Hillary and Clinton ****

Zak Orth, Laurie Metcalf, John Lithgow in “Hillary and Clinton”

By: Paulanne Simmons

April 22, 2019: Lucas Hnath’s Hillary and Clinton may be only 90 minutes long, yet it provides us with a searing, insightful and sometimes very funny glimpse into the life of a couple that has tantalized so many for the past several decades.

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Burn This ***1/2

Adam Driver, Kerri Russell

Adam Driver and Keri Russell star in tepid revival of Burn This, a 1987 drama by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Landford Wilson.

By: Patrick Christiano

April 19, 2019:  Originally commissioned by Circle in the Square, Burn This, a 1987 drama by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Landford Wilson, sizzled on Broadway with John Malkovick and Joan Allen, who won a Tony Award for her performance. The two stars generated real heat in a thrilling production that ran on Broadway for over a year, with 437 performances. Michael Mayer’s tepid revival with Adam Driver and Keri Russell as Pale and Anna, respectively, is played more for laughs than emotional subtext and leaves us wanting more.

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Benny & Joon ***

Paper Mill Playhouse Presents Star Showcase for Bryce Pinkham in East Coast  Premiere of Benny & Joon, Adapted from the Film Starring Johnny Depp

By: Ellis Nassour

Monday, April 15: Benny & Joon is the highly-emotional story of a young high-functioning female schizophrenic who dreams of being normal, independent; her obsessively worrying brother, who cares for her after the deaths of their parents; and a mysterious stranger who upends their already upended lives. Paper Mill Playhouse (Milburn, NJ) is presenting the East Coast premiere, through May 5. Kirsten Guenther (Richard Rodgers Grant; upcoming Roman Holiday), has give the stage adaptation fuller-developed characters than were in 1993 romantic comedy [starring Johnny Deep], which touched audiences and became a cult favorite. The score has music by Nolan Gasser (the opera The Secret Garden) and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein (2005 Little Women).

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Burn This ***

Adam Driver

OH, OH, OH . . . HE’S ON FIRE

By: Samuel L. Leiter

Adam Driver (TV’s “Girls,” BlackkKlansman) is giving an incendiary performance in the first Broadway revival of Lanford Wilson’s 1987 play, Burn This. The thermostat clicks off when he’s not on stage; when he is, though, he makes the Hudson Theatre crackle with his fiery presence. Anybody looking for Broadway’s next Stanley Kowalski need look no further.

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Sincerely, Oscar at the Acorn *1/2

Dugg McDonough, Doreen Taylor

Musical revue fails to shine despite stellar Hammerstein songs.

By:  Patrick Christiano

April 14, 2019:  Sincerely, Oscar is billed as a new musical, conceived and written by Doreen Taylor and starring Doreen Taylor. Instead of a new musical however, the evening is a lame revue featuring twenty-one songs by the renowned lyrist, Oscar Hammerstein. The timeless song list from his classic Broadway shows like Show Boat, Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, is impressive, and Taylor has a lovely, well trained, strong soprano voice. But that’s about as good as it gets. 

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Oklahoma! **

Rebecca Naomi, Damon Daunno in Oklahoma!

By: Paulanne Simmons

April 13, 2019: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, Oklahoma! was based on Lynn Riggs’ forgotten and largely forgettable Green Grow the Lilacs. The show’s premiere at the St. James Theatre in 1943 marked a considerable advance in the integrated musical, in which music, dance and story all work together to advance plot and themes.

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King Lear ***

Glenda Jackson

By: David Sheward

April 10, 2019: Some actors are larger than life, but not life-like. We admire their craft rather than identify with the characters they are portraying and the emotions they are conveying. These actors usually win major awards, but they rarely truly move audiences other than causing them to stand for ovations. Glenda Jackson can be one of these stars at times. Perhaps that is why she left acting for politics, where there is less risk of really showing your inner self. Her brilliance has always been cold and her technique so practiced and steely, she holds us at an arm’s length. That can work when the character is a armor-plated matriarch like Elizabeth I or the lionness-mother A in Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, in which she returned to the New York stage to triumph and accolades last season. But Shakespeare’s King Lear requires an unflinching, messy exposure of guts, and pain, and Jackson isn’t willing to do that.

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Ain’t No Mo *****

Fedna Jacquet, Ebony Marshall-Oliver

“Last Flight to Senegal”

By: Samuel L. Leiter

April 8, 2019: As Kermit the Frog reminded us, it’s not easy being a color different from that of the dominant culture. Some black American playwrights, especially since the 1960s, have satirized their frustrations with such unease by creating seemingly outlandish situations in plays located somewhere on the absurdist spectrum. In 1965, for instance, in the days of the black theatre movement, Douglas Turner Ward’s one-act, “Day of Absence,” considered the reactions of a Southern town’s whites (played by blacks in whiteface) to the sudden disappearance of all the local blacks.

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Be More Chill ****

By: Isa Goldberg

April 4, 2019: If “A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a post-apocalyptic future, fleeing from zombies” doesn’t sound like your idea of a great show, Be More Chill, may feel challenging at first. 

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The Lehman Trilogy *****, The Cradle Will Rock **, What the Constitution Means To Me *****

From left: Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Ben Miles in “The Lehman Trilogy”

By: David Sheward

April 3, 2019: Three disparate visions of America, two focusing on capitalism and one on the constitution, raise a multitude of questions about where we’ve been and where we’re going as a nation. The Lehman Trilogy, in the vast space of the Park Avenue Armory for a limited run after engagements in Europe and London, conveys the story of 150 years of the titular financial clan. The Cradle Will Rock is John Doyle’s staging of the rarely-produced 1937 labor musical at Classic Stage Company. What the Constitution Means to Me, at the Helen Hayes on Broadway after two Off-Broadway runs earlier this season, is Heidi Schreck’s unusual stage memoir, recreating her journey as a 15-year-old making speeches on our sacred document cross-country to earn scholarship money and how she views the constitution as a grown woman in 2019. 

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Kiss Me Kate ****

Will Burton, Rick Faugno, Stephanie Styles and Corbin Bleu in “Kiss Me, Kate”

By: Isa Goldberg

April 4, 2019: A most memorable of Broadway Valentines, Kiss Me Kate, is getting a rousing revival at Studio 54, with Kelli O’Hara (Lilli Vanessi) and Will Chase (Fred Graham) leading a gifted ensemble. Indeed, one of the surprising highlights of this production is Paul Gemingnani’s orchestration of Cole Porter’s masterpiece. Capturing the show’s zest and verve, it’s the orchestra that keeps us bouncing in our seats.

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Kiss Me Kate ****1/2

Kelli O’Hara, Will Chase

By: Paulanne Simmons

March 31, 2019: If Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, with its misogynistic undertones, is sometimes hard to swallow. Cole Porter, and Samuel and Bella Spewack’s Kiss Me Kate goes down easy. This is especially true for Roundabout’s new revival directed by Scott Ellis.

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Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations ***1/2

Ephraim Sykes, Jeremy Pope, Jawan M. Jackson, James Harkness, Derrick Baskin

“They’re Gonna Make You Love Them (Oh, Yes, They Will)”

By: Samuel L. Leiter

March 29, 2019: There are a lot of words in the full title of this latest jukebox musical but the essence of the show itself couldn’t be simpler. Like others of its ilk (especially Jersey Boys, still alive in an Off-Broadway mounting), Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations is a sprawling, by-the-numbers musical journey through the lives and careers of a popular singing group. Its biographical and dramatic values are far less compelling—because they so closely fit a familiar pattern—than the rousingly entertaining ones of the music and performances provided by a company of supernova talent. 

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Nantucket Sleigh Ride **1/2

Adam Chanler-Berat, Douglas Sills, Grace Rex

By: David Sheward

March 26, 2019: John Guare takes us on a wild romp through personal ups and downs, toxic pop culture, murder mystery tropes, literary and cinema allusions in his off-kilter new play Nantucket Sleigh Ride at Lincoln Center’s Off-Broadway Mitzi Newhouse Theater. As in his best-known works The House of Blue Leaves and Six Degrees of Separation, the veteran playwright mixes his unique take on our celebrity-saturated world with piercing insights on humanity’s infinite and equal capacity for cruelty and love, viewed through a farcical lens. Walt Disney, Roman Polanski, Rene Magritte, Alfred Hitchcock, Jorge Luis Borges, The Wizard of Oz, and Jaws are just a few of the landmarks on this bumpy roller-coaster ride through Guare’s consciousness. Jerry Zaks’ attuned direction, balancing guffaws with sobs, gives the play the right breakneck speed and askew demeanor, but the characters and situations still come across as too goofy and off-beat to be entirely moving.

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Superhero **1/2

Kate Baldwin, Bryce Pinkham

By: Paulanne Simmons

March 31, 2019: Superhero has a book by John Logan who won a Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League award for his play Red, and is credited with many films, including Sweeney Todd and Any Given Sunday. Music, lyrics and orchestrations are by Tom Kitt, whose Next to Normal won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize, as well as Tony Awards for best score and best orchestrations. And the direction is by Broadway and off-Broadway veteran Jason Moore (The Cher Show, Fully Committed, Shrek).

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