Friday, December 21, 2012


"WORKING" presented by Prospect Theater Company at 59E59 Theatre, December 12, 2012

(photo: Richard Termine)

Prospect Theater Company presents a new re-working of the 1978 musical based on Studs Terkel's book, with two new songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

The streamlined cast of six replaces the seventeen from the original Broadway production, slicing and dicing the remains into a tight 65 intermissionless minutes. 

Director Gordon Greenberg has assembled a talented and capable cast to portray the 25 stories, including Marie-France Arcilla, Joe Cassidy, Donna Lynne Champlin, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Nehal Joshi and Kenita R. Miller. 

Some moments stand out more than others: Ms. Champlin's Rose Hoffman, an aging and out of step teacher who sadly reflects on the degradation of respect for her role in the lives of children over her 45 years in the classroom with Nobody Tells Me How.  She gives another clever moment as the waitress Delores Dante in It's an Art responding to the question, "just a waitress?"  Mr. Johnson gets a nice turn as well as pervy UPS delivery man, Conrad Swibel.
The juxtaposition of Ms. Miller's hooker to Ms. Champlin's high society fundraiser points up how the two roles are more similar than different.

My father always said, "if it were fun, they wouldn't call it 'work'," and for the most part he was right.  Still, of the 25 working stories, there are remarkably few that really expressed any joy.  As much time as we spend working, an uplifting evening of work stories and songs would have more appeal.

WORKING runs through December 30.  Tickets here.

Jackie Hoffman's A Chanukah Charol

"Jackie Hoffman's A Chanukah Charol" at New World Stages, December 8, 2012

Jackie Hoffman's kvetching continues with her new show at New World Stages.  "A Chanukah Charol" is her riff on Patrick Stewart's one-man "A Christmas Carol" retelling her trials and tribulations as an actress in New York.

The mood starts with pre-curtain music of a klezmer band playing Christmas carols. She opens by portraying Mr. Stewart as the narrator of her tale, and she gives a pretty good impersonation. 

Then, she moves into a mix of her ongoing existential career crisis that she's not Victoria Clark or Gertrude Lawrence, along with some new reminiscences of holiday gatherings with her family.  Her Jacob Marley is Molly Picon, telling of incipient visits from the requisite three ghosts, past present and future. The cleverest turn of the three is using Shelley Winters as the Ghost of Chanukah Present.

I've seen just about all of her annual appearances at Joe's Pub and have to say that as much as I liked the concept of this show, I missed her songs that have been part of her cabaret series.  At 75 minutes, it's a small commitment for a bit of fun, Hoffman-style.

"A Chanukah Charol" runs through December 29.  Tickets here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


"Falling" at Minetta Lane Theatre, October 14, 2012

(photo: Carol Rosegg)

There's an intense situation happening at Minetta Lane Theatre, courtesy of Deanna Jent's new play making its New York premiere.

18 year old Josh (Daniel Everidge) suffers with fairly extreme autism.  Being over 6 feet tall, weighing well over 200 pounds combined with his occasionally aggressive and violent behavior sets the stakes pretty high. Tami (Julia Murney) and Bill (Daniel Pearce) work very hard to keep their son under control by emphasizing a calm and steady daily routine.  Little sister Lisa (Jacey Powers) just wants it all to go away, but what 14 year old wouldn't?  When Grammy Sue (Celia Howard) visits, bible in hand, she gets a frightening lesson in the reality of her son's family dynamics.  One particularly violent episode sets up Tami to imagine how life with her family might have been different (though its set up could have been a little more clear).

The 75 minute production moves well under the hand of director Lori Adams, handling all the ups and downs of a day in Josh's life.  The life is at times shocking, at time mundane, which makes it ever more real.  She draws excellent performances from her cast.

Most notable is Mr. Everidge, the mercurial, autistic giant among his caretakers.  His Josh is an emotional 2 year old in the body of a full grown man, completely unfiltered and uninhibited.  Ms. Murney's Tami verges on exhaustion from the effort it takes to keep herself and her family on track.  She struggles a bit in the moments of vulnerability but overall captures the drive to move forward.

John Stark has created a realistic setting for this stressed family, punctuated with the requisite child-friendly elements that would help manage a child like Josh. Tristan Raine's costumes and Julie Mack's lighting support without drawing attention to themselves.

Falling is on an open-ended run.  Get tickets here.

Monday, October 15, 2012


"Heresy" at The Flea, October 13, 2012

(photo: Hunter Canning)

In a new world premiere, the prolific A. R. Gurney returns to The Flea with an overwrought story set in the near future.  Mary (Annette O'Toole) and Joseph (Steve Mellor) have come to Homeland Security because their protesting  and unseen son, Chris, has been taken into custody during the latest crackdown. It is here that they must put their case before Pontius Pilate (Reg E. Cathey).

Get it?

They ask to meet with their old college pal Pontius ("don't call me Ponty, it's reductive."), since he's the Prefect of the Bureau and might have information or connections to help.  Recording all these events is a uniformed intern, Mark (Tommy Crawford), pedantically contributing bible-like references.

Phyllis, Mrs. Pilate (Kathy Najimy) turns up with her husband for the interview since they all attended college together.  The drinks fly but little happens of consequence until Chris' college buddy Pedro (Danny Rivera) enters to keep the painful analogy on track.

Sadly, there's not much to recommend in Mr. Gurney's work beyond the opportunity for Kathy Najimy fans to get a quick fix.  She's having a great time in the two-dimensional character she's been given, gad about as the other characters drop the most recent, if ill-placed pop-culture references including the current presidential campaign.  Subtletly is not a word this play will evoke. All it raised for me were a few cheap laughs.

Director Jim Simpson seems helpless with the script as well.  He corners Ms. O'Toole into little more than one angry tirade after another and does less with the rest of the cast.

Production values are strong. Kate Foster's red, white and blue set evokes the corrupt bureaucracy, though Brian Aldous' lighting has little opportunity in the static, room setting. 

Heresy runs through November 4.  Get tickets here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" at the Booth Theatre, October 11, 2012

Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre returns to Broadway with the revival of Edward Albee's play about the battle that is marriage.

It hasn't been all that long since the last Rialto revival with Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin, so I was interested to see what this new production has to offer.  What we get is a solid retelling of the play, much like last season's revival of Death of a Salesman, proving again what a well-made play it is.  Beyond that, there's not much unique in this production.

One thing I did notice, was that Amy Morton's Martha has acceded some of the power to Tracy Letts' George right from the start.  Even though she brays and intimidates, it doesn't land with the same vitriol one usually experiences.  With that opportunity, Mr. Letts' George is now free to wield his sarcasm like a sword, slashing at Martha and their guests.

Speaking of, this Nick (Madison Dirks) and Honey (Carrie Coon), fall right in line behind whoever is spewing the venom.  Mr. Dirks captures the requisite loose athletic demeanor of Nick's football past.  Ms. Coon gives a nice turn as the besotted Honey, though not quite as fragile as other interpretations.

Director Pam MacKinnon keeps things moving fairly well, though there were a couple of slow spots in Act II as the party games transition from "humiliate the husband" to "get the guests."

Todd Rosenthal's large living room set captures the academic environment, but went a little overboard with the stacks of books literally everywhere.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is on an open-ended run.  Tickets here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Ten Chimneys

"Ten Chimneys" presented by The Peccadillo Theater Company at the Theatre at St. Clement's , September 29, 2012

(photo: Carol Rosegg)

I was excited to see this play billed as a peek into the backstage lives of Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, who ruled the English and American stages before, during and after WWII.  It seemed great fodder for a clever and glittering evening.

Instead, playwright Jeffery Hatcher brings us a bit of theatre history as Alfred and Lynnie prepare for the 1938 revival of Chekov's The Seagull.  Had he done only that, it still could have been that evening of sophisticated for which I had hoped.

What we get is a plodding adaptation of Chekov's The Seagull overlaid onto that preparation.  One can't deny that the parallels existed: Miss Fontanne/Arkadina, the aging actress, Mr. Lunt/Trigorin, a bit younger and the love of Fontanne/Arkadina's life, Uta Hagen/Nina, the upcoming starlet, and so on.

The notion that Chekov referred to some of his plays as comedies is generally a dubious concept when compared to the western idea of what comedy means.  Mr. Hatcher writes in the same ambivalent manner, even giving Miss Fontanne a line about Chekov's  comedies that rang closer to home than he might have intended, "When the Russians say comedy, they don't mean funny."  Sadly, neither does Mr. Hatcher, leaving the audience with a mopey melodrama, punched up with an occasional laugh line.

The very talented cast never overcomes the weakness in the script. And, if you're looking for a clever tie-in to the play's title, keep looking because I could identify one.

Having admired Mr. Jennings' performances in several divergent stage appearances over the last several years, I was a bit disappointed in his interpretation as Alfred.  Gentlemen of that period, certainly his close friend Noel Coward, exhibited a sophistication which might appear fey to less wordly eyes.  Here, Mr. Jennings fails to walk that fine line and falls to feminine caricature.  Carolyn McCormick fares no better as Lynne.  Even in the rehearsal scenes where such a large persona should fill the theatre, she never takes command of the stage, minimizing her performance with focus only on her fellow actors.  Her diction is also lacking, tossing away a significant number of lines for such a skilled character.  As the young Uta, Julia Bray gives merely a bland portrayal of the actress about to burst onto Broadway and impact acting for her generation and beyond.

Director Dan Wackerman shares some of the responsibility for their performances, not finding a better pace or approach to shore up the flaws in the script.  There was enough history to keep me there for the second act, but I did notice more empty seats after intermission than before.

Ten Chimneys runs through October 27.  Tickets are available through or by calling OvationTix at 212-352-3101.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Triass Parq, The Musical

"Triassic Park, The Musical"at Soho Playhouse, June 23, 2012

(Looking back, I found this post never got published.)

If you're looking for a bit of cool summer froth, head downtown.

Mixing the metaphors of Gregory Maguire (Wicked), Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis (Urinetown), and Douglas Carter Beane (Lysistrata Jones), creators Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz and Stephen Wargo spin the tale that " not Jurassic Park..." from the perspective of the dinosaurs.

Silliness abounds alongside cartoonish concepts of religious foundations as our cast of three Velociraptors, two T-Rexes and a "Mime-a-saurus" recount Michael Crichton's story of creation, fatal flaws and chaos. (In their world, they refer to their creator as Lab instead of God, setting off a series of nonsequiturs that could be funny with a bit more refinement.)  And, since all the dinosaurs were created female so there would be no offspring, all the characters are played as women.

Spoiler alert.

Leading the charge is Morgan Freeman (a very funny and very white Lee Seymour) as the narrator, providing exposition and spoilers ( "It's the frog DNA!") as the evening progresses.  Velociraptor of Faith (a most hunky Wade McCollum), Velociraptor of Innocence (an awkwardly androgynous Alex Wise), BFFs T-Rex 1 (a belting Shelley Thomas) and T-Rex 2 ( hot pink-lidded Claire Neumann) who speak in unison, Mime-a-saurus (an also hunky Brandon Espinoza), and the exiled Velociraptor of Science (a very funny Lindsay Nicole Chambers) round out the cast as they invent creationism for themselves to explain where they came from and how their world works.

Once the frog DNA surfaces with T-Rex 2's spontaneous genital metamorphosis from female to male.  Faith sees it as a demon that should be outcast.  Innocence doesn't understand Faith's unwillingness to accept change as natural.  She learns then about the existence of Science who lives outside the fence in exile.  Further revelations abound along with an under-used goat puppet.

Production values are clever, sets by Cite Hevner, costumes by Dina Perez and lights by Jen Schriever

Wrap all this up in a pop score by Mr. Pailet and run it in 85 minutes, and you get a show full of laughs and energy.

Triassic Parq, The Musical runs through August 5.  Get tickets here

Monday, June 25, 2012

Playwrights Horizons want you to like them

Playwrights Horizons campaign

Playwrights Horizons is one of the country’s most important incubators of new plays and musicals. Won’t you “LIKE” them on Facebook by June 30, and help them earn a donation of $10,000 when they reach 10,000 likes? While there, you can enter to win a $250 gift certificate from The Apple Store. LIKE now: .

Gina Gionfriddo's RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN has been extended through July 1 on the Mainstage.  Tickets and more info at

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Blog-iversary!

Look, Ma.  I'm 6!

It was six years ago today that I made my first blog post with a review of Pig Farm at the Roundabout's off-Broadway house, the Laura Pels Theatre.

Since then I've posted 319 times, a few of which were shameless self-promotion, along with some ticket discount offers.

To the press reps who have hooked me up with seats, I thank you and look forward to reviewing the shows you represent.

To my readers (both of you), thanks for staying with me and keeping me on my toes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tony Award Winners, 2012

2012 Tony Award Winners
presented June 10, 2012

Well, let's see how I did, shall we?  My votes are bolded.  The actual winners are underlined.

Best Play

Clybourne Park                      Author: Bruce Norris
Other Desert Cities               Author: Jon Robin Baitz
Peter and the Starcatcher    Author: Rick Elice
Venus in Fur                           Author: David Ives

Apparently, a Pulitzer Prize grants an edge.

Best Musical

Leap of Faith
Nice Work If You Can Get It

Without a doubt, Once is the best new musical I've seen in several years.  Bringing home 8 of their 10 nominations confirms my opinion.

Best Book of a Musical

Lysistrata Jones                      Douglas Carter Beane
Newsies                                   Harvey Fierstein
Nice Work If You Can Get It    Joe DiPietro
Once                                         Enda Walsh

See above.

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

Bonnie & Clyde                Music: Frank Wildhorn
                                                    Lyrics: Don Black

Newsies                                     Music:  Alan Menken
                                                     Lyrics:  Jack Feldman

One Man, Two Guvnors             Music & Lyrics: Grant Olding

Peter and the Starcatcher      Music:  Wayne Barker
                                                      Lyrics:  Rick Elice

Mr. Menken brings home the prize for his 4th nomination.

Best Revival of a Play

Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
Gore Vidal's The Best Man
Master Class

Best Revival of a Musical

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess
Jesus Christ Superstar

I was a bit surprised by this one.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

James Corden                           One Man, Two Guvnors
Philip Seymour Hoffman           Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
James Earl Jones                     Gore Vidal's The Best Man
Frank Langella                           Man and Boy
John Lithgow                            The Columnist

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

Nina Arianda                           Venus in Fur
Tracie Bennett                          End of the Rainbow
Stockard Channing                  Other Desert Cities
Linda Lavin                               The Lyons
Cynthia Nixon                            Wit

I like it when I'm right. :-)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Danny Burstein                          Follies
Jeremy Jordan                          Newsies
Steve Kazee                             Once 
Norm Lewis                               The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess
Ron Raines                                Follies


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Jan Maxwell                               Follies
Audra McDonald                      The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess
Cristin Milioti                              Once
Kelli O'Hara                                Nice Work If You Can Get It
Laura Osnes                              Bonnie & Clyde

As I suspected.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

Christian Borle                          Peter and the Starcatcher
Michael Cumpsty                      End of the Rainbow
Tom Edden                                One Man, Two Guvnors
Andrew Garfield                        Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
Jeremy Shamos                        Clybourne Park

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

Linda Emond                             Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
Spencer Kayden                       Don't Dress for Dinner
Celia Keenan-Bolger              Peter and the Starcatcher
Judith Light                                 Other Desert Cities
Condola Rashad                        Stick Fly

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

Phillip Boykin                              The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess
Michael Cerveris                        Evita
David Alan Grier                         The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess
Michael McGrath                         Nice Work If You Can Get It
Josh Young                                  Jesus Christ Superstar

This was a bit of surprise.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Elizabeth A. Davis                      Once
Jayne Houdyshell                        Follies
Judy Kaye                                    Nice Work If You Can Get It
Jessie Mueller                           On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
Da'Vine Joy Randolph               Ghost the Musical

As was this.

Best Direction of a Play

Nicholas Hytner                            One Man, Two Guvnors
Pam MacKinnon                          Clybourne Park
Mike Nichols                               Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
Roger Rees and Alex Timbers    Peter and the Starcatcher

Best Direction of a Musical

Jeff Calhoun                                 Newsies
Kathleen Marshall                        Nice Work If You Can Get It
Diane Paulus                               The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess
John Tiffany                               Once

Oh, yes.

Best Choreography

Rob Ashford                                 Evita
Christopher Gattelli                      Newsies
Steven Hoggett                            Once
Kathleen Marshall                         Nice Work If You Can Get It

Mr. Gattelli is making quite the name for himself - congratulations!

Looks like I called 7 correctly.