Flying Over Sunset **1/2

Robert Sella, Harry Hadden-Paton, Carmen Cusack and Tony Yazbeck

By: David Sheward

December 23, 2021: “What am I doing here?,” asks the magnificent dancer Tony Yazbeck portraying legendary movie star Cary Grant as he is about to experiment with LSD with two other luminaries—controversial novelist Aldous Huxley and playwright-diplomat Clare Boothe Luce—in the physically ravishing but emotionally numb new musical Flying Over Sunset (at Lincoln Center’s cavernous Vivian Beaumont Theater). I felt a similar unease and uncertainty at this lush concoction from an impressive creative team. The book and direction are by James Lapine who collaborated with Stephen Sondheim on three of his most innovate pieces—Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods and Passion. The score is by composer Tom Kitt (Next to Normal, music arranger/supervisor for Jagged Little Pill) and lyricist Michael Korie (Grey Gardens, War Paint). The songs are sweet, the orchestrations by Michael Starobin are smooth as silk, the sets, costumes and lighting are gorgeous. But something vital is missing—an emotional center, a reason to care whether or not this diverse trio will take the drug and about what they discover on their trip.

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Becoming Dr. Ruth ****

Tovah Feldshuh

By: Patrick Christiano

December 20, 2021:  Becoming Dr. Ruth re-unites four-time Tony Award-nominee Tovah Feldshuh with Scott Schwartz, who directed her Tony nominated performance as Golda Meir in Golda’s Balcony. That play opened on Broadway October 15, 2003, and before it had closed in January 2005, it had become the longest running one woman show in Broadway history, with 493 performances. Now the two, Scott and Tovah, are at it again with Becoming Dr. Ruth, another one woman play, about another Jewish archetype. They debuted their production this summer at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, where Mr. Schwartz is the Artistic Director. The results were a smashing success and Tovah was illuminating. 

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Company *****, Kimberly Akimbo *****

Patti LuPone as Joanne and-Katrina Lenk as Bobbie in Company

By: David Sheward

December 18, 2021: The leading women of two new musical productions are facing momentous birthdays. Bobbi, the protagonist of a gender-reversed revival of Company, Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s innovative 1970 musical about marriage, friendship and the chasm between the two, is facing a dreaded 35th natal anniversary while still unattached. The title character of Kimberly Akimbo, a musical adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2000 dark comedy, is just turning 16, but the consequences of aging are much graver for her. Kimberly is suffering from a rare disease which causes her to age four times faster than normal and her approaching date could be a death sentence. How the two deal with the challenges presented make for two of the most exciting evenings in the New York theater season so far.

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Ari’s Arias: Ari Axelrod at Birdland Theater

By: Alix Cohen

December 16, 2021: Ari Axelrod wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s also a showman. That these two qualities don’t contradict one another is a testament to the power of authenticity. With this very personal show, the young artist exhibits self awareness, acting and vocal prowess, savvy stagecraft (a single, lit candle, for example, works wonderfully).  Choice of often eclectic material relates directly to his through line. Bridging is deft. Axelrod is as much a communicator as entertainer. He appealingly takes risks.

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Mrs. Doubtfire ***1/2

Mark Evans (Stuart Dunmire) and Rob McClure (Daniel Hillard as Euphegenia Doubtfire)

By: David Sheward

December 11, 2021: The musical version of Mrs. Doubtfire had several strikes against it before the show even got to bat. First, there is the iconic performance of Robin Williams as Daniel Hilliard, the divorced dad who disguises himself as an elderly Scottish nanny to be near his kids in the original hit 1993 film. What leading man has the chops to match Williams’ versatility while singing and dancing? Secondly, we recently had another screen-to-stage tuner with basically the same plot. A musical adaptation of Tootsie opened to rave reviews in 2019 and also featured a self-centered actor donning dowdy drag in order to get control of his life and becomes a better man by walking a mile in heels. 

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Mrs. Doubtfire ***

Rob McClure (Daniel Hillard as Euphegenia Doubtfire)

By: Paulanne Simmons

December 13, 2021: Mrs. Doubtfire, the New Musical that opened Dec. 5 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, has something for everyone. There’s rap for the younger set, old-fashioned humor for their parents and even a puppet show for the little kids. It also has direction by Broadway veteran Jerry Zaks and costume design by the formidable Catherine Zuber. But if the score by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick is a bit all over the place, the book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell sticks mostly to the 1993 film (with some attempts to bring the show into the 21st century). And that’s where Mrs Doubtfire gets into trouble.

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Clydes ***1/2

By: David Sheward

December 4, 2021: Though it’s called Clyde’s and a photo of a devilishly grinning Uzo Aduba (Emmy winner for Orange Is the New Black) in the title role is on the Playbill cover, she is not the focus of Lynn Nottage’s funny and moving new play. Clyde is the tyrannical proprietor of a truck-stop sandwich shop in rural Pennsylvania and though she sizzles and scalds the stage whenever Aduba explodes into Takeshi Kata’s superbly detailed kitchen set, costumed by Jennifer Moeller in an outrageously flashy wardrobe, the center of the play is Clyde’s staff of four ex-cons.

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The Visitor ***1/2

David Hyde Pierce, Ahmad Maksoud

By: Paulanne Simmons

December 6, 2021: The Visitor, The Public Theater’s new musical by Kwame Kwei-Armah (book), Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics) and Tom Kitt (music), based on Thomas McCarthy’s 2008 film, has been roundly dismissed by theater critics. Reviewers have found fault with “the clunkiest exposition” or “Tom Kitt’s middling score” or even the direction of a veteran favorite, Daniel Sullivan. 

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Cullud Wattah ***1/2

The Company of Cullud Wattah

By: David Sheward

November 28, 2021: Though it takes place five years ago on the brink of the incoming Trump administration, few plays are as of the present moment as Erika Dickerson-Despenza’s Cullud Wattah, now at the Public Theater. The poetic and political play depicts the devastating impact of the Flint, Michigan water crisis on a three-generation family of African-American women. The crisis continues right up until the final curtain when the actresses directly address the audience to inform us that as of the date of the performance attended, Flint has not had potable water for 2,769 days. The lights come up, the cast exits without a curtain call and we are left with the staggering truth. 

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The Alchemist ***1/2

Reg Rogers (Subtle), Jennifer Sanchez (Dol), Manoel Felciano (Face)

By: Alix Cohen

November 25, 2021: Ben Jonson wrote The Alchemist in 1610 when London theaters were closed for two years during the plague. Sound familiar? Samuel Coleridge called it “one of the three most perfect plots ever planned.” (The other two were Oedipus and Tom Jones) Its freewheeling comic nature finds the play repeatedly revived. Who doesn’t enjoy the cleverness and comeuppance of resourceful con men?

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Trouble In Mind ***

Brandon Micheal Hall, LaChanze, ChuckCooper

By: Samuel L. Leiter

November 24, 2021: When Alice Childress’s Trouble in Mind was produced at Off Broadway’s Greenwich Mews Theatre in November 1955, it received a brief but positive review in the New York Times. The critic (a stringer signed A.G.) noted that it was “A fresh, lively and cutting satire” about “the foibles and crotches, the humor and pathos of backstage life in the type of Broadway production that utilizes a predominantly Negro cast.” 

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Man Of La Mancha *****

Bruce Rebold and Tony Castellanos as Quiixote and Sancho.

By: Samuel L. Leiter

November 22, 2021: Before I say another word, let me spill out my gut reaction to the revival of Man of La Mancha that just opened at Plaza Broadway Long Island’s theatre in Elmont, Nassau County’s only Equity company. I have a few quibbles, as expected, but cumulatively, it’s a great show that entertains you, moves you, and makes you think about how to be a better person. The music remains marvelous, and the actor playing Cervantes/Don Quixote, Bruce Rebold, is superb. 

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Morning’s At Seven ***1/2

Alley Mills, Lindsay Crouse, Patty McCormack, Alma Cuervo 

By:  Isa Goldberg 

November 21, 2021: Reviving “Morning’s at Seven”, Paul Osborn’s old chestnut of a comedy, is the stuff we reserve for Olympians, such as this impressive cast from The Peccadillo Theater Company. While it is rife with clichés about family life and maturing, Dan Wackerman’s revival highlights the contemporary nature of these dysfunctional families as well as their sexual values. In a certain sense, these Midwestern folks are more contemporary than we would imagine of people in the 1920s, the period in which the play is set.  

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Trouble in Mind ***, Assassins ****, The Visitor *,Morning’s At Seven ****

The Company of “Trouble In Mind”.

By: David Sheward

November 19, 2021: Revivals and adaptations are proving startlingly relevant on and Off-Broadway. Alice Childress’s Trouble in Mind premiered Off-Broadway in 1955. The play centering on an African-American actress’ confrontation with racial stereotypes in the theater was all set to transfer to Broadway, but the playwright refused to tone down the controversial subject matter and the production was cancelled. Now, 66 years later, Trouble has finally made it to the Main Stem and Childress’ fiery words are just as pertinent as the day they were written. Charles Randolph-Wright’s production for Roundabout Theater Company is too broad in places, but still captures the author’s unflinching portrait of race relations through the lens of the stage.

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Morning Sun *****

Edie Falco, Marin Ireland, Blair Brown

By: Isa Goldberg

November 18, 2021: Stealthy, indeed, is a quality that distinguishes playwright Simon Stephens, whose latest work, “Morning Sun”, is as unusual in its exploration of form as it is in its reflection on love. Because ultimately it is all about love.

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