Posted in historically-based musical, Kristen Childs, Playwright, musical, musical comedy, Musical drama, musical theater, musical theatre, musicals, Playwrights Horizons, Robert O'Hara, women playwrights

It’s a big story

Bella: An American Tall TaleMay 19, 2017 – July 02, 2017 Mainstage Theater Book, Music, and Lyrics by Kirsten Childs Directed by Robert O'Hara  Choreographed by Camille A. Brown
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella), NaTasha Yvette Williams & Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Joan Marcus

Myth making is history’s fake news, but all good fictions share a grain of truth.

Kristen Childs’ Bella: An American Tall Tale, at Playwrights Horizons through July 2nd. Directed by Robert O’Hara (auteur and director of Bootycandy (Fall 2014) also @PHnyc) and choreographed by Camille A. Brown, is a big new exuberant musical in which the cowboy truths are told from the African-American perspective. Childs’ Bella is a legend-making story, relating history through fantasy.

Bella: An American Tall TaleMay 19, 2017 – July 02, 2017 Mainstage Theater Book, Music, and Lyrics by Kirsten Childs Directed by Robert O'Hara  Choreographed by Camille A. Brown
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella) & Brandon Gill. Photo by Joan Marcus

Bella (Ashley D. Kelley) is young and on the run. Her naiveté, like that of Voltaire’s Candide, is infectious as is her giggle. She leaves Tupelo after a confrontation with a plantation owner, Bonny Johnny (Kevin Massey) that has put a price on her head.

Bella, one of a long line of strong women, is sent off under an assumed name by her mother (Kenita R. Miller) and her aunt Dinah (Marinda Anderson); her grandmother (NaTasha Yvette Williams) urges her to remember who she is. She is also aided by the spirit of an ancestor her grandma (also played by Williams) invokes.

It’s nearly 1880, and Bella heads out to reunite with her Buffalo soldier, Aloysius (Britton Smith.) Kelley’s charm, by the way, is as big as Bella’s fabled behind.

Bella meets various larger-than-life characters on her way. As is her custom, Bella weaves ever taller fables about their fates. These include a Mexican caballero named Diego Moreno (Yurel Echezarreta) and a Chinese cowboy, Tommie Haw (Paolo Montalban).

Bella: An American Tall TaleMay 19, 2017 – July 02, 2017 Mainstage Theater Book, Music, and Lyrics by Kirsten Childs Directed by Robert O'Hara  Choreographed by Camille A. Brown
Members of The Company in one of many of Camille A. Brown’s specatcular dance sequences. Photo by Joan Marcus.

A Pullman Porter whom Bella calls Mr. Porter, and who is actually called Nathaniel Beckworth (Brendon Gill), is her protector and confidante on the train ride west.

The Western setting is a natural for the rough and tumble (and rugged) entertainment Bella: An American Tall Tale gives us.

The music  and lyrics (along with the book, all from Ms. Childs’ creative imagination) propel the plot, as they should in a well-ordered musical. Ms. Childs’ provides the vocal arrangements with orchestrations by Daryl Waters; the band is under the musical direction of Rona Siddiqui. Hoedown and hootenanny further serve to tell this whopping yarn. Ms. Childs’ songs range from funny/silly to interpretive to poignant.

Bella: An American Tall TaleMay 19, 2017 – July 02, 2017 Mainstage Theater Book, Music, and Lyrics by Kirsten Childs Directed by Robert O'Hara  Choreographed by Camille A. Brown
Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella, center) with members of The Company in tableaux. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Camille A. Brown’s terrific choreography, executed beautifully by the exceptional cast also furthers not just the plot but helps define the characterizations.

Kenita R. Miller as both Bella’s mother and the very proper Miss Cabbagestalk whom Bella meets on her journey, is outstanding. In all fairness, the entire cast, many in multiple roles, is superb. Olli Haaskivi does a nice turn as a stuttering circus announcer (and a bandit named Scooter). Jo’Nathan Michael and Gabrielle Reyes (as Mr. and Mrs. Dimwiddie respectively) do a wonderful bit when they step out of the chorus to play a couple who narrates in awe what they have just seen.

Robert O’Hara directs the spirited tale with vigor and originality. The actors give voice to Kristen Childs’ vision of the adventures of Bella Patterson, or is Johnson. The costumes by Dede M. Ayite are inspired and inspiring. The seemingly simple set (by Clint Ramos) gives color to the staging and is evocative.

Black history is an unacknowledged footnote to the history we’ve been taught in school. It’s good to see it be the main event as it is in Bella: An American Tall Tale.

For more information and tickets for Bella: An American Tall Tale, please visit the PHnyc website.


Posted in Daily Prompt, musical, musical comedy, musical theater, musical theatre, musicals

Upstairs, downstairs

Source: Upstairs, downstairs

HD_KeyDolly Gallagher Levi enters, in a descent from above, on a circular stair. I love the circular stair.

There is a new Dolly, one from a long line of matchmakers, in town in Jerry Herman’s and Michael Stewart’s musical, Hello, Dolly! This one is none other than the Divine Miss M, Bette Midler. Hello.

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







Posted in musical comedy, sketches, skits, slapstick

"Murder for Two" Is Just Deadly

Brett Ryback as the detective and Jeff Blumenkrantz as all 13 suspects in “Murder for Two” at 2nd Stage Theatre Uptown. Photo by Joan Marcus

Normally a double homicide is an agreeable if grisly TV staple and a pleasant way to  pass the time.

In “Murder for Two,” at the McGinn/Cazale, Second Stage’s uptown showcase, the crime is in the ridiculous premise.

Taste and sense have been cruelly killed. Comedy has been bludgeoned and all the fun of slapstick was butchered. “Murder for Two” is dull and annoying when it should be cute and winsome.

Jeff Blumenkrantz in one of his 13 guises and Brett Ryback as the investigator in “Murder for Two.
 Photo by Joan Marcus

In “Murder for Two,” a new musical by Joe Kinosian (book and music) and Kellen Blair (book and lyrics), there is a murder at a birthday party.  Jeff Blumenkrantz plays all the suspects while Brett Ryback plays a cop named Marcus. While not quite enough to recommend this foolish little skit masquerading as musical comedy, Beowulf Boritt has gone all-out in designing the elaborate set, framing the action inside a panelled arch.

In the interest of offering a balanced view, we note that “Murder for Two” was a hit in Chicago in 2010.
Nonetheless, this reviewer found that although it is  a mere 90 minutes with no intermission, “Murder for Two” is overlong.

For more information about “Murder for Two,” visit

Posted in competition, contest, Gaby Alter, Itamar Moses, Leslie Kritzer, love story, musical comedy, reality tv

"Nobody Loves You" Is Very Lovable

Imagine life as one big dating competition in which losers and winners are chosen by popular vote.

Rory O’Malley as Dominic, Bryan Frankart as Jeff, Autumn Hurlbert as Samantha, Roe Hartrapf as Christian, Lauren Molina as Megan, and Heath Calvert as Byron in the 2nd Stage production of Moses and Alter’s “Nobody Loves You.”
Photo by Joan Marcus.

Itamar Moses’ and Gaby Alter’s “Nobody Loves You,” at Second Stage Theatre through August 11th, is about just such a love-off.

“Nobody Loves You” is an endearing musical which satirizes that pop culture phenomenon in which we make our most private moments, public.

Aleque Reid as Jenny and Rory O’Malley as Evan in “Nobody Loves You” by Itamar Moses and Gaby Alter at 2nd Stage Theatre. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Moses, book and lyrics, and Alter, music and lyrics, have created characters you can care for in their good-clean making-fun-of comedy. Neatly directed by Michelle Tattenbaum with nice choreography by Mandy Moore, “Nobody Loves You,” is well-staged, insightful and funny.

Adorable leads, Jeff (Bryan Fenkart) and Jenny (Aleque Reid) meet when Jeff joins the cast of the show within the show, “Nobody Loves You,” to win back his ex, Tanya (Leslie Kritzer.) Jenny, the assistant to the producer, Nina (Leslie Kritzer again),  is as cynical about the show as Jeff is. MCing the over-the-top competition is the pretty and vapid Byron (Heath Calvert,) whose moves are as smooth as his silky voice.

Heath Calvert as Byron, Leslie Kritzer as Nina, and Bryan Fenkart as Jeff in “Nobody Loves You.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

Kritzer’s Nina is a barracuda who cajoles and threatens cast and staff with equal parts sweetness and guile.
Like Kritzer, who takes on her third role in a cameo as Zenobia the day she is kicked off the program, Rory O’Malley shows his versatility as Chaz/Dominic/and especially Evan. O’Malley, a Tony nominee for “The Book Of Mormon,” is splendid as superfan Evan who tweets during the broadcasts.

And don’t forget to vote for Autumn Hurlbert’s spunky Samantha and  Lauren Molina’s fierce all-in Megan! Theirs are just two more standout performances in a fabulous cast, which also includes the very appealing Roe Hartrampf as the charming Chrisitan.

Bryan Fenkart as Jeff and Heath Calvert as Byron in a scene from “Nobody Loves You.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

What could have  been a cheap shot at the easy target of reality television and its many excesses proves to be a very intelligent musical work. Like Cupid’s arrow, “Nobody Loves You” hits the mark but doesn’t sting.

For more information and a schedule for “Nobody Loves You,” please visit

Posted in A Christmas Story, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, from a 1983 film, from a cult classic, holiday fare, musical, musical comedy

Make a wish: A Christmas Story…

‘Tis the season for wishing and presents. 

Here’s a wish for you: gift yourself “A Christmas Story: The Musical” before it ends its season at  The Lunt-Fontaine Theatre on December 30th.
In  “A Christmas Story: The Musical,” Jean Shepherd (Dan Lauria) narrates a memory from childhood in which Ralphie (Johnny Rabe) is so desperate to get a “Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun” that his 
pleas tie his tongue.
Photo by Carol Rosegg. Johnny Rabe as Ralphie, Zac Ballard as his brother Randy and Erin Dilly as their mother.

His Mother (Erin Dilly) laughs off his Christmas wish with a “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out,” a sentiment that is reprised in the taunt his teacher Miss Shields (Caroline O’Connor) delivers in one of Ralphie’s many reveries.
In that same Fantasy scene, the youngest little scene-stealer in tapshoes, Luke Spring (age 9) out taps  his elders, including the wonderful Caroline O’Connor. In fact, the prodigious talent on stage in “A Christmas Story: The Musical” comes in all sizes and ages. And Warren Carlyle’s brilliant choreography adds sparkle at every turn to “A Christmas Story: The Musical.”

Luke Spring and Caroline O’Connor in a scene called “Fantasy 1930s Speakeasy.” Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Ralphie’s father, The Old Man (John Bolton), cursing a gibberish-load, harbors a wish of his own. His “Major Award” from a crossword contest inspires one of the most memorable of many terrific dance sequences in “A Christmas Story: The Musical.”

The Old Man (John Bolton) with his “Major Award.” Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Newcomers  Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (music and lyrics) with Joseph Robinette (book) retooled the 1983 film “A Christmas Story” by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark and Shepherd’s book “In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash” to give Broadway this generous holiday gift.
Dan Lauria as Jean Shepherd in a photo by Carol Rosegg.

The music in “A Christmas Story: The Musical” is varied and interesting with, just for example a lovely “What a Mother Does” (sung by the lovely Erin Dilly) balanced by the rousing ensemble piece “Ralphie To The Rescue.”

Johnny Rabe as Ralphie. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
In a superb cast, each with their own moments in which to shine, John Bolton is the topper on the tree. He is a very funny and gifted man. 
Kristen, the kindergartner in the next seat, enjoyed “A Christmas Story: The Musical” as did her dad. “A Christmas Story: The Musical” has more grit and glory than the usual children’s play. Adults and tykes alike will have a rollicking good time.
For more information about “A Christmas Story: The Musical,” please visit

Posted in Gershwins, Kelli O'Hara, Matthew Broderick, musical comedy, new book, old songs

A New Gershwin Musical Is "Nice Work" Indeed

Ira and George Gershwin are the rare pair of musicians who can posthumously launch a Broadway hit.

“Nice Work If You Can Get It,” at the Imperial Theatre in an open run, is a brand-new old musical, reworked by Joe DiPietro (2010 Tony for “Memphis”.) DiPietro’s script was inspired by material from Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse who collaborated on the book for the Gershwin’s 1926 “Oh, Kay!”

In “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Matthew Broderick plays the endearingly inept Jimmy Winter, a playboy on the verge of his fourth marriage. Kelli O’Hara is the tom-boyish bootlegger Billie Bendix.

(To see videos from the musical, click here.) With the police, in the person of Stanley Wayne Mathis as Chief Berry, and Senator Max Evergreen (Terry Beaver) with his prohibitionist sister, Duchess Estonia Dulworth (Judy Kaye) on their trail, Billie and her crew, Cookie McGee (Michael McGrath) and Duke Mahoney (Chris Sullivan) need a place to stash 400 cases of contraband booze. Jimmy’s seldon used Long Island mansion has a cellar that looks to be the perfect spot.

Joe DiPietro toys with the romantic comedy formula so that the expected happy endings offer some neat surprises. And even when you see it coming, the plot is bolstered by a tune aptly plucked from the rich Gershwin canon. “Nice Work…’ is completely adorable. Matthew Broderick’s guileless charm makes you feel at home in Jimmy’s “Ritzy Beach House.”

Kelli O’Hara, last seen as Nellie Forbush in

South Pacific

, is a big talent with a lovely voice and a natural ease on stage. Broderick’s pleasant voice is buoyed by his castmates, many of whom give superb performances.

The gypsies, dancing and singing in support of the main characters, under the direction and with choreography by Kathleen Marshall, are all excellent. The jazz era costumes by Martin Pakledinaz are resplendent and colorful.

Estelle Parsons is very funny in a near-cameo as Jimmy’s mother Millicent Winter. Robyn Hurder is delightful as Jeannie Muldoon, the chorus girl who longs to be the queen of England. Other outstanding members of the large ensemble cast are Michael McGrath whose gangster character goes undercover as the butler. Judy Kaye exercises her full range of voice and comedic skills, and some acrobatics, as the teetotalling Duchess Estonia.

“Nice Work If You Can Get It” …”and you can get it, if you try.”

For more information on “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” please visit their website. /More shortly…..