The Liar **** – Yen **** – Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 ***1/2

By: David Sheward
Could there be a more appropriate historical moment to mount a new adaptation of Corneille’s comedy The Liar? As our newly-elected president and his spokespeople substitute “alternative facts” for truth, Classic Stage Company presents David Ives’ intricate semi-updating of the hilarious tale of Dorante, an epic braggart exaggerating and fabricating his way through romantic entanglements in 17th century Paris. He’s accurately described as “a lying genius, if a moral zero” (sound familiar?) This is Ives’ third foray into refashioning French theatrical meringues. He has previously adapted Moliere’s The Misanthrope (as The School for Lies) and Regnard’s The Heir Apparent, both of which have played CSC.

By: David Sheward

Could there be a more appropriate historical moment to mount a new adaptation of Corneille’s comedy The Liar? As our newly-elected president and his spokespeople substitute “alternative facts” for truth, Classic Stage Company presents David Ives’ intricate semi-updating of the hilarious tale of Dorante, an epic braggart exaggerating and fabricating his way through romantic entanglements in 17th century Paris. He’s accurately described as “a lying genius, if a moral zero” (sound familiar?) This is Ives’ third foray into refashioning French theatrical meringues. He has previously adapted Moliere’s The Misanthrope (as The School for Lies) and Regnard’s The Heir Apparent, both of which have played CSC.

This latest fluffy dessert is delicious and full of lighter-than-air rhymes. Did I mention the script is all in verse? The catchier ones include “experience” and “Presbyeterians”; “moister” and “oyster”; and “bivalve” and “my valve.” There are a sprinkling of anachronisms but they do not distract. Michael Kahn who commissioned the new version for the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC where he is artistic director, maintains a light-footed pacing throughout.

Though Dorante is the title character and Christian Conn makes him a dashing rogue, the real star of the evening is Carson Elrod as Dorante’s sad-sack servant Cliton. While his master cannot tell the truth, Cliton suffers from the opposite malady—he finds it impossible to lie. (Add an “n” to his name and you get another victim of a huge prevaricator, adding a layer to the relevant political subtext.) Elrod is a masterful clown, expertly prattling and mugging, but never going over the top. The highlight of the show is a lesson in falsifying by Dorante to his honest-to-a-fault valet. As Conn elegantly demonstrates the necessary gestures and looks to lend verisimilitude to whoppers, Elrod gives Cliton’s awkward attempts to be appear smooth a riotous reality. Then the servant tries out his new fibbing skills on Isabelle (Kelly Hutchinson), the pretty maid he’s been after and receives a slap for his pains.

Hutchinson comes in a close second behind Elrod in the comic sweepstakes. She has a slight advantage over her fellow players since she plays not only the flirtatious Isabelle, but her twin sister the scolding sadomasochist Sabine. Also worthy of mention are Adam Lefevre as Dorante’s befuddled father and Ismenia Mendes and Amelia Pedlow as the two young ladies caught in the hero’s lies.   

At the other end of the theatrical spectrum, British playwright Anna Jordan’s Yen offers a searing, sordid portrait of alienated youth in a ripping production by Trip Cullman from the MCC Theatre. At first glance, this piercing drama seems like a great many other works about lost boys behaving badly such Orphans, This Is Our Youth, and Saved. In Mark Wendland’s spare box set with peeling wall paper and drab lighting (designed with appropriate moodiness by Ben Stanton), we find teenager half-brothers Hench and Bobbie watching porn and playing video games while their alcoholic, diabetic mother Maggie drops in occasionally for cigarettes, money, and food. The kids’ only regular companion is their German shepherd Taliban (so called because “He’s vicious and he’s brown,” Bobbie explains.) Into this dysfunctional melange comes neighbor Jennifer who at first only wants to care for the neglected canine, but gradually takes on the role of girlfriend for Hench and mother to Bobbie. Predictably a misunderstanding leads to tragedy, but the writing is so realistic and the acting and direction so sharp, this familiar story still has a walloping impact.

Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) and Stefania LaVie Owen (The Carrie Diaries) feelingly convey Hench and Jenny’s tentative attractions and damaged psyches. Ari Graynor is brilliantly brittle as the out-of-control Maggie. The uniquely named Justice Smith gives a stand-out performance as the feral Bobbie. Violently leaping around the stage one moment, barking like a dog the next, Smith captures Bobbie’s almost animal-like need for attention and his hair-triggger code switching from lonely child to violent aggressor.

In other stage adventures, I managed to catch up with the Broadway edition of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. I was scheduled to see Dave Malloy’s techno-pop-rock musical version of a slice of Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace when it opened last November, but star Josh Groban was out that night and the next available performance was not until recently. There have been three previous Off-Broadway incarnations in 2012 and 2013. When I attended the second of these at a site-specific tent called Kazino in the meatpacking district, director Rachel Chavkin’s immersive experience was so involving, I felt as if I were in the room with the characters. In transferring to the much larger Imperial Theater, set designer Mimi Lien has done her best to recreate the atmosphere of a Russian dinner club, but the experience is much less intimate. Maybe those seated on the stage feel close to the Rostovs, Bolkonskys, Kuragins, and Bezukhovs as they wrestle with passions and loyalties, but from the orchestra seats, I felt removed from their machinations. The musical’s delicate closing moments brought me to tears Off-Broadway, but here I just admired the stagecraft.

As Pierre, Groban exhibits a magnificent voice, but lacks the depth to fully inhabit  the role. Denee Benton’s Natasha is charming and bubbly yet when her liaison with Anatole is shattered, she fails to move us. Original cast members Lucas Steele as the caddish Anatole, Amber Gray as his licentious sister Helene, and Grace McLean as the overbearing aunt Marya have blown up their parts to fill to larger space. Only Brittan Ashford as Natasha’s cousin and confidante Sonya maintains the heartbreaking pathos she achieved Off-Broadway, particularly in her shattering solo. In this roundup, Off-Broadway scores the higher points while Broadway only has higher prices.

The Liar ****
Jan. 26—Feb. 26. Classic Stage Company, 136 E. 13th St., NYC. Tue—Thu, 7 pm; Fri—Sat, 8pm; Sat, Sun, 3pm. Running time: two hours including intermission. $60. 212-352-3101. www.ovationtix.com. Photo: Richard Termine

“The Liar”

Yen ****
Jan. 30—Feb. 19. MCC Theatre at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St., NYC. Tue—Thu, 7 pm; Fri, Sat, 8 pm; Sat, 2 pm; Sun, 3 pm. Running time: two hours and ten mins. including intermission. $49-$99. (866) 811-4111. www.ovationtix.com. Photo: Joan Marcus

Lucas Hedges, Ari Graynor, Justice Smith in “Yen”
Stefania LaVie Owen, Lucas Hedges in “Yen”

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 ***1/2
Opened Nov. 14 for an open run.  Imperial Theatre, 249 W. 45th St., NYC. Tue, Thu, 7pm; Wed, Fri—Sat, 8pm; Wed, Sat, 2 pm; Sun, 3 pm. Running time: two hours and 30 mins. including intermission. $59-$299. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com. Photo: Chad Batka

Josh Groban in “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”
Denee Benton, Amber Gray in “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”

 

Georgie Opens at The Davenport

Ed Dixon recounts a 20- year friendship in the poignant and captivating tale, Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose.

Ed Dixon recounts a 20- year friendship in the poignant and captivating tale, Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose, which opened for a limited run through April 15, 2017

Mr. Dixon wrote and stars in the immensely entertaining new show, Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose directed by Eric Shaeffer. The evening chronicles his 20-year friendship with the Two-time Tony® Award-winning character actor George Rose, a bon-vivant with a flair for the dramatic, who appeared in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, My Fair Lady, and The Pirates of Penzance in an illustrious career on the stages of Broadway and London as well as in film.

Ed Dixon

Georgie premiered at The Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, in January 2016 and will play a limited engagement through Saturday, April 15, 2017 at The Loft at The Davenport Theatre, 354 West 45th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenues.

Opening Night Photography Barry Gordin
@ Sardi’s  February 1, 2017

Len Cariou, Jamie deRoy, Lee Roy Reams
Kathie Lee Gifford, Ed Dixon, Mary Cossette
Kathie Lee Gifford, Tracy Mitchell
Tony Sheldon
Ed Dixon, Alan Onickel
Tracy Mitchell, Elisa Stein, Ricki Kane Larimer
Julia Murney
Kathie Lee Gifford, Ed Dixon
Ed Dixon, Ellis Nassour
Len Cariou, Ed Dixon, Charles Strouse
Ed Dixon

 

The Present *****

By: Isa Goldberg
Is it a bomb? Will there be a postmortem?  Simply, questions people are asking about the The Present.

The Sydney Theatre Company makes its Broadway debut with this contemporary adaptation of Platonov, an early, unwieldy play, by Anton Chekhov. In its current incarnation, by Andrew Upton, directed by John Crowley, the setting (by Alice Babidge) is a contemporary country home in Russia, in a village that might as well be East Hampton, NY. To coin a Chekhovian joke, it’s a place everyone is dying to go to, but even at 110 miles from Manhattan, the trip is far too treacherous.

By: Isa Goldberg
Is it a bomb? Will there be a postmortem?  Simply, questions people are asking about the The Present.

The Sydney Theatre Company makes its Broadway debut with this contemporary adaptation of Platonov, an early, unwieldy play, by Anton Chekhov. In its current incarnation, by Andrew Upton, directed by John Crowley, the setting (by Alice Babidge) is a contemporary country home in Russia, in a village that might as well be East Hampton, NY. To coin a Chekhovian joke, it’s a place everyone is dying to go to, but even at 110 miles from Manhattan, the trip is far too treacherous.

While it stars the unimpeachable Cate Blanchett, it’s not the on-stage wattage that is so earth shattering, but something more akin to tonnage. Weighing in with fierce intensity and concentration, these actors toss their thunderbolts with the virtuosity of demigods and goddesses. Some of the characters seem to believe they are – far more than most mortals. And as the third act is staged amidst a sea of clouds, we do have to wonder.

At the center of it all, is Platonov, a schoolteacher, a womanizer, and a liar. Richard Roxburgh brings a surprising physical and psychological prowess to the role. And it’s a formidable one, as it’s he who drives the action into this fantastical terrain.

The story, a dinner hosted by “The General’s” widow Anna (Cate Blanchett) on the occasion of her 40th birthday, turns into a bloody disaster. Perhaps that is our hostess’s wish. It doesn’t matter. Reality is banished. Impulse prevails. Comedy reigns. And tragedy befalls.

Only a few of the characters benefit from this. Most importantly Yegor (David Downer), who runs off with the cherry orchard, or in this case, the lease to the mines. 

While we observe these prominent Chekhovian themes – the suppression of life, the destructive power of greed, the life of the mind – one is also aware of a multitude of contemporary influences. For one, Andrew Upton’s adaptation brings to mind the playful, albeit serious antics of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing. Costume and lighting designs by Alice Babidge and Nick Schlieper evoke David Hockney’s pop aesthetic.  And composer/sound designer Stefan Gregory sets up some dirty dancin’ with songs like Haddaway’s “What is Love”.

“The whole place is charged and ready to blow!” Blanchett’s Anna threatens, in a performance that is worth of more than a trophy.

The Present *****
Jan. 8—March 19. Sydney Theatre Company at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, 243 W. 47th St., NYC. Tue, Thu, 7 pm; Wed, Fri-Sat, 7:30 pm; Wed, Sat, 1:30

Broadway Update: “Butterfly” and “Prada”

Clive Owen will star in M. Butterfly on Broadway this fall
By: David Sheward

Clive Owen, last seen on Broadway in Harold Pinter’s Old Times, will return in a new production of David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly, directed by Julie Taymor in her first Broadway staging since being dismissed from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. (Her interpretation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream played Off-Broadway.)

Clive Owen will star in M. Butterfly  on Broadway this fall
By: David Sheward

Clive Owen, last seen on Broadway in Harold Pinter’s Old Times, will return in a new production of David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly, directed by Julie Taymor in her first Broadway staging since being dismissed from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. (Her interpretation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream played Off-Broadway.) M. Butterfly will open Oct. 26, 2017 at a theater to be announced. The original 1988 production made a star out of B.D. Wong as Song Liling, a Chinese opera singer engaged in an affair with a French diplomat played by John Lithgow. Based on a true story, the 20-year relationship shocked international circles when it was revealed Song was really a man. This new production will new include new material based on information about the case that has come to light since the original staging which won the Tony and Drama Desk Award for Best Play and ran for 777 performances (a rare long run for a non-musical).

Also in the works, but in a much earlier stage of development, is a musical version of The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisenberger’s autobiographical novel about an assistant to a high-powered fashion magazine editor not unlike Vogue’s Anna Wintour. Sir Elton John, whose previous theatrical musical ventures include Aida, The Lion King and Billy Elliot, will write the music. Paul Rudnick (Jeffrey, I Hate Hamlet, Addams Family Values) will make his debut as a musical book-writer and lyricist. Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Emily Blunt starred in the 2000 film version.

Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt in the film version on The Devil Wears Prada

Here is a rundown of upcoming Broadway and Off-Broadway openings for the remainder of the 2016-17 season and beyond:

Feb. 9–Sunset Boulevard (Palace)
Feb. 15–Man from Nebraska (Second Stage)
Feb. 16–Evening at the Talk House (New Group/Signature Theatre)
Feb. 21–Everybody (Signature)
Feb. 22–If I Forget (Roundabout/Laura Pels)
Feb. 22–Kid Victory (Vineyard)
Feb. 23–Sunday in the Park with George (Hudson)
Feb. 23–Linda (MTC/City Center)
Feb. 27–The Penitent (Atlantic Theatre Co.)
Feb. 27–Wakey Wakey (Signature)
March 1–Sweeney Todd (Barrow Street)
March 1–All the Fine Boys (New Group/Signature)
March 2–Significant Other (Booth)
March 9–The Glass Menagerie (Golden)
March 12–Come from Away (Schoenfeld)
March 13–The Light Years (Playwrights Horizons)
March 15–Joan of Arc: Into the Fire (Public)
March 16–The Price (Roundabout/AA)
March 20–How to Transcend a Happy Marriage (LCT/Mitzi Newhouse)
March 23–Miss Saigon (Broadway)
March 26–Sweat (Studio 54)
March 26–Come Back, Little Sheba/Picnic (Transport Group/The Gym at Judson)
April 2–The Play That Goes Wrong (Lyceum)
April 3–Amelie (Walter Kerr)
April 5–Present Laughter (St. James)
April 5–Gently Down the Stream (Public)
April 6–War Paint (Nederlander)
April 13–Oslo (LCT/Vivian Beaumont)
April 17–Groundhog Day (August Wilson)
April 18–Indecent (Cort)
April 19–The Little Foxes (MTC/Friedman)
April 20–Hello, Dolly! (Shubert)
April 23–Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Lunt-Fontanne)
April 24–Anastasia (Broadhurst)
April 25–Six Degrees of Separation (Barrymore)
April 26–The Bandstand (Bernard Jacobs)
April 27–A Doll’s House, Part 2 (Golden)
2016-17 (Dates TBA)–The SpongeBob Musical, The Wiz, Camp David, Photograph 51
Spring 2017–Half Time
June 29–Marvin’s Room (Roundabout/AA)
Aug. 24–Prince of Broadway (MTC/Samuel J. Friedman)
Oct. 26– M. Butterfly (Theater TBA)
2017– Sherlock Holmes, Singin’ in the Rain, Pat Benatar Musical
2017-18–Burn This, To Kill a Mockingbird
Spring 2018–Frozen (St. James), The Flamingo Kid
Future–The Cher Show, The Devil Wears Prada

2016-17 Broadway Season

New Plays

A Doll’s House, Part 2
The Encounter
Heisenberg
Indecent
Oslo
The Play That Goes Wrong
The Present
Significant Other
Sweat
New Musicals
Amelie
Anastasia
The Bandstand
A Bronx Tale
Come From Away
Dear Evan Hansen
Groundhog Day
Half-Time
Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical
In Transit
Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812
War Paint
Play Revivals
The Cherry Orchard
The Front Page
The Glass Menagerie
Jitney
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
The Little Foxes
Present Laughter
The Price
Six Degrees of Separation
Musical Revivals
Cats
Hello, Dolly!
Falsettos
Miss Saigon
Motown the Musical
Sunday in the Park with George
Sunset Boulevard
Special Attractions
Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science
Black to the Future
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons on Broadway!
The Illusionists: Turn of the Century
Kristin Chenoweth: My Love Letter to Broadway

Oh Hello on Broadway

Originally Published on February 1, 2017 in The David Desk 2

Jitney ****1/2

By: Isa Goldberg

Director Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s revival of Jitney delivers a heartfelt optimism all within the harsh realism of August Wilson’s drama, about a group of African American men in the Hill District of Pittsburgh in 1977. This is Wilson’s well-known turf, after all, and he knows these characters with an almost innate intimacy, that this director shares.

By: Isa Goldberg

Director Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s revival of Jitney delivers a heartfelt optimism all within the harsh realism of August Wilson’s drama, about a group of African American men in the Hill District of Pittsburgh in 1977. This is Wilson’s well-known turf, after all, and he knows these characters with an almost innate intimacy, that this director shares.

Each is a study in how men cope with the racism that society perpetuates, and which also defines them. In the hands of this outstanding ensemble, we can appreciate how well drawn Wilson’s characters are. The remarkable John Douglas Thompson plays the owner of the rundown gypsy car service for which they all work. As a man who strives to live beyond his perceived chains, he takes no prisoners. His cohorts – an endearing drunk, Fielding, humorously played by Anthony Chisholm; a righteous, gossipy trouble maker, Turnbo, authoritatively played by Michael Potts; and a tough skinned youth, Youngblood, sensitively portrayed by Andre Holland. It’s he who says, “The past is over and done with. I’m just thinking about the future.”

The plot, however, turns around Philmore (Ray Anthony Thomas) who has just been released from a 20-year prison term. He’s Becker’s son – the greatest disappointment of his life, and a man he singularly renounces. Still, it is he who ultimately moves them all beyond their perceived fate.

What speaks to us most admirably in this, Wilson’s 8th drama in his Pittsburgh Cycle, is the need to debunk stereotypes. At the play’s opening, Turnbo and the more fair-minded Doub (the gifted Keith Randolph Smith), argue about whether or not Lena Horne is really pretty or if people just think she is, Turnbo insisting that the younger Sarah Vaughn is far greater. The conversation provokes an issue about public perception and self-perception. What controls our identity and who is in charge of it?

A similar question surrounds the men of the failing and soon to be outdated gypsy cars. Are they outcasts who will always be cut off from the mainstream of society, or men who can reach beyond the entrenched racism and xenophobia, which they experience. The answer, my friends, speaks for itself, in this very human and touching drama at The Manhattan Theatre Club.

Jitney ****1/2
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street
For Tickets Click Here 

Kira Lee @ ACA Galleries

ACA Galleries presents Kira Lee’s first solo exhibition in New York, Legends & Lyrics, on view February 2nd through March 4th, 2017. The exhibition features over thirty new portraits of Rock & Roll’s most notable icons including: Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Jerry Garcia, and The Beatles

ACA Galleries presents Kira Lee’s first solo exhibition in New York, Legends & Lyrics, on view February 2nd through March 4th, 2017. The exhibition features over thirty new portraits of Rock & Roll’s most notable icons including: Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Jerry Garcia, and The Beatles. Lee’s unique typographic style uses detailed penmanship to produce curiously realistic renditions using the lyrics of their unforgettable songs. “It is not a concept I came up with overnight. The process of creating texture and grey scale from typography has been and still is evolving…. Using theories to outline horn-rimmed glasses; song lyrics twisted and turned into locks of hair; heart-aching poems carved into crow’s feet; culture-defining philosophies stitched into a silk robe.” – Kira Lee Kira Lee was born in Los Angeles and attended The Art Institute of California in San Diego from 2007 to 2009. Her art has been included in exhibitions in London, Miami, New York, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Kira Lee
David Bowie, 2015 Acrylic on canvas 84 x 48 in.
Kira Lee
Abby Road, 2016
Spray enamel with acrylic gel pen on canvas 36 x 48 in.

Lee_Legends_and_Lyrics_exhibition_preview_OPT.pdf

Photography: Barry Gordin Opening Night Feb 1, 2017

Vaughn Bergen, Kira Lee, Casey Bergen
Patrick Christiano, Mikaela Sardo Lamarche
Victor Cipolla, Kira Lee, Tripp Derrick Barnes, Abdur Rahman
Vaughn Bergen, Dorian Bergen

The Liar ***1/2

By: Isa Goldberg
The dictum “the unexamined life is not worth living”, is merely a set up for hilarious antics, or so it would appear, in David Ives’ The Liar, currently at the Classic Stage Company (CSC). In fact, at this performance, it behooves us to put any thought of morality aside. Unless it sort of tumbles out of the lampoon, it is hardly with our time.

By: Isa Goldberg
The dictum “the unexamined life is not worth living”, is merely a set up for hilarious antics, or so it would appear, in David Ives’ The Liar, currently at the Classic Stage Company (CSC). In fact, at this performance, it behooves us to put any thought of morality aside. Unless it sort of tumbles out of the lampoon, it is hardly with our time.

Speaking in iambic pentameter, Ives’ poesy unleashes some gems of slapstick dialogue. Here’s an instance, from the intro, “We’ve stowed our snacks, we’ve peed, we’ve sexted. Deep breath now, everyone, release all strain, And with those gadgets, please – turn off your brain.” The great classicist Corneille, would turn over in his grave!

Set in the Paris of 1643, an on-stage sign points us to the “Royal Place”. “Unless the Louvre has mouvred”, that reference must be to the Palais Royale, where one may shop for such antiquities as this comedy, Le Menteur by Pierre Corneille, which Ives has adapted. This is a farce more worthy of Moliere.

The action turns around the way the characters literally (and metaphorically) bump into each other. As Ives describes his play, it’s “the truth, as refracted in a theatrical fun house mirror”. Here, two men, Dorante (Christian Conn) and Alcippe (Tony Roach), friends from childhood, butt heads when they discover that they are both in love with the same princess, or so they imagine. Ismenia Mendes and Amelia Pedlow portray the fair maidens with the rhyming names Clarice and Lucrece. In a commanding comic turn, Kelly Hutchinson portrays both of their lady servants, Isabelle and Sabine – twins who are as different in their temperaments as Jekyll and Hyde.

Duplicity is entirely the matter at hand.  And Christian Conn is the gifted actor to whom the role of Dorante, the masterful liar, fits like a glove. His instructions include using natural gestures, speaking trippingly, and never telling the truth. As his sidekick, Cliton, the marvelous Carson Elrod plays his manservant as well as the jester, who perpetuates the tale. That seems to be the product of his malady – an uncontrollable fixation on spouting the truth.

It’s all steered with a wonderful sense of timing and farce by the Shakespearean director, Michael Kahn. Murell Horton’s take off on 17th costumes, and Adam Wernick’s cheerful evocation of its music, enhance the symmetry. Neither Alexander Dodge’s scenic design nor Mary Louise Geiger’s lighting are overdone. Happily, everything else is.

The Liar ***1/2
Classic Stage Company
136 East 13 Street
For Tickets Click Here

 

Scott Siegel Presents

ON SUPER SUNDAY – THE SUPERBOWL OF SINGING!
The Great Broadway Belt Show! Sunday, February 5 at 7 PM at Feinstein’s/54 Below

ON SUPER SUNDAY – THE SUPERBOWL OF SINGING!
The Great Broadway Belt Show! 
Sunday, February 5 at 7 PM at Feinstein’s/54 Below 

Broadway Show Tunes That Should be Belted…And the Broadway singers who can Belt Them!

There is nothing more thrilling on the Broadway stage than seeing a performer step forward and belt the beejeesus out of a great song.

Usually, however, there is only one — maybe two, if you’re lucky — of those moments in any one Broadway show. But not on this night at Feinstein’s/54 Below! You’re going to get a whole show of the greatest Broadway belting numbers from across the length and breadth of the Great White Way — and they’ll be performed for you by Broadway performers who have the chops to to sing them. This is a night to marvel at the power and the glory of the human voice, put to the test by the great belt numbers like “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going!” from Dreamgirls, “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, “Nobody’s Gonna Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl.  You get the idea! And who will be belting all of these songs? Just the greatest male and female voices on Broadway!

The Great Broadway Belt Show is created for Feinstein’s/54 Below by New York impresario Scott Siegel. Scott is the creator/writer/director/host of Town Hall’s critically acclaimed signature series, Broadway by the Year, which starts its 17th season on February 27th. He has also produced, written, and directed Michael Feinstein, and has created more than 300 concert events that have been performed all over the world.

Featuring:

William Blake (Carnegie Hall)

Patrice Covington (The Color Purple)

Danielle Gimbal (The Kennedy Center)

Laurel Harris (In Transit)

Jillian Louis (Cheers: The Musical)

Natalie Toro (A Tale of Two Cities)

For Tickets Call: 646-476-3551

Also on Friday Feb 10 @ 7pm Scott Siegel Presents…MICHAEL CERVERIS & LAILA ROBINS in PROTEST SONGS – VOLUME 2 Classic Protest Songs That Speak To Today!

The sold-out audience for the Protest Song show on Inauguration Day clamored for another edition.

So, here it is: entirely different,and completely compelling, classic protest songs from the past will be performed by yet another all-star cast of Broadway and nightclub performers. Songs by Jacques Brel, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Simon & Garfunkel, Flaherty & Arhens, Kander & Ebb and more! Once again produced, written, and hosted by NY impressario Scott Siegel, this show promises to be as emotionally potent as the original show on January 20th that brought the audience to its feet in a thunderous standing ovation. The power of music to move, motivate, and inspire will once again be on display as the great protest songs of the past point the way toward a better tomorrow.

 

Come join us and witness the past speak to the present and ultimately change the future!

Starring (so far):

MICHAEL CERVERIS (Tony Award Winner, Fun Home, Sweeney Todd, Assassins, etc.)

LAILA ROBINS (Homeland on TV, The Apple Plays at The Public Theater, etc.)

SAL VIVIANO (6 Broadway shows, concert and recording artist)

Featuring the Broadway by the Year Chorus

And more stars soon to be announced!

Sponsored, in part, by Margot Astrachan, Marge Manger, and The Arts Archive

Reserve Your Tickets at 212-206-0440
The Metropolitan Room: 34 West 22nd Street, NYC
$25 cover/$25 food & beverage min.

Broadwaycon 2017

Some of Broadway’s biggest fans, performers, and creators from classic and current shows gathered at the incomparable Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to perform, discuss, debate, and celebrate theatre at Broadwaycon 2017.
January 27-29 2017.
Photography: Barry Gordin

Some of Broadway’s biggest fans, performers, and creators from classic and current shows gathered at the incomparable Jacob K. Javits Convention Center to perform, discuss, debate, and celebrate theatre at Broadwaycon 2017.
January 27-29 2017.
Photography: Barry Gordin

Chita Rivera, Chris Calkins, Bebe Neuwirth
Stewart F. Lane “Back To Broadway”
Dave Malloy “The Great Comet”

Chita Rivera, David Alpert

RIchie Ridge, Chita Rivera
Lesli Margherita
Tony Roberts “Do You Know Me”
Lauren Pritchard, Kathryn Gallagher sings “Mama Who Bore Me” from “Spring Awakening”
Richie Ridge, Chita Rivera

Phantom of the Opera

Another Milestone for Phantom of the Opera: 29 Years on Broadway

By: Ellis Nassour

Andrew Lloyd Webber is having quite a theater season. It’s nothing new to him. This season, however, is quite special. With his newest show, School of Rock, written with Glen Slater and book adapted from the film by, he’s going to have four musicals on Broadway. A new production of Tony-winning Best Musical Cats has returned for its first revival since closing in September 2000 after 7, 485 performances over 18 years.

Another Milestone for Phantom of the Opera: 29 Years on Broadway

By: Ellis Nassour

Andrew Lloyd Webber is having quite a theater season. It’s nothing new to him. This season, however, is quite special. With his newest show, School of Rock, written with Glen Slater and book adapted from the film by, he’s going to have four musicals on Broadway. A new production of Tony-winning Best Musical Cats has returned for its first revival since closing in September 2000 after 7, 485 performances over 18 years.

Sunset Boulevard, a 1995 Tony winner for Best Musical [in a season when its only rival was the juke box revue Smokey Joe’s Café] with lyrics and book by Don Black and Christopher Hampton , returns February 9for its first revival with its original star, Glenn Close. It closed in 1997 after nearly two-and-a-half years and close to a thousand performances.

But remember when Cats’ catch phrase was Now and Forever? It seems that should have been saved for the grand dame of Lloyd Webber musicals, Tony winning Best Musical Phantom of the Opera, which opened here, January 26, 1988 with lyrics by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe), after its acclaimed October, 1986 opening on the West End.

POTO, produced by Cameron MacKintosh and Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company, became the longest-running show in Broadway history on January 9, 2006 with its 7,486th performance, surpassing the record held by Cat. There was quite the celebration when it hit 25 years in January, 2013. 

Now, with an unprecedented 12,070 performances under its belt, it’s celebrating 29 years and set to break another record next January. 

It has nine years and over 4,000 performances over Broadway’s second longest-running show, the 1996 Tony-winning revival of  Kander and Ebb and Bob Fosse’s Chicago — Broadway’s longest-running revival with 8,395 performances.

It’s been breaking records since Cats, then the longest-running musical in Broadway history, closed. A few days ago, it capped another milestone for the history books: 29 years – still with no end in sight. 

One of a handful of the most successful stage productions of all-time, POTO has played here to 17 million plus and grossed more than a billion dollars.


The Phantom Of The Opera – Theme Song – YouTube

James Barbour continues in the title role, alongside Ali Ewoldt as Christine Daaé, Kyle Barisich as Raoul, Michele McConnell as Carlotta, Linda Balgord as Madame Giry, and Kara Klein as Meg Giry.

Phantom of the Opera is directed by Tony winner Hal Prince (Tony, Drama Desk), with dazzling set and costume design by the late Maria Björnson (Tony), musical staging and choreography by Gillian Lynne (Tony, DD nominee). DD-nominated orchestrations are by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber

Worldwide, a staggering 140 million people in 35 countries and 15 languages have experienced POTO. In December, the West End production not only celebrated its 30th Anniversary, but surpassed 12,500 performances.

There are six current productions of Phantom around the world: London, New York, Sapporo (Japan), Budapest, Prague, and Stockholm — with an engagement to begin in August in Sweden. 

Drama Desk Panel Everyone’s A Critic

The Drama Desk sponsored a panel discussion Everyone’s A Critic at BroadwayCon 2017. Chris Jones, the Chief Critic of the Chicago Tribune served as moderator and speakers included playwrights David Lindsay-Abaire, Matthew Lombardo, and Sharr White along with James Morgan, the Artistic Director of the York Theater, press agent Susan L. Schulman, and critics Linda Armstrong, Elysa Gardner, Peter Marks, and Helen Shaw.

The Drama Desk sponsored a panel discussion Everyone’s A Critic at BroadwayCon 2017. Chris Jones, the Chief Critic of the Chicago Tribune served as moderator and speakers included playwrights David Lindsay-Abaire, Matthew Lombardo, and Sharr White along with James Morgan, the Artistic Director of the York Theater, press agent Susan L. Schulman, and critics Linda Armstrong, Elysa Gardner, Peter Marks, and Helen Shaw.

As a growing number of news outlets have cut their arts coverage along with criticism, and the number of reviews, who feel they are critics, is only rising as anyone with an internet connection is now able to share their thoughts with the world. The panel discussed how in our world today barriers to being published have all but disappeared, allowing many people to call themselves critics. How are their relationships with artists changing?

Photography: Barry Gordin
January 27-29, 2017

Sharr White, Mathew Lombardo, Charles Wright
Chris Jones
Peter Marks, Elysa Gardner, Helen Shaw
James Morgan, Mathew Lombardo
Linda Armstrong, Peter Marks, Elysa Gardner, Helen Shaw, David Lindsay-Abaire, Chris Jones, James Morgan, Sharr White, Mathew Lombardo, Susan L. Schulman, Charles Wright
Linda Armstrong, Peter Marks, Elysa Gardner
Mathew Lombardo, Susan L. Schulman
Helen Shaw, David Lindsay-Abaire, Chris Jones, Sharr White
Jim Morgan, David Lindsay-Abaire, Helen Shaw, Elysa Gardner

 

Not That Jewish ***1/2

By: Paulanne Simmons
Monica Piper is a very funny woman. She comes by her skills naturally. Her father, was a touring comic before he decided to settle down to raise a family, and even her more sedate mother knew how to tell a dirty joke.

By: Paulanne Simmons

Monica Piper is a very funny woman. She comes by her skills naturally. Her father, was a touring comic before he decided to settle down to raise a family, and even her more sedate mother knew how to tell a dirty joke.

Monica Piper is also Jewish, so much of her humor revolves around typical Jewish themes, family, food, bad luck … and being Jewish (which is a combination of family, food and bad luck). And she’s also a good storyteller.

Piper’s solo show, Not That Jewish, directed by Mark Waldrop, combines all her very evident skills. Much of the show is about her journey from a little girl in a proudly but not very Jewish family to a young lady searching for love among blond, blue-eyed men. This little girl also became an English teacher until she realized she had inherited both her father’s sense of humor and his desire to perform, and she had to go where her destiny led her.

A good deal of Piper’s story is devoted to her son, a young man she adopted and despite teenage rebellion and a green Mohawk, managed to turn into a Jew and a mensch. Her adventures as a single mother are funny, until her story takes a darker turn when Piper relates her struggle with breast cancer.

There’s plenty of pathos in the show, but Piper is at her best when she’s telling jokes. She’s adept with the one-liners and also knows how to stretch out a tale until she sails in for the punchline. At times we suspect there may be a touch more fiction than truth in these tales, especially the one about Mickey Mantle. But then again, who know? And who cares?

It cannot be denied that some of Piper’s act falls into schtick, and it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. But this is a cup of tea that has plenty of sugar, a touch of lemon and a nice aftertaste.

Not That Jewish is at New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St., 212-239-6200, newworldstages.com. Open run.
Photos: Carol Rosegg

Monica Piper

 

BroadwayCon 2017

Michael Cerveris and Judy Kahn hosted an Autograph/Photo session at BroadwayCon 2017.

Michael Cerveris and Judy Kahn hosted an Autograph/Photo session at BroadwayCon 2017.
BroadwayCon is a theatre-lover’s dream come true: a three-day convention filled with programs, panels, performances, and everything you love about Broadway and the theatre community. Some of Broadway’s biggest stars  discussed their current projects, their careers in the theatre, the industry, and the magic of live performance.
BroadwayCon opened Friday January 27 and runs through Sunday January 29th at The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in NYC. For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.BroadwayCon.com

Photography: Barry Gordin

 

Book “The Great Comet of 1812”

By: Ellis Nassour

The spectacular Broadway production of Natasha, Pierre, & THE GREAT COMET of 1812 has been hailed as a theatrical experience like no other.

By: Ellis Nassour

The spectacular Broadway production of Natasha, Pierre, & THE GREAT COMET of 1812 has been hailed as a theatrical experience like no other. Dave Malloy’s musical puts audiences right into the middle of the romance and passion of brash young lovers as they and a huge cast light up Moscow in this lavish staging. The production has transformed the Imperial Theatre into a compact version of opulent, imperial Russia – with crystal chandeliers dropping from the flies, stunning costumes, and ramps and bridges that take the players, dancers, and some musicians from various onstage tiers to throughout the orchestra and into the mezz and balcony. And you get a snack. 

Now you can get an up-close-and-personal look at the making of this musical with the equally lavish book Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 – the Journey of a New Musical to Broadway (Sterling Publishing; 212 glossy pages; 10 ¾” x 8 ¾” gold-trimmed hardcover, with the great comet emblazoned on it; over 160 photos – many full page, and images; Foreword by Oskar Eustis; SRP $40).

Malloy says he approached the show “as an experiment to put a novel onstage, melodicizing Tolstoy’s incredible narrative style. I wanted to embrace the old and the new, to be sincere and reverent, yet knowing and sharp, communing with but also commenting on the classicism without ever lapsing into irony or parody.”

The musical, inspired by a 70-page slice of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, had humble beginnings Off Broadway at Ars Nova, followed by a not-so-humble production in the northwest corner of Greenwich Village in a tent replete with clinking glasses of vodka and a sumptuous meal. The musical was reconceived for Broadway at A.R.T. (American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge, MA) by director Rachel Chavkin, with choreography by Sam Pinkleton.

Starring are Denée Benton and Josh Groban in their Broadway debuts and, from the original cast, Lucas Steele as Anatole, Lortel Award-nominee golden-voiced Brittain Ashford as Sonya, Amber Gray as Hélène, Gelsey Bell as Princess Mary, Nicholas Belton as Andrey/Bolkonsky, Nick Choksi as Dolokhov, Grace McLean as Marya, in addition to a 20-strong cast and ensemble.

The Great Comet … book is compiled and edited by theater journalist and author Steven Susskind and Malloy, who also provides the script and insightful annotations. A CD of five songs — three from the original Off-Broadway original cast album [Ghostlight Records] two new recordings for Broadway featuring Groban, and 25-piece orchestra — with music supervision by Sonny Paladino and musical direction by Or Matias.

The score mixes classic Broadway with Russian balalaika, folkloric, pop, rock, soul, and electronic dance music.

Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 – the Journey of a New Musical to Broadway takes you behind-the-scenes at the musical’s inception and paths to Off Broadway and Broadway, with cast portraits, sketches, and performance stills. There are essays by Groban, Benton, Steele, A.R.T. artistic director Diane Paulus, producer Howard Kagan, and Phllipa Soo (Hamilton; upcoming Amélie), who originiated the role of Natasha Off Broadway, as well as reflections from Malloy on his translation, and interviews with creatives.

James Monroe Iglehart

James Monroe Iglehart Stops at NJPAC Before Heading to Hamilton

By: Iris Wiener

Can’t wait to see Aladdin’s Genie swap his magic for beats when he moves to Hamilton in August? The original cast member of Memphis makes his way to NJPAC on Saturday, January 28th, in an intimate setting akin to that of 54 Below, where he sold out houses with his cabaret show, How the Heck Did I Get Here

James Monroe Iglehart Stops at NJPAC Before Heading to Hamilton

By: Iris Wiener

Can’t wait to see Aladdin’s Genie swap his magic for beats when he moves to Hamilton in August? The original cast member of Memphis makes his way to NJPAC on Saturday, January 28th, in an intimate setting akin to that of 54 Below, where he sold out houses with his cabaret show, How the Heck Did I Get Here?

This time around, Iglehart will be performing his favorite hit songs from stage and screen. On the eve of his previous solo performances he spoke with Theaterlife.com about what makes his shows so vibrant, humorous and impactful: “Every actor is always looking for some destination! They’ll do everything to see what will work and what will stick. What I’m learning is it’s not about where you’re hitting, it’s about the work you’re doing. It sounds cliché and hokey, but it’s the truth. So have I reached what I want to reach? No, and I think I won’t until I’m dead, and by that time I’ll be dead so I won’t care! I keep doing as much as I can and trying to have as much fun while I’m doing it.”

Visit www.njpac.org/events/detail/james-monroe-iglehart-in-concert for more information or to purchase tickets. NJPAC is located at 1 Center Street, Newark, New Jersey.