5 Reasons Why You Should Jam with Punk Rock Girl!

By: Iris Wiener

February 1, 2022: Joe Iconis musicals have typically demonstrated the songwriter’s innate, brilliant knack for storytelling through song (see Be More Chill, Love in Hate Nation and The Black Suits for a taste). With Punk Rock Girl !, his and Rob Rokicki’s latest offering currently debuting at the Argyle Theatre in Babylon, the Tony-nominated songwriter takes on a jukebox musical to delightful results. Here are a few of the many reasons why audiences will enjoy this rockin’, world premiere experience:

By: Iris Wiener

February 1, 2022: Joe Iconis musicals have typically demonstrated the songwriter’s innate, brilliant knack for storytelling through song (see Be More Chill, Love in Hate Nation and The Black Suits for a taste). With Punk Rock Girl !, his and Rob Rokicki’s latest offering currently debuting at the Argyle Theatre in Babylon, the Tony-nominated songwriter takes on a jukebox musical to delightful results. Here are a few of the many reasons why audiences will enjoy this rockin’, world premiere experience:

The Cast of Punk Rock Girl !

1.    The music celebrates women at all turns, with fun earworms from Avril Lavigne, Pat Benatar, P!nk, Hole and No Doubt, among other lesser known artists like Sleater-Kinney and Tralala. Iconis chose numbers and artists that elevate the story exponentially with humor and heart. Plus, keen audiences will pick out an Iconis original, “Music and Math,” an exceptional number in Act One. 

2.    In true Joe Iconis fashion, Punk Rock Girl ! is an upbeat jukebox musical written for misfits and those who feel othered. Though the story is centered on Angela Quivers (Ashley LaLonde), a perfectionist who is set in her ways and lacks a sense of belonging, it features a large cast of characters of all shapes, sizes and colors who help her find community and a sense of being seen. The exceptional inclusivity allows for myriad possibilities in casting; seeing as how Iconis wrote the musical with the intention of having it re-produced by high schools, it is a major win for young thespians who aren’t normally cast in lead roles.  

3.    Rob Rokicki’s arrangements and orchestrations set it apart from other jukebox musicals. Songs both popular and unknown are given new life as they cross genres and stylistically adapt to the quirky characters performing them. The overall sound design (credited to Carlos Dias, Jr.) is akin to a huge Broadway undertaking, making the show feel larger than life.

4.    Teens will be in awe at the sight of Nate Bertone’s dynamicset, which features artwork, schoolwork, notes and drawings written by real teachers and students from around the world. An enormous collage showcases graffiti and math equations, immediately setting the tone for a grunge-rock funfest while celebrating community and togetherness.

5.    Punk Rock Girl ! marks the first time Iconis, a Garden City native, has enjoyed one of his musicals near his roots on Long Island (though mention of Long Island does pop up in his other work). Punk Rock Girl ! celebrates New York and finding one’s self, so what better way for Iconis to align real-life with his musicals than to bring the power of appreciating one’s differences to a new generation of teenage Long Islanders? 

Punk Rock Girl ! is playing through February 27th at The Argyle Theatre, 34 W. Main Street, Babylon. Visit argyletheatre.com for tickets and more information. 

Photography: Richard Termine

Kelly McIntyre and Ashley LaLonde
Kelly McIntyre and Lauren Marcus
Philippe Arroyo, Lauren Marcus, Ashley LaLonde and Kelly McInt.
Philippe Arroyo as Dudley.

Broadway Update

B’way Update: Music Man and the Critics; Tony Voters and Bias Training; Etc.

By: David Sheward

January 31, 2022: The Music Man, probably the most anticipated show of this entire post-COVID theater season, will not admit first-string critics until opening night on Feb. 10. This flies in the face of the usual practice of inviting the press during preview performances so the scribes will have time to consider their opinions and craft their prose instead of rushing up the aisles to make the morning edition. No reason was given for this move, but spokesperson Rick Miramontez issued the following snarky statement when the news broke: 

B’way Update: Music Man and the Critics; Tony Voters and Bias Training; Etc.

By: David Sheward

January 31, 2022: The Music Man, probably the most anticipated show of this entire post-COVID theater season, will not admit first-string critics until opening night on Feb. 10. This flies in the face of the usual practice of inviting the press during preview performances so the scribes will have time to consider their opinions and craft their prose instead of rushing up the aisles to make the morning edition. No reason was given for this move, but spokesperson Rick Miramontez issued the following snarky statement when the news broke: 

“We feel just terrible for offering dozens of theater critics premium seats to a Broadway show. I am sure they will simply loathe having to tell their grandchildren about the time they were forced to witness Broadway history in the making. Most of all, it pains me personally to imagine the burden of having to turn around a review on such a tight timetable, has such a feat ever been attempted before? Well, let it be seen as the greatest vote of confidence by this production in our beloved press corps that we think they just might be up to the challenge!”

Aside from Miramontez’s sarcastic statement, there is no official explanation for the move and it’s hard to decipher the reasoning behind it. According to an interview with Jackman in Vanity Fair, the show has an advance sale of $50 million so mixed to negative reviews can’t really harm the box office. Looking to the past may offer some clues. The last time major critics were forced to exclusively attend opening night was in 2016 for an all-star revival of The Front Page headlined by Nathan Lane and John Slattery. The lead producer of that production was the now-disgraced Scott Rudin who has officially withdrawn from a similar role on Music Man for his past abusive behavior to employees. Could Rudin still be pulling the strings? And what is to be gained by barring the reviewers from previews? Also there is no word on when second-night critics, many of whom vote for the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards, will be invited. 

Speaking of awards, there will be a new requirement of all Tony voters. In order to qualify for participating in deciding on the top theater accolades, Tony electors must either undergo training in recognizing unconscious bias or attest they have had such training in their jobs. They have until March 1 to fulfill this requirement. The training consists of a free, online course. The British Academy of film and Television Arts has instituted a similar requirement for its BAFTA awards. As with the Music Man critics’ move, no explanation was offered by the Broadway League which administers the prizes, but it’s probably because of the snubbing of Slave Play at last season’s Tonys. Jeremy O. Harris’ controversial comedy-drama about interracial couples engaging in performance therapy, received the most nominations of any straight play in Tony history with 12 and lost all of them. Some saw this as a result of a lack of diversity in the Tony electorate and this bias training may be a way for the Tonys to demonstrate a willingness to address the issue–and cover their asses. Meanwhile, there has been no date announced for the ceremony itself.

A scene from the London production of  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella.

News of productions for 2022-23 has been leaking out. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new adaptation of Cinderella has posted a casting notice with plans to open on Broadway in the fall of 2022. This version is a current hit in London and features a book by Oscar winner Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) and lyrics by David Zippel (City of Angels). The London edition is scheduled to re-open on Feb. 3 after closing temporarily due to COVID outbreaks.

Also in the works is a stage version of Black Orpheus, the Oscar-winning film setting the Greek myth in Rio during Carnival. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz will write the book and Grammy winning legend Sergio Mendes will do the score. Tony winning choreographer Sergio Trujilo (Ain’t Too Proud) directs. Plans are for a 2022 out-of-town try-out and a 2023 Broadway opening. The Orpheus myth is also employed in the currently-running Broadway hit Hadestown.

Two more productions for this season have announced new, later opening dates. The Little Prince will now open April 11 and for colored girls has been pushed back to April 20.

2021-22 Broadway/Off-Broadway Schedule

Jan. 31–Intimate Apparel (LCT/Mitzi Newhouse)

Feb. 1–MJ: The Michael Jackson Musical (Neil Simon); Prayer for the French Republic (MTC/City Center)

Feb. 3–Sandblasted (Vineyard)

Feb. 5–The Merchant of Venice (TFANA/Polonksy Shakespeare Center)

Feb. 7–Tambo and Bones (Playwrights Horizons)

Feb. 10–The Music Man (Winter Garden)

Feb. 14–Sleep No More (McKittrick Hotel)

Feb. 15–Black No More (The New Group)

Feb. 22–English (Atlantic Theater Company)

Feb. 23–On Sugarland (NYTW)

Match 8–The Chinese Lady (Public Theater/Ma-Yi Theater Company)

March 14–Mrs. Doubtfire re-opens (Sondheim)

March 28–Plaza Suite (Hudson)

April 3–Paradise Square (Barrymore)

April 4–Take Me Out (Second Stage/Hayes)

April 6–Suffs (Public Theater)

April 7–The Minutes (Studio 54)

April 8–Beetlejuice (Marriott Marquis)

April 10–Birthday Candles (Roundabout/AA)

April 11–The Little Prince (Broadway)

April 13–Harmony (Museum of Jewish Heritage)

April 14–American Buffalo (Circle In the Square); To My Girls (Second Stage/Kiser)

April 19–How I Learned to Drive (MTC/Samuel J. Friedman)

April 20–for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf (Booth)

April 23–Wedding Band (TFANA/Polonsky Shakespeare Center)

April 24–Funny Girl (August Wilson)

April 25–The Skin of Our Teeth (LTC/Vivian Beaumont)

April 26–A Strange Loop (Lyceum)

April 27–Mr. Saturday Night (Nederlander)

April 28–Macbeth (Longacre)

April 30–The Bedwetter (Atlantic Theater Company)

May 17–Golden Shield (MTC/City Center)

June 1–To Kill a Mockingbird re-opens (Belasco)

July 21–The Kite Runner (Hayes)

Fall 2022

1776 (Roundabout/AA)

Between Riverside and Crazy (Second Stage/Hayes)

2022

Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death, Cinderella, The Ohio State Murders, The Piano Lesson

2022-23

Black Orpheus, Dancin’, Pal Joey, Square One

2023 and Beyond

Game of Thrones, The Great Gatsby

Future--Our Town; Death of a Salesman; K-pop the Broadway Musical; The Nanny; The Normal Heart/The Destiny of Me; Smash; Some Like It Hot; Soul Train; The Who’s Tommy

2021-22 Broadway Season Breakdown:

New Plays

Birthday Candles

Chicken and Biscuits

Clyde’s

Dana H. (transfer from Off-Broadway)

Is This A Room (transfer from Off-Broadway)

The Lehman Trilogy (transfer from Off-Broadway)

The Minutes

Pass Over (previously presented Off-Broadway)

Skeleton Crew (previously presented Off-Broadway in a different production)

Thoughts of a Colored Man

Play Revivals

American Buffalo

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf

How I Learned to Drive

Lackawanna Blues (previously produced Off-Broadway)

Macbeth

Plaza Suite

The Skin of Our Teeth

Slave Play (return engagement)

Take Me Out

Trouble in Mind

New Musicals

Diana

Flying Over Sunset

The Little Prince

MJ: The Michael Jackson Musical

Mr. Saturday Night

Mrs. Doubtfire

Paradise Square

Six

A Strange Loop (previously presented Off-Broadway in a different production)

Musical Revivals

Beetlejuice (return engagement)

Caroline or Change

Company

Funny Girl 

Waitress (return engagement)

Specialties

Bruce Springsteen on Broadway (return engagement)

David Bryne’s American Utopia (return engagement)

Freestyle Love Supreme (return engagement)

Hugh Jackman, Sutton Foster and cast in “The Music Man”.Credit: Joan Marcus

A scene from the London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella.
Credit: Tristam Kenton

Originally Posted on The David Desk 2 on January 30, 2022

Skeleton Crew ***1/2

By: David Sheward

January 28, 2022: When patrons enter the Samuel J. Friedman Theater for Manhattan Theater Club’s Broadway premiere of Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew, they are greeted with prominent signage as part of Michael Carnahan’s ultra-realistic industrial set. The paper admonishments and placards to abide by the theater’s COVID safety protocols blend in with the play’s written rules for the characters to refrain from smoking and gambling and to keep the break room clean. Thus, we are pulled into the crushing world of a Detroit auto-parts plant and its African-American employees. Previously presented Off-Broadway by Atlantic Theater Company in 2016, Morisseau’s well-built and affecting play gives us a strikingly relevant portrait of an oppressive economy and those struggling to find their way through it. The play’s only flaws are that Morisseau ties her plot strings up a bit too neatly and some of the characters are overly familiar. But their struggles are credible and affecting.

By: David Sheward

January 28, 2022: When patrons enter the Samuel J. Friedman Theater for Manhattan Theater Club’s Broadway premiere of Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew, they are greeted with prominent signage as part of Michael Carnahan’s ultra-realistic industrial set. The paper admonishments and placards to abide by the theater’s COVID safety protocols blend in with the play’s written rules for the characters to refrain from smoking and gambling and to keep the break room clean. Thus, we are pulled into the crushing world of a Detroit auto-parts plant and its African-American employees. Previously presented Off-Broadway by Atlantic Theater Company in 2016, Morisseau’s well-built and affecting play gives us a strikingly relevant portrait of an oppressive economy and those struggling to find their way through it. The play’s only flaws are that Morisseau ties her plot strings up a bit too neatly and some of the characters are overly familiar. But their struggles are credible and affecting.

Reggie, the demanding supervisor, is the one responsible for all the signs monitoring his staff’s behavior. He fills the role of the white-collar worker who has risen through the ranks and now must balance loyalty to his former colleagues and responsibility to his new  position and the white bosses. Dez is the proud, defiant worker, full of ambition but pigeonholed as a troublemaker. Shanita is the oppressed single mother-to-be, just as ambitious as Dez. Naturally, these latter two are unattached and attracted to each other, despite Shanita’s initial show of indifference to Dez. The fourth character, Faye is freshest and most original. A veteran of the plant and an unapologetic lesbian, she acts as den mother of the group, offering life advice and work tips, but she also has deep flaws including an overpowering gambling addiction which has cost her the roof over her head. 

Phylicia Rashad (Faye)

We’ve seen some of these storylines before, but these characters’ struggles are credible and affecting. The catalyst for the play’s action is the imminent shuttering of the plant as each must deal with impeding unemployment. Morisseau also supplies her workers with tangy dialogue and memorable monologues describing their situations and reflecting their relationships. Faye’s taunts to Dez to join her at cards and Shanita’s reliving of a nightmarish traffic jam are particularly juicy.

The four-person ensemble skillfully infuses depth and humor into their roles. Brandon J. Dirden conveys the conflict between Reggie’s need for economic survival and his striving for dignity and fairness. He’s particularly powerful when reenacting losing control in front of his white work superior. Joshua Boone captures Dez’s recklessness and drive and Chante Adams has a bead on Shanita’s strength and her concealed desperation. Phylicia Rashad, one of our most distinguished actresses, gives a luminous performance as Faye, combining her sass and grit with her devastation at losing a past lover (Reggie’s mother) and her livelihood.  

Joshua Boone (Dez), Brandon J. Dirden (Reggie), Phylicia Rashad (Faye), and Chanté
Adams (Shanita)

Reuben Santiago-Hudson’s gritty and heart-felt direction overcomes the shortcomings and accentuates the positives with unflinching honesty and well-balanced pacing. Rob Kaplowitz’s rough-edged original music and sound design, Nicholas Hussong’s flashy projections, Rui Rita’s dazzling lighting, and original songs by Jimmy Keys provide exciting transitions between scenes as does performer-choreographer Adesola Osakalumi’s kinetic hip-hop dancing, expressing the frustrations and dreams of the plant employees.

Jan. 26—Feb. 20. Manhattan Theater Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47 St., NYC. Tue 7pm,  Wed 2pm & 7pm, Thu—Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm. Running time: two hours including intermission. $59—$249. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com.

Photography: Mathew Murphy (2021)

Joshua Boone (Dez) and Chanté Adams (Shanita)

Adesola Osakalumi (choreographer / dancer)
Joshua Boone (Dez) and Chanté Adams (Shanita)

Kathryn Kates – In Memoriam

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 29, 2022: Kathryn Kates was a talented character actress, as can be seen in her numerous roles in television, stage and film. But I knew her best as Mrs. Rivera, the very funny, stubborn, and kind-hearted mother in my 2010 Fringe musical, “In the Schoolyard,” with music by Rachel Kaufman.

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 29, 2022: Kathryn Kates was a talented character actress, as can be seen in her numerous roles in television, stage and film. But I knew her best as Mrs. Rivera, the very funny, stubborn, and kind-hearted mother in my 2010 Fringe musical, “In the Schoolyard,” with music by Rachel Kaufman.

When Kathryn showed up for auditions, we could hardly believe our good fortune. We could not understand why she would want to be in a show that would have only five performances and pay almost nothing. After all, she was the babka lady on Seinfeld!

But Kathryn’s only hesitation was that she was not a singer and had never been in a musical before. We heard her sing, watched her move, and said, “Don’t worry; you’re perfect.” And she was.

Kathryn brought all the enthusiasm and talent to that show she would have to a film seen by thousands. She treated her fellow-actors as she would have any of the celebrities she worked with. In the end, she became not only the wisecracking mother of the musical but a very wise mother to everyone in the cast. 

Kathryn died January 22 at the age of 73. I am filled with grief. But as Mrs. Rivera knew, all of life’s troubles can be met bravely with “rice and beans, and a few good friends.” Goodbye, dear Kathryn. May your memory be a blessing.”
Photo: Walter McBride