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.
Making his Broadway debut with his dynamic new play August: Osage County, playwright Tracy Letts takes you on a thrilling ride that will not only leave you breathless, but keep you spellbound for nearly three and a half hours. “Fasten your seat belts because it’s going to be bumpy ride!” The playwright will let the venom spew in his gripping tale of the Weston clan that brings the dysfunctional family into the 21st Century.
The latest Disney Production to take up residency along The Great White Way is based on the magical Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Little Mermaid.” Disney turned the story into a classic 1989 animated film that b
oasts an Academy Award winning score and song, “Under the Sea,” by Alan Menken and his long time collaborator the late Howard Ashman. The two attained fame with their superb musical “Little Shop of Horrors” 25 years ago.
On Broadway 13 a smooth coming of age tale geared toward kids around that age performed by an entire cast of enthusiastic teenagers, including the onstage band, is one for the whole family. The show boasts some catchy tunes and several good performances by the youngsters. Based on the show’s slick marketing and packaging, the kids may already be chomping at the bit to see 13. The musical could easily be the opening for some serious heart to heart time with your kids about values, empathy and the effect of our choices.
Mary Jo (Hallie Foote) looks like she has spent her life sucking on lemons with the pucker that’s formed around her lips just begging for a do over. Actually what she arrives begging for in “Dividing the Estate”, Horton Foote’s comedy about a Southern family, is her anticipated inheritance.
Men in pink are taking over. With duo Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow, from Alberta Canada performing their show, “Bash’d”, a gay rap opera at the Zipper Theater, pink is the color du jour, but the act is anything but flaming. And even though Nathan Cuckow does a mean Cher impersonation, neither he nor his partner are drag queens nor do they act like them. In fact, the show is done entirely in rap, spoken word and poetry.
Director Matthew Warchus and his outrageous cast have turned the revival of the slight Boulevard farce "Boeing-Boeing" into a hilarious highlight of the season. Warchus expertly guides his gifted ensemble to fits of inspired lunacy lifting the 1960’s vehicle a mile high with a bold physical production that is a laugh out loud riot.
IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING, the title of Mike Daisey’s new monologue which he performs at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, is all about a bomb. The one he describes so vividly that he actually makes you see it.
Michael Weller dissects a volatile modern day marriage in his new drama FiftyWords, which takes a harrowing look at the challenges of an upper middle class couple struggling with their careers and a troubled son approaching his teen years. Norbert Leo Butz and Elizabeth Marvel portray Adam and Jan, the battling pair going through a major “rough patch,” with a passionate physical style that makes George and Martha from Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf appear tame.
Grease, the 1972 hit musical that ran for years playing over 3,388 performances on Broadway went on to become even a better 1978 film blockbuster boasting two charismatic star turns by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John in the leading roles of Danny and Sandy. There was another revival in 1994, but the little musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey is back again this time with a smart marketing scheme geared to luring television’s young audience into the theater.
Broadway Diva Patti LuPone taking her turn as Mama Rose, the mother of all stage mothers, commands the stage like no other in the Arthur Laurents’ revival of the great American masterpiece “Gypsy,” which began life last summer as part of City Center’s Encores! Series. The musical boasts a legendary score by Jule Styne with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim that includes such classic songs as “Some People,” “Small World,” ‘You’ll Never Get Away From Me,” Everything’sComing Up Roses,” and “Rose’s Turn. Add to that the first rate book by Mr. Laurents and you have what is considered to be the definitive back stage musical.
The first big musical of the new season A Tale of Two Cities based on the classic 1859 Charles Dickens novel opened at the Al Hirshfeld Theatre. The rousing pop opera, inventively designed by Tony Walton, makes a handsome showcase for some of the most gifted voices on Broadway. The staging of the compelling love story, told against the backdrop of the gritty French Revolution, is a bold attempt to recreate the heart stirring emotions of Les Miserables. If the musical is not always successful at recapturing the sweeping thrill of Les Miserables, the creators and cast have tapped into the universal appeal of the well read Dickens’ story that has sold over 200 million copies around the world.
The high concept production of Arthur Miller’s morality drama All My Sons directed by Simon McBurney is a sight to behold. Burney is one of Europe’s most innovative theater makers, and his production with a Brech-like representational style, while always arresting, does little to aid his sterling cast. Commanding performances by John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, and Patrick Wilson, along with a game Katie Holmes, making her Broadway debut, are all upstaged by McBurney’s cinematic flourishes. You will either love it or hate it.