When stage and screen legend Angela Lansbury makes her first entrance in the Broadway revival of Noel Coward’s frothy 1941 comedy Blithe Spirit nearly fifteen minutes into the performance, the multiple Tony award winning grande dame practically stops the show. The extended applause comes in waves that ebb and flow for a full two minutes or more drowning out the dialogue as the actors move right along with the enthusing action without skipping a beat. They carry on as if unaware of the stupendous outpouring of love coming across the footlights. The Broadway icon, now 83 years old, inhabits the eccentric Madame Arcati, the psychic medium who is the catalyst for the unfolding action.
When PAL JOEY star, Cristian Hoff, injured his foot prior to the show’s opening, it revealed to me something about the old saying “break a leg” that lies at the heart of all superstitions, namely “be careful of what you wish for”.
The bracing revival of Martin McDonagh’s black comedy, The Cripple ofInishmaan, with a deeply moving Aaron Monaghan as the twisted orphan Billy at the center of the bleak tale, may be the least violent of McDonagh’s plays, even his most wistful infused with charming depictions of Gaelic eccentricities. But amidst McDonagh’s sweet ironic humor there is also his trademark pathos and savagery that becomes all the more disturbing in this quiet, yet unpredictable world set on the isolated Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland.
Now in prieviws at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway. Scheduled to open on April 2, 2009. (see listings). What follow is a a review of the Off Broadway production
Neil LaBute’s new comedy Reasons to be Pretty continues his examination of our obsession with physical beauty in what may be his most mature work to date. Making its world premier at the Lucille Lortel Theater in Greenwich Village, the MCC production is expertly directed by Terry Kinney. And while the play may not add up completely the actors with thrilling authority deliver visceral performances that hilariously cover the evening’s shortcomings.
Richard Greenberg’s drama The American Plan, set at a lakeside home in the Catskills during the summer of 1960, is an engrossing play with interesting spins on love and identity. When a handsome young man swims across the lake from a nearby resort hotel, he sets in motion an escalating series of conflicts between a beautiful young heiress and her German-Jewish emigrant mother.
That the revival of “Guys and Dolls” that opened at Broadway’s Nederlander Theater reflects merely the conventional and uninspired should come as no
surprise. Frank Loesser’s 1950 musical comedy ranks as one of the greatest in the American theatrical canon. So it brings a well-prepared audience and one with haughty expectations. A notorious gambler himself, Frank Sinatra made a hit of “Luck Be A Lady”, popularizing it with his signature smoothness. In the show’s 1992 Broadway revival, Nathan Lane brought such bold physical comedy to the role of Nathan Detroit that New York Times theater critic Frank Rich compared him to a young Jackie Gleason.
“All the world’s a stage”, so said Shakespeare. But this season in New York City, all the world’s a circus. Amidst the multitude of goings on for children, there are a couple of new and revised circus shows of note.
Liza Minnelli is in rare form and performing an audacious miracle at the Palace Theater with her brand new show that runs well over two hours and includes many of her memorable standards including “Cabaret.” The charismatic three time Tony Award winning superstar “razzle dazzled” the opening night audience with a confident, gritty and of often magical display of showmanship.
Daniel Radcliffe, the star of the five "Harry Potter" films, acquits himself admirably with a confident Broadway debut as the disturbed adolescent Alan Strang at the core of Peter Shaffer’s 1973 psychodrama Equus. The revival directed by Thea Sharrock debuted at London’s National Theatre earlier this year with the same theatrically impressive design team. John Napier, set and costume designer, merely takes a fresh look as his original 1970’s sketches, but the staging is nonetheless dazzling with effectively haunting lighting and sound by David Hersey and Gregory Clarke respectively.
Mary-Louise Parker cuts a handsome figrue as the trapped herione, Hedda Gabler, in the Roundabout Theater Company’s odd production of Ibsen’s classic character study. Christopher Shinn’s new adaptation is more direct and the evening helmed by Ian Rickson has an aggressive contemporary tone that is uneven and obvious.
The advance buzz has been overwhelming, and we have been inundated with questions about the new Broadway musical Spamalot. Did you like it? Did they do a good job adapting it for the stage? Is it all that? Did you have to see the movie to follow it? Yes, yes, yes, and no with superlatives all around for the entire team.
Spring Awakening, which was an acclaimed hit last summer at the Atlantic Theatre Company, is now a stunning triumph on Broadway, and the American musical may never be the same again. Duncan Sheik has created a fantastic rock score and Steven Sater has provided equally impressive lyrics as well as a faithfully bold adaptation of the 1891 German Expressionist play by Frank Wedekind that the musical is based on.
The Disney production of Mary Poppins on Broadway plus Cameron Mackintosh equals supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Based on the classic 1964 Disney movie that won an Oscar for Julie Andrews in the title role, the musical that has been imported from London’s West End draws much of its dark magic from P.L. Travers’ original novel and is even better on Broadway. Here is a stylish vibrant family entertainment that promises to please not only the children but the adults as well.
The ingenuous new British import, “The 39Steps,” is a shamelessly silly spoof of the classic 1935 Alfred Hitchcock suspense thriller of the same name. Directed by Maria Aitken, the award winning West End production being presented by the Roundabout at their American Airlines Theater is a ditzy delight performed by an accomplished cast of four actors playing all the roles.
The musical In the Heights conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda (with music and lyrics by Miranda as well) is an infectious celebration of a Washington Heights neighborhood pulsating with Latin-American rhythms. Mr. Miranda’s songs blend rap, hip-hop, jazz, pop and salsa into a nostalgic love letter to his community, while making reverent nods to traditional show tunes .The combination is irresistible. And there is a bitter-sweet quality running through the entire evening that gives a soulful counterpoint to the jubilant production.