2019-20 Broadway, Off Broadway Updates

2019-20 Broadway and Off-Broadway Update: LSD, Cary Grant, Princess Di, and Barry Manilow

By: David Sheward

August 22, 2019: As the summer dwindles down, the number of announcements for the upcoming Broadway and Off-Broadway season begins to pick up in volume. In the past few weeks, eight new shows have been confirmed for Broadway runs plus a number of Off-Broadway productions have been released or we’ve gotten more information on casting and dates.

2019-20 Broadway and Off-Broadway Update: LSD, Cary Grant, Princess Di, and Barry Manilow

By: David Sheward

August 22, 2019: As the summer dwindles down, the number of announcements for the upcoming Broadway and Off-Broadway season begins to pick up in volume. In the past few weeks, eight new shows have been confirmed for Broadway runs plus a number of Off-Broadway productions have been released or we’ve gotten more information on casting and dates. There was concern in some quarters that there were no new musicals featuring original scores on the Broadway schedule. Only tuners with catalogues of legendary musicians such as Bob Dylan (Girl from the North Country), Tina Turner (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical), Alanis Morrisette (Jagged Little Pill), David Bryne (American Utopia), and everybody whoever wrote a hit song in the last 40 years (Moulin Rouge), were to be on the boards. But now we have four tuners eligible for the Original Score Tony.

The weirdest and most interesting sounding one is neither a jukebox musical nor an adaptation of a hit movie. Flying Over Sunset focuses on the unlikely trio of  movie icon Cary Grant, playwright-diplomat Clare Booth Luce (The Women), and author Aldous Huxley (Brave New World). What did they have in common? All three experimented with LSD. The show, set in the 1950s, chronicles their experiences during crossroads in their respective lives. James Lapine, librettist-director of such groundbreaking works as Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George and Falsettos, writes the book and stages with Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) composing the music and Michael Korie (War Paint, Grey Gardens) writing the lyrics. David Yazbeck (Prince of Broadway, On the Town) is Grant, Carmen Cusack (Bright Star) plays Luce, and Harry Hadden-Patton (My Fair Lady, Downtown Abbey) is Huxley. Previews begin March 12, 2020 at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre with an April 16 opening set. Sounds totally different from your typical Broadway fare.

Lauren Livia Muehl and Jeanna de Waal in Diana at La Jolla Playhouse
Credit: Little Fang

Diana, Princess of Wales, is another uncommon choice for musical fodder, but the tragic figure who has previously been portrayed on Broadway as a ghost in the play King Charles III, will be the main character in Diana, set to begin previews at the Longacre on March 2, 2020 with a coronation, I mean opening set for March 31. The work seen previously at the La Jolla Playhouse in April of this year is by the Memphis creative team: book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music and lyrics by David Bryan, and direction by Christopher Ashley (Come from Away). Speaking of royalty, another musical will feature not just a princess but a sextette of queens. Six imagines the wives of Henry VIII as an all-girl rock band. A hit in London’s West End and currently playing in Chicago, the pop-rock satire arrives at the Brooks Atkinson Feb. 13, opening March 12 after stops in Massachusetts, Alberta, and Minnesota.

The cast of Six. Credit: Liz Lauren

Before Diana arrives at the Longacre, the theater will play host to a limited run of Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, the musical based on the Young Adult series of books about a misfit boy who discovers he is the offspring of Greek Gods. When the show played Off-Broadway in 2017, it received three Drama Desk nominations. The current production is the touring version and will play a limited run opening Oct. 16. Chris McCarrell will repeat his 2017 performance in the title role.

Kristin Stokes, Chris McCarrell, and George Salazar 
in Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical.
Credit: Jeremy Daniel

Musical revivals were also in short supply with only one announced—Ivo Van Hove’s sure-to-be-innovative take on West Side Story. The number of old tuners with new staging has doubled with a Broadway transfer of the London reproduction of Caroline or Change, the Tony Kushner-Jeanine Tesori musical about the relationship between a young Jewish boy and his family’s starchy African-American housekeeper. Roundabout Theatre Company produces the revival with Sharon D. Clark repeating her Olivier Award-winning performance. Previews March 13 at Studio 54 with an April 7 opening. 

Roundabout will also present the first Broadway production of A Soldier’s Play, Charles Fuller’s 1981 Pulitzer Prize winner about the mysterious death of an African-American sergeant in 1944. David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood star. Tony winner Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun, Much Ado About Nothing) directs. Previews at the American Airlines begin Dec. 27 and opening takes off on Jan. 21, 2020. 

Sharon D. Clark and cast in the London production of
Caroline or Change.
Credit: Helen Maybanks

Manhattan Theater Club play host to another Pulitzer Prize revival, this one marking the return of two stars to their original roles. Mary-Louise Parker and David Morse reprise their 1997 performances in Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive with Mark Brokaw repeating his directing chores (previews March 27, 2020 at the Samuel L. Friedman with an April 22 opening). Parker plays Li’l Bit, a woman recalling her strange, dangerous relationship with her Uncle Peck (Morse). Parker will be appearing in Adam Rapp’s The Sound Within earlier in the season.

Campbell Scott will be following in his father’s footsteps this season. George C. Scott played Ebenezer Scrooge in a 1984 TV movie. Campbell will essay Dickens’ miser in a stage production written by Tony winner Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and directed by Tony winner Matthew Warchus (God of Carnage), which was a hit in London.

A scene from the Old Vic production of A Christmas Carol.
Credit: Manuel Harlan

The limited holiday engagement at the Lyceum Theater begins Nov. 7, opens Nov. 20 and runs through Jan. 5. The play will featured 12 traditional Christmas carols. So is it a play or a musical?

In another family connection, real-life couple Corey Stoll and Nadia Bowers will play the bloodthirsty Macbeths in CSC’ revival of the Scottish play Off-Broadway directed by John Doyle (The Color Purple). Mary Beth Piel will cross genders and play the traditionally male role of Duncan. Opening is appropriately a few days before Halloween on Oct. 27.

Barry Manilow recently announced on stage during his Broadway run at the Lunt-Fontanne his long-gestating musical Harmony will finally make it to New York in a Yiddish translation at the Jewish Heritage Museum, Feb. 11-March 29, produced by National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, the group that presented the current Off-Broadway hit revival of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. The show, with book and lyrics by Bruce Sussman to Manilow’s music, chronicles the real-life Comedian Harmonists, a singing group composed of Jews and Gentiles in Hitler’s Germany. Another show with the same subject, Band in Berlin, was a Broadway flop in 1999, which may have contributed to Harmony’s previous failure to reach Gotham in two decades after productions in California, Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Looking further ahead, Soul Train, the musical based on the long-running TV series, is slated for a 2021 opening in time for the program’s 50th anniversary. Just as Motown used executive Berry Gordy’s life story as a focus, Soul Train will employ host Don Cornelius’ biography to tell its story. Playwright Dominique Morriseau who wrote another musical with on a similar topic, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, is penning the book with Kamilah Forbes (By the Way, Meet Vera Stark) directing.

A calendar of announced Broadway and Off-Broadway openings through 2021 and beyond follows. If an opening date has not been announced, the first date of previews is listed.

Sept. 4–Sunday (Atlantic Theater Company; previews begin)

Sept. 4–Runboyrun & In Old Age (NYTW; previews begin)

Sept. 5–Betrayal (Bernard Jacobs)

Sept. 13–Heroes of the Fourth Turning (Playwrights Horizons; previews begin)

Sept. 15–Derren Brown: Secret (Cort)

Sept. 16–Wives (Playwrights Horizons)

Sept. 19–Novenas for a Lost Hospital (Rattlestick)

Sept. 21–Why? (TFANA; previews begin)

Sept. 24–The Height of the Storm (MTC/Samuel J. Friedman)

Sept. 24–Our Dear Dead Drug Lord (Second Stage/McGinn/Cazale)

Sept. 24–Soft Power (Public Theater; previews begin)

Oct. 1–The Great Society (LCT/Vivian Beaumont)

Oct. 2–Freestyle Love Supreme (Booth)

Oct. 2–The New Englanders (MTC/City Center Stage II)

Oct. 3–Seared (MCC; previews begin)

Oct. 6–Slave Play (Golden)

Oct. 7–The Wrong Man (MCC)

Oct. 8–For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf (Public Theater; previews begin)

Oct. 10–Linda Vista (Second Stage/Helen Hayes)

Oct. 15–Scotland, PA (Roundabout/Laura Pels)

Oct. 15–The Rose Tattoo (Roundabout/American Airlines)

Oct. 15–Soft Power (Public Theater)

Oct. 16–Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical (Longacre)

Oct. 17–The Sound Inside (Studio 54)

Oct. 17–Little Shop of Horrors (Westside Theater)

Oct. 19–The Michaels (Public Theater; previews begin)

Oct. 20–American Utopia (Hudson)

Oct. 20–A Bright Room Called Day (Public Theater; previews begin)

Oct. 22–Bella Bella (MTC/City Center)

Oct. 22–Fires in the Mirror (Signature Theater; previews begin)

Oct. 22–Is This a Room? (Vineyard)

Oct. 27–Macbeth (CSC)

Nov. 5–The Young Man from Atlanta (Signature Theatre; previews begin)

Nov. 7–Tina: The Tina Turner Musical (Lunt-Fontanne)

Nov. 7–Cyrano (The New Group/Daryl Roth)

Nov. 14–Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven (Atlantic Theater Company; previews begin)

Nov. 16–Fefu and Her Friends (TFANA; previews begin)

Nov. 17–The Inheritance (Barrymore)

Nov. 20–A Christmas Carol (Lyceum)

Nov. 22–The Thin Place (Playwright Horizons; previews begin)

Nov. 23–The Underlying Chris (Second Stage/Terry Kiser)

Dec. 5–Jagged Little Pill (Broadhurst)

Dec. 9–Great Clements (LCT/Mitzi Newhouse)

December–Harry Connick Jr.–A Celebration of Cole Porter (Nederlander)

Jan. 2020–Medea (BAM/Harvey Theater); Dracula and Frankenstein (CSC)

Jan. 8–Paris (Atlantic Theater Company; previews begin)

Jan. 11–Timon of Athens (TFANA; previews begin)

Jan. 15–My Name Is Lucy Barton (MTC/Friedman)

Jan. 21–A Soldier’s Play (Roundabout/AA)

Jan. 23–Grand Horizons (Second Stage/Helen Hayes)

Jan. 30–Anatomy of a Suicide (Atlantic Theatre Company; previews begin)

February–The Minutes

Feb. 4–Cambodian Rock Band (Signature Theater; previews begin)

Feb. 6–West Side Story (Broadway)

Feb. 6–All the Natalie Portmans (MCC; previews begin)

Feb. 11–The Hot Wing King (Signature Theater; previews begin)

Feb. 11–Harmony (Folksbiene/Jewish Heritage Museum; previews begin)

Feb. 14–Unknown Soldier (Playwrights Horizons; previews begin)

Feb. 18–Coal Country (Public Theater; previews begin)

March 3–The Perplexed (MTC/City Center Stage I)

March 5–Girl from the North Country (Belasco)

March 7–Gnit (TFANA; previews begin)

March 12–Six (Brooks Atkinson)

March 17–Vagrant Trilogy (Public Theater; previews begin)

March 19–Nollywood Dreams (MCC; previews begin)

March 23–Intimate Apparel (LCT/Mitzi Newhouse)

March 24–The Visitor (Public Theater; previews begin)

March 27–Selling Kabul (Playwrights Horizons; previews begin)

March 31–Diana (Longacre)

April–Assassins (CSC)

April 7–Caroline or Change (Roundabout/Studio 54)

April 9–Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

April 16–Flying Over Sunset (LCT/Vivian Beaumont)

April 21–Birthday Candles (Roundabout/AA)

April 22–How I Learned to Drive (MTC/Friedman)

April 23–Take Me Out (Second Stage/Helen Hayes)

April 25–Waiting for Godot (TFANA; previews begin)

April 28–Twilight: Los Angeles (Signature Theatre; previews begin)

Spring 2020–Blue

2019-20 (dates unspecified)–New York Theater Workshop–Sing Street; Endlings; Sanctuary City; Three Sisters.

The New Group–The One in Two; Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice; The Seagull/Woodstock, NY

Vineyard Theater–Dana H; Tuvalu or The Saddest Song

May 9–The Bedwetter (Atlantic Theatre Company; previews begin)

May 12–Confederates (Signature Theatre; previews begin)

May 15–A Boy’s Company Presents: “Tell Me If I’m Hurting You”

May 19–The Best We Could Do (MTC/City Center Stage II)

May 20–A Play Is a Poem (Atlantic Theater Company; previews begin)

June 2–Poor Yella Rednecks (MTC/City Center Stage I)

June 4–Perry Street (MCC; previews begin)

July 7–Cullud Wattah (Public Theater; previews begin)

Summer 2020–Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough

Oct. 20, 2020–The Music Man

May 2021–1776

2021–Soul Train

Future–Cinderella (Andrew Lloyd Webber version), Cagney, Dave, Death Becomes Her, Mrs. Doubtfire, Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical, The Devil Wears Prada, Working Girl, Half-Time, Roman Holiday, The Wiz, Camp David, Photograph 51, An Enemy of the People, Sherlock Holmes, Singin’ in the Rain, Pat Benatar Musical, Chasing Rainbows, Magic Mike, Some Like It Hot, Ever After, The Flamingo Kid

2019-20 Broadway Season

New Plays

Birthday Candles

A Christmas Carol

The Great Society

The Height of the Storm

The Inheritance

Linda Vista

The Minutes

My Name Is Lucy Barton

Sea Wall/A Life (Off-Broadway transfer)

Slave Play (Off-Broadway transfer)

The Sound Inside

New Musicals

American Utopia

Diana

Flying Over Sunset

Girl from the North Country (transfer from Off-Broadway)

Jagged Little Pill

Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical (previously presented Off-Broadway)

Moulin Rogue

Six

Tina: The Tina Turner Musical

Play Revivals

Betrayal

Blue

Frankie and Johnny in the Clare de Lune

How I Learned to Drive

The Rose Tattoo

A Soldier’s Play

Take Me Out

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Musical Revivals

Caroline or Change

West Side Story

Specialties

Derren Brown: Secret

Harry Connick Jr.–A Celebration of Cole Porter

2020-21

Musical Revivals

The Music Man

2021-22

Musical Revivals

1776

Originally Posted on The David Desk 2 on August 22, 2019

Drama League

THE DRAMA LEAGUE WELCOMES
BEVIN ROSS AS NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

August 21, 2019: The Drama League (Artistic Director, Gabriel Stelian-Shanks) has named Bevin Ross its new Executive Director, joining Artistic Director Gabriel Stelian-Shanks as Co-CEO of the 103-year-old theatre organization. The new appointment will expand the portfolio and reach of The Drama League as the first step in its new strategic plan, while allowing Mr. Stelian-Shanks, who formerly performed both roles for five seasons, to focus exclusively on the company’s expanding artistic programs for early, mid, and late career stage directors.

THE DRAMA LEAGUE WELCOMES
BEVIN ROSS AS NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

August 21, 2019: The Drama League (Artistic Director, Gabriel Stelian-Shanks) has named Bevin Ross its new Executive Director, joining Artistic Director Gabriel Stelian-Shanks as Co-CEO of the 103-year-old theatre organization. The new appointment will expand the portfolio and reach of The Drama League as the first step in its new strategic plan, while allowing Mr. Stelian-Shanks, who formerly performed both roles for five seasons, to focus exclusively on the company’s expanding artistic programs for early, mid, and late career stage directors.

Bevin Ross most recently served in a senior leadership capacity for the New York Academy of Sciences, directing development for the over 200-year-old internationally renowned S.T.E.M. membership organization. In her career, she also led a four-year effort for Performance Space New York (formerly know as PS122) as part of a $35 million capital campaign to transform the organization’s East Village home into a sophisticated performance venue, and spearheaded fundraising for several high-profile PBS programs at WNET/Channel Thirteen and for arts education in the New York City area with Wingspan Arts. She holds a Masters in Arts Administration and Policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from Washington University in St. Louis.

“Bevin is an extraordinary leader and an inspiring advocate for the American theater; I’m over the moon to welcome her as my new partner at The Drama League,” said Mr. Stelian-Shanks. “As The Drama League continues to grow and fulfill our mission to be the nation’s lifelong home for stage directors, Bevin will play a crucial part in the success and prosperity of those efforts.”

“The Board of Directors is thrilled to welcome Bevin Ross to our Drama League family as our new Executive Director,” shared Stan Ponte, the President of The Drama League’s Board of Directors. “Bevin brings the skills and enthusiasm perfectly suited to guide our organization forward as we commence our five-year strategic plan, and will make an ideal Co-CEO with our Artistic Director Gabriel Stelian-Shanks.” He concluded by saying, “In short, we have a dynamic leadership team combining the legacy and organizational knowledge of Mr. Shanks’s 18 years of service to the Drama League, paired with Ms. Ross’s fresh perspective and proven track record.”

The Drama League of New York advances the American theater by providing a life-long artistic home for directors and a platform for dialogue with, and between, audiences. Since 1916, The Drama League has been at the forefront of the American theater community, with initiatives to promote artistic development and audience engagement. It is one of the nation’s oldest continuously-operating, not-for-profit arts advocacy and education organizations. Through its programming, The Drama League serves over 3,000 artists and 15,000 audience members each season with over 150 events and programs.

More information can be found at www.dramaleague.org.

Support for the Drama League is provided by Credit Suisse, Howard Gilman Foundation, The Hyde and Watson Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, The Leo Shull Foundation for the Arts, and the Trust for Mutual Understanding. Special thanks to the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust for supporting the Drama League. Drama League programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Rendezvous with Marlene

Preview: Ute Lemper’s Rendezvous with Marlene

By: Paulanne Simmons

August 22, 2019: This September, internationally renowned singer and actress Ute Lemper will perform her solo show, Rendezvous with Marlene, five nights at The York Theatre. But the beginnings of that show go back thirty years. The story includes Lemper’s fascination with the music of the Weimar Republic and her admiration for one of its greatest composers, Kurt Weill.

Preview: Ute Lemper’s Rendezvous with Marlene

By: Paulanne Simmons

August 22, 2019: This September, internationally renowned singer and actress Ute Lemper will perform her solo show, Rendezvous with Marlene, five nights at The York Theatre. But the beginnings of that show go back thirty years. The story includes Lemper’s fascination with the music of the Weimar Republic and her admiration for one of its greatest composers, Kurt Weill.

In 1987, Lemper’s portrayal of Sally Bowles in the original Paris production of Cabaret had already earned her the Molière Award (the French equivalent of the Tony Awards) for Best Newcomer. But after her album Ute Lemper Sings Kurt Weill became a huge success, her career took a dramatic turn.

“This was during the Cold War and two years before the fall of the Berlin wall,” Lemper says. “Thoughts of World War II were still alive, but at the same time Germans were looking toward the future. They needed and wanted to look back and see a more progressive time.”

Soon, Lemper was spending much more of her time on tour. One of her most “unbelievable moments” on tour came when she appeared in Tel-Aviv, before an appreciative and enthusiastic audience that included Holocaust survivors, many of whom were German speakers who remembered Kurt Weill and the Weimer Republic.

Eventually, thanks to the album, people began calling Lemper “the new Marlene Dietrich.” Lemper found this so embarrassing she wrote Dietrich a letter of apology. After receiving the letter, Dietrich, who at the time was living in Paris as a recluse, called her by phone. Their conversation lasted three hours.

It took thirty years for Lemper to have the maturity to “truly empathize” with Dietrich. But eventually, that “long, intense phone call” (plus a bit of research) became the basis for her Rendezvous with Marlene, which Lemper calls a play with music.

Lemper found Dietrich somewhat “sad and bitter.” During World War II, Dietrich, who had refused to make films for the Third Reich, became an American citizen, sold war bonds and entertained American troops. In 1960, when she returned to Germany on a concert tour many people called her “traitor.”

According to Lemper, Dietrich not only talked about the “complicated story” of her life; she also revealed a few secrets. Thus, Lemper was able to “go into Marlene’s brain” exploring not only her career but also her personal life, through both dialogue and Dietrich’s iconic songs, from Berlin cabaret to Bacharach collaborations.

But Rendezvous with Marlene is, in many ways, as much Lemper’s story as it is Dietrich’s. Lemper regards bringing back the music of Berlin cabaret as her personal mission. She considers this effort even more important these days as right-wing populist governments threaten democracy in the United States and abroad.

Lemper believes the seeds the Nazis sewed in the last century are sprouting today in these governments. But she also hopes Dietrich can provide us with a role model of moral courage.

“Marlene Dietrich is not only contemporary,” Lemper says. “She’s a woman of the future. She was bisexual and gender challenging. She had an open marriage. She took a moral stand.”

Rendezvous with Marlene runs September 18 – 22 at The York Theatre Company at Saint Peter’s (entrance on East 54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue), www.yorktheatre.org.

The Exes **

By: Samuel L. Leiter

August 21, 2019: Remember the great old drawing-room comedies that danced around divorce and extramarital dalliance, like Philip Barry’s The Philadelphia Story? The ones with immaculate homes, English butlers, well-stocked bars, attractive, perfectly-dressed, bon mot-delivering, devilishly charming characters, and well-calibrated farcical hijinks? If you do, and your memories are fond ones, you’ll find nothing remotely comparable in Lenore Skomal’s retro attempt to revive the genre with her anything-but-excellent The Exes, at Theatre Row.

By: Samuel L. Leiter

August 21, 2019: Remember the great old drawing-room comedies that danced around divorce and extramarital dalliance, like Philip Barry’s The Philadelphia Story? The ones with immaculate homes, English butlers, well-stocked bars, attractive, perfectly-dressed, bon mot-delivering, devilishly charming characters, and well-calibrated farcical hijinks? If you do, and your memories are fond ones, you’ll find nothing remotely comparable in Lenore Skomal’s retro attempt to revive the genre with her anything-but-excellent The Exes, at Theatre Row.

I admit to having heard scattered chuckles during the slightly less-than-two hours (with one intermission) of this woeful comedy of manners, but I swear not one escaped from between my grumpy lips. This is all the more disappointing because Craig Napoliello’s slickly designed set of a wealthy man’s drawing room (albeit with furniture resembling 1950s Danish modern)—visible on entering—sets you to up to expect the proceedings will have a similar touch of class. It doesn’t take long, though, for the play and its generally uninspired performances, heavy-handedly directed by Magda S. Nyiri, to convince you you’re watching a community theatre production of some deservedly forgotten Barry-like retread.

The constantly buzzing cellphones, the mildly salty language, and various other contemporary references, of course, denote the time as now, not the 30s, but the style, the substance, and the story all seem like clichéd throwbacks to a different time. Skomal places us in the fancy apartment of Richard Killingworh (Tim Hayes), a plutocrat in his 60s, preparing for the wedding that day of his daughter, Victoria (Alison Preece). She’s a spoiled, stressed-out, 35-year-old, who’s resisting the signing of a prenup. 

Also getting ready for the event is Richard’s friend, the well-off but more frugal Dick Wright (David M. Farrington)—yes, there’s a “dick” joke—although he drives an $80,000 car he calls a Beemer. (This appears to be a slipup: Beemer is slang for a BMW motorcycle, while Bimmer is a BMW car.) 

The men are connected through their both having been married to a flashy woman named Mavis (Karen Forte), who is determined to get Richard to sign her divorce papers. She needs this because the limits on her residence in Denmark have expired and she wants to marry her Danish lover, the foppish Marcel Nistlerood (Kyle Porter), whose last name the playwright thinks is prime joke material. Moreover, Mavis, resented by Victoria, her stepdaughter, has not been invited to the wedding but hopes to crash it nonetheless.

Alison Preece, Tim Hayes

Of the others involved in the less-than-scintillating complications are Prim (John Coleman Taylor), Richard’s prim (what else?), Saville Row-tailored, white-haired, British-accented butler. Prim’s snobbishness (he prefers being called a “house manager” to the déclassé term “butler”) and distaste for being considered one of Richard’s “assets” form a major plot point.

We also meet Garrett Wright (Galen Molk), Dick’s snarky, 23-year-old son, who adds a fillip of reason to the irrationalities of his elders.

Finally, there are the unseen hordes of enraged florists who are protesting Richard’s failure to sufficiently share the profits of a product in which he invested. This is a boutonniere that never dies and is called a “Boutonn-Ever,” “the forever flower,” of whose unique properties we’re forever reminded.  (The disgruntled florists, by the way, inspire the sole moment of theatrical creativity, a slo-mo reenactment of the debacle they created at Victoria’s wedding.)

Only Molk’s Garrett and Taylor’s Prim find seeds of human honesty in their otherwise conventional roles. Their cast-mates, however, too often can’t resist the siren call of overacting to cover up the writing’s weaknesses. While neither Farrington’s Dick nor Hayes’s Richard make much of an impression, several of their colleagues replace whatever tidbits of charm their roles may have with farcical obnoxiousness.  

Forte’s Mavis, for example, has a tendency to work every line and reaction for maximum effect—including far too often facing the audience directly—making us wonder what any of these men sees in her. Preece’s souped-up Victoria, guzzling flute after flute of Champagne, provides a demonstration of Mugging 101.

The biggest offender, both in the writing and performance, is Porter’s lightly accented caricature of Marcel, the Dane, his every onstage moment belying the guy’s being a professor of poetry and philosophy, especially one who (he admits this!) lost his job for inappropriate relations with a coed. Marcel also seems far younger than Mavis, a disparity never mentioned. 

As exaggeratedly costumed (by Napoliello), he prances about in hipster-style skinny jeans, a maroon sports jacket, and a fluffy ascot, exasperatingly bowing with an 18th-century courtier’s formality whenever introducing himself, and bursting into “Wonderful Copenhagen” (which Danny Kaye introduced in the movie Hans Christian Andersen) whenever the spirit moves him. Like Prim, he never loses an opportunity to note American obtuseness, but he’s straight out of the playbook of 19th-century comedies that similarly satirized foreigners. Today, he seems ridiculously offensive. 

Napoliello’s set, decently lit by Ross Graham, remains the principal contribution. His costumes—including three tuxedoes—are more-or-less acceptable but you can’t help wonder why, if there’s a snowstorm (“snowmaggadon,” someone says) raging, he provides no one entering from outside (except for Mavis’s obviously phony fur) with a winter garment. When, for example, is the last snowstorm you dressed for in a thin, zippered sweatshirt? 

By the time it limps toward its lame conclusion, with Richard and Dick (actually, both are dicks) cozying up as best buds, you want to draw a big X through The Exes.

The Exes
Theatre Row
410 W. 42nd St., NYC
Through October 5, 2019
Photography: Emily Hewitt

ARF Bow Wow Meow Ball

Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons honor Isaac Mizrahi at their Annual Summer Benefit in Wainscott.

June 18, 2019:  On Saturday, August 17th the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons (ARF) hosted the Bow Wow Meow Ball, to honor fashion designer and entertainer Isaac Mizrahi with the Champion of Animals Award, a loyal supporter of ARF and a compassionate friend to animals in need. 

Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons honor Isaac Mizrahi at their Annual Summer Benefit in Wainscott.

June 18, 2019:  On Saturday, August 17th the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons (ARF) hosted the Bow Wow Meow Ball, to honor fashion designer and entertainer Isaac Mizrahi with the Champion of Animals Award, a loyal supporter of ARF and a compassionate friend to animals in need. 

The celebration of ARF’s life-saving work happened, under a tent, on ARF’s 22-acre campus in Wainscott. Guests enjoyed cocktails, followed by dinner catered by Olivier Cheng. The evening featured a live auction, a silent auction featuring one-of-a-kind luxury items, unique arfITECTURE cat and dog houses—works of art created by Donna Karan and Gabby Karan de Felice, Robert Wilson and Steven Gambrell along with top architects and builders.  There was also an online auction with charitybuzz.com.

Donna Karan

Also joining in the festivities were a proud group of ARF cats and dogs available for adoption. See photos.

Afterwards, the party continued with dancing to music by the Peter Duchin Orchestra. Guests from New York and the Hamptons attended a magical night for the animals with all proceeds going to benefit ARF, a regional leader in New York for the rescue and adoption of cats and dogs.

ARF’s mission is very close to Isaac’s heart. Each October since 2010, Isaac has championed ARF’s annual Stroll to the Sea Dog Walk, which he calls his favorite event of the year. Each year since then he has created an original work of art for the Dog Walk’s invitation and much-sough-after t-shirt. Isaac’s warmth and wit are a perfect match for the Walk. He and his husband Arnold have two rescue dogs: Dean, a Beagle-Jack Russell Terrier mix, and Kitty, a Collie mix, and Isaac and Arnold can often be found volunteering at ARF, walking our own resident dogs awaiting adoption. 

The animals in ARF’s care come from animal control centers, high kill shelters across the country, and from people who can no longer care for their pets. In 2019, ARF will intake over 1,400 dogs and cats at its state-of-the-art Adoption Center. ARF provides full medical care—including spaying and neutering—to all its animals in addition to humane care for their basic needs. Once medically evaluated and socialized the dogs and cats are made available for adoption at its Adoption Center and through its mobile adoption van and offsite events held across the greater New York region. Since its inception, ARF has rescued more than 28,000 cats and dogs and placed them with loving families.

Photography: Barry Gordin

Isaac Mizrahi
Mathew Posnick
Scott Howe (Executive Director ARF)
Donna Karan, Patrick Christiano
Bruce Weber, Nan Bush
Isaac Mizrahi, Jamie Berger
Robert Wilson
Peter Marino, Donna Karan
Julia Cahill,Gordon Hoppe, Lisa McCarthy
Chuck & Ellen Scarborough
Scott Howe, Isaac Mizrahi
Top Dog Katherine Rayner, Scott Howe
Isaac Mizrahi
Auctioneer CK Swett
Parade of the Animals
Parade of the Animals
Elizabeth Shafiroff, Jean Shafiroff
Barbara Slifka
Jean Shafiroff, Assemblywoman, Rebecca Seawright 
Sara Davison
Isaac Mizrahi, Angela LaGreca
Isaac Mizrahi
Candi & Mark Udell
Laura Grenning
Peter Marino
Debbie Bancroft
Isaac Mizrahi
Peter Duchin Orchestra

Moulin Rouge! ***1/2

By: Lauren Yarger

What’s It All About?

August 16, 2019: It’s a love story set against the seedy streets and Bohemia of turn-of-the-century Paris. This production has been seeing good traction at the New York Box Office following a sold-out run at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre last summer. Word of mouth about the over-the-top optics has fueled some of the rusg to see the newest musical written by John Logan (Red) and helmed by Alex Timbers It’s hard to imagine topping the big/wow factor for Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson and Beetlejuice, but he does…)

By: Lauren Yarger

What’s It All About?

August 16, 2019: It’s a love story set against the seedy streets and Bohemia of turn-of-the-century Paris. This production has been seeing good traction at the New York Box Office following a sold-out run at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre last summer. Word of mouth about the over-the-top optics has fueled some of the rusg to see the newest musical written by John Logan (Red) and helmed by Alex Timbers It’s hard to imagine topping the big/wow factor for Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson and Beetlejuice, but he does…)

Here’s the gist: The Moulin Rouge Theater is going bankrupt under the management of Harold Zidler (Danny Burstein). He persuades his star chanteuse, Satine (Karen Olivo), to do what ever is necessary to attract the Duke of Monroth (Tam Mutu) and get him to put some of his considerable fortune into the theater’s next show (so much for seeing better roles for women on Broadway in the Me Too Era, I suppose….) Meanwhile, songwriter Christian (the golden-voiced Aaron Tveit) agrees to pitch a new musical written by friends Toulouse Lautrec (a moving Sahr Ngaujah) and ladies’ man Santiago (Ricky Rojas).  After some mistaken identity, Christian and Santine become lovers and continue down a dangerous road as they and the other members of the acting roup, keep their passion a secret from the possessive and violent Monroth.

As in the film, the musical celebrates some of the greatest popular music of the last 50 years — some with just a line or two and others will full song (music supervision, orchestrations and arrangements by Justin Levine who also joined Timbers for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson).The stage musical features many of the iconic songs from the movie (the credits in the program are microscopic there are so many — the folks in charge of copyright clearance for this show deserve a raise). It  also includes recent hits released since the movie’s  premiere almost 20 years ago when it was nominated for eight Oscars, including best [icture.

Danny Burstein

What Are the Highlights?

Derek McLane’s sumptuous sets and Justin Townsend ‘s lighting design (perfection)  are ooh la la!  They, with Timbers, make this bigger than life. Performers pose and interact on stage in the house, and event overhead in the boxes where a colossal elephant and windmill expand the setting on either side.  Get there early. This show has the best pre-show action on a Broadway stage.

It’s posh and encompassing, much like the Moulin Rouge itself. which started life as a popular cabaret and dance hall, then became an iconic music hall in the Roaring Twenties, then a theater where numerous famous French and international artistes stepped out into the limelight.

Aaron Tveit’s voice is as smooth and delightful as always and it is so good to hear him singing on a Broadway stage again — it has been a while since Catch Me if You Can and Next to Normal.

Just as the pre-show is terrific, the curtain call is spectacular too. Don’t slip out early on this one.

What Are the Lowlights?

Olivo, who wowed in West Side Story,  is miscast in this role. The music doesn’t fit her voice and she and Tveit have no chemistry. Burstein seems out of place in his role as well, trying hard to sell the boisterous pimp of a theater manager.

Even more troubling is the question that keeps coming to mind throughout the two -hour, 35-plus minute show: Is this a comedy or drama? It often is hard to tell. Things are pretty serious until about 20 minutes in when some song choices bring laughter from the audience. This continues throughout because some of the lyrics are really hokey where they are sung. That makes us think it is on purpose. But other songs are dramatic and most of those have us wondering why that particular song was chosen when many others more suited come to mind. It’s confusing and takes us out of the story.

More information:

Moulin Rouge! The Musical plays at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 West 45th St., NYC. A block of tickets recently was released through July 2020.  https://moulinrougemusical.com/

Additional casting: Robyn Hurder as Nini. Ensemble: Amber Ardolino, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Olutayo Bosede, Kyle Brown, Sam J. Cahn, Max Clayton, Karli Dinardo, Aaron C. Finley, Paloma Garcia-Lee, Bahiyah Hibah, Ericka Hunter, Holly James, Evan Kinnane, Reed Luplau, Jeigh Madjus, Morgan Marcell, Caleb Marshall, Brandt Martinez, Jodi McFadden, Kaitlin Mesh, Kevyn Morrow, Fred Odgaard, Dylan Paul, Khori Michelle Petinaud and Benjamin Rivera.

Additional credits: Catherine Zuber (costumes); Peter Hylenski (sound), David Brian Brown (wig and hair design); Sarah Cimino (Make-up design),  Book by John Logan, Music by various artists, Choreography by Sonya Tayeh and Directed by Alex Timbers.
Photography: Matthew Murphy

A Star Is Born: The Concert *****

By: Paulanne Simmons

August 13, 2019: A Star is Born, which chronicles the ascent of a rising star and the descent of her mentor whose stardom is fading, has been made into a film four times, in 1937 as a drama starring Janet Gaynor and Frederick March, and three times as a musical: in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, and in 2018 with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Clearly, it’s a star vehicle.

By: Paulanne Simmons

August 13, 2019: A Star is Born, which chronicles the ascent of a rising star and the descent of her mentor whose stardom is fading, has been made into a film four times, in 1937 as a drama starring Janet Gaynor and Frederick March, and three times as a musical: in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, and in 2018 with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Clearly, it’s a star vehicle.

Although the script for the 1937 film is credited to William A. Wellman, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell, the drama’s plot is so similar to the 1932 RKO film What Price Hollywood? directed by George Cukor that when David. O. Selznick asked Cukor to direct again, he declined and, in fact, RKO executives did consider filing a plagiarism suit. But Cukor knew a good story when he saw one and went on to direct the 1954 version of the musical.

All these facts, and much more, were revealed to the fortunate audiences who saw A Star Is Born: The Concert at San Francisco’s Feinstein’s at the Nikko on August 9 and 10. For instance, Cary Grant and Stewart Granger both turned Cukor down, and Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra were briefly considered. Finally, James Mason, who, according to host Scott Coulter, “Had nothing else to do,” accepted the role. What’s more, Elvis Presley turned down the 1976 revival because his manager thought the part too closely resembled Presley’s life.

But juicy tidbits aside, the best part of the show was hearing all the glorious songs these shows engendered sung by a group of performers who are at the very top of their game.

The show began with John Boswell at the piano singing Bradley Cooper’s big number “Maybe It’s Time,” followed by Coulter, Carole J. Bufford and Kelli Rabke producing rich harmonies in “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”  (Lady Gaga sang the song as the title “A Sar Is Born” appears, in homage to Garland).

Bufford showed her great versatility singing the Edith Piaf classic “La Vie En Rose” from the 2018 A Star Is Born and  Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin’s torch song “The Man that God Away,” which Judy Garland helped turn into the eleventh greatest song in American cinema history, according to the American Film Institute.

Rabke displayed her formidable pipes in “I Believe in Love” from the 1976 A Star Is Born and (in a quick shift of perspective) “I’ll Never Love Again” from the 2018 version. And the ever impressive Coulter broke everyone’s heart with the ever hopeful “Always Remember Us” (2018) and “Evergreen” (1976).

With performers like these singing the songs, A Star Is Born will certainly never die.

A Star Is Born: The Concert will tour Florida this winter.

Feinstein’s At The Nikko
222 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (866) 663-1063 
August 9-10, 2019
www.feinsteinssf.com.

Authors Night

East Hampton’s Library 15th Annual Authors Night Benefit

August 11, 2019: On Saturday East Hampton’s Library hosted their 15th annual Authors Night to benefit the Library’s essential programs and services throughout the coming year. Press arrived around 4:30 and the authors started trickling in shorty after for a brief meet and greet with the press, before heading off to their assigned spots and their respective dinners afterwards. Honorary Founding Chair, Alec Baldwin, was one of the first to arrive along with Honorary Co-Chairs, Candace Bushnell, Douglas Brinkley, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Robert A. Caro, Rosanne Cash, and Bridget Moynahan.

East Hampton’s Library 15th Annual Authors Night Benefit

August 11, 2019: On Saturday East Hampton’s Library hosted their 15th annual Authors Night to benefit the Library’s essential programs and services throughout the coming year. Press arrived around 4:30 and the authors started trickling in shorty after for a brief meet and greet with the press, before heading off to their assigned spots and their respective dinners afterwards. Honorary Founding Chair, Alec Baldwin, was one of the first to arrive along with Honorary Co-Chairs, Candace Bushnell, Douglas Brinkley, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Robert A. Caro, Rosanne Cash, and Bridget Moynahan.

Additional Participating Authors Included: Cristina Alger, Amanda Benchley, Jamie Brenner, Douglas Brinkley, Candace Bushnell, Robert A. Caro, Rosanne Cash, Tom Clavin, Garrard Conley, Fiona Davis, Steven Gambrel, John Glynn, Mary Giuliani, Jane Green, Alice Harris, Kristy Woodson Harvey, Elizabeth Holtzman, David Itzkoff, Barbara Kavovit, Ingrid Fetell Lee, Chrishaunda Lee Perez,Thomas Maier, Bridget Moynahan, Kat Odell, Chris Pavone, Holly Peterson, Joanne Ramos, Dan Rizzie, Gretchen Rubin, Gianni Russo, Jill Santopolo, Dani Shapiro, Michael Shnayerson, Jill Twiss, Sybille van Kempen, Vicky Ward, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Beatriz Williams, Jessica Yellin, Richard Zoglin and more.

The evening began at 5 pm with the Authors Book Signing Reception under a tent, where roughtly 2,000 guests enjoyed delicious hors d’oeuvres, while mingling with the authors, buy their books and have them personally inscribed. Twenty-eight private dinner parties, each featuring one or more of the guest authors, followed the reception at 8 pm.

All proceeds benefit the East Hampton Library and are used for essential programs and services at the Library throughout the next year.

Photography: Barry Gordin

Dr. Ruth Westheimer
Chrishaunda Lee Perez
Ted Hartley
Monte Farber, Amy Zerner
Mikey Paraskevas
Vered, Patrick Christiano
David Nugent
Sylvia Steiner with Daughter

Vered
Bill Boggs, Lady Jane Rothchild
Johana and Daniel Ross, Vered
Bridget LeRpy, Amy Zerner, Monte Farber
Ellen Frank

Sea Wall/A Life ***, Broadway Bounty Hunter ****

By: David Sheward

August 12, 2019: One-person pieces are often the hardest type of theater to bring off. Live stage work depends on conflict and no matter how talented a performer is, convincingly creating character and/or principle clashes while flying solo is a prodigious task few can handle with dexterity. There’s also the heightened economic stakes of theatre these days. Audiences pay into the triple digits and if you’re greeted with a bare stage and only one name in the cast list, expectations are going to be that much higher. The current double bill Sea Wall/A Life now at the Hudson Theater in a limited Broadway run after a hit Off-Broadway engagement at the Public last season, does offer two single acts with top-shelf talent and relatable, heart-wrenching content.  

By: David Sheward

August 12, 2019: One-person pieces are often the hardest type of theater to bring off. Live stage work depends on conflict and no matter how talented a performer is, convincingly creating character and/or principle clashes while flying solo is a prodigious task few can handle with dexterity. There’s also the heightened economic stakes of theatre these days. Audiences pay into the triple digits and if you’re greeted with a bare stage and only one name in the cast list, expectations are going to be that much higher. The current double bill Sea Wall/A Life now at the Hudson Theater in a limited Broadway run after a hit Off-Broadway engagement at the Public last season, does offer two single acts with top-shelf talent and relatable, heart-wrenching content.  

Both pieces by separate authors deal with shattering turning points and afford magnificent vehicles for two daring stars. Sea Wall by Simon Stephens (Tony winner for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) is heartbreaking, but the lesser of the two pieces. Tom Sturridge is Alex, an adorably rumpled chap relating his idyllic experiences of love, his gruff but lovable father-in-law, and becoming a father to the most precious daughter in the world. (We get to know more about the wife’s father than the wife herself.) The little family vacations in the dad-in-law’s perfect seaside home in the South of France. Of course with all this sweetness and joy, something tragic has to go wrong. Sturridge admirably conveys Alex’s anguish, humor, and urgent questing to find meaning in his personal tragedy. At times, the actor is so convincingly in the moment, little details such as knocking over a water bottle or not completing a sentence have shattering impact. But the tale feels incomplete and underdeveloped. 

Tom Sturridge in Sea Wall/A Life. 

A Life by Nick Payne is much more complex and Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a brilliantly shaded performance as Abe, a man coping with the twin poles of existence—birth and death. Payne skillfully juxtaposes twin narratives of the terminal diagnosis of Abe’s father and the hilarious chaos resulting from the upcoming birth of his child. The piece opens with Abe fumbling in the dark for the light switch and apologizing to the audience for the inconvenience. Later, he frantically runs through the theater, using his I-phone for a flashlight, on an errand for his pregnant wife. Both sequences are funny,  touching, frenzied and messy—just like real life. Then they are quickly followed by moments of sorrow as Abe confronts the pain of losing his dad. One minute he is desperately calming his wife through labor pains and the next dealing with funeral arrangements. Payne feelingly and seamlessly chronicles these intertwined life voyages and Gyllenhaal intensely conveys their intense dichotomy. Carrie Cracknell directs both plays with a balanced hand, eliciting the maximum of pathos and guffaws. Guy Hoare’s lighting and Daniel Kluger’s sound design  create a palpable world on Laura Jellinek’s bare set.  

Annie Golden (center) and the company of “Broadway Bounty Hunter”

Meanwhile, Off-Broadway, the Main Stem comes in for a riotous ribbing in a clever, pocket-sized musical called Broadway Bounty Hunter. Combining equal parts Quentin Tarantino and Gerard Alessandrini of Forbidden Broadway fame, the clever book by Joe Iconis (Be More Chill), Lance Rubin and Jason Sweettooth Williams parodies schlocky tuners and violent exploitation flicks without mercy. Veteran Annie Golden (Hair, Assassins) stars as a theatrical version of herself, a stage performer of a certain age endlessly auditioning and rejected by snooty casting directors only interested in young blood. Incredibly, she is recruited by a mysterious ninja-like woman to join a squad of bounty hunters. What follows is a wacko ride from a South American brothel back to a New York opening night of a ditzy show called Young People: The Musical. The inventive score by Iconis melds 1970s funk with Broadway rhythms.

Like the best Carol Burnett Show sketches, Bounty Hunter incisively skewers show-biz conventions. In addition to the golden Golden, the cast also includes sexy Alan H. Green as a Shaft-like hero, Brad Oscar as a deliciously villainous drug pusher-pimp-theatrical producer, and Christina Sajous as a fierce prostitute. Directed and choreographed with economic skill by Jennifer Werner, the ensemble commits to this bizarre universe with utmost seriousness making it all the funnier. 

Sea Wall/A Life ***
Aug. 8—Sept. 29. Hudson Theater, 141 W. 44th St., NYC. Mon—Tue 8pm, Wed 2PM & 8pm, Thu—Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm. Running time: one hour and 45 mins. including intermission. $59—$315. (855) 801-5876. www.thehudsonbroadway.com.
Photography: Joan Marcus

Broadway Bounty Hunter ****
July 23—Aug. 18. Greenwich House Theater, 27 Barrow St., NYC. Tue—Thu 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm & 7:30pm. Running time: two hours and 20 mins. including intermission. $49—$129. www.ovationtix.com.
Photography: Mathew Murphy

Annie Golden (Center) in “Broadway Bounty Hunter

Moulin Rouge! The Musical ***1/2

By: Isa Goldberg

August 9, 2019: It was the time of Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas, and Puccini. Paris at the end of the 19th century comes to life through the juke box songs of today’s rock stars in this screen to stage adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! The Musical.

By: Isa Goldberg

August 9, 2019: It was the time of Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas, and Puccini. Paris at the end of the 19th century comes to life through the juke box songs of today’s rock stars in this screen to stage adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! The Musical.

With a book by John Logan, the romance that emerges is a recreation of the opera, La Boheme. Depicting the edgy lives of the Bohemians in Montmartre – the poverty, and disease that ruined them, and the romance that drove them beyond despair – with contemporary sensibility delivers impact. Justin Levin’s arrangements of popular songs by Cat Stevens, the Rolling Stones, and Madonna, to mention a few, are exquisite – vibrant, and lushly orchestrated. And the scenic elements (Derek McLane), like those in Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, engulf the audience in the ongoing life of the famed music hall. 

Jacqueline B. Arnold, Robyn Hurder, Holly James and Jeigh Madjus in Moulin Rouge! The Musical

As directed by Alex Timbers, (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), the show is a total immersion, an environmental experience in which the life on the stage of the Moulin Rouge becomes a real time event. As metatheater, the narrative involves creating a new musical for the famed music hall, now falling into financial distress. 

The choreography, inspired by the frolic of the music hall, and social dances like the Can Can, is far from the gymnastic vigor of many a juke box musical. Two-time Emmy nominee for So You Think You Can Dance, Sonya Tayeh brings her sense of popular steps and ball room dancing. Still, it’s her foundation in the modern dance of Martha Graham that distinguishes her style of movement.

Clearly, the show is all about heightened production values. There is even pre-show entertainment to allure followers of Camp. Justin Townsend’s lighting is self-consciously theatrical. And Catherine Zuber’s costumes, from the show girls’ wardrobes, to the period costumes worn mostly by men, are colorful, as well as credible. 

The production is well cast. As Satine, the star of the music hall, Karen Olivo makes some quick wardrobe changes from show girl to sophisticated Parisian lady, but her heart does not transform so quickly. Like Mimi in La Boheme, she suffers a tragic fate. Torn between two lovers – Christian (Aaron Tveit) the poor starving composer, and The Duke (Tam Mutu), she follows her Bohemian heart.

Karen Olivo and Aaron Tveit in “Moulin Rouge! The Musical”

Olivo gives a standout performance, and a soulful one. She sings beautifully, as does Tveit. Portraying the Duke as an icon of capitalist evil, Tam Mutu sustains a threatening presence. 

As the MC of the Moulin Rouge, and the actor who plays Satine’s love interest in the musical within the musical, Danny Burstein is a rock star. It’s a much edgier role than he’s played on Broadway previously. Buoyant, bouncing around the stage like a daredevil and a diva, he outspokenly commands this stage. 

In achieving its raison d’etre, Moulin Rouge! The Musical delivers heightened entertainment. It’s thrilling.

Moulin Rouge ***1/2
Al Hirschfeld Theatre
302 W. 45th Street,NYC.
Tue-Wed 7pm, Thu 2pm & 8pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 7pm.
Running time: two hours and 45 mins. including intermission. $268—$521. (800) 745-3000. www.ticketmaster.com.
Photography: Mathew Murphy

Danny Burstein

Little Gem ****

By: Isa Goldberg

August 8, 2019: It may be changing, but there aren’t a lot of roles for women actors of a certain age. At least, not interesting ones. Watching Marsha Mason in her portrayal of a 62-year-old wife and mother in Little Gem, however, is a wakeup call. Elaine Murphy’s three-person play makes its American premiere at The Irish Repertory Theatre.

By: Isa Goldberg

August 8, 2019: It may be changing, but there aren’t a lot of roles for women actors of a certain age. At least, not interesting ones. Watching Marsha Mason in her portrayal of a 62-year-old wife and mother in Little Gem, however, is a wakeup call. Elaine Murphy’s three-person play makes its American premiere at The Irish Repertory Theatre.

Like Lynn Nottage, who interviewed women in the civil war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo to gather background for her Pulitzer Prize winning Ruined, Murphy drew on stories she heard from women she worked with in a women’s health clinic in Dublin. As explained in the program notes, elevating those accounts to theatrical representation was a consciously political act.

Written as a series of monologues, the characters’ individual stories eventually intertwine, and we realize that the women represent three generations of one family. While it’s easy to see how such a construct could be deadly on stage, Murphy, and her gifted cast, are such deft story tellers that it’s transfixing to watch. Together they weave a tapestry about women’s work – giving birth, parenting, and the emotions that flood these quotidian acts of life. 

Marsha Mason, Lauren O’Leary and Brenda Meaney in a scene from Elaine Murphy’s “Little Gem”

The structure of the play, with its interlocking stories brings to mind Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, last performed Off Broadway in 2003.  Similarly, Bennett’s play, a series of six monologues is tied together by recurring themes of death, guilt, and loneliness. 

When Little Gem premiered in Ireland in 2008, abortion was not legal there, except under specific circumstances.  And while that has since changed, the anachronisms surrounding out of wedlock pregnancy makes the story that much more cathartic. 

Lauren O’Leary

As the youngest, the granddaughter to Mason’s Kay, Amber (Lauren O’Leary) is an outgoing young woman, really an everyday kind of person, who’s mostly interested in boyfriends. O’Leary has the uncanny skill of describing banal events so truthfully that she captures us in her consciousness. She’s also excitable, eager to discover life, and open to opportunity. 

Portraying her mother, Lorraine, Brenda Meaney is an understated presence. She sublimates her feelings for the benefit of her daughter and mother, blossoming finally at the end of this 90-minute dramedy.   

Brenda Meaney (standing) with Lauren O’Leary (on sofa)

As her mother, Kay, Marsha Mason makes swift turns from comedy to tragedy. She’s actually brilliant. And it is rewarding to see a movie idol, later in her career, honing her skills so magically in our presence. 

Director Marc Atkinson Borrull demonstrates unusual sensitivity in helming this 3-person cast.  Most importantly, their collective story, regardless of now simple and humbling it is, never seems trite or sentimental. With minimal design elements there is really nothing up there beyond these three strong women. 

Little Gem ****
Irish Repertory Theatre 
1
32 West 22nd Street) on the Francis J. Greenburger Mainstage through September 1, 2019
Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Thursdays at 7:00 p.m.; Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sundays at 3:00 p.m.
For Tickets Irish Rep’s box office at 212-727-2737 or online at www.irishrep.org.
Running time is 100 minutes without intermission.
Photo: Carol Rosegg

Brenda Meaney, Marsha Mason and Lauren O’Leary 

Passageways ****

In a childlike, whimsical way, Amy Oestreicher tells her story about suffering from PTSD. 

By: Isa Goldberg

But it’s the whimsy that she brings to her trauma, and which sustained her through it that distinguishes Oestreicher’s song cycle. It makes her one-woman, 90-minute show, “Passageways,” at Here Arts Center both harrowing, and uplifting. 

In a childlike, whimsical way, Amy Oestreicher tells her story about suffering from PTSD. 

By: Isa Goldberg

But it’s the whimsy that she brings to her trauma, and which sustained her through it that distinguishes Oestreicher’s song cycle. It makes her one-woman, 90-minute show, “Passageways,” at Here Arts Center both harrowing, and uplifting. 

Sexually abused by her mentor, her voice teacher at a young age, she fiercely protected the person who abused her. Shortly after revealing the relationship to her mother, however, Oestreicher’s stomach exploded. Doctors told her that she had no digestive system. After surgery she was told she would never eat or drink. 

It’s such a shocking story as to seem implausible. Like many accounts told by rape victims, Oestreicher’s experience is so horrific, we want to think it’s not true. Watching and listening to her, we know it is. Twenty seven surgeries later, she remains tiny, and fragile, scarcely a wisp of a woman. 

As a performer, Oestreicher is a lion-hearted songstress. Often she sounds like an adult channeling her inner child. At other times she sounds cracked, like her spirit when she’s recovering from surgery. It’s not that her voice is melliflous or necessarily pretty. But it is rich in expressing a sense of humanity that is uniquely her own. 

Abstract, and highly descriptive lyrics are her primary narrative tool. And the music, which she also composed, is lovely.  Bob Goldstone’s musical arrangements are expert, and he performs them at the piano beautifully. The two have a genuine mystical connection. 

Often Oestreicher describes the bounty of nature. That is where her imagination is rooted. From her childhood friend, Mepes – the Maple tree who she continues to visit in adulthood, nature feels secure to her. That it will be there when the surgeries are over gives her confidence. In nature, she finds her roots, and her identity. 

In “Keep Moving so Your Heart Stands Still, an extraordinary song with echoes of Sondheim’s “Into The Woods,” she sings, “Maple trees in June are melting in the heat. Notice what you notice/slivers in the street. Empty routes to wander/hollow steps to fill.”

Similarly, her paintings, projected against the back wall, burst with color, anthropomorphic scenes from nature, humorous sketches, and bold abstract images. The sheer volume of them moving quickly from one to the next is staggering. As Oestreicher explains, she discovered painting by accident when she was in the hospital. One of her first paintings was a happy tree that is crying. 

Sensitively directed by Shellen Lubin, “Passageways” is an immersive theater piece that speaks to the power of hope, gratitude, and creativity. Ms. Oestreicher is a discovery audiences will be thrilled to make.

Passageways ****
Here
145 6th Avenue, NY 10013
For Tickets 212 647-0202
Opening Night August 6, 2019
Final Performance August 8 2019
Running Time 1 hour and 15 minutes
Photography: Joseph Gray