Broadway Babe

Four Notable Nostalgic picks from Broadway Babe include Chita Rivera & Dick Van Dyke, together in 2006.

February 21, 2024:  Broadway Babe, Randie Levine-Miller, has four notable nostalgic finds from yesteryear to share this week including: The original “Bye Bye Birdie” stars, Chita Rivera and Dick Van Dyke performing songs they did decades earlier; a show stopping event for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS saluting the 50th anniversary of “West Side Story”; the American Film Institute salute to Fred Astaire; and Ethel Merman and Dinah Shore performing together. This is a perfect group of videos to watch while staying indoors during the wintry weather.

Four Notable Nostalgic picks from Broadway Babe include Chita Rivera & Dick Van Dyke, together in 2006.

February 21, 2024:  Broadway Babe, Randie Levine-Miller, has four notable nostalgic finds from yesteryear to share this week including: The original “Bye Bye Birdie” stars, Chita Rivera and Dick Van Dyke performing songs they did decades earlier; a show stopping event for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS saluting the 50th anniversary of “West Side Story”; the American Film Institute salute to Fred Astaire; and Ethel Merman and Dinah Shore performing together. This is a perfect group of videos to watch while staying indoors during the wintry weather.

Salute to Fred Astair

From March 1981, “The 9th Annual American Film Institute Salute to Fred Astaire,” for Lifetime Achievement, featuring many greats of yesteryear paying tribute to the great Astaire, include Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Bob Fosse, Hermes Pan, Baryshnikov, Charlton Heston, Audrey Hepburn, Barrie Chase, James Cagney with David Niven as host. Though Ginger Rogers was unable to attend, in her place was Eleanor Powell, who gives the most charming, beautiful, and heartfelt tribute to her former co-star and dance partner from 40 years before. There are several clips of Fred performing in some of his legendary films. It was certainly a star-studded event… Both onstage and in the audience. He was 82 at the time of this tribute. One thing is for sure, will never see the likes of Fred Astaire, or that era again!

Chita Rivera and Dick Van Dyke

This is an incredibly special reunion that took place in 2006 during Chita Rivera ‘s Broadway show “The Dancer’s Life”. It’s Chita’s birthday, and Dick Van Dyke, who starred opposite Chita in the original Broadway cast of “Bye Bye Birdie” in 1960, appears to surprise Chita. Then, they proceed to perform some of the songs they did in Birdie. To see these two stars together on a stage 46 years after their original pairing is magical.  Dick Van Dyke does his showstopping “Put On A Happy Face.” “Birdie’s” composer, Charles Strouse and lyricist, Lee Adams come up from the audience to wish Chita a happy birthday. And then there is an interview with Chita and Dick where Dick claims that he never sang or danced before “Bye Bye Birdie” which is so hard to believe, as he has proven over the years in film and on TV to be extraordinary at song and dance. This is a feel-good segment of pure joy and is a must-see!

Tribute to West Side Story

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS 19th Annual Gypsy of the Year competition, from 2007, decided to pay tribute to 50 years of “West Side Story”. They flew in 22 original cast members from the 1957 production and put together, with several young Broadway gypsies, a historical opening number. This video is the rehearsal. The young Broadway generation perform snippets of the legendary Jerome Robbins choreography, with the original cast members joining them to create one of the most moving and thrilling opening numbers! You’ll see Ken Leroy, the original Bernardo, Mickey Callan, the original Riff, along with all the original Jets performing the Jets song.  In addition, the original Maria, Carol Lawrence sings, “I Feel Pretty” followed by Chita Rivera and Carol singing their duet, “A Boy Like That.” This is historical footage of a historical Broadway musical.

Ethel Merman and Dinah Shore

From 1958, “The Dinah Shore Show” features a wonderful duet medley with Dinah Shore and Ethel Merman, who were both very much in their prime at that time. What a pleasure witnessing such musical magnificence blending together.  This is two years before Merman appeared on Broadway starring in “Gypsy.” They both sing “Hostess with the Mostes” from “Call Me Madam” which Dinah recorded on the original cast album because Merman had a strict contract with Decca Records at the time. While Dinah wound up singing Ethel’s role on the original cast album, Ethel did her own version on Decca! They are great together in this segment on Dinah’s TV show. 

Five Opens @ Theater 555

FIVE: The Musical Parody, a WICKEDLY FUNNY tale, inspired by the former President opened at Theater 555 on 42nd Street.

February 20, 2024:  FIVE: The Musical Parody, which opened last night at Theater 555,recounts the stories of the women linked to our disgraced 45th President. The musical, directed and choreographed by Jen Wineman, is a wickedly funny romp that spoofs the Tony winning hit Broadway musical Six about the wives of King Henry VIII.  Set on a debate stage in Ronkonkoma, New York, The Donald’s three wives, Ivana, Marla, and Melania, one mistress, Stormy, and his only daughter, Ivanka, fight to be declared the winner of “Who really had it worst” with the fake president.  

FIVE: The Musical Parody, a WICKEDLY FUNNY tale, inspired by the former President opened at Theater 555 on 42nd Street.

February 20, 2024:  FIVE: The Musical Parody, which opened last night at Theater 555,recounts the stories of the women linked to our disgraced 45th President. The musical, directed and choreographed by Jen Wineman, is a wickedly funny romp that spoofs the Tony winning hit Broadway musical Six about the wives of King Henry VIII.  Set on a debate stage in Ronkonkoma, New York, The Donald’s three wives, Ivana, Marla, and Melania, one mistress, Stormy, and his only daughter, Ivanka, fight to be declared the winner of “Who really had it worst” with the fake president.  

Performances will run for four weeks only, February 15 – March 10 at Theater 555 – 555 West 42nd St.

Opening Night Photography: Barry Gordin

Jen Wineman (Director)
Michael Cohen
Jamie Lyn Beatty (Melania), Jasmine Rice Labeija (Hillary Clinton and Gabi Garcia (Stormy).
Shenita
Shimmy Braun (Book & Lyrics), Jen Wineman (Director), Candi Boyd, Billy Recce and Moshiel Newman Daphna.
Shimmy Braun with the Cast of Five: The Parady Musical.
Sean Young
Jasmine Rice Labeija – Curtain Call.

I Love You So Much I Could Die **1/2

By: Samuel L. Leiter

February 18, 2024: On Thursday, a day after seeing Corinne Jaber’s Munich Medea: Happy Family at the WP Theatre, I wrote about my disappointment at its being entirely written for three actors who ignore dialogue in favor of delivering expository monologues. However, on Thursday night, I was even more put off by Mona Pirnot’s similarly undramatic use of monologues in I Love You So Much I Could Die, at the New York Theatre Workshop. 

By: Samuel L. Leiter

February 18, 2024: On Thursday, a day after seeing Corinne Jaber’s Munich Medea: Happy Family at the WP Theatre, I wrote about my disappointment at its being entirely written for three actors who ignore dialogue in favor of delivering expository monologues. However, on Thursday night, I was even more put off by Mona Pirnot’s similarly undramatic use of monologues in I Love You So Much I Could Die, at the New York Theatre Workshop. 

In this “play,” written by Pirnot and directed by her husband, rising playwright Lucas Hnath (Red Speedo), there is only one actor, Pirnot herself, but her monologues, nearly devoid of dramatic conflict, are not delivered as direct address, as they usually would be in a conventional one-person show. Instead, Pirnot, casually dressed by Enver Chakartash, sits facing upstage at a table on the NYTW’s large, empty, brick-walled stage, in an arrangement designed by Mimi Lien. 

Mona Pirnot

Pirnot’s table is equipped with a small lamp to her right and a glowing laptop to her left. An acoustic guitar rests nearby and a loudspeaker connected to the laptop stands a few feet away. Both the stage and houselights (designed by Oona Curley) remain on, but gradually dim as the play progresses.

We never hear Pirnot’s natural voice, her words having been fed into a text-to-speech program that delivers them from the loudspeaker in a nearly affectless male voice for 65 minutes; the words spoken are noted (for those with perfect sight) by the cursor running across the laptop screen. This gimmicky device is related to Hnath’s current preoccupation with the use of sound technology in his stage work, as in his Dana H. and A Simulacrum

What Pirnot offers is a straightforward narrative, usually clearly intelligible, but occasionally marked by a mildly eccentric, perhaps borderline poetic, syntax, and quirky rhythms, that convey something of the speaker/writer’s personality over the course of five segments. At times, long passages are spoken rapidly as if written as a single word, requiring close attention to follow; still, some images will fly by undigested. Sandwiched between each text segment are gentle, almost lullaby-level, folksy songs, often barely audible, that Pirnot—still facing away from us—sings while accompanying herself on the guitar. 

Mona Pirnot

Again, practically all we see of Pirnot throughout is her long, silkily blond hair cascading down her back. Being forced to stare for so long at such a yawningly dull sight soon had me imagining I saw a face staring dimly out from inside the shiny hair; if you know what hypertrichosis looks like, you’ll get the idea.

The work’s emotional riptides, effectively smothered by the dispassionate presentation, run through an autobiographical narrative about grief, loss, and, as the title notes, love, that begins with the speaker’s search for an appropriate online support group. It slowly becomes clear that she needs help dealing with a trauma connected to a beloved sister’s severe, albeit vaguely described, health issues, which erupted at the onset of the Covid pandemic. The sister is cared for by their parents in Florida, to which the totally dedicated Pirnot travels, when need be, from New York. 

Before settling on writing this play for its therapeutic value, she seeks other ways of handling her sense of helplessness, like doing volunteer charity work, which provides her with little more than an anecdote. She reveals the mental tricks she uses to control her thoughts, talks about her searching for answers in books, and finds valuable the advice to think about love, not loss. We learn of how she met and fell in love with Lucas Hnath (not named), who provides selfless support; of the complications in her sister’s case precipitated by the pandemic; of how the text-to-speech program has aided her emotionally; and, of her response to a different—if tenuously related—loss concerning a family pet.

Mona Pirnot

Pirnot’s performance—apart from her quiet, almost self-effacing singing—could itself be performed by a robot, so there’s no way to comment on it. On the other hand, the artificial voice has a kind of hypnotic effect that—because of its mechanical quality—lands a few funny remarks in a way that would likely have eluded a more committed human voice. 

All in all, though, this visually monotonous experimental performance—more an art installation than a play—sometimes found me drifting, unlike the written script, which held me throughout. Perhaps the next step in minimalist theatre would be a play that replaces the live performer with a large screen on which the script passes by as a mechanical voice says all the words. Given the wide range of similar theatrical experiments since the early 20th century, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone’s already done that, been there.

I Love You So Much I Could Die **1/2
New York Theatre Workshop
79 E. 4th Street, NYC
Through March 9, 2024
Photography: Jenny Anderson

Southampton Arts Center

LIVE: LOOK AT THE BOOK Opening Reception @ SAC Saturday, February 24/5pm

February 17, 2024:  Southampton Arts Center, 25 Jobs Lane, will host an opening reception for LOOK AT THE BOOK on Saturday, February 24th @5pm.  Curated by Christina M. Strassfield LOOK AT THE BOOK Is a multimedia exhibition that pays homage to “Books.” The exhibition will focus on how contemporary artists have engaged with the book as a surface, structure, found object, philosophical, and literary guide. The works will include various types of books, accordion books, video books and audiobooks, graphic novels, sculpture, photography, and several site-specific installations created with and from books.

LIVE: LOOK AT THE BOOK Opening Reception @ SAC Saturday, February 24/5pm

February 17, 2024:  Southampton Arts Center, 25 Jobs Lane, will host an opening reception for LOOK AT THE BOOK on Saturday, February 24th @5pm.  Curated by Christina M. Strassfield LOOK AT THE BOOK Is a multimedia exhibition that pays homage to “Books.” The exhibition will focus on how contemporary artists have engaged with the book as a surface, structure, found object, philosophical, and literary guide. The works will include various types of books, accordion books, video books and audiobooks, graphic novels, sculpture, photography, and several site-specific installations created with and from books.

These 25 artists, by exploring literacy in their way, will celebrate the changing role of books in the digital age. They will also address issues such as literacy, freedom of speech, banned books, and the evolving role of books. We hope to shed light on the impact of these changes and spur conversations about their implications for society. We’re excited to provide artists and community members a platform to engage with these critical topics through workshops, readings, and performances that will address these issues and hopefully create an ongoing dialogue. We will create art and have panel discussions, community talks, curator tours, and workshops.

LOOK AT THE BOOK will be on view at Southampton Arts Center, 25 Jobs Lane, through May 4, 2024.

Munich Medea: Happy Family ***

By: Samuel L. Leiter

February 16, 2024: Like Corinne Jaber, whose first play this is, Alice, the heroine of Munich Medea: Happy Family (at the WP Theatre, coproduced with Playco),is a Syrian-German born in Munich and raised in Canada and Germany. As a girl, Alice (played by Iraqi-American Heather Raffo), whose father hitchhiked from Syria and whose mother came from East Germany, faced identity issues when other Germans had difficulties accepting her as one of them. Once, when her German-language abilities were questioned, she shot back with, “I was born in Germany and went to school here you fucking moron. I’ve probably read more Goethe than you ever will.” 

By: Samuel L. Leiter

February 16, 2024: Like Corinne Jaber, whose first play this is, Alice, the heroine of Munich Medea: Happy Family (at the WP Theatre, coproduced with Playco),is a Syrian-German born in Munich and raised in Canada and Germany. As a girl, Alice (played by Iraqi-American Heather Raffo), whose father hitchhiked from Syria and whose mother came from East Germany, faced identity issues when other Germans had difficulties accepting her as one of them. Once, when her German-language abilities were questioned, she shot back with, “I was born in Germany and went to school here you fucking moron. I’ve probably read more Goethe than you ever will.” 

 Crystal Finn and Heather Raffo.

Her outsider status, also marked by her darker skin (not particularly notable on Heather Raffo), appears to have contributed to her lack of resistance when seduced at 16 by Father (Kurt Rhoads), an otherwise unnamed, smooth-talking, distinguished actor (Kurt Rhoads), parent of her best friend, Caroline (Crystal Finn). At 11, both girls were noted for their precocity, Alice’s reflected in her rebelliousness, Caroline’s in her good grades, contrasting qualities embodied in their costumes by Dina El-Aziz. Caroline will herself ultimately be revealed as having become Father’s victim at 11. A twist, however, is the strong emotional connection that ties the actor to each of his underage lovers.

This, then, is the central issue: Father’s sexual assaults on Caroline and Alice, and their ultimately traumatic effect on all involved. The Medea angle is introduced through the lens of the self-dramatizing Father’s playing of the unfaithful Jason in the Greek tragedy of Medea, in which he betrays the eponymous heroine by marrying a young princess. Jason justifies this as being for everybody’s benefit, but his transgression drives Medea to punish him by killing their sons. In Munich Medea, set in Munich (which could be almost anywhere), however, Caroline’s mother, who never appears, looks the other way (as does Caroline after learning of her dad’s relations with Alice, although it causes the friendship to dissolve). 

 Crystal Finn

After the law eventually steps in, Father is removed from contact with his daughter and her children but never goes to jail. His specious rationale (“protection”) for his behavior, and the girls’ explorations of their own complicity, provide what few surprises the playwright has in store.

The themes of pederasty, rape, guilt, shame, consent, abortion, retribution, friendship, and the sardonically titular notion of a “happy family” are worked out not in conventional dialogue but, unhelpfully, in multiple monologues delivered directly to the audience by the three-member cast. At only one moment near the end do the two women, reuniting after many years, look directly at each other. This dramaturgic method, not original to Jaber (Brian Friel, for example, has done it twice), does little to inspire interest in the action.

Kurt Rhoads

Kristen Robinson’s essentially bare stage, moodily lit by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, is on two levels. The upper half is split in two; on our left is Father’s walled office with a window through which we can barely see him; on our right is his theatre dressing room, where most of his speeches are delivered. The stage proper is little more than a black-walled space with minimal furnishings, including chairs, a standing lamp, and a sink. At center is a staircase leading to the upper floor, its open steps allowing Father to occasionally be seen performing upon them. The minimalist aesthetic, perhaps, owes something to Jaber’s having worked on several projects with the late Peter Brook.

Regardless of the sensitive subject matter, relatively familiar on stage and screen since Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive, and a few mildly graphic details, the material, under Lee Sunday Evans’s generally flat direction, remains distant from us, told rather than shown. Humor is practically nonexistent. While the performances are sharp, they rarely throb with dramatic tension or project a hint of suspense, which is more likely attributable to the script and direction than the actors themselves. Most colorful is Kurt Rhoads, himself a long-serving classical actor with the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, who captures with rhetorical flair the larger-than-life presence of the puffed-up thespian he plays, fond of quoting Schiller, Büchner, and the like. Still, Jaber’s monologues could almost be delivered from lecterns, in reader’s theatre style; even though the piece is, mercifully, only 75 minutes long, its overarching sense of ruefulness grows progressively tedious.

Nevertheless, Corinne Jaber’s writing is distinctive and intelligent enough to reveal that, had she chosen a less showy way to dramatize her story, Munich Medea: Happy Family might have had a more telling impact.

Munich Medea: Happy Family ***
WP Theatre
2162 Broadway
Through February 25, 2024
Photography: Julieta Cervantes

Crystal Finn and Heather Raffo on floor level; Kurt Rhoads above.
Heather Raffo

Christine Jorgensen

By: Alix Cohen

Background: Who Was Christine Jorgensen?
“We didn’t start the sexual revolution, but I think we gave it a good kick in the pants!” Christine Jorgensen

February 15, 2024: George W. Jorgensen, Jr., aka Christine Jorgensen (1926-1989), was assigned male at birth, but self identified as a female. In her late 20s, she became aware of medical sex reassignment, began taking estrogen, then followed up with hormone replacement therapy in Denmark. Her parents were Danish. It was easy to mask the trip as a family visit. Operations in Scandinavia and the United States completed transition. “Remember the shy, miserable person who left America? Well, that person is no more,” she wrote friends. “You have lost a son, but gained somebody new,” she told her parents. The Jorgensens were supportive.

By: Alix Cohen

Background: Who Was Christine Jorgensen?
“We didn’t start the sexual revolution, but I think we gave it a good kick in the pants!” Christine Jorgensen

February 15, 2024: George W. Jorgensen, Jr., aka Christine Jorgensen (1926-1989), was assigned male at birth, but self identified as a female. In her late 20s, she became aware of medical sex reassignment, began taking estrogen, then followed up with hormone replacement therapy in Denmark. Her parents were Danish. It was easy to mask the trip as a family visit. Operations in Scandinavia and the United States completed transition. “Remember the shy, miserable person who left America? Well, that person is no more,” she wrote friends. “You have lost a son, but gained somebody new,” she told her parents. The Jorgensens were supportive.

Christine Jorgensen 1954 (Public Domain)

Based on a purloined letter to her parents, Christine was outed by The Daily News: “Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty: Bronx Army vet undergoes first widely known gender reassignment procedure,” read the 1953 headline. Before and after photos were published. Though not technically the first successful “sex change” operations, hers were the first to be widely publicized.

Christine Jorgensen became an overnight celebrity, the subject of misleading information and crude jokes, a victim of hounding.  Agent Charlie Yates suggested she capitalize on her name, additionally an opportunity to control narrative. Christine became a forerunner in the attempt to shape inclusivity. She submitted to interviews, lectured, and would eventually write an autobiography. By all reports, the young woman was direct, witty and extremely feminine – the latter affected by expectation. Slacks were eschewed for fear she’d appear masculine.

“What people don’t understand is that the important thing is identity. You don’t transition for sexual reasons, you do it because of who you are,” she said. “I’m transgender, not transsexual… gender refers to who you are as a human… make the body fit the soul, rather than vice versa. For me, it is the heart, the look in the eyes, tone of voice, and the way one thinks that makes the real person.”

Despite lack of talent in training or temperament, the young woman (24) was sent to song and dance man, Myles Bell to create The Christine Jorgensen Show, a nightclub act. This is when we meet her in Donald Steven Olson’s play.

The Christine Jorgensen Show – The Play

Myles (Mark Nadler) is a recovering alcoholic working on a comeback. When Christine (Jesse James Keitel) enters the Times Square studio to which she’s been directed, he addresses her as “toots” and “sweetheart” first assuming she’s an agent’s secretary, then thinking she’s a performer auditioning for his nascent act. The prim stranger responds with confusion and offended pride. Can she sing, dance, do impersonations…“high dive into a fish bowl?” No. Myles is dismissive. He has no time for amateur hour.

Jesse James Keitel
Jesse James Keitel

Christine identifies herself. Myles is shocked. Their mutual agent wants him to create a show for this new client in which Myles would be second banana. The idea doesn’t sit well. “It’s a good offer for someone in your position,” she tells him. Ouch. He’s rude and impatient. She’s stiff and wary. Still, it’s worth a try.

Over ensuing months, Myles crafts a show while at the same time teaching Christine to entertain. It’s as painful to watch as it must’ve been to experience. The young woman is resistant and frankly bad until an ersatz Eliza Doolittle-type breakthrough. The two grow close, though what that means to each is very different. After all the work, she backs out. Of course, there wouldn’t be a play had Christine not returned. We’re treated to the act. It’s a revelation.

Dramatization manifests the illusion of passing time and evolving relationship replete with a multitude of speed bumps. Christine’s fear of making a fool of herself is palpable; Myles determination and skill in tailoring material, credible. His telling her to take advantage of her sex appeal delivers a wonderful moment. The play is illuminating and moving, deft in its economy and charm.

Jesse James Keitel & Mark Nadler
Jesse James Keitel & Mark Nadler

Donald Steven Olson wrote the piece with Mark Nadler in mind, something obvious to anyone familiar with the latter’s work. The artist sings, plays piano, dances, and executes a perfect pratfall. His larger than life, perfectionist personality is embedded in characterization. Gruffness, frustration, circumspect fear, and finally unexpected affection are among those attributes specific to the character. Changes emerge with nuance. The way Nadler touches Christine (they dance) shows adjusted awareness. His pride in her is touching. It’s something to see.

Jesse James Kietel is simply wonderful. Early on, when Christine picks up a dropped glove, she bends not from the waist like a man, but down on her haunches as would a woman. The gesture is graceful and intrinsic. Femininity is like unaccustomed wearing of couture – tailored to her, but needing acclimatization to feel natural. Learning the “showgirl walk” and waltz, evolution of trust, and burgeoning self confidence are beautifully rendered. Her face, admired by light, reflects the unspoken. Kietel, though a seasoned actor, has no formal training as a singer or dancer. Nadler coached her much the way Myles coached Christine, adding unwitting verisimilitude. Chemistry adds immeasurably.

Mark Nadler & Jesse James Keitel
Mark Nadler & Jesse James Keitel

Co-Directors Michael Barakova and Zoe Adams have done a splendid job bringing this story to life. We feel involved. Clichés are eschewed. Opening the play with Myles’s back to us and draping the heroine across a piano top are two of many potent visuals. Christine’s journey from awful to charming performance is empathetically hard won. Depicting a time span is skillfully achieved. 

Shoko Kambara’s minimal set is evocative. Costumes by Suzanne Chesney are superb – period perfect, flattering, detailed and fashionably accessorized. Each one is a treat!

Production Photos by Joan Marcus

Mark Nadler & Jesse James Keitel
Mark Nadler & Jesse James Keitel

The Creation of the Play

With his last play on hold during COVID, Donald Steven Olson decided to write a musical. The author has always been drawn to telling stories of people whose lives have been misconstrued, to period pieces, and to illumination of LGBTQ situations. “I grew up as a gay person. We were supposed to be tragic figures, never allowed to be who we were. I wanted to write a major role for a trans actor that both called upon a multitude of talents and would be ultimately joyous, uplifting.” Christine Jorgensen came to mind.

Research unearthed Jorgensen’s autobiography, the biography Being a Woman by Dr. Richard Doctor, YouTube interviews, an early 80s documentary made in Denmark, and a “horrible” Hollywood movie. Having worked with Mark Nadler (Nadler directed a reading for the playwright) and attended his cabaret shows, Olson felt an affinity and ran the idea by him. Nadler was enthusiastic and generous. As book, lyrics, and melodies were written, the entertainer became both inspiration for Myles – about whom little is known – and co-composer.

Book Cover (Public Domain)

The Christine Jorgensen Show was one of the most popular and financially remunerative acts of the era. Olson tells me it was purposefully nonthreatening/middle of the road. Myles stayed with the act 1 ½ years, then went on to become – wait for it – a stockbroker. Christine replaced him. Permission to use Christine’s signature song, “I Enjoy Being a Girl,” (Rodgers and Hammerstein) was financially prohibitive. New songs and patter were written.

Olson’s play morphed from two acts over two hours to its current 90 minutes. Developmental iterations were read and performed. When recommended to producer Andrew D. Hamingson, archival film was fortuitously available. There was no question of replacing Nadler. A wide net was thrown for the Jorgensen role. Jesse James Keitel was found in Los Angeles and relocated.

Christine Jorgensen and her fiancé Howard J. Knox leave the New York City Bureau of Records after trying to get a marriage certificate, April 3, 1959. Their application was rejected “without prejudice” because Christine’s gender on her birth certificate is still listed as “male.” She said her attorney would go to Washington to straighten things out. AP Photo/Jack Harris (Public Domain)

Olson has since written a 4 character companion piece called Transition: The Christine Jorgensen Collection which finds the heroine going through her archives and collection of career memorabilia requested by The Royal Library of Denmark. She’s in her early 60s suffering from cancer and is being cared for by two rather extraordinary trans women. The piece takes the audience through her memories–the army, transition, celebrity,  her nightclub act, acting in summer stock, the 1970 film made about her life, lecturing at universities, and her two failed attempts at marriage. 

The Christine Jorgensen Show by Donald Steven Olson
Directed by Michael Barakiva and Zoe Adams
59E 59St Theaters
Through March 3, 2024

Appropriate ****1/2

By: Isa Goldberg

February 14, 2024: Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins deals in the lexicon of racism that speaks to our American heritage.

His earlier, Obie Award-winning Octaroon, is a farcical send off to the slaves of a foreclosed plantation. In that play, their inheritance is their dispossession. It’s just what they’ve always been.

By: Isa Goldberg

February 14, 2024: Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins deals in the lexicon of racism that speaks to our American heritage.

His earlier, Obie Award-winning Octaroon, is a farcical send off to the slaves of a foreclosed plantation. In that play, their inheritance is their dispossession. It’s just what they’ve always been.

Without the ability to sustain themselves, to hold ono to their own identity, they appear as a cartoonish version of humanity.

In Appropriate, now in its’ second extension – moving to Broadway’s Belasco Theatre, Jacobs-Jenkins has achieved something rare these days – a Broadway hit. How unusual for a so-called straight play to garner so much attention at the box office.

Michael Esper, Corey Stoll, and Sarah Paulson.

Here, a white family tries to salvage the remains of their father’s plantation, now in foreclosure. In this romp through the annals of racism, we see the impact of their inheritance in their deeds.

It’s not what they say, it’s the photographs that emerge to tell their story, and which may carry a financial value that inspires a last hope effort to collect on dad. While the audience does not see the photos that report the plantation’s past, we discover their content through the course of the play.

This, Jacobs-Jenkins’ Broadway debut, and one of the season’s highlights, carries a provocative set. With scenic design by dots, the plantation appears at first like a junk shop – dusty, and dank, with stuff all over the place. We could be in Mamet’s American Buffalo, about hustlers and con men, or Arthur Miller’s The Price, sitting in an attic, opining on the price of one’s decisions. Looking at all the junk lying around, the audience is caused to wonder what to want.

In Appropriate, too, the characters are dealing with the vestiges of the American Dream. It’s not a spoiler alert, but they all do feel cheated.

When the plantation collapses at the end, like a house of cards, the staging looks as though it were inspired by American Horror Story. With Bennett Leak, director of artistic production, and Jane Cox on lighting, it’s quite a spectacle, and continues for what feels like a long time. Bray Poor and Will Pickens create the music of cicadas, a nasty punctuation of irritating noises that carries throughout the show.

Natalie Gold and Corey Stoll

Still, what makes this production so successful is the casting (Jim Carnahan and Alexandre Bleau). With an ensemble of  A-list movie stars, and well known stage actors, the production gives the audience a lot to watch, and hold onto. Most especially, Sarah Paulson (Toni) carries the entire first act with operatic emotion. Entering down the plantation’s cascading stairway, commanding her siblings, and declaring full entitlement, she is breathtaking.

Audiences will recognize Corey Stoll (Bo), whose visage clings to conniving deeds (House of Cards), a dark, vampiric universe (The Strain), and to being a monster billionaire (Billions). It’s all here in his role as Toni’s upright, successful brother, who will stop at nothing.

An ensemble that includes Elle Fanning (River), would be difficult for any director to pull off. But Lila Neugebauer brings this cast of celebrities into the naturalistic setting, with a family at odds, by delivering the characters in the most recognizable ways. Iconic as she is at age 24, Fanning is the brightest character on stage, a true force of nature. Her eyes in continuous sparkle, delivering spirituality and healing, she brings a sense of reason, that goes just an edge beyond the on-stage rivalries.

Sarah Paulson

A favorite New York stage actor, Michael Esper (Franz), as River’s much older boyfriend portrays a man of profound intentions, but with a somewhat lesser ability to carry them out. Spoiled, sick rich boy with a conscience, finds himself literally wallowing in the family mud. He is a beautiful disaster.

Still, Natalie Gold as Bo’s Jewish wife, Rachael, creates the clearest and most articulate character. Like Rava, the character she portrays on Succession, Rachael is a devoted mother to two children. More importantly here, Gold portrays a righteous woman who tries to keep her devious husband somewhat on track.

Among the kids, Graham Campbell makes his Broadway debut as Toni’s strapping, albeit disenfranchised teenage son, and Alyssa Emily Marvin (Grey House) in the role of Bo and Rachael’s daughter is a painfully pretentious, and confusing child. An incorrigible little boy, Ainsley, played by Lincoln Cohen and Everett Sobers alternately, loves to grab attention.

With an oeuvre that deals with race in the most unusual and fascinating ways, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is making an indelible mark on the American theater. Carried by this outstanding team of storytellers, it’s a show you don’t want to miss.

Appropriate ****1/2
Hayes Theatre
240 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
Opened 12/18/2023
Closing 3/3/2024
Photography: Joan Marcus


Broadway Update

Appropriate Moves; News of Kristin Chenoweth, Amy Ryan, etc.

By: David Sheward

February 13, 2024: The Second Stage revival of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Appropriate will be moving from the Hayes Theater (to make room for Paula Vogel’s Mother Play) to a limited run at the now-vacant Belasco Theater (after How to Dance in Ohio closed) from March 25 to June 23. The entire company will repeating their roles, except for Elle Fanning who has a scheduling conflict. Her replacement for the role of River will be announced in the coming weeks. The transfer will increase the play’s chances at the Tony Awards. There still has not been a ruling if the production is a revival or a new play since the work was previously seen Off-Broadway at the Signature Theater in 2014 where it won an Obie Award. The Tonys only consider Broadway shows.

Appropriate Moves; News of Kristin Chenoweth, Amy Ryan, etc.

By: David Sheward

February 13, 2024: The Second Stage revival of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Appropriate will be moving from the Hayes Theater (to make room for Paula Vogel’s Mother Play) to a limited run at the now-vacant Belasco Theater (after How to Dance in Ohio closed) from March 25 to June 23. The entire company will repeating their roles, except for Elle Fanning who has a scheduling conflict. Her replacement for the role of River will be announced in the coming weeks. The transfer will increase the play’s chances at the Tony Awards. There still has not been a ruling if the production is a revival or a new play since the work was previously seen Off-Broadway at the Signature Theater in 2014 where it won an Obie Award. The Tonys only consider Broadway shows.

This means all the theaters on Broadway will be occupied at the end of the season–expect one. The Lyceum has no prospective tenant since My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do?), Rob Madge’s autobiographical solo show from the West End, has postponed its Broadway run there. The piece is expected to open during the 2024-25 season. 

Kristin Chenoweth

Queen of Versailles Musical: Tony and Emmy winner Kristin Chenoweth will reunite with her Wicked composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz in the new Broadway-bound musical, Queen of Versailles, based on Lauren Greenfield’s 2012 documentary on socialite Jacqueline “Jackie” Segal and her quest to build the largest private home in America. Queen of Versailles begins performances at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theater on July 16 to play through Aug. 18. Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus, The White Lotus) will play Jackie’s husband, “Timeshare” king David Siegel. 

Featuring a book by Lindsey Ferrentino (Ugly Lies the Bone, Amy and the Orphans) and direction by Tony nominee Michael Arden (Parade, Once on This Island), The Queen of Versailles will explore the cost of fame, fortune, and family.

Amy Ryan will replace an ailing Tyne Daly in Doubt: A Parable.

Amy Ryan in for Tyne Daly in Doubt: Oscar nominee Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) has assumed the role of Sister Aloysius in Roundabout Theater Company’s revival of John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt: A Parable. She takes over for Tyne Daly who was hospitalized on Fri. Feb. 3 and had to withdraw from the production while she receives medical care. While Daly’s condition was unspecified, it was reported she is expected to make a full recovery. Ryan’s first performance will be Tues. Feb. 13 and the opening has been pushed back to March 7. In the interim, Sister Aloysius was played the understudy, Tony nominee and Drama Desk winner Isabel Keating (The Boy from Oz).

“With respect and admiration for Tyne, we wish her the best and a quick recovery.  We are grateful that Amy Ryan said yes – in a quick minute – to join our company and take on the role of ‘Sister Aloysius.’  We deeply appreciate Isabel Keating, who remarkably stepped in with a day of rehearsal and allowed us to get the production up on its feet during this first week of performances,” notes director Scott Ellis.

The cast of Doubt: A Parable also stars Tony & SAG Award winner Liev Schreiber as “Father Flynn,” Quincy Tyler Bernstine as “Mrs. Muller,” and Zoe Kazan as “Sister James.”

Ryan has received a SAG Award as part of the ensemble for Only Murders in the Building and was nominated for Tony Awards for A Streetcar Named Desire and Uncle Vanya, both Roundabout productions.

2023-24 Broadway/Off-Broadway Schedule and Beyond

Winter 2023-24

Feb. 13–The Apiary (Second Stage/Tony Kiser Theater)

Feb. 14–I Love You So Much I Could Die (NYTW)

Feb. 19–Five: The Musical Parody (Theater 555)

Feb. 21–Jelly’s Last Jam (Encores/City Center)

Feb. 22–The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers (New World Stages)

Feb. 22–A Sign of the Times (New World Stages)

Feb. 22–Sunset Baby (Signature Theater)

Feb. 25–The Seven Year Disappear (The New Group/Signature Center)

Feb. 26–Pericles (CSC)

Feb. 27–The Ally (Public)

Feb. 28–Brooklyn Laundry (MTC/City Center Stage I)

Spring 2024

March 2–Illinoise (Park Ave. Armory)

March 7–Doubt: A Parable (Roundabout/Todd Haimes)

March 7–Tuesdays with Morrie (Sea Dog Theater)

March 10–Dead Outlaw (Audible/Minetta Lane)

March 11–Corruption (LCT/Mitzi Newhouse)

March 12–Teeth (Playwrights Horizons)

March 13–The Effect (The Shed/Griffin Theater)

March 14–The Notebook (Schoenfeld)

March 14–Ibsen’s Ghost (Primary Stages/59E59)

March 18–An Enemy of the People (Circle in the Square)

March 21–Water for Elephants (Imperial)

March 24–Philadelphia, Here I Come (IRT)

March 28–The Who’s Tommy (Nederlander)

April 1–Brynolf & Ljung in Stalker (New World Stages)

April 2–Orlando (previews begin; opening TBA) (Signature Theatre)

April 2–Fish (Keen Co./Working Theater/Theater Four) 

April 5–Macbeth (an undoing) (TFANA/Polonsky Center)

April 11–The Outsiders (Jacobs)

April 11–Jordans (Public) (previews begin; opening TBA)

April 12–Staff Meal (previews begin; opening TBA) (Playwrights Horizons)

April 14–Lempicka (Longacre)

April 16–Sally & Tom (Public Theater)

April 17–The Wiz (Marquis)

April 18–Suffs (Music Box)

April 19–Stereophonic (Golden)

April 20–Hell’s Kitchen (Shubert)

April 20/21–Cabaret (August Wilson)

April 22–The Heart of Rock and Roll (James Earl Jones)

April 22–Patriots (Barrymore)

April 22–Outer Critics Circle nominations announced

April 22–Drama League nominations announced (NY Library for the Performing Arts)

April 23–Mary Jane (MTC/Friedman) 

April 24–Uncle Vanya (LCT/Vivian Beaumont)

April 25–Mother Play (Second Stage/Hayes)

April 25–The Great Gatsby (Broadway)

April 26–Chita Rivera Award nominations announced

April 29–Drama Desk Award nominations announced

April 30–Tony Nominations Announced

April 30–Three Houses (previews begin; opening TBA) (Signature Theatre)

April–Here There Are Blueberries (NYTW)

May 2–Wine in the Wilderness (previews begin; opening TBA) (CSC)

May 13–Outer Critics Circle winners announced

May 17–Drama League Awards (Ziegfeld Ballroom)

May 20–Chita Rivera Awards Ceremony (NYU Skirball)

May 23–Outer Critics Circle Awards ceremony 

Summer 2024

June 5–Home (Roundabout/Todd Haimes)

June 10–Drama Desk Awards

June 10–Theater World Awards

June 12–The Welkin (Atlantic Theater Company)

June 12–Titanic (Encores/City Center)

June 16–Tony Awards (David Koch Theater/Lincoln Center)

June 20–Cats (Perelman Performing Arts Center)

TBA–All of Me (The New Group/Signature Center)

2024

Sunset Boulevard

Fall 2024

The Counter (Roundabout/Laura Pels)

King Lear (Kenneth Branagh Theater Company/The Shed)

Yellowface (Roundabout/Todd Haimes Theater)

Winter 2024-25

English (Roundabout/Todd Haimes Theater)

Liberation (Roundabout/Laura Pels)

2024-25

My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do?)

Our Town

Smash

Tammy Faye

Spring 2025

The Pirates of Penzance (Roundabout/Todd Haimes Theater)

Show Boat (Target Margin/NYU Skirball)

Future–Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death; Beaches the Musical; Black Orpheus; BOOP! The Betty Boop Musical; Come Fall in Love–The DDLJ Musical; Death Becomes Her; The Devil Wears Prada; Ella: An American Miracle; Everybody’s Talking About Jamie; Frida, the Musical; Game of Thrones; The Great Gatsby; The Griswolds’ Broadway Vacation; High Noon; Imitation of Life; The Interestings; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; The Karate Kid; La La Land; Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil; The Mousetrap; Nancy Drew and the Mystery at Spotlight Manor; Pal Joey; Purple Rain; The Queen’s Gambit; Rear Window; The Nanny; The Normal Heart/The Destiny of Me; The Queen of Versailles; The Secret Garden; Sing Street; Soul Train; Stranger Things: The First Shadow; What a Wonderful World; Working Girl.

2023-24 Broadway Season Breakdown:

New Plays:

The Cottage

Grey House

I Need That

Jaja’s African Hair Braiding

Mother Play

Patriots

Prayer for the French Republic

The Shark Is Broken

Stereophonic

New Musicals:

Back to the Future

Days of Wine and Roses

The Great Gatsby

Harmony

The Heart of Rock and Roll

Hell’s Kitchen

How to Dance in Ohio

Lempicka

The Notebook

Once Upon a One More Time

The Outsiders

Suffs

Water for Elephants

Play Revivals:

Appropriate

Doubt: A Parable

An Enemy of the People

Mary Jane

Purlie Victorious

Uncle Vanya

Musical Revivals:

Cabaret

Gutenberg! The Musical

Here Lies Love

Merrily We Roll Along

Monty Python’s Spamalot

The Who’s Tommy

The Wiz

Solos/Specialties:

Alex Edelman: Just for Us

Melissa Etheridge: My Window

Broadway Update

Drama Desks and Theater World Awards on the Same Day

By: David Sheward

February 13, 2024: Two major NY theater awards will be held on the same date. It was announced the 78th annual Theater World Awards will be held on Mon. June 10. The day before, the Drama Desk Awards had announced the same date for their 69th annual accolades. However, the Theater Worlds which are given for outstanding Broadway and Off-Broadway debut performances, listed 7PM as their start time. Last year and the year before, the DDs were held in the afternoon, so things may work out for winners who wish to attend both ceremonies. Neither event has listed a venue. Hopefully they will be close to each other so double attendees will have a short trip and time for a bite to eat.

Drama Desks and Theater World Awards on the Same Day

By: David Sheward

February 13, 2024: Two major NY theater awards will be held on the same date. It was announced the 78th annual Theater World Awards will be held on Mon. June 10. The day before, the Drama Desk Awards had announced the same date for their 69th annual accolades. However, the Theater Worlds which are given for outstanding Broadway and Off-Broadway debut performances, listed 7PM as their start time. Last year and the year before, the DDs were held in the afternoon, so things may work out for winners who wish to attend both ceremonies. Neither event has listed a venue. Hopefully they will be close to each other so double attendees will have a short trip and time for a bite to eat.

The 2024 Honorees for the Theatre World Award for an Outstanding Debut Performance in a Broadway or Off-Broadway Production, the landmark 15th Annual Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theater, the 10th Annual John Willis Award for lifetime achievement, and the theatre venue, will be announced in this spring.

Julie Benko who won last year’s Dorothy Loudon Award for her performance in Funny Girl.

Hosted annually by well-known theater journalist, Peter Filichia, the historic 78th Annual Theatre World Awards Ceremony will be produced by Theatre World Awards, Inc. Board of Directors / Dale Badway. 

The Theatre World Award honorees are chosen by the Theatre World Awards Committee which is comprised of Linda Armstrong (Amsterdam News), David Cote (The Observer), Joe Dziemianowicz (New York Daily News, Emeritus), Peter Filichia (The Newark Star-Ledger, Emeritus), David Finkle (New York Stage Review), Elysa Gardner (USA Today, Emeritus), Harry Haun (The Observer), Cary Wong (Freelance), and Frank Scheck (The Hollywood Reporter). Armstrong and Filichia are also on the Nominating Committee for the Drama Desks.

The Theatre World Awards, Inc. Board of Directors is headed by Dale Badway (President) with Tom Lynch (Vice-President), Michael Kostel (Vice-President), Stephen Wilde (Secretary), The Honorable Ilene Zatkin-Butler (Treasurer), James Sheridan, and Karen Johnston.

First presented in 1945, the prestigious Theatre World Awards, founded by John Willis, the Editor-in-Chief of both Theatre World and its companion volume, Screen World, are the oldest awards given for Outstanding Broadway and Off-Broadway Debut Performances. The Theatre World Awards are presented annually at the end of the theatre season to six actors and six actresses for their significant, reviewable, debut performances in a Broadway or Off-Broadway production. The ceremony is a private, invitation-only event followed by a party to celebrate the new honorees and welcome them to the Theatre World “family.”

In what has become a highly entertaining and often touching tradition, 12 previous winners serve as the presenters, and often relive moments from past ceremonies and share wonderful stories rarely heard at other theatrical awards. 

Previous winners who have won the prestigious Theatre World Award at the beginning of their careers include Meryl Streep, Rosemary Harris, Marlon Brando, Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Anne Bancroft, James Earl Jones, Liza Minnelli, Alan Alda, Zoe Caldwell, Christopher Walken, Alec Baldwin, Bernadette Peters, Audra McDonald, Al Pacino, Grace Kelly, Tom Hanks, Bryan Cranston, Cynthia Erivo, Danielle Brooks, Lupita Nyong’o, John Krasinski, and so many more.

Drama Desks Dates

The 68th Drama Desk Awards will be presented on Mon. June 10 it was announced by DD Co-Presidents Charles Wright and David Barbour. Nominations will be announced on April 29 (the day before the Tony nominations come out on April 30). Details and venues will be announced in the coming months. Productions must have opened by April 25. The DDs are the only NY-based theater awards to consider Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway productions in each of its multiple categories.

As was the case last year, the performing categories will be gender-neutral with twice as many candidates as the former gendered categories. The Drama Desk membership which is composed of about 100 NY-based theater critics, editors and journalists, will vote for two nominees and there will be two winners in each category. 

The ceremony will be produced by Staci Levine, as she did last year. At the 2023 ceremony, the winners were announced in advance.

The 2023-2024 Drama Desk Nominating Committee is composed of: Martha Wade Steketee (Chair; freelance: UrbanExcavations.com), Linda Armstrong (New York Amsterdam News), Daniel Dinero (Theater Is Easy), Peter Filichia (Broadway Radio), Kenji Fujishima (freelance: Theatermania), Margaret Hall (Playbill), and Charles Wright, ex-officio.

Oh, Mary! ****

By: David Sheward

February 11, 2024: Mary Todd Lincoln is an odd choice as the main character of a raucous, drag-centered satire. Most campy stage spoofs written by and starring either Charles Busch or Charles Ludlum have usually centered on movie heroines played by the likes of Joan Crawford or Bette Davis in spectacularly soapy melodramas, or they are historical epics featuring over-the-top royalty in divinely diva-ish gowns. Mrs. Lincoln’s story is a truly tragic one and does not afford much opportunity for sartorial fabulousness. But that didn’t stop YouTube sensation-playwright-drag performer Cole Escola from transforming one of our nation’s saddest figures into a bawdy, naughty vamp in a riotous travesty of American history and morality, Oh, Mary! at the Lucille Lortel.

By: David Sheward

February 11, 2024: Mary Todd Lincoln is an odd choice as the main character of a raucous, drag-centered satire. Most campy stage spoofs written by and starring either Charles Busch or Charles Ludlum have usually centered on movie heroines played by the likes of Joan Crawford or Bette Davis in spectacularly soapy melodramas, or they are historical epics featuring over-the-top royalty in divinely diva-ish gowns. Mrs. Lincoln’s story is a truly tragic one and does not afford much opportunity for sartorial fabulousness. But that didn’t stop YouTube sensation-playwright-drag performer Cole Escola from transforming one of our nation’s saddest figures into a bawdy, naughty vamp in a riotous travesty of American history and morality, Oh, Mary! at the Lucille Lortel.

Conrad Ricamora and Cole Escola.

Escola has written and stars in this short, extremely funny parody, running less than 90 minutes and packed with more goofiness per second than most Broadway shows. They take a grain of truth and make it grow into acres of hilarity. The First Lady during the Civil War years was restless and discontent, the subject of manic depression and chronic shopping obsessions. Lincoln was concerned for his wife’s sanity after one of their children died in the White House and told her if she did not emerge from her dark moods, he might have to commit her to a mental institution. 

Escola’s Mary is an alcoholic, foul-tempered, grown-up spoiled brat yearning to return to her past glories as a cabaret star (they were glories only in her own mind.) There is scholarship suggesting Mary’s husband harbored same-sex attractions. Escola takes this tidbit and runs with it. A closeted Abe (played with a desperate zaniness by Conrad Ricamora) attempts to distract his out-of-control spouse so he can get on with the business of waging the war. (When told the conflict is against the South, a clueless Mary replies, “The South of what?”) Abe is also fighting off urges to make whoopie with his young assistant Simon (Tony Macht, a subtle straight man, if you’ll pardon the pun). which leads to further comic mayhem. Abe enlists a proper chaperone (Bianca Leigh, delightfully prudish) and an acting teacher (James Scully, dashing and virile) in his efforts to stop her crazed impulses.

Tony Macht, Bianca Leigh, and Cole Escola.

The press agent for the show have asked critics not to reveal any more of Escola’s story twists. But it would not reveal too much to say that all the plot threads lead up to Mary’s cabaret act in which Escola brilliantly mocks the show-biz, triumph-over-adversity cliches of the genre (with Macht at the piano). The program credits Holly Pierson as costume designer and Astor Yang as responsible for Escola’s gowns. Both create dazzlingly funny frocks. The design team dots provided detailed, period sets including a plausible Oval Office and a grubby tavern.

Cole Escola

In their performance and writing, Escola skillfully spoofs 19th and 20th century acting mannerisms and puritanical attitudes towards sex. They are an impulse-driven demon, spewing invective and toppling whatever sacred cows stand in the way of Mary’s quest for the spotlight. Sam Pinkleton’s stages the brief work at a breakneck, farcical pace, exactly right for Oh, Mary!, a madcap, lightweight burlesque sure to send you in to paroxysms of mindless laughs. 

Oh, Mary! ****
Feb. 8—May 5, 2024
Lucille Lortel Theater, 121 Christopher St., NYC. Running time: 70 mins. with no intermission. ovationtix.com.
Photography: Emilio Madrid

Cole Escola and James Scully.

White Room Gallery


Opening reception for LOVE IS THE DRUG now on view at The White Room Gallery, 3 Railroad Avenue East Hampton, through March 30.

February 11, 2024: Andrea McCafferty & Kat O’Neill, co-owners, and directors of The White Room Gallery, hosted the opening reception for LOVE IS THE DRUG, their new exhibition featuring artists John Grande, Rebecca Russo, Grace Baley and more. The show will be on view at The White Room in East Hampton through March 30, 2024. 
Photographs from the reception Saturday February 10.


Opening reception for LOVE IS THE DRUG now on view at The White Room Gallery, 3 Railroad Avenue East Hampton, through March 30.

February 11, 2024: Andrea McCafferty & Kat O’Neill, co-owners, and directors of The White Room Gallery, hosted the opening reception for LOVE IS THE DRUG, their new exhibition featuring artists John Grande, Rebecca Russo, Grace Baley and more. The show will be on view at The White Room in East Hampton through March 30, 2024. 
Photographs from the reception Saturday February 10.

Artist Rebecca Russo with Family and Andrea McCafferty (White Room Gallery).
Kat O’Neill (White Room Gallery, Bob Tabor (Artist).
Steve Zaluski- Improvisation in Red and Blue Painted, Welded -Aluminum Kinetic Sculpture.
Randi and Bob Tabor (Artist).
Rebecca Russo and Patrick Christiano.

CURATORS’ QUOTE
“Oh-oh, get that buzz.  Love is the drug I’m thinking of.  Oh-oh, can’t you see?  Love, the drug for me.’  The inimitable Bryan Ferry wrote that and ten years later went on to pen ‘Slave to Love’ with countless nods in between to the power, heart break and excitement that the experience of love embodies.  But Ferry is not alone.  A study on the “psychology of music” determined that about 67% of lyrics in every song in every decade since the ’60s, were somehow about love. 

If money makes the world go round, it is love that can bring it to its knees and what better way to celebrate that then Valentine’s Day.  ‘Love Is The Drug’ features three artists new to the gallery.  John Grande presents a painted black and white stiletto, an homage to Helmut Newton’s famed shot, alongside ‘Desire Despair’, an evocative piece on vinyl that depicts lovers, voyeurs, and fashion in a room reminiscent of a seedy French bordello or room 222 at the Chelsea Hotel where Boroughs was writing Naked Lunch and doing who knows what else.  Arthur Miller, who moved into the hotel with his daughter after his divorce from Marilyn and ended up staying oddly 6 years, said, “This hotel does not belong to America.  There are no vacuum cleaners, no rules and no shame.”  Little to not love there.

And onto our second new artist Rebecca Russo who uses pens and brushes to create line works on paper that explore beauty and decay with red lips driving the narrative.  Think Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.  “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”   Though the artistic expression of lips has long been considered a symbol of sensuality, emotion, if not true tools of seduction, Russo takes them to a confused state of expression where the line between intrigue and remorse is delightfully blurred.  

Our third new artist, Grace Baley, is all about the glass.   Six months to create the Buddha.   Four months each to bring Marilyn and Biggie back to life.  Boxing Basquiat and Smokin’ Jimi.   All created by hand, cutting the glass, piecing those rhinestone necklaces together, licking off the blood.   Inspired by the subway stations of NYC, Grace immortalizes icons in glass which will never fade.   It’s been said by Mark Twain and Confucius with Twain oddly getting top billing in google, “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.”  And this exhibit not only applauds artistry but the hands and minds who continue to deliver the love.”

The White Room Gallery – 3 Railroad Avenue East Hampton, NY 11937
631-237-1481 or 917-526-2676
Photography Barry Gordin

Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy ****, Our Class ****

By: David Sheward

February 8, 2024: The line between the truth and fake news becomes a blurry limbo pole the characters dance around, above and below in Sarah Gancher’s brilliantly relevant and wildly funny new play Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy, now at the Vineyard Theater. This inventive playwright starts out with the shockingly real fact that Putin’s government interfered in the 2016 presidential election by sending out conspiracy-theory-laden tweets and social-media messages from thousands of fake accounts, tipping the scales for a certain orange-hued candidate. She goes inside the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg (an actual company) and creates a frightening and fiendish look at the interrelationships among five trolls, how they turn on each other, poison the information well and threaten democracy around the world. The scary part is many of the tweets were taken from IRA fake accounts and Gancher had to make up only a few.

By: David Sheward

February 8, 2024: The line between the truth and fake news becomes a blurry limbo pole the characters dance around, above and below in Sarah Gancher’s brilliantly relevant and wildly funny new play Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy, now at the Vineyard Theater. This inventive playwright starts out with the shockingly real fact that Putin’s government interfered in the 2016 presidential election by sending out conspiracy-theory-laden tweets and social-media messages from thousands of fake accounts, tipping the scales for a certain orange-hued candidate. She goes inside the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg (an actual company) and creates a frightening and fiendish look at the interrelationships among five trolls, how they turn on each other, poison the information well and threaten democracy around the world. The scary part is many of the tweets were taken from IRA fake accounts and Gancher had to make up only a few.

Christine Lahti and Renata Friedman in Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy.

The playwright employs another innovative writing strategy by dividing the play into four sections, each from a different character’s perspective and in a different style. First we get a romantic drama-comedy with former journalist Masha (a soulfully complex Renata Friedman) and married aspiring screenwriter Nikolai (appropriately pathetic and needy Hadi Tabbal). Both have no illusions about their work and see it as a means of storytelling and creative expression. When one of their cooked-up stories about Hillary Clinton kidnapping kids though tunnels underneath Disneyland goes viral, Gancher examines the seductive thrill of controlling the narrative. Their shared interests and beliefs lead to a dangerous affair (Nikolai’s father-in-law is a powerful oligarch) and complications.

Then we get a Kafka-esque nightmare focusing on Egor (hilariously introverted Haskell King), a friendless drone whose only emotional attachments have been formed with the American virtual community. (He obsessively frets over hitting his quota of tweets and not receiving invitations to cook-outs in the US.) Steve (John Lavelle)’s segment is like an out-of-control SNL sketch satirizing spy thrillers as he attempts to rise from his subordinate position to management. In this hilarious vignette, Lavelle crashes through the fourth wall, directly addressing the audience with a scorching tirade of right-wing belligerence in a dazzling performance. 

Christine Lahti in Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy.

Finally, Christine Lahti tops that as Ljuba, the Soviet true-believer supervisor, in a soul-baring monologue detailing her twisted personal history which parallels that of her volatile country. Lathi makes this angry, politically repulsive woman’s point of view understandable, delivering subtle shades of grey rather than those in simple black and white. 

Director Darko Tresnjak seamlessly blends the various motifs into a sleek, riotous whole, employing Marcus Doshi’s versatile lighting, Jared Mezzocchi’s overwhelming video and projection design, and Alexander Dodge’s sterile, all-white set. 

Haskell King and John Lavelle in Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy.

Russian Troll Farm is the best kind of dark comedy. It makes you laugh uncontrollably at its absurd premise, yet gives you a shock of recognition when you stop guffawing. It’s then you realize this is no satire but the reality we face in our media-saturated world.

Ilia Volok plays Władek, and Alexandra Silber plays Rachelka in Our Class.

Tadeusz Slobodzianek’s Our Class, presented by Arlenkinz Players Theatre at BAM’s Fisher, Fishman space, is not as funny as Russian Troll Farm, but it does share a bold, inventive sense of theatricality, is also derived from real events, depicts a political and social crisis involving Russia and leaves a striking impression. The former Soviet Union is not the direct backdrop of the massive, yet intimate three-hour drama, but it plays a vital part. The setting is a small village in Poland and follows ten members of an elementary school class, half Catholic and Half Jewish, over the course of 70 years. After their country is invaded by Russia and before the Nazis replaced them, the Jewish population was senselessly slaughtered by the Gentile citizens of the town. The events leading up to the massacre and the long aftermath form the bulk of Slobodzianek’s incisive examination of the corrupt soul of a community. (The excellent English adaptation is by Norman Allen.)

The international ensemble of ten matter-of-factly describe the anti-Semitic terrors they endure or inflict, adding to the chilling effect. Igor Golyak’s staging is so inventive and engrossing, three hours pass like an express train. The clever use of props, Eric Dunlap’s edgy, jagged projection design, and Adam Silverman’s eerie and frightening lighting add to the endless brilliant pieces of stage business. A ladder becomes a moving train. An actor takes a video camera out of the theatre, into the lobby and out into the streets of Brooklyn to simulate a voyage from oppressive Europe to the freedom of America. Another actor twisted into position against Jan Pappelbaum’s stark blackboard set becomes the chalk-outline victim of a deadly assault. Balloons with magic-marker faces are transformed into murdered Jewish souls ascending into heaven as an actress cuts the strings binding them to the stage floor. 

The Cast of Our Class.

The cast is flawless, taking us from childhood innocents (with lessons drawn on the chalkboard) to players in a deadly game of hatred and bigotry to elderly survivors retreating behind TV screens and wishing to be left alone. Outstanding were Alexandra Silber’s stoic Rachelka, Richard Topol’s wise and warm Abram, Will Manning’s hypocritical priest Heniek, Gus Birney’s seductive yet pathetic Dora, and Andrey Burkoveskiy’s Menachem who goes through the most transformations from dorky kid to ruthless secret policeman avenging the deaths of his fellow Jews.

Like Russian Troll Farm, Our Class uses bold theatricality to depict a frightening chapter in history. Hopefully, we can learn the lessons of these plays and history will not repeat itself.

Renata Friedman and Hadi Tabbal in Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy.

Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy ****
February 8, – March 3, 2024 – Vineyard Theater, 108 E. 15th St., NYC. Running time: 100 mins. with no intermission. vineyardtheatre.org.
Photography: Carol Rosegg

Barn scene in Our Class.

Our Class ****
Jan. 19—Feb. 11. Arlekin Players Theatre at Brooklyn Academy of Music Fisher, Fishman Space, 321 Ashland Place, Brooklyn, NY. Running time: three hours including intermission. bam.org.
Photography: Pavel Antonov

Stephen Ochsner (Center) In Our Class.

Days of Wine and Roses ***

By: Samuel L. Leiter

February 4, 2024: Note: The following is a slightly revised version of the review I posted on Theater Life last June, when this musical was at the Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater. The show has now moved to Broadway’s Studio 54, with all but one of its five principal actors intact. I can’t point to any important specifics in the production, other than its expansion for a Broadway stage, that caught my attention as differing radically from the Off-Broadway version, but I do believe the central performances of Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James have grown even richer and more powerful, if that’s even possible. On the other hand, my original assessment of the material as depressing was only deepened on a second viewing. For all the artistry and charisma of the stars’ portrayals, their characters remain so unpleasantly self-centered it’s impossible to empathize with them, no matter how much one may wish to do so.

By: Samuel L. Leiter

February 4, 2024: Note: The following is a slightly revised version of the review I posted on Theater Life last June, when this musical was at the Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater. The show has now moved to Broadway’s Studio 54, with all but one of its five principal actors intact. I can’t point to any important specifics in the production, other than its expansion for a Broadway stage, that caught my attention as differing radically from the Off-Broadway version, but I do believe the central performances of Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James have grown even richer and more powerful, if that’s even possible. On the other hand, my original assessment of the material as depressing was only deepened on a second viewing. For all the artistry and charisma of the stars’ portrayals, their characters remain so unpleasantly self-centered it’s impossible to empathize with them, no matter how much one may wish to do so.

“Temperance dramas,” so-called, remain alive and well. These, of course, are cautionary tales that first attained widespread success in the 19th century by presenting the hazards of substance abuse, designed to warn viewers of the dangers of overindulgence.  Among the dozens produced were the universally known The Drunkard and Ten Nights in a Barroom

Brian d’Arcy James and Kelli O’Hara.

Today, whatever the substance of choice, you can be sure there’s a drama du jour to depict it, no matter how familiar the story. Often, these begin with casual use turning to abuse, followed by the horrors of addiction shown in frightening physical detail as the audience witnesses the demolition of someone’s career, family, and health. Such works end either in a sentimentally positive turnaround or tear-jerking tragedy. Either way, you’re supposed to weep.’

Several examples of such work were present in New York last spring when the Atlantic Theater Company presented Days of Wine and Roses—an intermissionless, 105-minute musical adaptation of the similarly titled 1958 teleplay by JP Miller, starring Cliff Robertson and Piper Laurie, and its wrenching movie version of 1962, starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. Currently, local audiences can visit a major Off-Broadway revival of Sean Daniels’s The White Chip, yet another significant work about alcohol abuse. Audiences seem to be perpetually thirsty for such shows.

In temperance plays, meant to scare viewers away from alcohol or drugs, the abuse is not incidental to the drama—as in O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, despite its frequent presence—but central. It is thus the principal subject around which the plot revolves, with everyone focused on trying to do something about it. Days of Wine and Roses, with its perfectly straightforward, well-made plot, is as pointedly temperance oriented as even Carrie Nation would desire.

Brian d’Arcy James and Kelli O’Hara.

In 1950, Joe Clay (Brian d’Arcy James) and Kirsten Arneson (Kelli O’Hara) meet at a company cocktail party, and go on a date to a restaurant. Joe, a smooth talking Korean War vet in public relations, induces Kirsten, an autodidactic secretary who doesn’t drink, to loosen up by trying a Black Russian. Anyone who doesn’t know at once what’s about to happen is either drunk or in need of a good stiff one. Sure enough, regardless of her distaste for drinking, Kirsten loves the cocktail’s sweetness and the high it inspires. Naturally, as she and Joe fall in love, they become increasingly dependent on far more potent liquids, which, for a time, helps juice up their marital relationship. 

Despite the skepticism of Kirsten’s straitlaced father (soundly rendered by Byron Jennings), a landscaper, Joe and Kirsten marry; their drinking swells; they have a daughter, Lila (Tabitha Lawling, a very talented kid); Kirsten burns the house down; Joe’s bibulousness costs him his job; the marriage crashes; and Joe, who has custody of Lila, struggles to overcome his problem by acquiring an AA sponsor, Jim (David Jennings). Kirsten’s dad, though, is thoroughly fed up with Joe for ruining his daughter.

Joe relapses—big prop-tossing scene included—but recovers, yet for all his sincere urging, Kirsten finds it beneath her to seek help. Joe and Kirsten, still in love, find reuniting impossible, and Kirsten’s attempt to see Lila after considerable time apart proves problematic, bringing the dreary story to an end.

Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James.

Just like its TV and cinema originals, this is depressing territory, made watchable and listenable chiefly because of the unforgettable performances of its leading actors. As in any drama about drunks who bring down their families with every gulp they take, there’s considerable room for histrionic expression. It’s heightened here not only by the circumstances of the story but by Adam Guettel’s (The Light in the Piazza) dramatic music and lyrics, supported by Craig Lucas’s (also The Light in the Piazza) book, a simplified adaptation of its sources, set in New York, rather than San Francisco. 

Guettel’s music—brilliant enough in context but none of which I was particularly anxious to hear again—is designed both to help convey the narrative and, at times, to heighten its emotions to almost operatic levels. Unlike Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s Academy Award-winning title song for the movie, now a familiar standard, Guettel’s melodies are unconventional and their frequent dependence on soaring notes vocally challenging. This is music intended to be acted as well as sung. Much of it captures a sense of artsy 1950s modern jazz rather than the tunefulness associated with popular Broadway shows. While the score may satisfy the tastes of those with more sophisticated musical tastes than mine, and generally suits the temperament of the situations, its 18 songs fail to provide anything emotionally comparable to the kick in whatever it is the characters are knocking back.

There are nine actors involved but the only singers are the two stars, and, in several numbers, the child playing Lila. Guettel’s lyrics, which focus attention on the intense interactions of Joe and Kirsten, could not be more potently rendered than by Brian d’Arcy James and Kelli O’Hara, two of New York’s foremost stage presences. Under Michael Greif’s sensitive direction—supplemented by a modicum of choreography handled by Sergio Trujillo and Karla Puno Garcia—their good looks, stunning acting skills, and dazzling voices of extraordinary range and power make Days of Wine and Roses worth a visit, even if it means swallowing the downer of a script.

Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James

Lizzie Clachan’s flexible set for this multi-scened work—one scene is only a few words long—combines neutral designs, like the panels meant to evoke a boat in the first scene, with more realistic units, like a plant-filled nursery. Ben Stanton creates atmospheric lighting effects throughout, and Dede Ayite’s costumes are close enough approximations of what people wore in the 1950s and early 1960s. Far simpler in design than your average Broadway musical, the visuals are perfectly fine for what is essentially a chamber musical.

As a temperance drama, Days of Wine and Roses offers an object lesson on the dangers of that ol’ devil rum. As a musical, it makes you thirsty for something with more of a sting. 

Days of Wine and Roses
Studio 54
254 W. 54th Street, NYC
Through April 28, 2024
Photography: Joan Marcus

Southampton Arts Center

LIVE: JazzFest – Azar Lawrence Quintet @ SAC on Saturday, February 17th

February 3, 2024: Southampton Arts Center is excited to celebrate Black History Month and welcome Azar Lawrence to their stage at 7pm on Saturday, February 17. Doors open at 6:30pm for a social hour with complimentary wine. Azar is a Spiritual and Musical disciple of Coltrane with a healthy mix of soul, funk and music beyond category.

LIVE: JazzFest – Azar Lawrence Quintet @ SAC on Saturday, February 17th

February 3, 2024: Southampton Arts Center is excited to celebrate Black History Month and welcome Azar Lawrence to their stage at 7pm on Saturday, February 17. Doors open at 6:30pm for a social hour with complimentary wine. Azar is a Spiritual and Musical disciple of Coltrane with a healthy mix of soul, funk and music beyond category.

Azar Lawrence

As a young music prodigy, he was lovingly tutored by his mother, who taught music and led their church choir. At age 5, he played violin in the Los Angeles Junior Symphony, then viola, but his ears were turned to the saxophone at age 13. Azar spent his teen years immersed in jazz at the home of his best friend, none other than the late Reggie Golson, son of the great composer/arranger/saxophonist, Bennie Golson. From then on it was jazz, jazz, and more jazz!

Azar began his jazz career at the renowned Dorsey High School Jazz Workshop. After high school he played in Horace Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan Arkestra and played weekly with George Cables, Candy Finch, Larry Gales, and Woody Shaw in Los Angeles at a local club, L.B. West on 54th St. Before long, he performed with the Ike & Tina Turner band, the Watts 103rd Street Band and War. The 19 y.o. musical genius – he’d blush at the description – then joined John Coltrane drummer, Elvin Jones for 3 ½ years. 

Azar went on to record/write for luminaries such as Freddie Hubbard, Busta Rhymes, Roberta Flack, and Phyllis Hyman. His sensational collaborations of the period included writing and performing on Earth Wind & Fire’s highly acclaimed platinum album, Powerlight, and on Marvin Gaye’s Grammy award-winning, Hear My Dear.

In the early 2000s, Azar surged back onto the jazz scene and continues to roar, electrifying audiences with outstanding original compositions inspired by his intense spiritual feelings, as well as songs from the Coltrane songbook: The Legacy and Music of John Coltrane, 2007, Speak The Word Revelations, 2008, Prayer For My Ancestors, 2009, Mystic Journey, 2010, The Seeker, Live At The Jazz Standard, 2014, which featured Azar’s own “Lost Tribes of Lemuria,” and McCoy Tyner’s signature, “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit.”

Azar’s 2018 album, Elementals, hit #2 on the Jazz Weekly charts. Chris May wrote: “Azar Lawrence sounds more like John Coltrane than John Coltrane ever did. Well, almost…. but it has not been a cynical pose designed to maximize Lawrence’s commercial appeal.” (All About Jazz, April 18, 2018.) Concord reissued the highly acclaimed Bridge Into The New Age in November of 2017. 

Azar’s band, The Azar Lawrence Experience (TALE) appears with as many as eight musicians who sizzle to the sounds of Azar’s powerful original compositions, and a Coltrane standard here and there. In 2019 Concord’s vinyl reissue of Azar’s stunning 1976 album, Summer Solstice, was timed perfectly as it helped us survive the global pandemic.

Learn More and Register

Broadway Babe

Historic Flashbacks from Broadway Babe include West Side Story, Carol Burnett, Donna McKechnie & the original Sandy from Grease, Carol Demas.

February 3, 2024:  Broadway Babe, Randie Levine-Miller has found some entertaining and historic videos, which include the 50th anniversary reunion of the original cast of “West Side Story”;  Carol Burnett starring in “Once Upon A Mattress”; Donna McKechnie at Joe’s Pub; as well as Carol Demas, the original Sandy in the Broadway musical “Grease”, singing a song she introduced over 50 years ago. How is it that so many of these women look so great in their 80s?

Historic Flashbacks from Broadway Babe include West Side Story, Carol Burnett, Donna McKechnie & the original Sandy from Grease, Carol Demas.

February 3, 2024:  Broadway Babe, Randie Levine-Miller has found some entertaining and historic videos, which include the 50th anniversary reunion of the original cast of “West Side Story”;  Carol Burnett starring in “Once Upon A Mattress”; Donna McKechnie at Joe’s Pub; as well as Carol Demas, the original Sandy in the Broadway musical “Grease”, singing a song she introduced over 50 years ago. How is it that so many of these women look so great in their 80s?

West Side Story OBC 50th Anniversary Reunion

OMG… What a find! From 2007, the 50th anniversary reunion of the original Broadway cast of “West Side Story”, with Chita Rivera, Carol Lawrence, Mickey Calin, Tony Mordente, Martin Charnin, Marilyn Cooper, Carol D’Andrea, Reri Grist, Grover Dale, Pat Birch, Harvey Evans, George Marcy — which was a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The exciting opening production number may give you gooseflesh. 

All these dazzling performers who are no longer the youngsters they were in 1957, were at the top of their game that night. And, of course, the remarkable and ageless Chita Rivera looked and sounded great as she did throughout her 70-year career — until the day she died this past week. There are interviews backstage with cast members, and all praised the brilliant choreography of Jerome Robbins, but also sharing that he was incredibly difficult and lacked people skills. 

One of the cast members expresses gratitude to Broadway Cares, and how they took care of Larry Kert, the original Tony, in the last year of his life. A major highlight is the performance of Reri Grist, who sang “Somewhere” which she did as an original cast member in the orchestra pit, but on this night, she was centerstage. She went on to become a major Metropolitan Opera star. This video is of historical significance… And it’s also quite delightful and touching.

Once Upon a Mattress

From 1964, Carol Burnett stars in the TV version of “Once Upon A Mattress” by Mary Rodgers and Marshall Barer, which she originated Off-Broadway in 1959, followed by a move to Broadway.  Directed by Joe Layton, it was produced by Bob Banner, and Carol’s then husband, Joe Hamilton, who also produced her long running TV series on CBS-TV.  This is the young Carol at her most versatile best — singing, acting, and dancing, and chewing the scenery, along with co-stars Jack Gilford, Jane White, Joseph Bova, Elliott Gould, Jack Fletcher, and Shani Wallis. An uncredited Michael Bennett is in the chorus! This Is a delicious show that I guarantee will put a smile on your face!

Prom Night

Carole Demas, the original Sandy from the original “Grease,” the musical, sings “Prom Night” at 54 Below this past Fall, 2023 in Rob Schneider‘s “50 Key Musicals” series, with musical director, Michael Lavine at the piano.  In addition to singing this song that she introduced in 1972, she shares some stories and anecdotes about “Grease” to a packed house. Carole is now an unbelievable 83 years old, and, as you’ll see, looks incredible and is truly ageless.

Donna McKechnie at Joe’s Pub

From 2005: “Donna McKechnie at Joe’s Pub”…this is a segment from her one woman show – 10 delicious minutes of Donna, performing her showstopper, “The Music in the Mirror” from “A Chorus Line”, as well as sharing stories about the show, which earned her the Tony Award for best actress in a musical in 1976. Donna returns to Broadway in the hit musical, “Wicked,” on March 4. Not bad for a woman who recently turned 81!  Donna is living proof that we are not growing older… We’re growing better!