Cole Porter with Harry Connick Jr.

5 Reasons Why You Should Celebrate Cole Porter with Harry Connick Jr.

By: Iris Wiener

1.      Harry Connick Jr. has an appreciation for Cole Porter that is unmatched by other artists. He recently released an album of Porter songs called “True Love,” but his new Broadway show surpasses the content on the album. The show, Harry Connick Jr.: A Celebration of Cole Porter, is a love letter to the late pianist and songwriter, both written and directed by Connick, who wears his heart on his sleeve at all turns.

5 Reasons Why You Should Celebrate Cole Porter with Harry Connick Jr.

By: Iris Wiener

1.      Harry Connick Jr. has an appreciation for Cole Porter that is unmatched by other artists. He recently released an album of Porter songs called “True Love,” but his new Broadway show surpasses the content on the album. The show, Harry Connick Jr.: A Celebration of Cole Porter, is a love letter to the late pianist and songwriter, both written and directed by Connick, who wears his heart on his sleeve at all turns.

2.      “Anything Goes” with Connick’s celebration. The show opens with a video of Connick coming across a statue of Porter in his hometown of Peru, Indiana; he proceeds to climb the behemoth, finally entering the mind of the musician in a quest to understand his artistry. Connick’s journey is informative as it moves from a sensational opening with “Anything Goes” to “I Love Paris” and “True Love,” all with anecdotes and gentle theatrics alongside his sultry voice. Connick describes Porter’s lyrics as “bold, witty and poetic,” proceeding to showcase them with “Mind If Made Love to You?” and “Just One of Those Things.” Connick continuously proves his sentiment that “[Porter] makes a love song like nobody else can.”

3.      Accompanied by a riveting 25-piece orchestra (led by Andrew Fisher), Connick travels from the New York stage to a bar in New Orleans to a Manhattan hotel room, all seamlessly and with the flair his million-dollar smile and presence have earned him. The band’s incredible range of style, from the jazzy “Take Her to the Mardi Gras” featuring brilliant bass and saxophone, to the slow romance “Why Can’t You Behave?” (which Connick reveals to be a reminder of his first heartbreak) is astonishing.

4.      Beowulf Boritt and Alexis Distler’s sets are easily transformative, especially when accompanied by Ken Billington’s nightclub-lighting. Caite Hevner and Boritt’s projections are staggered across the stage in fragments, an intelligent accompaniment to segments such as Connick’s discussion of the difference between orchestrating and arranging. He dissects the process through examining Porter’s “Night and Day,” an intriguing and insightful lesson that is as beautiful as it is stimulating….

5.      Not to mention that it culminates with a show-stopping tap duet. Connick and Aaron Burr dance along the top of one very long piano, an instrument that Connick also plays as he runs back and forth across the stage, never losing a note. His showmanship is divinely captivating as his fingers and legs fly.

Photography: Mathew Murphy

Harry Connick Jr.–A Celebration of Cole Porter opened Dec. 12, 2019, and runs through Dec. 29 at the Nederlander Theatre.
Tickets and information: harryconnickjr.com/tour

Greater Clements ***, Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven ***1/2

By: Paulanne Simmons

December 18, 2019: Greater Clements, by Samuel D. Hunter, directed by Davis McCallum; and Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven by Stephen Adly Guirgis, directed by John Ortiz have both opened this season, the first at Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater, the second at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Both are about three hours long But the shows have much more in common.

By: Paulanne Simmons

December 18, 2019: Greater Clements, by Samuel D. Hunter, directed by Davis McCallum; and Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven by Stephen Adly Guirgis, directed by John Ortiz have both opened this season, the first at Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater, the second at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Both are about three hours long But the shows have much more in common.

Both shows deal with important social issues.

Greater Clements is about economic injustice. The economically depressed former mining town has voted to unincorporated because the residents fear gentrification, the collective equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot. Even the town’s one stoplight will no longer brighten the forlorn streets. The play is also about mental illness. Maggie (Judith Ivey) is a single mother (her husband left after coming out as gay) raising an emotionally troubled son, Joe (the extraordinary Edmund Donovan), who is occasionally violent. It’s about racial injustice. Billy (Ken Narasaki), Maggie’s high school boyfriend who comes to visit with his 14-year-old granddaughter, Kel (Haley Sakamoto), in hopes of renewing their relationship, is Japanese and bears the scars of his family’s internment. And finally, it’s about alcoholism. Kel is in the care of her grandfather because her own father (never seen onstage) cannot control his drinking problem.

Elizabeth Canavan, Liza Colón-Zayas, Kara Young and Pernell Walker in “Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven”

Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven is about the plight of those who just can’t make it or just can’t take it anymore. It’s set in a halfway house inhabited by an assortment of emotionally and physically traumatized women who alternately abuse and support each other. Sarge (Liza Colón-Zayas), an Iraq veteran with anger management issues, doesn’t think the transgender Venus (Esteban Andres Cruz) belongs in a home for women and lets her know it every time she can. Sarge is in love with Bella (Andrea Syglowski), a single mother and drug addict who happens to be friends with Venus, who gives her the drugs she craves. Venus also befriends Betty (Kristina Poe), a woman so ashamed of her obese body she will not take off her clothes to bathe. Wanda (Patrice Johnson Chevannes), once a dancer and actress, is now confined to a wheelchair and only wants to end her life. Even the director of the halfway house, Mrs. Rivera (Elizabeth Rodriguez), is an alcoholic, who keeps a bottle hidden in her desk. And Joey, the janitor (Victor Almanzar), has fallen for Venus even though “she has a dick.” One could go on.

Miraculously, both shows are often funny.

Nina Hellman, Judith Ivey, Ken Narasaki, Edmund Donovan and Andrew Garman in “Greater Clements

Greater Clements owes much of its humor to Ivey’s Maggie, who is spunky and resilient; and Halfway Bitches depends on Guirgis’s ability to capture the tone and content of urban street talk, and the cast’s talent in delivering it. But while it’s easy to laugh with Ivey, the audience’s boisterous appreciation of Guirgis’s zingers is somewhat disturbing One can’t help but wonder in what other situation would we tolerate a group of mostly white people (in the audience) laughing at the problems of a bunch of troubled black and brown people (onstage).

And finally, both shows overreach in their own way. Their overreaching is a product of their length. Or maybe their length is necessitated by their overreach.

Esteban Andres Cruz (center) in “Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven

In Greater Clements the various plot lines do not support each other. Nor do they always make sense in the context of the play. Much of the drama proceeds at the speed of soap opera, which it resembles in many ways. Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven has enough characters for a Russian novel, without the 1000 pages to give each of them their due. Although Guirgis sketches each character beautifully, he doesn’t have the time to add the details that make for a satisfying picture, and the enormous efforts of the more than capable cast can only go so far.

Greater Clements, coming after Pocatello and Lewiston/Clarkston, is the latest of Hunter’s plays exploring the geographic, economic and cultural landscape of the United States. Guirgis, In Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train and Between Riverside and Crazy, gave voice to people in many ways similar to those we encounter in Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven. It’s always a good thing to watch playwrights digging deeper. But we need to be wary when they plow the same field until the soil is exhausted… or critics and audiences find something new.

Greater Clements ***
Lincoln Center
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre
150 W 65th St, New York, NY 10023
(212) 501-3100
Photography: Charles Erickson

Haley Sakamoto and Edmund Donovan in “Greater Clements”

Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven ***1/2
Atlantic Theater Company and LAByrinth Theater Company at the Linda Gross Theater
336 W. 20th Street in NYC.
Tue 7pm, Wed 2pm & 8pm, Thu—Fri 7:30pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm & 7:30pm.
Running time: two hours and 45 mins. including intermission. $81.50—$101.50. (866) 811-4111. www.ovationtix.com.
December 9 -29, 2019
Photography: Monique Carboni

Liza Colón-Zayas, Elizabeth Rodriguez, in ”Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven”.


BroadwayHD for the Holidays

The perfect gift for everyone on your list or a dynamite stocking stuffer!

December 15, 2019: Holiday frenzy is upon us and it’s just 10 days till Christmas. Don’t fret, a smart choice for everyone on your holiday list is BroadwayHD. Highly recommended by out staff as the ultimate streaming service for theater lovers of all ages. Your gift will bring full works of Shakespeare, awe-inspiring performances from Cirque du Soleil and a selection of the world’s greatest musicals including Kinky Boots, Cats, 42nd Street, A Night With Janis Joplin, The Phantom of The Opera, The King and I, Sound of Music, and An American in Paris.

The perfect gift for everyone on your list or a dynamite stocking stuffer!

December 15, 2019: Holiday frenzy is upon us and it’s just 10 days till Christmas. Don’t fret, a smart choice for everyone on your holiday list is BroadwayHD. Highly recommended by out staff as the ultimate streaming service for theater lovers of all ages. Your gift will bring full works of Shakespeare, awe-inspiring performances from Cirque du Soleil and a selection of the world’s greatest musicals including Kinky Boots, Cats, 42nd Street, A Night With Janis Joplin, The Phantom of The Opera, The King and I, Sound of Music, and An American in Paris.

Why not gift your friends the ultimate streaming service for theater lovers? BroadwayHD is the gift that keeps giving all year round, and you avoid the hassles of shopping and shipping Plus, December has a hot new lineup of offerings featuring the critically acclaimed musical film Cabaret starring Tony and Academy Award winner Liza Minnelli and more. Click Here to see the Full list of the December lineup.

Finish off your Holiday shopping today and make gift-giving easy, give everyone on your Holiday list BroadwayHD. And don’t forget yourself. 

BroadwayHD features award-winning theater from all-across the globe with both classic and modern productions. 

Love Actually

Five Reasons Why the Unauthorized Parody Love Actually is Actually Quite Lovely

By: Iris Wiener

December 16, 2019: Taking in a sickeningly sweet romantic comedy is so last year. Unsurprisingly, Tobly and Bob McSmith, the brilliant, quick-thinking minds behind Bayside! The Musical!, Showgirls! The Musical! and The Office! A Musical Parody, have concocted an epically funny gift to New York with Love Actually? The Unauthorized Musical Parody. Now running at the Jerry Orbach Theater at the Theater Center, the musical is a send-up of the 2003 film in which a panoply of loosely written relationships are explored with gooey, Christmas delight. The zany musical cleverly takes aim at the film’s most clichéd, cheesy tropes. Though there are many reasons to treat oneself to this gem, here are five:

Five Reasons Why the Unauthorized Parody Love Actually is Actually Quite Lovely

By: Iris Wiener

December 16, 2019: Taking in a sickeningly sweet romantic comedy is so last year. Unsurprisingly, Tobly and Bob McSmith, the brilliant, quick-thinking minds behind Bayside! The Musical!, Showgirls! The Musical! and The Office! A Musical Parody, have concocted an epically funny gift to New York with Love Actually? The Unauthorized Musical Parody. Now running at the Jerry Orbach Theater at the Theater Center, the musical is a send-up of the 2003 film in which a panoply of loosely written relationships are explored with gooey, Christmas delight. The zany musical cleverly takes aim at the film’s most clichéd, cheesy tropes. Though there are many reasons to treat oneself to this gem, here are five:

1.      The laughter is non-stop and relentless, to the point where audiences’ cheeks hurt and tears are shed. It is unadulterated joy at its finest.

2.      The film leaves so many plot-related questions unanswered (ex. Is there any finality with Keira Knightley after Andrew Lincoln holds up those ridiculous signs?). Rather than attempt to answer them, the musical asks new, blatantly obvious questions that everyone asks while watching: Why does the film run over two hours? What was Laura Linney doing in the movie? What was up with Keira Knightley’s hair? Are white people the only people who can fall in love? Nobody and nothing is safe.

Eric Peters, Joyah Spangler

3.      As with all McSmith productions, pop culture references are plentiful, as are smart quips and playful lyrics poking fun at the actors in the film. As Hugh Grant (yes, his character here takes the name of the actor in the film), Eric Peters croons, “I’m so cute you forgot I got caught with a prostitute.” Daniel Hayward’s Liam (Neeson, complete with his deep brogue) is concerned that his young son will be “taken.” Even the music from the film gets a few nods. Look for a side-splittingly hilarious nod to Dido’s “Here With Me,” prominently displayed in the film with an overdramatic montage featuring Andrew Lincoln.

4.      Tim Drucker directs six insanely talented actors in a multitude of roles that populated the jam-packed film (here it is expertly condensed into 90 minutes of fast-paced hilarity). Kayla Catan’s transformation from home-wrecker secretary to Keira Knightley is genius (her take on Knightley’s iconic square-jawed smile is worth every penny of ticket value), while Joyah Spangler’s renditions of Emma and Laura (Thompson and Linney, respectively) is both vocally and comedically astounding; she’ll certainly be fronting one of Broadway’s glitzy new musical comedies in no time. Peters’ take on Hugh Grant’s prime minister is spot-on, especially as he contemplates the reason for Billy Bob Thornton winning an Oscar for Sling Blade. James Park’s skill with quick changes and character study is a joy to behold, while Daniel Hayward’s Professor Snape (you read that correctly) is dynamic every moment he is on stage. Tony Tillman often steals the show as British VJ Downtown Abby, a character that fits in no box that has ever existed.

Tony Tillman, Daniel Hayward, Joyah Spangler

5.      Basil Winterbottom’s music and orchestrations are upbeat and festive; coupled with the McSmiths’ book and lyrics, it sets the tone for this uproarious treat. Look for “The Lament of Laura Linney,” a number more memorable than some of Adele’s finest. “The 11 O’Clock Grand Gesture Number” is impossibly catchy (and as exceptionally clever as its title). Whether Winterbottom was scoring a lascivious scene at an art gallery holiday party or injecting the score with notes of Joni Mitchell (whose music is a plot point in the film), his songs are perfectly varied and inventive.

Love Actually
Jerry Orbach Theater at the Theater Center
1627 Broadway, 3rd floor
For Tickets Click Here
Photography: Jeremy Daniel

Kaya Catan, Daniel Hayward, Joyah Spangler

Jonathan Groff

Award winning actor, Jonathan Groff, chats with Michael Portantiere for the Drama Desk.

Jonathan Groff, currently starring in the hit Off-Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors, was the focus of an exclusive Drama Desk interview/audience Q&A program on Thursday, December 12 from 4:45 to 6pm.The event took place at Ripley-Grier Studios, 520 8th Avenue, and moderated by longtime Drama Desk member Michael Portantiere.

Award winning actor, Jonathan Groff, chats with Michael Portantiere for the Drama Desk.

Jonathan Groff, currently starring in the hit Off-Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors, was the focus of an exclusive Drama Desk interview/audience Q&A program on Thursday, December 12 from 4:45 to 6pm.The event took place at Ripley-Grier Studios, 520 8th Avenue, and moderated by longtime Drama Desk member Michael Portantiere.

Jonathan Groff first rose to prominence with his performance as Melchior Gabor in the original production of the musical Spring Awakening, for which he won a Theatre World Award and was nominated for Tony, Drama Desk and Drama League awards. An Obie Award winner for Prayer for My Enemy at Playwrights Horizons, he returned to Broadway in 2015 to play the role of King George III in Hamilton, a performance for which he earned his second Tony nomination. Among his numerous film and TV credits, Jonathan has a leading role in the Netflix series Mindhunter and is one of the vocal stars of the Disney phenomena Frozen and Frozen 2. He is currently appearing as Seymour in the hit Off-Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors at The Westside Theatre through January 21, 2020.
Photography: Barry Gordin

Michael Portantiere, Jonathan Groff, Charles Wright, Pat Addiss
Jonathan Groff
Michael Portantiere, Jonathan Groff
Charles Wright, Isa Goldberg
Jonathan Groff, Iris Wiener
Michael Portantiere, Jonathan Groff
Michael Portantiere, Jonathan Groff
Sandra Metttler, Mike Summers, Jonathan Groff
Jonathan Groff
Michael Portantiere, Jonathan Groff
Jonathan Groff
Michael Portantiere
Michael Portantiere, Jonahtan Groff
Jonathan Groff

Fires in The Mirror ****

By: Isa Goldberg

December 14, 2019: A professor in the Department of Art & Public Policy at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Anna Deavere Smith’s docudramas explore the vulnerability of the human spirit, and how that relates to justice, and law. As the solo, and sole performer in these productions, she is a powerful, seasoned actor, who takes no prisoners. 

By: Isa Goldberg

December 14, 2019: A professor in the Department of Art & Public Policy at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Anna Deavere Smith’s docudramas explore the vulnerability of the human spirit, and how that relates to justice, and law. As the solo, and sole performer in these productions, she is a powerful, seasoned actor, who takes no prisoners. 

Currently at the Signature Theatre, her early work Fires in The Mirror (1992), is getting a noteworthy revival. It’s significant, among other reasons, because it’s the first major production of Smith’s work in which she doesn’t appear. In her stead, the gifted, and charismatic actor Michael Benjamin Washington transforms into the 20-plus characters she interviewed for this piece. To watch the show with another actor playing these roles validates her depth as the creator and writer.

Michael Benjamin Washington 

About the 1991 incident in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, this docudrama recounts that a Hasidic man driving a car, jumped the curb, murdering a young African American boy, and injuring his sister. In the violent clash that ensued journalists were beaten by cops, and blacks. Finally, a visiting rabbinical student stabbed to death by black youths, exacerbated the already tense racial atmosphere in the city. Fueling the rage, were rumors that the Hasidim involved in the car accident were given medical attention before the black children.

Beyond mere reportage, Smith’s docudrama delves into the search for identity in the black community. Here an adorable teenage girl tells us how she knows she’s black. So, do Al Sharpton, and George C. Wolfe.

Washington creates these quick character sketches through his deftness with psychological gesture. With one hand, his young African American girl bites off a white girl’s affect by touching her hair. And his portrayal of Angela Davis resonates with supreme authority, and stillness.  None of these characters would live fully, however, were it not for Washington’s strong voice, his range, and impressive diction. 

He is especially resonant portraying a character with whom he has visibly less in common, the feminist journalist, Letty Pogrebin.  Her commentary also speaks to the play’s message most directly. “I think it’s about rank frustration,” she opines loudly, confidently, “the old story that you pick a scapegoat/ that’s much more, I mean Jews and Blacks, / that’s manageable, / because we’re near, / we’re still near enough to each other to reach! / I mean, what can you do about the people who voted for David Duke? / Are Blacks going to go there and deal with that?”

Michael Benjamin Washington

Indeed, Fire is an affecting emotional drama, and one that stands as dramatic testimony to America’s ongoing racial tensions. Through Washington’s mastery of the piece, we’re moved to notice how impactful Smith’s stylistic innovations are. 

Clearly, her work has influenced some remarkable theater pieces, Moises Kaufman’s, The Laramie Project among them. Along withLynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize winning dramas, Ruined, and Sweat

Fires In The Mirror ****
The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan
October 22 – December 22, 2019
For tickets, call 212-244-7529 or visit http://www.signaturetheatre.org
1 hour 45 minutes, no intermission
Photography: Joan Marcus

Michael Benjamin Washington

The Inheritance ***1/2

By: Isa Goldberg

December 13, 2019: Eloquent story telling is the gift of The Inheritance. Arriving on Broadway after a successful run on London’s West End, the drama is the work of the American playwright Matthew Lopez, whose plays Off Broadway have garnered critical and popular attention. 

By: Isa Goldberg

December 13, 2019: Eloquent story telling is the gift of The Inheritance. Arriving on Broadway after a successful run on London’s West End, the drama is the work of the American playwright Matthew Lopez, whose plays Off Broadway have garnered critical and popular attention. 

A master of writing He is the master of the odd conceit. In The Whipping Boy, African American Slaves celebrate a Passover Seder, days after the end of the Civil War. And in the bright comedic tale, The Legend of Georgia McBride, the playwright demonstrates a humorous, jarring sense of pop culture. Closer to the characters in The Inheritance, Reverberations, produced at Hartford Stage, delves into an intimate gay relationship.

While this new work has been described as Howard’s End meets Angels in America, it also has roots in a more old fashioned Broadway play, Love! Valour! Compassion! Like Terrence McNally’s drama, the destination setting is upstate New York. More importantly, both plays draw on characters whose self-awareness speaks to their contemporary appeal. 

Lois Smith and Samuel H. Levine 

Running nearly 7 hours, The Inheritance, a play in two parts, is a work of epic sweep, and bold narrative conceits. Here the action drives the actors into the audience, as they drag us into their fictional world. It’s a very playful way of breaking the fourth wall, the theatrical convention that separates audience from actor. In fact, it’s become the theatrical conceit of the moment. We see it in Adam Rapp’s The Sound Inside currently on Broadway, not to mention Derren Brown Secret.

Stephen Daldry directs this production with speed, and effervescence. It’s completely engrossing. With a large cast that we don’t always see in Broadway plays these days, the production feels intimate, and larger than life, at the same time.  Sometimes the elegance is in the language, at others, in the poignancy of gay love. 

Performed on an open stage, the minimal use of props and set pieces demands resourceful actors. And this cast of nearly 30 men is outstanding. As the narrator, and one of the central characters Kyle Soller is fetching, but sincere, and grounded. Paul Hilton who poses as E.M. Foster (Howard’s End) at the beginning of Part I, morphs into a vulnerable mentor with grace. Playing two opposing characters, Samuel H. Levine, in his Broadway debut gives a breakout performance. 

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

In this production, the only woman is Lois Smith (Margaret), who is also outstanding. Her advanced years radiate the warmth and nurture that only a woman can. It’s she who drives home the story of gay life in America from the years leading up to the AIDS epidemic to present time. For Margaret it is a deeply personal history.

Creating theater in real time brings a gripping form to Lopez’s drama. Politically, it arrives at a timely moment, at the precipice of new challenges to hard fought advances in gay rights. 

The Inheritance ***1/2
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. Nov. 17—March 1, 2019
Photography: Marc Brenner

Kyle Soller, Paul Hilton and John Benjamin Hickey 

Red Bucket Follies

BC/EFA Celebrated End of Fall Fundraising with Red Bucket Follies Featuring Hundreds of Singers and Dancers and Outstanding Choreography 

By: Ellis Nassour

December 12, 2019: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ Red Bucket Follies (#redbucketfollies) (formerly, Gypsy of the Year) celebrated the end of the second period of fundraising Monday and Tuesday with memorable songs, choreography, and skits by multi-talented singers, dancers, composers, and arrangers and the announcement of the final tally: an astonishing $5,631,888, the second-highest fall fundraising total in Broadway Cares history. 

BC/EFA Celebrated End of Fall Fundraising with Red Bucket Follies Featuring Hundreds of Singers and Dancers and Outstanding Choreography 

By: Ellis Nassour

December 12, 2019: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ Red Bucket Follies (#redbucketfollies) (formerly, Gypsy of the Year) celebrated the end of the second period of fundraising Monday and Tuesday with memorable songs, choreography, and skits by multi-talented singers, dancers, composers, and arrangers and the announcement of the final tally: an astonishing $5,631,888, the second-highest fall fundraising total in Broadway Cares history. 

Returning to host for his 12th hilarious year was musical maven and ultimate Broadway buff Seth Rudetsky, host of SiriusXM’s On Broadway channel and who, hands down, could win any speed-talking contest. 

Red Bucket Follies was performed at the New Amsterdam Theatre, home to Disney’s Aladdin

Performing were more than 150 performers from Chicago, David Byrne’s American UtopiaDear Evan HansenFrozenHamiltonThe Lion King, Off Broadway’s A Musical About Star WarsThe Phantom of the Opera, and The Rose Tattoo.

These featured Derrick Baskin, James Harkness, Jawan Jackson, Jelani Remy and Ephraim Sykes (Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations); Christian Borle and Jonathan Groff (Little Shop of Horrors); André De Shields (Hadestown); PJ Griffith and Ashley Matthews (Rock of Ages); Ellie MacPherson and Sid Solomon (The Play That Goes Wrong); Tam Mutu, Sahr Ngaujah and Karen Olivo (Moulin Rouge!); and CJ Pawlikowski and John Rochette (Jersey Boys).

Backing them were the Red Bucket Follies singers and the orchestra, under the direction of Ted Arthur.

Standout moments began right at the start with “Broadway Debuts,” the fantastic opening production number, written by Michael Liscio Jr. and Jed Resnick and directed and choreographed by Richard J. Hinds and cast with 60 newbies from a six-year-old to adults in Aladdin, HadestownKristin Chenoweth: for The Girls,Mean Girls, Moulin Rouge!, and Wicked.

It was followed by a salute to Broadway’s late legendary producer/director and 21-time Tony winner Hal Prince by Phantom of the Opera’s George Lee Andrews and Elizabeth Welch; Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, a stinging political commentary by Ted Deasy, David Garrison, Robyn Kerr, Marc Kudisch, Bryce Pinkham, and Tramell Tillman from The Great Society, written and directed by Kudisch and Tillman, with music by Kudisch and quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, LBJ, George Wallace, and Congressman Elijah Cummings; Route 66, directed and choreographed by Peter Gregus, honoring the national touring companies; and a salute to the hundreds of volunteers who hold the buckets during the six-week fund-raising period. 

Knock-out presentations also included Dancers Responding to AIDS’ Housework starring Khori Petinaud with back-up from Julien Valme, choreographed by Josh Prince (Beautiful), which was one of the highlights at the 2019 Hudson Valley Dance Festival;Christine Pedi’s tribute to the great ladies of Broadway: Angela Lansbury, Julie Andrews, Bernadette Peters, Liza Minnelli, Ethel Merman; and Ku’u Leo Aloha, choreographed and stunningly performed in the tradition of Hawaiian dance storytelling by Lion King’s Kellen Stancil.

The annual Moment of Silence, remembering the legacy of performers lost to AIDS, was memorably-hosted by veteran performer and 2019 Tony winning Best Actor, the marvelous Mr. Andre De Shields (Hadestown), smashingly-dressed [at Tuesday’s finale] in all white with top hat as if he was about to join the finale of A Chorus Line. He brought a hush over the audience even before the Moment of Silence as he spoke of why and should theatergoers and industry support BC/EFA; and how we must be responsible for keeping BC/EFA relevant “to ensure that all are embraced in times of crisis, isolation and injustice.” The clincher, however, which stunned and brought out the tissues was de Shields moving revelation of how BC/EFA was there during the illness and last days of his partner and also for him in the dark days afterward. It was inspiring and will be long-remembered.  

Closing the show were the Grammy-winning Broadway Inspirational Voices 

This edition of the Red Bucket Follies was directed by Jason Trubitt. Matthew Kurtis Lutz was production stage manager leading a team of 14 stage managers. The production was sponsored by The New York Times.

Judges for the Best Presentation Awards were: Derren Brown (Derren Brown: Secret); Andrew Burnap, Samuel H. Levine and Kyle Soller (The Inheritance); Damon Daunno and Rebecca Naomi Jones(Oklahoma!); Michael Benjamin Washington (Fires in the Mirror); and Sharon Wheatley and Astrid Van Wieren (Come From Away). The panel included major BC/EFA backers Leslie Mayer and Peg Wendlandt, who won spots by bidding on VIP packages at September’s  33rd Broadway Flea Market’s Grand Auction.

The top fundraisers and performance awards were announced Tuesday by Christian Borle and Jonathan Groff (Little Shop of Horrors) and Adrienne Warren and Daniel J. Watts (Tina).

Top Overall Fundraiser: Hamilton – And Peggy tour, which raised an astounding $434,841. This follows its win at Spring’s Easter Bonnet Competition.

Best Onstage Presentation: Fiddler on the Roof – in Yiddish for it’s spectacularly-costumed and chutzpah-filled Radio City Chanukah Spectacular parody A Spectacular,Nu?, complete with a dancing camel, dreidel-infused Nutcracker, and  high-kicking Menorahkettes.

Runner-up: of The Great Society ‘s Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.  

Since 1989, the 29 editions of Gypsy of the Year and the first edition of Red Bucket Follies raised $82-million.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. Drawing upon the talents, resources, and generosity of theater audiences, it has raised more than $300-million since 1988 for essential services for people with AIDS and critical illnesses.

BC/EFA is the major supporter of social service programs at The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, and the Samuel J. Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts. There’re also annual grants to more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. that provide lifesaving medication, healthy meals, counseling, and emergency assistance.

For BC/EFA information, visit broadwaycares.org and follow at facebook.com/BCEFA, instagram.com/BCEFA, twitter.com/BCEFA, and youtube.com/BCEFA.

Red Bucket Follies production photos by Allison Stock and Monica Simoes.

Jagged Little Pill ***, Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven *** A Bright Room Called Day **1/2

By: David Sheward

December 10, 2019: Jagged Little Pill is a jagged little musical, sometimes smooth, sometimes sharp, sometimes bland and predictable, sometimes edgy and shattering. This raw, uneven tale of modern angst in an upper-class Connecticut family employs Alanis Morisette’s groundbreaking 1995 album for its score. Tom Kitt did the skillful arrangements and orchestrations, combining Broadway smoothness with Morisette’s signature prickly texture. Her rage-filled tone informs the polished and funny book by Oscar winner Diablo Cody (Juno) who has crammed in so many current social issues it feels like a rock version of an Afterschool Special. We skip from opioid addiction to rape culture to martial miscommunication to bisexuality to racial identity with barely a pause for a breath, let alone a few minutes for reflection or analysis. Even climate change gets a brief mention. Fortunately Cody infuses wit and pathos into her fast-forward preachiness and director Diane Paulus creates a inventive, surprising staging so that you don’t feel numbed by the constant crises.

By: David Sheward

December 10, 2019: Jagged Little Pill is a jagged little musical, sometimes smooth, sometimes sharp, sometimes bland and predictable, sometimes edgy and shattering. This raw, uneven tale of modern angst in an upper-class Connecticut family employs Alanis Morisette’s groundbreaking 1995 album for its score. Tom Kitt did the skillful arrangements and orchestrations, combining Broadway smoothness with Morisette’s signature prickly texture. Her rage-filled tone informs the polished and funny book by Oscar winner Diablo Cody (Juno) who has crammed in so many current social issues it feels like a rock version of an Afterschool Special. We skip from opioid addiction to rape culture to martial miscommunication to bisexuality to racial identity with barely a pause for a breath, let alone a few minutes for reflection or analysis. Even climate change gets a brief mention. Fortunately Cody infuses wit and pathos into her fast-forward preachiness and director Diane Paulus creates a inventive, surprising staging so that you don’t feel numbed by the constant crises.

Elizabeth Stanley in “Jagged Little Pill”

The show opens with a chorus of refreshingly diverse dancers throwing themselves into Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s frenetic, all-body choreography. Then we meet the white-bread Healys who have a lot going on. Super mom Mary Jane (a steely and shattering Elizabeth Stanley) is addicted to painkillers and bent on presenting a perfect facade. Dad Steve (handsome Sean Allan Krill skillfully hiding pain) is constantly at the office, sneaking peaks at Internet porn and avoiding the cracks in family life. Daughter Frankie (full-voiced and mature Celia Rose Gooding), who is African-American and adopted, feels pressured to conceal her emerging racial awareness and bisexuality. Straight-arrow son Nick (expressive Derek Klena) has been accepted to Harvard, but feels empty inside.

The lead characters’ barrage of woes gets a bit tiring. The stories of Jo, Frankie’s secret girlfriend, and Bella, Nick’s classmate who is sexually assaulted at a party, emerge as more compelling. Lauren Patten’s Jo is funny, scathing, razor-sharp, and aching human. She literally stops the show cold with her gut-wrenching rendition of “You Oughta Know,” Morisette’s break-up cry of pain. Kathryn Gallagher is equally memorable as the tormented Bella. To paraphrase one of Morisette’s hits, it’s ironic that the supporting figures are the real stars here. As noted, Paulus gives us numerous dazzling sequences, particularly a heartbreaking backwards-in-time journey through Mary Jane’s day as she adds scoring illegal drugs to her shopping chores. Pill indeed has its jagged edges, but it’s ultimately a satisfying capsule.

Derek Klena and company in “Jagged Little Pill

The Healys of Jagged Little Pill are confronting a plethora of problems, but they’re having a day at the beach compared to the crowd at Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company. Stephen Adly Guirgis’ new super-sized comedy-drama contains a stageful of characters—the huge cast numbers 18, a rarity for a straight play on or Off-Broadway—each exploding with their own trauma. We are in a women’s halfway housing shelter (Narelle Sissons designed the appropriately crumbling set), and as with the Healys, a lot is going on. Sarge, a lesbian army vet, is furious that transgender prostitute Venus is taking a bed which should go to a “real woman.” Sarge’s girlfriend, Bella, a stripper from Baltimore, wants a normal life but Sarge’s alcoholism and anger issues keep getting in the way. Former dancer Wanda, now confined to a wheelchair, refuses to take her medication. Rockaway Rosie still mourns the rejection of her fiance who stole her life savings hidden in a bucket of detergent. Betty refuses to take a bath. Teenagers Melba and Mateo just want to get through high school. Father Miguel and Miss Rivera attempt to run the place, but their own nerves are starting to fray as pressure mounts to close the place. And that’s just a sampling of the multiple goings-on.

As he has done with his numerous previous works including Our Lady of 121st Street, The Motherf—r with the Hat, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Between Riverside and Crazy,  Adly Guirgis solidly delivers a brutally honest depiction of vital, struggling people on the edge who speak in hilarious, profanity-laced slang. The script is a riot, but there are so many plot threads and characters that despite John Ortiz’s controlled, muscular direction and stellar performances from the entire company (particularly Elizabeth Canavan’s addled, endearing Rosie, Patrice Johnson Chevannes’ regal Wanda, Liza Colon-Zayas’ hair-trigger, yet vulnerable Sarge, and Elizabeth Rodriguez’s fierce Miss Rivera), it’s nearly impossible to keep them all straight. In addition, the author doesn’t fully develop some of characters or resolve their stories. Towards the end of two hours and 45 minutes of nudity, drug abuse, assaults, stabbings, backroom sex, and a visit from a live goat, one of the characters emerges with a baby which she hasn’t even mentioned heretofore. 

Elizabeth Canavan, Liza Colón-Zayas, Kara Young and Pernell Walker in “Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven”

Despite its excesses Halfway Bitches is an entertaining, frightening ride and its nearly three hour running time is never dull. The same cannot be said for the Public Theater’s revival of Tony Kushner’s A Bright Room Called Day. This 1985 work was Kushner’s first and definitely shows the sparks of genius later responsible for Angels in America, but it’s also overlong, talky and still doesn’t entirely work in theatrical terms in spite of revisions by Kushner for this production. (Day was workshopped Off-Off-Broadway in 1985. Its professional premiere was in 1987 at San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre. The Public presented the first Off-Broadway production in 1990.)

Michael Urie and Nikki M. James in “A Bright Room Called Day

Set in Germany during the early 1930s, Day follows a group of progressive intellectuals as they ineffectually cope with the rise of Hitler. Sometime actress Agnes (brilliantly conflicted Nikki M. James) seeks to avoid confrontation and action, hoping the Nazi regime will blow over. Her Hungarian lover Husz (fiery Michael Esper) and Communist activist Annabella (solid Linda Emond) advocate revolution. Fellow actress Paulinka (sleek Grace Gummer) and gay chum Gregor (vital Michel Urie) escape the pending disaster by smoking opium and pursuing anonymous sex, respectively. In addition, Agnes’ surprisingly well-appointed flat (the room of the title, beautifully realized by designer David Rockwell) is visited by a mysterious old woman representing hunger and complacency (Estelle Parsons, still powerful at 92) and the devil himself in the person of a vulgar middle-class merchant (commandingly crude Mark Margolis).

Estelle Parsons in “A Bright Room Called Day

The basic structure is compelling enough with Der Fuehrer’s power grab detailed by menacing supertitles and images (Lucy MacKinnon’s projection design and Bray Poor’s sound design create a harrowing atmosphere). But in the original production, Kushner added a figure from 1985 named Zillah to draw parallels between the action of the play and Ronald Reagan’s shift of America toward the right. This awkward imposition drew the most criticism and now Kushner has added a second interrupter called Xillah, a stand-in for the author himself, making further commentary and obvious connections between Hitler, Reagan and the current occupant of the White House. Though Crystal Lucas-Perry’s Zillah and Jonathan Hadary’s Xillah are movingly played and the dialogue Kushner gives them is sometimes fascinatingly astute political observation, these characters slow down the action and drain the proceedings of drama. When they come on, the emphasis changes from frightening life-or-death decisions to dry seminar. Oskar Eustis, who directed the 1987 Eureka Theater production, gives this difficult, uneven work the best possible production, intensely human and paced with variety and wit. But, unlike the similarly overstuffed Jagged Little Pill and Halfway Bitches, Day is ultimately unsatisfying. 

Jagged Little Pill ***
Opened Dec. 5 for an open run. Broadhurst Theater, 235 W. 44th St., NYC. Tue 7pm, Wed 2pm & 7:30pm, Thu 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 3pm. Running time: two hours and 20 mins. including intermission. $59—$399. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com.
Photography: Mathew Murphy

Antonio Cipriano, Lauren Patten, Elizabeth Stanley, Celia Rose Gooding, Sean Allan Krill, Derek Klena and Kathryn Gallagher in “Jagged Little Pill
Lauren Patten, center, and company in “Jagged Little Pill

Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven ***
Dec. 9—29. Atlantic Theater Company and LAByrinth Theater Company at the Linda Gross Theater, 336 W. 20th St., NYC. Tue 7pm, Wed 2pm & 8pm, Thu—Fri 7:30pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm & 7:30pm. Running time: two hours and 45 mins. including intermission. $81.50—$101.50. (866) 811-4111. www.ovationtix.com.
Photography: Monique Carboni

Esteban Andres Cruz (center) in “Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven
Liza Colón-Zayas, Elizabeth Rodriguez, in ”Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven“.

A Bright Room Called Day **1/2
Nov. 25—Dec. 22. Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., NYC. Tue—Fri 7pm, Sat—Sun 1pm & 7pm. Running time: two hours and 45 mins. including intermission. $50—$75. (212) 967-7555. www.publictheater.org.
Photography: Joan Marcus

Linda Emond. in “A Bright Room Called Day”
Crystal Lucas-Perry and Jonathan Hadary in “A Bright Room Called Day”
Crystal Lucas-Perry in “A Bright Room Called Day”

Note: check websites for schedule changes during Christmas and New Year’s week.

The Sorceress *****

THE SORCERESS: A YIDDISH MUSICAL FANTASY“Magic, Music, and Mishegas”

By: Samuel L. Leiter

December 6, 2019: The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, born 104 years ago, has been dispensing theatrical milk and honey since finding a homeland in 2016 at the lovely Edward J. Safra Hall, located in Battery Park’s Museum of Jewish Heritage (itself a must-see). It deserves a loud “Mazel Tov” shout-out for once again bringing theatrical nachas to the New York stage, with its exuberant revival of Avrom (Abraham) Goldfaden’s The Sorceress  (Die Kishefmakhern), sometimes known as The Witch or The Witch of Batushan

THE SORCERESS: A YIDDISH MUSICAL FANTASY“Magic, Music, and Mishegas”

By: Samuel L. Leiter

December 6, 2019: The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, born 104 years ago, has been dispensing theatrical milk and honey since finding a homeland in 2016 at the lovely Edward J. Safra Hall, located in Battery Park’s Museum of Jewish Heritage (itself a must-see). It deserves a loud “Mazel Tov” shout-out for once again bringing theatrical nachas to the New York stage, with its exuberant revival of Avrom (Abraham) Goldfaden’s The Sorceress  (Die Kishefmakhern), sometimes known as The Witch or The Witch of Batushan

The Sorceress is entirely in Yiddish, with English and Russian surtitles, the former in Motl Didner’s translation. Didner, who provides the enthusiastic staging, collaborated on the show’s restoration and reconstruction with musical director Zalmen Mlotek, and Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch. The spirited choreography is by Merete Muenter. Although the show is sung and spoken in Yiddish, many of the actors don’t know the language and learned their lines phonetically. As in previous Folksbiene productions, the remarkable results are seamless.

Jazmin Gorsline, Mikhl Yashinsky

The musical (operetta, actually) is the first in the Folksbiene’s Global Restoration Initiative, chosen, as the program notes, “because of its historic place as the first piece of Yiddish theatre ever presented in America for a nascent Eastern European Jewish immigrant community in New York in 1883.” The venue was Turn Hall on E. 4th Street, the site of Off Broadway’s La Mama. The new version received a concert performance in September 2017, its cast including Rachel Botchan and Steve Sterner, who play the wicked stepmother, Basye, and the peddler, Hotsmakh, in the current production. A workshop production followed in Romania in 2017, and then a reading at Safra Hall in the last week of that year. 

Goldfaden’s “Yiddish Musical Fantasy,” as it’s now subtitled, was written in Romania (where most of the action is set) in the late 1870s. Not long after, Jacob Adler, who would become one of the foremost Yiddish stars, as well as the father of theatre icons Stella Adler and Luther Adler, made his professional debut in it as Markus, the male romantic lead. The show became a popular Yiddish theatre standby for half a century, even being presented by Maurice Schwartz’s Yiddish Art Theatre in 1925. 

The Company

In 1989, The Witch, an English-language version, conceived, directed, and choreographed by Benjamin Zemach, was produced by the Jewish Repertory Theatre. Reportedly, about half the lyrics were in Yiddish, which added flavor without obstructing comprehension. Interestingly, Richard Shepard’s opinion in the Times comes close to my own for the current revival: “a Jewish theater experience, not quite bewitching, but a classically satisfying combination of folklore and performing arts.” 

What that revival ignored, however, was the tradition, going back to the show’s beginning, of having a male actor play the title role in drag, a practice happily revived in the Folksbiene staging. The evil sorceress, or witch, known as Bobe Yakhne, is played with entertainingly broad strokes by Mikhl Yashinsky as a sort of colorfully exaggerated gypsy, who reveals that her real “magic” is her talent as a con artist. 

Dani Apple, Lorin Zackular, Lexi Rabadi

Asked why everyone thinks she casts spells to gain her ends, she admits: “I only do that to cheat money out of the fools that believe in such things.” Nonetheless, a vivid scene at Bobe Yakhne’s home, with a Macbeth-like boiling cauldron and a coven of pretty sorcerer’s apprentices, offers ample opportunities for spell-casting dance and song.

In the simplistic, fairytale-like plot, Basye (an outstanding Botchan, once a regular of the now defunct Pearl Theatre company) marries the widowed Avromtshe (the always excellent Bruce Rebold, a physician turned actor), father of the pretty, blonde ingenue, Mirele (enchanting soprano Jazmin Gorsline). Mirele’s engaged to the handsome Markus (sweet-voiced tenor Josh Kohane). Seeking to take over the entire household, Basye conspires to have Avromtshe jailed, mistreats her stepdaughter, and then gets rid of her via a ruse devised by Bobe Yakhne. 

In a delightful marketplace scene, where vendors musically entice customers to buy their wares (in tunes titled “Der Mark,” “Der Katsef,” “Koyft Zhe Koyft Daytshelekh,” “Heyse Babkelekh”), and where Hotsmakh the peddler short-counts a young woman buying pins, Mirele discovers she’s penniless (blame Bobe Yakhne). 

Dani Apple, Lorin Zackular, Mikhl Yashinsky, Lexi Rabadi

Afraid to return home, she finds herself being sold into slavery to an organ grinder, ending up performing in an Istanbul (actually Constantinople back then, but you get the idea . . .) coffee house/cabaret. There, after we watch sword dancers and a Roma dancer (think belly dancer),  Markus shows up, as does Hotsmakh (Steve Sterner), the peddler, traditionally considered the show’s most memorable character (Shepard refers to him as a shlimazel). 

Back in Romania, the lovers and the peddler are in danger from their enemies, but the plans of those nefarious villains (including an accomplice named Elyokem [Jonathan Brody]) are no match for fate, which turns their plans to smoke as they discover the literal meaning of ashes to ashes. And, as all good romantic operettas should, a joyous wedding (this one under a chuppah, of course) leads to a buoyant musical finale in which the entire cast reminds us, “Hoorah, hoorah, all will be well.”

Steve Sterner, Alexi Rabadi

Despite its dramaturgical mishegas (a.k.a. craziness), The Sorceress is charming, with spirited, melodic music in the vein of traditional 19th-century operetta, brazen sentimentality and melodrama, and bold acting in the grand old manner. The production captures the artless feeling of the original, with a set by Dara Wishingrad mainly composed of series of elaborate false prosceniums, backed by a cyclorama lit in striking colors by Natalie Robin. Izzy Fields’s lovely period costumes add just the right visually appealing touch.

Jewish, shmewish, it makes no difference, as long as you don’t expect a repeat of Fiddler on the Roof, the Folksbiene’s remarkably successful revival, still running strongly uptown. But if you’re looking to rest your brain for 90 minutes while indulging in something sweet, schmaltzy, funny, and old-fashioned, with music both romantically lush and comically brisk, why not let the Folksbiene’s version of The Sorceress put a spell on you? 

The Sorceress *****
Edward J. Safra Hall/National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene
36 Battery Place, NYC
Through December 29, 2019
Photography: Victor Nechay

Sam Kronenfeld, Rachel Botchan, Bruce Rebold, Josh Kohane, Jazmine Gorsline, Doug Shapiro,
Dylan Seders Hoffman, Mark Alpert, Lexi Rabaldi

Broadway Update

2019-20 Broadway Update: Meryl Streep and Beth Leavel Exchange Roles

By: David Sheward

December 8, 2019: In a rare case of show-biz serendipity, three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep and Tony winner Beth Leavel, queens of their respective media, will switch roles. It was just announced that Leavel will take on Miranda Priestley the dictatorial fashion editor, in the musical version of The Devil Wears Prada which will open in Chicago in July 2021, presumably followed by a Broadway opening in 2021-22. Elton John will compose the music, Shaina Taub the lyrics, Paul Rudnick the book and Tony winner Anna D. Shapiro directs. Streep won a Golden Globe for the 2007 movie edition.

2019-20 Broadway Update: Meryl Streep and Beth Leavel Exchange Roles

By: David Sheward

December 8, 2019: In a rare case of show-biz serendipity, three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep and Tony winner Beth Leavel, queens of their respective media, will switch roles. It was just announced that Leavel will take on Miranda Priestley the dictatorial fashion editor, in the musical version of The Devil Wears Prada which will open in Chicago in July 2021, presumably followed by a Broadway opening in 2021-22. Elton John will compose the music, Shaina Taub the lyrics, Paul Rudnick the book and Tony winner Anna D. Shapiro directs. Streep won a Golden Globe for the 2007 movie edition.

Beth Leavel

Meanwhile Streep is playing Dee Dee Allen, the washed-up Broadway star aiming for publicity by supporting a lesbian high-school student, in The Prom for Netflix. Leavel originated the role in the stage version which was named Outstanding Musical by the Drama Desk. There is an extremely funny sight gag involving the DD Award itself. Let’s hope it makes the cut for the screenplay and Netflix viewers who are not obsessed with Broadway will get the joke. The Netflix edition will also star Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, James Corden, Awkafina, Ariana Grande, Keegan-Michael Key and Andrew Rannells. It will be available for streaming in November.

Ephraim Sykes
Photo by Charles Sykes

In other casting news, the potentially controversial Michael Jackson musical, MJ, has announced its lead. The gloved one will be played by Ephraim Sykes who gave a stunning performance as David Ruffin, the most tormented Temptation in Ain’t Too Proud (he got my Tony vote for Best Featured Actor in a Musical). MJ which features a book by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, is scheduled to open at the Neil Simon Theater on Aug. 13. There is no word on how the show will address accusations of child molestation against the music legend, if at all. According to People Magazine, the story takes place in 1992 when Jackson is releasing his Dangerous album. The allegations of abuse did not begin until 1993. Convenient, huh?

Another musical concerning Jackson takes a totally different approach. For the Love of a Glove: An Unauthorized Musical Fable About the Life of Michael Jackson as Told by His Glove imagines that Jackson’s glove is actually an alien life form which forced him to do all that kinky stuff in return for his amazing musical skills. Johnny Depp’s production company was reportedly participating, but Depp’s PR people have issued a statement denying any involvement. The glove show, cast with puppets, is still set to open in Los Angeles on Jan. 25.

A scene from Tracey Letts’ “The Minutes” at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater
Photo: Michael Brosilow

More Broadway Openings Confirmed

Tracey Letts’ The Minutes was supposed to open last season, but was delayed for some reason. Then it was announced for this season and dates, casting and a theater have finally been confirmed. This Pulitzer Prize finalist about a bizarre town-hall meeting will begin previews at the Cort Theater on Feb. 25 prior to a March 15 opening. Letts himself will be in a cast that also includes Jessie Mueller, Armie Hammer, Blair Brown, K. Todd Freeman and Austin Pendleton. Anna D. Shapiro, who helmed the Chicago Steppenwolf production repeats her directing duties and then presumably take a short break before beginning work on staging The Devil Wears Prada.

Mark Addy and Johnny Flynn in “Hangmen”
Photo: Ahron R. Foster

When Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen was transferred from London to the Off-Broadway Atlantic Theater Company in 2018, there was talk of its moving to Broadway, but the logistics didn’t work out. The play did end up winning the New York Drama Critics Circle Award anyway. Now that dark comedy about a retired executioner and his dysfunctional friends and family will finally move to the Golden Theater with previews starting Feb. 28 and opening March 19.

Tootsie is closing in January, but another musical based on a popular film comedy about a struggling actor cross dressing, not to express his gender identity, but to achieve a goal with comic results, will take its place on Broadway. Mrs. Doubtfire, based on the Robin Williams hit, starts begins at the Stephen Sondheim on March 9 and opens on April 5. The team behind Something Rotten! writes the book and score.

Here’s an updated calendar of Broadway and Off-Broadway opening for 2019-20:

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

Dec. 9—-Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven (Atlantic Theater Company)

Dec. 10–one in two (The New Group/Signature Theatre)

Dec. 11–Judgement Day (Park Ave. Armory)

Dec. 12–The Thin Place (Playwright Horizons)

Dec. 12–Harry Connick Jr.–A Celebration of Cole Porter (Nederlander)

Dec. 15–London Assurance (Irish Rep)

Dec. 16–Sing Street (New York Theater Workshop)

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

Jan. 14–Dracula (CSC; previews begin)

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

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

Jan. 21–Paris (Atlantic Theater Company/Stage 2)

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

Jan. 23–The Woman in Black (McKittrick Hotel)

Jan. 29–The Confession of Lily Dare (Primary Stages/Cherry Lane)

Jan. 30–Medea (BAM/Harvey Theater)

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

Jan. 30–Frankenstein (CSC; previews begin)

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)

Feb. 25–We’re Gonna Die (Second Stage)

Feb. 25–Dana H. (Vineyard)

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

March 5–Girl from the North Country (Belasco)

March 7–Gnit (TFANA; previews begin)

March 9–Endlings (NYTW)

March 12–Six (Brooks Atkinson)

March 15–The Minutes (Cort)

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

March 18–Hangmen (Golden)

March 19–Nollywood Dreams (MCC; previews begin)

March 22–Company (Jacobs)

March 23–Intimate Apparel (LCT/Mitzi Newhouse)

March 24–Sanctuary City (NYTW/Lucille Lortel)

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

March 26–The Lehman Trilogy (Nederlander)

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

March 31–Diana (Longacre)

April–Assassins (CSC)

April 2–Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Booth)

April 5–Mrs. Doubtfire (Stephen Sondheim)

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

April 13–Plaza Suite (Hudson)

April 14–American Buffalo (Theater TBA)

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

April 21–Birthday Candles (Roundabout/AA)

April 21–Between the Lines (Second Stage; previews begin)

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–Three Sisters.

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

Vineyard Theater–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)

Aug. 13–MJ The Musical (Neil Simon)

Oct. 20–The Music Man

Spring 2021–1776

2021–Soul Train

2020-21–Lempicka

2021–The Devil Wear Prada (Chicago, then Broadway)

Future–Cinderella (Andrew Lloyd Webber version), Cagney, Dave, Death Becomes Her, Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical, 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

Grand Horizons

The Great Society

Hangmen (previously seen Off-Broadway)

The Height of the Storm

The Inheritance, Parts One and Two

The Lehman Trilogy (previously seen Off-Broadway)

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

David Byrne’s 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 Rouge

Mrs. Doubtfire

Six

Tina: The Tina Turner Musical

Play Revivals

American Buffalo

Betrayal

Blue

Frankie and Johnny in the Clare de Lune

How I Learned to Drive

Plaza Suite

The Rose Tattoo

A Soldier’s Play

Take Me Out

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Musical Revivals

Caroline or Change

Company

West Side Story

Specialties

Barry Manilow

Derren Brown: Secret

Harry Connick Jr.–A Celebration of Cole Porter

The Illusionists: Magic of the Holidays

Kristin Chenoweth: For the Girls

Slava’s Snowshow (revival)

2020-21

New Musicals

MJ The Musical

Soul Train

Musical Revivals

1776

The Music Man

Originally Posted on The David Desk 2 on December 8, 2019

TVOT NYC 2019

BroadwayHD Founder, Bonnie Comley, spoke at the TV Of Tomorrow NYC conference.

December 6, 2019: On Wednesday at Town Stages, Bonnie Comley, founder of BroadwayHD, the premiere streaming service for theater fans, spoke at the tenth annual East Coast TV Of Tomorrow NYC conference about niche OTT services. The conference has become the leading venue for agencies, brands, broadcasters, content-owners and adtech companies to explore the complex interrelationships between audience measurement, big data, and advanced advertising.

BroadwayHD Founder, Bonnie Comley, spoke at the TV Of Tomorrow NYC conference.

December 6, 2019: On Wednesday at Town Stages, Bonnie Comley, founder of BroadwayHD, the premiere streaming service for theater fans, spoke at the tenth annual East Coast TV Of Tomorrow NYC conference about niche OTT services. The conference has become the leading venue for agencies, brands, broadcasters, content-owners and adtech companies to explore the complex interrelationships between audience measurement, big data, and advanced advertising.

The panel, Niche OTT: New Kinds of Opportunities for New Kinds of Content, brought together niche content providers, along with providers of new video technologies to discuss the new kinds of viewing experiences, audience relationships, distribution channels, marketing and monetization strategies that are emerging in the OTT space and beyond for new forms of programming.

Looking for a Christmas gift that keeps giving all year round? Consider giving BraoadwayHD, the premiere streaming service for theater fans. Check-out at all the Holiday treats that are now available in December, along with the already established list of attractions at BroadwayHD.

BroadwayHD Holiday Lineup

Warm up the Holidays with the Hot new lineup of titles on BroadwayHD this December.

December 5, 2019:  BroadwayHD, the premiere streaming service for theater fans, kicks off the month with the critically acclaimed musical film Cabaret starring Tony and Academy Award winner Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey. Del Shores’ one-man-show, Six Characters in Search of a Play, Christopher Weldon’s exuberant three act ballet, Alice in Wonderland, Collins Meets Coward starring Joan Collinsas well as the acclaimed commentary program Stravinsky Staged: The Firebird and Les Noces ballets and St. Matthew Passion concert will be available on the streaming service this month making a perfect gift for you theater loving friends this season. 

Warm up the Holidays with the Hot new lineup of titles on BroadwayHD this December.

December 5, 2019:  BroadwayHD, the premiere streaming service for theater fans, kicks off the month with the critically acclaimed musical film Cabaret starring Tony and Academy Award winner Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey. Del Shores’ one-man-show, Six Characters in Search of a Play, Christopher Weldon’s exuberant three act ballet, Alice in Wonderland, Collins Meets Coward starring Joan Collinsas well as the acclaimed commentary program Stravinsky Staged: The Firebird and Les Noces ballets and St. Matthew Passion concert will be available on the streaming service this month making a perfect gift for you theater loving friends this season. 

You can also start the holidays early with a special playlist featuring Broadway productions Holiday Inn and She Loves Me. Additionally, in celebration of the movie release of Cats, you can find hit stage productions by Andrew Lloyd Webber on BroadwayHD.

December 2, 2019 – On December 5, BroadwayHD starts the month with the critically acclaimed musical film Cabaret starring Tony and Academy Award winner Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey. Del Shores’ one-man-show, Six Characters in Search of a Play, which brings to life six one-of-a-kind characters he has met in real life, will be available exclusively on December 3. Christopher Weldon’s exuberant three act ballet, Alice in Wonderland, commissioned by the Royal Ballet, makes its debut on the streaming service December 24 with an explosion of color stage magic and inventive, sophisticated choreography. Also, in celebration of Noel Coward’s 120th BirthdayBroadwayHD will premiere Collins Meets Coward starring Joan Collins on December 16 as well as the acclaimed commentary program Stravinsky Staged: The Firebird and Les Noces ballets on December 10 and St. Matthew Passion concert on December 24th.

Additionally, BroadwayHD is getting into the holiday spirit with a cheerful playlist debuting in December, including jolly performances like Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn (Broadway Production), A Christmas Carol, She Loves Me (Broadway Production), The Nutcracker Ballet, The MeshugaNutcracker!, Dan Goggin’s Nuncrackers and other holiday favorites!   

Finally, to celebrate the arrival of Cats in movie theaters December 20th  with an Andrew Lloyd Webber rail, featuring an array of the famed composers most beloved productions, including a video capture of the original stage production of CatsPhantom of the OperaLove Never Dies, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

“The Holidays are the perfect time to cozy up on the couch with the family, enjoy a bit of cocoa, and hours of exciting performances on BroadwayHD,” said BroadwayHD co-founders, award-winning producers and filmmakers Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley. “From the iconicCabaret for the adults, to Christopher Wheelden’s Alice in Wonderland ballet and our holiday playlist which is perfect for co-viewing with the kids, December will be a great month for viewers to check out what’s new on the service.”

Below is a full line-up of what BroadwayHD subscribers can see starting this December:

     December 3, 2019 – Six Characters in Search of a Play- From the Executive Producer of Queer As Folk and the creator of the highly acclaimed films Sordid Lives and Southern Baptist Sissies, Del Shores’ one-man play brings to life six one-of-a-kind characters he has met in real life that haven’t quite made it intoone of his plays, films or TV shows.In 90 minutes, the audience heard the truth behind how he collected these eccentrics and their stories as he portrays his hilarious, off-the-rails encounters with them. The play and capture was directed by Del Shores’ longtime collaborator Emerson Collins.

December 5, 2019 – Cabaret- The Academy Award winning musical film was directed by Bob Fossee, and stars Liza Minnelli, Michael York, and Joel Grey. Adapted from the Broadway show, this hard-hitting usical drama is set in decadent 1930s Berlin during Hitler’s rise to power. The film chronicles Cambridge student Brian Roberts’ friendship with the high-spirited Sally Bowles, a singer at the sleazy Kit Kat nightclub, where the anti-Semitic emcee sets a tone of debauchery.

 December 10, 2019- Stravinsky Staged – The Firebird and Les Noces

This exciting program presents two of Stravinsky’s seminal works to scores commissioned by Serge Diaghilev for his Ballets Russes: The Firebird and Les Noces. Michael Berkeley and Deborah Bull discover more about the ballets and the people who created them. Deborah Bull also dances Nijinsky’s version of The Rite of Spring with choreography recreated by Millicent Hodson.

 December 16, 2019 – Collins Meets Coward – This BBC series of eight, 30-minute plays are all based on the works of Noel Coward, originally titled “Tonight at 8:30” and stars Dynasty’s Joan Collins. The series of plays include Hands Across the Sea, The Red Peppers, The Astonished Heart, Family Album, Fumed Oak, Ways and Means, Still Life and Shadow Play.

 December 24, 2019 – Alice in Wonderland Ballet – The three-act ballet by Christopher Wheeldon with a scenario by Nicholas Wright that was commissioned by the Royal Ballett, Covent Garden, and the National Ballet of Canada and had its world premiere on Monday, 28 February 2011. The ballet follows the classic storyline where Alice journey through Wonderland and encounters a world of countless strange and magical creatures. Christopher Wheeldon also directed the musical American In Paris, which is now streaming on BroadwayHD.

 December 24, 2019 – St. Matthew Passion- Jonathan Miller’s daring dramatization of Bach’s most famous work. Upon a text written by Picander (Christian Friedrich Henrici) sets chapters 26 and 27 of the Gospel of St. Matthew to what is widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of classical sacred music.  The whole production is in the round, with singers and orchestras in ordinary clothes.

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

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.