Posted in ambition, anticipation, aspiration, avant garde, based on a true story or event, based on a true story or event and historical documents, based on true events, chronicle, drama based on real events, expectations, fictionalization_of_real_events, historical drama, history, land of opportunity, play, Playwrights Horizons, storytelling, The Debate Society, theater, theater folk

Wonders never cease

The Light YearsPlaywrights Horizons February 17, 2017 – April 02, 2017
Brian Lee Huynh. Photo © Joan Marcus

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, properly named the World Columbian Exposition in honor of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the Americas, hosted 46 countries and over 25million visitors.

The 690 acres it occupied was a city of industry that represented and presented progress to the world: Juicy Fruit gum, Cream of Wheat and Pabst Blue Ribbon were introduced at the Expo.

A Ferris Wheel, a moving walkway, an electric kitchen that included an automatic dishwasher and printing press for Braille were also innovations first seen at the 1893 Fair.The Colunbian Exposition was also home to a sprawl of original architecture.

The Light YearsPlaywrights Horizons February 17, 2017 – April 02, 2017
Rocco Sisto, Aya Cash and Erik Lochtefeld. Photo © Joan Marcus

In The Light Years, co-written by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen and directed by Oliver Butler of The Debate Society, this and the subsequent Chicago World’s Fair of 1933 provide the background for a very unusual play. The Light Years  is presented with The Debate Society at Playwrights Horizons where it is playing through April 2nd.

Steele MacKaye (a wonderfully bombastic Rocco Sisto), envisioned an ingenius theater to celebrate the arts at this grand historic event. His 12,000-seat Spectatorium, was designed by the now forgotten theatrical impresario to harness the mechanical and electrical marvels of the time.

The Light YearsPlaywrights Horizons February 17, 2017 – April 02, 2017
Aya Cash, Erik Lochtefeld and Brian Lee Huynh Photo © Joan Marcus

The Light Years is, in part, a love story, highlighted by technology and wonder and spun over 40-years. In it, we are transported to more innocent times, when novelty could inspire and awe was not an unsophisticated or naive response.

In 1893, the story centers on the progress of building and wiring MacKaye’s theater.

Hillary (Erik Lochtefeld in a star turn) and his assistant, Hong Sling (the charismatic Brian Lee Huynh) are the electricians in charge of making the Spectatorium shine. Hillary’s wife, Adeline (the appealing Aya Cash) is a very modern woman, cheerfully pedalling both iced tea and a bicycle.

The Light YearsPlaywrights Horizons February 17, 2017 – April 02, 2017
Aya Cash, Ken Barnett and Graydon Peter Yosowitz. Photo © Joan Marcus

When the scene shifts to 1933, it’s Ruthy (Aya Cash, again) who has to keep her family afloat, flipping pancakes and inspiriting her husband Lou (Ken Barnett, in an excellent awe-shucks mode) through the writing of musical ditties for this Fair’s many commercial enterprises. Their son, Charlie (the already accomplished young Graydon Peter Yosowitz) is smitten with the sensations the Fair promises.

The scenic design by Laura Jellinek and costumes design by  Michael Krass rise beautifully to the majesty of the occasion.

Every part of the theater space is treated to a bit of the performance. There are lights and things that go poof as well as narratives to explicate the drama. The ensemble engage, entertain and instruct.

The Light Years uses some of the devices Steele MacKaye introduced to turn this small-scale production into a grand spectacle.

For more information and tickets, please visit @PHnyc website.

 

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in #pointofview, 11 Tony Award winning musical, activists, aspiration, award winning, based on a true story or event, based on a true story or event and historical documents, based on true events, DC politics, economics, famous, fictionalization_of_real_events, Hamilton, long running Broadway musical, musical theater, musical theatre, musicals and dramas, Pulitzer Prize winning musical, riff, Tony winner

A Safe Place…

Tickets to Hamilton may (probably not) be available this holiday season thanks to a non-controversy P-E Trump fracked up from a non-incident at the theater. (As it turns out, Trumpistas did not relinquish their tickets en masse, and the show is sold out in all the cities across America in which it is playing.)

When VP-E Mike Pence attended a performance recently, cast member Brandon Victor Dixon used the curtain call to petition his elected official on behalf of the other half of our country. P-E DJT took offense, and a sort of boycott was born.

For the record, VP-E MP said he was not offended: “And I nudged my kids and reminded them, that’s what freedom sounds like,” Pence said, according to news reports from CNN to the NY Daily News.

The play, which won 11 Tonys last year, has been a hot ticket since it started its Broadway transfer in the summer of 2015.

Hamilton is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s paean to America, in which the Founding Fathers (and some Mothers) are portrayed by a racially diverse cast, and issues of states’ rights and federalism are rapped.

As with everything emanating from this inclusive show, the Hamilton curtain call was a model of restraint.Witness what was said below:

hamdoc

Posted in based on a true story or event, bio-musical, musical theater, theater

“Stop in the name of love” and “Get ready”

Motown The Musical MUSICAL NEDERLANDER THEATRE 208 W. 41ST ST. MOTOWN THE MUSICAL - CAST Chester Gregory Chester Gregory as Berry Gordy Allison Semmes Allison Semmes as Diana Ross Jesse Nager Jesse Nager as Smokey Robinson Jarran Muse Jarran Muse as Marvin Gaye Nik Alexander Nik Alexander as Dennis Edwards Nik Alexander Nik Alexander as Miracle Nik Alexander Nik Alexander as Mickey Stevenson Nik Alexander Nik Alexander as Commodore J.J. Batteast J.J. Batteast as Young Berry Gordy J.J. Batteast J.J. Batteast as Young Stevie Wonder J.J. Batteast J.J. Batteast as Young Michael Jackson Erick Buckley Erick Buckley as Jackie Wilson Manager Erick Buckley Erick Buckley as Harold Noveck Erick Buckley Erick Buckley as Studio Head Chante Carmel Chante Carmel as Edna Anderson Chante Carmel Chante Carmel as Martha Reeves Chante Carmel Chante Carmel as Marvelette Chadaé Chadaé as Anna Gordy Chadaé Chadaé as Marvelette Lynorris Evans Lynorris Evans as Temptation Lynorris Evans Lynorris Evans as Fuller Gordy Lynorris Evans Lynorris Evans as Contour Lynorris Evans Lynorris Evans as Jackson 5 Robert Hartwell Robert Hartwell as Temptation Robert Hartwell Robert Hartwell as Contour Robert Hartwell Robert Hartwell as Jackson 5 Robert Hartwell Robert Hartwell as Robert Gordy Trisha Jeffrey Trisha Jeffrey as Mary Wilson Trisha Jeffrey Trisha Jeffrey as Mother Gordy Elijah Ahmad Lewis Elijah Ahmad Lewis as Stevie Wonder Elijah Ahmad Lewis Elijah Ahmad Lewis as Levi Stubbs Elijah Ahmad Lewis Elijah Ahmad Lewis as Miracle Elijah Ahmad Lewis Elijah Ahmad Lewis as Jr. Walker Elijah Ahmad Lewis Elijah Ahmad Lewis as Allstar Loren Lott Loren Lott as Esther Gordy Loren Lott Loren Lott as Lula Hardaway Loren Lott Loren Lott as Vandella Loren Lott Loren Lott as Gladys Horton Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. as Jackie Wilson Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. as Contour Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. as Eddie Hollan
Motown The Musical at the Nederlander with Allison Semmes as Diana Ross. Photo © Joan Marcus

Berry Gordy, Jr.’s career in music started when he sold a song to Jackie Wilson. It culminated when he sold the hit-making empire he built and named Motown to MCA in 1988. Motown artists and their images were carefully cultivated. Gordy co-wrote 240 songs for the catalog, which was bought by Polygram for over $330million in the early 1990s. Business aside, Gordy’s recording company became a legendary musical genre.

That musical style, the artists nurtured by the company, and its creator are celebrated in Motown-The Musical, based on Gordy’s memoir, To Be Loved, and written and produced by Berry Gordy, Jr.

Motown… had its original run in March of 2013, and is currently in revival at the Nederlander Theatre, and runnng through the end of this month.

Motown The Musical with Chester Gregory as Berry Gordy. Photo © Joan Marcus
Motown The Musical with
Chester Gregory
as Berry Gordy. Photo © Joan Marcus

In Motown…, the high-spirited portrayals of Gordy by Chester Gregory and the supreme Diana Ross by Allison Semmes enhance the bio-musical’s plotline, which relies a little too heavily on history for its backstory. Motown… is about the entertainers who gave us the  most recognizable sound of the 1960’s.

Mr. Gregory gives a well-balanced performance as “the Chairman,” Berry Gordy, Jr. An exhilirating highlight of the production is Ms. Semmes’ Ross in her first solo appearance in Las Vegas, a sequence that asks for a happy moment of audience participation.

Visit http://www.motownthemusical.com/ for tickets and more information.

 

Posted in based on a true story or event, drama, family drama

“War” and Peace

Discord is so natural to the human condition that we are often shocked when matters are settled amicably.

Aftermath

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins does not go so far as to find a peaceable solution for his characters in War, playing at LCT3 through July 3rd, but he looks at issues of race, mortality, and identity in his family saga.

Roberta (Charlayne Woodard) is in a coma after a stroke and her children, Tate (Chris Meyers) and Joanne (Rachel Nicks) find a stranger, Elfriede (Michele Shay) at her bedside. Elfriede uses the little English she knows to tell them that Roberta is her sister.

In the meantime, Joanne’s husband, Malcolm (Reggie Gowland) calls from Roberta’s apartment to say that he’s found a prowler there. Tobias (Austin Durant) is Elfriede’s son. They have travelled from Germany to meet Roberta. For Elfriede, the journey is emotional; for Tobias it is transactional.

Like Tobias, Tate is caught up in considerations of finance. He sees the Germans as usurpers. Joanne sees them as people in need. The outstanding Lance Coadie Williams rounds out the cast in two roles, as the domineering Nurse and the authoritative Alpha.

Jacobs-Jenkins indulges in the trendlet of breaking the fourth wall. In his case the surreal and supernatural, integral to his story is aided by Roberta’s addressing the audience. His is not a realistic play.

Under  Lileana Blain Cruz’s direction offers what is nearly an out-of-body experience. The techno effects, with lighting by Matt Frey and sound by Bray Poor, and a minimalist set by Mimi Lien, conspire to give War its raw, and visceral power.

Accord

A handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin  inspired J.T. Rogers to create Oslo, a play about the backdrop to the peace accords. Oslo is at Lincoln Center‘s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, under the direction of Bartlett Sher,  with a cast that includes the
charismatic Jefferson Mays, the wonderful Jennifer Ehle, and the dynamic Daniel Jenkins, and playing through August 28th. The large ensemble also features Michael Aronov, Anthony Azizi, Adam Dannheisser, Dariush Kashani, and Jeb Kreager.

Oslo explores the events that led up to the iconic moment in 1993 when peace in the Middle East seemed possible. The inevitable unravelling and descent into strife is a depressing reality today. It might be nice to go back to more hopeful times.

 

 

 

Posted in based on a true story or event, drama, theater

Smarter than the average bear…

Incognito Manhattan Theatre Club - Stage 1 By Nick Payne, Directed by Doug Hughes

Brain matter, preserved or degenerating, makes for interesting study.

Nick Payne’s Incognito, at Manhattan Theatre Club’s City Center Stage I through July 10th, analyzes and dissects, as it were, the ideas of individality/personality and cognition/memory, along with many other entertaining propositions.

Much of the plot of Incognito hinges on the theft of Einstein’s brain and goes full circle, with 4 actors portraying 21 characters in rapid and fluid succession. The story has basis in fact: Dr. Thomas Harvey (Morgan Spector) actually did take the brain with the intent to see what genius looks like, and kept it with him for the next 40 years; it appears he did not find out much in the course of his “studies,” but you will find out a great deal from Payne’s fascinating play.

Questions of sexual identity, loss and recollection are all touched upon in the course of the exciting and novel short theatrical piece. It’s as if a science-philosophy lecture came to life on the stage.

The ensemble work is beautifully orchestrated in Doug Hughes direction of Geneva Carr, Charlie Cox, Morgan Spector and Heather Lind.

Incognito is clever, unexpected and dramatic. It maybe the most interesting and unusual piece of theater you witness for a long while.

Please visit MTC’s site to learn more about and get tickets for Incognito.

Posted in based on a true story or event, historical musical drama, musical theater, theater

Righting Broadway’s Story

Joshua Henry, Brandon Victor Dixon, Billy Porter and Brian Stokes Mitchell, with Richard Riaz Yoder in Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, featuring music and lyrics by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, book by F.E. Miller and Aubrey Lyles, with a new book and direction by George C. Wolfe and choreography by Savion Glover, at The Music Box Theatre (239 West 45th Street). © Julieta Cervantes
Joshua Henry, Brandon Victor Dixon, Billy Porter and Brian Stokes Mitchell, with Richard Riaz Yoder in Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, featuring music and lyrics by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, book by F.E. Miller and Aubrey Lyles, with a new book and direction by George C. Wolfe and choreography by Savion Glover, at The Music Box Theatre (239 West 45th Street).
© Julieta Cervantes

George C. Wolfe has taken a Broadway melody of 1921 and placed it in its historical context. In 1921, the year when Shuffle Along was produced, it was exiled to a theater on 63rd Street. Yes, it was considered a Broadway house, but it was many blocks north of the main stem.

Shuffle Along‘s success, however, was extraordinary. The all-black production team enjoyed critical and popular acclaim, and an unexpectedly long-run of 504 performances.

Shuffle Along made stars of its lead actress, Lottie Gee (Audra McDonald in Wolfe’s retelling) and its creative team. Wolfe’s musical has jettisoned the  F.E. Miller (Brian Stokes Mitchell)-Aubrey Lyles (Billy Porter) book and replaced it with his own, while keeping the music and lyrics from Eubie Blake (Brandon Victor Dixon) and Noble Sissle (Joshua Henry).

Adrienne Warren and company perform “I’m Just Wild About Harry” © Julieta Cervantes
Adrienne Warren and company perform “I’m Just Wild About Harry”
© Julieta Cervantes

Nearly a century later, the musical theater remains indebted to the men and women of color who revolutionized and emboldened Broadway style and syncopation. This is the backstory to Wolfe’s story, but despite the high concept and lofty intentions, the 2016 Shuffle Along… is a very entertaining vaudeville.

Brian Stokes Mitchell, with Adrienne Warren (fourth from left), Billy Porter, Audra McDonald and ensemble © Julieta Cervantes
Brian Stokes Mitchell, with Adrienne Warren (fourth from left), Billy Porter, Audra McDonald and ensemble
© Julieta Cervantes

As it was refreshing to have a musical like Bright Star based on the American idiom of bluegrass, it is welcome to have one that is based on the other all-American art form, tap. The dances, as designed by Tony-award winner (1996 for Bring in Da Noise Bring in Da Funk, and presumptive for 2016 for Shuffle Along…) are masterly. One number takes the cast on a long circuitous train-trip of tryouts in completely mesmerizing taps. The songs are classics from the Blake-Sissle repertoire, including “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and “Love Will Find A Way,” from the score for the 1921 Shuffle Along.

The ensemble is excellent, with Brandon Victor Dixon  and Adrienne Warren (bothTony nominated for Featured Actor and Actress) standing out. The always able Brooks Ashmanskas, as the designated white guy in the cast, performs an excellent second act rain-on-their-parade number.

Audra McDonald in © Julieta Cervantes
Audra McDonald in
© Julieta Cervantes

Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, unlike its progenitor, is playing in the heart of Broadway at The Music Box. It is in an open run, although Audra McDonald will exit on July 24th and return in the winter, to be replaced by Rhiannon Giddens. Choreographer and tapper-extraordinaire, Savion Glover will join the cast on July 24th.

George C. Wolfe may be on a mission to right the
story of Broadway’s past, but he does it deftly and
with a showman’s touch

 

 

 

 

Posted in based on a true story or event, love story, musical theater, theater

Incandescent

There is an all-American breed of comic who is not just a clown but also a genius.

Steve Martin is one of these. He has a brilliant and inventive mind. He is not merely clever, but he’s also erudite. Along with songwriter Edie Brickell, Martin has won a Grammy for Best Original American Roots Song for the album that inspired the musical Bright Star currently enjoying an open run at the Cort Theatre.

The musical, an indigenous art form as American as opera is Italian (or French, depending on your point of view,) has never before been entrusted to this particular native musical genre: Bright Star is Broadway’s first blue-grass musical.

Carmen Cusack and company of Bright Star. Photo by Nick Stokes
Carmen Cusack and company of Bright Star. Photo by Nick Stokes

It’s not a completely original story– it’s billed as being “inspired by a true event”– but it is told with complete originality. Rob Berman and his band of merry men and women provide tuneful accompaniment from inside the cabin on stage. The hoedown that opens the second act is not the only crowd pleaser in Bright Star.

Broadway newbie, Carmen Cusack who stars as Alice in Bright Star, and her co-star Paul Alexander Nolan as Jimmy Ray both deserve the wild applause that greet them. A.J. Shively as Billy Cane and Emily Padgett as Lucy are also natural stand outs. In fact, the entire cast and ensemble are all glorious. Director Walter Bobbie has everyone moving with graceful ease in, around and through Eugene Lee’s excellent minimalist sets. Josh Rhodes provides appropriately country-style dance numbers.

For tickets and information, please visit www.brightstarmusical.com/

Dateline, May 26, 2016: see also the review on VevlynsPen.com at The Wright Wreport.