Betrayal ****

Zawe Ashton, Charlie Cox, Tom Hiddleston

By: David Sheward

September 9. 2019: Performing a Harold Pinter play is a delicate balance to borrow a phrase from the similarly difficult-to-mount Edward Albee. Pinter’s cryptic characters with their numerous pauses and minimalist dialogue can come across as icy or frustratingly inscrutable. Fortunately, the third Broadway revival of his Betrayal finds the sweet spot, imparting his meaningful insight on how people connect with and discard each other, unlike its two previous incarnations (I did not see the 1980 original NY production with Raul Julia, Roy Scheider, and Blythe Danner.)

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Sea Wall / A Life ****1/2

Jake Gyllenhaal

By: Isa Goldberg

September 8, 2019: Two companion pieces, Sea Wall and A Life bring the welcome return of Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge to Broadway. Recently, the two actors worked together in the film, Velvet Buzzsaw. Here, they pull off a theatrical coup, speaking directly to the audience, and breaking the imaginary boundary between their reality and ours.

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Dust ***1/2

Milly Thomas

By: Isa Goldberg

September 7, 2019: Rumination, reflecting on one’s inner thoughts, is the soulful enterprise of Milly Thomas’, one woman performance piece, Dust. Directed by Sara Joyce, Thomas’ solo play arrives on the heels of multi-award winning performances across the UK, and on London’s West End. 

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Music of the Knights *****

By: Paulanne Simmons

September 2, 2019: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Elton John and Paul McCartney were celebrated together in Music of the Knights at Feinstein’s/54 on Below on August 28 because they share a singular honor. They have all been made Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. But, in fact, as Scott Coulter, who conceived, produced, directs and hosts the show, points out, they have much more in common.

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Bat Out of Hell **

Andrew Polec, Christina Bennington

New York City Center

By: David Sheward

August 27, 2019: “You have to go over the top to see what’s on the other side.” So says one of the bizarre, cartoonish characters in Bat Out of Hell, the musical based on a series of rock albums recorded by the singer Meat Loaf. In this show, they definitely go over the top, but you may not want to see what’s on the other side. As with most jukebox musicals, Bat, which has had a circuitous route to New York through London and Toronto, has a built-in audience ready to sing along to such hits as the title anthem to anarchy, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” and “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth.” But the story Jim Steinman has concocted to unify his songs of passion, loss, rebellious youth, and love of rock, stretches patience and credulity. If you’re a fan of the material, none of that matters, but for those of us not obsessively enamored of the Bat tunes, it’s just so much clanging in the belfry. 

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Bat Out Of Hell: The Musical **

Tyrick Wiltez Jones, William Branner, Andrew Polec.

By: Edward Medina

August 25, 2019: For an entire generation Bat Out of Hell was the ultimate musical life force. Alone or in packs we drove our cars with the windows rolled down and the engines revving wide open while we sang and howled the songs into the night. We parked on side streets and empty parking lots and made out with the tunes running in the background as we steamed up the windows ‘til the break of dawn. When we weren’t in our cars, we spun our turntables and gleefully wore down the grooves in the vinyl. We turned the sound up, we blew the speakers, and we worshiped at Meatloaf’s rock and roll alter of angst and lust. His vocals and Jim Steinman’s lyrics hit a nerve and we responded with an adrenaline rush of need and want. Now decades later we’ve been given a musical version that nostalgia may have wanted but that none of us really needed.

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The Exes **

David M Farrington, John Coleman Taylor, Galen Molk, Tim Hayes, Alison Preece, Karen Forte

By: Samuel L. Leiter

August 21, 2019: Remember the great old drawing-room comedies that danced around divorce and extramarital dalliance, like Philip Barry’s The Philadelphia Story? The ones with immaculate homes, English butlers, well-stocked bars, attractive, perfectly-dressed, bon mot-delivering, devilishly charming characters, and well-calibrated farcical hijinks? If you do, and your memories are fond ones, you’ll find nothing remotely comparable in Lenore Skomal’s retro attempt to revive the genre with her anything-but-excellent The Exes, at Theatre Row.

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Moulin Rouge! ***1/2

By: Lauren Yarger

What’s It All About?

August 16, 2019: It’s a love story set against the seedy streets and Bohemia of turn-of-the-century Paris. This production has been seeing good traction at the New York Box Office following a sold-out run at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre last summer. Word of mouth about the over-the-top optics has fueled some of the rusg to see the newest musical written by John Logan (Red) and helmed by Alex Timbers It’s hard to imagine topping the big/wow factor for Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson and Beetlejuice, but he does…)

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A Star Is Born: The Concert *****

By: Paulanne Simmons

August 13, 2019: A Star is Born, which chronicles the ascent of a rising star and the descent of her mentor whose stardom is fading, has been made into a film four times, in 1937 as a drama starring Janet Gaynor and Frederick March, and three times as a musical: in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, and in 2018 with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Clearly, it’s a star vehicle.

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Sea Wall/A Life ***, Broadway Bounty Hunter ****

Jake Gyllenhaal in Sea Wall/A Life

By: David Sheward

August 12, 2019: One-person pieces are often the hardest type of theater to bring off. Live stage work depends on conflict and no matter how talented a performer is, convincingly creating character and/or principle clashes while flying solo is a prodigious task few can handle with dexterity. There’s also the heightened economic stakes of theatre these days. Audiences pay into the triple digits and if you’re greeted with a bare stage and only one name in the cast list, expectations are going to be that much higher. The current double bill Sea Wall/A Life now at the Hudson Theater in a limited Broadway run after a hit Off-Broadway engagement at the Public last season, does offer two single acts with top-shelf talent and relatable, heart-wrenching content.  

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Moulin Rouge! The Musical ***1/2

Ricky Rojas and Robyn Hurder in Moulin Rouge! The Musical

By: Isa Goldberg

August 9, 2019: It was the time of Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas, and Puccini. Paris at the end of the 19th century comes to life through the juke box songs of today’s rock stars in this screen to stage adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! The Musical.

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Little Gem ****

Marsha Mason

By: Isa Goldberg

August 8, 2019: It may be changing, but there aren’t a lot of roles for women actors of a certain age. At least, not interesting ones. Watching Marsha Mason in her portrayal of a 62-year-old wife and mother in Little Gem, however, is a wakeup call. Elaine Murphy’s three-person play makes its American premiere at The Irish Repertory Theatre.

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Passageways ****

Amy Oestreicher

In a childlike, whimsical way, Amy Oestreicher tells her story about suffering from PTSD. 

By: Isa Goldberg

But it’s the whimsy that she brings to her trauma, and which sustained her through it that distinguishes Oestreicher’s song cycle. It makes her one-woman, 90-minute show, “Passageways,” at Here Arts Center both harrowing, and uplifting. 

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Moulin Rouge **1/2, Mojada ****, Coriolanus ****

Karen Olivo and Aaron Tveit in “Moulin Rouge! The Musical”

 By: David Sheward

August 6, 2019: Combining and repurposing plots, plays, films and songs can provide new insights into old-age cultural themes or they can just be a cheap way drawing in audiences for a comfortable, fun, brainless evening. Moulin Rouge, the new Broadway musical based on Baz Luhrmann’s gorgeous but empty 2001 film, falls into the second category in every respect except one—it ain’t cheap. With ticket prices exceeding $500 for premium seats and the least dear running in the triple digits, Moulin is one of the most expensive shows in recent Broadway history. Is it worth it? For sheer outrageous spectacle, you definitely get your money’s worth. For a storyline with believable characters and truly moving emotions, not so much. But that doesn’t seem to matter to those who will happily fork over the asked-for price.

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Coriolanus ****

Jonathan Cake, Teagle F. Bougere, Biko Eisen-Martin

By: Bernard Carragher

August 5, 2019: There is a rather extraordinary production of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” at free Shakespeare in the Park. “Coriolanus” is the is one of the Bard’s plays that is seldom done here, or anywhere. Most Shakespeare companies are afraid of this searing drama about an ancient Roman hero whose name is bears. In the first place, Coriolanus was a colossal snob, a contemptuous reviler of the common people, and it is hard to find an actor rugged enough, and sensitive enough, to make the raging Roman convincing and at the same time sympathetic.

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