Tony Awards Postponed

THE 74th ANNUAL TONY AWARDS® TO BE POSTPONED

March 25, 2020: The 74th Annual Tony Awards, scheduled to air live on the CBS Television Network on Sunday, June 7th from Radio City Music Hall in New York City, will be postponed and rescheduled at a later date, in coordination with our broadcast partner. The health and safety of the Broadway community, artists and fans is of the utmost importance to us.   

THE 74th ANNUAL TONY AWARDS® TO BE POSTPONED

March 25, 2020: The 74th Annual Tony Awards, scheduled to air live on the CBS Television Network on Sunday, June 7th from Radio City Music Hall in New York City, will be postponed and rescheduled at a later date, in coordination with our broadcast partner. The health and safety of the Broadway community, artists and fans is of the utmost importance to us.   

New dates and additional information to come once Broadway opens again. Looking forward to celebrating Broadway and our industry when it is safe to do so.

Terrence McNally

Theater Community Mourns the Death of Celebrated  Playwright Terrence McNally

By: Ellis Nassour

March 25, 2020: Beloved playwright Terrence McNally, a four-time Tony Award-winner, who wrote Master Class; books of musicals The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Full MontyRagtime; and numerous opera librettos, died Tuesday in Sarasota, FL. He was 81. A lung cancer survivor, the reported cause of his death was the result of “complications from the coronavirus.” 

Theater Community Mourns the Death of Celebrated  Playwright Terrence McNally

By: Ellis Nassour

March 25, 2020: Beloved playwright Terrence McNally, a four-time Tony Award-winner, who wrote Master Class; books of musicals The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Full MontyRagtime; and numerous opera librettos, died Tuesday in Sarasota, FL. He was 81. A lung cancer survivor, the reported cause of his death was the result of “complications from the coronavirus.” 

Mayor Bill de Blasio had high praise for the culture benchmarks of McNally’s career. “We have lost a great New Yorker,” he stated, “one of the most renowned members of our cultural community, who wrote some of the greatest plays of recent memory, and who worked so hard for a better New York City and a better America for everyone.” The Mayor made his comments at his Tuesday afternoon press conference update on the virus, and added, “Terrence’s death proves this COVID-19 crisis is not just numbers.” 

McNally was a 1994 Pulitzer Prize nominee for A Perfect Ganesh, which premiered Off Broadway; and a Lifetime Achievement Award at last year’s Tonys, where he stated, “Theater, that secret place where we all truly live, changes hearts. The world needs artists more than ever to remind us what truth and beauty and kindness really are.”

In 2018, McNally, also an Emmy winner, was an inductee into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Critics praised the playwright for his exploration “of how people connect — or fail to. With wit and thoughtfulness, he tackled the strains in families, war, and relationships; and probed the spark and costs of creativity.” He wrote about homophobia, love and, AIDS. Often his work included biting humor.

In 1963, the playwright made his Off Broadway with The Side of the Door, followed by some 20 plus plays which included Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, The Lisbon Traviata, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Lips Together, Teeth Apart, (a landmark work about the AIDS crisis) and the controversial Corpus Christi, which generated death threats to presenter Manhattan Theatre Company.

He made his Broadway debut also in 1963, with the short-lived The Lady of the Camellias (13 performances). It was followed by The Ritz, one of the first contemporary plays with unapologetic gay characters, It’s Only a Play, Catch Me If You CanPrince of Broadway, The Visit, Duece, and the stage adaptation of the animated film Anastasia.

Though he’s not credited in the official Broadway data base, the playwright should be noted as John Steinbeck’s choice to co-write the 1968 book with Alex Gordon for Robert Waldman and Alfred Uhry’s musical adaptation of the East of Eden. Titled Here’s Where I Belong, it played 20 previews and closed opening night.

Terrence McNally, Tom Kirdahy Photo: Barry Gordin

McNally is survived by his husband of 17 years, attorney and Tony and Olivier Award- winning producer Tom Kirdahy, who was de Blasio’s roommate at NYU. The couple were officially married in 2003 in Vermont, then again in Washington in 2010. In 2015, McNally and Kirdahy reaffirmed their vows in City Hall plaza at the ceremony to mark New York’s passing of the Marriage Equality Act. They asked their old friend, the Mayor, to officiate. Early in his career, McNally’s relationship with one of America’s greatest playwrights, Edward Albee, was the talk of the town.

There have been tributes from across the theatrical community. Broadway legend Chita Rivera, star of Kander and Ebb’s The Rink and Kiss of the Spider Woman, wrote: “He helped to make me who I am as a person. He was the epitome of love and friendship. Only God knows how much I will miss him.” McNally also wrote the book for the 2005 Broadway revue Chita Rivera: A Dancer’s Life and Kander and Ebb’s The Visit

Tony-winning Audra McDonald, star of Master Class, Ragtime, and the recent Frankie and Johnny… revival, wrote: “My dear sweet brilliant kind Terrence. The world is not nearly as sweet of a place without you in it. My heart is breaking yet again.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda saluted McNally as “a giant in our world, who straddled plays and musicals deftly. Grateful for his staggering body of work and his unfailing kindness. Heartbroken.” 1998 Pulitzer Prize winner, Drama and Obie Award-winning playwright Paula Vogel (How I Learned to Drive; also The Baltimore Waltz and Indecent) called McNally “the soul of kindness … His plays will outlast us.” 

Harvey Fierstein praised McNally’s work and life: “Terrence was anything but a victim. He was a lover and fighter and an artist and a voice for our people. He was a victor. The man didn’t write his heart out. He wrote OUR hearts out!”

Composer and Pulitzer Prize winner, Drama (Next to Normal) Tom Kitt praised McNally as “an extraordinary man and brilliant artist” and an “irreplaceable … true giant in our art form.” Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus), who co-starred in McNally’s 1975 The Ritz, praised McNally as “like a fountain who keeps on writing and writing and writing.”

Coronavirus Crisis Devastates Broadway

By: David Sheward

March 22, 2020: The COVID-19 or coronavirus outbreak has silenced Broadway and will likely have a devastating impact long after it has passed. To prevent the spread of this highly contagious disease, all theaters in New York City, and many across the country, are closed and two new productions have announced they will not be playing when the stages re-open. Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen and the revival of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? have officially been cancelled. Producers cited lack of funds and scheduling conflicts respectively as reasons for the shutterings. These will likely not be the only shows to face elimination. All 41 Broadway theaters were shut down on March 12 in response to an order from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to curtail all gatherings of 500 or more people. 

By: David Sheward

March 22, 2020: The COVID-19 or coronavirus outbreak has silenced Broadway and will likely have a devastating impact long after it has passed. To prevent the spread of this highly contagious disease, all theaters in New York City, and many across the country, are closed and two new productions have announced they will not be playing when the stages re-open. Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen and the revival of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? have officially been cancelled. Producers cited lack of funds and scheduling conflicts respectively as reasons for the shutterings. These will likely not be the only shows to face elimination. All 41 Broadway theaters were shut down on March 12 in response to an order from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to curtail all gatherings of 500 or more people. 

This followed reports of an usher who had worked at the Booth Theater where Virginia Woolf was playing, and the Brooks Atkinson, home of the rock musical Six, testing positive for the virus. Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, stated that theaters would re-open on April 12. But that date appears to be uncertain since the Center for Disease Control has issued guidelines that there should be no large public events for a total of eight weeks. That would mean the lights of the Great White Way would not shine again until May 7. Even that date is not for sure given the uncertainty of the virus’ course and the response of local, state and federal government. 

Tracie Bennett and Mark Addy in Hangmen

Hangmen starring Mark Addy, Dan Stevens, Tracie Bennett, Gaby French and a huge cast for a straight play on Broadway, began performances Feb. 28 at the Golden Theatre in advance of a scheduled March 19 opening. The play about a hangman who finds himself out of a job when that form of execution is outlawed, originally opened at London’s Royal Court Theater, then played Off-Broadway’s Atlantic Theater Company in 2018 and won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award as Best Play.

Dan Stevens and Gaby French in Hangmen, the first Broadway casualty of the COVID-19 crisis.

The revival of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? began performances at the Booth on March 3 and would have opened on April 9. The cast was comprised of Laurie Metcalf, Rupert Everett, Russell Tovey, and Patsy Ferran. Two-time Tony winner Joe Mantello who directed Metcalf in Three Tall Women and Hillary and Clinton, staged the play. This would have been the fourth Broadway revival of Albee’s searing drama of two academic couples clashing during an all-night booze-up. After the 1962 original, there were additional Main Stem productions in 1976, 2005, and 2012.

Laurie Metcalf Photo: Barry Gordin

In addition, the Metropolitan Opera has cancelled the rest of its season and general manager Peter Gelb has given up his salary. David Gordon, president of the Outer Critics Circle, has revealed the organization will indefinitely postpone its annual awards. The Theater World Awards have been postponed until the fall and the Olivier Awards in London will not be presented live, but the winners will be announced. There have been no public statements about the fate of this season’s Tony, Drama Desk, Obie, Lortel, New York Drama Critics Circle, Drama League or Chita Rivera Awards. 

After the March 12 Broadway blackout, numerous Off-Broadway productions and companies also announced they were closing or canceling. There were a few stubborn hold-outs with low seating capacity that continued performances including Harry Townsend’s Last Stand at City Center’s Stage II and the long-running psychological thriller Perfect Crime and a parody of the TV comedy The Office, both at the Snapple Theater Center. But then, a few days later, Mayor Bill DeBlasio ordered all theaters, cinemas, cabarets, night clubs, and museums shuttered. 

The crisis arrived at the worst possible time for the New York theater community with a plethora of new shows set to open just before the cut-off of the major theater awards, the most vital being the one for the Tony Awards on April 23. Six, the rock musical about the wives of Henry VIII, was set to open on March 12, the night all of Broadway went dark. A total of 16 shows were to have opened on the Main Stem between March 12 and April 23. With Hangmen and Virginia Woolf folding, that leaves 14. These include the new musicals Six, Flying Over Sunset, Diana, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Sing Street (transferred from New York Theater Workshop Off-Broadway); the new plays The Minutes, The Lehman Trilogy (transferred from a production at the Park Avenue Armory last season) and Birthday Candles; and revivals of Company, Caroline or Change, Plaza Suite, American Buffalo, How I Learned to Drive, and Take Me Out. 

Theater is a major portion of New York’s economy. Last season, Broadway took in $1.8 billion and played host to 14.8 million audience members. Broadway has previously shut down under dire circumstances, but not like this. After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the theaters closed but were up and running again in two days. This hiatus could be indefinite. Producers and theaters are responding to the potentially catastrophic losses in a variety of ways. The Broadway League and the Coalition of Broadway Unions and Guilds have reached an agreement to get funds to on and off-stage personnel effected by the emergency. Numerous performers are hosting impromptu concerts from their homes via social platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. Patrons are being asked to donate the value of their unused tickets to theater companies in lieu of a refund or to give the money to the Actors’ Fund.  

Originally Posted on The David Desk 2 on March 22, 2020
Production Photos Hangmen: Joan Marcus

Broadway Shut Down

Broadway performances have been canceled until April 12 due to COVID-19

March 12, 2020: Andrew Cuomo and Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League, announced the cancellation of all Broadway performances until April 12 as a precautionary measure due to COVID-19, the coronavirus.

Broadway performances have been canceled until April 12 due to COVID-19

March 12, 2020: Andrew Cuomo and Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League, announced the cancellation of all Broadway performances until April 12 as a precautionary measure due to COVID-19, the coronavirus.

Cuomo said, “We are taking new actions to reduce the density of people across the state. Starting Friday at 5pm, gatherings with 500 people or more will not be permitted in New York State. Additionally, for facilities with an occupancy of 500 or fewer, we are reducing the legal capacity by 50%. For Broadway theaters in Manhattan, these rules will go into effect at 5pm today. We have already spoken o the theaters about these new measures and they agreed.”

St. Martin said, “Our top priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of Broadway theatergoers and the thousands of people who work in the theater industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers and many other dedicated professionals. Broadway has the power to inspire, enrich and entertain, and together we are committed to making that vital spirit a reality. Once our stages are lit again, we will welcome fans back with open arms so that they can continue to experience the joy, heart and goodwill that our shows so passionately express every night.

BroadwayHD Trailblazers

Beginning in March BroadwayHD Spotlights Diversity with new a rail. 

March 10, 2020:  BroadwayHD CEO, co-founder and Tony Award®-winning producer Bonnie Comley, is announcing a new initiative to put the spotlight on underrepresented voices in the theater community, with a special Trailblazers Category. BroadwayHD will curate this highlighted section on a monthly basis to increase visibility of stellar shows by pioneering members of the women, LGBTQ, people of color, and other underrepresented theater communities. To kick off this initiative, and to honor Women’s History Month, BroadwayHD is presenting a roundup of show stopping performances and awe-inspiring works by female trailblazers will be available on the platform starting March 1.  

Beginning in March BroadwayHD Spotlights Diversity with new a rail. 

March 10, 2020:  BroadwayHD CEO, co-founder and Tony Award®-winning producer Bonnie Comley, is announcing a new initiative to put the spotlight on underrepresented voices in the theater community, with a special Trailblazers Category. BroadwayHD will curate this highlighted section on a monthly basis to increase visibility of stellar shows by pioneering members of the women, LGBTQ, people of color, and other underrepresented theater communities. To kick off this initiative, and to honor Women’s History Month, BroadwayHD is presenting a roundup of show stopping performances and awe-inspiring works by female trailblazers will be available on the platform starting March 1.  

Bonnie Comley

Although women buy 68% of the tickets to Broadway shows, women are underrepresented in creative roles. Out of the 37 new shows on Broadway last season, only four productions were directed by women, only three shows were written by women, less than 40% of the characters were female, and 20% of the shows had no female creatives on the teams. 

“The statistics are clear, there are not enough shows created by women, so this month’s Trailblazers rail will highlight and celebrate the women who are working on Broadway, the women who should be working on Broadway and to inspire the women who want to work on Broadway,” states Comley, who also claims her own place in history for holding a Guinness World Record for the first live stream of a Broadway show with She Loves Me in 2016.  

On this month’s Trailblazer rail, BroadwayHD subscribers will be able to easily access shows by female writers and composers like Cyndi Lauper, Dominique Morriseau, Val Vigoda, Shaina Taub, Emma Reeves, and Holland Taylor.  Featured directors include Sally Cookson, Lisa Peterson, Rebecca Taischman’s Tony Award®-winning direction of Paula Vogel’s Indecent, and The Donmar Warehouse trilogy of all-female Shakespeare’s “power play” productions of Julius Caesar, Henry IV and The Tempest directed by Phyllida Lloyd.  Performances by history-making women include Audra McDonald as Billie Holliday, Ann Richards portrayed by Holland Taylor, and the timeless classic Peter Pan, starring Cathy Rigby, who broke barriers as an Olympic gymnast crossing over into television and theater.  

For a full list of shows available on the playlist, see below: 

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill – Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill features six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald in her history-making, tour de force performance as the jazz icon, Billie Holliday.

Indecent – Indecent is inspired by the true events surrounding the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance—a play seen by some as a seminal work of Jewish culture, and by others as an act of traitorous libel. The play charts the history of an incendiary drama and the path of the artists who risked their careers and lives to perform.  Written by Pulitzer Prize winning Paula Vogel and directed by Tony winning Rebecca Taichman.

ANN –  Ann is a no-holds-barred portrait of Ann Richards, the legendary governor of Texas.  This inspiring and hilarious new play brings us face to face with a complex, colorful and captivating character bigger than the state from which she hailed.  Written and performed by Emmy® Award winner Holland Taylor (“Two and a Half Men”), ANN takes a revealing look at the impassioned woman who enriched the lives of her followers, friends and family.

Elaine Stritch At Liberty – Elaine Stritch, in her late 70’s, took the stage for 2 ½ hours wearing only a man tailored button down shirt and tap pants and tights, for a critically-acclaimed performance about her historic career. At Liberty won a Tony Award in June 2002 for Special Theatrical Event, but Stritch’s triumph was tempered when she was not allowed to complete her acceptance speech. Her response to it here is just one of the touching moments in a remembrance of her legacy. 

Donmar Warehouse’s Henry IV – On the heels of the Donmar’s revelatory production of Julius Caesar, director Phyllida Lloyd has set Henry IV, against the backdrop of women in prison. Harriet Walter, “one of the best Shakespeareans alive” will once again lead a diverse and exciting all-female cast in Shakespeare’s monumental history play which travels to the heart of family, duty and country.

Donmar Warehouse’s Julius Caesar – Power, betrayal, justice. Phyllida Lloyd directs a cast including Dame Harriet Walter in Shakespeare’s great political drama. Part of the Donmar Warehouse’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy. Set in the present day in the world of a women’s prison, Julius Caesar could not be more timely as it depicts the catastrophic consequences of a political leader’s extension of his powers beyond the remit of the constitution. As Brutus (Harriet Walter) wrestles with his moral conscience over the assassination of Julius Caesar (Jackie Clune), Mark Antony (Jade Anouka) manipulates the crowd through his subtle and incendiary rhetoric to frenzied mob violence. There follows the descent of the country into factions and the outbreak of civil war.

Donmar Warehouse’s The Tempest – Set on an isle “full of noises,” this magical, all-female production sees Succession star Harriet Walter take on the role of Prospero, in Shakespeare’s evocation of the eternal struggle for liberation, morality, and justice.

A Night with Janis Joplin – Tony Award-nominated Mary Bridget Davies portrays Grammy-winning, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Janis Joplin in this Broadway musical.  Fueled by such unforgettable songs as “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Mercedes Benz,” “Cry Baby” and “Summertime,” the show features a remarkable cast and breakout performances celebrating Janis and her biggest musical influences—icons like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Odetta, Nina Simone and Bessie Smith.

Peter Pan – The Tony-Nominated Broadway revival of Peter Pan starring Cathy Rigby tells the classic tale of the young boy who refuses to grow up. When Peter Pan meets the Darling children, he takes them on an adventure to Neverland, where they learn to fly, defeat the evil Captain Hook, and are changed forever.

Hetty Feather – From the best-selling author Jacqueline Wilson, the tale of plucky Hetty Feather is brought thrillingly to life on stage by award-winning scriptwriter Emma Reeves (CBBC’s The Story of Tracy Beaker) and by Olivier Award-nominated director Sally Cookson, whose many five star productions include Peter Pan, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and Stick Man.  With an original musical score by Benji Bower, circus skills and a huge heart, Hetty Feather is a terrific adventure story! Starring BAFTA-nominated actress Phoebe Thomas in the title role, this production of Hetty Feather was filmed from the 2015 Olivier nominated production on the West End in London.

Ernest Shackleton Loves Me – This wildly inventive musical adventure tells the story of a sleep-deprived single mom who struggles to balance her family and career as a video game music composer. Late one night, while posting a dating video, she receives an unexpected response from the polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922), one of the most iconic leaders of the 20th century. Shipwrecked and stranded on an iceberg in the Antarctic, Shackleton reaches across space and time to share his heroic journey with her. Against all odds, they discover that their greatest inspiration lies within each other.

Additional Trailblazers rails will be debuted by BroadwayHD in the coming months.

BroadwayHD introduces award-winning theater fro all across the globe with both classic and modern productions.  Fans can expect to see the full works of Shakespeare, awe-inspiring performances from Cirque du Soleil and a selection of the world’s greatest musical including Kinky Boots, Cats, 42nd Street, She Loves Me, The Phantom of The Opera, The King and I, Sound of Music, and An American in Paris. All performances are adapted specifically for streaming audiences to maximize the entertainment experience.  To learn more about BroadwayHD, visit www.broadwayhd.com.

Conscience

5 Reasons Why it Would be Unconscionable to Miss Conscience

By: Iris Wiener

March 9, 2020: “Never have I ever met anyone who can make up things on the spot with such conviction,” spits Senator Margaret Chase Smith as she reflects on Senator Joseph McCarthy in one of many moments of poignant clarity and horrifying irony in the world-premiere of Tony-Award winner Joe DiPietro’s new play Conscience. Now running through March 29th at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, Conscience takes audiences behind the scenes of the political world of 1950s Washington, shedding insight on the scandalously atrocious power plays, both political and personal, in the days leading up to and following Smith’s iconic “Declaration of Conscience” speech. After its delivery on the Senate floor on June 1st, 1950, Smith rattled McCarthyism, Congress, and the nation itself. Conscience is an essential theater-going experience, and here is why:

5 Reasons Why it Would be Unconscionable to Miss Conscience

By: Iris Wiener

March 9, 2020: “Never have I ever met anyone who can make up things on the spot with such conviction,” spits Senator Margaret Chase Smith as she reflects on Senator Joseph McCarthy in one of many moments of poignant clarity and horrifying irony in the world-premiere of Tony-Award winner Joe DiPietro’s new play Conscience. Now running through March 29th at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, Conscience takes audiences behind the scenes of the political world of 1950s Washington, shedding insight on the scandalously atrocious power plays, both political and personal, in the days leading up to and following Smith’s iconic “Declaration of Conscience” speech. After its delivery on the Senate floor on June 1st, 1950, Smith rattled McCarthyism, Congress, and the nation itself. Conscience is an essential theater-going experience, and here is why:

  1. It is a rare gem that is as engaging as it is important and informative – so much more than a political drama. Conscience invites audiences to remember the ineptitude of Senator McCarthy and the divisiveness he fed, while shining a light on Senator Smith, a fellow Republican and the first woman elected to both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate…and the first leader to see through McCarthy’s manipulative regime. Though she was first intrigued by McCarthy’s bluntly outgoing manner (and the possibility that he might aid in her political advancement), she finally challenged his derisive, disturbing methods amidst his notorious “Enemies from Within” Speech. With the White House in a similarly disastrous state, Smith’s principles should be remembered and emulated.

2. Harriet Harris and Lee Sellars are giving dynamic performances. Harris’ Smith is equally compassionate and stern, especially sharp in Smith’s moments of disbelief. Harris ingeniously layers Smith’s persona and stature with rawness and honesty. Sellars enters the stage grittily bombastic, his obstinacy as palpable as the sneer on his joyless face. The actor deftly steers McCarthy’s tornado of destruction with alacrity. 

3. Joe DiPietro, who is currently represented by Diana on Broadway, is the uncommon writer who mounts multiple genres with verve and passion. While an epic, high-profile bio musical is set to tug at hearts of one ilk in New York, others will be crushed by the equally true story playing out in New Brunswick (and the reality that history is repeating itself in 2020 with America’s current political state). The writing in Conscience is sharp and tight at every juncture. Smith says of McCarthy, “He’s like the worst boy you went to high school with,” later telling him, “You say the stupidest things possible and then revel in the chaos.” DiPietro’s peak into her mindset (with an intelligent knack for balanced narration and action) makes Smith’s story accessible and definitive.

4. David Saint’s direction of Harris and Smith alongside Cathryn Wake (who plays Jean Kerr, McCarthy’s secretary and puppet), and Mark Junek (an advisor to Smith with a personal story ripe for exploitation) is careful and well-executed. The actors remain on stage when they are not in scenes, spectators as Smith bravely stands up to McCarthyism and Congress. James Youmans’ set is simply bare and grey (though with the addition of minimal props and lighting it serves as a Senate chamber, a restaurant, and a news studio, among other locales) highlighting the actors’ deft performances. 

5. There is no better way to celebrate the George Street Playhouse’s new home in the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. Featuring two state-of-the-art, chic, easily accessible theaters, it is modern and comfortable; paired with a show as intelligent as Conscience, it offers an invigorating, memorable night of theater.

Tickets for Conscience are available for purchase at www.GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org, or by calling 732-246-7717

Scott Siegel’s March Birthday Show ****

By: Paulanne Simmons

March 9, 2020: We all like birthday parties. But Scott Siegel’s idea of a birthday bash is unique. Every month Siegel creates, directs and hosts a concert celebrating famous songs by famous people born in that month. The event takes place at Feinstein’s/54 below, and it features many performers who are well-known in their own right. The superb Ross Patterson is at the piano.

By: Paulanne Simmons

March 9, 2020: We all like birthday parties. But Scott Siegel’s idea of a birthday bash is unique. Every month Siegel creates, directs and hosts a concert celebrating famous songs by famous people born in that month. The event takes place at Feinstein’s/54 below, and it features many performers who are well-known in their own right. The superb Ross Patterson is at the piano.

The March 8 birthday party saluted a variety of singers, from the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, to country artist Carrie Underwood, to rock/pop legend Elton John. Although many of these singers also write their songs, three slots were saved for composers: Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Scott embellishes each number with interesting facts: Karen Carpenter’s hit, “We’ve Only Just Begun” began life as a commercial for Crocker National Bank. Jon Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” was on the B side but became a hit because the DJs liked it better than the A side song. And the line “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend” in James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” inspired Carole King to write “You’ve Got a Friend.”

Jenny Lee Stern

There were many highlights of the evening. But certainly, Jenny Lee Stern, who showed her great versatility when she belted the Cabaret classic “Maybe This Time,” took on a twang for “Before He Cheats” and partnered with Cooper Grodin for Lady Gaga’s “Shallow,” was a standout.

Ben Jones
Matthew and John Drinkwater

Ben Jones was a much warmer but equally supercilious Professor Higgins when he sang Rex Harrison’s “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” Allison Semmes channeled Diana Ross, complete with dazzling smile, when she sang “Can’t Hurry Love.” And brothers John and Matthew Drinkwater’s rendition of Stephen Schwartz’s “For Good” was particularly moving.

Allison Semmes

And guess what? At the end of every show there’s a birthday present for everyone in the audience who was born in the celebrated month.

Feinstein’s/54 Below is at 254 West 54 Street, 54below.com.
April 21 @ 7pm is the date for April Birthday Show

Anatomy of a Suicide ***, Cambodian Rock Band ***, The Unsinkable Molly Brown ***

By: David Sheward

March 8, 2020: Fractured narratives are featured in two recent Off-Broadway offerings depicting how families of severe trauma victims cope—or don’t—with their personal tragedies. Three generations of suicidal depression play out simultaneously in Alice Birch’s Anatomy of a Suicide at Atlantic Theater Company after a run at London’s Royal Court, while Laureen Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band, at Signature Theater Company following multiple regional stagings, traces the Khmer Rouge’s brutal legacy on a former rock musician and his daughter. In both plays the storyline twists and turns, sometimes even shatters, occasionally resulting in confusion, but mainly inducing the unsettling, disturbing effects of their respective sources of psychological damage. These are not comfortable pieces of theater, but they are affecting and memorable.

By: David Sheward

March 8, 2020: Fractured narratives are featured in two recent Off-Broadway offerings depicting how families of severe trauma victims cope—or don’t—with their personal tragedies. Three generations of suicidal depression play out simultaneously in Alice Birch’s Anatomy of a Suicide at Atlantic Theater Company after a run at London’s Royal Court, while Laureen Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band, at Signature Theater Company following multiple regional stagings, traces the Khmer Rouge’s brutal legacy on a former rock musician and his daughter. In both plays the storyline twists and turns, sometimes even shatters, occasionally resulting in confusion, but mainly inducing the unsettling, disturbing effects of their respective sources of psychological damage. These are not comfortable pieces of theater, but they are affecting and memorable.

Carla Gugino (Carol), Jo Mei (Lola), Celeste Arias (Anna), Gabby Beans (Bonnie), and Miriam Silverman (Esther) in “Anatomy of a Suicide

Anatomy of a Suicide’s title gives it away. Someone is going to take their own life, but who, how, when, and why are the main questions Birch addresses in a series of short, jagged and moving vignettes. Three different women appear to be headed in the same self-destructive end. Director Lileana Blain-Cruz divides Mariana Sanchez’s blue-tone, aquatic-themed, open set into three areas where the storylines transpire. Jiyoun Chang’s lighting and Kaye Voyce’s period-specific costumes help to differentiate the locales.

Celeste Arias, Richard Topol in “Anatomy of a Suicide”

On stage right, there is Carol (Carla Gugino in a shattering performance), who opens the play is a staggered, disoriented state, attempting to explain to her loving husband John (sweet, supportive Richard Topol) why she slit her wrists and then flooded the house while laying in an overflowing bathtub. Center stage, a similar dialogue occurs between drug-addled Anna (devastating Celeste Arias) and her doctor boyfriend (Vince Nappo in one of many effective roles). On stage left, a slightly different scene emerges with the apparently stable fisherwoman Jo (quirky, fun Jo Mei) getting her hand stitched by brush, officious Bonnie (Gabby Beans, wondrously suppressive swirling emotions). Over the course of an intermissionless 100 minutes, we learn Carol, Anna, and Bonnie are mother, daughter and granddaughter, united by genetics and an incompatibility with life. 

It’s not always clear who is who. It’s hard to follow the plot when a good chuck of the dialogue is spoken simultaneously. Some scenes are bafflingly obscure and others unconnected—for example, Bonnie’s attendance at a colleague’s birthday party adds nothing to the story. But thanks to a strong cast and Blain-Cruz’s firm direction, intentions and emotions are clear enough to convey the individual meanings of these fragments and painfully tell a harsh, unhappy tale of generation-spanning depression.

“Cambodian Rock Band”

Lauren Yee also plays with narrative in a genre-defying style in her Cambodian Rock Band. Like Anatomy of a Suicide, it’s not clear at first whose story is being told. The action opens with the titular musical ensemble singing a selection of hits from the indie group Dengue Fever who combined Cambodian rock and pop with Western music. Once the action proper starts, we find ourselves in Phnom Penh in 2008 where American-born lawyer Neary is working on bringing a major figure in the notorious Khmer Rogue to justice. Her father Chum, a Cambodian refugee, arrives unexpectedly and attempts to persuade her to drop the case and return with him to America. There’s also a mysterious narrator, who, like the Emcee in Cabaret, is charming and entertaining but we soon learn he represents the evils of a corrupt government. Is the protagonist Neary, Chum, the narrator, or the band itself? 

Courtney Reed and Joe Ngo in  “Cambodian Rock Band

The pieces of the puzzle are eventually assembled when we flash back to 1975 and the younger Chum, the leader of the rock band which played at the beginning, is imprisoned and tortured in a concentration camp run by the narrator, Duch. When the Khmer overthrew the ruling Cambodian party, all Western music and ideas were banned, but when Duch finds out Chum is a rock musician, they develop an odd, symbiotic relationship.  

Joe Ngo and Francis Jue in Cambodian Rock Band”

Yee’s structure is more conventional than Alice Birch’s, though she does break the narrative wall by having Chum and Duch argue over whose story is being told. It turns out each of them is equally the main character as Yee develops the objectives and subtext of both prisoner and captor. Neary and Chum’s bandmates are not as well realized, but overall, this is a fascinating combination of political drama and rock concert with precise, varied direction by Chay Yew who perfectly balances the musical and theatrical elements. Joe Ngo and Francis Jue deliver complex portraits of Chum and Duch, each peeling away stereotypical layers of victim and villain, finally emerging as men of ambiguous motives, manipulated by the powerful forces of their tragic country. The music is exciting and pulse-pounding, played with intensity by the cast members.

Beth Malone and David Aron Damane in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown

The new version of Meredith Willson and Richard Morris’ upbeat musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown from Transport Group at the Abrons Arts Center, would seem to have little in common with the previously reviewed Off-Broadway shows about suicide and torture. But it also plays with narrative, in that Dick Scanlan, author of the new book and lyrics, has totally reshaped and offered different perspectives from the 1960 original which won a Tony for Tammy Grimes and an Oscar nomination for Debbie Reynolds for the 1964 film version. The original was Willson’s follow-up to The Music Man, avariation on Annie Get Your Gun and a precursor to Jerry Herman’s “Big Lady” tuner Hello, Dolly and Mame. Molly was based on the brassy, up-from-nothing socialite and survivor of the Titanic who was larger than life and, in the show, burst into song at the drop of a hat. Scanlan has incorporated Molly’s progressive activism for unions, women’s suffrage and immigrants’ rights into the tried-and-true romance trope with J.J. Brown, her just-as-ornery love interest. 

Beth Malone in ” The Unsinkable Molly Brown”

At times, Scanlan’s book feels more like a stuffed-with-issues PBS documentary than a musical comedy, but there’s enough pizzazz and pathos to qualify it as an entertaining tuner. Kathleen Marshall manages to keep the action and choreography flowing across decades and continents and Beth Malone is a joyous firecracker in the lead. Darren Aron Damane is a virile J.J. and there are valuable contributions from Paula Leggett Chase, Coco Smith, Nikka Graff Lanzarone, Michael Halling, and a host of triple-threat chorus members in this buoyant revisal.

Anatomy of a Suicide ***
Feb. 18—March 15. Atlantic Theater Company at the Linda Gross Theater, 336 W. 20th St., NYC. Tue 7pm, Wed—Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm. Running time: one hour and 45 mins. with no intermission. $76.50—$96.50. (866) 811-4111. www.ovationtix.com.
Photography: Ahron R. Foster

Carla Gugino in “Anatomy of a Suicide”

Cambodian Rock Band ***
Feb. 24—March 22. Signature Theater at the Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St., NYC. Tue 7:30pm, Wed 2pm & 7:30pm, Thu—Fri 7:30pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm. Running time: two hours and 25 mins. including intermission. $35—$65. (212) 244-7529. www.signaturetheatre.org.
Photography: Joan Marcus

“Cambodian Rock Band”

The Unsinkable Molly Brown ***
Feb. 26—April 5. Transport Group at Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand St., NYC. Tue—Sat 7:30pm, Sun 3pm (check website for additional performances or changes). Running time: two hours and 30 mins. including intermission. $75—$85. (866) 811-4111. www.ovationtix.com
Photography: Carol Rosegg

David Aron Damane and Beth Malone in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown
The Unsinkable Molly Brown

Paulanne Simmons Unscripted

Why Video?

March 7, 2020: Projections have been part of theater for a long time. But recently we have begun to see video take over a good number of plays.

Why Video?

March 7, 2020: Projections have been part of theater for a long time. But recently we have begun to see video take over a good number of plays.

Last season, Network, directed by Ivo Van Hove, featured enough video to almost upstage the formidable Bryan Cranston. Nevertheless, video made sense in a show about a world overwhelmed by media. What’s more Network was originally a1976 film. But this season, we are seeing video in some unexpected places.

At BAM, we have Simon Stone’s rewrite of Euripides’ Medea, staring Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale. Here. Stone (who also directs) turned Medea’s two unfortunate sons into videographers, which perhaps he thought justified the use of video throughout the show.

And Van Hove is back. This time he’s directing the iconic West Side Story. And he somehow got the estates of Leonard Bernstein, and Arthur Laurents to agree to a radical reworking of their masterpiece. As for poor Jerome Robbins, his choreography is entirely missing. Apparently, Stephen Sondheim, the only living person involved with the show’s creation, is enthusiastic about the revival. Sure, “I Feel Pretty” is missing. But everyone knows he never liked that song in the first place.

Van Hove doesn’t even give us a reason for the huge video screen that dominates the set of the new West Side Story. Sometimes we do see people (gang members?) with video cameras. Why are they there? Your guess is as good as mine, whether or not you’ve seen the show.

But in the long run, it doesn’t really matter why a director thinks theatergoers need closeups of what they’re seeing onstage projected on a screen. Or how video makes up for a bare set. Or the reason a videoscape has to dominate a love scene.

The result is always the same. The audience has no idea where to look. And because the screen is so large, hanging over the actors like the sword of Damocles, we look at that screen.

I’m quite sure these directors have all sorts of high-minded reasons for their choices: the relevance of multimedia work, the importance of bringing theater into the 21st century, the necessity of expanding the theater audience. But the bottom line is they seem to have little faith in live performance.

On the other hand, filmmakers don’t have that problems. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself if you’ve ever seen a film that featured actors jumping out of the screen to sing and dance down the aisles of the movie theater. I don’t think so.

Cambodian Rock Band ***, Suicide Forest ***

By: Isa Goldberg

March 7, 2020: Lauren Yee’s new musical, Cambodian Rock Band at the Signature Theatre introduces a style of popular music that emerged around the country’s capital, Phnom Penh, in the 1960s and ‘70s. A mix of traditional Cambodian music with the jukebox songs American soldiers introduced to Vietnam, along with influences from Europe and Latin America, it defined a flourishing musical movement. 

By: Isa Goldberg

March 7, 2020: Lauren Yee’s new musical, Cambodian Rock Band at the Signature Theatre introduces a style of popular music that emerged around the country’s capital, Phnom Penh, in the 1960s and ‘70s. A mix of traditional Cambodian music with the jukebox songs American soldiers introduced to Vietnam, along with influences from Europe and Latin America, it defined a flourishing musical movement. 

A fusion of electric guitars, drums and Cambodian lyrics, the music sounds like a culture twang expressing sharp dissonance. In this production, songs written by the Los Angeles based Cambodian band Dengue Fever are performed live. Here the musical style blends more easily with an American ear. Along with songs in Cambodian, the production includes popular tunes like The Times They Are A-Changin’

Courtney Reed and Joe Ngo in “Cambodian Rock Band

As we know, the music that proliferated then came to an abrupt halt in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge put a stop to it and just about every other form of personal expression. In fact, many musicians were among the two million victims killed by Pol Pot’s regime.

Interestingly, the story here is told by the daughter of a survivor of the Cambodian genocide. Born and bred in Seattle, Neary (Courtney Reed) is a strong-willed young woman working for an NGO in Phnom Penh. Her official mission – to bring the Khmer Rouge to justice. Part superwoman, but mostly her father’s daughter, her research leads us on the trail to the Khmer Rouge in present day Cambodia and her family’s past. 

Joe Ngo and Francis Jue in Cambodian Rock Band

On her trail is her equally persistent father, an American immigrant Chum played by Joe Ngo. We meet him in 2008 visiting his daughter and travel back to his youth (1975) as a musician in the onstage rock band. The story telling that weaves all of these stories into one beautiful outcome is obviously sentimental. But as directed by Chay Yew, it’s tightly woven, expressing the urgency of survival.

Particularly well cast as Chum, Joe Ngo has a rubbery physicality – morphing his slender frame from a cartoon etching that bends and sways, to a victim jolted by electronic shock, to an ageing dad trying to hold on to his only child.

In addition, Courtney Reed portrays the singer in the rock band her father played in as a youth. Her voice is soft, sultry and subtly sexy.

Better known to Broadway audiences, Francis Jue (M. Butterfly, Thoroughly Modern Millie, etc.) portrays the dreaded head of the cruelest and most dangerous camp of the Khmer Rouge. He also narrates the story with an omnipresence that turns from clownish to outright evil.

It’s fun to cheer for the good guys. 

The company of “Cambodian Rock Band”

SUICIDE FOREST

The surrealism that abounds in Haruna Lee’s work, Suicide Forest, seems hermetic, obtuse and off-putting for much of the play’s 90-minutes. Confounded by the fact that the play is in Japanese and English, the audience may find better clues in the pink stripped wallpaper that contrasts with a glowing blue picture of Mount Fuji than in the dialogue. Jian Jung’s scenic design is a Pandora’s Box of imagery.

 “Suicide Forest

Or perhaps one is better dwelling on the bizarre costumes by Alice Tavener. The most outré – worn by two women portraying themselves as kids with peppermint stripped hair – are poufy pink dresses, platform sneakers and white lace gloves. 

The daughters of a suicidal Salaryman (Eddy Toru Ohno), portrayed in modern dress, the two girls, played by Akiko Aizawa and Dawn Akemi Sasito, act like slaves to a giddy sensibility. They’re definitely coy, obsessed with femininity and submissive to the point of perversity. In their own way they’re stereotypes of teenagers.

Later, after a journey into the forest where people are known to commit suicide, the actors drop their characters and become themselves. At this point the playwright’s commentary becomes more reflective and revelatory. It addresses the barriers of language and culture that are obviously defining of the Japanese-American immigrant experience. 

 “Suicide Forest

When Haruni describes masturbating to a sex scene in the movie, Boys Don’t Cry while noticing her father’s ashes on the bookshelf, she’s describing a primal coming of age experience. And one that takes place at the crossroads of juxtaposing cultures.

At its best, Lee’s writing is sensitive and lyrical. She explains, “within the divided parts of myself- Japanese, American, Taiwanese- I’ve always felt a phantom pain…” It’s that pain which she asks her mother (Aoi Lee), a Butoh dancer, how to face. Is it “demon, or ghost, or god?”

More performance art than structured play, Suicide Forest evokes a completely different kind of theatrical vision. Still, it delves into the most elementary questions of identity – where we come from, what created us, and where we can go from there.

Cambodian Rock Band ***
The Pershing Square Signature Center
480 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036
Tickets: (212) 244-7529
Photography: Joan Marcus

Suicide Forest ***
A.R.T./New York Theatres (Off Broadway)
Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.
Photography: Maria Baranova

“Suicide Forest”

The Armory Show

ACA is showing Aminah Robinson: Bears Witness, booth 305 at pier 90, through Sunday.

March 6, 2020: ACA Galleries is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of work by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson at The Armory Show on view from March 5 through March 8, 2020.   

ACA is showing Aminah Robinson: Bears Witness, booth 305 at pier 90, through Sunday.

March 6, 2020: ACA Galleries is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of work by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson at The Armory Show on view from March 5 through March 8, 2020.   

While Robinson’s work celebrates human commonalities, it is also a cautionary tale about persistent racism and social injustice.  The artist’s work articulates childhood memories; the struggles and triumphs she knew as a single mother and black female artist; African American ancestral history from Africa, the Middle Passage, slavery in the American south, emancipation, and migration to the present; and her travels to Africa, the Middle East, and South America. In 2010, she summarized the purpose of more than six decades of work as “To celebrate the everyday lives of black people and their endurance through centuries of injustice.”   When Robinson died in 2015, she left her estate to the Columbus Museum of Art. The Museum has established an artist residency in Robinson’s home and will present a major solo exhibition and book, Raggin’ On: The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s House and Journals (July 10, 2020January 3, 2021).


Crow Man, 1985, mixed media sculpture, 54 x 66 x 36 in.

On Saturday, March 7 from 11am to 12pm Carole Genshaft and Deidre Hamlar, curators at the Columbus Museum of Art, will discuss Robinson’s work—a reflection of art school training and handed-down traditions from her elders–and the passion that drove her to make art from the predawn hours to late at night each day.      MacArthur Award recipient Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson (1940 – 2015) used both traditional and unconventional media and processes to create drawings, watercolors, button-beaded books and dolls, illustrated texts and journals, “hawgmog” sculpture, and rag paintings to celebrate cultural identities of African Americans.  

Since 1932 the American Contemporary Art Galleries (ACA) has been at the vanguard of American Art. As one of the oldest galleries in New York, its pioneering interest in progressive art was established early on in exhibitions, often introducing the work of artists Giorgio Cavallon, Aaron Douglas, Philip Evergood, Rockwell Kent, Alice Neel, Barnett Newman, Irene Rice Pereira, David Smith, Theodoros Stamos and Charles White, among many others.  Today, ACA Galleries continues to break new ground, supporting new artists, representing established artists and estates; and presenting several exhibitions per year that honor the gallery’s historical roots by re-imagining them in a contemporary context.

Dancin’ in the Street, 2005, black and white woodcut, 47 1⁄2 x 36 in.

Armory Show Public Hours:
Thursday, March 5:    12 to 8pm
Friday, March 6:         12 to 8pm
Saturday, March 7:     12 to 7pm
Sunday, March 8:        12 to 6pm

About Love Opens

About Love, a play with songs and music, opened at the Sheen Center.

March 5, 2020: The Culture Project is presenting About Love, a new play by Nancy Harrow and Will Pomerantz, which opened last night at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture. Based on an exquisite short story, “First Love,” by Ivan Turgenev, About Love follows a young man on a quiet summer vacation with his parents in the Russian countryside, but he soon discovers those months will be the most consequential of his life. 

About Love, a play with songs and music, opened at the Sheen Center.

March 5, 2020: The Culture Project is presenting About Love, a new play by Nancy Harrow and Will Pomerantz, which opened last night at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture. Based on an exquisite short story, “First Love,” by Ivan Turgenev, About Love follows a young man on a quiet summer vacation with his parents in the Russian countryside, but he soon discovers those months will be the most consequential of his life. 

The play features a haunting jazz score by Nancy Harrow played by a quartet of guitar, bass, drums, and violin, and a versatile cast of six actors playing eighteen characters, all within a bold staging by Will Pomerantz, the associate Artistic Director of Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor.

Best known for his novel Fathers and Sons, and his play, A Month in the Country, Ivan Turgenev was one of the first Russian writers to achieve international fame. About Love is a fresh re-telling of one of his most memorable stories.

The cast includes Silvia Bond, Helen Coxe, Dan Domingues, Jeffrey Kringer, Tom Patterson, and Jean Tafler.  The musicians are Misha Josephs on guitar, Ryan Berg on Bass, Steve Picataggio on drums, and Ben Sutin on violin.

About Love is now playing at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture, 18 Bleecker Street, through March 22, 2020.

For tickets and more information go http://www.aboutlovetheplay.com/ 

Photography: Barry Gordin

Jeffrey Kringer, Silvia Bond
Dan Domingues, Jeffrey Kringer, Tom Patterson, Silvia Bond, Jean Tafler, Helen Coxe
Tom Patterson
Helen Coxe
Dan Domingues
Silvia Bond
Patrick Christiano, Will Pomerantz
Tracy Mitchell
Tracy Mitchell and Bay Street Theater fans
Nancy Harrow, Patrick Christiano