The Outsiders ***

THE GREASERS (Top Row) Jason Schmidt (Sodapop Curtis), Renni Anthony Magee (Steve), Daryl Tofa (Two-Bit), Tilly Evans-Krueger (Ace),Sky Lakota-Lynch (Johnny Cade), Joshua Boone (Dallas Winston), Brent Comer (Darrel Curtis); (Front Row) Brody Grant (Ponyboy Curtis). Credit: Mathew Murphy 2024

By: David Sheward

April11, 2024: In her classic YA novel The Outsiders, SE Hinton’s teenage protagonist Ponyboy Curtis explains the difference between “tough” and “tuff”: “Tough and tuff are two different words. Tough is the same as rough; tuff means cool, sharp— like a tuff-looking Mustang or a tuff record. In our neighborhood both are compliments.” In the new musical version of The Outsiders, now at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater after a run at the La Jolla Playhouse, the creative team is trying for “tuff,” but the results are “tough” as in “rough.”

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Ibsen’s Ghost ****

Charles Busch

By: David Sheward

April 11, 2024: Playwright, performer and drag legend Charles Busch is back and Henrik Ibsen’s got him. This may seem like an unlikely pairing, but Ibsen’s Ghost, Busch’s latest parody-romp ranks with his funniest efforts. Previously Busch has written delightfully campy send-ups of Hollywood movies and lavish costume spectacles with himself as the leading lady, inspired by the likes of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and Audrey Hepburn. Here he follows the great ladies of the stage who starred in Ibsen’s dramas such as Eva La Gallienne, Alla Nazimova, Glenda Jackson, Janet McTeer, Jessica Chastain, and yes Talulah Bankhead (who played Hedda Gabler on TV). 

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The Sorcerer & Trial By Jury ****1/2

Hannah Holmes & Matthew Wages.

By: Paulanne Simmons

April 8, 2024: This season the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players are presenting a double header, The Sorcerer & Trial By Jury. This means twice the enjoyment for their fortunate audiences.

W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan first collaborated on a piece called Thespis, an 1871–72 Christmas season entertainment. Although it was reasonably successful, the two did not work together again until February 1875 when Gilbert read to Sullivan the libretto for Trial By Jury: An Operetta, which had originally appeared as a single-page illustrated comic piece in Fun magazine.

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The Who’s Tommy ****

By: Isa Goldberg

April 8, 2024: After a youth spent listening obsessively to The Who’s Tommy, this staged revival on Broadway feels like a burst of validation, just the kind of validation that makes Tommy, Tommy (Ali Louis Bourzgui). 

In this revival of the 1993 Broadway premiere, the staging is the primary mover and shaker. Video projections of battles, commonly so predictable, slice the edge of consciousness anew. Visual motion, like the music and sound effects, is especially aggressive – rock ‘n roll style. Morphing virtual reality – air strikes, parades – with the on stage reality, the visual action opens onto a wall of live police officers.

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Eddie Izzard Performing Hamlet ****

Eddie Izzard

By: Alix Cohen

April 7, 2024: Having presented his solo Great Expectations, Eddie Izzard returns with her one person rendition of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet – all 23 characters.

“I fear some foul play,” she begins eliciting giggles. The audience expects humor and will find it, though this is not a comedic rendition per se. Double entendres seem underlined. Mistaken for a fishmonger, Hamlet mutters “old git!” When Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern speak, Izzard uses his hands as “puppets” so all three characters can converse. At “Gentlemen give me your hand” palms close. The audience laughs. “I will stand idle,” Horatio says leaning against the wall absently whistling.

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Philadelphia, Here I Come ****

A.J. Shively and David McElwee.

By: Samuel L. Leiter

April 6, 2024: The third in the Irish Repertory Theatre’s current season of four Brian Friel (1929-2015) revivals (following Translations and Aristocrats and preceding Molly Sweeney) is Philadelphia, Here I Come, which premiered in 1964 at the Dublin Theatre Festival, was a 1964 hit at Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theatre, moved on to London in 1967, and enjoyed many subsequent revivals elsewhere. Those include the Irish Rep, which first did it in 1990, did it again in 2005, and now visits it once more in this heartfelt rendering. 

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The Who’s Tommy ****

Bobby Conte (Cousin Kevin).

By: David Sheward

April 5, 2024: Technology and the political zeitgeist have caught up with The Who’s Tommy, rendering the rock opera even more timely than during its initial release. The new revival, at the Nederlander after a hit run in Chicago, is a dazzling spectacle, a combination thrill ride, rock concert and social commentary with a breakout performance by super soulful and sexy newcomer Ali Louis Bourzgui in the title role.

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The Who’s Tommy ****1/2

Alison Luff (Mrs.Walker), Olive Ross -Kline (Tommy, Age 4), and Adam Jacobs (CaptaIn Walker).

By: Samuel L. Leiter

April 5, 2024: As theatregoing experiences go, waiting in line for the Nederlander Theatre to open for The Who’s Tommy at the April 2 matinee definitely ranks at the bottom. The weather, as you may be well aware, couldn’t have been nastier: freezing cold and hard, incessant rain. Worse, instead of opening the doors at 1:30 PM, as typical, the management didn’t do so until 1:54 PM, six minutes before the scheduled 2:00 curtain time. Something was clearly wrong, but no one bothered to let us know it as we shivered in the long line snaking down W. 41th Street. 

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An Enemy of the People *****, Fish ****

Victoria Pedretti and Jeremy Strong “An Enemy of the People”.

By: David Sheward

April 2, 2024: In Sam Gold’s electrifying revival of Henrik Ibsen’s classic social drama An Enemy of the People, Jeremy Strong of Succession fame as the idealistic Dr.Thomas Stockman tells his daughter Petra (a sterling Victoria Pedretti) that they should consider moving from 19th century Norway to the US since the persecution they have been experiencing wouldn’t happen there. This optimistic line is greeted with hearty skeptical laughter by the audience at Circle in the Square. This response shows that Ibsen’s play is as relevant now as when it premiered in 1882. 

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Water For Elephants ***

Marissa Rosen, Gregg Edelman, Taylor Colleton, Sara Gettelfinger, Joe De Paul, and Stan Brown.

By: Isa Goldberg

April 4, 2024: Known for their crafty storytelling, and several albums, Pigpen Theatre Co.’s new musical, Water for Elephants, is an adaptation of Sarah Gruen’s titular novel, that later became a popular film. It’s just the kind of coming of age story that the company has mastered in such works, as The Old Man and The Old Moon. 

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Stalker ***1/2

Peter Brynolf and Jonas Ljung.

By: Paulanne Simmons

April 1, 2024: Although it’s called Stalker, street magicians and illusionists Peter Brynolf and Jonas Ljung’s New York theatrical debut has nothing to do with following and watching anyone for a long period of time, and certainly in no way that is annoying or frightening. Rather their show, directed by Edward Af Sillén, is a combination of magic tricks, mentalist feats and mesmerizing illusion.

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Water For Elephants ****

Grant Gustin

By: Paulanne Simmons

March 31, 2024: In a theater season that has been rather sedate, the new musical, Water for Elephants comes as a welcome shot in the arm. Like so many other recent Broadway offerings, Water for Elephants is based on a novel (a 2006 historical romance by Canadian-American author Sara Gruen) that was later turned into a film (a 2011 romantic drama starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz and Hal Holbrook). But in this case the printed word translates equally well to both stage and screen.

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Ibsen’s Ghost ****

Charles Busch

Charles Busch’s campy fantasy, Ibsen’s Ghost, delights.

By: Patrick Christiano

March 29, 2024: The incomparable Charles Busch is at it again stirring up a hornet’s nest of fun with his new play, Ibsen’s Ghost, subtitled “An Irresponsible Biographical Fantasy,” which is now playing at 59E59 Theaters. The tale presented by Primary Stages in association with George Street Playhouse centers on Suzannah, the widow of the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, played by Charles Busch.  Need I say more? Busch turns the bereaved widow of the story into a campy diva on a mission.

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Water For Elephants *****

The Cast of “Water For Elephants”.

By: Samuel L. Leiter

March 30, 2024: Pop quiz: two recently opened Broadway musicals include the following: 1) a heartwarming story in which an elderly man, living in a facility, has good reason to look back on his youth; 2) the old man recalls falling in love with a lovely young woman; 3) after overcoming big obstacles, the lovers marry and share their lives for half a century; 4) the old gent views his memories acted out as he steps into them beside his younger self. Name the shows.

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Corruption ****, Eddie Izzard Performing Hamlet ****

John Behlmann, Eleanor Handley and Toby Stephens in “Corruption”.

By: David Sheward

March 28, 2024: Though J.T. Rogers is an American playwright, his new work Corruption at Lincoln Center’s Off-Broadway Mitzi Newhouse Theater, has a distinct British feel to it. And it’s not just because of the subject matter—the phone-hacking scandal of 2010-11 that temporarily damaged Rupert Murdoch’s media empire and forced the closing of his sensation-seeking English tabloid News of the World. Corruption examines a political issue and how it impacts society as a whole, not just in one country but the entire world. The British tend to tackle contemporary issues in their theater while Americans are mostly content with escapist musicals or dramas of personal or family dynamics. Rogers has become the preeminent American dramatist addressing such political topics. His multiple award-winning Oslo (2016) chronicled the complex negotiations leading to the 1990s peace accords between Israel and Palestine, while Blood and Gifts (2010) shone a spotlight on the international struggle for power in Afghanistan in the 1980s. (Both were also presented at the Newhouse and directed by Bartlett Sher, who stages Corruption.)

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