Monday, July 25, 2016

Broadway Theater Review: Cirque du Soleil's Paramour



Broadway Theater Gets a Big Top with Cirque du Soleil Musical
By Lauren Yarger
Looking for that perfect show to do with the kids over summer or winter break? The first Cirque du Soleil show, written specifically for Broadway, just might be the answer.


Paramour officially opens the 2016-2017 Broadway season at high-flying Spider-man’s home, the now newly named Lyric Theatre, for which the show’s creators design it, with a tale of a love triangle during Hollywood’s golden age.  Ruby Lewis stars as Indigo, an actress caught between her egotistical director Jeremy Kushnier and true love Joey (Ryan Vona) – and that is more of the plot than I usually can convey from other Cirque du Soleil shows which leave the audience gasping at the physical feats being performed but usually scratching their heads in puzzlement over what the story was about.

Like most Cirque shows, there is music (composed here by the team of Bob and Bill) and a bunch of circus and acrobatic acts interwoven between the tunes and the plot.

The cursory love story (will Ruby choose her career or true love?) moves along, sometimes in an overblown fashion, because of lots of set design by Jean Rabasse. An exception is a terrific trapeze act where their story is acted out. This plot is way better, by the way, than Cirque’s last attempt to play a New York theater a few seasons ago with the really terrible Banana Shpeel up at the Beacon in Harlem.

There are lots of other movement too from tap dancing (choreography by Daphné Mauger) and elaborate aerial acrobatics (Acrobatic Performance Design by Boris Verkhovsky, Flying Machine Design and Choreography by Raffaello D'Andrea/Verity Studios and others). A cast of 38 actors, dancers,  aerialists, acrobats, and circus arts performers with acts including aerial strap artists, Chinese pole, contortion, juggling, Russian beam, teeterboard, tumbling, trampoline and  trapeze dazzle both skill-wise and because of the colorful, glittery costumes designed by Philippe Guillotel 

The most breath-taking act is a high-flying strap act featuring twin brothers – all to the backdrop of the filming of Cleopatra. This is definitely the Big Top taking Broadway by storm. It brought its audience -- whooping, whistling and talking – with it, but it is great to see kids experiencing a show on Broadway.

If Broadway (and its ticket prices) isn't for you, you still can enjoy Cirque du Soleil in a couple of its Off-Broadway homes this summer. Toruk—The First Flight, inspired by the movie “Avatar” plays Sept. 7-11 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and form Sept. 15-18 at the Prudential Center in Newark.  Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities is a period fantasy about a world where everything is possible. It begins a run under the bog top on Randall’s Island Sept. 29.

Paramour runs through Feb. 19, 2017 at the Lyric Theatre, 213 West 42nd St., NYC. Performances are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 and 7 pm.  Tickets are $55- $145www.ParamourOnBroadway.com (877) 250-2929.

Credits: Creative Guidance and Direction by Jean-Francoise Bouchard; Direction and Concept  by Philippe Decouflé;  Associate Creative Direction by Pascale Henrot; Associate Creative Director, Scene Direction and Story by Wes Hyler; Associate Creative Direction, Scene Direction and Story by Scott Zeigler; Set Design by Jean Rabasse ; Costume Design by Philippe Guillotel ; Choreography by Daphné Mauger  ; Lighting Design by Patrice Besombes  ; Props Design by AnneSéguin Poirier ; Projection Design by Olivier Simola, Sound Design by John Shivers and Christophe WaksmannAssociate Creative Direction, Acrobatic Design and Choreography by Shana Caroll;  Composition by Bob and  Bill (Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard); Lyrics and Composition by Andreas Carlsson; Acrobatic Performance Design by Boris Verkhovsky, Flying Machine Design and Choreography by Raffaello D'Andrea/Verity Studios,  Boris Verkhovsky, Rigging and Acrobatic Equipment Design by  Pierre Masse, Makeup Design by Nathalie Gagné , Hair Design by Josh Marquette; Music Direction and Conducting by Seth Stachowski.







Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Oslo


A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Oslo Peace Accords
By Lauren Yarger
Don’t let what sounds like a boring premise – the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords – or the three-hour run time scare you away from Oslo the new J.T. Rogers play getting an Off-Broadway run at Lincoln Center.

Despite the fact that it could use a substantial edit (unless your name is Eugene O’Neill or Tracy Letts, your play doesn’t need three acts or two intermissions), this story of how the leaders of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Army ended up shaking hands on the White House lawn is engrossing and entertaining.

Bartlett Sher directs the large ensemble and keeps us from getting confused, even though there is some doubling in the mostly male cast. The truth is there was a huge cast of characters behind the scenes of the historic peace agreement and while President Bill Clinton probably enjoyed getting a lot of the credit, truth is the accords were thanks to a lot of secret meetings and negotiations headed up by a husband and wife in Oslo, Norway.

Mona Juul (an excellent Jennifer Ehle) is a well respected official in the Norwegian foreign ministry and reports to Jan Egland, the deputy foreign minister. She and her husband, Terje Rød-Larsen (Jefferson Mays), the director of Fafo Institute for the Applied Sciences, realize they might have come up with a way for the two sides to begin talks. It will be tricky – it is illegal for Israeli government officials to meet with members of the PLO and Foreign Minister Johan Jorgen Holst (T. Ryder Smith) is vehemently opposed to the idea. But if they can just find a way to get the right people together in an unofficial way, they might get the ball rolling….

Enter Ron Pundak (Daniel Jenkins), a junior economics professor at the University of Haifa who is able to make initial contact. The negotiations begin with some lower ranking officials at the Borregaard Estate outside of Oslo, where Mona and Terje acts as hosts and the housekeeper and cook (Henny Russell) keeps everyone happy with waffles (Rogers interlaces a lot of humor in the script to balance the complexity of the dialogue).

Soon, negotiations are going so well that the big players are brought in for both sides. Hassan Asfour (Dariush Kashani), the official PLO Liaison at the US talks which are going absolutely nowhere; Ahmed Qurie (Anthony Azizi), the PLO’s finance minister; Uri Savir (Michael Aronov), director general of the Foreign Ministry; Yossi Beilin (Adam Dannheisser), deputy foreign minister; and Shimon Peres, foreign minister, hash out the differences between their nations and the steps toward peace. All the negotiations take place behind closed doors, but they break, out in the parlor with Toril’s waffles, they become friends, sharing jokes and telling stories about their families.

Things get tense when Terje oversteps his authority and begins acting as a negotiator, making promises and telling lies to keep the negotiations moving forward, but which in reality, could bring the whole process to a grinding halt.

The action takes us through about nine months and to various locations, all on one set designed by Michael Yeargan with cushioned benches circling the stage area on the floor. An architectural embellishment over the door at the rear where the men venture for their discussions is a reminder of the grand house they are in and of the importance of the negotiations taking place. The parlor room becomes like a family room as the friendships develop even while personalities clash.

The three-hours certainly could be reduced – perhaps by about 45 minutes (especially if that second intermission could be eliminated). While this usually would signify a weak play to me, that is not the case here. All the action and information as written is interesting, well written and directed. There’s simply too much material and as a result people were nodding off and missing a pretty decent play. Take a nap first (or opt for a matinee instead of an 8 pm curtain time) and go. You’ll see the Oslo Accords in a whole new light.

Oslo plays through Aug. 28 at Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre, 150 West 65th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 pm; Wednesday, Friday, Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesdays and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm.  Tickets $107: lct.org/shows/Oslo866-811-4111

Additional Credits:
Lighting Design by Donald Holder, Sound Design by Peter John Still, Projection Design by 59 Productions.

Full cast:
Jennifer Ehle…. Mona Juul 
Jefferson Mays…. Terje Rød-Larsen
Michael Aronov…. Uri Savir
Anthony Azizi…. Ahmed Querie (Abua Ala)
Adam Dannheisser…. Yossi Berlin
Daniel Jenkins…. Jan Egelnd
Dariush Kashani…. Hassan Asfour
Jeb Kreager…. Trond Gundersen, German husband
Christopher McHale…. Thor Bjornevog, German diplomat
Daniel Oreskes…. Shimon Peres, Yair Hirschfeld
Angela Pierce…. German wife
Henny Russell…. Toril Grandal, Marianne Heiberg, Swedish hostess
Joseph Siravo…. Joel Singer
T. Ryder Smith…. Johan Jorgen Holst, Finn Grandal

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language

Monday, July 11, 2016

Off-Broadway Review: Out of the Mouths of Babes


Image: Judith Ivey and Estelle Parsons. Photo: Carol Rosegg
What Happens When Four Women Who Loved the Same Man Get Together? Not What You Might Expect
By Lauren Yarger
Just throw out reality for about two hours and 15 minutes and you’ll be able to enjoy four actresses having a lot of fun on stage in Israel Horovitz’s bizarre comedy Out of the Mouths of Babes getting an extended Off-Broadway run at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village.

Headlining are two theater legends, Estelle Parsons, who has five Tony award nominations (the latest for her compelling performance in Velocity of Autumn) and an Oscar under her belt, and Judith Ivey, a Tony winner and multiple nominee too. They play two of the ex lovers/wives who show up in Paris for the funeral of the man they once loved.

Evelyn (Parsons), the second wife, lets herself into her former apartment (designed by Neil Patel) with its lofty ceilings and walls full of artwork only to be joined by his former lover, Evvie (Ivey) whom the man saw during his marriage to Evelyn. If that isn’t enough awkwardness to go around, they soon are joined by two others: another wife, Janice (Angelina Fiordellisi), who once tried to commit suicide by jumping out of one of the large windows overlooking the canal when she learned of the man’s infidelity to her, and Marie-Belle (Francesca Choy-Kee) who is the current occupant of the apartment, and who apparently still is receiving visits from her lover – the man they all adored -- in ghostly form.

Again, I stress that the plot is off-the-charts ridiculous, with the women joining together to keep Janice from taking the plunge again, listening as Janice and her tickle-happy ghost lover get it on in the other room and repeating some very repetitive dialogue in a mediocre script that appears to have been written just to allow characters to say certain lines. A lot of those lines are pretty funny, but I am not sure they all would be without these amazing actresses saying them. Parsons and Ivey seem to get laughter form lines that aren’t really funny too, just by the way they deliver them.

The multi-generations represented by the four women tell us that the deceased spent most of his 100 years collecting women. And despite his infidelity, they all seem to still be carrying a torch for him. Marie-Belle, the youngest and hippest of them all, is totally without any jealousy and proposes that the women all share the apartment in a sort of living tribute to him….

So the subject matter isn’t exactly what we hope for when it comes to finally having a play on stage that has four female characters, and several more mature ones to boot. They are all professionals in some way – Evelyn was a journalist, Evvie is a Hollywood screenwriter and Janice is an academic, but all these women seem to be able to do is fawn over their former lover who doesn’t sound like he was such a great guy….

Getting to see Parsons and Ivey interact makes it worthwhile, however. And it is nice to see Fiordellisi, celebrating her 20th year as Cherry Lane’s producing artistic director, get a turn on stage too (she goes back on Broadway to Zorba). I’d love to see them all in a play with something worth their acting abilities.

The combination of bizarre plot and male worship seems to work because of the engaging actresses cast by Director Barnet Kellman. There also is a surprise visit by a guest not credited in the Playbill. The show has been extended through July 31.

Out of the Mouths of Babes plays through July 31 at the Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce St., NYC. Performances are Wednesday and Saturday at 3 and 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 7 pm; and Sunday at 3 pm.  Tickets $66-$96 www.cherrylanetheatre.org866-811-4111.

Other credits:
Costume Design by Joseph G. Aulisi , Lighting Design by Paul Miller, Sound Design by Leon Rothenberg. 

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
--  Language
-- God's name taken in vain

Monday, June 13, 2016

Tony Award Winners 2016

Lin-Manuel Miranda (center) and the company of HamiltonPhoto: Joan Marcus.
Hamilton led the winners with 11 Tonys. Winners are in RED.

Best Play
Eclipsed Author: Danai Gurira 
The Father Author: Florian Zeller 
The Humans Author: Stephen Karam 
King Charles IIIAuthor: Mike Bartlett 
Best Musical
Bright Star
Hamilton 
School of Rock—The Musical
Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Waitress

Best Revival of a Play
Arthur Miller's The Crucible
Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge
Blackbird
Long Day's Journey Into NightNoises Off

Best Revival of a Musical
The Color Purple
Fiddler on the Roof
She Loves Me
Spring Awakening
Best Book of a Musical
Bright Star
Steve Martin
Hamilton
Lin-Manuel Miranda
School of Rock—The Musical
Julian Fellowes
Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
George C. Wolfe
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Bright Star
Music: Steve Martin and Edie Brickell
Lyrics: Edie Brickell
Hamilton
Music and Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda
School of Rock—The Musical
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Glenn Slater
Waitress
Music and Lyrics: Sara Bareilles

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Gabriel Byrne, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Jeff Daniels, Blackbird
Frank Langella, The Father
Tim Pigott-Smith, King Charles III
Mark Strong, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge

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

Jessica Lange, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Laurie Metcalf, Misery
Lupita Nyong'o, Eclipsed
Sophie Okonedo, Arthur Miller's The Crucible
Michelle Williams, Blackbird

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Alex Brightman, School of Rock—The Musical
Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof
Zachary Levi, She Loves Me
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Leslie Odom, Jr., Hamilton

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Laura Benanti, She Loves Me
Carmen Cusack, Bright Star
Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple
Jessie Mueller, Waitress
Phillipa Soo, Hamilton

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Reed Birney, The Humans
Bill Camp, Arthur Miller's The Crucible
David Furr, Noises Off
Richard Goulding, King Charles III
Michael Shannon, Long Day's Journey Into Night

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Pascale Armand, Eclipsed
Megan Hilty, Noises Off
Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans
Andrea Martin, Noises Off
Saycon Sengbloh, Eclipsed

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
Brandon Victor Dixon, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress
Jonathan Groff, Hamilton
Christopher Jackson, Hamilton

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me
Jennifer Simard, Disaster!
Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Beowulf Boritt, Thérèse Raquin
Christopher Oram, Hughie
Jan Versweyveld, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge
David Zinn, The Humans

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Es Devlin & Finn Ross, American Psycho
David Korins, Hamilton
Santo Loquasto, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
David Rockwell, She Loves Me

Best Costume Design of a Play
Jane Greenwood, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Michael Krass, Noises Off
Clint Ramos, Eclipsed
Tom Scutt, King Charles III

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Tuck Everlasting
Jeff Mahshie, She Loves Me
Ann Roth, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Paul Tazewell, Hamilton

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Natasha Katz, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Justin Townsend, The Humans
Jan Versweyveld, Arthur Miller's The Crucible
Jan Versweyveld, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Howell Binkley, Hamilton
Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Ben Stanton, Spring Awakening
Justin Townsend, American Psycho

Best Direction of a Play
Rupert Goold, King Charles III
Jonathan Kent, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Joe Mantello, The Humans
Liesl Tommy, Eclipsed
Ivo Van Hove, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge

Best Direction of a Musical
Michael Arden, Spring Awakening
John Doyle, The Color Purple
Scott Ellis, She Loves Me
Thomas Kail, Hamilton
George C. Wolfe, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Best Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton
Savion Glover, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Hofesh Shechter, Fiddler on the Roof
Randy Skinner, Dames at Sea
Sergio Trujillo, On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan

Best Orchestrations
August Eriksmoen, Bright Star
Larry Hochman, She Loves Me
Alex Lacamoire, Hamilton
Daryl Waters, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed


Recipients of Awards and Honors in Non-competitive Categories

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Sheldon Harnick
Marshall W. Mason

Special Tony Award
National Endowment for the Arts
Miles Wilkin

Regional Theatre Tony Award
Paper Mill Playhouse
Millburn, NJ

Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award
Brian Stokes Mitchell 

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre
Seth Gelblum
Joan Lader
Sally Ann Parsons




Friday, June 10, 2016

My 2016 Tony Award Predictions

Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler, Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton, Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton (Photo: Joan Marcus)
The Tony Awards are Sunday at 8 on CBS. Tune in to find out who takes home the awards for the 2015-2016 season.

Here are my predictions:

Hamilton.

Thanks. See you next season.

OK, it isn't quite that cut and dried, but the musical sensation by Lin-Manuel Miranda has captures the hearts and imaginations of many since its debut at the Public Theatre and susequent transfer to Broadway.  The hip-hop retelling of the Founding Fathers and the birthing of our nation has struck a chord, especially with younger audiences, because of its inclusion of people from many ethnic backgrounds -- a true melting pot representing the diverse makeup of our nation. The only character played by a white actor is the foppish King George III.

Hamilton is nominated for a record 16 Tony Awards and likely will will many of them. See below where I think some other musical nominees have the best shot at a trophy as well as my preductions for the plays. My predictions are in RED. And remember, these aren't necessarily the ones I think SHOULD win, but the ones I think WILL win. This year really is a crap shoot because of the Hamilton factor. I cam not even going to keep track.....

Best Play
Eclipsed Author: Danai Gurira 
The Father Author: Florian Zeller 
------------The Humans Author: Stephen Karam 
King Charles IIIAuthor: Mike Bartlett 
Best Musical
Bright Star
-----------Hamilton 
School of Rock—The Musical
Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Waitress

Best Revival of a Play
Arthur Miller's The Crucible
Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge
Blackbird
Long Day's Journey Into NightNoises Off

Best Revival of a Musical
The Color Purple
Fiddler on the Roof
---------She Loves Me
Spring Awakening
Best Book of a Musical
Bright Star
Steve Martin
Hamilton
Lin-Manuel Miranda
School of Rock—The Musical
Julian Fellowes
Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
George C. Wolfe
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Bright Star
Music: Steve Martin and Edie Brickell
Lyrics: Edie Brickell
Hamilton
Music and Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda
School of Rock—The Musical
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Glenn Slater
Waitress
Music and Lyrics: Sara Bareilles

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Gabriel Byrne, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Jeff Daniels, Blackbird
Frank Langella, The Father
Tim Pigott-Smith, King Charles III
Mark Strong, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge

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

Danny Burstein. Photo: Joan Marcus
Jessica Lange, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Laurie Metcalf, Misery
Lupita Nyong'o, Eclipsed
Sophie Okonedo, Arthur Miller's The Crucible
Michelle Williams, Blackbird

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Alex Brightman, School of Rock—The Musical
Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof
Zachary Levi, She Loves Me
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Leslie Odom, Jr., Hamilton

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Laura Benanti, She Loves Me
Carmen Cusack, Bright Star
Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple
Jessie Mueller, Waitress
Phillipa Soo, Hamilton

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Reed Birney, The Humans
Bill Camp, Arthur Miller's The Crucible
David Furr, Noises Off
Richard Goulding, King Charles III
Michael Shannon, Long Day's Journey Into Night

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Pascale Armand, Eclipsed
Megan Hilty, Noises Off
Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans  
Andrea Martin, Noises Off
Saycon Sengbloh, Eclipsed

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
Brandon Victor Dixon, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress
Jonathan Groff, Hamilton
Christopher Jackson, Hamilton

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me
Jennifer Simard, Disaster!
Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Beowulf Boritt, Thérèse Raquin
Christopher Oram, Hughie
Jan Versweyveld, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge
David Zinn, The Humans

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Es Devlin; Finn Ross, American Psycho
David Korins, Hamilton
Santo Loquasto, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
David Rockwell, She Loves Me

Best Costume Design of a Play
Jane Greenwood, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Michael Krass, Noises Off
Clint Ramos, Eclipsed
Tom Scutt, King Charles III

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Tuck Everlasting
Jeff Mahshie, She Loves Me
Ann Roth, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Paul Tazewell, Hamilton

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Natasha Katz, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Justin Townsend, The Humans
Jan Versweyveld, Arthur Miller's The Crucible
Jan Versweyveld, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Howell Binkley, Hamilton
Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Ben Stanton, Spring Awakening
Justin Townsend, American Psycho

Best Direction of a Play
Rupert Goold, King Charles III
Jonathan Kent, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Joe Mantello, The Humans
Liesl Tommy, Eclipsed
Ivo Van Hove, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge

Best Direction of a Musical
Michael Arden, Spring Awakening
John Doyle, The Color Purple
Scott Ellis, She Loves Me
Thomas Kail, Hamilton

George C. Wolfe, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Best Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton
Savion Glover, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Hofesh Shechter, Fiddler on the Roof
Randy Skinner, Dames at Sea
Sergio Trujillo, On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan

Best Orchestrations
August Eriksmoen, Bright Star
Larry Hochman, She Loves Me
Alex Lacamoire, Hamilton
Daryl Waters, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Shining City

undefinedMatthew Broderick and Billy Carter. Photo: Carol Rosegg
This Story Just Might Have You Believing in Ghosts
By Lauren Yarger
Broken relationships, guilt and a ghost combine to tell the stories of two men searching for life's answers in Conor McPherson's Shining City getting an Off-Broadway revival at Irish Repertory Theatre.

John (Matthew Broderick, sporting an Irish brogue thanks to Dialect Coach Stephen Gabis) has recently lost his wife in a tragic accident. He has been having trouble sleeping, especially after seeing a terrifying sight: the ghost of his wife. He visits therapist Ian (Billy Carter) in his newly established Dublin office (designed by Charlie Corcoran) to seek help. The timid man has been unable to return home since the disturbing experience which he hopes Ian believes him and doesn't think he is losing his mind.

Ian lends a sympathetic ear as John speaks (often in very long monologues) about his marriage and it soon becomes apparent that guilt over his infidelity might be the real culprit behind his lack of sleep and inability to put his wife's death behind him. Meanwhile, Ian might need a few sessions with a therapist himself.

We discover that he recently left the priesthood and became involved with Neasa (Lisa Dwan), with whom he has a newborn daughter. It's become too much, however, and he seeks to end the relationship with an uncomprehending Neasa who begs him to return with her to his brother's where they have been staying. She feels overwhelmed, alone and unwelcome by Ian's sister-in-law.

Parallels are apparent in the relationship between John and his wife and Ian and Neasa including a deterioration brought on by a lack of communication and infidelity. For Ian there's an added difficulty. In his quest to discover who he is post-priesthood, he considers trying sex with Laurence (James Russell), a prostitute he picks up in the park. 

McPherson's lyrical writing (it certainly helps us not fall asleep during those long monologues -- Broderick appeared to be looking for a couple of lines) has us questioning just who is helping whom here and just what reality is, despite what we see -- or don't see -- right in front of our eyes. Loneliness and desperation (common themes for the playwright, along with ghosts) drip off the sentiments expressed, even as the text is peppered with humor.

Directed here by Ciaran O'Reilly, the 100-minute, no intermission production is engaging, but a special effect fails to have the impact it should, partly because we aren't as frightened as we should be by the character's appearance as costumed by Martha Holly. Let's just say there weren't gasps like there were in the original on Broadway which received two Tony Award nominations and starred Brian O'Byrne and Oliver Platt. This revival is the first since that production in 2006.

Shining City plays through July 3 at Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday at 3 and 8 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8pm;  Saturday and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $50-$70: irishrep.org; 212-727-2737.

Additional credits;
Lighting Design by Michael Gottlieb; Sound Design by M. Florian Staab's Original Music by Ryan Rumery; Property Design by Sven Henry Nelson.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Homosexuality

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2016 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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