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 Daily Prompt, Hair the musical, Hamilton, Joe Papp, John Leguizamo, landmark, Lin-Manuel Miranda, New York City, real estate, The Public Theater, theater space

A theatrical intersection

via Daily Prompt: One-Way

There is a short street in the East Village which goes two-ways but is at its heart a one-way street. 425 Lafayette Street, formerly the Astor Library, was saved from demolition, and gained landmark status, when Joseph Papp turned it into The Public Theater.

A part of the theater’s mission statement says “THE PUBLIC is theater of, by, and for the people. Artist-driven, radically inclusive, and fundamentally democratic, The Public continues the work of its visionary founder Joe Papp as a civic institution engaging, both on-stage and off, with some of the most important ideas and social issues of today.” The Public began life in 1954 as the New York Shakespeare Festival, but moved into 425 Lafayette in 1967. Fittingly, the opening production was the innovative and “radically inclusive”  Hair, a musical that has had many revivals over time, including the one in 2011 at the St James Theatre in Times Square.

In honor of the 50 year anniversary of the Public, Lafayette at Astor Place will be co-named Joseph Papp Way on December 1 at 8:30a.m. The Public’s Artistic Director, Oskar Eustis will be at the ceremony along with Tom Finkelpearl, Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs,  Rosie Mendez,  District 2 City Councilwoman, and Gail Papp, Public Theater Board Member. Gail Papp will unveil the commemorative sign, while Eustis will make a few remarks on the occasion.

The recent history of The Public has given us the 11 Tony winning Hamilton, which transferred to the Richard Rodgers Theatre in 2015. This year, John Leguizamo brought his downtown show, Latin History for Morons,  to Broadway’s Studio 54. In addition to its free Shakespeare in the Park programs, The Public is also a recipient of countless awards and honors for its productions, which are represented not only on Broadway but on stages across the country and worldwide.

“Joe Papp changed the life of New Yorkers forever, creating a beloved institution devoted to making the life of our culture inclusive,” said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “It is thrilling that the city of New York will recognize him forever by co-naming this street for him.”

Posted in American Ballet Theatre, ballet, children's shows, comedy, dance, drama, events, kid-friendly, Manhattan Theater Company, Matthew Bourne, musical theater, The Women's Project, theater, theatrical events, Theresa Rebeck, writing about NYC

What’s on your calendar?

cropped-theater
from cafepress.com

As always, and as our standard preface for these listings, there’s a lot to do and see. New York City theater can keep a body very busy.

Listings for October-November and maybe even December 2017

PortugueseHow time flies? Is it almost the end of this year? Could Halloween be just a week away?

Women’s Project gave this a go in 2016, and it is being reprised at the Westside Theatre.
The cast in Stuffed, playing through February 18th, has changed, except for creator and star, Lisa Lampanelli, and under the same director, Jackson Gray,  but it is still a very relateable comedy. You or someone you know has been on and off the diet wagon for a long time.  Everyone of us has a relationship to food– love it or loathe it.  Can this lead to funny circumstances? With Lisa Lampanelli giving voice to the issues, you bet it can.

Meanwhile, currently at Women’s Project Theatre, What We’re Up Against, a new dark comedy by Theresa Rebeck, playing from October 28th to November 26th, is directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt, and features Skylar Astin, Marg Helgenberger, Jim Parrack, Krysta Rodriguez, and Damian Young.

John Patrick Shanley writes wry comedies based in realism with surreal twists. Examples include Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, as well as Moonstruck, in which Cosmo’s moon overwhelmes the landscape and Cher’s Loretta tells Nicolas Cage’s Ronny Cammareri
that he’s a wolf who chewed off his own hand. His latest, The Portuguese Kid, at MTC at City Center Stage I through December 3rd, stars Jason Alexander as a lawyer beleaguered by family and clients.

 

Listings are only represent some of the presentations on NYC stages

American Ballet Theatre is in week two of its two week run through October 29th at the David H. Koch at Lincoln Center. Lots of premieres, including a Millipied World Premiere, as well as classics from Frederick Ashton and Jerome Robbins.

Matthew Bourne has a new ballet, his first in many years, which is spending five days on the City Center mainstage, from October 26th through November 5th. There’s a rotating cast for The Red Shoes, and a suggestion that children over the age of 8 would enjoy it.

Speaking of the kiddies, take them to Symphony Space on the weekend with Just Kidding, a series of programs dedicated to events for children. This weekend, there is a Halloween fun day planned for Saturday, October 28th at 11am with Joanie Leeds who will lead the musical costume party. Check out the full schedule at the Just Kidding website.

On Saturday, November 4th, the Symphony Space program offers a new way to teach your little ones new languages. Future Hits, a Chicago rock group, brings their irrestible mix of song with learning to the Just Kidding series. One show only at 11a.m.

Zoe Kazan, actress, playwright, has written a new dystopian play, After the Blast, which is at LCT3 in the Claire Tow Theater through November 19th.

Tired of the dystopian world view? Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves,  about a girls’ soccer squad, is coming to L.C.’s Newhouse Theater beginning November 1st. The team are highly competitive but there is no end-world scenario here. The Wolves had its well-received premiere with Playwrights Realm last year.

John Leguizamo gives us lessons in Latin History for Morons, another Broadway transfer from the Public, to Studio 54 through February 4, 2018. (You may recall that Hamilton went this route….) Leguizamo was inspired by the ignorance of Latino history in his son’s school to create this primer. More information on Latin History for Morons can be found at its official webpage.

 

 

Posted in musical theater, theater, Uncategorized

Closing soon–or still playing– at a theatre near you

Ana Villafañe and the cast of On Your Feet! --one of few still standing even after a poor Tony showing.(c) Matthew Murphy
Ana Villafañe and the cast of On Your Feet! –one of few still standing even after a poor Tony showing.(c) Matthew Murphy

Among the end of summer rituals is the revving up of the theater season. New plays will open at the subscription houses, Broadway will host revivals and original productions; the fall will be the time to re-start.

Just as the fall brings new plays to our attention, so the summer sees old ones run their course. Here’s a list of what you need to catch up on before school starts:

Finding Neverland fits one of my favorite themes. It is another example of a musical undaunted by Tony denial. The production wasn’t even nominated and they survived well over a year! That is about to come to an end, and soon, when the show closes at the Lunt-Fontaine on Sunday, August 21st. It sets off for a national tour, beginning October 11th inm Buffalo.

Also nearing the end of its Broadway tenancy is the highly original and charming Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which shuts its light effects at the Ethel Barrymore on September 4th.

That day, the 4th of September, will also be the last performance of the Les Miz production currently at the Imperial Theatre. The epic Les Miserables will be missed, but we know we’ll raise a glass to its return.

Fun Home will depart Circle in the Square after its final performance on September 10th.

Meanwhile, Cats has slinked into the Neil Simon, opening for a limited run through January 15th. Jogs the “Memory,” when some 40 years ago, I sat on the stage of the Winter Garden to watch T.S. Eliot’s poetry turned to motion in the original Broadway production.

The ever bouyant and dramatic Phantom, another Andrew Lloyd Webber invention, continues to startle in its long-term home at the Majestic.

Among the more resilient musicals around is still Something Rotten!, which tall-tells the history of all musicals nightly (and twice on Wednesday and Saturdays) at the St. James.The musical, which was also light on TONY recognition in 2015 when it opened, is holding ticket lotteries even as we write.

Sort of like Hamilton, but… tix for the Perfect $10 are still a lot harder to score.

 

Posted in theater, Tony Awards, Tony winner

TONY (W)rap

I was wrong
Hamilton came on strong

Not seven
But eleven

Statuettes for lighting,
Orchestrations, and fighting

Cast and Lin
All win

Hamilton‘s got a token
Record’s still unbroken

Hamilton– 16 nods, 11 wins– trails
The Producers– winning 12– prevails

Their twelve wins no one’s topped
Even with just 11, Ham can’t be stopped

Try and get a ticket to see it, now– no!
That’s okay, it’ll still be there when you do go


It’s an annual ritual at VevlynsPen.com to have me flail around guessing who the winner will be on TONY’s big night. I am often wrong, and occassionally right. Congratulations, for instance, to Roundabout’s She Loves Me for a best for sets designed by David Rockwell.

But the business of TONY is a double-edged sword. The awards celebration attracts audiences– Hamilton, we might point out, did not need the boost– andthose not getting an award are dubbed TONY losers. Yes, I know, a TONY nominee is not a loser, but if you don’t win it…. well you know. It is in the musical category that productions are particularly vulnerable. (Plays are on their own time-table; very rarely would one last even 500 performances, although it may find a revival every few years.)

Not every musical is as resilient as Something Rotten! which chugs along with only the one lonely TONY winner, Christian Borle, in its cast. From this year’s crop, On Your Feet!, the Emilio and Gloria Estefan musical, has its own special appeal, and is selling tickets through next April.

American Psycho The Musical succumbed before awards night. The luminous Bright Star is closing before the July 4th holiday on June 26th; as CBS news confirms, it did not win the awards needed to keep the public’s interest. Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Broadway Sensation of 1921, and all that Followed is telling its story through October 9th at this point. We’ll see if it gets a second wind if and when Audra McDonald returns from her intermission from the show.

Since I mentioned plays, aka non-musical ones, earlier, it is good to remember that Eclipsed might have had a longer run had it gotten more love from TONY. The Father, which won a TONY for Frank Langella’s star turn, closed on schedule on father’s day.The Humans, this year’s best play will stay open at least through the end of the year at the Helen Hayes.

What can the TONYs do to help Broadway more? Should we all ease up a little on thinking of a TONY win as the pinnacle of a production’s success? In other, maybe TONY should matter less and the play be the thing…..

Posted in theater

Who will win at the 2016 Tonys?

NoLateSeating

My TONY predictions are up for debate and parley: what do you think?
http://www.vevlynspen.com/2016/06/on-tonys-night-gonna-be-fight-with.html
Almost as soon as I make a guess as to which will win what, I want to hedge my bet. For instance, although I suggested that Savion Glover’s choreography for Shuffle Along, or… would win this year’s award, I am now leaning towards Sergio Trujillo’s congas in On Your Feet as prize winning for choreography.

In the musical categories, there is one big show to beat, but it is not the only contender. Without a doubt, however, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliantly original Hamilton will be TONY’s BEST MUSICAL of 2016.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton. Photo © Joan Marcus
Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton. Photo © Joan Marcus

In other TONY expectations: look for Frank Langella to go home with a statuette for his performance in The Father. Likewise, The Humans looks good for Best Play, especially after its clinch at the Drama Desk Awards, although Danai Gurira’s timely and moving Eclipsed is also a nominee still in the running.

It is ever so tempting to blame the TONYs for early closings, but, honestly, American Psycho was steeped in red ink way before the nominations failed to acknowledge the hard work of its star, Benjamin Walker, or to credit the ingenuity of its creative team, particularly composer/lyricist, Duncan Sheik. TONY nomonations–or lack thereof– are not always the only problem productions face. Plays, especially “difficult” ones like Gurira’s, are often under-appreciated by theater-goers. (AP closed last week, and Eclipsed is scheduled to on June 19th. On Your Feet can carry on without substantial nominations and just its fan based audiences.)

My track record in guessing TONY finalists is not very good. So, let’s just hope for a lovely day and may the best play and players win!

 

 

Posted in anticipation, musical theater, theater, Tony

Contending

BROADWAY MELODY OF 1921

Just when it looked like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton was an early shoe-in for the 2016 Tonys, a new sensation comes down the pike. Shuffle Along or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, with previews which began in March and set for an April 28th opening at the Music Box Theatre, would be a revival but for the brand new book by George C. Wolfe. Wolfe frames the ground-breaking 1921 show within the back story of how it came to be.

Of course, despite it’s pedigree and interesting premise, chances are that nothing will unseat Hamilton, which just also won a Pulitzer, from the top of the Tony list. However, Shuffle Along… did get the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for BEST MUSICAL; Hamilton received the 2015 prize. 

In May 1921, Shuffle Along…, a new musical conceived by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles with music and lyrics by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle, became the unlikeliest of hits, unlikely because this was an African-American musical revue.

Miller and Lyles’s story for Shuffle Along was about a mayoral race fixed by one of the candidate’s campaign managers, and the ultimate overthrow of the elected official by Harry (“I’m just wild about Harry!”) Walton. Even though much of the comedy depended on minstrel stereotypes, Shuffle Along legitimized African-American talent for the Broadway stage, proving to producers and managers that audiences would pay to see black actors, singers and dancers.

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Our 2016 version of the show stars Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Joshua Henry and Brandon Victor Dixon, with choreography by Savion Glover. Everyone associated with the production is a household name in theater circles.

In the three years following its opening at Daly’s 63rd Street Theatre on May 23, 1921, 9 musicals created and performed by African-Americans opened on Broadway.

Shuffle Along came to be treated as a template, which had the disadvantage of limiting black-themed shows from straying from the pattern it set. Nevertheless, it gave black performers and writers as well as other artists a wider acceptance on the main stem. Some scholars have credited “Shuffle Along” with starting and inspiring the Harlem Renaissance.

To learn more about Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, please visit http://shufflealongbroadway.com/

WAITING FOR GOOD PIE

Waiting for that perfect fresh-made pie to come out of the oven offers a kind of thrill. Anticipating Waitress-The Musical had a similar exhilirating effect. The latter is now at Broadway’s Brooks Atkinson Theatre, having had a widely successful opening on April 24th.

To add to the sweetness, Jessie Mueller is the lead, the pie inventing Jenna in Waitress. Nick Cordero (a treat in “Bullets over Broadway”) plays her husband, Earl.

WAITRESS MUSICAL ORIGINAL BROOKS ATKINSON THEATRE 256 W. 47TH ST.
Waitress featuring Keala Settle as Becky, Jessie Mueller as Jenna and Kimiko Glenn as Dawn. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Mueller originated the role of Carole King in “Beautiful,” for which she won the Tony. We like to think we “discovered” her opposite Harry Connick, Jr. in “On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever,” one of the strangest musicals ever (but that is grist for another discussion.)

Sara Bareilles’ music and lyrics have lovingly turned Adrienne Shelley’s sad and sweet indie film into a bright pop-inflected musical. The libretto is by Jessie Nelson with choreography by Loren Lotarro. The project, which is a fine tribute to the talented Adrienne Shelley, who was murdered before her movie was released, is under Diane Paulus’ direction.

To learn more about Waitress-The Musical, please visit http://waitressthemusical.com/

DEM BELLS….

Most theaters have given up on the pre-curtain warnings. Everyone should know by now. Those that continue to try to keep the peace in the auditorium generally have a cast member make the announcement. Often, audiences are cleverly asked to turn off their cell-phones in order to preserve the period of the show they are about to see.

The Tony for Best Request, however, goes to Waitress, where the warnng was put to song with a deadline– ‘by the time I finish.’

THE CHANTEUSE

The Tony nominations will be officially broadcast on the morning of May 3rd, with Patina Miller and Andrew Rannells doing the honors. We’re making a couple of presumptious predictions ourselves.

Neither the smalltown-friendly allure of Waitress nor the bright shine of Bright Star, nor the big concept of Shuffle Along… can take the prize from Hamilton.

The contest for Best among musicals leading ladies is always one that excites, and this year is no exception.

Audra McDonald is a powerhouse performer with 6 Tonys to her credit. Jessie Mueller is a Tony winning actor whose charm shines in every role she takes. These two are the likely contenders for the 2016 Best Lead Actress in a Musical, with Bright Star‘s Carmen Cusack giving them a long-shot’s run for the gold.