LTV’s What’s Your Story

Angela LaGreca hosted an evening of personal stories told in word, song and video at LTV.

 January 25, 2020:  Everybody has a story and LTV, East Hampton’s Media Center and Public Access Television station, presented several personal stories on fear , loathing and desire featuring Joy Behar, Patrick Christiano, Dell Cullum, Bryan Downey, Steven Gaines, Alfredo Merat, Mercedes Ruehl, Telly and Andrew Visconti. The evening at the LTV Media Center in Wainscott was hosted by LTV’s Creative Director Angela LaGreca. 
Photography: Barry Gordin

Angela LaGreca hosted an evening of personal stories told in word, song and video at LTV.

 January 25, 2020:  Everybody has a story and LTV, East Hampton’s Media Center and Public Access Television station, presented several personal stories on fear , loathing and desire featuring Joy Behar, Patrick Christiano, Dell Cullum, Bryan Downey, Steven Gaines, Alfredo Merat, Mercedes Ruehl, Telly and Andrew Visconti. The evening at the LTV Media Center in Wainscott was hosted by LTV’s Creative Director Angela LaGreca. 
Photography: Barry Gordin

Angela LaGreca
Executive Director at LTV Michael D. Clark, Mercedes Ruehl
Jeryl & Michael Goldberg
Lisa Tamburini, Steven Gaines
Mercedes Ruehl
Patrick Christiano
Bryan Downey
Telly
Dell Cullum
Patrick Christiano
Patrick Christiano
Andrew Visconti
Bryan Downey

East End Underground @ LTV

Funk Night featuring Funkin’ A and The Kenny Harris Project rocked LTV on Friday night.

January 24, 2020:  The East End Underground, LTV’s show for local bands presented Funk Night featuring Funking’ A and The Kenny Harris Project. LTV on Industrial Road in Wainscott is East Hampton’s Media Center and Public Access Television.
Photography: Barry Gordin

Funk Night featuring Funkin’ A and The Kenny Harris Project rocked LTV on Friday night.

January 24, 2020:  The East End Underground, LTV’s show for local bands presented Funk Night featuring Funking’ A and The Kenny Harris Project. LTV on Industrial Road in Wainscott is East Hampton’s Media Center and Public Access Television.
Photography: Barry Gordin

Romeo and Bernadette ****

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 26, 2020: It may seem a little difficult to imagine Romeo and Juliet as a comedy. But Michael Saltzman’s Romeo and Bernadette: A Musical Tale of Verona and Brooklyn proves that with creativity and imagination, Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy can be turned into a comic tour de force.

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 26, 2020: It may seem a little difficult to imagine Romeo and Juliet as a comedy. But Michael Saltzman’s Romeo and Bernadette: A Musical Tale of Verona and Brooklyn proves that with creativity and imagination, Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy can be turned into a comic tour de force.

Saltzman has invented a narrator, The Brooklyn Guy (Michael Notardonato), who creates a sequel in order to impress his girlfriend, The Brooklyn Girl (Ari Raskin).  According to The Brooklyn Guy, Romeo (Nikita Burshteyn) drank a sleeping potion and not poison. That potion kept him slumbering until 1960, when he awoke and fell in love with a girl he thinks is Juliet, although she’s really Bernadette (Anna Kostakis), on vacation with her father, the lovable street-smart mobster, Sal Penza (Carlos Lopez) and his culture-loving wife, Camille (Judy McLane).

Anna Kostakis, Nikita Burshteyn

Romeo makes it to Brooklyn, where he finds Bernadette, with the help of Dino Del Canto (Notardonato), son of Don Del Canto (Michael Marotta), a more sophisticated version of Sal. Oh, and by the way, the Penza and Del Canto families are longtime enemies.

To complicate matters, Bernadette is about to marry Tito Titone (Zach Schanne), an abusive, up-and-coming thug. She’s also got a friend, Donna Dubacek (Raskin), a tough-talking girl that catches Dino’s eye.

The Cast of Romeo and Bernadette

Saltzman has ingeniously given traditional and classic Italian melodies his own very clever lyrics. This ensures that the music is not only fitting but also quite wonderful. Most of the songs mix romance and humor as in “There’s Moonlight Tonight Over Brooklyn” (“Magnolias are blooming in Flatbush/The subways are running for free/What used to be called Coney Island/Tonight is the Isle of Capri”).

Director and choreographer Justin Ross Cohen doesn’t need lots of scenery to tell the story. Set designer Walt Spangler makes effective use of a few props and curtains. And Fabio Toblini and Joseph Shrope’s costumes give us the time and place. Most of all, the enthusiastic cast makes this low-budget, unassuming comedy work.

Michael Notardonato, Michael Marotta, Nikita Burshteyn

Some of the actors onstage are making their off-Broadway debut and pretty obviously need a few more years to hone their considerable talents. However, Notardonato and Burshteyn are both ready for prime time. Burshteyn manages to be a convincing Romeo in both Verona and Brooklyn, where he tries to master the local customs and language. And Notardonato is a lovable sidekick with his own romantic aspirations. Special mention must be given to Troy Valjean Rucker, who plays a multitude of characters from an opera singer to a priest, with various female roles thrown into the mix.

So, while West Side Story gives us a more tragic modern version of Romeo on Juliet on Broadway. off-Broadway, Romeo and Bernadette offers a more humorous take on that same story. The difference is their points of view and about a hundred bucks.

Romeo and Bernadette: A Musical Tale of Verona and Brooklyn ****
Amas Musical Theatre A.R.T./New York Theatres
Mezzanine Theatre
502 W. 53rd Street, NYC
Tuesdays at 7:00pm
Wednesdays at 8:00pm
Thursdays at 8:00pm
Fridays at 8:00pm
Saturdays at 3:00pm & 8:00pm
Sundays at 3:00pm
Through February 16, 2019
Photography: Russ Roland

Grand Horizons ***

By: David Sheward

January 25, 2020: Few performers can endow the simple culinary acts of making a sandwich or ladling gravy with as much meaning as Jane Alexander. The reserved, precise manner she pours out the brown sauce for mashed potatoes or the laser-beam side-eye she gives a non-communicative spouse as she spreads peanut butter speak of every slight and grievance in a 50-year marriage. These seemingly minimal actions reveal volumes about Nancy, a 70-ish woman on the brink of a major transition, in Bess Wohl’s uneven but blisteringly funny new play Grand Horizons, presented by Second Stage on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theatre. 

By: David Sheward

January 25, 2020: Few performers can endow the simple culinary acts of making a sandwich or ladling gravy with as much meaning as Jane Alexander. The reserved, precise manner she pours out the brown sauce for mashed potatoes or the laser-beam side-eye she gives a non-communicative spouse as she spreads peanut butter speak of every slight and grievance in a 50-year marriage. These seemingly minimal actions reveal volumes about Nancy, a 70-ish woman on the brink of a major transition, in Bess Wohl’s uneven but blisteringly funny new play Grand Horizons, presented by Second Stage on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theatre. 

Michael Urie, Maulik Pancholy

Alexander creates a moving and real portrait of a woman yearning to burst out of a marriage based on deception and Wohl’s script is effectively humorous, delivering major guffaws on relatable topics such as the pain of aging and the challenge of keeping a marital union together—thanks to expert timing of the cast and Leigh Silverman’s clockwork-reliable staging. But the play’s horizons are too easy and narrow.

Set in the titular retirement community where Nancy and her husband Bill (nuanced James Cromwell) have recently moved (Clint Ramos designed the appropriately sterile, generic set), the action is set in motion in the brilliantly acted and directed opening scene. After the couple prepares an evening meal in frosty silence, Nancy casually states, “I’d like a divorce.” Bill replies just as coolly, “All right.” The scene abruptly ends. Then the pair’s adults sons, anxiety-prone lawyer Ben (marvelously neurotic Ben McKenzie) and emotionally barren high-school theater teacher Brian (hilariously jittery Michael Urie), along with Ben’s wife Jess (comically solicitous Ashley Park), an empathetic and heavily pregnant couples therapist, descend on Grand Horizons to “fix” the situation. It turns out Nancy has always been in love with another man and now seeks fulfillment through charity work while Bill has lately found a new amour who shares his enthusiasm for stand-up comedy. 

Jane Alexander, James Cromwell 

There is a lot of genuine, sharp observations on the buried resentments and hidden agendas in families and marriages, but Wohl settles for too many sitcom laughs and forced set-ups. Parents graphically describing their sex lives in front of embarrassed adult children comes across as schtick to trigger giggles rather honestly motivated revelations. The gay son Brian unbelievably sneaks a pick-up into his parents’ house because the latter conveniently has roommate problems and Brian needs to deliver some exposition. Predictably there are unfunny bits about miscommunication during sexual role play and unearned judgements from people who just met each other. Despite the rigged nature of this segment, Urie and Maulik Pancholy manage to endow the encounter with a modicum of truthful acting. Likewise, Alexander and the resourceful Kelly Bishop lend a dose of reality to the highly theatrical meeting between Nancy and Carla, Bill’s clandestine girl friend. 

Ashley Park, Ben McKenzie

The hijinks reach a climax at the end of the first act when a startling and unexpected development crashes the couple’s expectations (no spoilers, but it brings the house down in more ways than one.) Fortunately, in most of the second act, once the sitcom-ish humor has been played out, Wohl allows the characters to speak to each other with candor and without punchlines. We see a real family dealing with a credible crisis in a naturalistic fashion, a rarity on Broadway.  

Grand Horizons ***
Jan. 23—March 1. Second Stage Theater at the Helen Hayes Theater, Tue 7pm, Wed 2pm & 8pm, Thu 7pm, 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 3pm. Running time: two hours and 15 mins. including intermission. $59—$199. (212) 541-4516. www.2t.com
Photography Joan Marcus

Forbidden Broadway ***1/2

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 28, 2019: Now in its 31st year, Forbidden Broadway is again making gentle (and not so gentle) fun of our favorite (and not so favorite) Broadway shows, past and present. This season’s Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation! has transferred to The York, where it is getting big laughs from seasoned musical theater lovers. This edition, written and created by Gerard Alessandrini, features Chris Collins-Pisano, Immanuel Houston, Aline Mayagoitia, Jenny Lee Stern, Joshua Turchin, and Fred Barton on the piano, presenting their versions of past and present hits, as well as a few flops.

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 28, 2019: Now in its 31st year, Forbidden Broadway is again making gentle (and not so gentle) fun of our favorite (and not so favorite) Broadway shows, past and present. This season’s Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation! has transferred to The York, where it is getting big laughs from seasoned musical theater lovers. This edition, written and created by Gerard Alessandrini, features Chris Collins-Pisano, Immanuel Houston, Aline Mayagoitia, Jenny Lee Stern, Joshua Turchin, and Fred Barton on the piano, presenting their versions of past and present hits, as well as a few flops.

The best part of Forbidden Broadway satires is Alessandrini’s ability to point out exactly what was nagging at us about a show, even as we rose to our feet during the obligatory standing ovation. Isn’t Evan Hansen, as played by Turchin, complete with cast and booming voice, a little over-the-top? Didn’t The Ferryman seem to go on and on and on, especially with all those ancient Irish tales of The Troubles?

Jenny Lee Stern as Gwen Verdon and Chris Collins-Pisano as Bob Fosse

Forbidden Broadway has a very funny “tribute” to Broadway flops called “The Place Where Lost Shows Go” and an equally funny salute to aging divas (Bette Midler, Jennifer Holliday, Bernadette Peters) called “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This.”

Pisano and Stern team up for a sexy Fosse number that reveals Bob Fosse’s complicated relationship with his wife and muse, Gwen Verdon. And Houston captures Andre De Shields’ style and star magic in “Forbidden Hadestown,” even as he becomes a tour guide for a family anxious to see everyone’s favorite Broadway hit.

But the show’s highlight is a piece called “Woke-lahoma!” which according to Alessandrini “crucified Agnes de Mille.” It also presented “poor Jud” as gay and ended in a blood bath that would have shocked poor Oscar Hammerstein. But it was woke!

Jenny Lee Stern, Immanuel Houston, Aline Mayagoitia, Chris Collins-Pisano

Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation! ends with Harold Prince as the Starkeeper (a nod to Carousel) and the ensemble singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” which, by the way, is so gorgeous it’s pretty much spoof-proof.

Fortunately, there’s always much to make fun of. So, here’s to the SNL of live theater – Forbidden Broadway!

Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation! Runs through Feb. 9 at The York Theatre, 619 Lexington Ave. (enter on 54 Street). Photography: Carol Rosegg

The Emperor’s Nightingale ****

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 27, 2020: Pan Asian Repertory’s The Emperor’s Nightingale has everything a small child wants in theater – music, puppets, colorful costumes and audience participation. It also has what parents hold dear – an easily understood moral.

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 27, 2020: Pan Asian Repertory’s The Emperor’s Nightingale has everything a small child wants in theater – music, puppets, colorful costumes and audience participation. It also has what parents hold dear – an easily understood moral.

The play, written by Damon Chua and directed by Chongren Fan, features a cast of six talented performers who portray the Emperor (David Hunyth) and the Empress (Xiaoquing Zhang); the Emperor’s sons, Prince Boo (Jonathan Frye) and Prince Hongshi (Keith Cao);  the evil Minister Wu (Dinh James Doann); and the wise Nightingale (Leanne Cabrera).

Because this is a children’s story, there are, naturally, several talking animals, two gossiping pandas (Hunyh and Zhanag), two chattering mechanical birds (Hunyh and Zhang), and a not so fearsome tiger (Cao is the head; Doan is the tail).

The Emperor’s Nightingale is an adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Nightingale,” set in 18th century China. In Chua’s story, the Emperor tells his sons he will bequeath his kingdom to the one who brings him the most thorough news of what’s happening in his kingdom. This is important because his realm is beset by the restless Russians to the north and the Italians, who have penetrated China and extended their influence through their advanced technology.

The competition is fierce, especially since the two princes are only half-siblings. Hongshi seeks the aid of the treacherous Minister Wu, but Boo has the assistance of his kindly mother and the Nightingale, who teaches him that a worthy emperor must have his people’s interests at heart

If The Emperor’s Nightingale is simply another hero’s journey, so thoroughly documented by Joseph Campbell, the kids don’t seem to know or care. For them it’s all new stuff. They giggle at the corny jokes. They offer advice to the perplexed tiger. And they have a great time.

The Emperor’s Nightingale ran through January 26, 2020 at Theatre 5 at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street in NYC. Photography: John Quincy Lee

Broadway at Birdland

January 24, 2020: Show business tour de force and seven-time Tony® Award-winning producer Jamie deRoy brings her acclaimed Jamie deRoy &friends Cabaret show to New York’s famed Birdland on Sunday, February 16, at 5:30 p.m. to benefit The Actors Fund with special Guests Sierra Boggess, Rick Crom, Harrison Greenbaum, Paula Dione Ingram and Well-Strung.

Performers who light up the marquees of cabaret, theatre, music and comedy will join Jamie in a one-night only show which is part of the club’s Broadway at Birdland Concert Series. Birdland is located at 315 West 44th Street in New York’s theatre district.

January 24, 2020: Show business tour de force and seven-time Tony® Award-winning producer Jamie deRoy brings her acclaimed Jamie deRoy &friends Cabaret show to New York’s famed Birdland on Sunday, February 16, at 5:30 p.m. to benefit The Actors Fund with special Guests Sierra Boggess, Rick Crom, Harrison Greenbaum, Paula Dione Ingram and Well-Strung.

Performers who light up the marquees of cabaret, theatre, music and comedy will join Jamie in a one-night only show which is part of the club’s Broadway at Birdland Concert Series. Birdland is located at 315 West 44th Street in New York’s theatre district.

Proceeds from the event, produced by Jamie, will benefit The Actors Fund: Jamie deRoy & friends Cabaret Initiative which assists those in the cabaret industry who have medical needs and concerns. The Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs honored her with a MAC Award for her many shows that have benefited her signature initiative. The Jamie deRoy & friends cabaret series has been attracting New York audiences for almost 30 years.

Jamie deRoy will host the show and welcome special guests: 

Sierra Boggess

Sierra Boggess, is regarded as one of Broadway’s most beloved ingénues. An Olivier nominated actress, she is best known world-wide not only for re-inventing the coveted role of ‘Christine Daae’ in Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, but for Lord Webber himself going on record to say that “she’s the best, the best Christine certainly.” Boggess portrayed the role in the Broadway, West End, and the televised 25th Anniversary concert productions of Phantom. Boggess made her Broadway debut as Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, receiving Drama Desk and Drama League nominations, as well as the Broadway.com Audience Award for Favorite Female Breakthrough Performance. Other Broadway credits include Master Class, It Shoulda Been You, and School of Rock.

Rick Crom

Rick Crom is an actor, singer, comedian, lyricist, and composer. He is the recipient of the 2019 Jamie deRoy & friends ASCAP Songwriter Award and has been nominated 3-times for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics. Crom wrote the book, music, and lyrics for NEWSical (Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Lyrics). Crom’s Broadway credits include The Goodbye Girl, Footloose and Urinetown: The Musical. As a comedian, Crom has appeared with the Chicago City Limits, and performed stand-up across the country, most frequently at New York City’s Comedy Cellar. On television, he has been seen on Chappelle’s ShowCaroline’s Comedy Hour, and Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn

Harrison Greenbaum

Harrison Greenbaum, has been featured on many television shows, including NBC’s America’s Got Talent, NBC’s Last Comic Standing, TBS’s Conan, Comedy Central’s This Week at the Comedy Cellar, AXS.TV’s Gotham Comedy Live, and National Geographic Channel’s Brain Games.  He’s also the star of What’s Your Problem? on Facebook Watch and is the creator, writer, and director of USTOA Presents: Recalculating with Harrison Greenbaum, a travel series that has taken Harrison all over the globe.

Paula Dione Ingram

Paula Dione Ingram, has performed on stage, on recordings and in concerts around the world. Her credits include Carmen Jones on the West-End and Porgy & Bess at the Glynebourne Festival Opera, in which she also appears on their GRAMMY nominated album conducted by Simon Rattle. Symphony orchestra credits include: Birmingham, England Symphony Orchestra, La Fenice Opera, Venice, Italy, and in the US with the Indianapolis, Muncie, Detroit, and St. Louis Symphony Orchestras. 

Well-Strung

Well-Strung, is a singing string quartet with a modern twist featuring Edmund Bagnell (violin), Christopher Marchant (violin), Daniel Shevlin (cello) and Trevor Wadleigh (violin). The group plays universally recognized classical pieces while singing pop music hits from the likes of Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson, and other pop stars for a uniquely engaging experience. Thier third album entitled “Under The Covers” debuted on Billboard’s Classical Chart at #3 and the Classical Crossover Chart at #4. Well-Strung’s second album entitled POPssical debuted at #8 on the Billboard Classical Crossover Chart. 

Composer, Book Writer and Lyricist Barry Kleinbort directs Ms. deRoy’s February 16 show with musical direction by Ron Abel, award-winning arranger, orchestrator and conductor and with Tom Hubbard on Bass. 

Ms. deRoy is an acclaimed producer; cabaret, stage, film and TV performer; recording artist and humanitarian. In addition to Tony Awards, she has won eight MAC Awards, four Back Stage Bistro Awards and 11 Telly Awards for her extensive work on stage and screen. She has appeared on stage with luminaries like Joan Rivers and has headlined at many New York nightclubs. Ms. deRoy has produced nine CDs in the Jamie deRoy & friends series, all of which are available on Harbinger and PS Classics labels. Her cabaret shows serve as the basis for her award-winning cable television show which spotlights well-known entertainers and newcomers. 

Jamie deRoy & friends
Birdland, 315 West 44th Street, NYC
Sunday, February 16 at 5:30 p.m. 
www.BirdlandJazz.com
Tickets: $75 VIP/$40 General Seating; $10 food/drink minimum per person. 
For reservations: 212-581-3080.

My Name Is Lucy Barton ****, The Woman In Black **1/2

By: David Sheward

January 23, 2020: Adapting a novel to the stage is a tricky business. A play needs to have a central action  executed within a playing time of a few hours while a novel can be a rumination on multiple themes over hundreds of pages. Even a short novel can dive into a character’s interior in a way a play can not. Theater is action, literature is thought. My Name Is Lucy Barton, Rona Munro’s stage version of Elizabeth Strout’s slim but powerful novel now presented by Manhattan Theater Club after a run in London, manages to combine the two strains in a moving evening featuring the luminous Laura Linney in a stunning solo—yet dual— performance.

By: David Sheward

January 23, 2020: Adapting a novel to the stage is a tricky business. A play needs to have a central action  executed within a playing time of a few hours while a novel can be a rumination on multiple themes over hundreds of pages. Even a short novel can dive into a character’s interior in a way a play can not. Theater is action, literature is thought. My Name Is Lucy Barton, Rona Munro’s stage version of Elizabeth Strout’s slim but powerful novel now presented by Manhattan Theater Club after a run in London, manages to combine the two strains in a moving evening featuring the luminous Laura Linney in a stunning solo—yet dual— performance.

Strout’s fiction, including the Pulitzer Prize winning Olive Kittredge, focuses on the unspoken and missed connections between family members, friends, and lovers, usually from rural small towns. There isn’t much in the way of plot in Lucy Barton, but the book and play take us on a heartbreaking journey as a writer dares to explore her devastating childhood and forge a necessary yet imperfect bond with her estranged mother. 

Laura Linney in “My Name is Lucy Barton

The play, directed with economy and compassion by Richard Eyre, begin with Linney as Lucy entering Bob Crowley’s minimal yet evocative set—a single hospital bed with a projection of the New York City skyline on the back drop, surrounded on three sides by the audience. Lucy is confined to the hospital for several weeks after what should have been a routine appendectomy. Her mother whom she hasn’t seen in many years, is summoned from the tiny farming village of Amgash, Illinois. Linney plays both parts as they exchange stories of blighted lives in their hometown and tenderly touch the still raw wounds caused by Lucy’s poverty-stricken growing up and her father’s traumatic reaction to his service during World War II.  

Linney delivers an incandescent dual performance, effortlessly switching back and forth between roles. She clearly delineates Lucy’s desperate loneliness as a child and her growing confidence as an adult, as well as the mother’s harsh, no-nonsense flintiness concealing her love for her child. Munro skillfully pares down and rearranges Strout’s original text for maximum theatrical impact. She retains the central conflict—Lucy’s struggle to find her own voice as a writer and to come to terms with her conflicted emotions about her family—without losing the piece’s intimate atmosphere. It feels as if a friend is confiding a long-held secret and once it begins, we need to know what happens next. That’s the essence of effective fiction and theater.

Ben Porter in “The Woman in Black

Another theatrical version of a hard-to-adapt novel attempts a similar page-to-stage leap, though it’s an entirely different genre. The Woman in Black, derived from Susan Hill’s suspenser by Stephen Mallatratt, makes its long-delayed New York City debut. Set in the Hidden Club Car pub in the atmospheric McKittrick Hotel, where the immersive Sleep No More has been playing for the past several seasons, Woman is an intermittently entertaining ghost tale which takes quite a while to get to its goosebump-inducing chills. Hill’s 1983 novel concerns a vengeful specter haunting an isolated English village and served as the basis of a 2012 film starring Daniel Radcliffe. Mallatratt inserts a framing device with the hero of the book, a milquetoast solicitor named Arthur Kipps (versatile David Acton), collaborating with an unnamed actor (commanding Ben Porter) on a stage version of the horror tale which he lived. This iteration first played a London pub in 1987 and went on to become the second-longest run in West End history, surpassed only by Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap

David Acton, Ben Porter in “The Woman in Black”

There is much time-filling dialogue about Kipps not being a performer and stumbling amateurishly over his lines and blocking. Naturally, once the story-within-a-story takes over, the novice turns into a brilliant thespian, delivering incisive, varying interpretations of a slew of secondary roles while the unnamed actor assumes Kipps’ part as the hero of the shocking tale. After an interminable exposition, we finally get into the haunted house and director Robin Herford, lighting designer Anshuman Bhatia, and sound designer Sebastian Frost (Rod Mead is credited creating the original sound) plunge us into a delightfully scary nightmare. But the shocks and screams, all unleashed in the last half-hour, hardly seem worth the long wait. The pub atmosphere is jolly and you can sip on your favorite cocktail to pass the time till the genuine frights arrive.   

My Name Is Lucy Barton ****
Jan. 15—Feb. 29. Manhattan Theater Club at Samuel J. Friedman Theater, 261 W. 47th St., NYC. Mon—Wed 7pm, Thu—Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm. Running time: 90 mins. with no intermission. $89—$189. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com
Photography: Mathew Murphy

The Woman in Black **1/2
Jan. 23—March 8. McKittrick Hotel, 530 W. 27th St., NYC. Mon, Wed—Fri 8pm, Sat 3pm & 8pm, Sun 3pm & 7pm. Running time: two hours with one intermission. $85—$95. (212) 564-1662. mckittrickhotel.com
Photography: Jenny Anderson

Tina *****

By: Isa Goldberg

 January 23, 2020: “That voice that come tumbling out that mouth of yourn is like fire and heaven all at once,” a rotund, mystical, native American-looking woman (Gran Georgeanna) tells her granddaughterAnna Mae Bullock.  For Tina Turner fans that is a far gone conclusion.

By: Isa Goldberg

 January 23, 2020: “That voice that come tumbling out that mouth of yourn is like fire and heaven all at once,” a rotund, mystical, native American-looking woman (Gran Georgeanna) tells her granddaughterAnna Mae Bullock.  For Tina Turner fans that is a far gone conclusion.

Born Anna Mae Bullock, the legend of Tina Turner begins in the cotton fields of Tennessee in the 1940s. For those of us who feel as if we grew up with the rock star it’s shocking to see her roots. As a singer, she never made us aware of cotton pickin’ in her music and certainly not in her presence on stage. Anything but. She was a house on fire. 

Sadly, her childhood was shrouded by a mother who never wanted her and a father who waged violence at home. “What’s love got to do with it?”

Adrienne Warren and Daniel J. Watts

For many of us her tale of domestic violence, a classic one well before the #MeToo era, is rooted in her relationship with Ike Turner, the man who helped her run away from that abusive home, married her, and made her famous. He also beat her, refused to pay her any of the money she earned, stole her music, screwed other women, and beat their two sons. Life with Ike, as we see in Act I, brought the violence, poverty and depravity she experienced early in life to a new high.

As told here, there weren’t any intermissions for Tina; no time outs in her struggle to survive. Nor are there for Adrienne Warren who portrays Tina Turner in this new juke box musical. On stage Warren rips like a thunderbolt of emotional truth, physical energy, incredible moves and a voice which is her own. She also is and looks quite delicate. 

While vocally she’s not as gritty or hoarse sounding as Turner, Warren takes command of Turner’s songs and delivers them with extraordinary strength. She’s piping hot, gorgeous, and outrageous. As the song goes, “She made my blood run cold/Sent cold chills all through my soul.”

The book for the musical is from Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins with Katori Hall, author of The Mountaintop, her Olivier award-winning drama about Martin Luther King. Here the story delves feverishly into Turner’s troubled world. Juke box musicals don’t necessarily do this well. Neither Cher, nor Beautiful the Carole King Musical, nor On Your Feet, about Emilia and Gloria Estefan, reach for those raw heights, or splay rock star guts in quite this way. 

Adrienne Warren, center, and company 

Culturally, the musical connects with the turbulient years in America during the 60s when even famous African Americans were denied the opportunity to stay in a hotel. Danger everywhere.  

That the directorial mastermind for this production is the British director Phyllida Lloyd comes as no surprise. Her production of Julius Caesar with an all-female cast set in a prison was extraordinary. Keenly attuned to women’s stories, Lloyd also directed Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter as fierce political and personal opponents in Mary Stuart on Broadway. Her movie The Iron Lady, brought Meryl Streep her third Oscar.

Turner’s memorable songs, orchestrated by Ethan Popp resound here with a live band. Designer Mark Thompson shows no shame in transforming cotton fields into The Ritz, a recording studio or the rainy streets of London. Anthony Van Laast’s choreography feels completely innate. Great choreography!

Among her famous hits, We Don’t Need Another Hero, Private Dancer and The Best remain among the greatest of women’s anthems. If there’s a show to see on Broadway right now, Tina is it.

Tina: The Tina Turner Musical *****
Lunt-Fontanne Theater
205 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036
Running Time : 2 Hours and 40 Minutes including Intermission.
For Tickets Click Here
Photography: Manuel Harlan

My Name is Lucy Barton *****

By: Isa Goldberg

January 23, 2020: Laura Linney, truly an elixir of stage chemistry, commands a full 90-minutes of storytelling in the Manhattan Theatre Club’s production, My Name is Lucy Barton.  It’s beguiling to hear this master story teller convince us how essential it is to tell our own stories. 

By: Isa Goldberg

January 23, 2020: Laura Linney, truly an elixir of stage chemistry, commands a full 90-minutes of storytelling in the Manhattan Theatre Club’s production, My Name is Lucy Barton.  It’s beguiling to hear this master story teller convince us how essential it is to tell our own stories. 

As transparent as she is mysterious, as lucid as she is troubled, as connected to herself as she is to the audience, Linney is an actor one just loves watching. And the story she tells us is about a woman who gently and profoundly strikes a chord with our collective unconscious in a way only a woman’s story can. It’s about mothers and daughters.


Adapted to the stage by Rona Munro from Elizabeth Strout’s novel, this one-woman monologue of sorts, soars with musicality. The language while simple, is also beautiful.  

It lives in a space that Lucy (Linney) shares with her mother in a nondescript hospital room. While not on her death bed, Lucy strives to share and understand their difficult relationship, a painful past. Raised in the sparsely populated farm town of Amgash, Illinois Lucy’s experience of childhood poverty reveals more about her emotional deprivation than economic. 

Laura Linney

This is her midwestern mother’s first time in New York City – a place she describes as having no sky. Fortunately, Luke Halls’ video projections through the window of her room show a vast skyscape, a looming Chrysler building, alongside the corn fields where Lucy was raised. 

As a child, Lucy recalls her mother often struck her “impulsively, vigorously.” When Lucy began to develop breasts, her mother told her she looked like the cows in the neighbor’s barn. Scorned by her peers, forced by her father to thank God for the food they ate, even though it was often molasses on bread, Lucy leads us through the blind alley of her childhood.

“How do children become aware of the world and how to act in it? How do you even know what you look like if the only mirror in the house is a tiny one high above the kitchen sink?” 

Glimpsing at life through the tiny window she had as a child, Lucy’s experience was loneliness. Her escape was reading. From the truck where she was housed on many days until the age of five, either because her parents were working or for punishment, she learned to calm herself with her own stories and fantasies of release. Desperation was her inspiration.

“I dreamed of not being cold, of having clean sheets, clean towels, a toilet that worked, and a sunny kitchen. I allowed myself into heaven this way.” Lucy reveals.

At heart it is a simple and simply told story. “We only have one story,” Lucy opines. “It’s alright to tell it over and over.”

Linney portrays both the voice of the narrator, Elizabeth Strout, and the central character in Strout’s novel. At times she also captures her mother’s twang. At other times their voices morph into one. 

Directed by Richard Eyre with sophistication and humility, this production which originated in London, lives in the transformative power of storytelling.

My Name Is Lucy Barton *****
Manhattan Theater Club at Samuel J. Friedman Theater
261 W. 47th St., NYC.
Mon—Wed 7pm, Thu—Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm. Running time: 90 mins. with no intermission. $89—$189. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com
January 15th – February 29, 2019
Photography: Mathew Murphy

The Woman in Black ****

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 23, 2020: The horror story, The Woman in Black, has a long and distinguished history. It began as a 1983 novel by Susan Hill and spawned two films. The first was a British teleplay that premiered on Christmas Eve, 1989. The second was released in 2012 and featured Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer who is sent to a remote English town to review documents left by the recently deceased Alice Drablow.

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 23, 2020: The horror story, The Woman in Black, has a long and distinguished history. It began as a 1983 novel by Susan Hill and spawned two films. The first was a British teleplay that premiered on Christmas Eve, 1989. The second was released in 2012 and featured Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer who is sent to a remote English town to review documents left by the recently deceased Alice Drablow.

In the meantime, Stephen Mallatratt’s stage adaptation, after transferring from the theatre bar at Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarboroug, has become a long-running hit on London’s West End, second only to The Mousetrap. And now, as part of the show’s American tour it’s having a six-week run of blood-curdling screams and ghastly manifestations at the McKittrick Hotel, known for other site-specific productions like Sleep No More and The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart.

David Acton, Ben Porter

This production reunites director Robin Herford with actors Ben Porter and David Acton, who both starred in the London staging, and also returns the show to its original site-specific staging. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a better location for this thriller than the McKittrick, a luxury hotel that had the misfortune of opening a few days before World War II erupted in Europe. Despite recognition from the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, the hotel closed within the year.

Today, the hotel is a relic of its former self. It’s the kind of place where you’re not sure whether to look overhead for falling chandeliers, at your feet for floorboards that may not be able to sustain your weight or around the corner where malicious ghosts may be lying in wait.

The Woman in Black begins with a young Actor (Porter) trying to help the aging Kipps (Acton) prepare to deliver a speech to his family and friends. The speech is about horrific and otherworldly events that began in his youth and have continued to terrify certain people in a certain town in England. Arthur delivers the speech in a low monotone until the Actor takes him in hand. Soon, the Actor becomes the younger Kipps, while Acton plays all the other characters in the narration.

David Acton, Ben Porter

Acton and Kipps fill their roles with chills and chuckles. They seem to tell the audience, “I know I’m scaring you, but it’s all in fun.” The set, sound and lighting designers do the rest, producing frightening sounds, bewildering appearances and strange atmospheric effects.

The story takes a good number of twists. Some are expected. But at least one will make you gasp.

The Woman in Black ****1/2
The McKittrick Hotel
530 W. 27 Street, NYC.
Trough March 8, 2020.
866-811- 4111
Photography: Jenny Anderson, Robert Day

Forbidden Broadway at York ****

Tony Award winning parodist Gerard Alessandrini is back with a hilarious all new Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation!

By: Patrick Christiano

January 20, 2020: After a five-year hiatus Gerard Alessandrini is back with a long-awaited new edition of Forbidden Broadway. For the uninitiated Alessandrini and his troupe of fantastic performers have been spoofing Broadway musicals for 38 years with consistently hilarious results, garnering a somewhat cult following and raves from the critics. The new show is called Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation, and this time out Alessandrini’s timely send-ups take aim beyond just theater to film and television, as well.

Tony Award winning parodist Gerard Alessandrini is back with a hilarious all new Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation!

By: Patrick Christiano

January 20, 2020: After a five-year hiatus Gerard Alessandrini is back with a long-awaited new edition of Forbidden Broadway. For the uninitiated Alessandrini and his troupe of fantastic performers have been spoofing Broadway musicals for 38 years with consistently hilarious results, garnering a somewhat cult following and raves from the critics. The new show is called Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation, and this time out Alessandrini’s timely send-ups take aim beyond just theater to film and television, as well.

In two of the evening’s highlights, Jenny Lee Stern shines first as Gwen Verdon in a spoof of Fosse/Verdon and later in what is probably the show’s most hilarious moment as a tormented Judy Garland trashing Renee Zellweger’s performance in Judy. Stern’s impressions not only beautifully evoke the spirits of those divas, but Julie Andrews, as well, in a zany spoof of Mary Poppins Returns, which turns “The Place Where Lost Things Go” into a graveyard for failed musicals. 

Jenny Lee Stern and Chris Collins-Pisano

If the new edition is not loaded with guffaws, the parodies consistently kept a broad smile on my face in between the laughter. A hysterical  Oklahoma! medley made fun of woke cowpokes with delicious results, while other shows skewed included Hadestown, Moulin Rouge, Tootsie, Beetlejuice, The Ferryman, the Yiddish Fiddler on the Roof, and The Cher Show, along with the new generation of Broadway stars including Ben Platt, Santino Fontana, Billy Porter, and Alex Brightman. And there were returns by Bette Midler, Andre de Shields, Bernadette Peters, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Although Alessandrini’s approach hasn’t changed much over the years and much of the humor requires some knowledge of the theater and its culture, the new edition, featuring a fabulous cast, is just as funny as ever and has already been extended through February 16th at the York. The versatile performers are Immanuel Houston, Aline Mayagoitia, Chris Collins-Pisano, Jenny Lee Stern, and an amazing 13 year-old Joshua Turchin.  Musical direction is by Fred Barton on the piano and the lively choreography is by Gerry McIntyre.

FOR TICKETS: In Person @ The York Theatre Company at Saint Peter’s Church at Citicorp, 619 Lexington Avenue, entrance on East 54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue, Lower Level 2.
By Phone 212 935-5820 or online www.yorktheatre.org
Running Time 80 Minutes – No Intermission 
Photography: Carol Rosegg
Click Here Photography of Opening Night and After Party by Barry Gordin

Forbidden Broadway Opens at York

Tony Award winning parodist Gerard Alessandrini is back with a hilarious all new Forbidden Brodway: The Next Generation!

January 20, 2020: Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation opened at the York Theatre last night. Yes, Gerard Alessandrini’s Forbidden Broadway is back, after a 5- year absence, with a new and timely spoof of the theater, which this time arounds includes some current movies as well. The new edition, featuring a stellar cast with Fred Barton on the piano and choreography by Gerry McIntrye, is just as funny as ever. The outstanding performers are Immanuel Houston, Aline Mayagoitia, Chris Collins-Pisano, Jenny Lee Stern, and Joshua Turchin.

Tony Award winning parodist Gerard Alessandrini is back with a hilarious all new Forbidden Brodway: The Next Generation!

January 20, 2020:  Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation opened at the York Theatre last night. Yes, Gerard Alessandrini’s Forbidden Broadway is back, after a 5- year absence, with a new and timely spoof of the theater, which this time arounds includes some current movies as well. The new edition, featuring a stellar cast with Fred Barton on the piano and choreography by Gerry McIntrye, is just as funny as ever.  The outstanding performers are Immanuel Houston, Aline Mayagoitia, Chris Collins-Pisano, Jenny Lee Stern, and Joshua Turchin.

Joshua Turchin, Immanuel Houston, Jenny Lee Stern, Fred Barton, Aline Mayagoitia, Chris Collins-Pisano

Alessandrini and company take comic and musical aim at Hadestown, Moulin Rouge, Tootsie, Beetlejuice, the very dark Oklahoma, The Ferryman, the Yiddish Fiddler on the Roof, The Cher Show, Dear Evan Hansen, What the Constitution Means to Me, and the new generation of Broadway stars including Ben Platt, Santino Fontana, Billy Porter, Alex Brightman and exciting returns by Bette Midler, Andre de Shields, Bernadette Peters, Karen Olivo, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Due to popular demand Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation has been extended at the York Theatre through February 16th.

FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: THE NEXT GENERATION
FOR TICKETS: In Person @ The York Theatre Company at Saint Peter’s Church at Citicorp.
619 Lexington Avenue, entrance on East 54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue, Lower Level 2.
By Phone 212 935-5820 or online www.yorktheatre.org
Running Time 80 Minutes – No Intermission
Click Here To Read Review by Patrick Christiano

Photography of Opening Night and After Party by Barry Gordin

Immanuel Houston, Creator/Director/Conceiver Gerard Alessandrini, Joshua Turchin, Producer John Freedson, Jenny Lee Stern, Choreographer Gerry McIntrye, Aline Mayagoitia, Fred Barton, Chris Collins-Pisano, York Producing Artistic Director James Morgan, York Executive Director Evans Haile
John Freedson, Glenna Freedman
James Morgan
Ron Abel, Jamie deRoy
Glenna Freedman, Philip Carrubba
Charles Wright, Penelope Stern- Kushnier, Ed Karam
Curtain Call
Evans Haile, Lee Roy Reams
Elisa Loti Stein, Riki Kane Larimer, Margery Gray, Sheldon Harnick
Lee Roy Reams
Evan Haile, Margery Gray, Sheldon Harnick, Richard Maltby.Jr., Mimi Turque, Lynn Ahrens
Immanuel Houston, Joshua Turchin, Fred Barton, Chris Collins-Pisano
John Freedson, GerryMcIntyre, Gerard Alessandrini, Joan Ross Sorkin, Evans Haile, Fred Barton, James Morgan
Fred Barton, John Freedson, Gerard Alesandrini
Penelope Stern- Kushnier, Jenny Lee Stern
Sara Johnson Kaplan, Neal Rubenstein
Jenny Lee Stern, Aline Mayagoitia
William Selby, Gerard Alesandrini, Karen Murphy, John Freedson
Gerard Alesandrini, Jamie deRoy, John Freedson
Penelope Stern- Kushnier, Jenny Lee Stern , Patrick Christiano
Chris Collins-Pisano, James Morgan, Immanuel Houston
Gerard Alesandrini, Carol Ostrow, John Freedson
Joshua Turchin, Richard Maltby, Jr.
James Morgan, Jenny Lee Stern
Chris Collins-Pisano, Immanuel Houston
Joan Ryan, Jamie deRoy, Richard Maltby Jr., Sandy McFarland
Shana Farr

Opening Night @ Townhouse of New York, Photography Barry Gordin

How To Load A Musket ***

“Visions of History”

By: Samuel L. Leiter

January 16, 2020: It’s been six years since Row after Row, Jessica Dickey’s fictionalized play about historical battle re-enactors, was produced at City Center Stage II. Apparently, the zeitgeist is now ripe for someone else to try dramatizing this unusual, surprisingly popular hobby, giving it a more thoughtful sociopolitical foundation. 

“Visions of History”

By: Samuel L. Leiter

January 16, 2020: It’s been six years since Row after Row, Jessica Dickey’s fictionalized play about historical battle re-enactors, was produced at City Center Stage II. Apparently, the zeitgeist is now ripe for someone else to try dramatizing this unusual, surprisingly popular hobby, giving it a more thoughtful sociopolitical foundation. 

Adam Chanler-Berat

The ambitious challenger is actress-playwright Talene Monahon (Apologia), whose How to Load a Musket, presented by the Less Than Rent Theatre, takes the subject on in docudrama fashion. It’s stronger, I’m afraid, on the doc than on the drama. 

Almost entirely edited from recorded interviews, it presents multiple people who get their kicks from taking part in large-scale re-enactments of Civil and Revolutionary War battles, like the Battle of Gettysburg or the Battle of the Hook. Enthusiasts like these spend bundles of U.S. currency for authentic costumes, guns, and accessories to relive such historical conflicts.

Andy Taylor, Ryan Spahn

With its straight-from-the-shooters’ mouths methodology, How to Load a Musket thus provides a thorough look at the practice of historical re-enactments from the participants’ point of view. Monahon notes that she strove for a “neutral empathetic” approach in her interviews, suggesting she simply let her subjects express themselves without debate, an approach of whose validity she eventually seems uncertain.

Monahon’s play introduces 17 such persons, acted by seven actors. Aside from Adam Chanler-Berat, who covers four, each of the others (Ryan Spahn, Andy Taylor, Lucy Taylor, Richard Topol, Nicole Villamil, and David J. Cork) does two. An eighth, Carolyn Braver, who appears only in the final scene, plays one, Monahon herself, designated as TM. 

David J. Cork

Lawrence E. Moten III’s simply furnished, nondescript set, in 59E59’s tiny black box, Theater C, crowds 50 or so people around two sides of a space on whose two walls hang various period mementos and authentic costume pieces. These will be removed so they can be worn, but several actors remain mainly in contemporary clothing (Olivia Vaughn Hern is the designer), with the incorporation of things like soldier’s caps. Because the script is woven together from independent interviews, what we hear is almost entirely delivered as direct address, with the speakers telling their stories to us, as they were told, verbatim, to Monahan. 

The few scenes involving dialogue focus on Jeffrey (Topol) and his mother, Jane (Villamil), whose specialty is playing George and Martha Washington, and between Dread (Cork), an African-American man, and TM, interviewing him on a New York subway train. 

Company, Adam Chanler-Berat

This general lack of interplay makes the many speeches, even when kept brief and interwoven with others, and supplemented with movement by director Jaki Bradley, more like those of a traditional talking-heads documentary than the dialogue of a conventional play. Except in a few instances, it also makes it difficult to know who we’re listening to at any one time, or to see them as three-dimensional people rather than talking points, interesting as they may be.

Despite the tedium this style occasionally creates, it doesn’t necessarily mean the content of the well-acted play isn’t absorbing. It can, indeed, be not only fascinating but provocative. As the re-enactors recite their experiences, we learn much of the nitty gritty of what’s involved in spending so much time pursuing these activities. But we also become sensitive to the political questions these events stir up. 

Lucy Taylor

Moreover, the speakers are all colorful enough to hold our interest and the play’s entertainment value is enhanced by both musical interpolations and theatricalized moments when lights (by Stacey Derosier) and sound (by Jim Petty) combine to hint at the excitement of re-enacted combat.

On a purely informational level, we learn, among other things, about the hobbyists’ expenses; the rationales behind their investments in time and money; their pride, ego, patriotism, and obsessiveness; what kind of people are attracted to the hobby; how re-enacting relates to theatrical acting; the range (from idolatrous to cynical) of public responses to these events; and how much knowledge, research, planning, and preparation is required.

Richard Topol, Nicole Villamil 

We also hear of the fun and dangers encountered; the huge numbers of those involved; their respect for military discipline; how these temporary soldiers know who will die, be wounded, or survive; how people are cast across regional or national lines (Americans as Brits, Southerners as Northerners, etc.); and the nature of political rifts among the combatants. Even the play’s title reflects an actual lesson, as in:

And you make sure that your weapon’s half-cocked 
And what do I mean by that? 
Half-cock is when you can load and so forth 
Full cock is when you’re ready to fire

Richard Topol

Given that these folks are locked and loaded with historical knowledge, you’ll also get sizable chunks of historical information. Among the didactic takeaways, for example, is how black soldiers fit into those long-ago conflicts, or occasional facts, such as Abe Lincoln’s white-supremacist leanings.

As in Row after Row,much is made of the relative authenticity and fudging that goes on, each stratum of historical accuracy getting its own terminology. For instance, the lowest is “farbie,” here said to mean “far be it from authentic,” while “hardcore” re-enactors go so far as to eat rancid bacon and hardtack. At the same time, no one questions the presence of women playing male soldiers.

Lucy Taylor 

Monahon has constructed the material to morph from a focus on the lives and experiences of the re-enactors to an increasing preoccupation with its political implications, implications that—mainly in the case of the Civil War events—have increased exponentially in recent years, not least because of the 2016 election. 

The legacy of slavery and racial animosities looms large, as does the issue of contemporary attitudes toward the preservation of Confederate symbols, like the flag and public statuary. We even hear a Southerner argue that the movement to eliminate such symbols is an act of genocide. 

Ryan Spahn, Richard Topol 

What was once a benign practice by fans of American history’s most famous homeland battles has become, like so much else in our nation today, a victim of a polarized population. So much so, in fact, that these historical re-enactments have become fearful of acts of terrorism by hate-spewing citizens. 

How to Load a Musket may not be a conventional, or even a very good play, but it’s unlikely it will send you away half-cocked. 

How to Load a Musket
59E59 Theaters/Theater C
59 E. 59th St., NYC
Through January 26, 2020
Photography: Russ Rowland