The Great Comet of 1812 ****

By Isa Goldberg

Seeing THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 for the third time, and now with Josh Groban as Pierre at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway, I found the story itself so much clearer. Based on a segment of Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE, the musical’s plot is dense, and the relationships between the characters so tangled, that the story gets lost in the epic scope of the show. While its impact lies in this sense of endearing mystery, the underlying human experience remains inexplicable and otherworldly.

By Isa Goldberg

Seeing THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 for the third time, and now with Josh Groban as Pierre at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway, I found the story itself so much clearer. Based on a segment of Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE, the musical’s plot is dense, and the relationships between the characters so tangled, that the story gets lost in the epic scope of the show. While its impact lies in this sense of endearing mystery, the underlying human experience remains inexplicable and otherworldly.

But Groban, an operatic pop singer, has the gift of a great storyteller. In his own soul-searching performances, he sings about intimate experiences, opening the door for the audience to see who he is. Often these songs are about the quest for love or failed love. Here, in his Broadway debut, his silvery, well-balanced voice paints pictures so vividly, we don’t get lost in the on-stage mania, which is nearly bacchanalian at times. In the Russia of 1812 after all, we’re on the threshold of Napoleon’s invasion and the Great War of 1812.  Events are spiraling out of control.

Enter Groban’s Pierre – an existential anti-hero, a brooding man, in an unhappy marriage. As in Tolstoy’s novel, it’s he who brings the human dimension to the story. His surprising transformation, inspired by the realization of his love for Natasha and his apocryphal vision of the Comet of 1812, speak to the restorative power of love and faith.  Groban, an awesome romantic lead, pulls it off.

Imperial Theater
249 W 45th St, New York, NY 10036
(212) 239-6200
Running time: Two Hours, 35 Minutes
Photo: Chad Batka

Monopoly ****

Monopoly: Singing the Lives  from Baltic Avenue to Boardwalk

By: Paulanne Simmons

From its earliest beginnings in 16th century France, cabaret has always been the purlieu of writers and artists. So it should not be surprising that cabarets have always been subversive. Billie Roe must have had this in mind when she created her newest theme show, Monopoly: Singing the Lives from Baltic Avenue to Boardwalk, which she brought to Don’t Tell Mama on Feb. 12

Monopoly: Singing the Lives  from Baltic Avenue to Boardwalk

By: Paulanne Simmons

From its earliest beginnings in 16th century France, cabaret has always been the purlieu of writers and artists. So it should not be surprising that cabarets have always been subversive. Billie Roe must have had this in mind when she created her newest theme show, Monopoly: Singing the Lives from Baltic Avenue to Boardwalk, which she brought to Don’t Tell Mama on Feb. 12

As anyone who has ever played Monopoly knows, Baltic Avenue is cheap and probably where the undesirables live, while Boardwalk is prime real estate. Thus Roe’s show becomes not only a means for her to tell the story family vacations and family rivalry but also the story of our nation’s struggles with class. 

As directed by Mark Nadler, Roe is an excellent storyteller. Her vacations in upstate New York come alive, along with all the characters she creates to sing the songs: the aging Jewish woman, Sophie Gerstein; a hipster; a homeless woman.

Roe has chosen an eclectic mix of old and new songs. She begins very appropriately with Mark Mitchell’s “Cone on! Let’s Play Monopoly.” From there it’s not a huge jump to Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen’s Depression era “Raisin’ the Rent.”

Not surprisingly, many of the songs are about finances or the lack of them: Rickie Lee Jones’ “Easy Money,” John Fogerty’s “Fortunate Son.” But Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s “September Song” and U2 Bono’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” are an apt reminder that the loss of love can be more painful than the lack of money.

Although Roe creates numerous characters, it is her own personality and her formidable pipes that dominate the show. Part actress, part singer, with a strong dose of the vixen, Roe makes us remember that the purpose of cabaret is not only to make us smile. It’s also supposed to make us think.


Don’t Tell Mama – 343 West 46 Street – 212 757-0788

Billie Roe

The Object Lesson ***

By: Patrick Christiano

Be forewarned The Object Lesson created by Geoff Sobelle and directed by David Neumann, also a choreographer, dancer and actor, is a performance art piece running roughly 100 minutes at the New York Theatre Workshop. Sobelle is also the only credited actor, although another person in the guise of an audience member interacts with him.  In his biography Sobelle calls himself an actor, director and maker of absurdist performance art, and the press release says he is mainly interested in moments of “the sublime ridiculous.” 

By: Patrick Christiano

Be forewarned The Object Lesson created by Geoff Sobelle and directed by David Neumann, also a choreographer, dancer and actor, is a performance art piece running roughly 100 minutes at the New York Theatre Workshop. Sobelle is also the only credited actor, although another person in the guise of an audience member interacts with him.  In his biography Sobelle calls himself an actor, director and maker of absurdist performance art, and the press release says he is mainly interested in moments of “the sublime ridiculous.”

For The Object Lesson, which played at BAM’s 2014 Next Wave Festival to much acclaim, the NYTW’s open space resembles a warehouse full of clutter filled with piles upon piles of cardboard boxes and objects of all sorts, impressively designed by Steven Dufala. In fact, the scenic installation may be the best part of the show as audience members are encouraged to go early to roam the setting and sift through the debris. “Enjoy yourself,” a program notes says “All this stuff has been waiting for you! Take a box and open it. Explore. Find someone curious in the room and give them something…” Indeed, if you want a good seat, you must go early.  Many audience members settled for sitting on hastily arranged boxes since there is a limited number of actual seats available on the sofas or chairs that are part of the design.

Photo: Barry Gordin

When we finally meet Sobelle he talks at the audience as opposed to engaging them in the performance piece that is basically five vignettes not actually connected to one another. There is a clever one where the guest makes a phone call, and then the phone calls back repeating the first call to create a second conversation.

The highlight and most inventive is when Sobelle in ice skates prepares dinner for an audience member, which consists of chopping the lettuce and carrots for her salad with his skates before launching into a dance on top of the table.

The final piece has Sobelle unpacking a bottomless box giving us a glimpse of his life from the present to the past. Part clown, part magician and highly athletic Sobelle cuts an entertaining figure, however for my taste the show is too long. Give me old fashioned theater with real dramatic impact.

Lighting design by Christopher Kuhl and sound design by Nick Kourtides were more than serviceable.

The Object Lesson is now playing at the New York Theater Workshop, 79 East 4th St. through March 5, 2017.
For Tickets Click Here
Photos: Joan Marcus

Westminster Dog Show

By: Patrick Christiano

Nearly 3,000 dogs from 200 breads competed in the 2017 Westminster Dog Show that concluded at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday February 14 with the German Shepherd Rumor, the Winner in the herding group, taking the coveted top prize of Best in Show. Rumor was a crowd favorite, and the packed house at Garden cheered wildly when she was named the winner from the seven group winners that competed for Best in Show.

By: Patrick Christiano

Nearly 3,000 dogs from 200 breads competed in the 2017 Westminster Dog Show that concluded at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday February 14 with the German Shepherd Rumor, the Winner in the herding group, taking the coveted top prize of Best in Show. Rumor was a crowd favorite, and the packed house at Garden cheered wildly when she was named the winner from the seven group winners that competed for Best in Show.

On Monday evening the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding groups competed with the winner of each group moving on to Tuesday’s final showdown for Best in Show.  A Norwegian Elkhound, Diky, won the Hound Group, a Pekingese, Chuckie, won the Toy Group, a Miniature Poodle won the Non-Sporting Group, and Rumor won the Herding Group.

On Tuesday evening dogs from the Sporting, Working, and Terrier Groups competed to crown a winner in each group. An Irish Setter, Adrian, took top prize in the Sporting Group, a Boxer, Devlin, won the Working Dog Group, and a Norwich Terrier, Tanner, walked off with first place in the Terrier Group. Those winners moved on to vie against the previous evening’s winners for best in show.

Terrier Group Winner Norwich Terrier “Tanner”

However, Rumor, a charismatic German Shepherd, was not to be denied. Not only was she a favorite with the crowd, apparently with the judges. She won her group last year as well, and many thought he would win in 2016. However, 2017 turned out to be a banner year for her. Besides Best in Show at Westminster, she scored numerous Best in Shows throughout the country. She was seen Wednesday having steak at the legendary Sardis Restaurant in the theater district and will retired from competition after Tuesday’s win.

Best in Show Winner German Shephard “Rumor”

 The Westminster Dog Show is the second oldest major sporting event in America, second only to the Kentucky Derby, which began one year before the Westminster Kennel Club launched the Dog Show that today is the largest Dog Show in America bringing breeders from all over the country to New York for the annual event.

Photos Courtesy of Pam Gleason and Barry Gordin

Evening at the Talk House **

By: David Sheward

As you enter the Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at the Pershing Square Signature Center for Wallace Shawn’s new play Evening at the Talk House, you’re greeted by a familiar-looking lady dressed in the traditional white shirt and black pants of a waitron. “Would you like a sweet or some sparkling water?” she asks. It takes a minute to realize this is Jill Eikenberry, best known for LA Law. Wait, isn’t that the still-boyish Matthew Broderick wandering around Derek McLane’s cosy clubhouse set? And the squeaking voice of the Yoda-like playwright himself, also a cast member, can be heard chatting with the audience. From this relaxed and inviting opening, you might think you’ll be experiencing a nice, warm night with familiar faces from stage and screen delivering cute career anecdotes. But, you’re in for a surprise.

By: David Sheward

As you enter the Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at the Pershing Square Signature Center for Wallace Shawn’s new play Evening at the Talk House, you’re greeted by a familiar-looking lady dressed in the traditional white shirt and black pants of a waitron. “Would you like a sweet or some sparkling water?” she asks. It takes a minute to realize this is Jill Eikenberry, best known for LA Law. Wait, isn’t that the still-boyish Matthew Broderick wandering around Derek McLane’s cosy clubhouse set? And the squeaking voice of the Yoda-like playwright himself, also a cast member, can be heard chatting with the audience. From this relaxed and inviting opening, you might think you’ll be experiencing a nice, warm night with familiar faces from stage and screen delivering cute career anecdotes. But, you’re in for a surprise.

As in his previous works The Fever, The Designated Mourner, and Aunt Dan and Lemon, Shawn has chosen a easy, comfortable milieu to examine the banality of evil. At first the bonhomie of the pre-show carries into the opening moments of the play in Scott Elliott’s deceptively laid-back staging. Broderick, in his character of Robert, a successful playwright, delivers a long monologue explaining that he and several friends are at the Talk House, a run-down theatre club, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the production of his best play. There is much praise of the club’s snacks and cocktails and friendly chit-chat with actor Tom (jovial Larry Pine), producer Bill (avuncular Michael Tucker, Eikenberry’s husband and LA Law co-star), wardrobe mistress Annette (caustic Claudia Shear), composer Ted (waspy John Epperson, aka drag creation extraordinaire Lypsinka), and Nellie (Eikenberry) who runs the club along with her sole employee Jane (Annapurna Sriram), a sometime actress.

But it’s gradually revealed we’re in a dystopian future where theater is dead, soulless TV sitcoms are the dominant cultural offerings, and murder has become a government policy. In fact, several of the group have become part-time assassins to make ends meet since there are so few jobs in the arts. A charming but ruthless figure named Ackerley (a stand-in for Trump?) has risen to power and his dictatorial whims are dismissed as necessary measures to keep the population safe. Shawn plays Dick, an unemployed actor and the lone voice of dissent. He is a pitiful figure in pajamas frequently beaten by his “friends” for speaking out against Ackerley’s repressive regime.

This is an intriguing concept but the air of casual acceptance of these horrors is so pervasive, it deadens the impact. Yes, that’s Shawn’s point—fascism creeps in on little cat feet. But the acting and direction is so mild, the effect is soporific. Excerpts from Robert’s supposedly great play are as dry as the rest of the dialogue, so there is no contrast between the golden past the characters long for and their gloomy present. The all-star company has been directed to underplay every word and action, except for Shawn and Sriram. Shawn delivers a moving performance as the pathetic Dick, raging against the dying of the light of art. Sriram is saddled with the difficult task of making Jane, who matter-of-factly discusses poisoning old people and whines about her lack of acting work,  sympathetic, but she manages to pull it off. Apart from these two bright spots and Shawn’s valid themes of the slow creeping effect of political oppression, it’s a pretty dull Evening with all talk and little action.

Feb. 16—March 12. The New Group at the Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St., NYC. Tue—Fri, 7:30 pm; Sat, 8 pm; Wed, Sat, Sun, 2 pm. Running time: one hour and 40 mins. with no intermission. $75—$100. (212) 279-4200. www.ticketcentral.com.
Photos: Monique Carboni
Originally Published on February 16, 201& in ArtsinNY.com

 

Wallace Shawn, Mathew Broderick
Matthew Broderick, Annapurna Sriram, Jill Eikenberry, Wallace Shawn, John Epperson, Claudia Shear, Michael Tucker

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

20/20 Reading Series Kicks Off with The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

By: Iris Wiener

Stages need theatre that provokes conversation, has a voice, and inspires imagination. Woodshed Collective aims to do this and more with the “20/20 Reading Series,” a series of readings taking place in 2017 featuring anti-fascist and political plays speaking to the current political climate. The theatre company, which describes themselves as being driven by the belief in the combined power of stories and architecture to break down the barriers of everyday life, says that the idea for this series “will keep our vision clear about the challenges we face and help find a path to the 2020 election.”

20/20 Reading Series Kicks Off with The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

By: Iris Wiener

Stages need theatre that provokes conversation, has a voice, and inspires imagination. Woodshed Collective aims to do this and more with the “20/20 Reading Series,” a series of readings taking place in 2017 featuring anti-fascist and political plays speaking to the current political climate. The theatre company, which describes themselves as being driven by the belief in the combined power of stories and architecture to break down the barriers of everyday life, says that the idea for this series “will keep our vision clear about the challenges we face and help find a path to the 2020 election.”

With a total of three planned readings in 2017, the series kicks off with The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, starring two-time Tony Award winner Christian Borle as Arturo Ui, on February 20th at 7:30pm. Directed by Woodshed Collective Artistic Director Teddy Bergman, the play is a satirical allegory of the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany prior to World War II. The Brecht classic will be performed at a New York City historic landmark which has been at the forefront of social change and activism, Judson Memorial Church, located at 55 Washington Square South in New York.

In addition to Borle, Bergman has brought a number of his original cast mates from Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher on board for the reading. Greg Hildreth, Arnie Burton, David Rossmer and Kevin Del Aguila are also along for the ride. Also joining them for Arturo Ui are Bill Buell (Cyrano de Bergerac), James Saito (Life of Pi), Ethan Dubin (Rancho Viejo), Joe Tippett (Airline Highway), Peter Bartlett (She Loves Me), Elvy Yost (The Catch), Ben Beckley (Dying for It) and Justin Perez (Justin’s Basement Show).

 

Christian Borle

According to Woodshed Collective, all proceeds from the 2017 readings will go to organizations working to ensure a safe, open and just society. Tickets for the 20/20 reading of Arturo Ui are $50, with the first benefit of choice being the Southern Poverty Law Center (www.splcenter.org). Visit www.woodshedcollective.com for more information.

Photography: Barry Gordin

All Aboard!

 All Aboard!, New “Journey” Musical by National Pastime’s Al Tapper and Tony Sportiello, Opens

By: Ellis Nassour

Girl Behind the Curtain Productions (Sonia Carrion) will present the premiere of the original musical All Aboard!, with music and lyrics by Al Tapper and book by Tony Sportiello . The train leaves the station Friday (2/17) at the Theatre at the 14th Street Y [344 East 14th Street, between First and Second Avenues]. Opening night is Saturday (2/18). The limited engagement closes March 5.

 All Aboard!, New “Journey” Musical by National Pastime’s Al Tapper and Tony Sportiello, Opens

By: Ellis Nassour

Girl Behind the Curtain Productions (Sonia Carrion) will present the premiere of the original musical All Aboard!, with music and lyrics by Al Tapper and book by Tony Sportiello . The train leaves the station Friday (2/17) at the Theatre at the 14th Street Y [344 East 14th Street, between First and Second Avenues]. Opening night is Saturday (2/18). The limited engagement closes March 5.

Warren Scott Friedman is directing the three-member ensemble. David Wolfson, associate conductor of How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the Theatre at MSqG, is music director.

The creative duo are co-artistic directors of Algonquin Theater Productions. Tapper, author and Peabody Award winner for Excellence in Broadcasting for his 2013 documentary Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy, and theater and TV producer Sportiello, wrote the “screwball comedy: musical National Pastime. It debuted at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, had its New York debut at Playwrights Horizons Peter J. Sharp Theatre in 2012 and went on to play across the country. It ran most recently at the Bucks County Playhouse, with Hunter Foster directing. It will have its international premiere in Guadalajara, Mexico April 1 at the Teatro Vivian Blumenthal.

Tapper wrote music and lyrics for An Evening at the Carlyle,music, lyrics, and book for the musical Sessions, and music for Imperfect Chemistry.

All Aboard! is anything but your run-of-the-mill romantic musical. For one thing, it’s a musical in three acts. And don’t let the title fool you into thinking this is a bright and breeze, homey concoction. To quote a bit of JohnA Passaro: “Life is like a train ride. The passengers are seemingly going to the same destination as you, but based on their belief that the train will get them to their desired destination they will stay on or get off…”

Sportiello describes this riveting ride of six lives as “a timeless, mystical, and musical locomotive that unravels the mysterious tales of three couples and the different journeys they take.”

There’s Larry and Kim, whose happy marriage is threatened when Larry announces his desire to have an affair — but only if she agrees. Then there’s Jake and Karen, political spin doctors who encounter a scandal that’s so hot they may end up scorched. Finally, Marie, a successful entrepreneur is approached by Terry, who instead of being the angel she so desires turns out to be — No! not going there. No Spoiler Alert needed.

“Each of the characters discovers life and death, love and heartbreak, ambition and despair,” states Sportiello, “as they journey toward their own surprising and inexorable destinations.”

All Aboard! stars Brian Demar Jones (TV’s Grimm) as the conductor guiding the three couple to their ultimate destinynation; and doing triple duty portraying all three couples are Sammi Sadicario (Rock of Ages, regional) and Nathan Oesterle .

All Aboard! tickets are $50, general admission; $25, students/seniors. Purchase at the 14th Street Y box office, online at www.allaboardthemusical.com/tickets-please, or by calling (646) 395-4310. For more information, visit www/allaboardthemusical.com.

The Girl Behind the Curtain Productions is a boutique production house formed in 2014, It focuses on the creation and selling of original works for stage, TV, and concert/recordings. Producer Sonia Carrion previously worked with Cambridge’s American Repertory under Diane Paulus. For more information, visit www.thegirlbehindthecurtain.com.

I’ll Eat You Last

Jodi Stevens Headlines as Sue Mengers in John Logan’s I’ll East You Last at Music Theatre of Connecticut

By: Ellis Nassour

John Logan’s biting, sometimes brutal eavesdrop into an evening at the home of Hollywood’s pioneering first female mega agent, I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers, will star Jodi Stevens as the much-feared and, at least to a coterie of, much-loved powerbroker. It runs February 24-March 5 at Norwalk’s Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) (509 Westport Avenue), celebrating its 30th Anniversary season.

Jodi Stevens Headlines as Sue Mengers in John Logan’s I’ll Eat You Last at Music Theatre of Connecticut

By: Ellis Nassour

John Logan’s biting, sometimes brutal eavesdrop into an evening at the home of Hollywood’s pioneering first female mega agent, I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers, will star Jodi Stevens as the much-feared and, at least to a coterie of, much-loved powerbroker. It runs February 24-March 5 at Norwalk’s Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) (509 Westport Avenue), celebrating its 30th Anniversary season.

The show plays in the state-of-the-art 110-seat Main Stage theatre, which boasts it’s “Connecticut’s most intimate theatre setting.”

Stevens starred on Broadway in Urban Cowboy and Jekyll and Hyde. Off-Broadway and regional credits include Annie, Dracula: The Musical, Hairspray, Legally Blonde, Sweeney Todd, and opposite husband Scott Bryce, My Way and Love Letters at MTC and White Heron Theatre. She’s portrayed Marlene Dietrich in three productions: Noel Coward and Friends, the premiere of Barry Manilow’s Harmony, and Dietrich and Chevalier.

Mengers had a meteoric rise in Hollywood, rising quickly from agency secretary to powerful, revengeful, tart-tongued, and witheringly acidic agent in a then-male dominated field. In her early life, in Nazi Germany, she was kicked to the curb as “a chubby Jewish girl.” She escaped, arriving in New York in the mid-50s. She learned English watching movies. All those films had her in a constant dreamscape about Hollywood. During the run of Funny Girl, she met and became friends with Streisand. When Streisand went to Hollywood, Mengers followed.

In I’ll Eat You Last, with Hollywood changing and clients deserting her, Mengers awaits her A-list dinner guest with a cigarette in one hand, a joint in the other. She sits forlornly in her glamorous Beverly Hills home hoping for a call from Streisand, who’s just fired her. In the long wait, she dishes hot gossip and dirty secrets.

Mengers never brushed off the rough edges, but that didn’t stop her from ruling regally over Hollywood. Her clients were the Who’s Who of tinseltown: Beatty, Cher, Dunaway, Anjelica Huston, Ali MacGraw, Nicholson, Burt Reynolds, and assorted moguls and movers and shakers from M-G-M to San Quentin. Every guest had to be famous.

In Logan’s play, Stevens, channeling mean Mengers, says “Honey, my own mother couldn’t get in here if she was standing outside in the rain!”

In a 60 Minutes interview, Mengers told Mike Wallace, “I was a little fish — a little nothing making a hundred and thirty-five dollars a week. I liked the way the agents lived: the expense accounts, the cars. I thought, ‘What they do isn’t that hard. It beats typing.'”

When she rose to agent, mentored by one of the firm’s top honchnos, she lifted his Rolodex and left for greener pastures. She took on the big boys, landing clients by threats, deception, cajoling, promises, guilt, and doggedness. She was once described as “a bulldog with charm.”

Mengers, who suffered chronic illnesses and, in the end, tiny strokes, passed in 2011 at age 79.

Jodi Stevens is a three-time Connecticut Critics Circle nominee – including for Featured Actress in MTC’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

Logan is a three-time Oscar-nominated screenwriter and playwright. Plays include Red, winner of six Tonys including Best Play; screenplays include Skyfall, Sweeney Todd, The Aviator, and Gladiator. TV credits include Sex and the City.

Kevin Connors, MTC’s co-founder and executive artistic director, directs.

MTC is recipient of the Connecticut Critics’ Circle’s highest honor, the Tom Killen Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to Connecticut Professional Theatre. Its 30th Anniversary season is supported in part by Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development and The Hour/Hearst Connecticut Media Group.

Tickets for I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers are $30-$55 and available online at www.musictheatreofct.com or by phone at (203) 454-3883.

Protest Songs *****

Classic Protest Songs: Second Edition
By: Paulanne Simmons

When many of us think of protest songs, we picture Bob Dylan, Joan Baez or Phil Ochs strumming guitars and singing at marches, cafes and concert halls. But as Scott Siegel showed in his Classic Protest Songs: Second Edition at Metropolitan Room on Friday, Feb. 10, the history is much richer.

Classic Protest Songs: Second Edition
By: Paulanne Simmons

When many of us think of protest songs, we picture Bob Dylan, Joan Baez or Phil Ochs strumming guitars and singing at marches, cafes and concert halls. But as Scott Siegel showed in his Classic Protest Songs: Second Edition at Metropolitan Room on Friday, Feb. 10, the history is much richer.

Of course the evening did include a few of the classic protest songs of the 60s. Alex Getlin san Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and Laila Robbins sang Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Woodstock.” But there was also a fair sampling of much older songs. Jillian Louis sang Woody Guthrie’s 1940 “This Land is Your Land,” with the original, more controversial lyrics and Sal Viviano sang Yip Harburg and Jay Gorney’s Depression era “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”

Siegel’s definition of protest songs is rather broad, including a good number of what we might call “inspirational” songs. Here Broadway had a major presence. Walker Jones sang “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific and Pepe Nufrio sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the songwriting team’s “Carousel.”

The evening ended, most appropriately, with Pepe Nufrio and the Broadway By the Year Chorus rendering a powerful interpretation of “Do You Hear the People Sing” from Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil’s Les Misérables.

Given the state of politics in the U.S. at this time, it’s not surprising that many of the songs were extremely heartfelt. Louis’s “This Land Is Your Land” including feisty audience participation. An American flag was unfurled at the end of “Do You Hear the People Sing.”

Perhaps Siegel really has it right. Protest songs and inspirational songs work hand-in-hand. Without hope their can be no resistance, and without resistance there is little hope.

Entrance Applause

By: Paulanne Simmons 

The theater is hushed. The house lights go off. Hugh Jackman walks onstage and the audience bursts into riotous applause

By: Paulanne Simmons 

The theater is hushed. The house lights go off. Hugh Jackman walks onstage and the audience bursts into riotous applause

Why? Jackman, as talented as he may be, has as yet done nothing to merit such acclaim. So it’s only reasonable to assume the audience is clapping for one (perhaps both) of two reasons. Jackman’s fans are showing the actor how much they appreciate him or how much they are anticipating his performance.

Either way, this is detrimental to the show. When the actor walks onstage in a play, that actor is not Hugh Jackman or Patti LuPone or James Earl Jones. The actor is the character he or she is play. Applause destroys this illusion and takes both the audience and the actor out of the place they should be to best interpret the playwright’s words.

What’s more, one can only imagine how the other, lesser known actors must feel when they walk onstage, unrecognized and unheralded. These hard-working men and women become second-class citizens in a play they have worked so hard to bring to life.

But perhaps the worst aspect of entrance applause is that it is part of the cult of the star, which is currently doing so much to ruin good theater. 

One suspects people applaud when a famous actor walks onstage mostly to acknowledge that they are savvy enough to recognize this esteemed personage. Even before entering the theater, they have read the right magazines, perused the most important reviews and seen the biggest shows. This applause may serve more to gratify their own egos than to please the actor.

It would be nice if people chose shows they would like to see on the basis of other factors as well: the subject matter, the playwright, the director. This would do much to insure that producers would think twice before putting their money behind a shoddy production, with the cynical hope that it will succeed because a big movie star is taking the lead.

But if people are not interested in any of the above, let them at least keep quiet and not disturb those in the audience who have come to the theater to see a play and not a star.

Tulla Booth Gallery

  Tulla Booth Gallery Presents
 Winter to Spring Photography Exhibit
 Opening Reception Saturday, February 10th  5 – 7 pm

                Exhibit: thru April  10, 2018
Artists: Stephen Wilkes, Daniel Jones, Roberto Dutesco, Blair Seagram

  Tulla Booth Gallery Presents
 Winter to Spring Photography Exhibit
 Opening Reception Saturday, February 10th  5 – 7 pm

                Exhibit: thru April  10, 2018
Artists: Stephen Wilkes, Daniel Jones, Roberto Dutesco, Blair Seagram

Daniel Jones his newest body of work, the Seaside Expressions series is almost painterly and it creates a visual moment that pulls the viewer in. His work taken with a digital camera the motion one sees is done entirely in the camera. The stunning color is all true to nature, altered only by the atmosphere created by the weather, light and in camera movment. This body of work, a new beginning, for Dan has been widely admired by our collectors and fans in the gallery

 Blair Seagram. “When my lens turned toward surfers I was inspired by their keen sense of timing catching a wave then riding across it. The sequence of images that make up the surfing panoramas is less about a decisive moment than about a series of moments or continuity of actions that are presented as one still image.” -Blair Seagram

Stephen Wilkes’s wildly popular “Day to Night” Series are exciting images of the most beloved cities and sites of the world. As part of his on going series he wanted to capture the iconic Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles which he felt captures the essence of Southern California. Wilkes photographs from a stationary 50 foot crane. All explaned on a “CBS Sunday Morning” segment Shooting 12 hours from day to night and gathering 1,200 to 1,500 images To form one image from dawn to dusk. He was recently featured in newest National Geographic Issue celebrating the 100th anniversary of the State Parks in America. He is on a quest to complete his vision photographing for an upcoming a fine art publication. Please see Stephen recent lecture on Ted Talks. 

 Newest Work  “Brooklyn Bridge” A new view of the park under the Bridge on the shores of Dumbo in Brooklyn.

 The Tulla Booth Gallery features established and emerging  contemporary photographers. We offer authentic and beautiful photography in black and white and color.  We feature photographs in the following subjects: landscapes, seascapes, flora, exotic travel, figurative lifestyle, celebrity, and documentary. It is our goal to present iconic images that transcend their subject making them timeless and collectable.

We offer an “Art on Site,” art consulting service for home or office. House calls are great for the client and it gives us a scope of the client’s need as they build a collection of art they love.

Fall Gallery Hours: Thursday thru Sunday 12:30 – 6:00 Or Call for an Appointment 917-488-1229

Sunset Boulevard

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece, Sunset Boulevard celebrates an historic return to Broadway at The Palace Theatre on February 9th

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece, Sunset Boulevard celebrates an historic return to Broadway at The Palace Theatre on February 9th.

Three-time Tony Award-winner Glenn Close and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Sunset Boulevard return to Broadway in this new production. Close made her West End debut in bravura sold-out limited engagement at the English National Opera (ENO) in April 2016, winning an Evening Standard Award for her iconic portrayal of Norma Desmond. Based on Billy Wilder’s classic Academy Award-winning film, Sunset Boulevard features a celebrated book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton.) Directed by Lonny Price, this production of Sunset Boulevard will feature a 40-piece orchestra on the stage of The Palace Theatre (1564 7th Avenue), the biggest on Broadway in more than 80 years.

With the Broadway opening of Sunset Boulevard, Andrew Lloyd Webber will have the rare distinction of having four musicals running simultaneously on Broadway: The Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock – The Musical, CATS, and Sunset Boulevard – an accomplishment only achieved previously by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

THE HISTORIC OPENING NIGHT WILL TAKE PLACE AT BROADWAY’S PALACE THEATRE with expected  first-nighters, including Bobby Cannavale, Al RokerJane KrakowskiCyndi LauperRosie O’DonnellJoel GreyMariska HargitayNeil Patrick HarrisPaul SchafferGabriel ByrneTituss BurgessBob BalabanKelli O’HaraPatina MillerLaura OsnesLena HallSierra BoggessLillias WhiteRosanna Scotto, and more to help  celebrate the historic opening night of Sunset Boulevard with cast members, including Glenn CloseMichael XavierSiobhan Dillon, and Fred Johanson, and the creative team: legendary composer Andrew Lloyd WebberDon Black (Book & Lyrics), Christopher Hampton (Book and Lyrics), and Lonny Price (Director).

 

Westminster Dog Show

The 141st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is a prestigious all-breed conformation show that has been held in New York City annually since 1877. Currently, the breed and Junior Showmanship competitions are being held at Piers 92 and 94, while the group and Best in Show competitions are held at Madison Square Garden.

The 141st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is a prestigious all-breed conformation show that has been held in New York City annually since 1877. Currently, the breed and Junior Showmanship competitions are being held at Piers 92 and 94, while the group and Best in Show competitions are held at Madison Square Garden.

Meet & Compete Featuring the 4th Masters Agility Championship & 8th AKC Meet The Breeds
Saturday, February 11, 2017
Daytime Session

4th Masters Agility Championship (8 am – 4 pm)
8th AKC Meet The Breeds (10 am – 5 pm)
Evening Session

Masters Agility Championship Finals (7 pm – 9 pm)
* Daytime session will take place at Piers 92/94 and evening session will take place at Pier 94 (711 12th Ave. at 55th St. & West Side Highway).

2nd Masters Obedience Championship
Monday, February 13, 2017
Daytime Session (8 am – 4 pm)

* Event will take place at Pier 94 (711 12th Ave. at 55th St. & West Side Highway).
141st WKC Dog Show
Monday, February 13, 2017
Daytime Session (8 am – 4 pm)

Breed Judging across Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding groups
Junior Showmanship preliminaries
Evening Session (6 pm – 11 pm)
Doors open at 6 pm for Best of Breed benching area

Group Judging across Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding groups (begins at 8 pm)
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Daytime Session (8 am – 4 pm)

Breed Judging across Sporting, Working and Terrier groups
Junior Showmanship preliminaries
Evening Session (6 pm – 11 pm)
Doors open at 6 pm for Best of Breed benching area

Junior Showmanship Finals (begins at 7:30 pm)
Group Judging across Sporting, Working and Terrier groups (begins at 8:00 pm)
BEST IN SHOW!
* Daytime Sessions will take place at The Piers 92/94 (711 12th Ave. at 55th St. & West Side Highway).
* Evening Sessions will take place at Madison Square Garden (West 33rd St. & 7th Ave)
* All time EST

Photo: Barry Gordin

Broadway Update

Broadway Update: Theatre Responds to Trump
By: David Sheward

Donald Trump has only been President two weeks, but theater is already responding to his controversial (to put it mildly) regime.

Broadway Update: Theatre Responds to Trump
By: David Sheward

Donald Trump has only been President two weeks, but theater is already responding to his controversial (to put it mildly) regime. Many have compared Donald and his spokespeople Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer’s offering “Alternative facts” as truth to the doublespeak of the tyrannical dictator Big Brother in George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984 which is enjoyed a resurgence lately (I wonder why.) A stage version of Orwell’s classic will be presented on Broadway in a limited production, opening on June 22 at the Hudson Theatre, now home to the also limited engagement of Sunday in the Park with George (more on that production and its decision to stay out of the Tony race in a future blog.) This British production of 1984, originally presented by the Headlong and Almeida will arrive with an American cast under the auspices of producers Sonia Freedman and Scott Rudin. A previous stage version played the Joyce Theater Off-Broadway in the 1990s as part of a regional American theater festival. There have been two movie adaptations. Edmond O’Brien, Jan Sterling and Michael Redgrave starred in the 1956 version and John Hurt (who just passed away) and Richard Burton headlined an even starker edition released in year of the title. With claims of fake news and imaginary terrorist attacks coming from the Trump administration, Orwell’s prophetic work is more relevant than ever.

John Hurt in the film version of 1984

Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright Robert Schenkkan (The Kentucky Cycle, All the Way, Hacksaw Ridge) has written a more direct response to the Trumpian junta with Building the Wall, a new play set in near future. The playwright told the New York Times he churned out the script in a “white hot fury” over the course of a single week just prior to the election of 2016. It received a developmental reading at NYC’s Lark Theater shortly after its was finished and is now on the roster of four regional theaters. The first production will be at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles from March 18–May 21. The press release describes the play thus: “It’s the very near future, and the Trump administration has carried out his campaign promise to round up and detain millions of immigrants. Now, a writer interviews the supervisor of a private prison as he awaits sentencing for carrying out the federal policy that has escalated into the unimaginable. This riveting, harrowing and illuminating drama delivers a powerful warning and puts a human face on the inhuman, revealing how when personal accountability is denied, what seems inconceivable becomes inevitable.”

Other productions will be presented at the Curious Theatre in Denver (April 4-19), the Forum Theatre in Silver Spring, MD; the Borderlands Theatre in Tuscon, AZ; and the Adobe Rose Theatre, Santa Fe, NM. Hopefully, New York audiences will get to sample this relevant work.

Wallace Shawn’s Evening at the Talk House, opening Feb. 16 Off-Broadway in a New Group production at the Signature Theatre, also takes place in an alternative future. The plot concerns a group of theater artists reacting to a tyrannical leader in the White House. Lynn Nottage’s Sweat will transfer to Broadway in April after a hit run at the Public and is based on interviews with blue-collar workers displaced by the global economy.
Another Pulitzer Prize winner, Ayad Akhtar (Disgraced) tackles another aspect of the American system with Junk, a new play chronicling the financial civil war of the 1980s. It opens Oct. 12 at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre for a limited run. Business-centered plays usually don’t do well on Broadway. Lucy Prebble’s Enron and Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money both closed after only a week of performances, but Junk is a LCT non-profit (ironic, huh, since it’s about making money).

As usual, here is an updated rundown of upcoming Broadway and Off-Broadway openings for the remainder of the 2016-17 season and beyond:

Feb. 9–Sunset Boulevard (Palace)
Feb. 15–Man from Nebraska (Second Stage)
Feb. 16–Evening at the Talk House (New Group/Signature Theatre)
Feb. 21–Everybody (Signature)
Feb. 22–If I Forget (Roundabout/Laura Pels)
Feb. 22–Kid Victory (Vineyard)
Feb. 23–Sunday in the Park with George (Hudson)
Feb. 23–Linda (MTC/City Center)
Feb. 27–The Penitent (Atlantic Theatre Co.)
Feb. 27–Wakey Wakey (Signature)
March 1–Sweeney Todd (Barrow Street)
March 1–All the Fine Boys (New Group/Signature)
March 2–Significant Other (Booth)
March 9–The Glass Menagerie (Golden)
March 12–Come from Away (Schoenfeld)
March 13–The Light Years (Playwrights Horizons)
March 15–Joan of Arc: Into the Fire (Public)
March 16–The Price (Roundabout/AA)
March 20–How to Transcend a Happy Marriage (LCT/Mitzi Newhouse)
March 23–Miss Saigon (Broadway)
March 26–Sweat (Studio 54)
March 26–Come Back, Little Sheba/Picnic (Transport Group/The Gym at Judson)
April 2–The Play That Goes Wrong (Lyceum)
April 3–Amelie (Walter Kerr)
April 5–Present Laughter (St. James)
April 5–Gently Down the Stream (Public)
April 6–War Paint (Nederlander)
April 13–Oslo (LCT/Vivian Beaumont)
April 17–Groundhog Day (August Wilson)
April 18–Indecent (Cort)
April 19–The Little Foxes (MTC/Friedman)
April 20–Hello, Dolly! (Shubert)
April 23–Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Lunt-Fontanne)
April 24–Anastasia (Broadhurst)
April 25–Six Degrees of Separation (Barrymore)
April 26–The Bandstand (Bernard Jacobs)
April 26–Pacific Overtures (CSC)
April 27–A Doll’s House, Part 2 (Golden)
2016-17 (Dates TBA)–The SpongeBob Musical, The Wiz, Camp David, Photograph 51
Spring 2017–Half Time
June 22–1984 (Hudson)
June 29–Marvin’s Room (Roundabout/AA)
Aug. 24–Prince of Broadway (MTC/Samuel J. Friedman)
Oct 12–Junk (LCT/Vivian Beaumont)
Oct. 26–M. Butterfly (Theater TBA)
2017–Sherlock Holmes, Singin’ in the Rain, Pat Benatar Musical
2017-18–Burn This, To Kill a Mockingbird
March 1, 2018–Amy and the Orphans (Laura Pels/Roundabout)
Spring 2018–Frozen (St. James), The Flamingo Kid
Future–The Cher Show, The Devil Wears Prada

2016-17 Broadway Season

 

New Plays
A Doll’s House, Part 2
The Encounter
Heisenberg
Indecent
Oslo
The Play That Goes Wrong
The Present
Significant Other
Sweat 

New Musicals
Amelie
Anastasia
The Bandstand
A Bronx Tale
Come From Away
Dear Evan Hansen
Groundhog Day
Half-Time
Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical
In Transit
Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812
War Paint
 
Play Revivals
The Cherry Orchard
The Front Page
The Glass Menagerie
Jitney
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
The Little Foxes
Present Laughter
The Price
Six Degrees of Separation
 
Musical Revivals
Cats
Hello, Dolly!
Falsettos
Miss Saigon
Motown the Musical
Sunday in the Park with George
Sunset Boulevard
 
Special Attractions
Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science
Black to the Future
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons on Broadway!
The Illusionists: Turn of the Century
Kristin Chenoweth: My Love Letter to Broadway
 

The Liar **** – Yen **** – Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 ***1/2

By: David Sheward
Could there be a more appropriate historical moment to mount a new adaptation of Corneille’s comedy The Liar? As our newly-elected president and his spokespeople substitute “alternative facts” for truth, Classic Stage Company presents David Ives’ intricate semi-updating of the hilarious tale of Dorante, an epic braggart exaggerating and fabricating his way through romantic entanglements in 17th century Paris. He’s accurately described as “a lying genius, if a moral zero” (sound familiar?) This is Ives’ third foray into refashioning French theatrical meringues. He has previously adapted Moliere’s The Misanthrope (as The School for Lies) and Regnard’s The Heir Apparent, both of which have played CSC.

By: David Sheward

Could there be a more appropriate historical moment to mount a new adaptation of Corneille’s comedy The Liar? As our newly-elected president and his spokespeople substitute “alternative facts” for truth, Classic Stage Company presents David Ives’ intricate semi-updating of the hilarious tale of Dorante, an epic braggart exaggerating and fabricating his way through romantic entanglements in 17th century Paris. He’s accurately described as “a lying genius, if a moral zero” (sound familiar?) This is Ives’ third foray into refashioning French theatrical meringues. He has previously adapted Moliere’s The Misanthrope (as The School for Lies) and Regnard’s The Heir Apparent, both of which have played CSC.

This latest fluffy dessert is delicious and full of lighter-than-air rhymes. Did I mention the script is all in verse? The catchier ones include “experience” and “Presbyeterians”; “moister” and “oyster”; and “bivalve” and “my valve.” There are a sprinkling of anachronisms but they do not distract. Michael Kahn who commissioned the new version for the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC where he is artistic director, maintains a light-footed pacing throughout.

Though Dorante is the title character and Christian Conn makes him a dashing rogue, the real star of the evening is Carson Elrod as Dorante’s sad-sack servant Cliton. While his master cannot tell the truth, Cliton suffers from the opposite malady—he finds it impossible to lie. (Add an “n” to his name and you get another victim of a huge prevaricator, adding a layer to the relevant political subtext.) Elrod is a masterful clown, expertly prattling and mugging, but never going over the top. The highlight of the show is a lesson in falsifying by Dorante to his honest-to-a-fault valet. As Conn elegantly demonstrates the necessary gestures and looks to lend verisimilitude to whoppers, Elrod gives Cliton’s awkward attempts to be appear smooth a riotous reality. Then the servant tries out his new fibbing skills on Isabelle (Kelly Hutchinson), the pretty maid he’s been after and receives a slap for his pains.

Hutchinson comes in a close second behind Elrod in the comic sweepstakes. She has a slight advantage over her fellow players since she plays not only the flirtatious Isabelle, but her twin sister the scolding sadomasochist Sabine. Also worthy of mention are Adam Lefevre as Dorante’s befuddled father and Ismenia Mendes and Amelia Pedlow as the two young ladies caught in the hero’s lies.   

At the other end of the theatrical spectrum, British playwright Anna Jordan’s Yen offers a searing, sordid portrait of alienated youth in a ripping production by Trip Cullman from the MCC Theatre. At first glance, this piercing drama seems like a great many other works about lost boys behaving badly such Orphans, This Is Our Youth, and Saved. In Mark Wendland’s spare box set with peeling wall paper and drab lighting (designed with appropriate moodiness by Ben Stanton), we find teenager half-brothers Hench and Bobbie watching porn and playing video games while their alcoholic, diabetic mother Maggie drops in occasionally for cigarettes, money, and food. The kids’ only regular companion is their German shepherd Taliban (so called because “He’s vicious and he’s brown,” Bobbie explains.) Into this dysfunctional melange comes neighbor Jennifer who at first only wants to care for the neglected canine, but gradually takes on the role of girlfriend for Hench and mother to Bobbie. Predictably a misunderstanding leads to tragedy, but the writing is so realistic and the acting and direction so sharp, this familiar story still has a walloping impact.

Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) and Stefania LaVie Owen (The Carrie Diaries) feelingly convey Hench and Jenny’s tentative attractions and damaged psyches. Ari Graynor is brilliantly brittle as the out-of-control Maggie. The uniquely named Justice Smith gives a stand-out performance as the feral Bobbie. Violently leaping around the stage one moment, barking like a dog the next, Smith captures Bobbie’s almost animal-like need for attention and his hair-triggger code switching from lonely child to violent aggressor.

In other stage adventures, I managed to catch up with the Broadway edition of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. I was scheduled to see Dave Malloy’s techno-pop-rock musical version of a slice of Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace when it opened last November, but star Josh Groban was out that night and the next available performance was not until recently. There have been three previous Off-Broadway incarnations in 2012 and 2013. When I attended the second of these at a site-specific tent called Kazino in the meatpacking district, director Rachel Chavkin’s immersive experience was so involving, I felt as if I were in the room with the characters. In transferring to the much larger Imperial Theater, set designer Mimi Lien has done her best to recreate the atmosphere of a Russian dinner club, but the experience is much less intimate. Maybe those seated on the stage feel close to the Rostovs, Bolkonskys, Kuragins, and Bezukhovs as they wrestle with passions and loyalties, but from the orchestra seats, I felt removed from their machinations. The musical’s delicate closing moments brought me to tears Off-Broadway, but here I just admired the stagecraft.

As Pierre, Groban exhibits a magnificent voice, but lacks the depth to fully inhabit  the role. Denee Benton’s Natasha is charming and bubbly yet when her liaison with Anatole is shattered, she fails to move us. Original cast members Lucas Steele as the caddish Anatole, Amber Gray as his licentious sister Helene, and Grace McLean as the overbearing aunt Marya have blown up their parts to fill to larger space. Only Brittan Ashford as Natasha’s cousin and confidante Sonya maintains the heartbreaking pathos she achieved Off-Broadway, particularly in her shattering solo. In this roundup, Off-Broadway scores the higher points while Broadway only has higher prices.

The Liar ****
Jan. 26—Feb. 26. Classic Stage Company, 136 E. 13th St., NYC. Tue—Thu, 7 pm; Fri—Sat, 8pm; Sat, Sun, 3pm. Running time: two hours including intermission. $60. 212-352-3101. www.ovationtix.com. Photo: Richard Termine

“The Liar”

Yen ****
Jan. 30—Feb. 19. MCC Theatre at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St., NYC. Tue—Thu, 7 pm; Fri, Sat, 8 pm; Sat, 2 pm; Sun, 3 pm. Running time: two hours and ten mins. including intermission. $49-$99. (866) 811-4111. www.ovationtix.com. Photo: Joan Marcus

Lucas Hedges, Ari Graynor, Justice Smith in “Yen”
Stefania LaVie Owen, Lucas Hedges in “Yen”

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 ***1/2
Opened Nov. 14 for an open run.  Imperial Theatre, 249 W. 45th St., NYC. Tue, Thu, 7pm; Wed, Fri—Sat, 8pm; Wed, Sat, 2 pm; Sun, 3 pm. Running time: two hours and 30 mins. including intermission. $59-$299. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com. Photo: Chad Batka

Josh Groban in “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”
Denee Benton, Amber Gray in “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”