Death Takes A Holiday ****1/2

The following review sites Julian Overden who was replaced by Kevin Early in the role of Prince Nikloai Sirki/Death. 
Happiness and Death on an Italian Holiday

Julian Overden, Jill Paice

            By Isa Goldberg
Peter Stone and Thomas Meehan’s musical adaptation of Alberto Casella’s play “Death Takes A Holiday” takes us to a remote place – a family holiday with death.  But what sustains our fascination with this well-known and bizarre tale is Maury Yeston’s remarkable music and lyrics. The composer of such classic Broadway musicals as “Titanic” and “Grand Hotel,” Yeston is at his most enchanting here.

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Master Class ****

          By Patrick Christiano

Tyne Daly is a miraculous triumph in Master Class, Terrence McNally’s brilliant depiction of Maria Callas the larger than life opera diva the world knew as La Divinia.  After an acclaimed run at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC last year, Manhattan Theatre Club has brought the entertaining revival of the playwright’s 1995 Tony Award winning play back to Broadway, where Master Class opened on  July 7, 2011 for a limited engagement through August 14.  Tyne Daly directed by Stephen Wadsworth, who put her through her paces as Clytemnestra in Agamemnon three years ago in Los Angeles, obliterates her blue collar image – the stock and trade that has won her six Emmy Awards – by delivering a thrilling performance that becomes the imperious essence of the character at the center of Master Class.

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What The Public Wants ***

A polished production of Arnold Bennett’s 1909 social comedy What the Public Wants opened at the Mint Theater Company in the heart of Times Square on Thursday January 27, 2011. The Mint is renowned for finding neglected works of art and giving them sterling productions. Their latest discovery is a smart satire on tabloid journalism that makes interesting parallels to the current media frenzy for delving into the private aspects of celebrities’ lives, which has only been heightened by the unscrupulousness  of today’s internet, giving the play a timeliness that feels particularly relevant now.

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The Devil’s Music

The Devil’s Music: The Life & Blues of Bessie Smith

                        By: Sandi Durell
“If you value your life . . . I’m in a bad mood today,” says the tough, inebriated Bessie Smith (Miche Braden), known as the “Empress of the Blues.”  It’s 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee, in what they called a buffet flat, a private establishment where blacks would gather after hours for food, drink, gambling and entertainment of all kinds; a get-a-way from white segregation. The scene provides the backdrop to Ms. Braden’s musical saga, together with her three musicians, at St. Luke’s Theatre on West 46th Street. Bessie Smith was the most influential blues chanteuse of the 1920s, coming up the hard way from a horrendous childhood, a life of booze and drugs and a turbulent marriage.

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‘Tennessee Williams’ One Arm’

Larisa Polonsky, Clybourne Elder


    A Tale of Damaged Goods ***

          By Isa Goldberg

The unfeeling life of a male hooker as dramatized by Tennessee Williams may sound like an obvious story. And in this case it is.

 

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The Best is Yet to Come

‘The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of  Cy Coleman’     By Sandi Durell

There have been numerous musical child prodigies and Cy Coleman (nee Seymour Kaufman) is one of them. He eventually made his mark on Broadway, in jazz and pop music and composed music with numerous well known lyricists including Comden and Green, the Bergmans, Dorothy Fields, Carolyn Leigh, Ira Gasman, Michael Stewart and David Zippel.  As director Zippel says, “Cy Coleman changed my life.”  He changed many lives and, luckily, audiences are in for the treat of their lives at 59E59 Theaters with an “A” list cast headed by musical director/arranger/conductor Billy Stritch.

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The Motherf**ker With the Hat

“The Motherf**ker With the Hat” is Tops
                    By Isa Goldberg


That the cockeyed lives of drug addicts, alcoholics, and ex-cons can wake us to smell the roses is the idiosyncratic, albeit lyrical gift of playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis. His latest work, “The Motherf**ker With the Hat” stands out amidst this season’s new plays as an entertaining romantic comedy. Yet it speaks to us on a multitude of levels.

 

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Anything Goes ***

Joel Gray, Sutton Foster

      ‘Anything Goes’ on a Steady Course
                      By Isa Goldberg

Aboard the S.S. American everything is perfectly in order. In a production that sparkles with energy, wit, and rousing orchestration, nothing could rock this boat.

And therein lies the dilemma in Kathleen Marshall’s revival of this wonderfully zany Cole Porter musical. The director/choreographer who brought comic idiosyncratic characters, quirky romances, and mismatched elements to the 20th century classics, “Wonderful Town” and “The Pajama Game,” has created a production that is simply too well blended, and too even keeled. 

 

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The Normal Heart *****

Joe Mantello
Ellen Barkin

When Larry Kramer’s THE NORMAL HEART debuted at the Public Theater in 1985, his powerful autobiographical play about the early days of the AIDS crisis was looked upon as a wake-up call.  The epidemic was in full swing, and we knew almost nothing about the course the disease would take or how to care for the victims.  There was mass hysteria in the gay community and an urgent need for our government to take action. The intensity of rage in Kramer’s drama was the dawning of a new era in gay activism.

 

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The Road To Qatar ***

David Krane, BIll Nolte, Keith Gerchak, Philip George, James Beaman, Bruce Warren, Sarah Stilles, Stephen Cole

A new true musical comedy, THE ROAD TO QATAR, opened at The York Theater Company on Thursday, February 25, 2011.  Lyricist Stephen Cole has fashioned a riotously silly book and David Krane has provided the stylish music for the often witty tale which follows their own real life adventures on a journey to the Middle East, when the pair were commission by the Emir of Qatar to write a larger-than-life-Broadway style musical called ASPIRE.

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Catch Me If You Can ***

Norbert Leo Butz

The new Broadway musical CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, based on the 2002 Steven Spielberg film of the same name, boasts a Tony Award winning dream team of creative talent and an array of new pop/jazz tunes by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the songwriters behind the long running hit Broadway musical “Hairspray.” Their energetic swinging score reminiscent of the 1960’s is an absolute delight, along with the terrific orchestrations by Marc Shaiman and Larry Blank.  Add sexy choreography by Jerry Mitchell (Hairspray) featuring leggy chorus girls in little skirts and big hair, throw in a book by Tony Award winning playwright Terrence McNally, let Jack O’Brien (Hairspray, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) direct and tell the tale in flashback like a 1960’s variety show with the orchestra sitting right on stage.

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Bengal Tiger@Baghdad Zoo ***

No Exit for ‘Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo’
                  By Isa Goldberg

Padding gracefully from side-to-side in his cage, Robin Williams embodies the essence of Tiger. It’s the walk, the measured soundless steps of a great big cat and the growl he emits from his phlegmy throat, which transform the hypermanic comedian into a carnivorous beast in “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.” Surly and pining for home, Williams’s Tiger is at first an understated character – comically cynical and justifiably angry at his imprisonment.

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Good People ***

      ‘Good People’ in a Bad Economy and a Lackluster Play

Becky Ann Baker, Frances McDormand, Estelle Parsons

        By: Isa Goldberg
In the Coen brothers’ movies, Frances McDormand often portrays characters who stupidly get into a lot of trouble. Her ability to screw things up makes for the absurd dark comedy, “Burn After Reading” in which McDormand, a gym employee, tries to raise money for her plastic surgery by blackmailing an ex-CIA agent (John Malkovich) and alternately peddling his memoirs to the Russian embassy. With plastic surgery and her new beau (George Clooney) on her mind, she barely seems to notice the disappearance of her best buddy (Brad Pitt).

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That Championship Season **

               Playing to Win
              By Isa Goldberg
The male characters in Jason Miller’s1973 Pulitzer and
Tony-winning drama do not evoke a lot of empathy. They score with the audience because they are all too recognizable – like the imperfect men with whom we live every day.

 

 

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Memphis *****

Race, sex and rock ‘n roll are a powerful combination in the new Broadway musical Memphis written by David Bryan, and Joe DiPietro. The sizzling new musical is a sheer delight and somewhat of a surprise with no star headliners, but don’t tell these passionate performers. The cast is an absolute knock out!

The songs by Bryan, Bon Jovi’s lead keyboardist, are a nice mix of R&B, soul, period pop, gospel and easy listening that make for a captivating blend.  Last season Bryan joined forces off-Broadway with DiPietro on the winning musical The Toxic Avenger and here with Memphis they have improved their winning stride with a love story that takes us to the smoky underground clubs of segregated 1950 Memphis and the birth of an era.

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