Matilda

Matilda Returns with Multi-Cultural Cast and Big Surprises

By: Ellis Nassour

December 5, 2019: Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly’s West End and Broadway hit musical Matilda returns for a limited engagement at A.R.T. New York Theatres [503 West 53rd Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues], following more than 1,500 performances [March 2013-January 2017] for a revival with a multi-cultural cast of adults and children and more than a few surprise twists. There are five weekend performances Friday-Sunday, December 7 – 22.

Matilda Returns with Multi-Cultural Cast and Big Surprises

By: Ellis Nassour

December 5, 2019: Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly’s West End and Broadway hit musical Matilda returns for a limited engagement at A.R.T. New York Theatres [503 West 53rd Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues], following more than 1,500 performances [March 2013-January 2017] for a revival with a multi-cultural cast of adults and children and more than a few surprise twists. There are five weekend performances Friday-Sunday, December 7 – 22.

Todd Etelson, founder of ATNY acting school, is co-producing with actor Carl Anthony Tramon (a Peter Pan revival; Fame, the Musical), who’s making his Off-Broadway directing debut. “Matilda is one of every kid’s favorite stories and was a huge family hit on Broadway,” states Tramon, an investor in the original Broadway production, “but our revival brings it to life with some inventive new turns and cool story angles. We’ve been fortunate to be joined by not only Broadway veterans, but also some of the most astonishing young talent in the country.” 

Tramon notes the revival “makes the concept of time more fluid, thus increasing the foundation of Matilda’s supernatural abilities. When the show was on Broadway, we heard numerous theatergoers wonder why the production didn’t bring her powers to light sooner, instead of waiting half way into Act Two. Even there, they were brief, almost as if it was background information totally unconnected to Matilda. But she drives everything, not just in the theatrical sense, but more importantly, in the journey of her life. She manipulates her entire environment – much to the incomprehension of those around her – until she chooses to let them in on it, mostly to save the life of her teacher, Miss Honey.”

He did a Matilda workshop in July as an educational showcase and “came away with the bug to mount it with the entire acting company.” It’s been in the works for three six months. With the double casting and alternates, the cast, which ranges from eight to 35, totals 46. 

Tramon said the month-long auditions yielded two amazing spitfire dynamos for the title role. “It was impossible to choose one over the other, so we have rotating Matildas.” They are eight-year-olds Natalia Artigas, who becomes the first Hispanic Matilda [she’s a native of Mexico] and Clara Stack.

Adding to the multi-cultural cast, the role of the menacing Miss Truncbull is double-cast, with African-American actress Zakiya Baptiste (Violet in the national tour of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Gisela Ribeiro.Mary Claire Allen and Shea Rodriguez share the role ofMiss Honey. 

Etelson stated that one of Broadway’s original Matildas, Milly Shapiro, who, with her sister co-stars shared a 2013 Tony Award for Excellence in the Theater, was integral to the production in giving her time and talents.

Regarding taking “a fresh new look” at the musical, Tramon explained that “not a line or lyric has been changed. I made my adjustments with strategic staging, pauses, and focus. to create a more powerful, honest, and audience-friendly treatment. Matilda has a few lines that are so deeply tucked away in the script amid monologues and lyrics that no one ever thinks anything of them. But they’re so important as they add nuance.”

He points to an offhanded comment of Matilda’s in Act Onethat he aldo drew inspiration from: “The one thing that no one is master of is time.” Other new thinking came from the song “Quiet,” which Matilda sings late in Act Two. It goes:   
“If we are travelling at almost the speed of light,
And we’re holding a light,
That light would still travel away from us
At the full speed of light … But this noise becomes anger,And the anger is light.”


“I am a fan of physics,” states Tramon, “and these references are to time. They were intense clues in Roald Dahl’s novel that no one picked up on.”

Robert Taylor Jr. (SpongeBob Squarepants; TV’s So You Think You Can Dance) is choreographer. The production uses Christopher Nightingale’s original Tony-nominated orchestrations via licensed audio tracks from Musical Theatre International.

Matilda, the Musical, a 2013 Tony nominee for Best Musical, was first produced in 2010 by London’s Royal Shakespeare Company and on Broadway by the Dodgers.  Minchin’s score, Kelly’s book, anddirector Matthew Warchus (current A Christmas Carol; Groundhog Day)were also nominated. The stage adaptation was preceded by a 1996 film directed by Danny DeVito. 

Tickets for this first Matilda revival are $15 – $20 and available at www.tututix.com/ATNY. Reserved and front-of-stage “Pillow” seating for patrons 12 and younger are available. 

The Crucible ****

By: Bernard Carragher

December 3, 2019: Bedlam’s production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible directed by Eric Tucker at the Connelly Theatre in the East Village is a generally strong and stimulating rendering of Mr. Miller’s stunning drama of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. There is something to admire in its clean, honest excitement and it is so very different from Ivo van Hove’s opaque controversial Broadway revival back in 2016. The Crucible was originally titled Those Familiar Spirits, a vivid reverberation of the McCarthy 1950’s anti-Commmunist doings that stimulated Mr. Miller turning it into a theatrical witch hunt.

By: Bernard Carragher

December 3, 2019: Bedlam’s production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible directed by Eric Tucker at the Connelly Theatre in the East Village is a generally strong and stimulating rendering of Mr. Miller’s stunning drama of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. There is something to admire in its clean, honest excitement and it is so very different from Ivo van Hove’s opaque controversial Broadway revival back in 2016. The Crucible was originally titled Those Familiar Spirits, a vivid reverberation of the McCarthy 1950’s anti-Commmunist doings that stimulated Mr. Miller turning it into a theatrical witch hunt.

Staged in spare settings by John McDermott with appropriate colonial-era garb by Charlotte Palmer-Lane costumes and dazzling lighting that bounces all over the playhouse arena is by Les Dickert. Mr.Tucker seats most of the audience on the Connelly stage and surrounds the playing area below with wooden chairs. All this is shrewdly planned by Mr. Tucker, who has helmed classics like Shaw’s St. Joan and Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and always brings a unique vision to each production. Here, he has made Miller’s power and glory manifest into action. It is acted with intelligence that flowers ultimately into a kind of frenzy and fury which Miller had in mind.

In Miller’s drama, which is fundamentally factual, the madness begins in the bedroom of the frightened Preacher Parris (Randolph Curtis Rand) when his bewildered Barbados servant girl, Tituba (Shirine Babb), yields to the frenzied pushing of others and sets off the terrible witch hunt into a full cry.

Then, John Proctor (Ryan Quinn), as the good, solid, skeptical farmer confronts his coolly withdrawn wife Elizabeth (Susannah Millonzi) in their home and tries to to cope with her suspicions and his own conscience. When his wife is accused Proctor suddenly becomes an aroused man of understanding and passion. This basic emotional element these people of Salem feel is stirring and brings this Crucible to moments of high and mighty fervor in the courtroom and in the tremendous jail scene which closes the play.

Reverend Hale’s (Director Mr.Tucker doubles as a Bedlam ensemble player) performance as the minister from Beverly is a work of acting craftsmanship. He has moments of sharp intensity, as for instance, when Hale begins to examine John Proctor on his credentials as a Christian. He makes him recite the Ten Commandments, and he can only remembers nine. His wife Elizabeth (Susannah Millonzi) fills in the lacking missing commandment..

With the admirable cast, some who play two or three roles, Mr. Tucker makes sure every line in Miller’s opus is weighted with dramatic meaning and significance. This is true of Paul Lazar as the Deputy Governor Danforth who presides over the Salem trials. Mr. Lazar captures the terrible fanaticism, the Godliness perverted to evil, which is central to the trials. More than the others, he knows and shows how men like Danforth believed they were serving God and driving the devil out of Salem. The play continues at the Connelly Theater through December 29, 2019.

Photography: Ashley Garrett

The Connelly Theater
220 E 4th St
New York, NY. 10009
For Tickets 866 – 811 – 4111

The Inheritance ***, The Young Man from Atlanta ***

By: David Sheward

December 2, 2019: Every generation or so since the late 1960s, a new play encapsulating the gay experience opens in New York. The Boys in the Band, Torch Song Trilogy, Love! Valour! Compassion!, and Angels in America have defined their respective gay moment and how the general society is reacting to it. Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance isthe latest theatrical chronicle of the American gay journey. The massive work checks all the right boxes for a certifiable hit. A smash production in London complete with Olivier Awards, glowing reviews and snob appeal, an epic two-evening running time of over seven hours, a fluid, funny, clever production from director Stephen Daldry, and moving, intense performances. The play itself, inspired by Howard’s End, E.M. Forster’s classic novel of connection and redemption, is a mixed bag of brilliant moments of pathos, insight and observation, as well as extraneous, melodramatic and forced scenes. 

By: David Sheward

December 2, 2019: Every generation or so since the late 1960s, a new play encapsulating the gay experience opens in New York. The Boys in the Band, Torch Song Trilogy, Love! Valour! Compassion!, and Angels in America have defined their respective gay moment and how the general society is reacting to it. Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance isthe latest theatrical chronicle of the American gay journey. The massive work checks all the right boxes for a certifiable hit. A smash production in London complete with Olivier Awards, glowing reviews and snob appeal, an epic two-evening running time of over seven hours, a fluid, funny, clever production from director Stephen Daldry, and moving, intense performances. The play itself, inspired by Howard’s End, E.M. Forster’s classic novel of connection and redemption, is a mixed bag of brilliant moments of pathos, insight and observation, as well as extraneous, melodramatic and forced scenes. 

Kyle Soller, Paul Hilton and John Benjamin Hickey “The Inheritance

Lopez does not slavishly adhere to Forster’s original text of Edwardian class conflict in pre-World War I England. He used the plot template of the liberal Schlegel sisters and their interactions with the conservative, ultra-rich Wilcox clan to explore where we are as a culture and how gay men have adjusted to the aftermath of the AIDS crisis, marriage equality, and the resurgence of a homophobic political agenda from the right. There is much to savor here, but there are plenty of bumps and rough stretches along the way. 

The play begins simply, then Lopez and Daldry skillfully develop and build the perspective into a deeper, more complex view. The casually-dressed cast is seated around Bob Crowley’s bare set scribbling in notebooks as if in a creative writing class. A figure dressed in 1910s style (Crowley also designed the subtly appropriate costumes) emerges. This is Forster himself (played with elegant understatement by Paul Hilton) offering his advice to the next generation of gays on constructing their narrative. The actors address the audience, finishing each other’s sentences, and tell the fraught story of empathetic political activist Eric (wonderfully sincere Kyle Soller) and self-destructive writer Toby (overacting Andrew Burnap), a couple whose connection parallels the battle between self-love and self-deprecation many gay men endure. There are a plethora of subplots, but the central thread concerns the duo’s relationship to the wealthy, covetous Henry Wilcox (solid and shaded John Benjamin Hickey) and his more compassionate partner Walter Poole (also played by Hilton). Also figuring prominently are narcissistic actor Adam and pathetic hustler Leo, both enacted with precision and variety by Samuel H. Levine. 

 John Benjamin Hickey, Kyle Soller, Arturo Luis Soria, Darryl Gene Daughtry Jr., Dylan Frederick and Kyle Harris “The Inheritance

For every emotionally impactful punch, such as the devastating Part One finale where Eric encounters the ghosts of AIDS victims in a parade of stolen lives, there is a superfluous segment such as an endless debate on the values of camp. Another example is the late-Part-Two cameo of the only female character, Margaret. While her monologue relating the death of her son from AIDS is shatteringly written and sensitively played by the magnificent Lois Smith, it does not convey any new information or insight, and the character feels tossed in out of left field. None of the minor characters are fully developed and Toby’s long spiral downward after achieving success with a supposedly autobiographical novel and play is melodramatic and over-the-top, particularly as played by the hyperventilating Burnap. Yet, Inheritance’s strengths outweigh its shortcomings and Daldry’s well-paced, versatile staging makes the marathon length fly by.

Kristine Nielsen and Aidan Quinn “The Young Man From Atlanta”

Horton Foote’s The Young Man from Atlanta, now playing Off-Broadway at the Signature Theater, also examines gay characters, though only peripherally and through a totally different lens. Premiered in 1995 at Signature and revived on Broadway in 1997, this Pulitzer Prize winner reflects the attitude towards gays of the era of its setting (Houston in 1950). The queer figures are not even on stage, one of them has committed suicide, and they are only important in how they affect straight people.

The main struggle is that of bragging businessman Will Kidder (bluff but vulnerable Aidan Quinn) and his flighty, sweet wife Lily Dale (simultaneously tragic and comic Kristin Nielsen). Several months after the mysterious death of their only son Bill, they are confronted by the unwelcome visit of the title character, Randy, Bill’s much younger roommate. Will does not want to see Randy, but Lily Dale craves his company as a reminder of her child. While the word gay, queer or homosexual is never even spoken and Randy remains offstage, it’s clear he and Bill were in a relationship and neither parent can face the truth. This unmentionable secret is but one of many problems confronting the Kidders. Will loses his job just as they move into an expensive new home (Jeff Cowie created the period-perfect suburban 1950s set) along with Lily Dale’s stepfather Pete (subtly tender Stephen Payne).

 Aidan Quinn, Kristine Nielsen, Stephen Payne The Young Man from Atlanta

The play has some clunky structural problems. The first scene is all exposition with Will pouring his life story out to a young co-worker (Dan Bittner). Later, Pete’s great-nephew Carson (Jon Orsini) who just happened to be living in the same Atlanta boarding house as Bill and Randy, conveniently comes to call. But like The Inheritance,the production overcomes the script’s flaws. Young Man honestly examines American middle-class morays of equating wealth with happiness and unflinchingly rips away the prosperous facade of the couple’s elegant existence as they must confront economic and emotional reality. Michael Wilson, who has helmed many previous Foote plays including the epic Orphans’ Home Cycle, delivers a heartfelt, straightforward staging with an impeccable and moving cast capturing the quiet desperation of Foote’s lonely family, detached from their gay son.  

The Inheritance ***
Nov. 17—March 1. Barrymore Theatre, 243 W. 47th St., NYC. Part One: Wed 1pm, Thu—Fri 7pm, Sat—Sun 1pm. Part Two: Wed 7pm, Sat—Sun 7pm. Running time: Part One: three hours and 15 mins. including two intermissions, Part Two: three hours and 10 mins. including one intermission and a brief pause. $39—$199 per part. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com. 
Photography: Marc Brenner

Lois Smith and Samuel H. Levine “The Inheritance”
Samuel H. Levine, Kyle Soller, Kyle Harris, Arturo Luis Soria, Jordan Barbour and Darryl Gene Daughtry Jr. (kneeling) “The Inheritance

The Young Man from Atlanta ***
Nov. 24—Dec. 15. Signature Theatre at the Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St., NYC. Tue—Fri 7:30pm, Wed 2pm & 7:30pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm. Running time: two hours and five mins. including intermission. $35—$55. (212) 244-7529. www.signaturetheatre.org.
Photography: Monique Carboni

Kristine Nielsen and Aidan Quinn “The Young Man From Atlanta”

A Christmas Carol ***, David Byrne’s American Utopia ****

By: David Sheward

November 26, 2019: The holiday cheer begins at the Lyceum Theater before the latest incarnation of Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol even commences. The holiday outing arrives on Broadway after a hit run in London. Lighting designer Hugh Vanstone has created a warm 19th century glow aided by lit candles throughout the theater. Patrons are greeted by cheerful staffers dressed in period costumes offering free cookies and clementine oranges. Cast members and musicians stroll onstage and play traditional yuletide favorites. The atmosphere is comfy and cosy for the beloved tale of the cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge and his redemption by a gaggle of benevolent ghosts, told with new shadings and vigor. 

By: David Sheward

November 26, 2019: The holiday cheer begins at the Lyceum Theater before the latest incarnation of Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol even commences. The holiday outing arrives on Broadway after a hit run in London. Lighting designer Hugh Vanstone has created a warm 19th century glow aided by lit candles throughout the theater. Patrons are greeted by cheerful staffers dressed in period costumes offering free cookies and clementine oranges. Cast members and musicians stroll onstage and play traditional yuletide favorites. The atmosphere is comfy and cosy for the beloved tale of the cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge and his redemption by a gaggle of benevolent ghosts, told with new shadings and vigor. 

Cambell Scott in “A Christmas Carol”

There have been so many iterations of this tale it’s difficult to imagine a new way of telling it. From the gold standard of the 1951 Alastair Sim film version to multiple musical variations to countess cartoons and parodies, Scrooge is part of our collective Christmas consciousness. Director Matthew Warchus and playwright Jack Thorne, who won a Tony for updating another legendary British icon in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, meet the challenge by adding to the misanthropic miser’s complexity and building a frighteningly justifiable case for his tight-fistedness. 

Sounding like a Trumpian capitalist, Campbell Scott as Scrooge mounts a steely resistance against the pleas of Jacob Marley and his fellow spirits for the old skinflint to put humanity before money. Scott, whose father George C. also played the role in a memorable 1984 made-for-TV movie, is a much younger and more vital Scrooge than usual. He’s not a caricature of inhumanity, but a twisted soul battered down by the economic brutalities of his age. His metamorphosis into a cheery old soul is all the more miraculous for his convincing and subtle portrayal of the character’s grinchiness. Thorne also adds details to the character’s oppressive family life and blighted romance with the strong-willed, idealistic Belle (fierce and fine Sarah Hunt). There is much symbolism and the specter of death is ever present. Scrooge’s first employer Fezziwig (an effervescent Evan Harrington) is now an undertaker. However, the script hits the nail on the head a bit too much and could use some cutting. The intermission is unnecessary and some of Thorne’s additions feel extraneous.

But Warchus’ quick paced, jovial staging counters the weightiness of Thorne’s expansion on Dickens’s taut original with a ljght-hearted holiday sprit and spooky effects, augmented by Rob Howell’s versatile set and Vanstone’s spectral lighting. There’s a great deal of audience involvement which adds to the running time but not to the entertainment. One sequence involving the theatergoers passing food onto the stage for the Crachit family feast goes on too long. 

The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future are not their traditional templates of holiday cut-outs but variations on Scrooge’s dead little sister Fan, all similarly costumed by Howell. Each pushes a baby carriage which eventually evolves into a coffin. 

Andrea Martin in “A Christmas Carol”

As Christmas Past, Andrea Martin displays her customary dry wit (she hilariously goes “Boo” when introducing herself as a ghost). LaChanze make Christmas Present a stern West Indian taskmaster who will put up with none of Scrooge’s nonsense. Rachel Prather transforms the customarily horrifying Christmas Future into a benevolent promise of hope. Chris Hoch provides the appropriate gnarled nastiness as Scrooge’s unloving father and a truly frightening reminder of what Scrooge could become as Marley’s Ghost (tethered to the underworld by an endless chain in Howell’s otherworldly costume). This is altogether a wondrous Carol celebrating the spirit of the season and the magic of theater.

David Byrne (center) and company in “American Utopia'”

David Byrne’s American Utopia is another celebratory theater event unusual for Broadway. The former front man for the Talking Heads and a genius-level solo artist, Byrne presents an intoxicating hybrid of rock concert, dance program and howlingly fun party. Audience members at the performance attended had no hesitation to stand and dance in the aisles to “The Road to Nowhere,” “Once in a Lifetime,” and the ultimate shake-your-booty inducer “Burning Down the House.” 

Byrne, in remarkable shape and voice at 67, is accompanied by a stageful of international instrumentalists, mostly percussionists, and two charismatic backup singers (Daniel Freedman and Tenda Yi Kuumba), creating finger-popping, infectious music. All are barefoot and dressed in identical grey suits. Choreographer Annie-B Parson’s stylized movement and patterns of staging lend variety and eccentricity to each number. Alex Timbers who collaborated with Byrne on the immersive musical Here Lies Love is listed as Production Consultant, so it’s difficult to judge where his contribution begins and Parson’s ends. The storyless concert is stitched together by Byrne’s commentary and his desire for connection between the ordinary world and the vibrant spirit which binds us together. It’s a fun evening, even if you’re not a Byrne-head.

David Byrne, second from left, and company in “American Utopia”

A Christmas Carol: Nov. 20—Jan. 5. Lyceum Theater, 149 W. 45th St., NYC. Tue 7pm, Wed 2pm & 7pm, Thu 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 3pm. Running time: two hours including intermission. $69—$299. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com.
Photography: Joan Marcus

Sarah Hunt and Campbell Scott in “A Christmas Carol
Andrea Martin, LaChanze, Campbell Scott and Rachel Prather in “A Christmas Carol

David Byrne’s American Utopia: Oct. 20—Feb. 16. Hudson Theater, 141 W. 44th St., NYC. Wed.—Fri. 8pm, Sat 5:30pm & 9pm, Sun 3pm. Running time: one hour and 40 mins. with no intermission. $69—$499. (855) 801-5876. www.thehudsononbroadway.com
Photography: Mathew Murphy

David Byrne, far right, and company in “American Utopia
David Byrne, second from left, and company in “American Utopia

Tony Winner Robert Horn

Robert Horn, Tootsie Best Book Tony Winner, chats with Patrick Christiano just before his triumph at the Tony Awards. 

November 23, 2019:  Now that Tootsie has posted a closing notice, I thought it might be nice to revisit a chat I had with Robert Horn at The Lambs just before he took home the Tony Award. 

Robert Horn, Tootsie Best Book Tony Winner, chats with Patrick Christiano just before his triumph at the Tony Awards. 

November 23, 2019:  Now that Tootsie has posted a closing notice, I thought it might be nice to revisit a chat I had with Robert Horn at The Lambs just before he took home the Tony Award. 

Tootsie, which also earned a Tony award for lead actor Santino Fontana will close on January 5, 2020. The musical, a darling with the critics, just didn’t t catch fire with audiences and will close after 293 regular performances at the Marquis Theater.  Based on the 1982 film starring Dustin Hoffman, the Broadway musical Tootsie directed by Scott Ellis, earned 11 Tony nominations winning only for best book and lead actor.  The musical will continue with a national tour launching in Buffalo, New York, October 2020. Additional productions are planned for London, Australia, New Zealand, and more, along with a Japanese-language production for Tokyo. A Broadway cast recording was released earlier this year.

LongHouse Holiday Gathering

Guests toasted the season and rediscovered the gardens at this special time of the year.

November 30, 2019: LONGHOUSE, 133 Hands Creek Road in East Hampton, hosted a festive gathering with holiday music. Guests toasted the holiday season with hot apple cider rum toddy’s, Kaluah & coffee, and hot chocolate while touring the gardens and mingling with neighbors. Many people left personal wishes on the Yoko Ono Wish Tree, near the entrance to LONGHOUSE, when they departed.


Guests toasted the season and rediscovered the gardens at this special time of the year.

November 30, 2019: LONGHOUSE, 133 Hands Creek Road in East Hampton, hosted a festive gathering with holiday music. Guests toasted the holiday season with hot apple cider rum toddy’s, Kaluah & coffee, and hot chocolate while touring the gardens and mingling with neighbors. Many people left personal wishes on the Yoko Ono Wish Tree, near the entrance to LONGHOUSE, when they departed.

Photography: Barry Gordin

Bruce T. Sloane, Dianne Benson, President of LongHouse Reserve
Rebecca Chapman, Ed.D, Senior Philanthropy Advisor
Jeryl Goldberg, Lyssa Goldberg,
Matko Tomicic, Executive Director LongHouse Reserve, Sabine Dietrich-Hindra, Mathew Hindra
Dianne Benson, President of LongHouse Reserve
Bruce T. Sloane, Peter Olsen
Michael & Jeryl Goldberg, Lyssa Goldberg, Rich T. Lavin

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Einstein’s Dreams ***1/2

By: Paulanne Simmons

November 20, 2019: Alan Lightman is an American physicist who has served on the faculties of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research has focused on relativistic gravitation theory. He’s even studied what causes that mystery of mystery, the black hole.

By: Paulanne Simmons

November 20, 2019: Alan Lightman is an American physicist who has served on the faculties of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research has focused on relativistic gravitation theory. He’s even studied what causes that mystery of mystery, the black hole.

Alan Lightman

But for many, Lightman is best known as the author of Einstein’s Dreams. The 1992 novel explores our relationship to time in light of Einstein’s theory of relativity. It was adapted for the stage by David Gardiner and Ralf Remshardt  in the 1990s and about a decade later became a musical with book and lyrics by Joanne Sydney Lessner and music and lyrics by Joshua Rosenblum. This season Prospect Theater Company has brought the show to 59e59 Theaters. The show is directed by the company’s producing artistic director, Cara Reichel, and features Zal Owen as the conflicted physicist.

Zal Owen

Most strikingly, the show boasts a 6-piece orchestra (music director Milton Granger on Piano; Bruce Doctor on drums/percussion, Kiku on violin, Jonathan Levine on woodwinds, Eleanor Norton on Cello and Saadi Zain on bass) playing Lessner and Rosenblum’s gorgeous score from the back of the stage. Above the orchestra a balcony leads to a staircase, and in front of the balcony, there’s a large, round screen that’s sometimes a clock and sometimes a surface for projections. Scenic designer Isabel Le is both ambitious and creative.

In the patent office in Berne, Switzerland, Einstein has two companions – in his daily life, fellow physicist Michele Besso (Brennan Caldwell), and in his dreams, the alluring Josette (Alexandra Silber). No longer in love with his wife, Mileva (Tess Primack), Einstein is captivated by this mysterious woman he has created for himself. Einstein’s dreams are also populated by other people in the office: his boss, Peter Klausen (Michael McCoy); the new employee, Johannes Schmetterling (Vishal Vaidya); Klausen’s longtime secretary, Hilda (Stacia Fernandez); and Marta (Tess Primack), the typist, as well as Mileva and Besso and his wife, Anna (Lisa Helmi Johanson).

Zal Owen, Vishal Vaidya, Michael McCoy 

When he’s not dreaming Einstein works furiously on his new theory. He doesn’t even go home to sleep. Besso warns Einstein that he’s working too hard and not taking credit for his accomplishments. Klausen, just wants the work done and is unaware of Einstein’s special talents.

Time works differently in each of Einstein’s dreams. It ends (“The End of Time”). It’s unpredictable (“The Great-Greats,” “Fitful Glimpses”). It goes slower as we move faster (“High-Speed Motion”). In his waking moments, Einstein realizes most of his theories will not be understood (“The Relativity Rag”).

The score is inventive and representative of European music at the turn of the century (operetta, music hall, American jazz).  The lyrics are clever (“He showed why we wanta/Define light as quanta”).

Einstein’s Dreams is not your typical musical. It’s not for the intellectually challenged. At time (perhaps because we’re sitting still) it moves slowly. There’s plenty of emotion, but it’s mostly about ideas. However, people with curious minds will find this show light years ahead of the pack.

Einstein’s Dreams runs through Dec. 15 at 59e59 Theaters, 59 East 59 Street between Park and Madison, www.59e59.org.
Production Photos: Richard Termine

Big Apple Circus

Big Apple Circus: Explodes with WOW! Acts and a Latino Beat

By: Ellis Nassour

November 20, 2019: The Big Apple Circus is back with its blue and white Big Top planted in Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center, playing through February 2. This 42nd edition is also one of the best ever, crammed with acts that will elicit howls, WOWs, and gasps – and one act that will not only have you on the edge of your seat but also gasping in disbelief.  

Big Apple Circus: Explodes with WOW! Acts and a Latino Beat

By: Ellis Nassour

November 20, 2019: The Big Apple Circus is back with its blue and white Big Top planted in Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center, playing through February 2. This 42nd edition is also one of the best ever, crammed with acts that will elicit howls, WOWs, and gasps – and one act that will not only have you on the edge of your seat but also gasping in disbelief.  

Our very own home-grown Big Apple Circus is a cultural gem, renowned for its intimate European one-ring style with no seat further than 50 feet from the action in a climate-controlled environment. The show is set against a huge backdrop of New York City and the opening number, introducing the cast, is Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.”

Veteran circus entrepreneurs and artists Cecil MacKinnon and her Harvard-educated son Jack Marsh are the edition’s artistic directors. Their goal was to “mount a dazzling show with unique and astounding human feats aimedat revitalizing the circus for modern-day audiences while maintaining the circus’ core foundation of family, legacy, and creativity.” With an extraordinary cast and show that boasts one showstopper after another, they’ve succeeded a thousand-fold. 

There’s been a long-standing tradition of inclusivity and diversity, along with superb production values – in addition to top-notch and award-winning talent from around the world. In a bit of a surprise the show has a decidedly Latin and soul/funk beat, led by Brooklyn‘s personality-plus Storm Marrero as ringmistress. Another Brooklynite, Amy Gordon, who’s traveled the globe entertaining in six languages, provides comic and often bawdy relief costumed as a pigeon.

Early in the show, there’s an inspiring bit of diversity with the hand-balancing and contortion act, Duplay Mao Na Roda (Four hands and two wheels), of tattooed, muscled Alan Pagnota and small, slim wheelchair-bound (as a result of congenital arthrogryposis) Rafael Ferreira, who stuns with the strength of a Samson. 

One of the eagerly-looked forward to annual treats of BAC is New Yorker Jenny Videl’s outstanding display of rescued stallions. The void left by her absence this season is filled by Caleb Carinci and Renny Spencer’s daring trick riding on two horses. 

A sure-fire way to delight children of all ages in a circus is to bring on the a boisterous rescue dogs, but this BAC goes a different route: a multi-talented, extraordinarily well-groomed set of nine rescue fluff balls catastically somersault, walk on their hind legs, dive from high places, leapfrog, and roll barrels. They’re presented, as they were as finalists and audience favorites on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, byUkrainian mother/daughter duo  Maryna and Svetlana Savitsky.

Members of the Aliev Troupe defy gravity with balancing feats up and down the Russian barre. What’s a circus without jugglers? Juggling Association Gold MedalistKyle Driggs fills the bill not only dexterously managing 10 hoops but also a slew of umbrellas.

The era of showgirls in skimpy costumes spinning on ropes around three rings is long gone. Instead, we have voluminous silk straps. Here, introducing a brief bit of sexiness, there are stunning blondes Maryna Tkachenko and Tetiana Yudina spinning into the upper reaches of the Big Top in jawdropping aerial acrobatics. 

The antics of the Lopez Troupe, featuring siblings Johan, Jonatan, and Zuliedy, in their outstanding act balancing themselves on the taunt high wire brought such a hush in the tent executing their bicycle pyramid you could hear a pin drop. 

There’s always been a thrill act in circuses. In Ringling’s last seasons, sadly the show became more of a dare-devil extravaganza than circus, with the finale being someone being shot out of a canon or dangerously running inside and outside, sometimes blindfolded or jumping rope, the gigantic steel Wheel of Death. The latter routine has really been overexposed to the point of being blasé, but, in such an intimate setting with a wheel virtually hovering over you at 25 miles an hour, Jayson Dominguez certainly knows how to revitalize the heart stopping thrills.

It’s no surprise to save the best for last. It’s the thrill/daredevil act that will be hard to top.  The entire Aliev Troupe presents a see-it-to-believe-it trapeze and balance beam act that is by far one of the most sensational ever. Amid a haze of talcum powder [to keep their hands dry], the stunningly-costumed men and women performed absolutely mindboggling somersaults, feats, and leaps soaring through the air off a complex contraption into the arms of catchers that the audience gasped in disbelief. 

The 42nd Edition of the Big Apple Circus has live music, composed by award-winning writer, performer, and multi-instrumentalist Ada Westfalland Janine Delwarte. Wages Argott, is music director. The vibrant and colorful costumes are by Tony Award nominee Emilio Sosa. Lighting is by Jesse Alford.

BAC is continuing to honor the essential and iconic characteristics that has set it apart for four decades, with multiple community outreach programs. Circus of the Senses, December 5th and 6th at 11 A.M., will offer enhanced inclusive experiences for deaf, blind, and low vision audiences. The 75-minute performances, with all tickets at $10, feature ASL interpretation, live audio description through infrared headsets, pre and post show experiences, and large-print programs in Braille.

Also on December 5 at 5:30 P.M. BAC will present a unique and completely immersive experience where audiences will enjoy a three-course dinner blindfolded, followed by a fully-guided, audio-described full performance. Tickets are $150.

In the way of community outreach, BAC offers special performances with tickets at $10 for every seat to underserved schools and community groups. In addition, there’s a study guide highlighting both CORE and STEAM science, history, and geography curriculums.   

Tickets are $35 – $195 for VIP ringside tickets and pre-show and intermission snacks in a special lounge. Purchase at the BAC box office at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park and at www.Ticketmaster.com or by calling (800) 745-3000. For more information and show schedules, visit www.bigapplecircus.com. 

Big Apple Circus production photos by Matthew Murphy

Everything’s Coming Up Rosie ****

By: Paulanne Simmons

November 18, 2019: Singer and musical theater veteran Rosemary Loar says she was “raised in musical theater.” Her mother would escape New Jersey (and her seven children) for Broadway and return refreshed, with a cast album in hand. It was surely those cast albums that gave Loar her love of musical theater. That affection is on melodious display in Loar’s new cabaret act, Everything’s Coming Up Rosie, which debuted this fall at Don’t Tell Mama.

By: Paulanne Simmons

November 18, 2019: Singer and musical theater veteran Rosemary Loar says she was “raised in musical theater.” Her mother would escape New Jersey (and her seven children) for Broadway and return refreshed, with a cast album in hand. It was surely those cast albums that gave Loar her love of musical theater. That affection is on melodious display in Loar’s new cabaret act, Everything’s Coming Up Rosie, which debuted this fall at Don’t Tell Mama.

Rosemary Loar

Fans of Lerner and Lowe would certainly have much to celebrate in the song list, with “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” from My Fair Lady, and “Almost Like Being in Love,” from the Brigadoon. But Loar also sang impressive interpretations of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Memory” from Cats, and “Think of Me” from Phantom of the Opera.

The evening also included lots of fun facts about Loar’s life in theater. She recounted how she nailed an audition for 42nd  Street by moving all the furniture in her one-room apartment and practicing all night, or how she auditioned for the role of Norma in Sunset Boulevard and ended up the swing, which means she played every female part but Norma.

Although Loar admitted she’s “ethnically challenged” when it comes to playing Maria in West Side Story, she did a bang-up job on the difficult “Tonight.” Later in the evening, she showed the audience her high C in “Think of Me.”

Loar has a wide range of vocal and emotional expression which makes her more than capable of performing many different kinds of songs. For “Tonight” she becomes an operatic soprano. For “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” she’s loud and brash. “What I Did for Love” is luminous with sincerity.

Loar’s love for the musical is contagious. One can only thank her mother for introducing her young daughter to the lullaby of Broadway.

Everything’s Coming Up Rosie ****
Tickets: www.donttellmamanyc.com/shows or 212-757-0788 after 4 PM daily. $20 cover $15 AEA/MAC/Students Two-drink minimum per person. No credit cards.

Literature Live @ Bay Street

A Raisin in the Sun, a classic play by Lorraine Hansberry, at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor through December 1, 2019.

November 17, 2019: Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor is presenting a searing production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Lydia Fort. Literature live, now in its 11th season at Bay Street Theater, is staging the classic, which is celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the play’s first production on Broadway.  Literature Live brings classic works to middle and high school students for free. Since the program began 11 years ago over 30,000 students have seen live theater at Bay Street, many for the first time.

A Raisin in the Sun, a classic play by Lorraine Hansberry, at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor through December 1, 2019.

November 17, 2019: Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor is presenting a searing production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Lydia Fort. Literature live, now in its 11th season at Bay Street Theater, is staging the classic, which is celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the play’s first production on Broadway.  Literature Live brings classic works to middle and high school students for free. Since the program began 11 years ago over 30,000 students have seen live theater at Bay Street, many for the first time.

A Raisin in the Sun debuted on Broadway in 1959. The title comes from the poem “Harlem” (also known as “A Dream Deferred”) by Langston Hughes. The story follows a black family, The Youngers in south Chicago, as they attempt to improve their financial circumstances with an insurance payout following the death of their father. The New York Drama Critics’ Circle named it the best play of 1959 and it was nominated for four Tony Awards including Best Play. The Hansberry classic is a great play and has been revived on Broadway numerous times since its opening in 1959, most recently in 2014 with Denzel Washington, and prior to that in 2008 with Sean Combs. The play has also been made into a movie with Sidney Poitier, the original star, and has been produced for television and radio.

The cast at Bay Street includes: Chauncy Thomas (Bay Street’s The Great Gatsby, Madam Secretary) as Walter Lee Younger; Cooki Winborn(Bay Street’s To Kill A MockingbirdPremature) as Lena Younger; Erin Margaret Pettigrew (Manhattan Theater Club, New York Theater Workshop) as Ruth Younger; Cassia Thompson (Romeo & Juliet, Our Town) as Beneatha Younger; Jonathan Farrington (Step Show: The Musical, Bayard: A New Musical) as Joseph Asagai; Michael Chenevert (Godfather of Harlem, Interference) as George Murchison; Justin Jorrell (The Space Between, Roy Wood Jr.: Snitch Cop) as Bobo; Joe Pallister(Bay Street’s Off Mice and Men, To Kill A Mockingbird) as Karl Lindner, and Kaden Amari Anderson(Show Me A Hero, Sesame Street Special) as Travis Younger. 
 
The design and creative team include Lydia Fort (Director); Mike Billings (Set & Lighting Designer); Meghan O’Beirne (Costume Designer); Brian Staton (Sound Designer); Meg Murphy(Hair & Makeup Designer); Courtney Alberto (Props Designer); Rosalind Sullivan-Lovett (Dramaturg); Christine Lemme (Production Stage Manager); and Arthur Atkinson (Assistant Stage Manager).Lydia Fort has directed at Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Diversionary Theatre, Perseverance Theatre, Women’s Project Theatre, Women Center Stage, Urban Stages, McCarter Theatre YouthInk! Festival, New Federal Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem, freeFall Theatre, Hangar Theatre, Planet Connections Festivity (where she was honored with the 2013 Best Director and Greener Planet Awards) as well as other festivals including the New Black Fest, 48 Hours in Harlem, Fire This Time Festival, and SheWrites.  She was a Time Warner Foundation Fellow of the 2012-2014 Lab at Women’s Project Theater, a TCG New Generations Future Leaders Grantee, New York Theatre Workshop Directing Fellow, and Drama League Directing Fellow. Lydia received a BA from New York University and an MFA in Directing from the University of Washington. She is an Assistant Professor at Emory University where she teaches directing, acting, African American theatre, and eco-theatre.

A RAISIN IN THE SUN is produced under Bay Street’s Literature Live! Umbrella, allowing all student school groups and their administrators to attend for free. Funding support for the program is provided by Century Arts Foundation, the Bay Street Theater Board of Trustees, The Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, Colgate-Palmolive, Dana Foundation, Fridolin Charitable Trust, Theatre Venture, Inc., Town of Southampton, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Irving Stern Foundation, the Sunny and Abe Rosenberg Foundation, the Campbell Family Foundation and many generous individuals. Sponsors: AARP Long Island, Berry & Co., Grenning Gallery, and Sag Harbor Books. Media sponsors: Dan’s Papers, WBAZ, WEHM, and WLNG.
 
Bay Street Theater & Sag Harbor Center for the Arts is a year-round, not-for-profit professional theater and community cultural center which endeavors to innovate, educate, and entertain a diverse community through the practice of the performing arts. It serves as a social and cultural gathering place, an educational resource, and a home for a community of artists.

Public performances are Thursday-Saturday, November 14-16 at 7pm plus Saturday matinee at 2pm, November 21-23 at 7pm plus Saturday 2pm matinee and Thanksgiving weekend with 5 shows: Friday, November 29 at 2pm & 7pm, Saturday November 30 at 2 & 7pm, and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are on sale now and available online at baystreet.org, or by calling the Box Office at 631-725-9500. The Box Office is open Tuesday – Saturday 11 am – 5 pm.
Production Photos: Michael Heller

Photography Opening Night Barry Gordin

Judy Carmichael
John Sullivan, Chauncy Thomas
Susan Hanley, Kimberly Fink
Judy Carmichael, Patrick Christiano
Kaden Amari Anderson
Christina Strassfield

DruidShakespeare: Richard III ****, Macbeth **, Cyrano **

By: David Sheward

November 17, 2019: A trio of the most iconic and sought-after male title roles in world theater are currently being tackled Off-Broadway in a variety of productions ranging from wickedly sublime to well-intentioned but wrongheaded. The Irish company DruidShakespeare sets the Bard’s Richard III in a comic abattoir while CSC offers a tepid Macbeth and The New Group musicalizes Cyrano with lukewarm results. 

By: David Sheward

November 17, 2019: A trio of the most iconic and sought-after male title roles in world theater are currently being tackled Off-Broadway in a variety of productions ranging from wickedly sublime to well-intentioned but wrongheaded. The Irish company DruidShakespeare sets the Bard’s Richard III in a comic abattoir while CSC offers a tepid Macbeth and The New Group musicalizes Cyrano with lukewarm results. 

Presented as part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, this Richard III is a howlingly funny horror show presided over by a Joker-ish, sexy usurper played with giggling menace by Aaron Monaghan. 

Garrett Lombard and Marty Rea in DruidShakespeare: Richard III

Shakespeare’s most popular villain, Richard murders and lies his way to the English throne, confiding to the audience his blatant treachery and mendacity. The play is a popular choice for actors eager to dig their teeth into such a juicy role. Plus it’s especially relevant now as Richard revels in spreading “fake news” about his rivals whom he sees as nothing more than impediments to his absolute power grab, not unlike a certain occupant of the White House. Director Garry Hynes, the first woman to win a Directing Tony Award (for The Beauty Queen of Leenane), cleverly takes a description of the England Richard has made as a slaughterhouse, and uses it as the main metaphor of her savage production. Set designer Francis O’Connor transforms the intimate Gerald W. Lynch auditorium at John Jay College into a place of butchery where victims are dispatched with an electric stun gun to the temple. In weird contrast, O’Connor’s costumes are gaudy and ornate, so the royal characters resemble elaborately dressed dolls dropped into a barnyard of death. A plastic cube containing a skull with a crown is suspended high above the earthly proceedings as a symbol of power and mortality.

We first meet Richard as he crawls out of a pit and figuratively grabs us by the lapels, mocking the gullibility of his victims and getting us to laugh along with him. Monaghan is strikingly sexy and charismatic even as he twists his body to convey Richard’s physical deformities. For once, the villain’s seduction of Lady Anne, whose husband and father-in-law have been murdered by Richard, actually makes sense. He is a convincing charmer here rather than a hissable cad playing to the audience. In addition, Hynes and O’Connor have Anne (a feisty Siobhan Cullen) dragging the corpse of the late king in the folds of her long gown. Monaghan literally relieves her of her burden by untying the gown and taking up the body himself—only to later dump it in the same hole from which he emerged. This innovative and fresh take on a familiar exchange is emblematic of Hynes’ daring and different Richard. Kudos also to Marie Mullen’s venomous Queen Margaret, Jane Brennan’s brittle Queen Elizabeth, and Rory Nolan’s sneering Buckingham. 

Nadia Bowers and Corey Stoll in “Macbeth”

Macbeth is regarded as just as juicy a role as Richard and even more complex since he transforms from a fairly decent sort into a tyrannous monster, set on either by his own demons or the supernatural forces represented by the three witches, depending on your interpretation. Classic Stage Company’s bare-bones production, staged by the company’s artistic director John Doyle, fails to strike any fires. This is something of a surprise since Doyle has created many stirring renditions of both plays and musicals in London, on and Off-Broadway, with minimal sets and props. On a bare stage, a small ensemble plays all the roles—they chant the witches’ lines together—racing through the Bard’s dark tale as if their goal was to reach the end rather than convey Shakesepeare’s themes of overweaning ambition. A “spooky” Halloween atmosphere prevails instead of a genuine milieu of fear and dread. During suspenseful sequences, the cast hums what sounds like a macabre version of “Danny Boy” like a pack of students in a high-school haunted house.    

N’Jameh Camara, Barbara Walsh in “MacBeth”

Corey Stoll’s Thane starts off blandly and then turns petulant rather than sinister. He comes across as a spoiled teenager rather than a despotic tyrant. There is no sizzle between him and his Lady Macbeth, a tepid Nadia Bowers even though the actors are married in real life. Raffia Bar Soumian’s Malcolm and Barzin Akhavan’s Macduff lacks power and drive. At least Mary Beth Piel provides weight as a dignified Duncan.   

 Christopher Gurr, Hillary Fisher, Nehal Joshi, Josh A. Dawson and Scott Stangland in “Cyrano

Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac is another cherished role often attempted by top stars. Like the CSC Macbeth, the New Group’s musical version of the classic romance of the large-nosed poet-swordsman and his frustrated love for the beautiful Roxanne, is  mildly entertaining but passionless. 

Previous attempts to musicalize Cyrano have not been successful. A 1973 tuner did win a Tony for Christopher Plummer but ran only a month and has disappeared without a trace.  So has a 1993 Dutch adaptation which cropped up briefly on Broadway and featured simplistic staging and execrable lyrics (“Cyrano’s tremendous fun/Tremendous fun for every nun!”). This version, adapted and directed by Erica Schmidt and abbreviated to just Cyrano, drains the work of Rostand’s poetry and leaves routine melodrama in its place.

Peter Dinklage, Jasmine Cephas Jones and Blake Jenner in “Cyrano”

Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones fame plays the title hero without a false enormous proboscis and we are meant to substitute the actor’s dwarfism for the missing nose as the cause of Cyrano’s anguish and his excuse for denying his love for Roxanne and writing love letters under the name of the more conventionally handsome Christian. (Dinklage’s height is never referred to in the adaptation.) Because of this Schmidt cuts Cyrano’s celebrated aria of insults to his own snoot and we lose a major demonstration of his miraculous wit and sense of self-deprecation. Dinklage does a professional job of evoking the role’s exalted spirit, but he is hampered by Schmidt’s edits and his lack of a vibrant singing voice. Cyrano is given very little musical musings in the pleasant but undistinguished score by Aaron and Bryce Dessner (music) and Matt Berninger and Carin  Besser (lyrics). The big numbers are given to Jasmine Cephas Jones’ Roxanne and Blake Jenner’s Christian, both of whom have lovely pipes, but this throws the balance off. Cyrano is supposed to be the star. 

Schmidt’s direction is mostly unimaginative and repetitious, often resorting to supporting characters moving in slow motion while featured players express their inner thoughts in solos. The only time music and staging come together to create genuine emotion is during  a group number after a bloody battle as nameless slain figures sing of their loved ones. It’s a sweet and touching sequence, beautifully sung and directed, but it detracts from the main story. Ironically, Ritchie Coster and Grace McLean in supporting roles give the most vital and complex performances. Coster shades the cravenness of De Guiche, Roxanne’s powerful suitor, with convincing glimpses of his genuine affection for the lady and his self-loathing. McLean is so funny and specific as Marie, Roxanne’s pragmatic companion, she steals all of their scenes together. When the villain and the nursemaid are the most interesting people in Cyrano, that’s a problem.

DruidShakespeare: Richard III ****
Nov. 9—24. DruidShakespeare at the White Light Festival/Lincoln Center at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, John Jay College, 524 W. 59th St., NYC. Tue—Fri 7pm, Sat 2pm & 7pm, Sun 3pm. Running time: three hours including intermission. $40–60. www.lincolncenter.org.
 Photography: Richard Termine

Aaron Monaghan, Emma Dargan-Reid, Bosco Hogan in DruidShakespeare: Richard III
Aaron Monaghan in DruidShakespeare: Richard III
Jane Brennan, Aaron Monghan, Peter Daly, Frank Blake, Marie Mullen in DruidShakespeare: Richard III

Macbeth **
Oct. 27—Dec. 15. Classic Stage Company, 136 E. 13th St., NYC. Tue—Thu 7pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm. Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission. $82—$127. (212) www.ovationtix.com.
Photography: Joan Marcus

Corey Stoll in “Macbeth”
Nadia Bowers and Corey Stoll in “Macbeth”
Mary Beth Peil in “MacBeth”

Cyrano **
Nov. 7—Dec. 22. The New Group at the Daryl Roth Theater, 101 E. 15th St., NYC. Tue 8pm, Wed 2pm & 8pm, Thu—Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm. Running time: two hours and 20 mins. including intermission. $107—$252. www.ticketmaster.com.
Photography: Monique Carboni

Peter Dinklage and Blake Jenner in “Cyrano
Josh A. Dawson, Ritchie Coster, Grace McLean, Peter Dinklage, Blake Jenner and Jasmine Cephas Jones in “Cyrano

Taiten: Noh & Kyogen ****

“Beautiful Harmony at the Japan Society”

By Samuel L. Leiter

By the time this is posted, it will be too late to see the Japan Society’s interesting program, Taiten: Noh and Kyogen, since it was around for only three days (November 14-16). Japan’s classic theatrical forms, noh and kyōgen, may have some interest among Theater Life’s readers, so what follows is for the record. 

By: Samuel L Leiter

“Beautiful Harmony at the Japan Society”

By Samuel L. Leiter

By the time this is posted, it will be too late to see the Japan Society’s interesting program, Taiten: Noh and Kyogen, since it was around for only three days (November 14-16). Japan’s classic theatrical forms, noh and kyōgen, may have some interest among Theater Life’s readers, so what follows is for the record. 

(Aside: the printed program eschews macrons, but I prefer them as a means to indicate long vowels. Noh, in fact, is usually spelled nō—both lower and upper case (Nō) usages are common—but I’ll use noh here.)

Noh and kyōgen are two of the four best-known genres of Japanese traditional theatre, the others being kabuki and bunraku. Noh and kyōgen, born in the 14th-century, predate the other forms. I won’t take up space describing all their differences, which can easily be discovered on the Internet. A few things, though, might be noted.  

Noh is serious and kyōgen mainly comic but sometimes sentimental. The genres traditionally appear on the same programs, in alternation, sharing the same formal stage of polished wood, with four pillars supporting a gabled roof. Up right is a bridgeway, set at an oblique angle, used for entrances and exits. Masks appear on a limited number of characters, more frequently in noh than kyōgen. 

Maekawa Mitsunori, Kamei Hirotada, Mikata Shizuka, Narita Tatsushi, Sugi Ichikazu, Hosho Naoya, Hosho Kinya

The acting is highly formalized and traditional, as are the costumes and language. Only the sparest scenic units, more symbols than representations, appear, if at all. Props also are highly selective. In noh, an orchestra of three or four (two or three drums and a flutist) always appears, seated on their knees upstage. Noh usually uses a chorus of eight to 10 (although only six appear in Taiten), seated stiffly on their knees, in two rows, at stage left.

The Japan Society program is part of its 2019 celebration of the ascension to Japan’s Chrysanthemum Throne of its 126th emperor, Naruhito, which ushered in the current imperial era, named Reiwa, officially interpreted (instead of translated) as “beautiful harmony.” To Westerners, the most familiar imperial eras are those that began following the nation’s opening to the West in the mid-19th century: Meiji (1868-1912), Taishō (1912-1926), Shōwa (1926-1989), and Heisei (1989-2019). 

In 1915, Taiten,a noh play celebrating the 1912 ascension of the Taishō emperor, was produced. Although the noh repertory consists mainly of plays written before the Meiji period, perhaps 300 post-Meiji plays have been written, some with strikingly modern themes and subjects, including brain deaths and organ transplants! Kyōgen, too, has had many new plays written, but only a tiny number of new noh and kyōgen plays have joined the repertory. 

The Japan Society, in collaboration with the Yokohama Noh Theatre, has revived the over-a-century-old Taiten, to honor the new emperor. Appropriate revisions for the 21st century have been made by noh master Katayama Kurōemon X (which the Japan Society spells Kurouemon), with the assistance of Dr. Haruo Nishino. Not only did the original play (which had a few revivals) premiere at Kyoto’s Katayama Noh Theatre, but Kurōemon’s own father left behind notes on it, as well as one of its props.

Maekawa Mitsunori, Mikata Shizuka, Kamei Hirotada, Katayama Kurouemon X, Narita Tatsushi, Sugi Ichikazu

Taiten was the last entry on the three-piece program, which began with a concert version of the dance music played in the noh play Kiku-Jido (Jido of the Chrysanthemum). Four musicians, all wearing the standardized formal dress of black kimono and gray divided skirts called hakama, entered, sat on their knees in a line, and performed on the noh flute, small hand drum, large hand drum, and stick drum. 

The music, interlarded with the musicians’ idiosyncratic vocal markers, called kakegoe, showed a wide variation in tone and rhythm. Structured according to the traditional rhythm of introduction (jo), development (ha), and climax (kyū), the pace gradually accelerated, weaving a hypnotic spell, even for those unfamiliar with the admittedly esoteric sound of noh music. Such concerts, by the way, are not common on noh programs since the music is designed for dance scenes, not to be heard on its own.

The music was followed by a famous kyōgen play, Kagyū (The Snail), performed by members of the Yamamoto Tojirō family, of the Ōkura School. This is a farce much like a number of others in the genre, where an ignorant servant, usually called Tarō-kaja, is sent by his master to fetch something whose name he doesn’t understand, leading to amusing complications. In this case, Tarō-kaja (Yamamoto Norihide), is ordered to find a snail. Such creatures are believed capable of increasing longevity so the master (Yamamoto Noritoshi) wants one for his grandfather. 

The doltish servant comes across a mountain monk or yamabushi (Yamamoto Noritoshi), whose unusual gear convinces Tarō-kaja that he must be a snail, leading to comical confusion abetted by the snarky monk’s decision to play along with the idiotic mistake. In the usual conclusion to such mix-ups, the master chases angrily after his servant. Here, however, he himself becomes ensnared in the monk’s good-natured, rhythmic cavorting. 

Mitaka Shizuka, Maekawa Mitsunori, Kamei Hirotada, Katayama Kurouemon X, Narita Tatsushi, Sugi Ichikazu, Hosho Naoya, Hosho Kinya

It was clear that the performance, whose simple humor would appeal as much to kids as adults, was working when the audience burst into laughter, sometimes quite loudly. I have my favorite kyōgen plays but don’t always find the genre’s humor as funny as its reputation would suggest. Thus the strong response demonstrated the wisdom of choosing Kagyū for this occasion.

Like Taiten, the noh play that followed, Kagyū was performed on a stage that barely suggested the surroundings these works would enjoy in Japan. Instead of a highly polished, wooden floor, the actors walked, in their unique, sliding way, on what looked like thin, gray carpeting. The only semblance of a noh-kyōgen stage was a low railing, several feet long, in roughly the area where the railing of a traditional bridgeway would be. 

The pillars, back wall (with its painted pine tree), and roof, of course, were not replicated, as is expected when these genres tour. Even the low, partial pillars, commonly seen in such productions to mark off the strictly regulated acting area, were gone. 

The actors, thus, used more of the stage laterally than they might in an authentic staging. In the noh play, they stood, strangely, both upstage and down of the railing. While in most other ways traditional, the presentation, by necessity, lacked some of the exquisite atmosphere experienced at a noh theatre.

Katayama Kurouemon

Taiten, written by a professor named Teisuke Fujishiro,accomplishes the goal of celebrating the new emperor’s ascension, but its value lies mainly in its ritualistic, auspicious values, and not in its dramatic ones. It contains two colorful dances, each by a deity, that give a good idea of congratulatory noh at its most joyful, but the lack of a narrative and the focus on dance gives an imperfect impression of noh’s dramatic qualities.  

Set in the classical past, its premise is the announcement by a formally dressed imperial messenger (Hōshō Kinya) and his servant (Hōshō Naoya) to the imperial shrine at Ise of the new emperor’s enthronement. This inspires an auspicious dance by a heavenly maiden or ten’nyo (Mikata Shizuka)—her beautiful mask, gorgeous apparel, and headdress closely resembling the angel in the noh play Hagoromo (The Feather Robe)—and an even livelier one by the god Amatsu-kami (Katayama Kurōemon X). Their dances confer wishes for the nation’s good fortune under the new imperial reign. 

Cavils aside, one must congratulate the Japan Society, and its innovative artistic director, the distinguished Yoko Shioya, for their ongoing efforts to bring outstanding examples of Japanese performing arts to New York. May they continue to do so and may the new emperor reign, as they say, for 10,000 years. Banzai!

Taiten: Noh & Kyogen
Japan Society
333 E. 47th St., NY
Photography: Richard Termine

Jennie Garth

Jennie Garth Previews New Tour and Chats All Things 90210

By: Iris Wiener

November 14, 2019: Jennie Garth & Tori Spelling Live: A Night to Remember promises to live up to its title. On November 19th, the ladies of 90210 will make a stop at Long Island’s Theatre at Westbury as part of a multi-city tour to share an evening filled with laughs and memories. Garth spoke with Theaterlife about her latest venture, reflected on the Beverly Hills 90210 reboot, BH90210, and contemplated taking a try at Broadway.

Jennie Garth Previews New Tour and Chats All Things 90210

By: Iris Wiener

November 14, 2019: Jennie Garth & Tori Spelling Live: A Night to Remember promises to live up to its title. On November 19th, the ladies of 90210 will make a stop at Long Island’s Theatre at Westbury as part of a multi-city tour to share an evening filled with laughs and memories. Garth spoke with Theaterlife about her latest venture, reflected on the Beverly Hills 90210 reboot, BH90210, and contemplated taking a try at Broadway.

Tori Spelling, Jennie Garth

Theaterlife: What was the impetus for Jennie Garth & Tori Spelling Live: A Night to Remember? Why did you and Tori decide to tour?

Garth: It was just Tori and I wanting to go out and be with the fans, working together, and doing something on the road. Our long term goal is to do a talk show together, so these are just preliminary steps in that direction. We wanted to have a good time with a girl’s night out. 

TL: Describe the concept for the evening. How is it a girl’s night out?

Garth: We’re still working it out, but we’re creating a show that is interactive with fans. It’s going to have a lot of 90210 nostalgia stuff. It’s also going to have laughs and we’re going to play games. It’s going to be a live talk show format.

TL: Often people cannot work together and also be friends. What is it about your relationship with Tori that makes it a good working relationship and friendship?

Garth: We’ve learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses over the many years we’ve known each other. We’ve gone through so many huge life things together: marriages, divorces, children, death, all kinds of milestones, and we have been able to share those with each other and be there for each other. It’s a relationship where we are so happy when we get to work together because it’s an excuse for us to sort of etch out times in our busy personal lives and get to be together. It’s nice to have that person that you feel so comfortable with. We’re very lucky. We give each other a hard time a lot; we bust each other’s chops constantly, which we both find amusing and hilarious, so that adds to it.

TL: About what do you “bust each other’s chops?”

Garth: Everything about my personality, basically. We’re very opposite. I’m very internal, very precise, always on time. [Tori] is a little more loose and more free flowing. It’s an interesting combination. Sometimes we’re Lucy and Ethel or the Odd Couple. I’m very neat; she’s a little more messy, more laissez-faire about things. She loves fashion; I don’t care about fashion.

TL: What surprised you the most about the hugely positive fan reaction to BH90210, the recent Beverly Hills 90210 reboot, a project on which you not only appeared, but also produced and helped to develop?

Garth: I was just happy that people really embraced the concept which was a little bit different than what people expected or thought they were going to get. People gave it a chance and ended up really responding to it. It’s funny that we’re all at that age where the fans of the original show aren’t embarrassed by it anymore. They totally fess up to liking the old show and that they were watching the new one. 

TL: You were on Beverly Hills 90210 for the entirety of its ten seasons (which concluded in 2000). What surprised you the most about how you have changed when it came time to revisit it?

Garth: How I have matured and how I have changed as an adult and the things that I have learned about myself along the way, whether they be characteristics that have emerged for the sake of survival or how my path unfolded. It became very interesting to me to see how everybody-  myself and my fellow cast mates- have sort of progressed into adults, but at the same time there’s still that same core that was always there. I have no regrets.

TL: In BH90210, you and the cast played heightened versions of yourselves. You showed openness and humility, and it was also very clever. What challenges did you encounter in doing this?

Garth: Every turn of the dial we were thinking, “Should we be doing this?” We kept second-guessing that directional choice, but we knew in our gut that it had to be something different that hadn’t been done before. We didn’t want to just do a straight reboot. We wanted to just be open to being vulnerable and being human, as well open to the concept that we’re all going through the same things in life, whatever our personal circumstances are. That’s the interesting part to me.

TL: Why is 90210 so enduring that people are still excited to come see you and Tori dish about it on your live tour?

Garth: Our fans from the original show are so faithful and loyal. They’ve been with each of us respectfully through our different careers and ventures. They love seeing us together. We are so grateful and acknowledge how loyal those fans are. That’s one of the biggest reasons we wanted to do the tour, because of those fans.

TL: You have said that when it comes to choosing projects you don’t wait around for the phone to ring, and that you have a process where you create your own projects. Can you describe that process?

Garth: I have to sit with things and see what feels like the next move and let it just unfold. I don’t like to force things but I do like to work at things, so developing my next project is something that is a slow process, unfortunately. But you can’t rush and you can’t force it. When it’s supposed to happen it will happen.

TL: Everyone knows you’re a talented dancer because of your work on Dancing with the Stars; however, you have never done theater. Have you thought about doing it?

Garth: I have many times. Over the years there have been different junctures where I really wanted to do it, but it didn’t pan out for some reason. Maybe [doing a live show] will be the start of something new. It is a life goal of mine, definitely on my bucket list. 

TL: We know you have moves. Are you a singer as well?

Garth: No! (Laughs)  I’m unproven, nor will I ever be proven because I won’t ever do it. I’m too afraid to sing. I’ll do a dramatic piece, or a comedy, but I don’t think I’ll be in the musical realm.

For more information about Jennie Garth & Tori Spelling Live: A Night to Remember or to purchase tickets visit jennietorilive.com.
Photography: Marcello Ambriz

The Great Society ***1/2

By: Isa Goldberg

November 14, 2019: Given the state of political gridlock, and partisan politics we’re in, Robert Schenkkan’s The Great Society – Part II of The LBJ Plays, is a timely production, currently at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beautmont Theater. Set during LBJ’s administration, Schenkkan expounds on Part I of his work, All The Way, which played on Broadway starring Bryan Cranston in 2014. 

By: Isa Goldberg

November 14, 2019: Given the state of political gridlock, and partisan politics we’re in, Robert Schenkkan’s The Great Society – Part II of The LBJ Plays, is a timely production, currently at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beautmont Theater. Set during LBJ’s administration, Schenkkan expounds on Part I of his work, All The Way, which played on Broadway starring Bryan Cranston in 2014. 

Here Brian Cox portrays Lyndon Johnson. Cox, known for his portrayal of King Lear with The Royal Shakespeare Company is something of a celebrity currently, for his role as a bastardly media mogul on HBO’s Succession. An actor accustomed to playing powerful, albeit tragically flawed characters, Cox brings a kind of quotidian ease to this enormous role. Still, he drives this impactful show with urgency, achieving the sense of volition which characterized President Johnson’s administration. Here, as in history, one can see how much LBJ got done. And to a greater extent, how he became undone.

Marchant Davis, Brian Cox, Bryce Pynkham

In All The Way we met Johnson in his first year in office, smiling, greeting, and playing the good old boys network of friends and foes, with enormous gusto. It ends after his first year in office, with the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. In The Great Society, Schenkkan examines more closely the political environment of Johnson’s administration from 1965 on, with all of its damning consequences. 

Both the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement take center stage. Projections (Victoria Sagady) from news reportage of the ‘60s bring the story home to us in the audience, just as they did for TV viewers of the time. Most noteworthy, a ticker above the stage counts the death toll in Vietnam. By the end of Johnson’s administration in 1968, where the play ends, the ticker count reads 38,620 American dead in Vietnam, and 192,616 wounded.

Grantham Coleman and company

The setting by David Korins, is basically the same as in All The Way, an open playing area that looks like Congress Hall with bull pens – benches and wooden chairs for the actors waiting in the background. By the end of the play, however, the stage has been torn down, leaving just a set of stairs. 

To open this historical drama, Cox (Johnson) tells an inspirational story about the triumph of a rodeo cowboy. We get a quick glimpse of the man, before the narrative turns quickly to his Congressional address. “The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all! It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice. We need a program to ensure every American child a quality education. We need a national health insurance plan for our seniors. We need a national effort to improve our inner cities and we need the elimination of every remaining obstacle to the right and the opportunity to VOTE!”

Brian Cox, Richard Thomas, Gordon Clapp

That debate continues to rage. We hear it in the Democratic Presidential debates currently on television. Indeed, Bill Rauch, who also directed All The Way, drives the production with a sense of moral purpose about living in our democracy. That it is driven by the people, and that participation is our responsibility. 

The well-honed cast includes Richard Thomas as Hubert Humphrey. The Vice President who stood by Johnson’s side looks haggardly at the world. His defeat by Richard Nixon, in the 1968 presidential race marks the end of the play.

It’s an imposing cast. Grantham Coleman’s insightful portrayal of Martin Luther King, Merchant Davis as a threatening Stokely Carmichael give stand out performances.  Broadway stalwarts, Bryce Pinkham as Robert F. Kennedy, Barbara Garrick as Lady Bird, and Marc Kudish and Frank Wood in a variety of roles keep the intense pace of history marching. 

The Great Society ***1/2
Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center
150 W. 65th St., NYC.
Mon—Tue 7pm, Wed 1pm & 7pm, Thu 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm.  
Running time: two hours and 40 mins. including intermission. $99—$159. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com.
October 1 – November 30th, 2019
Photography: Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Kristin Chenoweth Live on Broadway ****1/2

Broadway dynamo brings For The Girls to Nederlander for 8 performances.

By: Patrick Christiano

November 12, 2019:  The curtain rises on Tony and Emmy Awarding winning dynamo, Kristin Chenoweth’s Broadway show For The Girls, to reveal the petite star dressed in only an oversized promotional t-shirt for her show, inside out. It’s a staged moment that Kristin calls the prologue. In hardly a flash she is back and bedazzling, in a bedded mini dress, with her dynamic two co-stars for the, evening, Crystal Monee Hall and Marissa Rosen, who the star shares much of the spotlight with, for a rousing rendition of Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman.” For The Girls is a celebration of powerful women and features songs by women, some of which are on Chenoweth’s recently released album of the same name. These three women are superb and form the heart of the evening, backed by five musicians and the renowned Mary-Mitchell Campbell on piano, providing musical direction as well.

Broadway dynamo brings For The Girls to Nederlander for 8 performances.

By: Patrick Christiano

November 12, 2019:  The curtain rises on Tony and Emmy Awarding winning dynamo, Kristin Chenoweth’s Broadway show For The Girls, to reveal the petite star dressed in only an oversized promotional t-shirt for her show, inside out. It’s a staged moment that Kristin calls the prologue. In hardly a flash she is back and bedazzling, in a bedded mini dress, with her dynamic two co-stars for the, evening, Crystal Monee Hall and Marissa Rosen, who the star shares much of the spotlight with, for a rousing rendition of Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman.” For The Girls is a celebration of powerful women and features songs by women, some of which are on Chenoweth’s recently released album of the same name. These three women are superb and form the heart of the evening, backed by five musicians and the renowned Mary-Mitchell Campbell on piano, providing musical direction as well.

The star followed this with a haunting rendition of Trisha Yearwood’s “The Song Remembers When” followed, later, by an equally mesmerizing “The Way We Were, continuing the theme of powerful women influences in her life. Seeing the petite dynamo on the stage of the Nederlander, where so many legends, including Lena Horne, have played, one could hardly believe its been 16 years since she created Glinda in Steven Schwartz’ long running hit musical Wicked. 

Chenoweth scored a Tony nomination for that role, becoming the youngest nominee in the leading actress in a musical category or so she said. This may be more of her self-deprecating sense of humor, which she does so well, and was sprinkled beautifully and judiciously throughout the evening. The lady is not only a trained opera singer, she is comic genius and watching her is always a surprising delight. Two of those delights were moving renditions of Judy Garland classics, “Over the Rainbow,” delivered atop a baby grand piano, followed by “The Man That Got Away,” played downstage center and powerful. 

Chenoweth last appeared on Broadway three years ago with the superlative My Love Letter to Broadway Chenoweth’s show this time around is more of a variety special, a tribute to  the women in the show and the women that influenced them, so the star’s generosity of spirit is prominently on display throughout.  On Sunday evening a one of the star’s special guests was Alli Mauzey, a one-time Glinda, who joined Chenoweth for a tiny bit of the classic “Popular” from Wicked. Chenoweth then turned the stage over to the gifted Alli, who momentarily raised the temperature in the theater with a searing “I Could Have Danced All Night.” 

Wicked composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz was the Star’s special guest for the evening.  Each night there will be a different guest. Schwartz, first, duetted with Chenoweth on a stunning version of The Eagles’ “Desperado,” a megahit for Linda Ronstadt, before joining Chenoweth and Mauzey on the sublimely beautiful For Good.

Chenoweth closed out the evening, directed by Richard Jay-Alexander, with a tribute to her friend, the legendary Dolly Parton, by performing her hit ballad, I Will Always Love You, made popular by Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard. She put down the microphone, creating a beautiful moment, for the final verse singing a cappella to the audience sending us out of the theater reminding us of her extraordinary talent.

Kristin Chenoweth: For the Girls continues at the Nederlander Theatre (208 West 41st Street), November 15-17 remaining shows Visit www.ticketmaster.com for tickets. Photography: Nellie Beavers

 Stephen Schwartz, Kristin Chenoweth, Alli Mauzey
Stephen Schwartz, Kristin Chenoweth
Crystal Monee Hall, Kristin Chenoweth, Marissa Rosen
 Kristin Chenoweth, Tyler Hanes