Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: The Band's Visit TOP PICK

We Can All Just Get Along After All
By Lauren Yarger
What happens when you mix some lost Egyptian musicians with some Israeli residents bored with life in the dessert? With Director David Cromer as the chef, you get a recipe for a satisfying slice of life in the world premiere of David Yazbek's The Bank Visit Off-Broadway at Atlantic Theater Company.

With a book by Itamar Moses, based Erin Kolirin's screenplay for the film by the same name,  and music and lyrics by Yazbek, The Band's Visit transports us to another world, yet tells a warm, refreshingly human story that feel close to home.

Tony Shalhoub stars as conductor Tewfiq, who in 1996 has traveled with Eygpt's police band to play at a dedication ceremony for the new Arab Cultural Affairs Center. A mix up in the name of their destination lands the band in the middle of nowhere -- Bet Hatikva -- instead of the city of Petah Tikva.

Residents of the town welcome the travelers -- after all, this is the most exciting thing that has happened around there in a while -- share food at the local cafe owned by made-hard-by-life Dina (Katarina Lenk) and offer the men places to sleep in their homes until they can catch the right bus to their destination the next morning.

It's amazing what can happen in one night. Tewfiq and Haled (Ari'el Stachel), who is responsible for the mixup, stay with Dina. Others stay with new father Itzak (John Cariani), whose wife is about to leave him, and in the restaurant itself. Dina decides to be spontaneous and takes Tewfiq out to show him the sites -- as they are -- and others head out on a roller skating date. The evening is magical with regrets and confidences being shared and unexpected friendships taking root. And could Dina be feeling something more than friendship with her shy, widowed companion?

The action, expertly directed by Cromer who works his usual magic, takes place on Scott Pask's bleak set -- as colorless as the lives of the people living there. A revolving moves the story from place to place partnered with subtle lighting shifts designed by Tyler Micoleau.  Choreography by Patrick McCollum and movement by Lee Sher assist. .

The plot unfolds in songs full of emotion, yearning and heartfelt desires. One character, identified only as Telephone Guy, waits expectantly by a pay phone, frozen in time as he awaits a call form his girlfriend. The longing  and need in his soul is visible. We don't know why he thinks she is going to call, or whether there is any chance she might, be we sure hope she will.

A nice touch is that, despite our expectations, politics really isn't a factor. How refreshing to think that people can come together and find kindness and generosity despite differences in politics.

The band members are just in name only. The actors actually play instruments -- sometimes as accompaniment, sometimes as part of the visit -- and later, a small concert delights the audience. Music Director Andrea Grody goes for raw feeling rather than perfect pitch and the effect sharpens the songs as part of storytelling rather than performance. The cast also features George Abud,  Bill Army Erik Liberman, Andrew Polk, Rachel Prather. Jonathan Raviv, Sharone Sayegh, Kristen Sieh, Daniel David Stewart and Alok Tewari.

I didn't want the visit to end. "Monk" fans, this character won't remind you of your favorite TV detective, but you will want to see Shalhoub shine in this heartwarming, magical musical.

The Band's Visit plays through Jan. 1 at Atlantic Theater Company's Linda Gross Theater, 336 West 20 St., NYC. Performance times vary. Tickets are $90: atlantictheater.org/playevents/thebandsvisit; 866-811-4111.

Additional credits: 
Sound Design, Clive Goodwin; Projections content design, Maya Cirrocchi; Projections system design, Five OHM; Hair and Wig Design, Charles La Pointe
Language and Dialect Coach,  Mouna R'miki.

-- No content notes.

Broadway Theater Review: A Bronx Tale

By Lauren Yarger
It's another movie made into a musical, and one that I wasn't sure would make the transition, but there's something about the new Broadway version of A Bronx Tale that just won't let you give it a Bronx cheer.

Maybe it's the weight of some of the names behind this film-to-stage endeavor. Alan Menken (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and many others) composes the score with lyrics by Glenn Slater (The Little Mermaid, School of Rock, Sister Act). The book is by Chazz Palminteri (who has a slew of film writing and TV acting credits under his belt) based on his one-man show A Bronx Tale which inspired his Academy-Award-nominated film of the same name. And that's before I mention that Robert DeNiro (who starred in the film) co-directs here with legendary director Jerry Zaks.  

If those names aren't enough to make us take notice, there is a 30-member cast on stage  and that is before I mention that the excellent Sergio Trujillo choreographs. 

So what's it all about? An older Calogero (Bobb Conte Thornton) reminisces about growing up in the Bronx in the 1960s. The young "C" as he is know, idolizes both his hardworking, bus-driver father, Lorenzo (a beautifully voiced Richard H. Blake), and Sonny (Nick Cordero), the local mobster who takes a liking to the boy (played by Hudson Loverro and at certain performances by Athan Sporer).  Lorenzo doesn't like the influence Sonny has on his son, or the fact that he can't compete when it comes to throwing around money and influence.

The lyrics and book seem a bit weak and unnecessarily telegraph action. The women characters -- C's mother, Lucia Giannetta, and Ariana Debose as Jane, Calogero's African-American girlfriend, who causes his some angst in an era that has the races separated outside of school and on opposite sides of the battle lines outside, for example,  -- are mostly window dressing. Getting more development are a slew of gangster types gathered around Sonny: Rudy the Voice (Joey Sorge), Eddie Mush (Jonathan Brody), JoJo the Whale (Michael Harra), Frankie Coffeecake (Ted Brunetti), Tony Ten-To-Two (Paul Salvatoriello), Handsom Nick (Rory Max Kaplan) and Crzio Mario (Dominic Nolfi).

Still, there's something moving about the relationship between Calogero and his father and that, plus a pleasing score by Menken and a run time of just over two hours keep us interested.

A Bronx Tale plays at the Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm;  Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $50-$187: abronxtalethemusical.com; 212-239-6200.

More information:
The design team: Beowulf Boritt, Scenic Design; William Ivey Long, Costume Design; Howell Binkley, Lighting Design; Gareth Owen, Sound Design; Paul Huntley, Hair and Wig Design; Anne Ford-Coates, Makeup Design; Robert Westley, Fight Coordinator; Ron Melrose Music Supervision and Arrangements; Doug Besterman, Orchestrations; Jonathan Smith,  Musical Direction.

A Bronx Tale evolved from the one-man Off Broadway play written and performed by Chazz Palminteri in 1989. During the original Off Broadway and subsequent Los Angeles engagements, Robert De Niro saw the show, and brought the story and star Palminteri to the screen in 1993, making his film directorial debut in the process. Following the success of the film, Palminteri performed the one-man show A Bronx Tale on Broadway in the 2007-2008 Season.

-- The theater suggests this show is best for children 12 and up.
-- Language
-- Derogatory terms used for persons of color
-- Derogatory terms used for persons of Italian heritage
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Gun violence

Monday, December 12, 2016

Apollo Theatre Offers New Holiday Tradition

Photo: Shahar Azran 
The Apollo Theater presents The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s production of The First Noel through Dec. 18. 

The Harlem-based holiday musical moves to the Apollo’s mainstage this year, as part of the institution’s “Holidays at the Apollo” programming. The musical features original music and re-imagined classic carols ranging from pop to jazz to gospel  and follows three generations of a Harlem family affected by tragedy to tell a universal story of love and belonging.  

Book, music and lyrics are by Lelund Durond Thompson (founder, YellaFella Entertainment) and Jason Michael Webb (Motown: The MusicalViolet and The Color Purple), Steve H. Broadnax III (Dominique Morisseau’s Blood at the Rootdirects and Brian Harlan Brooks (Motown: The Musical) is choreographer.

The company of The First Noel includes Brian D. Coats (as Skeeter; Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Tina Fabrique (as Grandmother Ethel; Ragtime; Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk), Ashley Ware Jenkins (as Noel; The Color Purple national tour), Donald King Jr (as Benny Raindrop), Lizan Mitchell (as Lou; So Long on Lonely Street), Ken Robinson (as Henry; 2015 revival, The Color Purple), Soara-Joye Ross (as Deloris; Les MisĂ©rables), with Nia Caesar and Zariah Singletary as Young Noel. The ensemble features James AlexanderAngela BirchettJesse CorbinDarius Crenshaw, Tamara Jade Fingal, Ayana George, LaTrisa A. HarperAdam HyndmanSarita Amani Nash, Drew ShadeChawntá Marie Van, Tiffany Webb and Helen White.

The design team includes Dan Robinson (scenic design), Rachel Dozier-Ezell (costume design), Alan C. Edwards (lighting design), and Curtis Craig (sound and projection design).Andrew Lederman returns as musical director. 


Tuesday, Dec. 13 at 7:30 pm (OPENING NIGHT)
Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 2 pm 
Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 7:30 pm
Thursday, Dec. 15 at 7:30 pm
Friday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, Dec.17 at 2 pm 
Saturday, Dec.17 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, Dec. 18 at 2 pm 

Performances of THE FIRST NOEL take place at the Apollo Theater Mainstage (253 West 125th Street, Harlem, NYC).  The production is part of the “Holidays at the Apollo” family-friendly programming series. Recommended for ages 5+.

Tickets are available at The Apollo Theater Box Office: 212-531-5305 (253 West 125th Street) and via Ticketmaster.com: 1-800-745-3000. Group Sales: 212-531-5355. Tickets are $30-$65. Apollo Advantage member pricing: $30 - $40. To learn more, visit: apollotheater.org/firstnoel

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Terms of Endearment

Molly Ringwald and Hannah Dunne. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Terms of Endearment
By Dan Gordon
Directed by Michael Parva
The Directors Company
Through Dec. 11

An Excellent Film-to-Stage Adaption So Good It Will Make You Cry
By Lauren Yarger
The final lines of dialogue were spoken, the stage went black and the entire audience was crying. Normally, this would be a director's worst nightmare, but when the play is Terms of Endearment, an audience full of sobs means a job well done.

The American Premiere, written by Dan Gordon, based on the book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Larry McMurtry ("Lonesome Dove") and the Oscar-winning screenplay by James L. Brooks, is getting a limited run by the Directors Company at 59E59 and there's definitely a shortage of tissues at the end of this tearjerker.

Gordon is a master of touching the emotions -- he brought us the terrific Irena's Vow on Broadway a gripping true tale of a woman who successfully hid Jews under the nose of the Nazis during World War II. Starring here is Molly Ringwald (OK, I was ready to shed tears already when I realized the teen who first came to our attention in the films  "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club" is old enough to play the mother part -- where does the time go?). She gives a powerful performance directed by Michael Parva, who manages to assemble a cast that puts us in mind of the film's iconic stars without trying to imitate them.

Ringwald is a feisty and quirky an Aurora Greenway (think Shirley MacLaine), an overbearing mother who disapproves when her daughter, Emma (Hannah Dunne, and excellent actress who reminds us of Debra Winger), marries deadbeat philanderer Flap Horton (Denver Milord). The mother-daughter relationship is filled with many disagreements tempered by love through daily visits over the years until Emma and her family move to Iowa where Fla finds a teaching job.

Visits continue by phone and Aurora shares some of what is happening in her life in Texas, The longtime widow has found happiness with her astronaut neighbor Jeb Brown (Garrett Breedlove from TV's “Blacklist”), but it's complicated. Neither one expected to find a lasting relationship, especially Brown, who has made a career of having sex with a lot of younger women to feed his aging ego. (And gosh, Breedlove looks a lot like Jack Nicholson  -- wig and makeup design by Amanda Miller).

When Emma returns home, it's not for a happy reason: she has cancer and Aurora and Flap must somehow work out terms to get along so they can support Emma and make decisions about what will be best for the children. And Brown needs to step up to support Aurora. Jessica DiGiovanni rounds out the cast as Emma's best friend, Patsy.

This production really is a perfect representation of the popular film, played out on a multi-roomed stage with one set (designed by David L. Arsenault) with time passages projected above. Gordon's script captures all of the humor of the characters and the emotion of their relationships. I don't think I ever have heard such sobbing in the theater.

You can go have a cleansing cry while Terms of Endearment plays through Dec. 11 at 59E59, 59 East 59th St., NYC (but bring a packet of tissues-- I had to lend some of mine to the teens in my row who were sobbing their guts out). Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm, and Sunday at 3 pm. (No performance on Thanksgiving). Tickets are $25 - $70: www.59e59.org; 212- 279-4200.

-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language

Monday, November 21, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Dead Poets Society TOP PICK

The cast of Dead Poets Society, Jason Sudeikis, right. Photo: Joan Marcus
Dead Poets Society
By Tom Schulman
Directed by John Doyle
Classic Stage Company
Extended through Dec. 18

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
A terrific stage adaptation of the film of the same name which starred Robin Williams (written by Tom Schulman adapted from his Oscar-winning screenplay) directed by the excellent John Doyle (Sweeney Todd, The Color Purple). Starring as inspiring teacher John Keating is Jason Sudeikis (a writer and cast member for TV's "Saturday Night Live"). It's 1959 and Keating arrives at Welton Academy, a traditional all-boys school in New England, where he quickly tells his English students to tear out the pompous introductions in their poetry books and start thinking for themselves. Carpe Diem (seize the day), he tells the boys who decide to revive the secret society to which Keating belonged when he was a student at the school: The Dead Poets Society. 

The boys sneak off to a nearby cave (expertly created by Lighting and Sound Designers Japhy Weideman and Matt Stine, respectively) to read poems, but also find a a safe place to explore their hopes and passions. The society includes:
  • Neil Perry (Thomas Mann), a star student who can't find a way to communicate his desire to pursue a career in the theater with his overbearing father (Stephen Barker Turner)
  • Geeky Steven Meeks (Bubba Weiler)
  • Knox Overstreet (William Hochman), who pines in unrequited love for Chris (Francesca Carpanini)
  • Rebellious Charlie Dalton (Cody Kostro) who pens an unauthorized article in the school paper (and then takes the punishment without giving up the names of his society members)
  • Newcomer Todd Anderson (Zane Pais) who stutters, but who finds the ability to express himself through poetry
  • Richard Cameron, Steven Meeks, Gerard Pitts, 
Keating's untraditional methods soon bring trouble with Headmaster Nolan (David Garrison) for both him and the boys. 

What Are the Highlights?
Doyle's staging is perfection. Set Designer Scott Pask provides a backdrop of looming book cases and a large back board, but has the actors use books to create setting. A pile of books on the floor becomes the desk on which students stand for the famous "Captain My Captain) scenes. The action plays to the audiences on all sides of the thrust-style stage on the floor, pulling us into the classroom. Suddenly dialogue is underscored by humming; songs shift mood. "Words and ideas change the world," and "Try never to think about something the same way twice," Keating tells us. Doyle obviously took both pieces of advice to heart and creates a brilliant work of art.

What Are the Lowlights?
A couple of performances weren't as sure, but I saw a preview, so I am willing to bet that rough edges will be smooth post opening.

More Information:
Dead Poets Society has been extended through Dec. 18 at CSC, 136 East 13th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets: classicstage.org; 212- 352-3101.

Additional Credit: Costume Design by Ann Hould-WardYou might recognizae Sudeikis from his SNL impersoniations of Joe Biden and Mitt Romney. 

-- God's name taken in vain
-- Minor language
-- Suicide

Broadway Theater Review: Falsettos

Betsy Wolfe, Christian Borle, Anthony Rosenthal, Andrew Rannells, Tracie Thoms, Brandon Uranowitz and Stephanie J. Block. Photo: Joan Marcus

By Music and Lyrics by William Finn
Book by William Finn and James Lapine
Directed by James Lapine
Walter Kerr Theatre
Through Jan. 8

A Musical That Was Way Ahead of Its Time
By Lauren Yarger
A musical about a gay guy trying to find his place in the world. The initial reaction might be, "ho hum," because how many times do we need to see this story retold on a New York stage?

If the musical is the revival of William Finn and James Lapine's Falsettos, getting a run backed by Lincoln Center, the answer is, "One more time."

Lapine returns to helm the production starring Chrisian Borle, Stephanie Block and Andrew Rannells and it really inspires awe when we realize just how far ahead of its time this musical was when it premiered on Broadway in 1992 (it was the combination of  shorter Off-Broadway pieces that appeared in 1981 and 1990). That was a long time ago when it came to things like understanding AIDS or accepting gay couples as part of the family. This was an age when people still were afraid they could catch the disease through casual contact and when men coming out about their sexuality were cut off from contact with families.

This musical, which focuses on Marvin (Borle), who leaves his wife, Trina (Block) and son, Jason (Anthony Rosenthal) for lover Whizzer (Rannells), takes a different tact. Trina and Marvin remain friends and even when Marvin and Whizzer break up, Whizzer remains a part of the family because Jason loves him. Trina's new husband, Mendel (Brandon Uranowitz who excels as the caring husband), who met her when he was serving as Marvin's therapist, often is the one making sure all the chaos works out so that every body is happy in "Falsettoland." 

The family's ties are made even stronger when one of the members succumbs to AIDS -- again, an astounding plot twist for the 1990s. The musical makes an unintended statement about what attitudes should have been back then, in what they seem to be today.

Finn's music ranges from fun to moving (there were a lot of tears shed at the end of act one) and the lyrics are touching:

Whizzer: Lets get on with living while we can 
And not play dumb. Death's gonna come
Trina: I'm on the brink of breaking down.
I'm breaking down.Down. Down.I only want to love a man who can love meOr like meOr help me.
Marvin: Kid, be my son.
What I've done to you is rotten.
Say I was scared.
I kept marching in one place,
Marching in time
To a tune I'd forgotten.
I loved you, I love you.
I meant no disgrace.
This here is love,
When we're talking
Face to face.
The characters are all flawed, but honest. And in the end, love wins. The strong performances are lovingly directed by Lapine (who wrote the book with Finn), though casting Borle (Peter and the Starcatcher, Something Rotten) and Rannells (Book of Mormon) in non-comedic roles is a bit of a stretch for our imagination. (Sorry, their great comedic roles which have helped define their talent on stage kept slipping into my mind and I found myself wanting to laugh at rather sad parts of the show).

Block (in fine voice) excited with her number, "I'm Breaking Down," a frenzied, emotional mirror of a woman struggling to hold on when her world has been turned upside down. Uranowitz offers a comedic, gentle balance. Tracie Thoms and Betsy Wolfe round out the cast as lesbians Dr. Charlotte and Cordelia who extend the family dynamic.

Choreography by Spence Liff augments without taking over the action set on an ingenious minimal set designed by David Rockwell that uses a number of cushioned shapes to create various settings in front of a color-changing New York skyline cut into the backdrop. 

Falsettos runs at the Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 West 48th St., NYC through Jan. 8. Performances are Tuesday at 7 pm; Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $42 to $155: lct.org/shows/falsettos.

Additional credits:
Costumes by Jennifer Caprio, lighting by Jeff Croiter, sound by Dan Moses Schreier; musical direction by Vadim Feichtner, conducting Michael Starobin’s original orchestrations.

-- Homosexuality
-- Homosexual activity
-- God's name taken in vain

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Broadway Review: The Front Page

Nathan Lane and John-Goodman. Photo: Julieta-Cervantes
The Front Page
By Ben Hect and Charles MacArthur
Directed by Jack O’Brien
The Broadhurst Theatre

Waiting for Nathan Lane...
By Lauren Yarger
Twice  Jefferson Mays makes an entrance during Broadway's The Front Page to applause and comments from audience members saying, "That's him!" Eventually, they realize, that's no, even though he kind of looks like a slimmer, bespectacled version of Lane, Mays is someone else and Lane still hasn't made an appearance on stage.

It's a shame the applause isn't genuine, because the talented Mays (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder; I Am My Own Wife), as Bensinger, a germophobe newspaper reporter,  is one of the highlights of this revival of a play where women -- and just about anyone who isn't a white male -- gets called by some derogatory slur. OK, that's how things were in 1928 when the play is set (and it is a wistful pleasure to see the wooden trimmed Criminal Courts Building press room with its old upright typewriters, two-piece standing phones and old wooden desks designed by Douglas W. Schmidt), but unfortunately, male-heavy plays where women don't get big parts are still way too common on Broadway, so forgive me if I balk at seeing pin-up girls on the bathroom door and hearing women spoken of rudely, not to mention a Playbill listing 22 male characters and four females, one of whom is a maid (Patricia Connolly) who doesn't figure in the plot....

A better choice might have been a 2016 staging of His Girl Friday, another stage adaptation by John Guare that combines elements from the film of the same name starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, and this play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (which was made into a film in 1931). Th Guare version casts Herald- Examiner reporter Hildy Johnson (the part played here -- very well -- by John Slattery) as a female and might have been a better vehicle for the talented Sherry Rene Scott, who seems miscast here as Mollie Malloy, a woman who insists the guy Chicago is about to hang for murder is innocent.

All of the reporters are gathered to cover that execution story and Hildy can't resist the printer's ink in his veins to chase the story when the prisoner escapes, even though he has promised to quit his newspaper job to join fiance Peggy Grant (Halley Feiffer) and her mother (Holland Taylor) in New York and a new career as an advertising man. Taylor's talent is horribly underused here, but she manages to get laughs with the few lines she has, including a knowing chuckle from the New York audience when she complains about a $2 taxi fare.

Examiner Managing Editor Walter Burns (Nathan Lane) wants his best reporter on the story and when Hildy stumbles on the escaped prisoner, Earl Wiliams (John Magaro), they try to get the scoop without tipping off Besninger of the Tribune and the other reporters: McCue, City News Bureau (Dylan Baker, who stands out), Murphy, the Journal (Christopher McDonald), Schwartz, the Daily News (a solid David Pittu) Wilson, the American (Joey Slotnick) Endicott, the Post (Lewis J. Stadlen) and Kruger, Journal of Commerce (Clarke Thorell). 

The whole news room seems oblivious to corruption taking place around the case bungled by Sheriff Hartman (John Goodman from TV's "Roseanne") and the Mayor (Dann Florek TV's "Law and Order" franchise), who try to payoff Mr. Pincus (Robert Morse) to keep quiet when he arrives with a stay of execution frm the governor. And no one will listen to cop Woodenshoes Eichhorn (Micah Stock, who is doing some kind of unintelligible German accent which interferes with the timing of comedic lines, but who still managed to please the crowd). 

Slattery ("Mad Men") lights up the stage and is charismatic as the hard-working reporter. Mays is quite funny as the poetry-writing reporter who has a germ fumigator -- and a few other questionable things -- in his desk. When Lane finally does make his appearance, he commands all attention and has the audience laughing at his rude, manipulative character. He makes me laugh every time he is on stage.

The play, with three acts and two intermissions, is just too cumbersome for Jack O'Brien to rein in. Most of the first act could be cut without much effect except to shorten the two-hour-45-minute run time.

The Front Page features costume design by Ann Roth, lighting design by Brian MacDevitt, and sound design by Scott Lehrer. It runs at the Broadhurst Theatre (235 West 44th St., NYC). Performances are Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $67 - $167: thefrontpagebroadway.com; 212-239-6200.


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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.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

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.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


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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