Phantom of the Opera

Another Milestone for Phantom of the Opera: 29 Years on Broadway

By: Ellis Nassour

Andrew Lloyd Webber is having quite a theater season. It’s nothing new to him. This season, however, is quite special. With his newest show, School of Rock, written with Glen Slater and book adapted from the film by, he’s going to have four musicals on Broadway. A new production of Tony-winning Best Musical Cats has returned for its first revival since closing in September 2000 after 7, 485 performances over 18 years.

Another Milestone for Phantom of the Opera: 29 Years on Broadway

By: Ellis Nassour

Andrew Lloyd Webber is having quite a theater season. It’s nothing new to him. This season, however, is quite special. With his newest show, School of Rock, written with Glen Slater and book adapted from the film by, he’s going to have four musicals on Broadway. A new production of Tony-winning Best Musical Cats has returned for its first revival since closing in September 2000 after 7, 485 performances over 18 years.

Sunset Boulevard, a 1995 Tony winner for Best Musical [in a season when its only rival was the juke box revue Smokey Joe’s Café] with lyrics and book by Don Black and Christopher Hampton , returns February 9for its first revival with its original star, Glenn Close. It closed in 1997 after nearly two-and-a-half years and close to a thousand performances.

But remember when Cats’ catch phrase was Now and Forever? It seems that should have been saved for the grand dame of Lloyd Webber musicals, Tony winning Best Musical Phantom of the Opera, which opened here, January 26, 1988 with lyrics by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe), after its acclaimed October, 1986 opening on the West End.

POTO, produced by Cameron MacKintosh and Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company, became the longest-running show in Broadway history on January 9, 2006 with its 7,486th performance, surpassing the record held by Cat. There was quite the celebration when it hit 25 years in January, 2013. 

Now, with an unprecedented 12,070 performances under its belt, it’s celebrating 29 years and set to break another record next January. 

It has nine years and over 4,000 performances over Broadway’s second longest-running show, the 1996 Tony-winning revival of  Kander and Ebb and Bob Fosse’s Chicago — Broadway’s longest-running revival with 8,395 performances.

It’s been breaking records since Cats, then the longest-running musical in Broadway history, closed. A few days ago, it capped another milestone for the history books: 29 years – still with no end in sight. 

One of a handful of the most successful stage productions of all-time, POTO has played here to 17 million plus and grossed more than a billion dollars.


The Phantom Of The Opera – Theme Song – YouTube

James Barbour continues in the title role, alongside Ali Ewoldt as Christine Daaé, Kyle Barisich as Raoul, Michele McConnell as Carlotta, Linda Balgord as Madame Giry, and Kara Klein as Meg Giry.

Phantom of the Opera is directed by Tony winner Hal Prince (Tony, Drama Desk), with dazzling set and costume design by the late Maria Björnson (Tony), musical staging and choreography by Gillian Lynne (Tony, DD nominee). DD-nominated orchestrations are by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber

Worldwide, a staggering 140 million people in 35 countries and 15 languages have experienced POTO. In December, the West End production not only celebrated its 30th Anniversary, but surpassed 12,500 performances.

There are six current productions of Phantom around the world: London, New York, Sapporo (Japan), Budapest, Prague, and Stockholm — with an engagement to begin in August in Sweden. 

Drama Desk Panel Everyone’s A Critic

The Drama Desk sponsored a panel discussion Everyone’s A Critic at BroadwayCon 2017. Chris Jones, the Chief Critic of the Chicago Tribune served as moderator and speakers included playwrights David Lindsay-Abaire, Matthew Lombardo, and Sharr White along with James Morgan, the Artistic Director of the York Theater, press agent Susan L. Schulman, and critics Linda Armstrong, Elysa Gardner, Peter Marks, and Helen Shaw.

The Drama Desk sponsored a panel discussion Everyone’s A Critic at BroadwayCon 2017. Chris Jones, the Chief Critic of the Chicago Tribune served as moderator and speakers included playwrights David Lindsay-Abaire, Matthew Lombardo, and Sharr White along with James Morgan, the Artistic Director of the York Theater, press agent Susan L. Schulman, and critics Linda Armstrong, Elysa Gardner, Peter Marks, and Helen Shaw.

As a growing number of news outlets have cut their arts coverage along with criticism, and the number of reviews, who feel they are critics, is only rising as anyone with an internet connection is now able to share their thoughts with the world. The panel discussed how in our world today barriers to being published have all but disappeared, allowing many people to call themselves critics. How are their relationships with artists changing?

Photography: Barry Gordin
January 27-29, 2017

Sharr White, Mathew Lombardo, Charles Wright
Chris Jones
Peter Marks, Elysa Gardner, Helen Shaw
James Morgan, Mathew Lombardo
Linda Armstrong, Peter Marks, Elysa Gardner, Helen Shaw, David Lindsay-Abaire, Chris Jones, James Morgan, Sharr White, Mathew Lombardo, Susan L. Schulman, Charles Wright
Linda Armstrong, Peter Marks, Elysa Gardner
Mathew Lombardo, Susan L. Schulman
Helen Shaw, David Lindsay-Abaire, Chris Jones, Sharr White
Jim Morgan, David Lindsay-Abaire, Helen Shaw, Elysa Gardner

 

Not That Jewish ***1/2

By: Paulanne Simmons
Monica Piper is a very funny woman. She comes by her skills naturally. Her father, was a touring comic before he decided to settle down to raise a family, and even her more sedate mother knew how to tell a dirty joke.

By: Paulanne Simmons

Monica Piper is a very funny woman. She comes by her skills naturally. Her father, was a touring comic before he decided to settle down to raise a family, and even her more sedate mother knew how to tell a dirty joke.

Monica Piper is also Jewish, so much of her humor revolves around typical Jewish themes, family, food, bad luck … and being Jewish (which is a combination of family, food and bad luck). And she’s also a good storyteller.

Piper’s solo show, Not That Jewish, directed by Mark Waldrop, combines all her very evident skills. Much of the show is about her journey from a little girl in a proudly but not very Jewish family to a young lady searching for love among blond, blue-eyed men. This little girl also became an English teacher until she realized she had inherited both her father’s sense of humor and his desire to perform, and she had to go where her destiny led her.

A good deal of Piper’s story is devoted to her son, a young man she adopted and despite teenage rebellion and a green Mohawk, managed to turn into a Jew and a mensch. Her adventures as a single mother are funny, until her story takes a darker turn when Piper relates her struggle with breast cancer.

There’s plenty of pathos in the show, but Piper is at her best when she’s telling jokes. She’s adept with the one-liners and also knows how to stretch out a tale until she sails in for the punchline. At times we suspect there may be a touch more fiction than truth in these tales, especially the one about Mickey Mantle. But then again, who know? And who cares?

It cannot be denied that some of Piper’s act falls into schtick, and it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. But this is a cup of tea that has plenty of sugar, a touch of lemon and a nice aftertaste.

Not That Jewish is at New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St., 212-239-6200, newworldstages.com. Open run.
Photos: Carol Rosegg

Monica Piper

 

BroadwayCon 2017

Michael Cerveris and Judy Kahn hosted an Autograph/Photo session at BroadwayCon 2017.

Michael Cerveris and Judy Kahn hosted an Autograph/Photo session at BroadwayCon 2017.
BroadwayCon is a theatre-lover’s dream come true: a three-day convention filled with programs, panels, performances, and everything you love about Broadway and the theatre community. Some of Broadway’s biggest stars  discussed their current projects, their careers in the theatre, the industry, and the magic of live performance.
BroadwayCon opened Friday January 27 and runs through Sunday January 29th at The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in NYC. For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.BroadwayCon.com

Photography: Barry Gordin

 

Book “The Great Comet of 1812”

By: Ellis Nassour

The spectacular Broadway production of Natasha, Pierre, & THE GREAT COMET of 1812 has been hailed as a theatrical experience like no other.

By: Ellis Nassour

The spectacular Broadway production of Natasha, Pierre, & THE GREAT COMET of 1812 has been hailed as a theatrical experience like no other. Dave Malloy’s musical puts audiences right into the middle of the romance and passion of brash young lovers as they and a huge cast light up Moscow in this lavish staging. The production has transformed the Imperial Theatre into a compact version of opulent, imperial Russia – with crystal chandeliers dropping from the flies, stunning costumes, and ramps and bridges that take the players, dancers, and some musicians from various onstage tiers to throughout the orchestra and into the mezz and balcony. And you get a snack. 

Now you can get an up-close-and-personal look at the making of this musical with the equally lavish book Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 – the Journey of a New Musical to Broadway (Sterling Publishing; 212 glossy pages; 10 ¾” x 8 ¾” gold-trimmed hardcover, with the great comet emblazoned on it; over 160 photos – many full page, and images; Foreword by Oskar Eustis; SRP $40).

Malloy says he approached the show “as an experiment to put a novel onstage, melodicizing Tolstoy’s incredible narrative style. I wanted to embrace the old and the new, to be sincere and reverent, yet knowing and sharp, communing with but also commenting on the classicism without ever lapsing into irony or parody.”

The musical, inspired by a 70-page slice of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, had humble beginnings Off Broadway at Ars Nova, followed by a not-so-humble production in the northwest corner of Greenwich Village in a tent replete with clinking glasses of vodka and a sumptuous meal. The musical was reconceived for Broadway at A.R.T. (American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge, MA) by director Rachel Chavkin, with choreography by Sam Pinkleton.

Starring are Denée Benton and Josh Groban in their Broadway debuts and, from the original cast, Lucas Steele as Anatole, Lortel Award-nominee golden-voiced Brittain Ashford as Sonya, Amber Gray as Hélène, Gelsey Bell as Princess Mary, Nicholas Belton as Andrey/Bolkonsky, Nick Choksi as Dolokhov, Grace McLean as Marya, in addition to a 20-strong cast and ensemble.

The Great Comet … book is compiled and edited by theater journalist and author Steven Susskind and Malloy, who also provides the script and insightful annotations. A CD of five songs — three from the original Off-Broadway original cast album [Ghostlight Records] two new recordings for Broadway featuring Groban, and 25-piece orchestra — with music supervision by Sonny Paladino and musical direction by Or Matias.

The score mixes classic Broadway with Russian balalaika, folkloric, pop, rock, soul, and electronic dance music.

Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 – the Journey of a New Musical to Broadway takes you behind-the-scenes at the musical’s inception and paths to Off Broadway and Broadway, with cast portraits, sketches, and performance stills. There are essays by Groban, Benton, Steele, A.R.T. artistic director Diane Paulus, producer Howard Kagan, and Phllipa Soo (Hamilton; upcoming Amélie), who originiated the role of Natasha Off Broadway, as well as reflections from Malloy on his translation, and interviews with creatives.

James Monroe Iglehart

James Monroe Iglehart Stops at NJPAC Before Heading to Hamilton

By: Iris Wiener

Can’t wait to see Aladdin’s Genie swap his magic for beats when he moves to Hamilton in August? The original cast member of Memphis makes his way to NJPAC on Saturday, January 28th, in an intimate setting akin to that of 54 Below, where he sold out houses with his cabaret show, How the Heck Did I Get Here

James Monroe Iglehart Stops at NJPAC Before Heading to Hamilton

By: Iris Wiener

Can’t wait to see Aladdin’s Genie swap his magic for beats when he moves to Hamilton in August? The original cast member of Memphis makes his way to NJPAC on Saturday, January 28th, in an intimate setting akin to that of 54 Below, where he sold out houses with his cabaret show, How the Heck Did I Get Here?

This time around, Iglehart will be performing his favorite hit songs from stage and screen. On the eve of his previous solo performances he spoke with Theaterlife.com about what makes his shows so vibrant, humorous and impactful: “Every actor is always looking for some destination! They’ll do everything to see what will work and what will stick. What I’m learning is it’s not about where you’re hitting, it’s about the work you’re doing. It sounds cliché and hokey, but it’s the truth. So have I reached what I want to reach? No, and I think I won’t until I’m dead, and by that time I’ll be dead so I won’t care! I keep doing as much as I can and trying to have as much fun while I’m doing it.”

Visit www.njpac.org/events/detail/james-monroe-iglehart-in-concert for more information or to purchase tickets. NJPAC is located at 1 Center Street, Newark, New Jersey.

2017 Academy Awards Nominations

By: Ellis Nassour

They’re off and running! Awards season is officially underway. The Oscars are coming! The Oscars are coming! The Golden Globes have spoken, but now it’s time for golden Oscar to add his stamp of approval. Weekend after weekend, acclaimed films have hit theatres, but throughout the year several excellent films made big splashes at cineplex box offices. A couple of them, especially Hell or High Water, haven’t been forgotten by the nominators.

By Ellis Nassour

They’re off and running! Awards season is officially underway. The Oscars are coming! The Oscars are coming! The Golden Globes have spoken, but now it’s time for golden Oscar to add his stamp of approval. Weekend after weekend, acclaimed films have hit theatres, but throughout the year several excellent films made big splashes at cineplex box offices. A couple of them, especially Hell or High Water, haven’t been forgotten by the nominators.

The recent blockbusters that opened in New York and Los Angeles in order to qualify for nods are, as they say, opening or soon-to-open wide. Now with the boost of a nomination, acclaimed indies and foreign films given a nod will hit the art house circuit.

If last year’s nominations lacked diversity, this year’s line-up of out-of-the-norm releases gave diversity a new definition. Recognition couldn’t be avoided. But to avoid brouhaha, the Academy, led by president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, initiated numerous changes in the make-up of the committees and membership.

The 89th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, air Sunday, February 26 in a three-and- a- half hour telecast on ABC beginning at 8:30 P.M. Eastern. Prior to the Awards, there’ll be lots of glitz and glamour with the red carpet arrivals.

Three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep continued to break records with her 20th  nomination (Best Actress, Supporting Actress). It was not the year for Ben Affleck, but younger brother Casey has risen to the top of the pack with his extraordinary performance in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, and now makes the Oscar history books.

Often it’s puzzling how nominators nominate. For instance, when she is billed as a co-star in bold lettering and carries at least, if not more, of the screen adaptation of August Wilson’s Tony and Drama Desk-winning Fences, starring the leads of the 2010 Broadway revival, Tony-nominated Denzel Washington and Viola Divas, how does two-time nominee (Doubt, The Help) Davis get regulated to the Supporting Actress category? And wasn’t Jeff Bridges an equal star with Ben Foster and Chris Pine in Hell and High Water? 

The nominations were announced with winners and nominees, including Glenn Close, Marcia Gay Harden, Terrence Howard, Jennifer Hudson, Brie Larson, and Ken Wantanabe, making recollections of their big moment. Leading the pack was La La Land, which raked in 14 nominations.

Nomination highlights:

Best picture
Arrival
Fences
Hackshaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight



Actor in a leading role 

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

Actress in a leading role 
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Actor in a supporting role
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Actress in a supporting role
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomi Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Directing
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

Documentary (feature)
13th
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life Animated
O.J.: Made in America

Foreign language film
Land of Mine, Denmark
A Man Called Ove, Sweden
The Salesman, Iran
Tanna, Australia
Toni Erdman, Germany

Animated feature film
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Cougarette
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

For a full list of nominations, visit www.oscars.com.

Betty Buckley

Betty Buckley in Tight Squeeze in M. Night Shyamalan Blockbuster Thriller Split

By: Ellis Nassour

After the roll-out of studio prestige films from just after Halloween through New Year’s, so they qualify for nominations, you don’t expect much in the way of exciting films in January. Guess what? There’s always an exception.

Betty Buckley in Tight Squeeze in M. Night Shyamalan Blockbuster Thriller Split

By: Ellis Nassour

After the roll-out of studio prestige films from just after Halloween through New Year’s, so they qualify for nominations, you don’t expect much in the way of exciting films in January. Guess what? There’s always an exception. And this January it’s Split (Universal/Blumhouse). It comes from the once shock-and-schlock horror master, two-time Oscar nominee M. Night Shyamalan (Director, Screenplay for The Sixth Sense; later Unbreakable, Signs, The Village).

Split, an edge-of-the-seat psychological whopper, undoubtedly Shyamalan’s best in years. It doesn’t hurt that it’s anchored by the extraordinary talent of Scotsman James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class/Days of Future Past/Apocalypse; Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby series; TV’s Watership Down, Shameless).

Once the train leaves the station – or, more aptly, the car leaves the parking lot, the action is fast and furious, off-putting, and, probably unintentional, sometimes hilarious. It’s a jumbo bucket of buttered popcorn and large iced-cold Coke jolter.

McAvoy plays a man who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. Within his one body, there are 23 personalities ranging from a small boy with a taste for hip-hop to a conniving, albeit well-mannered, prim and proper woman intent on ruling the brood.

The actor, in an acting master class performance, weaves in and out of these vastly different personalities, sometimes in the same scene. They are Kevin Wendell Crumb, Dennis, Patricia, Hedwig, Barry, Orwell, and Jade.  Interestingly, some are actually at war with each other.

Also starring is two-time Tony nominee and winner as Feature Actress for Cats, and cabaret star and recording artist Betty Buckley co-stars in her first film since 2011. [There were a number of TV guest roles in between.] Her last big movie outing was 2008’s not exactly well-received Shayamalan’s The Happening.

In session visits with specialist Dr. Fletcher, Buckley, the personalities manifest themselves. However, it’s sadly too late when she becomes aware of their controlling, Hulk-like entity The Beast, whom she later gets quite a tight squeeze from.

For reasons we’re never privy to, one of the personalities sets the action in motion by kidnapping three Philadelphia girls – Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, and Jessica Sula – whom he doesn’t seem to wish to harm. He keeps  them holed up in a maze of warrens in the bowels of what appears to be worthy of the once-infamous Eastern State Penitentiary, which still sits right in the middle of the City of Brotherly Love. What makes the plot riveting is how the girls work their wiles on the personalities in an attempt to get one of them to help them escape.

It turns out Buckley is not only a fan of writer/director Shayamalan but also a fan of horror films.

“I like psychological thrillers where you have no idea what will happen next,” she says, “when the director or writer is ahead of you and you’re only catching up as the story’s being told. There are scary things I don’t like, but Split is the kind of scary thing I like best.”

She says that working with Shayamalan on The Happening “where I played a crazy lady, was so much fun. He’s a gifted filmmaker and has quite a dedicated team he works with in Philadelphia. Many have done all of his films, so they’re like a big family. Their closeness creates a wonderful atmosphere in which to work.”

Buckley can’t praise Split’s star enough. “Not only was he a joy to work with, but his is one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.”

She says Dr. Fletcher was a perfect fit. “I’ve studied human psychology and been in my own analysis, and the subject of multiple personalities has always fascinated me. This was something I knew about. I was overjoyed with Night told me he wrote the part with me in mind.

“Playing a psychologist who’s on a journey with her patient was something I felt I’d be a good advocate for,” she continues. “There’re a myriad of personalities in each of us. Maybe not the way there are for those with this disorder, but we have a different personality for social interactions, for family, for your best friend. We put on faces for different situations.”

Split’s myriad personalities for the most part have dark sides. “Don’t we all? Jung called it ‘The Shadow.’  It’s tough to face parts of yourself you don’t like. Our mission is to be conscious of that, so you can be responsible for it. You have to own all of your emotions.”

Buckley, who’s had a career where she’s excelled on stage, screen, and TV, became an East Coast/West Coast hopper. She starred on Broadway in the original 1776 and Pippin; then, became a regular on the seminal hit TV series Eight Is Enough (1971-1981. Fortune surely shown on her when she was cast as Grizabella in Cats.

She made her film debut as phys ed teacher Miss Collins in Brian de Palma’s screen adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie (1976), and over a decade later starred in short-lived Broadway musical based on the film.

Buckley replaced Bernadette Peters in Song and Dance, starred in the original Mystery of Edwin Drood, and was a stellar Norma in Sunset Boulevard following Glenn Close. She was last on Broadway in the musical Triumph of Love (1997). She co-starred in the film adaptation of Horton Foote’s Tender Mercies, then went on to a season in the raw prison series OZ, where she claimed to be the birth mother of murderous Ryan O’Reily.

Shayamalan has big plans. His next project will be a sequel to his 2000 superhero thriller Unbreakable. Buckley says if she gets the call, she’ll be Philadelphia bound. There’s a hint at the very end of Split of what’s to come in a surprise cameo by one of the director’s loyal stars.

Phoebe Legere

Phoebe Legere @ Stephens Talkhouse
July 4, 2017 @ 8:00 PM
Come celebrate the Fourth of July with Phoebe Legere! It’s all for a great cause. Phoebe will donate all proceeds from the show to help extend programs bringing Art & Music to underserved children.
For Tickets Click Here

Phoebe Legere @ Stephens Talkhouse
July 4, 2017 @ 8:00 PM
Come celebrate the Fourth of July with Phoebe Legere! It’s all for a great cause. Phoebe will donate all proceeds from the show to help extend programs bringing Art & Music to underserved children.
For Tickets Click Here

Author directing Author ****

By: Iris Wiener

Though the roles of playwright and director often overlap in the rehearsal process, their work is usually distinguished by their prescribed jobs; this is what makes Author directing Author so special. In the third annual edition of the series that pairs international playwrights with one another as directors of each other’s work, boundaries become non-existent, and the roles behind the scenes are blurred, adding more layers to already poignant pieces.

By: Iris Wiener

Though the roles of playwright and director often overlap in the rehearsal process, their work is usually distinguished by their prescribed jobs; this is what makes Author directing Author so special. In the third annual edition of the series that pairs international playwrights with one another as directors of each other’s work, boundaries become non-existent, and the roles behind the scenes are blurred, adding more layers to already poignant pieces.

Each year the authors have addressed a particular theme. While the previous events showcased themes of home and desire, 2017’s theme appropriately tackles power (and with the nation simultaneously participating in protests and marches as the show opened on the 19th, it is an especially significant piece of theatre). Participating American playwright Neil LaBute (reasons to be pretty, Fat Pig), Italian playwright Marco Calvani (Strong Hands), and Spanish playwright Marta Buchaca (Emergencia) explore power struggles of varying natures in three one-act plays, and in doing so have created a phenomenally thought-provoking evening.

Opening the show is After the Dark, a hefty piece written by Calvani. A designer (Magaret Colin) is on a business trip with her young, seemingly disarrayed assistant (Gabby Beans). Late in their boozy night, the boss, eager to boost her company sales as well as her protégée (who has other plans for the evening), takes part in a cruel game, revealing her own fragilities and true intentions. The weakest of the three plays, Dark includes many tropes and a few clichés that detract from its significance. However, Colin’s portrayal of desperation pulls at the gut, as the audience bears witness to her character’s internal struggle to come to terms with how the world has moved on without her. In this story, the power belongs to the youthful and the men, with little allowance for anyone else. Buchaca’s direction is solid but not incredibly interesting.

In Buchaca’s Summit, a male conservative city mayor (Victor Slezak) is defeated by the female candidate of the left-wing party (Dalia Davi). He is in no hurry to leave office, as he can’t stomach the idea of a liberal woman taking over his seat. When his successor arrives to assume power as he is cleaning out his desk, he ruminates on the reasons behind his loss while warding off attacks on the way he ran his district. Buchaca’s piece is timely and honest, questioning the reasons behind constituents’ votes and the effects social media has on current elections. When a racist tweet is found, one that was made by the new mayor five years prior to her current office is, she tells her predecessor, “I can assure you one stupid tweet isn’t going to defeat us.” The United States knows this to be all too true with the current president in office, and as with every line of the play (even those that don’t mirror current politics), there is an integral irony in the sentiment.

LaBute directed Summit with an impeccable eye for timing, juxtaposing his actors’ varying levels of anger and frustration with perfectly calibrated reactive tones. Slezak’s politician posits that “history only celebrates those who are victorious.” The definition of “victory” is up to the audience to define, and can be applied to both the play and the real world in multiple contexts. Summit ends on a humorous yet affecting note, a testament to both Buchaca and LaBute.

LaBute’s I Don’t Know What I Can Save You is a grand finale, demonstrating the struggle of power between an estranged father (Richard Kind) and daughter (Gia Crovatin) who meet to negotiate a new relationship between one another. In a move to grapple with hurt she experienced as a child, Crovatin’s Janie attempts to coerce her father into signing a contract, charging him any time he makes mistakes that he also made when he was raising her. If they continue on as a father and daughter, they both have to contemplate what they are willing to live with or without. Calvani’s direction is superb and inspired by the brilliantly natural acting of Kind. LaBute’s piece, like much of his work, is peppered with humor in all of the right places, never trading in poignancy for a laugh.

The disconnect between different age groups and time frames is intelligently brought to life in Author directing Author, while the most “powerful” aspect of the show is in its ability to explore the many facets of the human desire to be dominant, and what that entails once it has been achieved. This is a celebration of art that is not to be missed.

Author directing Author ****
La Mama
Ellen Stewart Theatre | 66 East 4th Street (2nd Floor)
For Tickets 
https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/966828
January 19 – February 05, 2017 
Thursday to Saturday at 7PM; Sunday at 4PM    Photography: Theo Cote

“Summit” By Marta Buchaca Translated by H.J. Gardner with Victor Slezak & Dalia Davi
“After the Dark” By Marco Calvani Translated by Allison Eikerenkoetter with Margaret Colin & Gabby Beans

 

Iris Wiener is an entertainment journalist. Her work appears on Playbill.com and in TheaterMania, Long Island Woman and Long Island Herald, among other publications. Follow her on Twitter @Iris_Wiener or visit her at IrisWiener.com.

Get Happy *****

By: Linda Amiel Burns

The 2017 Lyrics & Lyricist Season opens with a tribute to the Early Years of Harold Arlen with Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks and featuring a terrific cast.

The 2017 Lyrics & Lyricist Season opens with a tribute to the Early Years of Harold Arlen with Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks and featuring a terrific cast.

By: Linda Amiel Burns

The 92nd Street Y opened the season of Lyrics & Lyricists with a tribute called “Harold Arlen, The Early Years” concentrating on the songs he composed in 1930’s. One of the most prolific and remarkable songwriters of the last century, Arlen is considered in the same category of greats such as Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Coe Porter, The Gershwins, and Rodgers & Hart.  Born Hyman Arluck in Buffalo, NY in 1905, his cantor father Samuel saw his early promise for music as a pianist, composer and arranger. By the age of 15, Arlen was working in a band and later played for an 11-man group called the Buffalodians. It was wonderful to see a vintage clip of this band from 1926 with Arlen at the piano playing “Buffalo Rhythm.”

The special treat of the concert was that everyone was backed up by the fabulous Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks whose period arrangements were played as written from Vince’s amazing collection. He served as co-artistic director along with Peter Yarin as co-music director on piano. The other co-artistic directors were historian Robert Kimball and Klea Blackhurst who also sang and hosted in her charming manner.  The other members of the talented cast were Stephen DeRosa, Erin Dilly, Catherine Russell and Nathaniel Stampley and all smoothly directed by Gary Griffin.

Vince Giordano

Arlen’s ambition was to be a singer and was hired in 1929 by Vincent Youman’s to sing in his show Great Day. However, fate intervened when he met lyricist Ted Koehler and they began writing songs together. When Ruth Etting introduced “Get Happy” in a short-lived Revue, the team was rocketed to fame and his career as a songwriter was launched. The show opened with the cast singing this lively standard.  Many of Arlen’s hits from the 1930’s came from songs he wrote for the fashionable uptown Cotton Club with Ted Koehler such as “I’ve Got The World on a String” beautifully sung by Erin, the fun “Happy as The Day is Long” sung by Stephen, “Ill Wind” the haunting ballad performed by Catherine Russell along with the standard “Stormy Weather.” Nate’s beautiful voice did justice to “As Long As I Live.”

There were so many hits from that era and most were covered such as the brilliant “It’s Only a Paper Moon” sung by Klea that Arlen wrote with E.Y. Harburg and “Let’s Fall In Love” that Erin sang from the 1934 film of the same name.  Songs from the revue “Life Begins at 8:40” written with Ira Gershwin and E.Y. Harburg was also featured as in the segment with Erin and Stephen “You’re a Builder-Upper,” Let’s Take a Walk Around the Block” and “Fun to be Fooled.”  Catherine’s version of “I Gotta Right To Sing the Blues” was right on as well as Nate’s “Last Night When we Were Young.” Stephen sang a rousing rendition of “Lydia, The Tattooed Lady” that Groucho introduced in the 1939 film At The Circus.

Catherine Russell

Robert Kimball came on stage to talk about Harold Arlen’s later years when he suffered from depression after the death of his wife Anya in 1970. Arlen died in 1986 at the age of 81. Arlen and Harburg’s masterpiece was the score from the brilliant film The Wizard of Oz that continues to thrill generations today.  “Over The Rainbow” was voted the 20th Century’s best song by MTV. To close, the entire cast sang a medley of songs from that film that continues to bring joy to millions. A popular feature of L & L is the audience sing-a-long and we all joined in to sing, “It’s Only a Paper Moon” as the lyrics flashed upon the screen.  Kudos to everyone involved in paying tribute to this accomplished composer’s early years and whose brilliant melodies will live on forever.

On a Personal Note:

I began The Singing Experience in 1977 and in the beginning the workshop performances were in my home where I had a large living room and a stage.  In the winter of 1980 I put together a show of Arlen songs for my students and invited him to come and amazingly he accepted. Arlen wasn’t feeling particularly well that night and it was a snowy evening, but he did show up and seemed pleased by the songs we had chosen. All I kept thinking was “Harold Arlen is here in my home!”  I had my children, then only 4 and 6, sing a medley of songs from The Wizard of Oz and my daughter said from the stage, “I can’t believe that we are singing in front of the man who wrote the music to my favorite film!” Then we all surrounded Harold Arlen to sing “Over the Rainbow” and he was very moved and in tears.  He thanked me profusely for a wonderful evening and it remains one of the most memorable nights of my life!

Feb 11-13 LET’S MISBEHAVE

The Sensational Songs of Cole Porter

March 18-20 BABY, DREAM YOUR DREAM:

Dorothy Fields and the women of the American Songbook

May 6-8 SONGBOOK CLASSIC BY UNSUNG LYRICISTS

JUNE 3-5 FROM CAMELOT TO CALIFORNIA:

The Worlds of Lerner & Loewe

Visit: 92Y.org/Lyrics of phone 212 415-5500 for more info and to buy tickets.

Concert for America: Stand Up, Sing Out!

Concert for America: Stand Up, Sing Out! brought together artists from Broadway, TV and beyond to spread a message of unity and hope yesterday afternoon at Town Hall. The first concert in the monthly series raised more than $100,000 to benefit the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, National Immigration Law Center, and the Sierra Club Foundation.

Concert for America: Stand Up, Sing Out! brought together artists from Broadway, TV and beyond to spread a message of unity and hope yesterday afternoon at Town Hall. The first concert in the monthly series raised more than $100,000 to benefit the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, National Immigration Law Center, and the Sierra Club Foundation.

The audience took to their feet several times throughout the concert. Featured moments included Tony Award winner Chita Rivera performing “America” from West Side Story with some of the original Broadway production choreography; dance legend Ben Vereen breaking down into tears singing Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”; and Tony Award nominee Judy Kuhn inciting gasps throughout the audience when it was announced she would sing “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s Pocahontas, for which she originated the vocals.

Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO of the NAACP, also attended and introduced Brian Stokes Mitchell singing “America the Beautiful,” followed by “Wheels of a Dream” from Ragtime. The entire cast of artists joined together on stage to sing an arrangement of “What the World Needs Now is Love,” which Concert for America co-producers Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley produced in response to the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016, and “Let the Sunshine In” from Hair.

Rudetsky and Wesley announced on stage last night that the next dates for the Concert for America series will be back at Town Hall on February 25, 2017, followed by a performance in Chicago on March 19, 2017.

The sold-out show featured performances and appearances by Betty Buckley, Michelle Collins, Lilla Crawford, Brian d’Arcy James, Sharon Gless, Judy Gold, Richard Kind, Judy Kuhn, Anika Larsen, Liz Larsen, Caissie Levy, Beth Malone, Carrie Manolakos, Stephanie Mills, Jessie Mueller, Kate Mulgrew, Julia Murney, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelli O’Hara, Piper Perabo, Rosie Perez, Billy Porter, Randy Rainbow, Caroline Rhea, Alice Ripley, Chita Rivera, Shayna Steele, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Ben Vereen, Lillias White, Betsy Wolfe and more.  

 The concert was live streamed on http://www.concert4america2017.org/. A repeat broadcast of the concert will take place this Sunday, January 22nd, at 9:00pm EST on the aforementioned website.

Concert for America: Stand Up, Sing Out! was created and organized by Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley in association with Your Kids, Our Kids with the support of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

For more information or to make a donation, visit www.concert4america2017.org and follow @Concert4America on Twitter and Instagram and on Facebook at Facebook.com/ConcertForAmerica.
Photo: Jenny Anderson

Jitney *****

By: David Sheward

It’s hard to pick one, but Jitney is probably my favorite in August Wilson’s decade-by-decade, ten-play cycle of the African-American experience in the 20th Century. It’s kind of the underdog of this mammoth collection and maybe that’s why I like it best. There are no star parts. There are no flashy elements of mysticism which can be found in The Piano Lesson and Gem of the Ocean. Jitney was one of Wilson’s early plays, written even before his first breakout hit (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). It was the first Wilson play to premiere in NYC in an Off-Broadway theater (Second Stage in 2000) and is only now making its Broadway debut in a dynamic revival from Manhattan Theatre Club.

By: David Sheward

It’s hard to pick one, but Jitney is probably my favorite in August Wilson’s decade-by-decade, ten-play cycle of the African-American experience in the 20th Century. It’s kind of the underdog of this mammoth collection and maybe that’s why I like it best. There are no star parts. There are no flashy elements of mysticism which can be found in The Piano Lesson and Gem of the Ocean. Jitney was one of Wilson’s early plays, written even before his first breakout hit (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). It was the first Wilson play to premiere in NYC in an Off-Broadway theater (Second Stage in 2000) and is only now making its Broadway debut in a dynamic revival from Manhattan Theatre Club.

While other Wilson works contain powerhouse central roles and have attracted big names such as James Earl Jones and Denzel Washington (Fences), Whoopi Goldberg (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Phylicia Rashad (Gem of the Ocean), and Brian Stokes Mitchell and Leslie Uggams (King Hedley II), Jitney is a true ensemble piece with the dramatic weight almost equally distributed among its nine characters—the original won Drama Desk and Obie Awards for the entire company. The setting is a rundown Pittsburgh car-service station in 1977 (David Gallo who designed the 2000 version, returns with a different but equally arresting and detailed environment). Taxis don’t travel to this section of the city, so residents rely on unlicensed cabs for transportation. Becker, who runs the station, provides moral support as well as wheels. He’s an unofficial leader of the community, finding jobs for nephews and cousins attempting to get their lives in order and organizing his fellow businessmen to protest a city plan to tear down their buildings. But while he’s a figurative father to the neighborhood, his own family is in ruins. His son Booster is being released from prison after 20 years and their strained reunion is one of many threads in the vivid tapestry of the play.

The drivers and their steady clients come and go, telling stories and dreams, living out their personal narratives which sometimes cross over each other. There’s gossipy Turnbo, constantly inserting himself in others’ dramas; alcoholic Fielding, barely scraping by on his fares and subsisting on visions of the past; wily Shealy, using the station’s pay phone to run his numbers operation; and fiery Youngblood, a Vietnam vet struggling to hold down three jobs to support his girlfriend Rena and their infant son.

There are flaws—obvious exposition and a silly subplot involving jealousy and secrecy between Youngblood and Rena. But Wilson creates a rich, fully-inhabited group portrait of a community struggling to define itself in the shadow of bureaucratic and corporate white America. The symbolism and poetry are subtle and the characters are brilliantly alive.

Director Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who won a Featured Actor Tony Award for Wilson’s Seven Guitars, brings out more humor than Marion McClinton did in his 2000 staging. Costume designer Toni-Leslie James’ splashy 1970s outfits for Shealy draw audience guffaws with his every entrance. The more serious moments are equally intense. A minor dispute over a cup of coffee can escalate into near tragedy. A confrontation between father and son becomes an earth-shattering debate over the black man’s dignity and how to achieve it.

John Douglas Thompson, one of our best actors in classical roles, turns in his usual stellar work as Becker, skillfully displaying the man’s strength and his heartbreak. Brandon J. Dirden is a worthy opposite as his struggling son Booster. Anthony Chisholm, a veteran of the 2001 production, is deeply affecting as the tippling Fielding, particularly as he recounts a dream about his estranged wife. Michael Potts captures the anger underneath Turbo’s pettiness and the reliable Keith Randolph Smith makes a wise Doub, a driver who shares his wartime experiences with Youngblood. Andre Holland and Carra Peterson clash and connect with conviction as Youngblood and Rena. Harvy Blanks and Ray Anthony Thomas provide comic support as Shealy and Philmore, customers with woman trouble. 

Since Wilson’s death in 2005, few African-American playwrights have gotten their work produced on Broadway—interestingly most have been women. Katori Hall, Suzan-Lori Parks, Lydia R. Diamond, and Danai Gurira have had one or at the most two shows on the Main Stem, and Lynn Nottage will make her belated Broadway debut this spring with a transfer of her play Sweat from Off-Broadway. Wilson’s voice remains one of the most important in all American theater, but it speaks volumes that he is the sole African-American author to have had a consistent presence on the country’s main commercial stage for the past three decades. We should be grateful that Jitney has driven onto New York’s most popular theater thoroughfare and more audiences will be exposed to it, but more productions from new young authors of all races will truly reflect our national psyche.

Jitney *****
Jan. 19—March 12. Manhattan Theatre Club at Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St., NYC. Tue, Wed, 7 pm; Thu—Sat, 8 pm; Wed, Sat, Sun, 2 pm. Running time: two hours and 30 mins. including intermission. $60—$140. (212) 239-6200.  www.telecharge.com.
Originally Published on January 19, 2017 in ArtsinNY.com
Photos: Joan Marcus

ARF Events

Saturday, October 7, 2017
24th Annual Stroll to the Sea Dog Walk

The most barked about event of the year: ARF’s Stroll to the Sea features food, pet-themed vendors, contests, and a two-mile charity walk to the ocean and back. Held on the grounds of Mulford Farm in East Hampton, it is the perfect way to say good-bye to summer and welcome the fall.

Saturday, October 7, 2017
24th Annual Stroll to the Sea Dog Walk

The most barked about event of the year: ARF’s Stroll to the Sea features food, pet-themed vendors, contests, and a two-mile charity walk to the ocean and back. Held on the grounds of Mulford Farm in East Hampton, it is the perfect way to say good-bye to summer and welcome the fall.

John Canemaker
Photo: Sole Riley
Photo: Sole Riley

  ARF ADOPTION EVENTS Click Here 

The Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons actively rescues cats and dogs, provides quality care and offers sanctuary until loving homes can be found.

ARF’s work with animals, within our community and throughout the organization is guided by three core values: compassion, integrity and dedication.

Adoption Hours: 11am-4pm 7 days a week
Business Hours: 9am-5pm Monday-Friday

All About ARF:

  • ARF was founded in 1974.
  • Every year we place over 1,000 cats and dogs into loving homes.
  • Our state-of-the-art Adoption Center is located on 22 wooded acres in Wainscott, New York.
  • There are three open catteries with screened-in porches; a kennel with 48 indoor dog runs; 12 spacious outdoor runs; and a fully equipped medical wing with operating room, nurseries and quarantine holding rooms.
  • There is a full time veterinarian and vet technicians on staff.
  • Most of our animals come from high kill animal control centers, from people who can no longer care for their pets or are rescued from puppy mills.
  • Animals are admitted by appointment only.
  • Each year we admit over 1,000 cats and dogs and provide food, exercise, a warm place to sleep, and excellent veterinary care at our state-of-the-art Adoption Center.
  • 150 cats and dogs are at the Adoption Center at any given time.
  • ARF is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and currently is funded entirely by private donations.
  • ARF is a “no-kill” adoption center. We will care for an animal regardless of how long it takes to find a home, except in extraordinary circumstances, such as incurable illness or severe and dangerous behavioral problems. In such cases, a cat or dog may be euthanized.

 

The Present ***1/2

By: David Sheward
The box-office draw of radiant Cate Blanchett may be the reason The Present, Australian playwright Andrew Upton’s adaptation of Chekhov’s first untitled play in a production from the Sydney Theatre Company, is now on Broadway. But the double-Oscar-winning star is just one shining jewel in a mostly dazzling show full of farcical humor, heartbreaking pathos, and pointed political observation. Clocking in at three hours, the comedy-drama does have its slow points—the third of four long acts is especially lead-footed. Yet the intense and witty moments more than make up for the snooze-inducing snatches.

By: David Sheward
The box-office draw of radiant Cate Blanchett may be the reason The Present, Australian playwright Andrew Upton’s adaptation of Chekhov’s first untitled play in a production from the Sydney Theatre Company, is now on Broadway. But the double-Oscar-winning star is just one shining jewel in a mostly dazzling show full of farcical humor, heartbreaking pathos, and pointed political observation. Clocking in at three hours, the comedy-drama does have its slow points—the third of four long acts is especially lead-footed. Yet the intense and witty moments more than make up for the snooze-inducing snatches.

Usually when a classic work is translated into a modern setting, it feels mismatched, like the proverbial square peg in a round hole. But Upton, who happens to be Blanchett’s husband, has managed to fit the late 19th century work, unpublished until long after Chekhov’s death under the title Platonov, into a contemporary slot without shoving or straining. We are still in Russia, but rather than the original pre-Revolutionary era, it’s post-glasnost with the oligarchs in charge rather than the tsar. In celebration of her 40th birthday, the vivacious Anna Petrovna (Blanchett) has gathered a group of friends to her late husband’s estate for a festive weekend. Chief among the celebrants is Mikhail Platonov (the charismatic Richard Roxburgh), a failed but still vibrant intellectual approaching middle age who attracts all the women at the party.

Like their country, everyone at the gathering is in a state of upheaval. Their emotional turmoil parallels the national state of confusion as the rigid Communist structure gives way to chaotic quasi-capitialism with Anna attempting to play off influential elderly suitors against each other as she eyes Plantonov. Mikhail performs a similar romantic juggling act, barely balancing Anna, his wife Sasha, and Sophie and Maria, the respective romantic partners of his two best friends Sergei and Nikolai.

This plot summation makes the play sound like a riotous farce, but it’s also a sharp portrait of the shifting state of Russia. Anna’s dead husband, referred to as “The General” and his contemporaries represent the ruthless former regime while the younger guests are the confused and displaced inheritors of a broken system. John Crowley’s sharp staging expertly blends comedic and melodramatic elements. The polished performances of the Australian cast allow us to differentiate between the myriad characters and keep their complex relationships straight.

In addition to Blanchett and Roxburgh, I particularly enjoyed Chris Ryan’s comically insecure Sergei, Susan Prior’s conflicted Sasha, and Marshall Napier’s blustering Ivan (Sasha’s alcoholic father.) The action flags after intermission when we discover a drunken Platonov seated center stage bemoaning the mess he has made of his and everyone else’s life. One by one, his fellow guests approach him to restate their individual problems and then wander off into the night. This gets repetitive really fast, but fortunately, the final scene, where all the conflicts come to a crashing conclusion the next morning, regains the dizzying pace of the earlier sequences.

The title refers to both senses of the word—a gift as well as the current time. Though it has its flaws, this Present is a stunning evening of theater and an insightful examination of how echoes of the past can influence how we live now.

The Present ***1/2
Jan. 8—March 19. Sydney Theatre Company at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, 243 W. 47th St., NYC. Tue, Thu, 7 pm; Wed, Fri-Sat, 7:30 pm; Wed, Sat, 1:30 pm; Sun, 3pm. Running time: three hours including intermission. $79—$149. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com.
Photo: Joan Marcus