George Salazar

George Salazar, Be More Chill ’s Michael in the Bathroom Has Gone as Fur as He C’n Go – at the Lyceum Theatre

By: Ellis Nassour

June 25, 2019: George Salazar is co-starring, scene-stealing, and delivering a unique power ballad as Michael [the one locked in the bathroom] in Be More Chill, Joe Iconis and Joe Tracz’s hilarious, mind-bending Sci-Fi musical paean to teenage angst. At the 115-year-old Lyceum, to borrow a few lyrics from Oklahoma! and Cats!, he’s “gone about as fur as he c’n go.” He’s up, up, up a rusted, narrow iron stairwell – almost to the Heaviside Layer! [of the flies], where in addition to a bird’s eye view of all that’s happening below, he’s created a very cozy dressing room surrounded by his colorful headband collection and art presented by his legion of fans.

George Salazar, Be More Chill ’s Michael in the Bathroom Has Gone as Fur as He C’n Go – at the Lyceum Theatre

By: Ellis Nassour

June 25, 2019: George Salazar is co-starring, scene-stealing, and delivering a unique power ballad as Michael [the one locked in the bathroom] in Be More Chill, Joe Iconis and Joe Tracz’s hilarious, mind-bending Sci-Fi musical paean to teenage angst. At the 115-year-old Lyceum, to borrow a few lyrics from Oklahoma! and Cats!, he’s “gone about as fur as he c’n go.” He’s up, up, up a rusted, narrow iron stairwell – almost to the Heaviside Layer! [of the flies], where in addition to a bird’s eye view of all that’s happening below, he’s created a very cozy dressing room surrounded by his colorful headband collection and art presented by his legion of fans.

Since he’s onstage a lot, you might think Salazar would hang just off stage on a comfy couch in the theatre’s faux green room, but no. He’s up and down those intimidating stairs throughout the show.

“After the opening number (“More Than Survive”),” he states, “I make my way up here. There’s no bathroom or shower, as in dressing rooms in more modern theatres, so I wipe myself down since I’ve perspired so much. There’s a speaker, so I can follow the show. After Will (Roland, as Jeremy) has taken a squip, I go down for our duet (“Two Player Game”). I wear a wig and when I take it off in the middle of Act One, my hair is all messed up, so I run back up. I get my exercise, and look forward to intermission.”

Audiences begin adorning Salazar and wanting to caress him as soon as he makes his entrance. You sense something extra special in this actor who attempts to make us believe he’s actually invisible.

In Act Two, to escape a wild costume party where everyone’s high on themselves, Michael/George has locked himself in a bathroom and is crouched inside his “scene partner,” a bathtub. He emerges bitter and broken to sing his high-octane showstopper, “Michael in the Bathroom,” a most unlikely-titled tune filled with sizzling agony. He grieves he’s no longer half of a pair as best friend Jeremy, all squiped up and the life of the party, has deserted him and comes to the realization that he’s someone no one even notices.

It is a powerful moment. Salazar gives it everything he’s got. The audience is so stunned, you can hear a pin drop. It’s a highly passionate and emotional moment. To no surprise, it takes a toll on him: “I’m such a mess! My dresser, James Strunk is waiting in the wings with a water bottle and towel. I wipe off and try to compose myself, but right away it goes from bad to worse. I have to get out of that costume and get into a bra and this padded outfit and wig that make me look like Dora the Explorer! I will tell you there’s nothing fun about looking at myself in the mirror and seeing myself as a girl, a busty girl – very busty.”

“Joe Iconis and Joe Tracz have written Michael’s arc in such a way that all you have to do is follow their road map. All your questions and the answers are in there. They’re in every quarter note, every bit of punctuation.”

The tune has become a runaway hit that’s the talk not only of the theater community but also across the board. With mostly new lyrics, it was one of the highlights of this year’s Tony Awards, sung by host James Corden telecast live on CBS from Radio City Music Hall’s gigantic, art deco Men’s Room. What would have made it even more memorable would have been to have Salazar pop out of a stall and duet.

Unlike the needy, weed-addicted, lovelorn Michael of Act Two, Act One’s Michael is confident and optimistic, and, it soon becomes obvious, in love. George is not invisible. You can’t help but notice him. That the legion of Tony Award nominators didn’t find him worthy of a Featured Actor nomination is mindboggling. However, he did capture a Lortel Award and was also nominated for his astonishing performance by critics’ organizations. 

He says, “That type of recognition or reward has never been a driving force for me. Lindsay Mendez (2018 Tony winner for the Carousel revival; Significant Other, Wicked), who’s like one of my older sisters in this community, told me, ‘You can’t care about that stuff. The focus has to be the work you’re doing.’ For the bottom line of our show or any show, a nomination is a win. I love this show, but my focus is to keep doing good work and finding clever ways to keep it alive.”    

Be More Chill follows Dear Evan Hansen and The Prom as shows that attract young and enthusiastic audiences that are moved by the performances. “It seems that forever we’ve heard that theater is dead, that it’s a dying art form. It’s such a joy having a house full of young people who have fallen in love with our show and supported us.

Salazar, who is 33, was born in Staten Island, but, from age five, raised in Kissimmee, FL [near Orlando and Disney World]. “It was a great place to grow up.” His mother is Filipino; his father, Ecuadorian. “Mom was a nurse, which many Filipino women are. Dad, whom I’d call a jack of all trades, works for Universal Orlando. He’s also a drummer, so I grew up in a musical world but it wasn’t theater music. That was never a thing in our family. I was never taken to a musical. I fell into all this accidently. As I look back, I got the music from Dad and the compassion from Mom.” 

A lot of his dad’s world rubbed off on Salazar and in addition to being a belter he a percussionist. 

In high school, very much as Be More Chill’s Christine (Stephanie Hsu, he fell in love with musicals. “But it only took one, Little Shop of Horrors, where I played Seymour to hook me.” However, upon graduating, he chose a path far afield from musical theater. “At the University of Florida, I was biology major. Yes, I was going to be a doctor, a neurosurgeon, no less.” He kept hearing theater’s siren call. “It wasn’t long before I applied for the musical theater program. I was fortunate to be one of the four accepted.”

In 2008, $900 and BFA degree in hand, Salazar moved to New York, where hit the audition circuit. He remembers his first. It was for Theatreworks USA’s The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks by Iconis. He wasn’t cast, and returned to waitering at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Times Square, until he discovered he had a shrimp allergy. 

Salazar’s first break came in 2010 when he was cast in a non-Equity bus-and-truck tour as “Otto” in the second national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical, Spring Awakening. The production toured the U.S. and Canada until closing May 2011. He returned here to begin earning his Equity card. 

He made his Broadway debut in 2011’s Godspell‘s 40th-anniversary revival.  “It really influenced and prepared me. The essence of the show sort of shifted my mission statement. Its improvisational, on-your-feet thinking guided me into wanting to work with emerging playwrights and composers.”

That led to what Salazar calls his “workshop years, making $100 a week, helping to develop new works.” He auditioned for Iconis and Robert Maddock’s teen band musical The Black Suits set for L.A.’s Center Theatre Group. “It seemed so right for me, but I didn’t get cast. Joe told me I wasn’t young enough. The part was for a teenager. I was 25. But, just to show you how things can happen, he said, ‘I have another show in the works and there’s a role you’re just right for.’ So, patience and persistence, in addition to hard work, pays off — eventually.” 

He had to be more patient. “Things don’t happen in a day, month, or year in theater!” He had to work. In 2013, Salazar was cast in Off-Broadway’s F#%king Up Everything [a.k.a. Brooklyn Crush], where he portrayed a rock band’s stoner drummer, impressing with his talent as a percussionist. 

Next came a 2014 workshop “where I was finally getting to work with Joe (Iconis). That led to the workshop for Be More Chill [directed by nine-time Tony-nominee Scott Ellis]. “It seems like yesterday, but we’ve all been together for over five years. We’ve really become a family. 100%! In fact, they are the   fuel for my creative soul. If I need anything – a shoulder to cry on, or even five dollars, they’re there for me. The job is a blessing, not a commitment.”

Salazar has been around long enough to work with and become close to some of the top performers in the business, and has developed warm friendships. “They know the ropes, and I know I can go to them and seek their advice.”

Some of the advice was not to give up on something you love. But… So, as all hoped for and awaited a full-scale production, Salazar worked that year in director Alex Timbers production of David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s Here’s Lies Love at the Public.



Finally, in 2015, Be More Chill was to happen. Two River Theatre, Red Bank, NJ, long-known for commissioning new works, premiered the musical, directed by Stephen Brackett (Buyer & Cellar; in L.A., Significant Other).

“I’d been a longtime fan of Joe’s, even collaborated with him,” informs Salazar. “I love what he writes, but this was unique. So, from day one, I knew Be More Chill was something special. Joe, Joe Tracz, and Stephen reinvented the formula. The show has universal themes everyone can identify with. For instance, bullying and dealing with our insecurities. It was exciting, and audiences loved it. However, none of us predicted how it would become so popular on social media. Suddenly, we had a huge following!”

It didn’t just hit a chord with the younger set. Producers took notice and a move to Off Broadway was considered.

In the meantime, Salazar did Keen Company’s 2016 two-month Off Broadway revival of Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical Tick…Tick… Boom!; and, in 2017, joined Jelani Alladin (Frozen) playing Grover and Mr. D. in Theaterworks USA’s 2017 The Lightning Thief, The Percy Jackson Musical by Rob Rokicki and Be More Chill’s Tracz (book), and directed by Stephen Brackett. 

In August of last year, some 30 investors came together and in association with Two River premiered Be More Chill Off Broadway at Pershing Square Signature, directed by Brackett. A new Act One closer for Jeremy (Roland) was added. 

In March, with the transfer to Broadway, Act One’s “Sync Up” was added.   “What we love about the new song,” says Salazar “is that it helps to deepen and enrich the show’s various characters so we feel like real people.”

He wants to take a moment to speak of Brackett, whom he met at Two River and then worked with on Lightning Thief. “Stephen is the type of director who gives actors freedom to make choices. In such a creative environment, the actors feel safe to fail. What you have is a treasure trove of ideas and choices that in a room a bit more stifled might not have discovered. If you feel the pressure to impress the director, you’re limiting yourself.”

Salazar notes that “forever” people have said that theater is a dying art. “From Day One, we discussed how we how we need to bring young people into theater. With shows likes ours, The Prom, and Dear Evan Hansen, we are inviting young people to the table to be part of the conversation. Fans of the show tell us they see bits of themselves in the characters we play.”

“Be More Chill has changed my life,” Salazar states, “and, seemingly, from what they tell and write us, has changed the lives of so many young people. My favorite aspect of this journey has been seeing how art and music can affect young people. They’re important to us. They’re smart and using their voices to take stands. I’m learning every day from them. They’re actually quite brilliant. “

Little Women ***

By: Isa Goldberg

June 20, 2019: Bearing the stamp of playwright Kate Hamill, this Little Women is a testament of late 20th century feminism. Hamill, who has famously adapted classics, Sense and Sensibility and Vanity Fair to the stage, finds fodder in well-known women’s roles – women of complexity, that is. 

By: Isa Goldberg

June 20, 2019: Bearing the stamp of playwright Kate Hamill, this Little Women is a testament of late 20th century feminism. Hamill, who has famously adapted classics, Sense and Sensibility and Vanity Fair to the stage, finds fodder in well-known women’s roles – women of complexity, that is. 

Her novel to stage adaptations can feel boisterous, bursting with a kind of giddy zeal. To that end, Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel, Little Women, offers a basket full of melodramatic skits, exaggerated characterizations, great story telling, and the buoyancy that allows us to lift the images from the page. It’s still a foreshadowing to watch Katherine Hepburn’s broadly comedic portrayal of Jo in the 1933 movie. 

The March family: (L–R) Meg (Kate Hamill), Jo (Kristolyn Lloyd), Marmie (Maria Elena Ramirez), Beth (Paola Sanchez Abreu), and Amy (Carmen Zilles) in Primary Stages’ production of Kate Hamill’s “Little Women.” 

Many remakes later, and we now have this stage play produced by Primary Stages at The Cherry Lane Theater in which Jo, the central character, is portrayed by the African American actress, Kristolyn Lloyd. In her portrayal, Jo doesn’t experience herself being like other women. She’s a writer, and she dresses like a man. And while dress ups are central for acting out her skits, Jo maintains a seriousness of purpose that becomes her. She definitely has anti-establishment charm, and a lot of resistance to “lady-like.” 

The beauty of the piece, as in Hamill’s Sense and Sensibility is in the ensemble nature of the production. Director Sarna Lapine deftly weaves this on-stage family, with its four distinctly different sisters.

Thanks to a zesty Act II, we get to follow the characters to their individual destiny, and in the process discover the nuances of character that forge empathy. Beth, played by Paola Sanchez Abreu is an especially sensitive character, and her dark complexion is full of foreboding.

In the role of Meg, Kate Hamill transforms from the dutiful good girl, and the most feminine of the sisters, to the haggard wife of a tutor, and mother of twins. It’s a ravishing role, the twins screaming and crying and the constant house cleaning are enough to drive her out of her mind. It’s the reality of marriage as described here that underlines the play’s contemporary spin. Her life serves as a sharp contrast to the life Jo has chosen for herself. 

Clearly, in such an adaptation characters that appear in the novel are eliminated, or blended into other characters who can express their views.  Here, the poor Hummels, secondary characters in the novel, are only mentioned, as emblems of poverty. It’s a big concern for the sisters whose lives have gone from riches to rags. Speaking of domestic tensions, the story takes place during the Civil War.

Given the circumstances into which the liberal thinking March family has fallen, it’s appropriate that the entire production takes place on a single set. Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams’ dark and wooden living space, with a loft above carrying a small bed feels cold when there aren’t a lot of characters running about. Otherwise, it’s a home worthy of spiritual riches – piano playing, rambunctious acting, and the romantic lives that blossom for each of these four sisters. 

Little Women ***
Primary Stages
Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce Street New York, NY 10014
Running time: Approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
For Tickets Click Here or call 212-352-3101 
Photography: James Leynse

Nate Mann as Laurie, Kate Hamill as Meg, and Kristolyn Lloyd as Jo in a scene from Hamill’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” 

Fairview *****, A Strange Loop ****, The Secret Life of Bees ***, Much Ado about Nothing ****

By: David Sheward

June 19, 2019: The 2019-20 Off-Broadway theater season begins with a quartet of productions exploring African-American identities through a variety of lenses—out-of-the-box deconstruction, autobiographical satire, traditional musical, and Shakespeare. The most original and frightening is Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Pulitzer-Prize winning Fairview, now at Theater for a New Audience’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn following its run last summer at Soho Rep. This refreshingly different examination of how we perceive race begins conventionally enough, almost like a sitcom. In Mimi Lien’s well-appointed, blindingly white living-room set, the Frasers, an upper-middle-class African-American family, prepares for the matriarch’s birthday party. Sisters quarrel over dieting, spouses bicker about grocery shopping, mother and daughter clash concerning college plans. All mildly amusing and somewhat routine, except for the occasional reflection on how the family members see themselves—foreshadowing the play’s main theme of identity.

By: David Sheward

June 19, 2019: The 2019-20 Off-Broadway theater season begins with a quartet of productions exploring African-American identities through a variety of lenses—out-of-the-box deconstruction, autobiographical satire, traditional musical, and Shakespeare. The most original and frightening is Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Pulitzer-Prize winning Fairview, now at Theater for a New Audience’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn following its run last summer at Soho Rep. This refreshingly different examination of how we perceive race begins conventionally enough, almost like a sitcom. In Mimi Lien’s well-appointed, blindingly white living-room set, the Frasers, an upper-middle-class African-American family, prepares for the matriarch’s birthday party. Sisters quarrel over dieting, spouses bicker about grocery shopping, mother and daughter clash concerning college plans. All mildly amusing and somewhat routine, except for the occasional reflection on how the family members see themselves—foreshadowing the play’s main theme of identity.

The comic action reaches a climax with the hostess fainting due to a cake burning in the oven and the lights black out. Then things takes a decidedly bizarre and scary turn. The play begins again with the cast silently replaying the first act over the voices of four unseen white observers commenting on the proceedings and discussing the topic “If you could be any other race, which one would you chose?” At the performance attended, you could actually feel the audience grow increasingly uncomfortable as the disembodied white speakers spewed insensitive racial assumptions and stereotypes. To avoid spoilers, what happens next will not be revealed, but suffice it to say Sibblies Drury brilliantly turns theatrical convention inside out in a series of coups de theatre inventively staged by Sarah Benson and performed with double-edged precision by a cast playing both the cliched comedy and their awareness of being watched. Mayaa Boateng is particularly impressive as the daughter Keisha who steps outside this looking-glass world and into a new world of self-reflection. 

L Morgan Lee, James Jackson Jr., Jason Veasey, Larry Owens, Antwayn Hopper and John-Michael Lyles in “A Strange Loop“.

Michael R. Jackson also inverts audience expectations and conventions with his autobiographical musical A Strange Loop at Playwrights Horizons. While Sibblies Drury mercilessly probes cultural and racial biases, Jackson turns the glaring spotlight on himself, an African-American, plus-sized gay man, a demographic usually relegated to comic relief supporting roles, particularly in tuners. The protagonist Usher (a dynamically funny and intense Larry Owens), battles with his unruly thoughts (embodied by a sharp and versatile ensemble of six) as well as a racist, body-shaming culture as he struggles to complete his musical theatre piece, an autobiographical work called A Strange Loop about a heavy-set, black gay man named Usher. The title refers to the scientific phenomenon of self-referential systems which repeat endlessly. It’s also the title of a Liz Phair album, one of Usher’s favorite “white girl” singers. The piece abounds with similar ironic references. Usher’s not only has the same name as a famous pop star (like the author), but his day job is serving as an usher at The Lion King and his family members all have the same names as the royal feline clan in the Disney smash hit.

Strange Loop asks as many hard and fidget-inducing questions as Fairview and, for the most part, Jackson achieves the perfect balance between hilarious satire and probing self-examination. For the first three-quarters of the show’s intermissionless running time, riotous comedy sequences mix with bitingly truthful dramatic moments. A cute meeting with a potential boyfriend in the subway turns into a cruel fantasy. A devastating parody of Tyler Perry’s mawkish movies (stunningly performed by Owens) is followed by an unforgiving family portrait. Historic figures such as Harriet Tubman, James Baldwin and Zora Neal Hurston chide Usher for not being the right kind of “n” word. 

But in the final vignettes when Usher confronts his tradition-bound parents on their homophobia, his points are made and then repeated too many times, culminating in a bold but repetitive gospel parody with the refrain “AIDS Is God’s Punishment.” After the initial shock wears off, Jackson lets the outrageous number, expressing his anger at being rejected by his community’s church, outstay its welcome. Despite these flaws, Loop is a powerful and startlingly fresh work directed with pace and punch by Stephen Brackett featuring a screamingly funny and insightful book and score by Jackson, a daring and noteworthy new talent. 

LaChanze (left) and Elizabeth Teeter in ” The Secret Life of Bees”.

While A Strange Loop is decidedly risky, The Secret Life of Bees at Atlantic Theater Company, based on Sue Monk Kidd’s best-selling novel, is an unsurprising musical where racial conflict is cast in absolute terms of black and white (forgive the pun) and ambiguity has no place. Set during the early 1960s in the rural South, Bees chronicles the adventures of white girl Lily (tender and moving Elizabeth Teeter) and her black housekeeper Rosaleen (fiery Saycon Sengbloh) as they escape Lily’s abusive father (smoldering Manoel Felciano). They discover a spiritual home and secrets of their past with a trio of mysterious African-American beekeeping sisters (charismatic LaChanza, prickly Eisa Davis and compassionate Anastacia McCleskey). Bees is the kind of show Loop and Fairview are poking fun at—safe and conventional with the inspiring, integrated heroes overcoming redneck racists. Sam Gold delivers a sleek, proficient production and the book by Lynn Nottage, music by Duncan Sheik and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead are properly uplifting and entertaining,  but lack surprise and danger.

Tiffany Denise Hobbs, Margaret Odette, Olivia Washington and Danielle Brooks in “Much Ado About Nothing”

Kenny Leon’s free Shakespeare in Central Park production of Much Ado About Nothing appears to be just as unchallenging with delightful hijinks provided by a superlative all-African-American cast led by a blazingly witty and strong Danielle Brooks as the merry Beatrice and a virile yet comically vulnerable Grantham Coleman as Benedick, her adversary on the field of love and words. But Leon places the Bard’s lighthearted comedy within a serious framework. Beowulf Boritt’s lush setting depicts an Atlanta, Georgia townhouse with a huge campaign banner reading “Stacey Abrams 2020.” Before she begins expertly doling out Beatrice’s tangy observations on love and marriage, Brooks sings Marvin Gaye’s 1971 “What’s Going On” inspired by incidents of police brutality. The war Benedick and his followers are returning from appears to be one of civil disobedience. They enter carrying protest signs (“Hate Is Not a Family Value”) as the play begins and exit the same way at the end when sirens interrupt the happy couples’ nuptials. Benedick’s comrade Claudio (dashing Jeremie Harris) wrongfully accuses his fiancee Hero (lovely Margaret Odette) of infidelity and rather than weekly taking it, Hero strikes Claudio before forgiving him. Leon has wisely underplayed these contemporary references, allowing them to seamlessly blend with Shakespeare’s timeless comedy. Kudos also to Chuck Cooper’s fatherly Leonato, Billy Eugene Jones’ commanding Don Pedro, and Hubert Point-Du Jour’s sinister Don John.  

Fairview *****
June 16—July 28. Soho Rep’s production at Theater for a New Audience at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn, NY. Tue—Fri 7:30pm, Sat—Sun 2pm & 7:30pm. Running time: one hour and 40 mins. with no intermission. $55—$115. (866) 811-4111. www.ovation.com
Photography: Julieta Cervantes

Heather Alicia Simms and Roslyn Ruff in “Fairview”.
Charles Browning in “Fairview”

A Strange Loop ****
June 17—July 28. Playwrights Horizons in association with Page 73, 416 W. 42 St., NYC. Tue—Wed 7pm, Thu—Fri 8pm, Sat 2:30pm & 8pm, Sun 2:30 & 7:30pm. Running time: one hour and 45 mins. with no intermission. $59—$109. (212) 279-4200. www.ticketcentral.com.
Photography: Joan Marcus

James Jackson Jr., John-Michael Lyles, Jason Veasey, Larry Owens, Antwayn Hopper, John-Andrew Morrison, and L Morgan Lee in “A Strange Loop“.
Larry Owens and cast of “A Strange Loop”.

The Secret Life of Bees ***
June 13—July 21. Atlantic Theater Company at the Linda Gross Theater, 336 W. 20th St., NYC. Tue 7pm, Wed 2pm & 8pm, Thu—Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm. Running time: two hours and 20 mins. including intermission. $86.50—$96.50. (866) 811-4111. www.ovation.com.
Photography: Ahron R. Foster

Elizabeth Teeter and Manoel Felciano in “The Secret Life of Bees“.
The company of “The Secret Life of Bees“.

Much Ado About Nothing ****
The Public Theater at the Delacorte Theatre, Central Park West at W. 81 St., NYC. Tue—Sun, 8pm. Running time: two hours and 30 mins. including intermission. Free. (212) 967-7555. www.publictheater.org.
Photography: Joan Marcus

Grantham Coleman, Jeremie Harris, Margaret Odette, Danielle Brooks and company in “Much Ado About Nothing”.
Grantham Coleman, foreground, and cast in “Much Ado About Nothing”

Convention ***

By: Isa Goldberg

June 20, 2019: A wild romp at the Irondale Theater in Brooklyn, Convention takes us back to the 1944 Democratic convention. FDR is running for his fourth term, and the issue on the floor concerns his pick for Vice President, with Harry Truman beating the incumbent, Henry A. Wallace.

By: Isa Goldberg

June 20, 2019: A wild romp at the Irondale Theater in Brooklyn, Convention takes us back to the 1944 Democratic convention. FDR is running for his fourth term, and the issue on the floor concerns his pick for Vice President, with Harry Truman beating the incumbent, Henry A. Wallace.

Think Bernie Sanders, and the 2016 democratic convention, and you can begin to imagine the tumult on stage. Soon, several vice-presidential candidates throw their hats into the ring. Insults, jibes, innuendoes walk the tight rope here. That, and a hot dog vendor keep the action going. 

Kathleen Littlefield as Samuel D. Jackson, Indian, convention co-chari

Staged as a real time event, in which the actors portraying the vying politicians merge into, and out of the audience, Convention is not linear in structure. Why these candidates emerge when they do, or what really went down to cause Truman’s election is not to be clarified.  As written by Danny Rocco that is the fabric of history – more like a Sargasso Sea than an Excel spreadsheet. Stuff happens. It’s a dirty war. Still, watching it is fun!

Set in a beautiful hall, housed in the Lafayette Church in Fort Greene, the

surroundings bring us back to 1944, with walls of chipping paint, and old wooden seats. Ragtime piano music also marks the affinity with African American culture, and reflects the progressive temperament Wallace’s team flaunted. 

Democratic rusticity abounds. (This is nothing like the glitter the Republican Party puts on.) And Jennifer Raskopf’s period costumes are a hoot. Truman’s wife wears a dowdy skirt suit, and a little hat, but as played by Daniel John Serpati, a tall ivy league looking man, it looks ludicrous.  Similarly, women in pants suits portraying men as well as women, mingle among us. 

Inclusiveness has a strong presence here. Charles Everett, the African American actor plays Truman, and Claire Mikelle Anderson, in the role of Wallace, is convincing, while not necessarily manlier in her role.  

Directed by Shannon Fillion, the hall turns into something of an echo chamber, in which each audience member hears different voices. The banter going on next to my seat, can’t be noticed at the other end of the auditorium. And what they saw and heard is not what I can observe. It’s cacophonous that way. 

Lizzie Stewart as the actress and delegate Helen Douglas, Michael Leon as Alben Barkley from Kentucky, and Michael Pantozzi as Philip Murray from the Congress of Industrial Organizations

Still, the conversation sounds like contemporary partisan bickering. One representative shouts, “We’re all Democrats, we’re all on the same team.” To which another responds, “But we’re not. That’s the problem.” Better yet, “You’re like birds tweeting. Use your minds!”

Clearly, the issues that are being voiced are those of our own time. Here the conflict between the progressives, represented by Wallace, and the more moderate position championed by Truman, has a lot to do with what the party can serve that voters will buy. 

Cheering at the end of Act I, “It’s 1944. What are you waiting for?” is the show’s battle call, an impetus to people who wonder why we VOTE.

Convention ***
Irondale Center  
85 S. Oxford Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Running time: Two hours and 15 minutes, including one intermission
Tickets: $18
Photography: Ahron R. Foster 

Michael Leon as Kentucky delegate Alben Barkley
Claire Mikelle Anderson as Vice President Henry A. Wallace. In the background are (left) Charles Everett as Harry Truman and Daniel John Serpati as his wife Bess Truman

Broadway SIngs For Pride

Emmy Winner Susan Lucci & Broadway’s Best will headline “Fearless” NYC Pride Event! Tony Winner Cady Huffman, Hamilton Alum “Drag Race”, more!


On Monday, June 24, 2019, award-winning non-profit Broadway Sings for Pride will premiere their 9th annual Pride charity concert event. Emmy award-winner Susan Lucci will join a bevy of performers from stage, screen and sports to celebrate LGBTQIA Pride, commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion!  The night will include appearances by Tony Winner Cady Huffman, Broadway favorite Telly Leung, RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Yuhua Hamasaki and more to kickoff PRIDE Week in New York City!  

Emmy Winner Susan Lucci & Broadway’s Best will headline “Fearless” NYC Pride Event! Tony Winner Cady Huffman, Hamilton Alum “Drag Race”, more!

On Monday, June 24, 2019, award-winning non-profit Broadway Sings for Pride will premiere their 9th annual Pride charity concert event. Emmy award-winner Susan Lucci will join a bevy of performers from stage, screen and sports to celebrate LGBTQIA Pride, commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion!  The night will include appearances by Tony Winner Cady Huffman, Broadway favorite Telly Leung, RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Yuhua Hamasaki and more to kickoff PRIDE Week in New York City!  

 Entitled Fearless, the two hour concert will take place at The JCC Manhattan, beginning at 7:30 PM.  Journey with Broadway Sings for Pride as they celebrate a half century of Pride! The night will include a retrospective of Pride from the last 50 years, as told by some of your favorite pop and Broadway songs, celebrities, Broadway performances, and special guest speakers.  The funds raised on this very special evening will go to worthy LGBTQIA organizations in the New York City area. For those who can’t attend, for the second year in a row, the event will be live streaming in 4k resolution (live streaming information will be made available at a later date).

The concert on Monday, June 24, 2019, will start at 7:30pm at the Goldman- Sonnenfeldt Family Auditorium, Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10023.  Tickets can be purchased at www.BroadwaySingsForPride.com or https://tinyurl.com/PrideFearless

Susan Lucci
Photo: Barry Gordin

Performers and speakers scheduled to appear:  Susan Lucci (Emmy Award Winning actress and New York Times best selling author, Broadway’s Annie Get Your Gun), Miss Lawrence (Fox Television’s Empire & Star, The Real Housewives of Atlanta), Yuhua Hamasaki (RuPaul’s Drag Race), Cady Huffman (Tony Winner for The Producers on Broadway, Director: “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” Weathervane Theater New Hampshire Summer 2019), Mark Segal (founder & publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, Author of And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality), Sarah Rice (Sweeney Todd Original Broadway Cast), Wade Davis (Former NFL Player, Corporate Inclusion Advisor and Educator), Sally Kohn (CNN Political Commentator, Author of The Opposite of Hate), Michael Musto (Famed Journalist and NYC Nightlife Columnist), Telly Leung (Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway, Rent on Broadway), Michael James Scott (Aladdin: Broadway, Original Australian Cast, West End, U.S. National Tour, Something Rotten!, Hair), Sasha Hutchings (Broadway: Hamilton Original Broadway Cast, Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady Revival), Frenchie Davis (Grammy Nominated Vocalist, Rent on Broadway, NBC’s The Voice), Kay Trinidad (Hadestown on Broadway, Disney’s The Little Mermaid on Broadway), Russell Fischer (Broadway’s Jersey Boys), Rachel Eskenazi-Gold (The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway), Tessa Alves (Broadway: Beetlejuice, Rock of Ages), Ralph Meitzler (Broadway’s Rock of Ages), Vasthy Mompoint (Broadway: The Prom, SpongeBob SquarePants), Jonathan Burke (Choir Boy on Broadway), Justin Sargent (Rock of Ages on Broadway, Jesus Christ Superstar: Live on NBC), Jordan Baker (Broadway’s The Normal Heart), Keisha Gilles (The Book of Mormon on Broadway), Zell Morrow (Broadway: Fun Home, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two), Cole Grey (Fun Home on Broadway),  Brian Falduto (Film: School of Rock, Singer/Songwriter), Adam B. Shapiro (Off-Broadway’s Fiddler on the Roof, HBO Film’s The Normal Heart), Catherine Bradley (Broadway’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two), Grace DeAmicis (Broadway’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two), Jack Pravda (Broadway’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two), Connor Mills (Broadway’s Kinky Boots), Cooper Lantz (Broadway’s Kinky Boots), Eric Walker Jr. (Broadway’s Kinky Boots), Tad Wilson (Broadway: Rock of Ages, Priscilla Queen of the Desert), (Mason Alexander Park (Hedwig and the Angry Inch National Tour),  Phindi Wilson (Disney’s The Lion King Tours: United States, Madrid & Brazil), Sarah Parnicky (Off-Broadway’s Desperate Measures), Nathan James (Contributing Writer/Columnist at NBC News & HuffPost), Desmond is Amazing (11-year old award-winning LGBTQ activist, drag artist), Cece Suazo-Harris (Off-Broadway’s Street Children), Adrienne Fishe (Rent National & World Tours), STAR Theater for Social Change, Anne Fraser Thomas (Mariah Carey Christmas Concert, Marty Thomas Presents DIVA, Broadway Inspirational Voices), Mayo Performing Arts Company, Lindsay Cherin (NJ Idol, A Night of Future Broadway Stars).

Neal Bennington will produce the event with Charles Santoro serving as musical director, arranger and pianist. He will be joined by David Cinquegrana on guitar, Joe Mankin on bass guitar and John Ferrari on percussion.  Asaf Blasberg will serve as technical live stream director, along with Robert Miele as lead camera operator and John DeMarco camera assistant. Makeup services will be provided by: Amy Sue Nahhas, Emma Berley, Geneva Fong, & Danielle Lampo.

“Fearless” is made possible by the generous sponsorship of The Pierre Hotel, International Spirits & Wines of Mount Kisco, Tony Seker, Coloring Broadway, Anton Moore, AKA New York Hotels.   

Launched in June 2011, Broadway Sings for Pride grew out of the tragic suicides which plague the gay community. We have received support from Neil Patrick Harris, Channing Tatum, Fran Drescher, Carol Channing, Frankie Grande, Bryan Cranston, Kathy Griffin, LeAnn Rimes, Bernadette Peters, Nathan Lane, Joy Behar, Wendy Williams and many others. Broadway Sings for Pride stages concerts and events that bring to light the challenges faced in the LGBTQ community, using the funds raised from these programs to aid LGBTQ youth and their families either directly or through supporting like-minded service organizations. We have been honored by Wagner College (Citizen Alum Award 2015 Honoree), Long Island Gay and Lesbian Film Festival’s 2015 Non-Profit Organization All-Star Award, Tyler Clementi Foundation The Upstander Legacy Honoree Host Committee Member, and a four-time nominee for “Most Valuable Campaign” & “Most Valuable Organizer” from the New Organizing Institute.  Find out more on Instagram (Broadway Sings for Pride), Facebook (Broadway Sings for Pride) or on our website: www.BroadwaySingsForPride.com.  

Handbagged ****

“Two for Tea”

By: Samuel L. Leiter

June 12, 2019: If you enjoyed any of the several film, theatre, and TV examinations of Queen Elizabeth II, in particular the 2013 play The Audience (seen on Broadway in 2015), produced over the past dozen years, or the 2011 movie The Iron Lady, about Britain’s first female prime minister, the late Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013), you’ll probably be wholly absorbed by Handbagged, Moira Buffini’s play about these two grand dames of British leadership. (King Charles III, although more fiction than reality, is in the same vein, albeit about Elizabeth’s son.)

“Two for Tea”

By: Samuel L. Leiter

June 12, 2019: If you enjoyed any of the several film, theatre, and TV examinations of Queen Elizabeth II, in particular the 2013 play The Audience (seen on Broadway in 2015), produced over the past dozen years, or the 2011 movie The Iron Lady, about Britain’s first female prime minister, the late Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013), you’ll probably be wholly absorbed by Handbagged, Moira Buffini’s play about these two grand dames of British leadership. (King Charles III, although more fiction than reality, is in the same vein, albeit about Elizabeth’s son.)

Smartly written, succinctly expressed, and satirically pointed, if referentially overstuffed, it’s a welcome addition to 59E59 Theater’s current Brits Off Broadway season. On the other hand, if you have little or no knowledge of British politics and personalities during Thatcher’s three consecutive terms, from 1979-1990, about all that will likely keep you awake is the razor-sharp direction and superb acting.

Beth Hylton, Susan Lynskey, John Lescault 

Handbagged, helmed by Indhu Rubasingham, comes to us from London’s Round House Theater, with a splendidly cast ensemble of six, four of whom play two roles. The other two, called Actor 1 (Cody Leroy Wilson) and Actor 2 (John Lescault), play eight and nine, respectively. Each of the leads is split into a younger and older version. The younger queen is Liz (Beth Hylton), the older one is Q (Anita Carey), while the younger PM is Mags (Susan Lynskey) and her older version is T (Kate Fahy). 

Everyone takes full cognizance of the audience’s presence, speaking many of the lines directly to it. Actors 1 and 2 go so far as to discuss their jobs, including which roles each is playing, even suggesting a friendly rivalry for the juicier ones. 

Handbagged is a chronicle of the major political issues roiling the British empire during Thatcher’s decade-long tenure as PM, during which her political tenacity and strict adherence to ultraconservative positions gave her the nickname, “the Iron Lady.” She was a politician who claimed, according to the play: “Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.” 

The queen, given the limited opportunities provided a British monarch to address such issues, comes off as far more liberal, especially with regard to the distribution of wealth between the rich and poor. Ironically, she herself is described by Thatcher as the richest woman in the world as well as someone who paid no taxes until 1993.

As we learn of Thatcher’s personal background, her education, and her political ideology (those famous “trickle-down economics”), we’re forced to ponder the significance of the British monarchy in the face of the multiple international and national events dealt with during the Thatcher years, developments that made the PM fear for the decline of the beloved empire. 

Kate Fahy, Susan Lynskey 

Packed into the play’s two hours, almost to bursting, are discussions dealing with the transformation of Rhodesia into Zimbabwe, IRA terrorism, President Reagan’s visit to England and Thatcher’s relationship with him, mass protests against racism and poverty, Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles, the invasion of the Falklands, the end of the Cold War, a crippling miners’ strike, the Brighton hotel bombing during a Conservative party conference, Indira Gandhi’s assassination, the controversy surrounding US forces being permitted to fly missions from British bases, South African apartheid, Thatcher’s disastrous poll tax (which contributed to her ultimate defeat), and so on. It’s a hell of a lot to digest, especially, I imagine, for those unfamiliar with the allusions.

Both Q and T, especially the latter, excellently bewigged (by Dori Beau Seigneur) and costumed (by Richard Kent, who also did the set), are convincing avatars of Elizabeth and Margaret, particularly the latter. Although Liz and Mags look less like their originals, they’re both exceptionally good—as are the actresses playing T and Q—at conveying their characters’ well-known physical and vocal mannerisms, notably those fluty, snooty accents. The monarch comes off as appealingly sweet-natured, chipper, and humane, while the politician is all patronizing deference and steely hauteur. 

Staged in a three-walled, black box with a white floor and several pieces of white furniture, the play is a metatheatrical exercise (we keep being reminded we’re in a theatre watching a play) built around the imagined conversations of the queen and the PM during their regular meetings for tea and biscuits. There also are reminiscences of their visits with one another at other locations, like the queen’s ancestral residence at the dismal (to visitors, if not the queen) Balmoral. 

Kate Fahy, John Lescault, Cody LeRoy Wilson, Beth Hylton, Susan Lynskey

Typically, Liz and Mags converse in chairs on either side of a tea service while their senior selves range about nearby, standing with formal grace, their handbags hanging in the crook of their arms, commenting on the comments of their junior selves. Often, they interject casually to deny that they said what we’ve just heard. Some of the conversation is humorously gossipy, even catty. Occasionally, subtextual reflections of Donald Trump arise, including a reminder of how British politics in the 80s caused friends and family members to stop speaking to each other.

Meanwhile, multiple historical figures from the passing years appear as Actors 1 and 2 represent them with the help of either small costume changes, like a pair of spectacles, or substantial ones, like the red dress donned when the goateed, ponytailed Actor 2 plays Nancy Reagan. Familiar individuals, each clearly delineated, like Nancy’s cowboy-hatted husband, IRA leader Gerry Adams, Rupert Murdoch (think Ink and “freedom of the press”), and Prince Philip pop in and out along with less recognizable personages, for most Americans, like Peter Carrington, Enoch Powell, Neil Kinnock, Michael Shea, Geoffrey Howe, Denis Thatcher (Margaret’s husband), and everymen like a footman and a protester.

It’s hard to watch Handbagged without contemplating an American equivalent, especially one that revels in our current political situation. Who would you like to see one day set off against each other in a dramatic confrontation? Right now, I’d vote for Pelosi and Trump. 

Handbagged
59E59 Theaters/Theater A
59 E. 59th St., NYC
Through June 30, 2019
Photos: Carol Rosegg

Kate Fahy, Beth Hylton, Susan Lynskey i

2019 TONY AWARDS

Hadestown honored with 8 Awards, including Best Musical, on Broadway’s Biggest Night, while The Ferryman won 4 Awards, including Best Play.

By:  Patrick Christiano

June 10, 2019: The 73rd Annual Tony Awards were presented at Radio City Music Hall in a ceremony hosted by James Corden and televised live on CBS.  Possibly the biggest surprise of the evening was how handily Hadestown, a contemporary take on Greek mythology, nurtured by nonprofits,dominated the competition, The Prom, Tootsie, Beetlejuice, and Ain’t Too Proud, musicals developed by more commercial producers. Hadestown won 8 awards including Best Musical, Best Director, and Best Music & Lyrics. The Ferryman, a British import about a family in Northern Ireland, won 4 Awards, including Best Play, and Best Director. The remaining awards were spread around with four shows winning two and seven shows winning only a single award. 

Hadestown honored with 8 Awards, including Best Musical, on Broadway’s Biggest Night, while The Ferryman won 4 Awards, including Best Play.

By:  Patrick Christiano

June 10, 2019: The 73rd Annual Tony Awards were presented at Radio City Music Hall in a ceremony hosted by James Corden and televised live on CBS.  Possibly the biggest surprise of the evening was how handily Hadestown, a contemporary take on Greek mythology, nurtured by nonprofits,dominated the competition, The Prom, Tootsie, Beetlejuice, and Ain’t Too Proud, musicals developed by more commercial producers. Hadestown won 8 awards including Best Musical, Best Director, and Best Music & Lyrics. The Ferryman, a British import about a family in Northern Ireland, won 4 Awards, including Best Play, and Best Director. The remaining awards were spread around with four shows winning two and seven shows winning only a single award. 

Hadestown was conceived six years ago by Anaïs Mitchell, a Vermont singer/songwriter, who fell in love with the mythological tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, and created a musical, bus and truck version of the tale for her community theater.  She then toured Vermont with the musical before the show premiered at the New York Theater Workshop in the East Village. A London production followed with more development before finally coming to Broadway. Mitchell feels storytelling can be a balm for sadness and one of the songs from Hadestown, “Why We Build Walls,” was written long before Trump came to power demanding his wall on our Mexican border. 

In her acceptance speech Anaïs Mitchell said, “I learned three things since the beginning. First, nobody does it alone, second, it takes a long time and three, it is worth it. This is an exciting time for Broadway with all kinds of things happening from alternate channels.”

Rachel Chavkin won Best Direction of a Musical fairly early in the evening giving Hadestown 3 early wins, a good indication the musical would probably take Broadway’s top prize.

The Ferryman, winner of Best Play, premiered in 2017 at London’s Royal Court moving to the Westend that Summer, before coming to Broadway with many actors from the original cast. Jez Butterworth, the playwright, upon accepting the award said, “I dedicate this to all those, who lost love ones during the struggles with the IRA.” 

Bryan Cranston accepts the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for Network onstage during the 2019 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 9, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Bryan Cranston won his second Tony for Network, a stage adaptation of the classic film satire about television news. Cranston, who played Howard Beale, the “mad as hell” anchorman from the film said, “I would like to dedicate this to all the real journalists around the world, both in print and broadcast media, who are actually under attack for their support of the truth. They are not the enemy of the people, demigods are!

The winners for Best Actress and Best Actor in a Musical went to two popular favorites, Stephanie J. Block and Santino Fontana, respectively. Santino said, “Growing up in a small town the Tonys were incredibly important to me as a child. My grandmother had a fiery energy and I get to bring her into the room everyday with Tootsie.”

Sebastian Arcelus and Stephanie J. Block, winner of the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for “The Cher Show,” pose in the press room for the 73rd Annual Tony Awards at 3 West Club on June 9, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Stephanie J. Block, a winner with her third nomination, said, “I have always been a Theater nerd. I found a journal entry when I was a 13 year- old and it took 36 years to come into being. This is dedicated to my parents, who taught me to ‘Follow your heart.’ To my husband I want to say here in public, you are more than I deserve, and if you ever leave me, I’m going with you.” In the pressroom after her win she said, “I knew Cher first from her movies then her music.  Many times, I thought this business was too much, and I thought of giving up. I am so grateful I didn’t.”

 James Corden knocked it out of the park with the evening’s opening number, which featured many of the stars from nominated shows, before Jake Gyllenhaal and Tina Fey presented Best Featured Actress in a Play to Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird.  Accepting she said, I have loved the theater since I was 5 years old, so playing Scout Finch is amazing” The four-time nominee, winning on her forth try, said, “Harper Lee is the greatest literary author of all time, who was asking really-big questions about race. This play touches on the cultural moment we are living through right now”

André De Shields accepts the Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical award for Hadestown onstage during the 2019 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 9, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Bertie Carvel, a 2013 nominee for Matilda the Musical, won Best Featured Actor in a play for his blazing performance as Rupert Murdoch in Ink. He said, “We actors are toxic like nuclear war-heads. Thank you to everyone, especially Manhattan Theater Club.”  Elaine May, named Best Actress in a play for The
Waverly Gallery
, first appeared on a Broadway stage in 1961 in the same venue that The Waverly Gallery was staged. She quipped, “I have never been nominated for an acting award before.”André De Shields,named Best Feature Actor in a Musical for his performance as the guide in Hadestown came onstage to thunderous applause and said, “Baltimore, Maryland are you listening. I promised you I would move to New York and become a success. I want to thank everyone, who loved me into consciousness. I have three rules I conduct my life by, one, surround yourself with people,who light up when they see you, two, go slowly, and three, the top of one mountain is the bottom of the next, so keep climbing.

Best Featured Actress in a Musical Ali Stroker won for her performance of Ado Annie, who can never say no, in Oklahoma! She was the first person ever nominated in a wheelchair, and she, too, was a popular winner. She said, “Iwant to thank my partner, who keeps reminding me to let my light shine, because I could never do this without my partner.”

David Purlow and Ali Stroker Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a MusicalOklahoma! Photo: Barry Gordin

Playwright Terrence McNally, winner of 4 previous Tony Awards, was given the Lifetime in the Theater Award.  His appearance was a bit shocking. He came on stage with an oxygen pack hanging over his shoulder and said, “Not a moment too soon. If you haven’t been thrown you ain’t been rode.” Going on he said, “Theater changes the heart, that secret place where we all live. The dues you pay is your heart and soul and all of you. What we do matters. The world needs artists more than ever to remind us of truth and beauty. No one does it alone. Most of all playwrights. Most of all this one”

Before the television broadcast began awards were presented, off the air, in several categories. The first went to Rob Howell, who won two awards for his costumes and set design on The Ferryman.  Bob Mackie won for his costumes for The Cher Show and quipped, “This is very encouraging for an 80- year-old.”  Another early winner was Sergio Trujillo, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations, for his spot on and electrifying choreography. Best Book of a Musical went to Robert Horn, “Anybody can be a sword swallower once. I want to thank my husband, who says ‘For every action I have an equal and opposite reaction.’”

Here is a complete list of the winners.

2019 Tony Award Winners

June 9, 2019: Photos of Winners at the 2019 Tony Awards, where Hadestown dominated the evening winning 8 awards, including Best Musical; The Ferryman was named Best Play.

Photography/Video: Barry Gordin
CLICK HERE FOR A COMPLETE LIST OF WINNERS
CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS ON THE RED CARPET

June 9, 2019: Photos of Winners at the 2019 Tony Awards, where Hadestown dominated the evening winning 8 awards, including Best Musical; The Ferryman was named Best Play.

Photography/Video: Barry Gordin
CLICK HERE FOR A COMPLETE LIST OF WINNERS
CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS ON THE RED CARPET

“The Ferryman”
Best Costume Design of a Musical
*Bob Mackie, The Cher Show
Nevin Steinberg & Jessica Paz (Best Sound Design of a Musical) “Hadestown”
Best Choreography
*Sergio Trujillo, Ain’t Too Proud
“Hadestown”
Rachel Hauck (Best Scenic Design of a Musical) “Hadestown”
Best Lighting Design of a Musical
*Bradley King, Hadestown
Michael Chorney & Todd Sickafoose (Best Orchestrations) “Hadestown”
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
*Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell
Best Book of a Musical
*Tootsie, Robert Horn
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
*Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
*André De Shields, Hadestown
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
*Bertie Carvel, Ink
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
*Rachel Hauck, “Hadestown
Rob Howell, Best Scenic Design of a Play and Best Costume Design of a Play “The Ferryman”
Best Sound Design of a Play
*Fitz Patton, Choir Boy
David Purlow,*Ali Stroker Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a MusicalOklahoma!
Rosemary Harris, 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Eva Price “Oklahoma!”
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
*Bryan Cranston, Network
Jez Butterworth Best Play “The Ferryman”
David Stone, Ryan Murphy
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
*Santino Fontana, Tootsie
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
*Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show
Sebastian Arcelus, Stephanie J. Block

List / 2019 Tony Award Winners

June 9, 2019: Winners of the 2019 Tony Awards, where Hadestown dominated the evening winning 8 awards, including Best Musical; The Ferryman was named Best Play.

June 9, 2019: Winners of the 2019 Tony Awards, where Hadestown dominated the evening winning 8 awards, including Best Musical; The Ferryman was named Best Play.

Best Musical

*Hadestown

Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of The Temptations

Beetlejuice

The Prom

Tootsie

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

*Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show

Caitlin Kinnunen, The Prom

Beth Leavel, The Prom

Eva Noblezada, Hadestown

Kelli O’Hara, Kiss Me, Kate

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

*Santino Fontana, Tootsie

Brooks Ashmanskas, The Prom

Derrick Baskin, Ain’t Too Proud

Alex Brightman, Beetlejuice

Damon Daunno, Oklahoma!

Best Play

*The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth

Choir Boy by Tarell Alvin McCraney

Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus by Taylor Mac

Ink by James Graham

What the Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

*Bryan Cranston, Network

Paddy Considine, The Ferryman

Jeff Daniels, To Kill a Mockingbird

Adam Driver, Burn This

Jeremy Pope, Choir Boy

Best Revival of a Musical

*Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

Kiss Me, Kate

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

*Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell

Be More Chill, Joe Iconis

Beetlejuice, Eddie Perfect

The Prom, Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin

To Kill a Mockingbird, Adam Guettel

Tootsie, David Yazbek

Best Direction of a Play

*Sam Mendes, The Ferryman

Rupert Goold, Ink

Bartlett Sher, To Kill a Mockingbird

Ivo van Hove, Network

George C. Wolfe, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Best Revival of a Play

*The Boys in the Band by Mart Crowley

Arthur Miller’s All My Sons

Burn This

Torch Song by Harvey Fierstein

The Waverly Gallery by Kenneth Lonergan

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

*Ali Stroker, Oklahoma!

Lilli Cooper, Tootsie

Amber Gray, Hadestown

Sarah Stiles, Tootsie

Mary Testa, Oklahoma!

Best Direction of a Musical

*Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown

Scott Ellis, Tootsie

Daniel Fish, Oklahoma!

Des McAnuff, Ain’t Too Proud

Casey Nicholaw, The Prom

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

*André De Shields, Hadestown

Andy Grotelueschen, Tootsie

Patrick Page, Hadestown

Jeremy Pope, Ain’t Too Proud

Ephraim Sykes, Ain’t Too Proud

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

*Elaine May, The Waverly Gallery

Annette Bening, Arthur Miller’s All My Sons

Laura Donnelly, The Ferryman

Janet McTeer, Bernhardt/Hamlet

Laurie Metcalf, Hillary and Clinton

Heidi Schreck, What the Constitution Means to Me

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

*Bertie Carvel, Ink

Robin De Jesús, The Boys in the Band

Gideon Glick, To Kill a Mockingbird

Brandon Uranowitz, Burn This

Benjamin Walker, Arthur Miller’s All My Sons

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

*Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird

Fionnula Flanagan, The Ferryman

Kristine Nielsen, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Julie White, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Ruth Wilson, King Lear

Best Book of a Musical

*Tootsie, Robert Horn

Ain’t Too Proud, Dominique Morisseau

Beetlejuice, Scott Brown and Anthony King

Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell

The Prom, Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin

Best Choreography

*Sergio Trujillo, Ain’t Too Proud

Camille A. Brown, Choir Boy

Warren Carlyle, Kiss Me, Kate

Denis Jones, Tootsie

David Neumann, Hadestown

Best Orchestrations

*Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose, Hadestown

Larry Hochman, Kiss Me, Kate

Daniel Kluger, Oklahoma!

Simon Hale, Tootsie

Harold Wheeler, Ain’t Too Proud

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

*Bradley King, Hadestown

Kevin Adams, The Cher Show

Howell Binkley, Ain’t Too Proud

Peter Mumford, King Kong

Kenneth Posner and Peter Nigrini, Beetlejuice

Best Lighting Design of a Play

*Neil Austin, Ink

Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Peter Mumford, The Ferryman

Jennifer Tipton, To Kill a Mockingbird

Jan Versweyveld and Tal Yarden, Network

Best Sound Design of a Musical

*Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz, Hadestown

Peter Hylenski, Beetlejuice

Peter Hylenski, King Kong

Steve Canyon Kennedy, Ain’t Too Proud

Drew Levy, Oklahoma!

Best Sound Design of a Play

*Fitz Patton, Choir Boy

Adam Cork, Ink

Scott Lehrer, To Kill a Mockingbird

Nick Powell, The Ferryman

Eric Sleichim, Network

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

*Rachel Hauck, Hadestown

Robert Brill and Peter Nigrini, Ain’t Too Proud

Peter England, King Kong

Laura Jellinek, Oklahoma!

David Korins, Beetlejuice

Best Scenic Design of a Play

*Rob Howell, The Ferryman

Miriam Buether, To Kill a Mockingbird

Bunny Christie, Ink

Santo Loquasto, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Jan Versweyveld, Network

Best Costume Design of a Musical

*Bob Mackie, The Cher Show

Michael Krass, Hadestown

William Ivey Long, Beetlejuice

William Ivey Long, Tootsie

Paul Tazewell, Ain’t Too Proud

Best Costume Design of a Play

*Rob Howell, The Ferryman

Toni-Leslie James, Bernhardt/Hamlet

Clint Ramos, Torch Song

Ann Roth, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Ann Roth, To Kill a Mockingbird

2019 Tony Award Tallies by Show

Hadestown – 8

The Ferryman – 4 

The Cher Show – 2 

Ink – 2 

Oklahoma! – 2

Tootsie – 2 

Ain’t Too Proud – 1

The Boys in the Band – 1

Choir Boy – 1

Network – 1

To Kill a Mockingbird – 1

The Waverly Gallery – 1

Red Carpet 2019 Tony Awards

June 10, 2019: Photos from the red carpet at the 2019 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall

Photography: Barry Gordin
Click Here For a Complete List of Winners
Click Here For Photos of Winners

June 10, 2019: Photos from the red carpet at the 2019 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall

Photography: Barry Gordin
Click Here For a Complete List of Winners
Click Here For Photos of Winners

Judith Light
Terrence McNally, Tom Kirdahy
Warren Carlyle
Benjamin Tyler Cook
Jessica Rose Brunish, Corey Brunish
Robert Horn
Camille A. Brown
Camille A. Brown
Jordan Roth
Robert Wankel
Shirley Jones, Shaun Cassidy 
Jordan Roth, Richie Jackson
Rebecca Luker & Danny Burstein
Sophia Anne Caruso
Shirley Jones
Bob Mackie
Christopher Jackson
Sophia Anne Caruso
David Korins
Daryl Roth
Leslie Kritzer
Sergio Trujillo, Daryl Roth
Lilli Cooper
Cynthis Erivo
Michael Urie
Regina King
James Corden, Julia Carey
Jeremy Pope
Laura Linney
Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Justin Mikita
Candy Spelling
Kathleen Rosemary Treado and Jeff Daniels
Lucy Liu
Andre De Shields
Darren Criss

2019 Tony Award Predictions

Hadestown, The Prom & Tootsie Vie for Broadway’s Top Prize on Sunday, June 9th live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City

By: Patrick Christiano

June 9, 2019: Tonight the 73rd Annual Tony Awards, honoring the best of Broadway during the 2018-2019 season, will be presented at Radio City Music Hall in a ceremony hosted by James Corden. The awards will be televised live on CBS from 8-11 pm EST, and will feature performances from many of the nominated shows including Tootsie, The Prom, The Cher Show, Ain’t Too Proud, Choir Boy, Hadestown, Kiss Me Kate and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!.

Hadestown, The Prom & Tootsie Vie for Broadway’s Top Prize on Sunday, June 9th live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City

By: Patrick Christiano

June 9, 2019: Tonight the 73rd Annual Tony Awards, honoring the best of Broadway during the 2018-2019 season, will be presented at Radio City Music Hall in a ceremony hosted by James Corden. The awards will be televised live on CBS from 8-11 pm EST, and will feature performances from many of the nominated shows including Tootsie, The Prom, The Cher Show, Ain’t Too Proud, Choir Boy, Hadestown, Kiss Me Kate and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!.

Here are the nominations in the major categories with my selections of who I think will win and who should win.

Best Play

Choir Boy
The Ferryman
Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Ink
What the Constitution Means to Me

The Ferryman should win and will win. An incredible evening of theater with beautifully nuanced performances and a layered story that accumulates with a devastating ending. The evening is everything the theater is intended to be, a monumental achievement. 

Best Musical

Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations
Beetlejuice
Hadestown

The Prom
Tootsie

Hadestown should and will win. Every show in this category has its supporters, but Hadestown is a notch above the rest. It won the Outer Critics Circle this year and the Drama Desk last year. There are so many glorious elements that come together in a stunningly beautiful evening of musical theater. 

Best Revival of a Play

Arthur Miller’s All My Sons
The Boys in the Band
Burn This

Torch Song
The Waverly Gallery

The Waverly Gallery should win. All the other revivals have elements that are somewhat wonky, while everything about The Waverly Gallery works in an evening that is centered on a moving performance by the great Elaine May. I fear All My Sons will be the ultimate winner, its a classic with a big name director and big name stars.

Best Revival of a Musical

Kiss Me, Kate
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

Oklahoma will win. Kiss Me Kate should win. Oklahoma is deconstructed and the results don’t really serve the intention of the musical. However, many critics adored this revival despite the fact many things did not make add up. Kiss Me Kate is devastatingly entertaining evening that never lets up and the choreography is spine tingling while every performance is outstanding. I loved this show and squirmed moments in Oklahoma.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

Paddy Considine, The Ferryman
Bryan Cranston, Network
Jeff Daniels, To Kill a Mockingbird
Adam Driver, Burn This
Jeremy Pope, Choir Boy

Bryan Cranston should and will win. He won the Drama League Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award, and his dynamic performance is easily the best of the season.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

Annette Bening, Arthur Miller’s All My Sons
Laura Donnelly, The Ferryman
Elaine May, The Waverly Gallery
Janet McTeer, Bernhardt/Hamlet
Laurie Metcalf, Hillary and Clinton
Heidi Schreck, What the Constitution Means to Me

Elaine May should and will win. The lady is a legend and deserves the Tony for her unforgettable work here. I pray she shows up to accept her overdue honor.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Brooks Ashmanskas, The Prom
Derrick Baskin, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations
Alex Brightman, Beetlejuice
Damon Daunno, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Santino Fontana, Tootsie

The immensely popular Santino Fontana will win for his role as the cross-dressing actor in Tootsie

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show
Caitlin Kinnunen, The Prom
Beth Leavel, The Prom
Eva Noblezada, Hadestown
Kelli O’Hara, Kiss Me, Kate

Stephanie J. Block should and will win. A spot-on empowering performance of the legend that is more than just imitation. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

Bertie Carvel, Ink
Robin De Jesús, The Boys in the Band
Gideon Glick, To Kill a Mockingbird
Brandon Uranowitz, Burn This
Benjamin Walker, Arthur Miller’s All My Sons

Bertie Carvel should and will win. He is mesmerizing as Rupert Murdoch in an organically physical performance that drives the story of Ink.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

Fionnula Flanagan, The Ferryman
Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird
Kristine Nielsen, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Julie White, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Ruth Wilson, King Lear

Celia Keenan-Boger will win for playing the young girl To Kill A Mockingbird. Ruth Wilson should win for playing two completely different roles in King Lear, but the production was dreadful. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

André De Shields, Hadestown
Andy Grotelueschen, Tootsie
Patrick Page, Hadestown
Jeremy Pope, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations
Ephraim Sykes, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations

André De Shields will win.  He is a beloved fixture in the New York theater community and his work, here, is the culmination of an outstanding career.  He deserves a Tony and should win. 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Lilli Cooper, Tootsie
Amber Gray, Hadestow
Sarah Stiles, Tootsie
Ali Stroker, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Mary Testa, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

Ali Stroker will win for her inspiring performance however Sarah Stiles should win. When she wasn’t onstage in Tootsie I was waiting for her return.

Best Direction of a Play


Rupert Goold, Ink
Sam Mendes, The Ferryman
Bartlett Sher, To Kill a Mockingbird
Ivo van Hove, Network
George C. Wolfe, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Sam Mendes should and will win. Spellbinding theater!

Best Direction of a Musical

Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown
Scott Ellis, Tootsie
Daniel Fish, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Des McAnuff, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations
Casey Nicholaw, The Prom

Rachel Chavkin should and will win. Her work is magical. 

Tony Awards

The 73rd Annual Tony Awards Are Telecast on June 9 – Nomination Highlights

By: Ellis Nassour

June 8, 2019: The American Theatre Wing’s 73rd Annual Tony Awards, honoring excellence on Broadway and regional theater, will be presented by the Broadway League and Wing on Sunday, June 9, telecast live from Radio City Music Hall from 8 – 11 P.M. on CBS. Returning to host is Tony-winning comedian/actor/and late-night TV host, James Corden. This marks Corden’s second time hosting the Awards. He proved quite a smash in 2016. His own Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play came in 2012 for the British comedy One Man, Two Guvnors

The 73rd Annual Tony Awards Are Telecast on June 9 – Nomination Highlights

By: Ellis Nassour

June 8, 2019: The American Theatre Wing’s 73rd Annual Tony Awards, honoring excellence on Broadway and regional theater, will be presented by the Broadway League and Wing on Sunday, June 9, telecast live from Radio City Music Hall from 8 – 11 P.M. on CBS. Returning to host is Tony-winning comedian/actor/and late-night TV host, James Corden. This marks Corden’s second time hosting the Awards. He proved quite a smash in 2016. His own Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play came in 2012 for the British comedy One Man, Two Guvnors

============= 2019 Tony Award Nominations Highlight ============

For a complete list of the 2019 Tony Awards, special features, contests, and more information, visit www.TonyAwards.com.

Play

Choir Boy, The Ferryman, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, Ink, What the Constitution Means to Me

Musical

Ain’t Too Proud/Temptations;Beetlejuice, Hadestown, The Prom, Tootsie 

Leading Actor, Play
Paddy Considine, The Ferryman; Bryan Cranston, Network; Jeff Daniels, To Kill a Mockingbird; Adam Driver, Burn This; Jeremy Pope, Choir Boy

Leading Actress, Play

Annette Bening, All My Sons; Laura Donnelly, The Ferryman; Elaine May, The Waverly Gallery; Janet McTear, Bernhardt/Hamlet; Laurie Metcalf, Hilary and Clinton, Heidi Schreck, What the Constitution Means to Me

Leading Actor, Musical
Brooks Ashmanskas, The Prom; Derrick Baskin, Ain’t Too Proud/Temptations; Alex Brightman, Beetlejuice; Damon Daunno, Oklahoma!; Santino Fontana, Tootsie 

Leading Actress, Musical

Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show; Caitlin Kinnunen, The Prom; Beth Leavel, The Prom; Eva Noblezada, Hadestown; Kelli O’Hara, Kiss Me Kate

Featured Actor, Play
Bertie Carvel, Ink; Robin de Jesus, The Boys in the Band; Gideon Glick, To Kill a Mockingbird; Brandon Uranowitz, Burn This; Benjamin Walker, All My Sons

Featured Actress, Play
Fionnula Flanagan, The Ferryman; Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird; Kristine Nielsen, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus; Julie White, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus; Ruth Wilson, King Lear

Featured Actor, Musical
Andre De Shields, Hadestown; Andy Grotelueschen, Tootsie;  Patrick Page, Hadestown; Jeremy Pope, Ain’t Too Proud/Temptations; Ephraim Sykes, Ain’t Too Proud/Temptations

Featured Actress, Musical

Lilli Cooper, Tootsie; Amber Gray, Hadestown; Sarah Stiles, Tootsie; Ali Stoker, Oklahoma!; Mary Testa, Oklahoma!   

Director, Play
Rupert Goold, Ink; Sam Mendes, The Ferryman; Bartlett Sher, To Kill a Mockinbird; Ivo van Howe, Network; George C. Wolfe, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus 

Director Musical
Rachel Chavikin, Hadestown; Scott Ellis, Tootsie; Daniel Fish, Oklahoma!, Des McAnuff, Ain’t Too Proud/Temptations; Casey Nicholaw, The Prom

Book, Musical
Dominique Morisseua, Ain’t Too Proud/Temptations; Scott Brown and Anthony King, Beetlejuice; Anais Mitchell, Hadestown; Chad Beguelin and Bob Martin, The Prom; Robert Horn, Tootsie

Score 

Joe Iconis, Be More Chill; Eddie Perfect, Beetlejuice; Anais Mitchell, Hadestown; Chad Beguelin and Matthew Sklar, The Prom; Adam Guettel, To Kill a Mockingbird; David Yazbek, Tootsie

Choreography

Camille A. Brown, Choir Boy; Warren Carlyle, Kiss Me, Kate; Denis Jones, Tootsie; David Newmann, Hadestown; Sergio Trujillo, Ain’t Too Proud/Temptations

Revival, Play
All My Sons; The Boys in the Band; Burn This; Torch Song, The Waverly Gallery

Revival, Musical

Kiss Me, Kate; Oklahoma!

~  ~  ~

Lifetime Achievement in the Theater
Actress Rosemary Harris; playwright Terrence McNally; orchestrator, composer, and conductor Harold Wheeler

Isabel Stevenson Award – Presented to a member of the theater community for volunteerism  on behalf of humanitarian, social service, or charitable organizations
Judith Light, for “her impassioned advocacy to end HIV/AIDS and her support for LGBTQ and human rights

Special Tonys
The late actress Marin Mazzie “honoring her legacy of advocacy and leadership and celebrating her unwavering strength”; Sonny Tilders and the Creature Technology Company, King Kong;  Jason Michael Webb, “for his outstanding arrangements for Choir Boy

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune ****, Long Lost ****, Happy Talk **

 By: David Sheward

June 4, 2019: Breaking the metaphorical walls between disconnected people is the common theme of three new NYC productions. On Broadway, Terrence McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune is a tender romance between unlikely lovers, while Off-Broadway Donald Margulies’ Long Lost and Jesse Eisenberg’s Happy Talk are more abrasive accounts of manipulation and dysfunction with self-loathing antagonists seeking support in twisted ways. All three provide absorbing portraits of the quest for love and comfort with the more experienced authors McNally and Margulies succeeding in creating believable and moving evenings.

 By: David Sheward

June 4, 2019: Breaking the metaphorical walls between disconnected people is the common theme of three new NYC productions. On Broadway, Terrence McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune is a tender romance between unlikely lovers, while Off-Broadway Donald Margulies’ Long Lost and Jesse Eisenberg’s Happy Talk are more abrasive accounts of manipulation and dysfunction with self-loathing antagonists seeking support in twisted ways. All three provide absorbing portraits of the quest for love and comfort with the more experienced authors McNally and Margulies succeeding in creating believable and moving evenings.

The two-hander Frankie and Johnny is one of the prolific McNally’s better known works, premiering Off-Broadway in 1987 at Manhattan Theater Club with Kathy Bates and F. Murray Abraham as middle-aged co-workers at a diner searching for romance before it’s too late. Abraham was replaced by Kenneth Walsh and the play transferred to a hit Off-Broadway commercial run. A 1991 film version starred a miscast, glamorous Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer as the blue-collar pair. Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco headlined a 2002 Broadway revival. Now, Oscar nominee Michael Shannon and six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald step outside their usual roles to essay the lonely couple. 

The towering Shannon is known for playing tormented sufferers (Revolutionary Road, Nocturnal Animals) and menacing villains (The Shape of Water, Man of Steel) while McDonald is mostly celebrated for her musical triumphs in shows such as Carousel, Ragtime, and Shuffle Along, and straight plays with musical elements like Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill and Master Class. This time, Shannon is a nice, genuine guy and, apart from humming a brief snatch of “Almost Like Being in Love,” McDonald does not sing. They are both equally brilliant in these departures from their familiar parts. 

McNally’s skillful script deceptively seems to only depict a one-night stand between the title loners in Frankie’s cramped apartment (Riccardo Hernandez’s detailed set, along with Natasha Katz’s poetic lighting, suggests both the characters’ strained economic status and their idealistic yearnings). But McNally transforms a simple date into a life-and-death struggle as the needy Johnny seeks a lifetime commitment from the reluctant Frankie. In lesser hands, Johnny could have come across as a creepy stalker, but director Arin Arbus and her sensitive actors keep compassion at the forefront. Arbus perfectly balances the play’s comic and dramatic elements while Shannon juggles Johnny’s intensity and sweetness. Likewise, McDonald blends Frankie’s vulnerability with the steely toughness she has developed to cover up wounds dealt by an abusive ex. Their bittersweet, push-pull dance of acceptance, resistance, pain, ecstasy, and meatloaf sandwiches is heartbreaking, joyous, and irresistible.

Just as Frankie and Johnny might have descended into melodrama, Donald Margulies’ Long Lost at Manhattan Theater Club could easily have become a soap opera or Lifetime-TV-movie. Black-sheep, middle-aged Billy arrives unannounced at the swanky office of his successful, estranged brother David during the Christmas holidays claiming he is dying of cancer and has nowhere to go after having destroyed all of his relationships. The manipulative Billy sows disaster wherever he goes, undermining David’s happy marriage to the self-possessed Molly and damaging his bond with his teenaged son Jeremy, just back from college. 

Kelly AuCoin, Alex Wolff, Annie Parisse in “Long Lost”

This basic plot potentially reeks of cliche. But Margulies whose in-depth studies of familial ties include the Pulitzer-winning Dinner with Friends, Sight Unseen and The Loman Family Picnic, does not fall into the trap of making Billy a one-dimensional villain bent on destroying his sibling’s happiness. There are layers of deception within David’s seemingly idyllic lifestyle and Billy is not as devious as he appears. Margulies shades his characters in life-like gradations of grey and drops tiny hints of plot which later explode with significance. Daniel Sullivan provides a sturdy staging, keeping stereotypical histrionics to a minimum, thus affording each revelation maximum impact. John Lee Beatty’s tasteful set and Toni-Leslie James’ understated costumes aide here.

Lee Tergerson’s sneaky yet attractive Billy, Kelly AuCoin’s tightly wound David, Annie Parisse’s in-control yet repressed Molly, and Alex Wolff’s insecure Jeremy each display the outer shell of assurance and the quivering, uncertainty within.

Nico Santos, Susan Sarandon and Marin Ireland in “Happy Talk:

Jesse Eisenberg also seeks to explore the simmering rages just beneath the surface of an apparently placid household, but he really needs to stop writing the same play. The Oscar-nominated actor-playwright has previously written and starred in three works—Asuncion, The Revisionist,  and The Spoils—all of which deal with condescending Americans ruining the lives of good-natured non-Americans with smug presumptions of superior perceptions and intelligence. For Happy Talk, his first piece in which the lead is not a young, white male, he has constructed a sometimes amusing, but ultimately predictable comedy-drama. The plot revolves around self-centered Lorraine (a delightfully over-the-top Susan Sarandon in a rare stage role), a community theater diva with delusions of artistry, and her attempts to create a paper marriage for her live-in aide, Ljuba (the magnificent Marin Ireland) who cares for Lorraine’s bed-ridden, offstage mother and incapacitated husband Bill (perfectly understated Daniel Oreskes). 

The title derives from a song from South Pacific, Lorraine’s current vehicle for the Jewish Community Center. She is miscast as Bloody Mary and the tune refers to her penchant to cover up any unpleasantries with a forced peppy attitude. Ljuba, an illegal immigrant from Serbia, adopts Lorraine’s rose-colored outlook about eventually becoming a US citizen and reuniting with her daughter. Needless to say and true to Eisenberg’s previous works, Lorraine’s unrealistic viewpoint and overweaning egotism eventually destroys Ljuba’s future. The playwright does supply piercingly funny moments, precisely set up and staged by Scott Elliott, as when Lorraine engineers a fake romance between her gay co-star Ronnie (a very funny Nico Santos) and Ljuba. Oreskes’ eloquent silent reactions and Santos’ hilariously delivered quips, chock full of musical-comedy references, merge with Sarandon’s on-target portrayal of Lorraine’s oblivious drive for the spotlight and Ireland’s grounded depiction of the desperate but chipper Ljuba, to create comedy which both touching and riotous.        

But then Eisenberg pours on the pathos with an out-of-nowhere nocturnal visit from Lorraine’s nightmare of a daughter Jenny (Tedra Millan doing the best she can with a one-dimensional role). From this point on, Lorraine is unbelievably transformed into a destructive monster and the play loses its impact. Happy Talk has its sequences of fun and insight, but fails to sustain a truly credible situation and complex characters.

Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune ****
May 30—Aug. 25. Broadhurst Theatre, 235 W. 44th St., NYC. Tue 7pm, Wed 2pm & 8pm, Thu 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 3pm. Running time: two hours and 15 mins. including intermission. $49—$159. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com
Photography: Deen van Meer

Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon in “Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune”

Long Lost ****
June 4—30. Manhattan Theater Club at NY City Center Stage I, 131 W. 55th St., NYC. Tue 7pm, Wed 2pm & 8pm, Thu—Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm. Running time: one hour and 40 mins. with no intermission. $89. (212) 581-1212. www.nycitycenter.org.
Photography:Joan Marcus

Lee Terges, Alex Wolff in “Long Lost”

Happy Talk **
May 16—June 16. The New Group at the Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St., NYC. Tue 7:30pm, Wed 2pm & 7:30pm, Thu—Fri 7:30pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm. Running time: one hour and 40 mins. with no intermission. $40—$125. (212) 279-4200. www.ticketcentral.com.
Photography: Monique Carboni

 Susan Sarandon, Marin Ireland and Nico Santos in “Happy Talk”