The Cher Show ***, American Son **1/2

Stephanie J. Block in The Cher Show

By: David Sheward 

December 8, 2018:  “Have you heard our writers? This dress is the best material in the show.” That’s a typical gag from The Cher Show, the new jukebox musical celebrating the varied life and career of the single-monickered icon, and it’s unfortunately apropos. Book-writer Ric Elice’s forced dialogue is at the same adolescent level of the star’s 1970s TV variety series in which she co-starred with her then-husband Sonny Bono, but Bob Mackie’s over-the-top costumes are worth the considerable price of admission. 

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All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 *****

By: Paulanne Simmons

 December 3, 2018:  On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. The Germans agreed, but the British declined. However, during the Christmas season, spontaneous truces broke out all along the Western Front, as French, German and British troops crossed the line of battle to sing, exchange gifts and even engage in an impromptu game of soccer.

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American Son **1/2

TEACHABLE MOMENTS: AMERICAN SON

By: Samuel L. Leiter

December 6, 2018:  “I don’t get it,” my plus one said as several rows of spectators rose before us in a standing ovation for American Son at Broadway’s Booth Theatre. “What didn’t you get?” I asked later, thinking she might have meant the play’s abrupt ending. “Why the audience thought this play deserved a standing ovation,” she replied. I concurred, even wondering why it had received so many glowing responses on Show-Score.com. 

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#realjoy ****

Lisa Viggiano

By: Paulanne Simmons

December 4, 2018:  Meg Flather and Lisa Viggiano first conceived of their show, #realjoy (at Don’t Tell Mama Dec. 2 and 30) as a way of getting rid of those pre-Christmas blues. But, inspired by Tracey Thorn’s “Joy,” their show really becomes a search for happiness and meaning in the midst of loss. With music director Tracy Stark at the piano, Flather and Viggiano perform a song list that goes well beyond traditional Christmas carols.

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Hype Man at The Flea ****

Matt Stango, Tay Bass, Shakur Tolliver

Captivating take on race and friendship in the world of hip-hop extended.

By:  Patrick Christiano

December 1, 2018:  Idris Goodwin’s HYPE MAN: a break beat play continues The Flea’s Color Brave season with a captivating look at race and friendship played out against the backdrop of hip-hop. The story, tautly directed by Kristan Seemel with Flea Artistic Director Niegel Smith, is set three years ago in an unnamed American city and follows two hip hop artists on the threshold of success. The two men, Pinnacle, played by Matt Stango, and Verb, played by Shakur Tolliver, were best buddies growing up on the mean streets of the unnamed city. Pinnacle is a white man, who writes and rhymes, while Verb, a black man just out of prison, hypes the crowd and adds authority to Pinnacle’s vision of himself as a hip-hop artist.

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The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui ***1/2

Raul Esparza

By: David Sheward

November 27, 2018:  As audiences enter the Laura F. Angelson Theatre for Classic Stage Company’s revival of Bertolt Brecht’s rarely produced The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, they step into a dangerous world where murder and menace lurk in every corner. This dark kingdom of night, with eerie parallels to America in 2018 as well as Germany in the 1930s, is ruled over by a vicious brute given snarling, malevolent life by Raul Esparza in a powerhouse performance. Esparza has won acclaim in musicals like Company, Taboo, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as well as dark dramas such as The Normal Heart and The Homecoming. But here he totally dominates the proceedings with such ferocity and detail, you cannot take your eyes off him.

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The Prom ****1/2

Josh Lamon, Beth Leavel, Brooks Ashmankasas, Angie Schworer

By: Isa Goldberg

November 23, 2018:  Arriving at a weekend matinee of The Prom, I eagerly anticipated seeing one of my favorite musical comedy stars, Beth Leavel in the lead role. The buzz I’d heard was really positive, so I was prepared to sit back, kick up my feet, and have a great time. Only on this occasion Leavel’s understudy was playing the lead.

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The Waverly Gallery *****

Michael Cera, Elaine May, Joan Allen in “The Waverly Gallery”

By: Isa Goldberg

November 23, 2018:  What? Elaine May on Broadway? You bet – in the Broadway debut of Kenneth Lonergan’s The Waverly Gallery, which premiered Off Broadway in 2000.

As we know, May, the ‘50s comedienne, made her mark defying stereotypes of women’s roles, portraying herself through characters that were sophisticated, professional women, such as doctors and psychiatrists.  Here, she portrays Gladys Green, an independent business person, the owner of the titular art gallery, and a woman whose brightest years are behind her.

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The Prom *****

Christopher Sieber and company

By: Paulanne Simmons

November 21, 2018:  The old-fashioned musical has finally met a contemporary theme. Throw in a bit of theater satire and you have The Prom, which has landed on Broadway with a book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Beguelin.

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The Prom *****

By: David Sheward

November 19, 2018:  “We’re liberal Democrats from Broadway,” defiantly proclaims the amazing Brooks Ashmanskas as Barry Glickman, an egotistical musical-comedy star, to the astonished and unsuspecting PTA of a tiny Indiana town in the unabashedly left-leaning new musical The Prom. The line draws applause from the theater-loving audience at the Longacre Theater and sets the tone for this joyous celebration of all things fabulous and splashy. The show reeks of show-biz savvy and unapologetically endorses queer culture (“I’m as gay as a bucket of wigs,” Barry states) as well as a love of the musical genre. But it’s also a tender teen love story and an earnest plea not just for tolerance but acceptance. Every element is polished with professionalism and skillfully combines satire and verisimilitude for a slightly twisted perspective on our divided America. If that sounds too serious, don’t be scared off. The Prom is one of the funniest shows to hit Broadway in years.

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Mother of the Maid *** King Kong **1/2

Grace Van Patten, Glenn Close “Mother of the Maid”

By: David Sheward

November 13, 2018:  A new play about the mother of an iconic figure (Mother of the Maid) and a musical remake of a Hollywood classic (King Kong) deliver modern feminist perspectives on familiar material from European history and pop culture. The play has some depth and an exquisite lead performance while the tuner is cotton candy. The latter has an exceptional star as well, but it’s from a giant puppet.

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Shake & Bake: Love’s Labour’s Lost *****

Joe Ventricelli, Victoria Rae Sook, Mary-Glen-Fredrick

By: Paulanne Simmons

November 11, 2018:  If serving dinner is an art, never was this more true than in Shake & Bake: Love’s Labour’s Lost, in which the actors are both characters in Shakespeare’s comedy and waiters serving an eight course tasting menu (created by executive chef David Goldman). The members of the audience (a.k.a. diners) are seated by low tables, on chairs and sofas on the periphery of the room, while the play is performed in the center space.

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Eve’s Song ***

Karl Green, Ashley D. Kelley, Kadijah Raquel, De’Adre Aziza

By: Samuel L. Leiter

November 11, 2018:  Plays not specifically about significant social or political issues are getting increasingly rare, even when their ultimate aim is entertainment instead of polemics. This past week alone I saw works about Robert F. Kennedy, Gloria Steinem, sexual and racial identity, 1969 radicals, the mentally disabled, and the danger of being a black woman in America.

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Lured **

Brendan Daugherty, John DiMino

By: Sam Affoumado

November 10, 2018: Lured, written by Frank J. Avella and co-directed by Carlotta Brentan, is a drama that outlines the brutalization and dehumanization of gays perpetrated by Russian vigilante groups. Against the backdrop of Russia’s federal law banning distribution of materials promoting LGBTQ relationships among minors (anti-Gay Propaganda Law), hatred and violence carried out against the LGBTQ community is on the rise. Vigilante groups, bolstered by Putin’s position and the beliefs of the Russian Orthodox Church, try to validate the idea that homosexuals corrupt minors thereby equating “homosexuality” and “pedophilia.” And who would not want to punish pedophiles?

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Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade ***

David Arrow

By: Samuel L. Leiter

November 8, 1018:  Seeing David Arrow’s Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade on election eve 2018 was a bit discomfiting. The play is an informative but less-than-enthralling one-man biodrama about the last year in the life of politician Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968), played by Arrow himself. It exposes the vast distance between Kennedy’s idealism and eloquence and the current level of political discourse. And it’s not because politics back then was any cleaner than now.

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