Angels in America **1/2

New York City Opera at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theatre

By: David Sheward

New York City Opera closes its 2016-17 season with the bold choice of Hungarian composer Peter Eotvos’ adaptation of Angels in America, Tony Kushner’s two-part epic on the impact of AIDS. Librettist Mari Mezei compresses the seven-hour original into a brisk two-and-a-half hour, single-evening event. Much of Kushner’s complex musings on a myriad of topics from the fall of international communism to Ronald Reagan’s soulless conservatism to the Mormon faith are jettisoned to focus on the interrelationships of the characters, each devastated by the disease and homophobia.

New York City Opera at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theatre

By: David Sheward

New York City Opera closes its 2016-17 season with the bold choice of Hungarian composer Peter Eotvos’ adaptation of Angels in America, Tony Kushner’s two-part epic on the impact of AIDS. Librettist Mari Mezei compresses the seven-hour original into a brisk two-and-a-half hour, single-evening event. Much of Kushner’s complex musings on a myriad of topics from the fall of international communism to Ronald Reagan’s soulless conservatism to the Mormon faith are jettisoned to focus on the interrelationships of the characters, each devastated by the disease and homophobia.

This is the NYC debut of the work which premiered in Paris in 2004. Since the Broadway productions of the original two parts (Millennium Approaches and Perestroika) in 1993, the massive work has been transformed into an HBO mini-series and received an Off-Broadway revival. This musical version is not as complex or moving as its source material. Eotvos’ atonal score is an acquired taste. There are no traditional romantic soothing melodies. The music is disturbing and unsettling, it captures the sense of displacement experienced by the characters as the calm surface of their daily lives are ripped open by the spread of AIDS and their turbulent inner conflicts are exposed. A diverse musical vocabulary including Mormon hymns, Jewish cantor intonations, pop tunes, and jazz harmony create a cacophonistic tapestry of late-20th century sound. Conductor Pacien Mazzagatti achieves a full and rich orchestral performance, supplemented by a vocal trio in the pit.

Sarah Beckham-Turner, Michael Weyandt, Wayne Tigges

Gay law clerk Louis Ironson cannot cope with the AIDS diagnosis of his boyfriend Prior Walter and shatters their relationship as Prior receives visitations from a mysterious angel. Attorney Joe Pitt represses his homosexuality as his wife Harper indulges in pill-induced hallucinations. Powerbroker Roy Cohn, based on the actual right-wing, secretly gay attorney and political operative, hovers over the action like an evil, winged dragon. In Kushner’s plays, Cohn is the dark center of Part One and Prior emerges as the hero of Part Two as he challenges the Angel and God himself for wrecking havoc on mankind. That struggle and dynamic is diminished in Mezei’s condensation but stage director Sam Helfrich and a strong cast create a believable tension.

Andrew Garland is a passionate Prior, Aaron Blake captures Louis’ ambivalence, and Michael Weylandt conveys Joe’s inner struggle. As Cohn, Wayne Tigges skillfully alternates between a dark baritone vocal and nasal spoken sneer. Counter-tenor Matthew Reese is amusingly sassy as the nurse Belize, an imaginary travel agent, and a homeless woman. Sarah Castle is wry and inventive as a Jewish rabbi, impressively vocalizing cantor-ish scales. She is equally memorable as Cohn’s no-nonsense male doctor and Joe’s doting, denying mother. Sarah Beckham-Turner delivers a multi-layered Harper as well as a tart Ethel Rosenberg, the ghost who haunts Cohn. Kirsten Chambers takes full advantage of the octave-tripping trills and leaps Eotvos wrote for the Angel, and endows her with an acerbic wit. 

The production only ran four performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater. The brief run did not achieve the earth-shattering impact of Kushner’s original but offered only a reminder of the play’s power while employing interesting but not gripping musical terms.

June 10—16. New York City Opera at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theatre, Broadway at 60th St., 5th floor, NYC. Running time: two hours and 30 mins. including intermission.
Photography: Sara Shatz

Matthew Reese, Andrew Garland

Originally Posted on ArtsinNY on June 18, 2017

The 2017 Tony Awards

Dear Evan Hansen honored with 6 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, on Broadway’s biggest night on June 11, 2017

Dear Evan Hansen honored with 6 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, on Broadway’s biggest night on June 11, 2017

Hello Dolly! Wins 4 Awards, Oslo is Best Play, and Indecent wins 2 Awards the 71st Annual Tony Award celebration hosted by Kevin Spacey live from Radio City Music Hall.

Dear Evan Hansen, a daring story about lies and loneliness in high school, began its journey to Broadway as critical acclaimed Off-Broadway Second Stage production. The musical about loner, who improves his social standing when he becomes intimately involved with the grieving family of a classmate, who has killed himself is both daring and original.

Here’s a look at the tally of the winners: 
Dear Evan Hansen – 6
Hello, Dolly! – 4
Indecent – 2
Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes – 2
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 – 2
Oslo – 2
Bandstand – 1
Come From Away – 1
A Doll’s House, Part 2 – 1
Jitney – 1
The Play Goes Wrong – 1
Present Laughter – 1
For a Complete List of Winners Click Here

Photography: Barry Gordin

Bette Midler (Winner Best Actress in a Musical) “Hello, Dolly!”
Rebecca Taichman (Winner Best Direction of a Play “Indecent”
Rachel Bay Jones (Winner Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical) “Dear Evan Hansen”
Dear Evan Hansen
Michael Aronov (Winner Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play “Oslo”
Cynthia Nixon (Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play)
Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes”
Gavin Creel (Winner Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical) “Hello Dolly!”
Bradley King (Winner of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Lighting Design of a Musical) “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”
Andy Blankenbuehler (Winner Best Choreography) “Bandstand”
Steven Levenson, Ben Pasek (Winners Best Score) “Dear Evan Hansen”
Alex Lacamoire (Winner Best Orchestrations “Dear Evan Hansen”
Christopher Ashley (Winner Best Direction of a Musical) “Come From Away”
Ben Platt (Winner Best Actor in a Musical) “Dear Evan Hansen”
Playwright J.T. Rogers (Winner Best Play “Oslo”

Julius Caesar ****

Free Shakespeare in the Park/Public Theater

By: David Sheward

Last summer, the Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park Series unsuccessfully imposed a modern feminist slant on Taming of the Shrew by employing an all-woman cast. This year, they’ve launched the 2017 season with another contemporary take on one of the Bard’s classics with transgender casting, but this time the updating and non traditional acting assignments largely work out.

Free Shakespeare in the Park/Public Theater

By: David Sheward


Last summer, the Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park Series unsuccessfully imposed a modern feminist slant on Taming of the Shrew by employing an all-woman cast. This year, they’ve launched the 2017 season with another contemporary take on one of the Bard’s classics with transgender casting, but this time the updating and non traditional acting assignments largely work out.

It was only a matter of time before the outsize personality of Donald Trump found its way into a Shakespearean production and Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis has chosen the most appropriate vehicle for our current president’s debut in verse drama: Julius Caesar. In a strikingly fluid and arresting production which spills into the aisles of the Delacorte Theatre—recreated by set designer David Rockwell as a cross between modern NYC and DC—Trump becomes the title character, a warrior returning to Rome after military victories, eager to lead and perhaps become deified by a grateful, if easily pliable populace. Marc Antony is now a woman, played by the reliable Elizabeth Marvel as Texas party operative. A huge ensemble (there must have been about 50 of them) becomes the ever-changing Roman mob, switching sides and wreaking havoc.

The first third of the play is full of easy laughs as parallels between 2017 and 44 BC are drawn. Messages are “posted” by I-phones. The gross publicans are recast as street protestors wearing either red “Make America Great” baseball caps or black Resist T-shirts. Caesar’s asides to his entourage become startlingly topical as he bids individuals to dine with him alone, just like Trump with ex-FBI director James Comey. Caesar’s wife Calpurnia is now a Melania knock-off complete with Slavic accent and expensive tastes (Paul Tazewell created the tasteful costumes.) Caesar-Trump’s bellicose proclamations of self-love sound especially familiar.   

The SNL guffaws cease when the would-be dictator is assassinated, and Marc Anthony rouses the citizenry into authoritarian chaos. The forces of rebels Brutus and Cassius become underground lefties clashing with riot police. My only quarrel with this black-and-white concept is it robs the play of Shakespeare’s rich, grey-hued ambiguities. Here Caesar is an unalloyed monster and his killers are justified in their actions. Anthony is a sly manipulator rather than a loyal friend winking at Caesar’s flaws. In a more traditional reading, there are no heroes or villains, but each figure contains a bit of both.

Despite this shortcoming, Eustis has created a stirring and gripping Caesar which barrels along with a rapid two hours with no intermission. Gregg Henry is a bombastic Donald, I mean Caesar. Corey Stoll captures the earnest integrity of Brutus while John Douglas Thompson incorporates Cassius’s short-tempered pettiness as well as his passionate pride. Marvel is a cold-blooded Antony, not above stooping using Caesar’s mangled corpse for her own ends. Tina Benko’s Calpurnia and Nikki M. James’s Portia, the wives of Caesar and Brutus usually shunted the side, are fully fleshed-out creations. Edward James Hyland, Teagle F. Bougere, Yusef Bulos, and Tyler la Marr also make make valuable contributions in the huge cast.

This is probably the most political transposition of JC from ancient Rome to a contemporary setting to play on or Off-Broadway. The only other staging in my mind that might come close is Orson Welles’ 1937 Mercury Theatre edition which placed the action in a fascist-leaning Europe. (No I didn’t see it. This was way before I was born. A 2012 Guthrie Theatre production featured an Obama-like Caesar with conspirators resembling Republican leaders such as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.) It’s a sad comment that we find ourselves teetering on the brink of a possible similar catastrophe and that this alarmingly relevant production has only a few performances left.

(In another sad commentary, two major corporate sponsors have pulled their funding over the depiction of a Trump-like figure being assassinated. Delta Airlines has withdrawn for all Public Theater productions and Bank of America pulled out only from Julius Caesar.)

June 12—18. Free Shakespeare in the Park/The Public Theater at the Delacorte Theatre, Central Park West at W. 81st St., NYC. Tue—Sun, 8 pm. Running time: two hours with no intermission. Free. (212) 967-7555. www.publictheater.org. Photos: Joan Marcus

Originally Posted on ArtsinNY on June 12, 2017

Tina Benko, Gregg Henry, Teagle F. Bougere, Elizabeth Marvel
Gregg Henry (center) and the company in The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, directed by Oskar Eustis, running at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park through June 18.

 

Loud and Proud

Loud and Proud: an evening of short plays

By: Barry Gordin

Celebrate Gay Pride in a thought-provoking way. Join the Village Playwrights at 8 pm on June 28 when they honor Gay Pride Month with staged readings of seven jury-chosen, ten-minute plays by some of New York’s most interesting playwrights. The playwrights are: Sam Affoumado, Stephen Barnett, Jack Dyville, Maia Henkin, James Masten, Mike Poblete and Bernard J. Taylor.

Loud and Proud: an evening of short plays

By: Barry Gordin

Celebrate Gay Pride in a thought-provoking way. Join the Village Playwrights at 8 pm on June 28 when they honor Gay Pride Month with staged readings of seven jury-chosen, ten-minute plays by some of New York’s most interesting playwrights. The playwrights are: Sam Affoumado, Stephen Barnett, Jack Dyville, Maia Henkin, James Masten, Mike Poblete and Bernard J. Taylor.

One of the evening’s plays, Doctor Truth, written and directed by Sam Affoumado, features an over-the-hill and over-the-top sex therapist, who works miracles with a dysfunctional gay couple.

Spencer Wolfe, Preston Fritz Smith

Staged readings of Doctor Truth and six other short plays will be presented at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., NYC.  Seating is limited and reservations are recommended.  $5 donation requested.  villageplaywrights@gmail.com or call 614-285-2515 to reserve seats.

Sharon Schiller

The 2017 Tony Award Winners

And The Winners Are *****

And The Winners Are *****

Best Musical

WINNER: Dear Evan Hansen
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
Groundhog Day The Musical
Come From Away

Best Play

WINNER: Oslo
Sweat
Indecent
A Doll’s House, Part 2

Best Revival of a Musical

WINNER: Hello, Dolly!
Falsettos
Miss Saigon

Best Revival of a Play

WINNER: August Wilson’s Jitney
Present Laughter
Six Degrees of Separation
Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes

Best Actress in a Musical

WINNER: Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!
Patti LuPone, War Paint
Christine Ebersole, War Paint
Denee Benton, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon

Best Actor in a Musical

WINNER: Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen
Andy Karl, Groundhog Day The Musical
David Hyde Pierce, Hello, Dolly!
Christian Borle, Falsettos
Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Best Actress in a Play

WINNER: Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Jennifer Ehle, Oslo
Cate Blanchett, The Present
Sally Field, The Glass Menagerie
Laura Linney, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes

Best Actor in a Play

WINNER: Kevin Kline, Present Laughter
Jefferson Mays, Oslo
Denis Arndt, Heisenberg
Chris Cooper, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Corey Hawkins, Six Degrees of Separation

Best Book of a Musical

Come From Away, Irene Sankoff and David Hein
WINNER: Dear Evan Hansen, Steven Levenson
Groundhog Day The Musical, Danny Rubin
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy

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

Come From Away, Irene Sankoff and David Hein
WINNER: Dear Evan Hansen, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul
Groundhog Day The Musical, Tim Minchin
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy

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

WINNER: Michael Aronov, Oslo
Danny DeVito, Arthur Miller’s The Price
Nathan Lane, The Front Page
Richard Thomas, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
John Douglas Thompson, August Wilson’s Jitney

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

Johanna Day, Sweat
Jayne Houdyshell, A Doll’s House, Part 2
WINNER: Cynthia Nixon, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
Condola Rashad, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Michelle Wilson, Sweat

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

WINNER: Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!
Mike Faist, Dear Evan Hansen
Andrew Rannells, Falsettos
Lucas Steele, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Brandon Uranowitz, Falsettos

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

Kate Baldwin, Hello, Dolly!
Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos
Jenn Colella, Come From Away
WINNER: Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
Mary Beth Peil, Anastasia

Best Scenic Design of a Play

David Gallo, August Wilson’s Jitney
WINNER: Nigel Hook, The Play That Goes Wrong
Douglas W. Schmidt, The Front Page
Michael Yeargan, Oslo

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Rob Howell, Groundhog Day The Musical
David Korins, War Paint
WINNER: Mimi Lien, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!

Best Costume Design of a Play

WINNER: Jane Greenwood, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
Susan Hilferty, Present Laughter
Toni-Leslie James, August Wilson’s Jitney
David Zinn, A Doll’s House, Part 2

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Linda Cho, Anastasia
WINNER: Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!
Paloma Young, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Catherine Zuber, War Paint

Best Lighting Design of a Play

WINNER: Christopher Akerlind, Indecent
Jane Cox, August Wilson’s Jitney
Donald Holder, Oslo
Jennifer Tipton, A Doll’s House, Part 2

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Howell Binkley, Come From Away
Natasha Katz, Hello, Dolly!
WINNER: Bradley King, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Japhy Weideman, Dear Evan Hansen

Best Direction of a Play

Sam Gold, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, August Wilson’s Jitney
Bartlett Sher, Oslo
Daniel Sullivan, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
WINNER: Rebecca Taichman, Indecent

Best Direction of a Musical

WINNER: Christopher Ashley, Come From Away
Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen
Matthew Warchus, Groundhog Day The Musical
Jerry Zaks, Hello, Dolly!

Best Choreography

WINNER: Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand
Peter Darling and Ellen Kane, Groundhog Day The Musical
Kelly Devine, Come From Away
Denis Jones, Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical
Sam Pinkleton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Best Orchestrations

Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen, Bandstand
Larry Hochman, Hello, Dolly!
WINNER: Alex Lacamoire, Dear Evan Hansen
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Recipients of Awards and Honors in Non-competitive Categories

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre: James Earl Jones

Special Tony Award: Gareth Fry & Pete Malkin, Sound Designers for The Encounter

Regional Theatre Tony Award: Dallas Theater Center, Dallas, TX

Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award: Baayork Lee

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre: Nina Lannan, Alan Wasser

Julius Caesar ***

By: Paulanne Simmons

Julius Caesar was a Roman politician, general, and distinguished author. Before becoming leader of the free world, Donald Trump was a television personality and businessman who declared bankruptcy at least four times. One can only conclude that Trump benefits by any comparison with the man who crossed the Rubicon. Except, of course, for the fact that Caesar was assassinated.  

By: Paulanne Simmons

Julius Caesar was a Roman politician, general, and distinguished author. Before becoming leader of the free world, Donald Trump was a television personality and businessman who declared bankruptcy at least four times. One can only conclude that Trump benefits by any comparison with the man who crossed the Rubicon. Except, of course, for the fact that Caesar was assassinated.  

This event has been famously dramatized in Shakespeare’s eponymous tragedy. In director Oskar Eustis’s interpretation at Central Park, Caesar, as portrayed by Gregg Henry, is remarkably Trump-like. He waves, smiles and struts in a depressingly familiar manner. For those who might somehow not get the allusion, Trump’s wife, Calpurnia (Tina Benko), becomes the shapely Melania , complete with eastern European accident.

Not everyone is happy with what can only be termed a gimmick. Specifically, Trump supporters and those of delicate taste, believe it’s not such a good idea to enact the bloody murder of a sitting president onstage. But for those who appreciate Shakespeare and good drama, the production should be equally shoddy.

The main problem is that all the buffoonery takes the focus off the play’s true protagonist, Brutus (Corey Stoll), and places it on a less important character, Caesar. This also makes Brutus’s tragic miscalculation superfluous; why would anyone fear a clown such as this Caesar/Trump?

While Caesar makes his grand entrances, the other actors seem at loose ends. John Douglas Thompson, a fine Shakespearean actor, plays Cassius (he of the “lean and hungry look”) as a basically noble Roman. This is not supported by the text and renders the conflict between Cassius and Brutus unclear and uninteresting.

Nikki M. James is an effective Portia, but who cares about Brutus’s wife in a play where Caesar is the main interest? 

Speaking of wives, Benko is actually one of the highlights of this production. Her Calpurnia/Melania is spunky, sexy and sympathetic. When she gets into the bathtub with Caesar in order to seduce him into staying home on the Ides of March, we see she really knows her man. She won’t let him take her hand, but she cares about him in spite of his faults.

Unlike Brutus and Cassius, neither this production nor anyone associated with it is going to start any civil wars. But at a time when healthcare hangs in the balance, and Russian interference in our elections is an established fact, we certainly have more to worry about than an ill-conceived Julius Caesar that’s good for a few laughs and not much more.

The Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar runs through June 18 at the Delacorte Theater.

2017 Tony Awards

By: Patrick Christiano

Dear Evan Hansen honored with 6 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, on Broadway’s biggest night.

Dear Evan Hansen, a daring story about lies and loneliness in high school, was the big winner at the 71st Annual Tony Award celebration hosted by Kevin Spacey live from Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017. Hello Dolly! won 4 Awards, including Best Musical Revival and Bette Midler won for Best Actress in a Musical.  Oslo by J.T. Rogers was named Best Play, and Indecent won 2 Awards, including a surprise win for Director Rebecca Taichman.

By: Patrick Christiano

Dear Evan Hansen honored with 6 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, on Broadway’s biggest night.

Dear Evan Hansen, a daring story about lies and loneliness in high school, was the big winner at the 71st Annual Tony Award celebration hosted by Kevin Spacey live from Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 11, 2017. Hello Dolly! won 4 Awards, including Best Musical Revival and Bette Midler won for Best Actress in a Musical.  Oslo by J.T. Rogers was named Best Play, and Indecent won 2 Awards, including a surprise win for Director Rebecca Taichman.

Dear Evan Hansen began its journey to Broadway as a critically acclaimed Off-Broadway Second Stage production. The musical about a loner, who improves his social standing when he becomes intimately involved with the grieving family of a classmate, who killed himself, is both risky and original.

The battle between Come From Away and Dear Evan Hansen, which many expected, didn’t happen. Dear Evan Hansen turned out to be the evening’s big winner with 6 Awards including Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical for Ben Platt. Come From Away won only Best Director of a Musical for Christopher Ashley, while Rebecca Taichman’s win for Best Director of a play for Indecent, was one of the evening’s most heartfelt surprises.

Prior to broadcast, there were only three sure bets, Hello Dolly! for Best Revival of a Musical, the show’s star Bette Midler, who won her first competitive Tony for Best Actress in a Musical, and Kevin Kline, a heavy favorite, won his third Tony for Best Actor for Present Laughter.

The early awards had no surprises. Nigel Hook was given best set design for a play for The Play That Goes Wrong, while Mimi Lien, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 was honored for set design of a musical. Costume design for a musical went to Santo Laquasto for Hello Dolly!, and costumes for a play went to Jane Greenwood for The Little Foxes. Lighting Design for a play went to Christopher Akerlind, for his magical design on Indecent.

Scarlett Johannson presented the Best Featured Actor in a Play to surprise winner Michael Aronov for Oslo, while Sutton Foster presented Gavin Creel with Best Featured Actor in a musical for his outstanding performance in Hello Dolly! Creel made his Broadway debut 15 years in a co-starring role with Foster in Thoroughly Modern Millie. In the press-room he was gracious and thanked his director Jerry Zaks for helping make him funny.

Cynthia Nixon (Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play)
Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes”

Cynthia Nixon winner for Best Featured Actress in a Play used her moment to call out to people today who refuse to sit back and watch them do it, a reference to the Republicans and the Trump administration.

Bette Midler presented Best Actress in a play to Laurie Metcalf, best known for her role on the TV show “Roseanne.”  Metcalf won for her acerbic Nora in A Doll’s House, Part 2, and Rachel Bay Jones won Best Featured Actress in Musical as the mother in Dear Evan Hansen.

Dear Evan Hansen also won awards for Best Music & Lyrics by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, best book by Steven Levenson and Best Orchestration by Alex Lacamoire. Best Choreography went to Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand a winner last year for his direction of Hamilton.

Rebecca Taichman (Winner Best Direction of a Play “Indecent”

A surprise win for Best Direction of a play went to Rebecca TaichmanIndecent, and a hush went up in the press room as her name was announced. She thanked her parents for teaching her to follow her passion. And said, “Am I dreaming?” Another upset was Best Direction of a Musical won by Christopher Ashley for Come From Away, the musical’s lone win.

Best Play went to Oslo by J.T. Rogers developed by Lincoln Center. And Best Revival of a Musical went as expected to Hello Dolly!  While Best revival of a play went to August Wilson’s Jitney produced by MTC.

 

Ben Platt (Winner Best Actor in a Musical) “Dear Evan Hansen”

Near the end of the evening a popular Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen, won Best Actor in a Musical. Accepting his award, the actor said, “To all young people watching at home, don’t waste any time trying to be like anybody but yourself, because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.”

 

Bette Midler (Winner Best Actress in a Musical) “Hello Dolly!”

The incomparable Bette Midler accepted her first competitive Tony, for a leading role in a musical, however she won a special Tony in 1994 for her Clams on the Half Shell revue. In the press-room after her win the popular icon said,Scott Rudin has given me the ride of my life. I have had so much smoke blown up my ass that this award is the cherry on the cake. I get to play in the playground of the Shubert Theater with the best bunch of clowns I have ever encountered.”

Further, she went on “I have to shout out my friends, who told me I could do this, and I had to do this, or they would never speak to me again. This show is a well -oiled machine, and perfection. Jerry Zaks’ inspired child- like direction is allowing me to have the time of my life. The show is a roaring success, and I am proud to be a part of it. I have done 80 shows so far, and this is hard work. Scott made it sound like if I didn’t do this I would have missed something special in life, and that I would be a changed person if I did. And he was right, I lost 30 lbs. I am a loner, and this sense of community and family is like something I have never experienced. I have been so embraced. It’s more than I deserve.”

And asked what advice she would give to performers, the star said, “Watch people closely and don’t judge them, because judgement stops you from seeing what they have to offer. And perseverance. This is hard work I have never seen such hard-working dedicated people in my life as you theater people.”

Photography: Barry Gordin

My 2017 TONY PREDICTIONS

Who will win the 71th Annual Tony Awards, and my choices.

By Patrick Christiano

The Tony Awards, properly known as The American Theatre Antoinette Perry “Tony” Awards®, will be presented this year in a ceremony hosted by Tony and Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey broadcast live from the Radio City Music Hall on CBS, Sunday, June 11th, 2017 from 8:00 – 11:00 p.m. The evening commemorating 71 years of excellence on Broadway is being presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

Who will win the 71th Annual Tony Awards, and my choices.

By Patrick Christiano

The Tony Awards, properly known as The American Theatre Antoinette Perry “Tony” Awards®, will be presented this year in a ceremony hosted by Tony and Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey broadcast live from the Radio City Music Hall on CBS, Sunday, June 11th, 2017 from 8:00 – 11:00 p.m. The evening commemorating 71 years of excellence on Broadway is being presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

The details out of the way, for the moment, you, now know everything you need to know about tomorrow’s “Tony Awards,’ named after Antoinette Perry for the nickname she was known by her friends and colleagues, who established the annual awards to honor her and The American Theater Wing, which she founded during World War II. The Wing operated the Stage Door canteens to entertainment American servicemen in several cities. Given annually for distinguished achievement in theater, the Tony Award is probably the theater world’s most coveted honor.

I wait till the midnight hour to make my forecasts, because prior we are so inundated with predictions in the media, who would notice mine. You might catch my predictions early in the morning or the afternoon, the day of the Tony show. Or more likely, you are reading this after the awards to see how I did. I will too.

No production like Hamilton, last year’s winner of 11 Tony Awards, is poised to sweep the evening the way that megahit musical, a cultural phenomenon, did in 2016. Still with no clear-cut show set to dominate the ceremony, there are three or four certain winners.

Hello Dolly starring Bette Midler will take Best Revival of a Musical, and Bette will take home her fist Tony Best Actress in a Musical for her charismatic comic performance as Dolly Levi in Scot Rudin’s ravishing Production. In addition, Kevin Kline, giving an impeccable performance as the aging World-Renowned Thespian based on Oscar Wilde in the playwright’s comedy about himself and his friends, will win the actor his third Tony.

Bette Midler in “Hello Dolly!” Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Here go my Tony predictions. The winner is highlighted in bold in the list of nominations for each category, along with my choices.

2017 TONY AWARD PREDICTIONS

Best Play
A Doll’s House, Part 2
 by Lucas Hnath
Indecent by Paula Vogel
Oslo by J.T. Rogers
Sweat by Lynn Nottage
This is an interesting contest. My choice would be the Pulitzer Prize Winner Sweat, however Oslo, the story of the 1993 middle east peace talks from a “in the background” perspective, is the front runner, especially after having nabbed the Drama Desk award last Sunday.  A Dolly’s House, Part 2, a brass satirical sequel to Ibsen’s original, has a strong following. Could Sweat upset, possibly, yet more likely Oslo will win

Best Musical
Come From Away –  MY CHOICE WILL WIN
Dear Evan Hansen
Groundhog Day the Musical
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
A bit of “out-an-out-on-a-limb” gut choice and preference, Come From Away, with a euphorically rousing message, will edge out the season’s artistically acclaimed and moving musical Dear Evan Hansen.    

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Come From Away  Music & Lyrics: Irene Sankoff & David Hein – MY CHOICE
Dear Evan Hansen  –Music & Lyrics: Benj Pasek & Justin Paul – WILL  WIN
Groundhog Day The Musical –Music & Lyrics: Tim Minchin
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812  – Music & Lyrics: Dave Malloy
A tossup either could win.

Best Book of a Musical

Come From Away by Irene Sankoff and David Hein –MY CHOICE WILL WIN
Dear Evan Hansen by Steven Levenson
Groundhog Day The Musical by Danny Rubin
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 by Dave Malloy
A hunch, if not Dear Evan Hansen, which is equally fresh and memorable could win.

Best Revival of a Play
Jitney  –  WILL WIN

The Little Foxes
Present Laughter – 
MY CHOICE
Six Degrees of Separation
August Wilson takes the day, a deserved winner despite my quibbles. All were outstanding for different reasons.

Best Revival of a Musical
Falsettos
Hello, Dolly!
  – MY CHOICE WILL WIN
Miss Saigon
Hello Dolly
is perfection and in a league of its own. The original won 10 Tonys.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Denis Arndt, Heisenberg
Chris Cooper A Doll’s House, Part 2
Corey Hawkins Six Degrees of Separation
Kevin Kline Present Laughter MY CHOICE WILL WIN
Jefferson Mays, Oslo
Pretty much a text book lesson in, style, skill, and physical comic timing with the actor and the role merging into one beautifully nuanced character. He was sublime while, the merely very good, especially the heartwarming Denis Arndt.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Cate Blanchett, The Present
Jennifer Ehle, Oslo
Sally Field, The Glass Menagerie
Laura Linney, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes MY CHOICE
Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2  – WILL WIN
A close one with Metcalf, a popular TV star and Broadway darling, poised to win for her acerbic work as Nora over my choice Linney for her poignant and strong Regina,

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Christian Borle, Falsettos
Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Andy Karl, Groundhog Day The Musical
David Hyde Pierce, Hello, Dolly!
Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen – WILL WIN AND MY CHOICE, I GUESS.
I really loved Andy Karl and his performance is equally deserving, however there is something uniquely endearing about Ben Platt. A tie would be lovely!

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Denée Benton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 Christine Ebersole, War Paint
Patti LuPone, War Paint
Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly! – MY CHOICE WILL WIN  
Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon
Bette Midler’s star turn in a role she was born to play. A vibrant display of impeccable comic timing and radiant star quality.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Michael Aronov, Oslo
Danny DeVito, Arthur Miller’s The Price  – MY CHOICE WILL WIN
Nathan Lane, The Front Page
Richard Thomas, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
John Douglas Thompson, August Wilson’s Jitney
A popular film and television star for his dynamic work in Miller’s well regarded drama.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Johanna Day, Sweat
Jayne Houdyshell, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Cynthia Nixon, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes –  MY CHOICE WILL WIN
Condola Rashad, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Michelle Wilson, Sweat
Nixon is a revelation with a brilliant cathartic moment in the second act.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!  – MY CHOICE WILL WIN
Mike Faist, Dear Evan Hansen
Andrew Rannells, Falsettos
Lucas Steele, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 Brandon Uranowitz, Falsetto
Creel is winning everything! He is terrific in a fabulous musical, and he is so nice.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Kate Baldwin, Hello, Dolly!
Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos
Jenn Colella, Come From Away – MY CHOICE WILL WIN
Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
Mary Beth Peil, Anastasia
I think Colella;s unique work will upset the favorite Jones.

Best Scenic Design of a Play
David Gallo, August Wilson’s Jitney
Nigel Hook, The Play That Goes Wrong – MY CHOICE WILL WIN
Douglas W. Schmidt, The Front Page
Michael Yeargan, Oslo
Masterful set designed to miraculously fall apart.

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Rob Howell, Groundhog Day The Musical
David Korins, War Paint
Mimi Lien, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 MY CHOICE WILL WIN
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!
Magical transformation of the theater into an intimate cosmic world.

Best Costume Design of a Play
Jane Greenwood, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes – WILL WIN
Susan Hilferty, Present Laughter MY CHOICE
Toni-Leslie James, August Wilson’s Jitney
David Zinn, A Doll’s House, Part 2
All are wonderful. I have a slight preference for Present Laughter.

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Linda Cho, Anastasia
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly! – MY CHOICE WILL WIN
Paloma Young, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Catherine Zuber, War Paint
Santo Loquasto’s vibrant period costumes, by an edge over 6 time Tony winner Zuber.

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Christopher Akerlind, Indecent  – MY CHOICE WILL WIN
Jane Cox, August Wilson’s Jitney
Donald Holder, Oslo
Jennifer Tipton, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Indecent
 is haunting and so is so lighting.

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Howell Binkley, Come From Away
Natasha Katz Hello, Dolly!
Bradley King, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 –  MY CHOICE WILL WIN
Japhy Weideman, Dear Evan Hansen
His complex design overcomes many obstacles and succeeds with a beautiful transformation.

Best Direction of a Play
Sam Gold, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, August Wilson’s Jitney – WILL WIN
Bartlett Sher, Oslo
Daniel Sullivan, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
Rebecca Taichman, Indecent – MY CHOICE
Jitney is a beautifully shaded production with diverse characters, while there is something luminous and haunting emanating from Taichman’s blend of elements.

Best Direction of a Musical
Christopher Ashley, Come From AwayMY CHOICE
Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812  –  WILL WIN
Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen
Matthew Warchus, Groundhog Day The Musical
Jerry Zaks, Hello, Dolly!
I felt like abstaining, each is terrific for different reasons and each show spectacular. Comet of 1812’s spectacular display of elements is standing on higher ground.

Best Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, BandstandMY CHOICE   WILL WIN
Peter Darling and Ellen Kane, Groundhog Day The Musical
Kelly Devine, Come From Away
Denis Jones, Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical
Sam Pinkleton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Bandstand is dynamic!

Best Orchestrations
Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen, Bandstand
Larry Hochman, Hello, Dolly! – MY CHOICE WILL WIN
Alex Lacamoire, Dear Evan Hansen
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
They are all sensational, I mean this is the best of Broadway musicals. I loved them all, 2nd choice would be Bandstand.

 

Miss Julia ****

By: David Gruber

Miss Julia, by August Strindberg premieres at La Mama

Miss Julia toured Columbia, Spain and Italy for 3 successful seasons before finally making a long-anticipated premiere in New York City. Adapted by Ed Araiza from the classic and probably most best-known play by August Strindberg, it stars an international cast: the   indomitable, very talented and always compelling Australian actress Tina Mitchell (Miss Julia) the well-known Columbian TV and film actor Jhon Alex Toro, (Juan) and the Columbian actress Gina Jaimes (Cristina) and directed by Italian Lorenzo Montanini.

By: David Gruber

Miss Julia, by August Strindberg premieres at La Mama

Miss Julia toured Columbia, Spain and Italy for 3 successful seasons before finally making a long-anticipated premiere in New York City. Adapted by Ed Araiza from the classic and probably most best-known play by August Strindberg, it stars an international cast: the   indomitable, very talented and always compelling Australian actress Tina Mitchell (Miss Julia) the well-known Columbian TV and film actor Jhon Alex Toro, (Juan) and the Columbian actress Gina Jaimes (Cristina) and directed by Italian Lorenzo Montanini.

The one act play written in 1888 resonates with issues that we are still facing today.

The story set in 19thc Colombia is about Juan a seemingly reluctant servant who is basically seduced by a very upper-class debutant-like young women. She is searching for some meaning to her trapped albeit gilded existence (embodied in the caged canary that is her most prized possession). Juan sees on his side a way to finally break out of his extreme poverty that binds him like generations before to a life of servitude and desperation.

The play, a very physical movement piece, which sometimes skates the edges between dialogue and dance, builds slowly but steadily into a passionate love between Juan and Julia.

His peasant girl friend essentially sleeps on stage for much of the play showing us her helplessness and the impossibility to challenge any event that concerns the upper classes.

The romance quickly spins out of control and begins to break down along class divides and the unrealistic and practical roadblocks to survive in a 19th century culture, but alas it’s too late to put the ink back into the bottle of social mores and acceptability. Julia is scarred and condemned for life and sees no exit except one as the play morphs into high energy chaos and eventual tragedy.

The play was written for the “naturalism” theater movement of the late 19th century espoused by Strindberg and his mentor Emile Zola among others. Naturalism wanted the acting to be a focus of theater not elaborate sets and distracting costumes (a great departure for the period), and very physical acting to portray and enhance emotions and dialogue.  This is addition to playing  to intimate  audiences  close  to  the  actors with the   music  on the  stage  as well  ….all this in Miss Julia which pulsates with the syncopated folk rhythms of the tammurriata throughout and a refreshing and unique entry into the New York theater landscape.

Miss Julia ****
La Mama
June 8-25, First Floor Theatre, 74A East 4th St, New York NY 10003Tickets on sale at www.lamama.org or on 646 430 5374
Thursday to Saturday at 7:30PM; Sunday at 2PM
$25 Adult Tickets; $20 Students/Seniors; Limited $10 Tickets

  

Angry Young Man at Guild Hall

Ben Woolf’s madcap farce meticulously helmed by Stephen Hamilton is now playing at Guild Hall through June 18, 2017.

Angry Young Man, an entertaining gem by Ben Woolf, about Yusef, a surgeon from an unidentified Middle Eastern country, who comes to London after a bungled operation is wowing critics on the East End after an acclaimed recent run at Urban Stages in New York City.

Ben Woolf’s madcap farce meticulously helmed by Stephen Hamilton is now playing at Guild Hall through June 18, 2017.

Angry Young Man, an entertaining gem by Ben Woolf, about Yusef, a surgeon from an unidentified Middle Eastern country, who comes to London after a bungled operation is wowing critics on the East End after an acclaimed recent run at Urban Stages in New York City.

A superb cast meticulously helmed by Stephen Hamilton keeps the fast-paced farce moving at a deliciously brisk pace for 75 minutes. The gifted ensemble of four includes Christopher Daftsios, Rami Margron, Max Samuels, and Nazli Sarpkaya, two men and two women, who intermittently play Yussef and the other misfits he encounters. They seamlessly switch roles and accents with comic panache playing broad physical comedy that never becomes dull under Stephen Hamilton’s clever guidance.

You may laugh at playwright Ben Woolf’s farce, yet his candy-coated message is no laughing matter. The evening may be an entertaining charade, however there is no hiding the bigotry just beneath the surface.

Click Here to Read Full Review

Angry Young Man is now playing at Guild Hall through June 18, 2017. For Tickets Click Here

Opening Night June 3, 2017 Photography: Barry Gordin

Stephen Hamilton, Julie Andrews, Marty & MIchele Cohen
Stephen Hamilton, Brian Clemente
Andrea Grover, Julie Andrews
Frances Hill

Stephen Hamilton, Josh Gladstone
Happy Birthday Nazu

The Government Inspector **1/2

By: Iris Wiener

There is farce, and then there is the humorous play that tries too hard to be a farce. Unfortunately, The Government Inspector is mostly the latter. Although the piece is filled with many one-liners that land abundantly well, as a whole, Inspector is lacking in depth and consistency. Characters launch into asides at awkward moments, breaking up the already disjointed plot construction. None of the characters have very strong merits or backstories, making it difficult to root for or against them. On the other hand, the actors themselves are vibrant and on top of their game; audiences will not only root for them, but eat them up as well.

By: Iris Wiener

There is farce, and then there is the humorous play that tries too hard to be a farce. Unfortunately, The Government Inspector is mostly the latter. Although the piece is filled with many one-liners that land abundantly well, as a whole, Inspector is lacking in depth and consistency. Characters launch into asides at awkward moments, breaking up the already disjointed plot construction. None of the characters have very strong merits or backstories, making it difficult to root for or against them. On the other hand, the actors themselves are vibrant and on top of their game; audiences will not only root for them, but eat them up as well.

In the New York premiere of acclaimed playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s satire of bad behavior in the Russian provinces, the action takes place in an odd, small bucolic town in 19th-century Russia. The mayor (Michael McGrath) is told to expect a visit from an inspector, who means to make sure the town is on the up-and-up. He colludes with the school principal (David Manis), the town judge (Tom Alan Robbins) and the hospital director (Stephen DeRosa) to hide the seedy underbelly and crumbling affairs of their authority until such inspector leaves. The team is willing to bribe, cheat and confound to make their municipality believably in check.

When this team of wayward misfits is told that a young man is staying at the local inn, they conclude that this must be the inspector. However, the conceited Ivan Alexandreyevich Hlestakov (Michael Urie) is a broke, mindless loser. Before finally fleeing the corrupt town at the urging of his servant (Arnie Burton), he takes bribes, wards of the unwanted advances of the mayor’s wife, Anna (Mary Testa), and entertains the romantic advances of the mayor’s daughter (Talene Monahan). Oh, and he gets drunk. Very drunk. His sloshed antics comprise a ten-plus minute scene that demonstrates Urie’s gifted physical comedic nature, but not much else in the guise of moving the plot forward.

The actors in Inspector spit the fast language with eloquent humor and bombastic verve. McGrath is impeccable in a role that doesn’t always give him enough to do. However, when he lobs insults at Testa (who is dressed like something Little Bo-Peep threw up), he is at his finest. “Why are you dressed like a lamp in a whorehouse?” he asks the boisterous flirt. Urie’s ability to make his audience love him even when his character is incredibly flawed (early seasons of Ugly Betty, anyone?) is once again evidenced by his timing and grandiosity with Ivan’s humorous histrionics. Though his character highjacks the show towards the end of the first act, Urie comes out on top…er, on the top of the bottom, as he literally plunges from the top floor of the set to the lower level, hanging on for dear life. Another stand-out from the production is Arnie Burton, who brings his uncanny brilliance to Ivan’s servant with the brutish delivery of barbs such as “It’s like talking to meat.” Burton is also delightful when he plays a snooping postmaster, a role more integral than it might at once seem.

Red Bull Theater Artistic Director Jesse Berger’s direction is clearly the misstep in this problematic piece. Asides from the characters are clumsy and often feel unnecessary. The small set does not allow much room for a large cast, who often find themselves situated in a straight line, watching and listening to the action (a la a high school production). Alexis Distler’s scenic design is unique, if not always the most appropriate. Her one-dimensional split level stage allows for three individual rooms and no set changes. Audiences peer in as though they are watching dolls in a doll’s house butt heads with one another, a clever choice as to the way in which the audience is supposed to appreciate the slapstick-ish tricks in the show. Early on the characters speak of rooms in their hospitals that are so small, beds cannot be fit inside. A nod to that claustrophobic feeling can be felt in a clever wink that is the set itself. However, even though there are moments of stupendous humor in the large casts’ running through the top floor (see an epically funny chase scene), it is ultimately too squashed for an ensemble so large. Tilly Grimes’s costumes are artful and funny (see the principal’s mortarboard), especially when considering Anna’s ostentatious wear.

In Inspector’s satisfying finale, the big bunch of loons realize that they will all be taken as fools, and they’re elated about it; after all, they’ll be in the newspaper. This sentiment screams 2017, and redefines the meaning of the entire piece- a neat trick, turning the play on its head in a timely way. “Centuries from now, people will still be laughing at us,” says the mayor. And just as with the play itself, those laughs won’t always be for the right reasons.

The Government Inspector **1/2
The Duke on 42nd Street
229 West 42nd Street (between 7th &  8th)
Tickets (646 223-3010 ext.8
May 16-June 24, 2017
Photos: Carol Rosegg

Talene Monahon, Michael Urie
Tom Alan Robbins, Stephen DeRosa, James Rana, David Manis, Luis, Moreno, Ryan Garbayo, Ben Mehl
Michael Urie, Arnie Burton
Michael McGrath, Mary Testa, Talene Monahon

Follow Iris on Twitter at @Iris_Wiener [https://twitter.com/Iris_Wiener] or visit her at IrisWiener.com.

 

Songs from Tony Award-Winning Scores ***1/2

By: Paulanne Simmons

Two nights before the Tony Award presentation at Radio City Music Hall, Scott Siegel presided over Songs from Tony Award-Winning Scores at the Metropolitan Room, a few blocks downtown.

By: Paulanne Simmons

Two nights before the Tony Award presentation at Radio City Music Hall, Scott Siegel presided over Songs from Tony Award-Winning Scores at the Metropolitan Room, a few blocks downtown.

The evening began with a bit of Tony Award history: 

The awards were established 70 years ago by the American Theatre Wing, and named after Antoinette Perry, an actress, director, producer and co-founder of the American Theatre Wing who had died the previous year. The event debuted in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria, where winners José Ferrer, Arthur Miller, Helen Hayes, Ingrid Bergman, Patricia Neal, Elia Kazan and Agnes de Mille were presented with a scroll and such mementos as a gold money clip (for the men) and a compact (for the women).

At that time awards were presented in only seven categories, although there were a number of special awards. My how times have changed! 

The songs chosen for this evening seven decades later ranged from Kristin Dausch having good-natured fun with “Adelaide’s Lament” from the 1951 award winner Guys & Dolls to “You’ll Be Back” from last year’s Tony Award-winner, Hamilton, performed by Pedro Coppeti, sporting royal insignia.

The songs also highlighted Broadway in all its artistic diversity.  They were cynical as in “The History of Wrong Guys,” from Kinky Boots, sung by Emily Iaquinta and they were hopeful as in “No One is Alone” from Into the Woods, sung by Emma Camp. They celebrated traditional romance with “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady sung Jeanine Bruen and not so traditional love with Chelsea Wheatley’s rendition of “Changing my Major to Joan” from Fun Home.

But perhaps the best part of the show was the cast, which consisted mostly of talented newcomers who augur a happy future for the Great White Way and many more Tonys to come.

The Metropolitan Room is located at 34 West 22 Street, http://metropolitanroom.com.

2017 Tony Awards

2017 Tony Awards: Kevin, Bette, Christine, James Earl, Patti, and Stars Galore and Much More –  Sunday, Live on CBS from Radio City Music Hall

By: Ellis Nassour

The 71st annual Tony Awards, presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, will have enough star power to light not only 50th Street and Avenue of the Americas but also all of Times Square. The Award will be telecast live on Sunday over three hours from Radio City Music Hall from 8 -11 P.M. (ET/PT time delay) on CBS. Like last year, there will be a lot of social media action throughout the program.

2017 Tony Awards: Kevin, Bette, Christine, James Earl, Patti, and Stars Galore and Much More –  Sunday, Live on CBS from Radio City Music Hall

By: Ellis Nassour

The 71st annual Tony Awards, presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, will have enough star power to light not only 50th Street and Avenue of the Americas but also all of Times Square. The Award will be telecast live on Sunday over three hours from Radio City Music Hall from 8 -11 P.M. (ET/PT time delay) on CBS. Like last year, there will be a lot of social media action throughout the program.

In quite a departure from recent telecasts, this year’s host, celebrated acclaimed Tony- Olivier- [two-time] Oscar- Golden Globe-, and BAFTA winner and (five-time) Emmy nominated actor Kevin Spacey, isn’t a musical comedy veteran – but, hopefully, as he did at the 2015 Oliver Awards, he will break into song – as he has been known to do [below]. The unpredictable Mr. Spacey may open the show with a “host” of nominees in a big production number — maybe even do a jig!

CBS, avidly promoting the Tonys as never before, in a loyal partnership with co-presenters the Broadway League and American Theatre Wing, has telecast the Tonys since 1978. The network will offer full Red Carpet arrivals beginning at 5 P.M., sponsored by Nordstrom.

The program, including the one-hour pre-telecast Creative Arts Awards and special honors portion, sponsored by City National Bank, can be seen on NY1 News as well as www.TonyAwards.com, developed and designed by IBM.

Remember the old M-G-M axiom: “More stars than there are in the heavens!” Well, the goal of the 2017 Tony Awards is to top that. There’ll be more stars than there are in the galaxy – and many of them will be singing and dancing!

Appearing will be nominees Denis Arndt, Denee Benton, Christian Borle, Chris Cooper, Christine Ebersole, Jennifer Ehle, Sally Field, Josh Groban, Corey Hawkins, Andy Karl, Kevin Kline, Laura Linney, Patti LuPone, Jefferson Mays, Laurie Metcalf, Bette Midler, Eva Noblezada, David Hyde Pierce, and Ben Platt.

Aligning to join this glittering group to celebrate Broadway’s biggest night are Scott Bakula, Sara Bareilles, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bloom, Glenn Close, Stephen Colbert, Brian d’Arcy James, Cynthia Erivo, Tina Fey, Sutton Foster, Josh Gad, Whoopi Goldberg, Jonathan Groff, Mark Hamill, Taraji P. Henson, Christopher Jackson, Allison Janney, Scarlett Johansson, Anna Kendrick, Keegan-Michael Key, Nick Kroll, John Legend, John Lithgow, Patina Miller, Lin-Manuel Miranda, John Mulaney, Leslie Odom Jr., David Oyelowo, Chazz Palminteri, Sarah Paulson, Lea Salonga, Tom Sturridge,  Tommy Tune, and Olivia Wilde.

Last year, there was the landmark and Pulitzer-winning Hamilton. People were saying, “How could the 2016-2017 season top that?” There were 20 musicals, which includes six revivals; 20 plays, 10 original and nine revivals; and special productions. There wasn’t another Hamilton, but there’s been plenty of excitement and diversity in a season of distinguished shows.

The casts of Bandstand, Come From Away, Dear Evan Hansen, the Falsettos revival, Groundhog Day, Hello, Dolly!, Miss Saigon, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, and War Paint will perform. In addition, the Radio City Rockettes will be featured.

The Creative Arts Awards comprise seven categories ushered into the early first hour, not telecast, to make room for more entertainment. They are Scenic Design, Play and Musical; Costume Design, Play and Musical; Lighting Design, Play and Musical; and Orchestrations. Winners will be recapped on the broadcast. This segment and the special Tony honors can be watched at www.tonyawards.com.

The Tony Administration Committee is awarding a Special Tony for Lifetime Achievement to two-time Tony winner and Theatre World Award recipient James Earl Jones, who following in his father’s footsteps, made his Broadway debut in 1958 in Dore Schary’s Sunrise at Campobello, opposite Ralph Bellamy and Mary Fickett as Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Kevin Spacey, who won the 1999 Best Actor Olivier and picked up a special award for his Outstanding Contribution to the Old Vic, where he was artistic director from 2004 -2015. In accepting the honor, he sang Bridge over Troubled Water with a full orchestra and choir.

He made his Broadway debut in 1982’sa short-lived production of Ibsen’s Ghosts; David Rabe’s Hurlyburly in 1984 (also a 1998 TV adaptation); 1986 revival, O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night (also, a 1987 TV adaptation); Neil Simon’s Tony-winning Lost in Yonkers, 1991 (Tony, Featured Actor); 1999 revival, O’Neill’s Iceman Cometh (Tony nomination, Best Actor); and 2007’s revival of O’Neill’s Moon for the Misbegotten.

Classic screen roles include Swimming with Sharks (1994), Usual Suspects (1995; Oscar, Featured Actor), L.A. Confidential (1997), American Beauty (1999; Oscar, Best Actor); and TV’s 2013-present House of Cards (reaping four Emmy nominations).

Tony telecast veterans Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment return as executive producers of the Awards; with Weiss also directing.

At the Broadway League, Robert E. Wankel is chair and Charlotte St. Martin is president; at the American Theater Wing, David Henry Hwang is chair and Heather A. Hitchens is president.

“It’s Broadway’s biggest event,” says Ms. St. Martin, “and, rightly so. It will be a starry, starry night seen in 45 countries (which include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, France, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, and the world-wide Armed Forces TV Network). We welcome our friend Kevin Spacey to an illustrious roster of Tony hosts.”

In the United Kingdom, Olivier-winning Elaine Paige will host a special program on BBC Radio 2, which will include telecast performances. The Tonys will be seen throughout Canada live and time-delayed. In many countries, the Awards will be seen within a week of the event.

Ms. Hitchens, adds, “There’s nothing like celebrating Broadway’s biggest night, with Broadway’s biggest fans.”

During the telecast, for behind-the-scenes coverage she recommends visiting www.TonyAwards.com/secondscreen. Follow the Tonys at Facebook.com/ theTonyAwards, @theTonyAwards on Twitter, and Instagram.com/ theTonyAwards. Join the conversation using the hashtags #TonyAwards2017 and #TheatreInspires.

Additional sponsors for the 2017 Tonys include: Carnegie Mellon University – the first-ever higher education partner; Grant Thornton LLP – Tony’s official accounting services partner; Sofitel New York – official Tony hotel; the Rainbow Room; United Airlines – official Tony airline, and People/Entertainment Weekly magazines.

For a complete list of the nominations, a ballot to pick your choice for winner, video features and interviews, trivia, and a history of the Awards and the Awards namesake Antoinette Perry, go to www.TonyAwards.com.

2017 Tony Award Nominations Highlights:

Have you voted? Placed your bets?

Play: 
A Doll’s House, Part 2, Lucas Hnath
Indecent, Paula Vogel
Oslo, J.T. Rogers
Sweat, Lynn Nottage

Musical: 
Come From Away, Irene Sankoff and David Hein
Dear Evan Hansen, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Groundhog Day, Tim Minchin
Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy

Actor, Leading Role, Play:
Denis Arndt, Heisenberg
Chris Cooper,  A Doll’s House, Part 2
Corey Hawkins, Six Degrees of Separation
Kevin Kline, Present Laughter
Jefferson Mays, Oslo

Actress, Leading Role, Play:
Cate Blanchett,  The Present
Jennifer Ehle,
Oslo
Sally Field,  The Glass Menagerie
Laura Linney,  The Little Foxes
Laurie Metcalf,  A Doll’s House, Part 2

Actor, Leading Role, Musical:
Christian Borle,  Falsettos
Josh Groban,  Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Andy Karl,  Groundhog Day
David Hyde Pierce,  Hello, Dolly!
Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen

 

Actress, Leading Role, Musical:
Denee Benton,  Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Christine Ebersole, War Paint
Patti LuPone,  War Paint
Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!
Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon


Actor, Featured Role, Play:
Michael Aronov,  Oslo
Danny DeVito,  The Price
Nathan Lane,  The Front Page
Richard Thomas,  The Little Foxes
John Douglas Thompson,  Jitney

Actress, Featured Role, Play:
Johanna Day, Sweat
Jayne Houdyshell,  A Doll’s House, Part 2
Cynthia Nixon,  The Little Foxes
Condola Rashad,  A Doll’s House, Part 2
Michelle Wilson,  Sweat

 Actor, Featured Role, Musical:
Gavin Creel,  Hello, Dolly!
Mike Faist, Dear Evan Hansen
Andrew Rannells,  Falsettos
Lucas Steele,  Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Brandon Uranowitz,  Falsettos

 Actress, Featured Role, Musical:
Kate Baldwin, Hello, Dolly!
Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos
Jenn Colella, Come From Away
Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
Mary Beth Peil, Anastasia

 Direction, Play:
Sam Gold, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Ruben Santiago-Hudson,  Jitney
Bartlett Sher, Oslo
Daniel Sullivan, The Little Foxes
Rebecca Taichman,  Indecent

Direction, Musical:
Christopher Ashley, Come From Away
Rachel Chavkin,  Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen
Matthew Warchus, Groundhog Day
Jerry Zaks, Hello, Dolly!

Original Score:
Come From Away
Dear Evan Hansen
Groundhog Day
Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

 Play, Revival:
Jitney, August Wilson
The Little Foxes, Lillian Hellman
Present Laughter, Noel Coward
Six Degrees of Separation, John Guare

 Book, Musical:
Come From Away, Irene Sankoff and David Hein
Dear Evan Hansen, Steven Levenson
Groundhog Day, Danny Rubin
Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy

Musical, Revival:
Falsettos, William Finn; Book, Finn and James Lapine
Hello, Dolly!, Jerry Herman; Book, Michael Stewart
Miss Saigon, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, and Richard Marltby Jr.; Book, Boublil

 Choreography:
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand
Peter Darling and Ellen Kane, Groundhog Day
Kelly Devine, Come From Away
Denis Jones, Holiday Inn
Sam Pinkleton, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

Recipients of Special Tony Awards and Honors:
Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award:
Baayork Lee, original cast, The King and I; A Chorus Line: dancer, singer, choreographer

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre:
General managers, Nina Lannan and Alan Wasser

 Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre:
James Earl Jones

Special Tony:
Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin, sound designers,  The Encounter

For more information including the full list of nominees, a meet-the-host feature, photo gallery, multimedia, trivia, and the history of the Awards, visit www.TonyAwards.com.

Read about Tony Awards namesake, Antoinette Perry:
Who’s This Tony?
http://theaterlife.com/whos-this-tony/

The Boy Who Danced On Air *** 1/2

Bold musical at Abingdon Theater sheds light on taboo subject

By Patrick Christiano

Charlie Sohne and Tim Rosser’s courageous musical The Boy Who Danced On Air, now playing at the Abingdon Theater through June 11, 2017, tackles an Afghanistan custom know as Bacha Bazi meaning “boy play.” The law in Afghanistan prohibits married men from having extramarital affairs with other women, however destitute parents often sell their young boys to wealthy men, who teach them to dance dressed as women. These boys are not only an amusement to the men and their friends, but are frequently used for sex as well becoming their sex slaves.

Bold musical at Abingdon Theater sheds light on taboo subject

By Patrick Christiano

Charlie Sohne and Tim Rosser’s courageous musical The Boy Who Danced On Air, now playing at the Abingdon Theater through June 11, 2017, tackles an Afghanistan custom know as Bacha Bazi meaning “boy play.” The law in Afghanistan prohibits married men from having extramarital affairs with other women, however destitute parents often sell their young boys to wealthy men, who teach them to dance dressed as women. These boys are not only an amusement to the men and their friends, but are frequently used for sex as well becoming their sex slaves.

Directed by Tony Speciale with great sensitivity the story, inspired by a 2010 PBS documentary “The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan,” is a heart wrenching look a boy named Paiman, played beautifully by the ethereal Troy Iwata. Paiman is sold to a wealthy man named Jahandar, who sternly informs him “Men have needs.” Jonathan Raviv gives a solid performance as the boy’s master, who forms a unique bond with Paiman until the boy reaches maturity.

The tale begins with shadowy figures behind a translucent scrim and a foreboding stranger in the foreground played by Deven Kolluri. The stranger appears throughout the evening as an observer/narrator punctuating moments of Paiman’s uncertainty as he grapples to make sense of his strange new world. When Paiman meets Feda, played by a charismatic Nikhil Saboo, his life will be dramatically challenged.

Feda’s owner Zemar, played by Osh Ghanimah, is a friend of Jahandar and treats him harshly. Just as Jahandar is attempting to find himself a new dancing boy and to marry Paiman off to a girl as his tradition demands, Feda, seduces Paiman and brashly encourages him to run away with him. The two dance exhalating duets with wistful innocence choreographed by Nejla Yatkin, however, back at home Jahandar tells Paiman.If you decide the traditions are nothing, then you have nothing. You are only dancing on air.”

If Shone’s book takes unnecessary tangents, the three men at the heart of the conflict, nonetheless, head an impressive cast, and the dancing as well as the singing is top notch in Rosser and Sohne’s touching musical.

The Boy Who Danced On Air
Now playing at Abingdon Theatre Company’s June Havoc Theatre
312 W. 36th St., New York
Through June 11, 2017
212-352-3101 or www.abingdontheatre.org

Photos: Maria Baranova

Jonathan Raviv, Troy Iwata

 

A Doll’s House Part 11 ***1/2

By: Isa Goldberg

A sequel to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House seems, except for a handful of academic feminists, as long awaited as a cold day in hell. In 1879, when Henrik Ibsen’s masterpiece exploded on the European stage, they didn’t even have movies, so who would have cared about a sequel, anyway? Lucas, author of A Doll’s House Part II, clearly does! Like Ibsen, Hnath is taken to the task of challenging a theater which idealizes society’s conventions, and its rigid morals regarding family life and propriety. And Nora is a heroine exactly because she refuses to accept the shackles of a conventional marriage, and an abusive husband.

By: Isa Goldberg

A sequel to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House seems, except for a handful of academic feminists, as long awaited as a cold day in hell. In 1879, when Henrik Ibsen’s masterpiece exploded on the European stage, they didn’t even have movies, so who would have cared about a sequel, anyway? Lucas, author of A Doll’s House Part II, clearly does! Like Ibsen, Hnath is taken to the task of challenging a theater which idealizes society’s conventions, and its rigid morals regarding family life and propriety. And Nora is a heroine exactly because she refuses to accept the shackles of a conventional marriage, and an abusive husband.

Hnath’s new play, a chilling dramedy, and the most nominated Broadway show of the season, takes off where Nora walks out of her home, leaving husband and children behind. Still, the play opens a little like Ibsen’s play, with Nora (Laurie Metcalf) entering the family home. In this opening scene Hnath mines the humor from Ibsen’s realistic drawing room. Greeted by the maid (Jayne Houdyshell), Nora gets a quick breakdown on the past 15 years or more of her family’s life. How succinct a drawing room scene is that! If it doesn’t tug on your sense of disbelief, I don’t know what would.

A parody of the modern realistic play, Hnath’s satire brings us to the essence of theater – the concept of wearing masks as the Greek actors of old, the hypokrites, did. An interesting word that. Literally translated it means “an interpreter from underneath,” which is precisely what Hnath is doing by unmasking Ibsen’s characters for the contemporary stage. In modern parlance, the play attacks the hypocrisy, the very glue which Hnath’s characters rely on to keep themselves together.

As we discover, Nora, who has become a popular woman’s novelist, finds out that she faces legal action due to the fact that her husband, Torvald, never filed for their divorce. Furthermore, we learn that Torvald falsified documents to cover up for Nora’s inexplicable absence. The lies that have been spun have turned into a duplicitous web, overtaking their lives, and whatever liberties Nora had hoped to achieve. It’s a wild reveal of familial love, betrayal, abandonment, and the autonomy of the bureaucratic oaths we take for our survival.

As Nora’s banker-husband Torvald, Chris Cooper is the epitome of a man who becomes more and more small minded the more he tries to spin his way out of financial depravity, climb the totem pole of banking, and save himself from social rejection. Cooper, who won the Academy Award for his portrayal of John Laroche, the real-life flower-poacher in the movie, Adaptation, brings a casually eccentric air to his role.  It works wonderfully, especially because Metcalf, hot to trot into the reboot of television’s Roseanne, portrays Nora with such over the top comedic gestures, that the nature of their clash appears as physical as it is visceral. Trying to peel her away from tearing up the scenery is clearly quite the challenge. In contrast to Metcalf, Condola Rashad portrays Nora’s daughter, a woman whose moral turpitude belies her upright, youthful presence.

Needless to say, this is a goldmine for director Sam Gold, known for his quirky reimaging of the classics, from this year’s revival of A Glass Menagerie on Broadway to Othello at The New York Theater Workshop. All of the action takes place on Miriam Buether’s single set, like the single drawing room in Ibsen’s play, except this one seems far less cluttered with objects, leaving a lot more room for the acting out that defines and reveals these characters. It‘s also typical of how a divorced man would keep his house–sadly bare, and wanting of a female presence. Jennifer Tipton’s unsubtle, unsubdued lighting puts it all out there in plain sight. As does this terrific ensemble of actors! 

Laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper

John Golden Theatre
252 West 45th Street, NYC
212 239-6200
Running Time: 1 Hour 30 minutes
Photos: Brigitte Lacombe