Posted in #Chicago, long running Broadway musical, Long running musical, moving musical drama, musical, Musical drama, musical revivals, musical theater, musical theatre, musicals, Phantom, The Long Running AMERICAN Musical, The Long Running Broadway Musical

The long game

The Company in a London production performing “Masquerade.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

So why does it say “longest running American musical?” Because Phantom is actually the longest-running musical on Broadway. Chicago is the runner up! The Phantom of the Opera, which by provenance is a British musical, makes Broadway history by going strong for over 30 years and over 13,000 performances.



Posted in drama, historical musical drama, moving musical drama, Musical drama, musical theater, musical theatre, political drama, theater

Hot tickets

1Justtheticket

It’s hard to pinpoint just what makes a “hot ticket;” it could be a star turn, or 11 Tonys or just the quirky charm of the story. Whatever it is,  you might want to share it with friends or family this holiday season.

HD_KeyIn mid-January when the Divine Miss M cedes the role of Dolly Gallagher Levi to the sterling Miss Bernadette Peters, tickets for this Broadway revival might become a tad more accessible. This in no way disparages Bernadette Peters’ enormous talent and wattage. Bette Midler just has a star shine all her own. A je ne sais quoi, let’s say, that sends tickets to see her in Hello, Dolly!! into the stratosphere. (Regular price tickets ranging from $189 may still be found at Telecharge, so check on availability, but there are premium seats for nearly $1000 and “secondary market” tickets for a lot more.)

 

Hamilton0044rR Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton
Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton Photo © Joan Marcus

Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s American history lesson enthralls. It’s still at the Richard Rodgers on West 46th Street, and it’s on tour across the country. It may be its impressive Tony showing that is part of the draw. Lottery tickets go for just $10 per, but, like any lottery, it’s a gamble. Speaking of gambles, the Hamilton website warns against buying from resellers to avoid receiving fraudulent tickets, so use the regular channels for purchasing this sizzling ticket. In fact these tickets are so blistering hot that it might be next December before the family enjoys the show.

Another and different kind of civics lesson can be found at The Band’s Visit. This musical was created from the Cannes prize-winning Israeli film; you can watch the movie on Showtime cable on Wednesday 12/13 and Tuesday 12/19 at 7:30pm, by the way.

This modest musical is enjoying a very successful and prestigious Broadway transfer from its 2016 run at the Atlantic Theatre. (Tickets are hot enough that the producers are not offering any discounts, by the way. We have not checked in at the day of TDF kiosk.) The Band’s Visit has heart and warmth, and a promise of the possibility of peace in the middle east.

Reflecting on another facet of history, Junk at the L.C. Beaumont Theater, offers much less hopefulness than The Band’s Visit. The heat factor in Junk comes from its ripped off the front page view of the financial crisis of the 1980s. This is just the ticket if you want to reflect on America’s obsession with money. I found it worrisone when someone in the audience wanted to clarify who had “ratted” on the main character. Ayad Akhtar takes us back to the “greed is great” days in which malfeasance is the benchmark. His lead character “creates wealth” by creating debt. The “Junk” of his title refers, of course, to junk bonds, a vehicle by which you, the consumer, lend a corporation more money than its worth. Wall Street types will be drawn to the humor and pace of this drama. The rest of us will appreciate the concise lesson it offers in high finance and unbridled ambition. At its core, Junk, staged as a Greek tragedy, is just that, showcasing characters filled with hubris and arrogant conceit.

Visit a Broadway show over the holidays, if you can, with your nearest and dearest.

 

Posted in #dystopia, drama, moving musical drama, political drama

It’s a Crime

Fucking A

By Susan Lori Parks
Directed by Jo BonneyIs it crime to be poor?

In the dystopia Suzan-Lori Parks has created in Fucking A, extended through October 8th at the Signature Theatre along with her sister play In The Blood (through 10/15,)  poverty is in and of itself a criminal act.

The anguish of the impoverished and uneducated is fundamental. A trespass leads to delinquincy, then to ever greater villainies. With a stellar cast, under the expert direction of Jo Bonney, Fucking A cuts to the bone.

The actors play instruments during the musical numbers, also written by Parks. Standouts among the ensemble include Christine Lahti as Hester Smith, Raphael Nash Thompson as Butcher, and Joaquina Kalukango as Canary Mary. The staging is simple and stirringly stark.

Parks’ ultra-Brechtian musical drama has both blood and guts.

There is still time to see Fucking A. Tickets and info at the Signature website.

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 based on a film, cruelty, moving musical drama, musical, second look, Vietnam background

Ugly is as ugly does in ‘DOGFIGHT" — gets a second look

This is an update since we had a chance to give “Dogfight” a second look!
For some, cruelty is a birthright. For others a rite of passage. 
“Dogfight,” the new musical  playing at Second Stage Theatre through August 19th, doesn’t examine the fine points of meanness and callousness. It does offer an improbable, or on second peek moving, redemption for Eddie Birdlace (Derek Klena.) Rose Feeney (Lindsay Mendez) sees past the ugliness of his actions and his physical good looks.

Lindsay Mendez as Rose with Derek Klena as Birdlace and company in the musical “Dogfight.” Photo © Joan Marcus.
 
In “Dogfight,” with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and a book by Peter Duchan based on the 1991 indie film of the same name, male bonding is mostly abusive and nasty. The girls, like Marcy (Annaleigh Ashford) and Chippy (Deirdre Friel, who also plays a number of other cameos) and even Rose are either victims, or just wanna have fun. Eddie and his pals, Boland (Josh Segarra) and Bernstein (Nick Blaemire), the three Bs, are marines on the eve of shipping out. Their destinaton is Vietnam. 
F. Michael Haynie as Fector, Nick Blaemire as Bernstein, Adam Halpin as Stevens, Josh Segarra as Boland, and Steven Booth as Gibbs in “Dogfight.” Photo © Joan Marcus.
This last night in San Francisco is for them to have “Some Kinda Time,” as the opening number suggests. The songs are not unpleasantly generic ’60s style pop, maybe with a bit of an edge to match the subject matter. The acting is good, particularly Derek Klena and Lindsay Mendez as the leads, and Annaleigh Ashford’s Marcy is tough as nails and terrific.
DeirdreFriel as Bernstein’s silent date, Nick Blaemire as Bernstein, Derek Klena as Birdlace, Lindsay Mendez as Rose, Josh Segarra as Boland, and Annaleigh Ashford as Marcy in the musical “Dogfight.” Photo © Joan Marcus.  
“Dogfight” is about insensitivity and heartlessness. Why are we not championing the women these marines treat so badly? It seems like we should be more concerned. The story line while both disturbing and satisfying, still manages to be bland. “Dogfight” uses the familiarity of its musical style, the dancing, and the wrap-around sets of staircases and catwalks, designed by David Zinn, to bolster the weakness of its plot.

So, about that second look: “Dogfight” was much more engaging the second time around. Its central characters were touching and its storyline was poignant. Even the music flowed better and was more interesting.  

  Derek Klena as Birdlace, James Moye as the party singer, Lindsay Mendez as Rose in the musical “Dogfight.” Photo © Joan Marcus.
To find out more about “Dogfight” visit http://www.2st.com/.