphy.
The Company in “Masquerade” in a photo by Matthew Murphy.

The Phantom of the Opera, in its 27th year on Broadway, at the Majestic Theatre, hasn’t aged, or rather it has aged well. This is not a show resting on its laurels. Or on its worldwide success in tours all over the US, in Stockholm or Budapest or Istanbul, among the many places it has found a home.

Despite the myriad other accomplishments of his career, Phantom may prove to be Andrew Lloyd Webber’s crowning legacy. It was a breakout hit from its opening night at the Majestic in 1988, where it walked away with 7 Tony Awards, including for Best Musical, Design and Direction.

A scene from "The Phantom of the Opera," Jeremy Hays – Solo “Final Lair” in a photo by Joan Marcus.
A scene from “The Phantom of the Opera,” Jeremy Hays – Solo “Final Lair” in a photo by Joan Marcus.

The music, by Webber with lyrics by Charles Hart, breaks over you in tidal waves of emotion. It’s lush and romantic, familiar yet very strange. Webber along with Richard Stilgoe (who has also provided some of the lyrics) fashioned the story from Gaston Leroux’s gothic novel, “Le Fantome de L’Opera.”

Michele McConnell & Christian Šebek in “Hannibal,” an opera within the musical drama, "The Phantom of the Opera." Photo by Joan Marcus.
Michele McConnell & Christian Šebek in “Hannibal,” an opera within the musical drama, “The Phantom of the Opera.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

The Phantom of the Opera  creates a world of its own; it emerses us in it. Through our willing suspension of disbelief, we descend into this netherworld of fantastical creatures and objects masterminded by the fiendish Phantom (James Barbour.) The story takes us into a Paris opera house haunted by a frighteningly demanding ghost. The Phantom’s  obsession with a young soprano, Christine Daaé (Kaley Ann Voorhees) overwhelms him. She mistakes the monster for “the Angel of Music” her father promised to send her. At first, she is deceived by the Phantom’s exacting taste and guided by his instruction. When a childhood love, Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny (Jeremy Hays) becomes a patron for the Opera House, the Phantom’s jealousy has diabolical consequences.

Jeremy Hays & Kaley Ann Voorhees – “All I Ask of You” Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Jeremy Hays & Kaley Ann Voorhees – “All I Ask of You” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

There are many pleasures in revisiting Phantom, not the least of which is seeing the excellent cast and operatic staging. Hal Prince directs the players, while Gillian Lynne provides the musical staging and choreography. The production is designed by Maria Björnson.

The large ensemble proffers many delightful performances, with Michelle McConnell as the diva, Carlotta Giudicelli, the Phantom shuns in the opera within the musical, just one of many.

To learn more about The Phantom of the Opera, and for tickets, please visit http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/new-york. Not in New York, check out the touring companies and worldwide productions here.