Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year


We are on vacation until Jan. 8. Wishing all of our readers a blessed Christmas, the joys of the holiday season and a very happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Great God Pan

The Great God Pan
By Amy Herzog
Directed by Carolyn Cantor
Playwrights Horizons

What's It About?
The world premiere of the newest play by Amy Herzog (4,000 Miles, Belleville) explores possible sexual abuse of a character when he was a child. Jamie (Jeremy Strong) is leading what he thinks is a happy life with a new job as a writer at a magazine and terrific girlfriend, Paige (Sarah Goldberg) until a reunion with childhood friend, Frank, (Keith Nobbs), that looses his troubles into the world. Frank was the strange kid who always had tried to tag along with him. Jaime doesn't have a lot of memories their childhood together, but he obviously is uncomfortable in the present with Frank, who is tattooed, a homosexual and who has served time in prison. His discomfort goes to a new level when Frank explains that he is bringing charges against his father, a Sunday school teacher, who sexually abused him when he was a boy. The man also has admitted that the abuse might ave included Jaime and Frank wants him to join the lawsuit. Jamie denies that he was one of victims, but counselor Paige's description of symptoms of adults repressing abuse seems to fit him and he starts to wonder.

His mom, Cathy (Becky Ann Baker), seems unsurprised by the revelation that Frank's father may have been a pedophile and also oddly unmoved. Jaime's dad, Doug (Peter Friedman) has a different reaction, however, and tries to help his son. Jamie's old babysitter Polly (Joyce Van Patten), old and suffering from memory loss, doesn't provide too many answers, but the childhood memories Jamie does have, seem to revolve around her "scratchy" couch and trips down to the creek where she would recite the poem The Great God Pan. One trip was traumatic, but he can't remember why.

What are the Highlights:
Tautly directed, Strong gives a gripping performance of a man desperately at odds with himself -- the journalist, trying to remain detached as he collects information, and a man whose emotions have been shattered. At one point, when Paige confronts him about the future of their relationship and his inability to embrace her unexpected pregnancy, one look at Strong tells you every emotion the character is fighting and that he is losing the battle. A brilliant stage moment. The set (Mark Wendland, design) also helps tell the story -- green woods surround the action in multiple dimensions, almost like the deeply buried memory of those woods by the creek.

What are the Lowlights?
Herzog leaves a lot of questions unanswered (the play is brief -- just 85 minutes). There is a subplot involving Paige's counseling sessions with a bulimic teen, Joelle (Erin Wilhelm), that seems undeveloped and unconnected to the rest of the plot except for the fact that she's exhibiting symptoms of deeper hidden issues, too, and Paige seems as unable to help her as she is Jaime.

More information:
The Great God Pan is extended  Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC, through Jan. 13. Tickets: http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/shows/plays/great-god-pan/.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Homosexuality
-- Abortion

Quick Hit Theater Review: Golden Boy

Tony Shalhoub, Seth Numrich, and Danny Burstein. Photo: © Paul Kolnik
Golden Boy
By Clifford Odets
Directed by Bartlett Sher
Lincoln Center Theater's 75th Anniversary Production

What's it About?
A cast of 19 revives Clifford Odets' story about a violinist who gives up a chance at a musical career for fame as a boxer at the Belasco Theatre, where the play premiered in 1937 (and you might also know the 1939 movie starring William Holden and Barbara Stanwyck). Joe Bonaparte (Seth Numerich) is one of New York's most promising violinists -- a great source of pride for his Italian immigrant father (Tony Shaloub, TV's "Monk"), brother, Frank (Lucas Caleb Rooney), sister, Anna (Dagmara Dominczyk) and her husband, Siggie (Michael Aronov), the precursor of a younger "entitled" younger generation, who wants someone to provide him with a cab so he can make a better living and support his wife and raise a family (when he isn't hitting her). Joe has dreams of fame and fortune, however, gets his chance when he takes the place of a boxer in the ring. Tom Moody (Danny Mastrogiorgio) becomes his manager, but he, trainer Tokio (Danny Burstein) and fight promoter Roxy Gottlieb (Ned Eisenberg, who adds some needed comic relief), feel that Joe's potential is hurt by his refusal to injure the hands needed for paying his instrument. Warnings about that are repeated often by his father, who is afraid his son will end up like fighter Pepper White (Brad Fleischer), an obviously brain-injured boxer who's washed up at the age of 29. Joe finally decide to trade strings for rings, rejects his father and allows gangster Eddie Fuseli (Anthony Crivello) to buy a piece of him in the hope that he can provide a path to greater fame and fortune. Joe also gives in to his passion for Tom's mistress, Lorna Moon (Yvonne Strahovski). The two fall in love and Joe begs her to run away with him, despite the fact that Tom divorces his wife so he can marry her.

What are the Highlights?
Strong performances. Director Bartlett Sher ingeniously employs silent vignettes between scene changes that extend the development of characters and set up the plot. Violin music, sporadically played subtly in the background underscores the heartbreaking decisions Joe makes (Peter John Still and Marc Salzberg, sound design). Towering apartment buildings loom over the action which is set up by sparse props (Michael Yeargan, set design) and Catherine Zuber designs beautiful period suits for Lorna to wear. Shaloub is always a treat on stage.

What are the Lowlights?
While the play raises good questions about morals and what's really important in life, it is of its era -- male heavy in cast and content and degrading of its women. Lorna, the one female with any substance, apparently was a prostitute before becoming a mistress, before becoming a two-timer. We're supposed to be moved by the fact that she is reluctant to hurt Tom, but she's just another woman completely deifined by the men around her.

In addition, the other female character, apparently is happy to be in abusive relationship:

"You hit your wife in private, not in public," her father advises Siggy (yet he is squeamish about the hitting that takes place in the ring).

"He can hit me anytime he likes," is her response.

Two references also are made to men having "stables" of women. What is more upsetting than 1937's commonly accepted viewpoint of women having little value is a 2012 audience finding it all funny and laughing heartily.

Another lowlight: smoke from herbal cigarettes is pretty overwhelming on the sinuses. The play is a bit on the long side at about three ours with two intermissions.

More information:
Golden Boy plays at Broadway's beautiful Belasco Theatre, 11 West 44th St., NYC. Tickets: http://www.lct.org/showMain.htm?id=211.

Christians might also like to know:
In addition to situations already described
-- God's name taken in vain

Theater Review: Dead Accounts

Dead Accounts
By Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Jack O'Brien

What's it About?
Katie Holmes and Norbert Leo Butz star in Broadway's latest from Theresa Rebeck (The Seminar, The Understudy and creator of TV's "Smash") in a story about whether you really can go home again. New York banker Jack (Butz) unexpectedly returns to his Cincinnati home, and while sister Lorna (Holmes) is happy to see him, she suspects something's up. Jack just isn't acting right. He's agitated and jumpy and keeps making jokes about having killed his wife, Jenny (Judy Greer), who isn't too popular with the family. Mom Barbara (Jayne Houdyshell), distracted with taking care of Jack's sick dad, barely notices him and old friend, Phil (Josh Hamilton) is blinded by his unspoken love for Katie. When Jenny shows up with news that Jack is a wanted man, questions of ethics and family loyalty come into play.

What are the Highlights?
Butz gives a compelling performance as the deeply conflicted and morally corrupt Jack. Holmes proves she is more than just Hollywood Box Office draw by holding her own as Butz' foil. Rebeck's story is set way outside of the theater world in which she usually writes, so this is a nice change of pace. There's a significant transformation of the set (David Rockwell, scenic design) and some conversation-starting dialogue about religion and morals.

What are the Lowlights?
Some odd freeze-frames in between scenes and annoying glares (David Weiner, lighting design).

More information:
Dead Accounts runs through Feb. 24 at the Music Box Theatre, 239 West 45th St., NYC.Tickets: http://www.deadaccountsonbroadway.com/.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain

What To See and Do This Holiday Season in New York

Rockefeller Center
Top Picks for This Holiday Season
By Lauren Yarger
It's that time of year when so many of you write to ask what you should see when you visit New York City for the holidays. Well, in the city that never sleeps, there are endless choices of things to do and see, but I will list a few TOP PICKS here to help you decide where to spend your entertainment dollar (click on the title to read the full review).

On Broadway:

A Christmas Story the Musical.
If you love the movie about Ralphie and his overwhelming need for a BB gun one Christmas back in 1940, you will love this terrific musical based on the Jean Shepherd classic. The music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are catchy. Dan Lauria stars as Shepherd. At the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 West 46th St. where it runs through Dec. 30. Tickets: 800-745-3000, 877-250-2929; http://achristmasstorythemusical.com/tickets.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Murder most foul -- and most funny takes place with a different ending every performance as determined by audience vote. Chita Rivera is among the suspects in Roundabout Theatre Club's revival of this Tony-Award winning musical by Rupert Holmes with choreography by Warren Carlyle. Extended through March 20 at Studio 54, 254 West 54th St. Tickets: 212-719-1300; www.roundabouttheatre.org.

Nice Work if You Can Get it
Starring Matthew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara with songs by George and Ira Gershwin and a fun book by Joe DiPietro (Memphis). You can't help but smile. At the Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th St. Tickets: 212-239-6200; 800-432-7250.

Peter and the Starcatcher
The prequel to Peter Pan, this imaginative and witty play by Rick Elice is staged with fabulous sets and costumes to take us on a voyage we wish will never end. At the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 West 47th St. Tickets: 800-745-3000.

Once
Last year's winner of the Tony for Best Musical, it's wonderful theater experience based on the movie of the same name. Composing team Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won the Academy Award for the song "Falling Slowly."  Guy meets girl who helps him with his music career in Ireland (the set is designed to feel like a pub). At the Bernard B. Jacobs theatre, 242 West 45th St. Tickets: 212-239-6200 or 800- 432-7250.

War Horse
One of the most gripping, emotional theatrical experiences you can have. Based on the children's book by Michael Morpurgo about a boy and the horse he loves at the time of World War I in England, this Tony Award winning production features artistry by the Handspring Puppet Company that will have you convinced there are real horses grazing and galloping on stage. Gallop over to the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center , 150 West 65th St, where it runs through Jan. 6.


Off Broadway

Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang at Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre is one of the best things I have seen in a long time. Funny, funny funny. It's a a light-hearted tribute to Chekhov starring David Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen and Sigourney Weaver as siblings. Through Jan. 13 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse, 150 West 65th St. http://lct.org.

Tribes extended through Jan. 20 at the Barrow Street Theatre. Strong performances in a story about a deaf man and his relationships with his hearing family and a woman who introduces him to the world of sign language. While the play is very good, I could recommend it solely because it is directed by David Cromer. If you are in the city and something he has directed is playing, go see it. At the Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow St., off 7th Avenue South in the Village. http://tribestheplay.com/

Water By The Spoonful last year's surprise Pulitzer prize winner by Quiara Alegría Hudes is now in previews at Second Stage for a run Jan. 8-27. I was one of the lucky one who got to see it in Connecticut where it had its world premiere at Hartford Stage (the review link is for that production). I won't see it at Second Stage (they don't invite Drama Desk critics to review), but the play is good enough that I feel confident recommending it. Second Stage Theatre is at 305 West 43rd St. http://www.2st.com/.

The Great God Pan The world premiere of Amy Herzog's play about the unleashing of unpleasant childhood memories. Jeremy Strong's compelling portrayal is reason enough to see this show, but I can recommend just about everything at Playwrights, my favorite Off-Broadway theater. Any time you are in the city, check out what is on their stage. Best value for your buck and ask them about their babysitting service. Extended through Jan. 13 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St. http://www.playwrightshorizons.org.


For the Kids:
OK, I realize that most of the selections above are probably not exciting (or appropriate)entertainment for kids -- they are just the TOP PICKS in my opinion.  Here are links to reviews for some shows your kids, depending on their ages,  might want to see. As always, Reflections in the Light  is the only place you can find a review with information about language and content from a Christian perspective (added at the end).
Annie
Bring it On
Elf (this review is from the previous incarnation on Broadway)
Newsies
Rock of Ages
Spider-man Turn Off the Dark
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (at Madison Square Garden) and Wicked -- these  opened on Broadway before we started reviewing. If you want information, send an email to masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Other stuff to do:
There are the obvious tourist attractions like Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall with the Rockettes kicking up their popular Christmas Spectacular, the Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park, the World Trade Center site, etc. Here are two unique offerings that will help you understand the city and entertain you at the same time:

Margaret Copeland and Kevin James Doyle. Photo Courtesy of Jim Randolph.

How to Be a A New Yorker
This dinner theater presentation features comedians Margaret Copeland and Kevin James Doyle, both also certified tour guides, in their lively and tongue-in-cheek look at how tourists can learn to be real New Yorkers.

Directed by Robert Ross Parker, Copeland and Doyle guide us through the history of New York in three parts, surrounded by skits involving video (set and projection design by Nick Francone), quick character and costume changes (Janel Clingenpeel, costume design) games like "Is it Safe?" and audience participation -- all in just about an hour. A buffet lunch or dinner of salad, pasta and chicken cacciatore is provided starting about half an hour before show time.

The presentation, downstairs at Sophia's, 221 West 46th St. is so popular, that it has been extended through March 30. Performances are Thursday and Friday evenings at 7:30 with matinees Saturday at 2 pm. Matinee tickets are $45 (which includes lunch) and evening performances are $55 (including dinner), and are available by calling 212-352-3101 or through www.How2BaNewYorker.com.

Christtins might also like to know:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain

The Ride -- an electronically interactive tour of New York City on motor coaches has announced holiday schedules and pricing.

The Ride, on five motor coaches, has played months of sold-out, multi-million-dollar, state-of-the-art tours of the Midtown Area and more than 70,000 customers have enjoyed the 4.2-mile journey that has been termed “a Passport to New York City.”
 
The buses are specifically designed theatrical vehicles; the tallest allowed by federal law, fitted with stadium-style seating that orients the 49 participants sideways looking through the massive windows that deliver New York as the most successful Broadway show on earth.

The coaches are equipped with surround sound, 3,000 LED lights and 40 video screens. They are, in essence, rolling state-of-the-art theatres. External speakers and lighting allow riders and on-board performers to interact with street performers as well as anyone else they pass on the street.

I took a friend, in New York for the first time, on one of the tours. We laughed a lot as we cruised around Times Square seeing attractions like Carnegie Hall, Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building. Two tour guides bantered back and forth and gave points to participants for their city knowledge while giving odd bits of information about the sights and interacting with "New Yorkers" along the route. There was a guy already staking out his position in Times Square for New Years, a break-dancing package delivery guy,  singing commuters and an actress lost on her way to an audition (the performers, surprisingly, are very talented.)

While I wouldn't recommend this bus ride for someone looking for a serious, informational tour of the city, it is a lot of fun for groups of friends or families in between shows or shopping and provides a unique vantage point of the city (and a place to sit for about an hour and 15 minutes). Special holiday versions of The Ride also are available through Dec. 30.

Tickets are $50 -$74 and are available by calling 866-299-9682 or at the Box Office located at Madame Tussauds (immediately to your left in the lobby), 234 West 42nd Street in Times Square. Groups: 212-244-2551 (x155). Buses leave from the corner of West 42nd Street and 8th Avenue (or somewhere fairly close to that). Seating is not assigned.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dance Ministry Brings Nativity Story to Manhattan

Nativity: Birth of a King features music, dance and spectacle will bring themessage of Christmas to the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College at the northern tip of  Broadway.

Meditating profoundly on the birth of Christ, the joyous drama moves audiences with an original portrayal of the central event of Christian history. Produced by New Rochelle-based Dance Ministry Institute (DMI) and featuring original choreography by DMI founding director Robert Evans, Nativity pays tribute to the miracle of the incarnation, the universal power of faith and the explosive talent of an inspired local dance ministry.
Since 2001 the primary mission of DMI has been to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and assist in reclaiming the arts back to the Kingdom of God,” Evans. said “Bringing our Christmas show to the heart of the Theater District is a blessing and the culmination of a dream.”
 
Evans’s choreographic works have ministered to people throughout the U.S. and the Caribbean over the last two decades, including the Bahamas Faith Ministries (Nassau, Bahamas); Christian Cultural Center (Brooklyn, New York); World Changers Church International (College Park, GA); and The Potter’s House (Dallas, Texas). A native of St. Louis, his dance ministry roots began with the Harlem Tabernacle Dance Ministry (Harlem, NY) where he served as the assistant director from 1991-2001.
 
Information: Lynch Theater at John Jay College, 524 West 59th St. (between 10th and 11th avenues), NYC. Performances will be held on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 4 and 8 pm and Sunday, Dec. 16 at 4 pm. Tickets for this limited engagement start at $40 and can be purchased online at www.thedmiexperience.com.

Backstage Cabaret Benefits Artists Striving to End Poverty

ASTEP/Artists Striving to End Poverty has gathered a group of acclaimed and award-winning New York theatre stars for Backstage for Christmas: A Holiday Cabaret, an intimate benefit concert to be presented in a unique backstage Broadway space 8:30 pm Monday, Dec. 17. 

The up-close cabaret — featuring Tituss Burgess (Jersey Boys, The Little Mermaid, Guys and Dolls), Jonathan Groff ("Glee," Spring Awakening), Derek Klena (Carrie, Dogfight, "American Idol" Hollywood Week Finalist), Lindsay Mendez (Godspell, Everyday Rapture, Grease), Julia Murney (Wicked, The Wild Party), Ali Stroker ("Glee Project") and more — will take guests to a private performance space within Broadway's Foxwoods Theatre.

Backstage for Christmas: A Holiday Cabaret is produced and music-directed by Drama Desk Award-winning orchestrator Mary-Mitchell Campbell, who is also the Founder and Executive Director of ASTEP. Appearing with pianist Campbell will be Damien Bassman (drums/percussion).

Backstage for Christmas: A Holiday Cabaret will take place through the Stage Door entrance of Broadway's Foxwoods Theatre at 214 West 43rd St. (between 7th and 8th avenues). Access to the show will provide a unique behind-the-scenes experience of a major Broadway theatre.

The new 2012 concert builds on the foundation of the popular ASTEP New York City Christmas benefit concerts created by Lynne Shankel and preserved on CD. This year, there's a different set of songs and celebrations — plus a few hits from the New York City Christmas album, which will be available for purchase at the event.

General admission is $75. For a $100 ticket, you'll also get a free copy of the New York City Christmas album.

All proceeds from tickets to the show and album sales go to supporting ASTEP's mission to connect performing and visual artists with underserved youth in the US and around the world to awaken their imaginations, foster critical thinking, and help them break the cycle of poverty.

Space is extremely limited. Tickets available by purchase online through Eventbrite at aholidaycabaret.eventbrite.com. Artist lineup is subject to change. For more information: davinia@asteponline.orgasteponline.org.

Tourists Buy Bulk of Broadway Tickets

The Broadway League’s 15th annual demographics report for 2011-2012 shows that tourists account for more than 63 percent of all Broadway ticket sales.

The analysis is based on extensive survey data gleaned from audience questionnaires distributed throughout the 2011-2012 Broadway season in New York City. It includes highlights on the demographics of the audience and their ticket purchasing habits. The report is part of an ongoing series that profiles Broadway theatergoers each season.

Of note, the newest study reveals that tourists accounted for 63.4 percent of all Broadway tickets, up from 61.7 percent% in the 2010-2011 season. Overall, international tourists accounted for 18.4 percent of all admissions to Broadway shows in New York City.

“This was our strongest 52-week season in history in terms of attendance and grosses with over 12.3 million admissions,”commented Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The Broadway League.“We are pleased to see growth in international market, as New York City continues to show strong tourism numbers. As well, the 2011 – 2012 season saw an increase in the diversity of our audience. Word of mouth continues to be the greatest influence for show selection, with a notable uptick in the power of social networking posts.”

The report also shows that the use of the Internet for the purchase of tickets has increased from 44 to 47 percent. Online purchase continues to be the most popular method of ticket buying.

Reflecting a trend of the past few decades, 67 percent of the audiences were female.
Playgoers also tended to be more frequent theatregoers than musical attendees. The typical playgoer saw six shows in the past year, compared with four for the musical attendee. Those who saw 15 or more shows comprised 5 percent of the audience, but represented 29 percent% of all admissions (3.6 million admissions).

The Demographics of the Broadway Audienceis published annually by The Broadway League, the clearinghouse for information on the business, demographics and economic impact of Broadway theatre throughout North America. The League compiles various statistics and publishes extensive reports on a number of topics. Printed versions of the reports are available for purchase online at http://www.broadwayleague.com/orderform.php.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Theater Review: Glengarry Glen Ross and The Anarchist

A Tale of Two Mamets:
Are the Shows Getting Panned Because He's Now a Conservative?
By Lauren Yarger
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. On a little Manhattan street (West 45th, to be exact) playwright David Mamet has two shows running simultaneously on Broadway: Glengarry Glen Ross, which won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1984, and The Anarchist, a brand new work.

It would seem the best of times -- a playwright's dream come true. Glengarry, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, stars film and stage powerhouse Al Pacino as the desperate real estate agent Shelly "The Machine" Levene and features Bobby Cannavale (The Motherf**ker With the Hat) and Richard Schiff ("The West Wing") among his cut-throat co-workers, all under the direction of the capable Daniel Sullivan. A couple of doors down at the Golden Theatre, Tony winner Patti LuPone (Evita, Gypsy) goes head to head with film legend Debra Winger ("An Officer and a Gentleman," "Terms of Endearment") in a story about a leftist radical who wants to be paroled from prison.

But just days after opening, it was the worst of times. Producers for The Anarchist announced that the play, which pretty much was panned across the board by critics, will close on Dec. 16 after just 17 performances. Glengarry, which opened Sunday after a delay attributed to more rehearsal time needed following interruptions by Hurricane Sandy, isn't racking up many raves either, with most critics recording less-than-enthusiastic to negative reviews yesterday. So what happened? How could the  toast of Broadway, the King of the "F-Bomb," suddenly fall out of favor? Cursing on stage, putting down women and having ping-pong banter was supposed to be so cool....

Before seeing Glengarry and The Anarchist, last week, I wondered how they would fare, because they are the first stagings of Mamet's works on Broadway since he announced his political "conversion" from being a "brain-dead Liberal" (his words, not mine) to a Conservative. Let me tell you -- this is the world in which I work and I know what I am talking about -- it was more than just a change in thought. It probably was professional suicide.

The New York theater community -- like much of the city -- is pretty much politically Liberal in its makeup. Those who aren't keep it to themselves, because most of the people making decisions about which shows get produced, who will direct them, who will act in them and most of the critics writing about them are Liberals and anyone professing opposition to their political agenda probably won't get work -- or a good review.

This is the community which won't eat at Chick Fil-A or support the Salvation Army because somewhere in the hierarchy of those organizations, there is some sort of opposition to same-sex marriage. The theater community in general, also held what I would define as a witch hunt in 2008 when Scott Eckern, artistic director of California Musical Theatre, made a personal financial contribution to support Proposition 8, which for that state, defined marriage as between a man and woman only. Eckern, a Mormon, whose church backed the state constitutional amendment, used his own money and in no way acted on behalf of the theater when making a $1,000 contribution, but the theater community threatened to boycott the place any way and he later resigned. So being a Conservative, a Republican or being religious -- especially Christian -- for the most part, isn't considered an asset on your resume here. (You can get away with being "spiritual," as long as you don't take the bible too seriously or with being a "Christian" as long as your faith doesn't differ from the world's view on things.)

Philosophies can be tolerated (I actually have found my NY theater community friends very accepting of my faith) as long as you don't get too vocal about them, become an activist or try to push them on others. Mamet, however, crossed the line, stirring controversy with his opinions in that other Liberal entertainment capital where he works -- Hollywood -- as well (he wrote the screenplays  for "The Verdict," "The Untouchables" and "Wag the Dog.")

He confessed his switch to Conservative politics and thinking (first in an op-ed piece to the Village Voice and then in a book expanding on his thoughts.) When he took a suicidal leap off a professional cliff and endorsed Republican Mitt Romney in November's presidential race, I could have told you that these two shows opening post election in New York probably wouldn't get good reviews. It seemed a given that many critics for publications that serve as cheerleaders for Liberal politics while trying their best to stir up hatred for Conservatives and their causes, would find some reason to pan Glengarry, despite the fact that the play received the Olivier Award for its premiere in London and garnered four Tony nominations for the Broadway production, including Best Play. The Broadway revival in 2005 won both the Tony and Drama Desk awards.

Now all of a sudden, we're supposed to believe it's no good? That's what a bunch of my colleagues said yesterday. They have a variety of reasons for why this production falls short. Some criticisms are justified, but after so many "journalists" have thrown away any pretense of objectivity by publicly voicing support for Liberals and their agenda while denouncing Conservatives and theirs, we have to wonder whether all of them can review without bias a production written by a guy who has joined political ranks with the much hated Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh (boycotted for comments "war on women" comments, which if they had appeared in a Mamet play a couple of decades ago, probably would have been reported as "sharp dialogue" by the same people outraged here...) It's something to think about.

Meanwhile, in The Anarchist, Lupone's character, Cathy, claims to have found Christ (Mamet really has gone off the deep end, I thought). Before I attended, I was sure this also might have a lot to do with the negative buzz I was hearing about the show. Christian themes don't fare all that well on Broadway: Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semper McPhersonLeap of Faith, Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell all have been handed their walking papers in short order these past two seasons, while religion-bashing shows like Book of Mormon and Grace live on.

Now, despite the truth of what I have just said about the climate in the New York theater community, let me tell you something else that's honest (because politically correct never influences opinion here at Reflections in the Light): While many of the performances in Glengarry and The Anarchist are strong, both of these plays deserve bad reviews, regardless of political influences that might be at play (and so did Scandalous, Leap of Faith and Godspell, though I enjoyed Superstar.)
Al Pacino. Photo: Scott Landis
Glengarry never has been a favorite and awarding it the Pulitzer really mystified me. It's an interesting study of greed, corruption, ethics and what people might be tempted to do when they are desperate, to be sure, but a lot of sentence fragments hurled at lightning speed by "F" word rocket launchers does not a great literary work make, in my opinion. It probably never deserved the accolades it received, truth be told, but the ever-evolving  "politically correct" isn't always concerned with truth as much as what is considered cool by the current culture.

Director Sullivan does slow the pace significantly this time around, so the ricochet beat of the dialogue is lost. It gives us a chance to hear the defeat and lack of hope in much of the dialogue, which unfortunately, reminds us of the current economy, even worst than the recession that plagued the nation's markets when the play first debuted in 1984. Without the edge of that razor-sharp back-and-forth, however, the one-hour-and-45-minute run time feels long, despite some really top-notch performances.

Pacino surprises us with an ability to play less-than-head-of-the-Mafia or some other powerful character for which he is known. He successfuly channels a yellow-bellied salesman who has lost his edge, who is past his prime and who stages a break-in at the office to steal some sales leads in a desperate attempt to rescue his soon-to-be-over career. I couldn't help but think that Mamet had written a role long ago that now must resonate more personally as the future of his own career comes into question.

Cannavale also shines as Ricky Roma (the role Pacino played in the movie version of Glengarry). He is the current golden boy leading the salesmen in competition for commissions and prizes like Cadillacs awarded when they sell property in the Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms developments. (And yes, they're all men. Earlier in his career, Mamet only referred to women negatively, or had a single woman character to serve mostly as a bouncing board for the more developed, more interesting male characters in his plays.) Rounding out the fine cast are David Harbour, John C. McGinley, Jeremy Shamos and Murphy Guyer.

Meanwhile, proving that a leopard can change his spots -- even if it makes him unpopular -- The Anarchist offers two women -- and only women characters -- who never utter the F word.

Lupone plays a convicted member of a radical Left organization like the Weather Underground organization of the late 1960s and early '70s. After 35 years in prison, She seeks her release so she can visit her dying father and ask for his forgiveness. Standing in her way is an official, Ann (Winger), whose last duty before leaving her job at the prison, will be to decide whether Cathy has been rehabilitated. The prisoner has detailed her conversion to Christianity in a book and offers it as proof that she has changed (like Mamet?). She hopes to be cloistered with nuns after her release.

Ann puts Cathy to the test (in too-timid a manner by Winger). If Cathy truly has repented, Ann feels she would give up the location of the one member of the radical group who escaped imprisonment or death: Althea, Cathy's lover who still is in hiding. A game of cat and mouse ensues, during which Ann's sexuality and motives as well as the validity of Cathy's faith come into question.

But the real reason this play hasn't fared well with the critics isn't because of the religious theme. It's because it is not a good play. Critics may not like the Christian theme running through it, but their pans aren't because of it. The play is incredibly boring, even at just over an hour in length. The dialogue sounds like excerpts from legal briefs forced into the women's mouths to try to show two sides of an argument.

Real women don't speak like this (and we aren't all lesbians), but actually putting two women in a play without requiring them to be defined by men is a step in the right direction for Mr. Mamet. Next time, I suggest he takes this even further -- much in the spirit of Ann's requiring proof of change -- and use his skill to create some realistic female characters. We need more of them on stage. Most of us women don't join radical leftist groups -- not even the Liberals in New York who are upset with the playwright right now. Real women juggle work and family, work for equal rights  -- and even sell real estate in developments like Glengarry Highlands.

The real drama here is that even if he writes a terrific play with compelling characters, will David Mamet ever be allowed to succeed on the Great White Liberal Way again? Only time and the current political climate will tell.

Show information:

Glengarry Glen Ross runs through Jan. 20 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45th St., NYC. Tickets: 212-239-6200, 800-432-7250; http://www.glengarrybroadway.com/.
Christians might also like to know:
-- Language (lots)
-- God's name taken in vain

The Anarchist runs at the John Golden Theatre, 252 West 45th St., NYC through Dec. 16. Tickets: 212-239-6200, 800-432-7250; http://theanarchistbroadway.com/.
Christians might also like to know:
--Homosexuality

Theater Review: The Mystery of Edwin Drood


Who Dunit? Roundabout Does by Staging a Drop-Dead Fun Night at the Theater
By Lauren Yarger
Who dunit? No one knows, since Charles Dickens died before finishing his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, so each night, the audience at Roundabout Theatre Company's Broadway musical adaptation gets to decide.

Cast members, who already have been cavorting with audience members during the tongue-in-cheek, almost vaudevillian performance, come into the house with signs numbered to correspond with suspects vying for votes up on stage. The tallies are taken and the second act continues on with an ending geared toward fingering the murderer as selected by the audience.

It's all a lot of fun, much like this silly play within a play set in London's Music Hall Royale in 1895 and directed by Scott Ellis. Beautiful sets, accented with Victorian detail (Anna Louizos, set design -- love that train tunnel!) provide the backdrop for the zany characters dressed in period garb (William Ivey Long, who nicely balances color in his design) singing music and lyrics by Rupert Holmes (who also pens the book). Choreography is by Warren Carlyle.

Music Hall actors play characters in the tale with the help of the theater Chairman (Jim Norton), a sort of narrator, to keep everything straight with actors playing characters playing multiples characters.... It's not as complicated as it might sound, though.

The gist is that Edwin Drood (Stephanie J. Block, playing a woman playing Drood....) has mysteriously disappeared and is presumed dead. Many had opportunity and motive. Was it John Jasper (Will Chase) who is in love with his voice student, Rosa Bud (Betsy Wolfe) whose father arranged her engagement to Drood, who also is Jasper's nephew? Jasper, after all, was the last person to see Drood alive. Or perhaps it was mysterious Neville Landless (Andy Karl) arrived from Ceylon, who also is interested in Rosa, or could it be his equally mysterious twin sister, Helena (Jessie Meueller), who despised Drood?

Also suspect are the Landless's mentor, the Rev. Mr. Crisparkle (Gregg Edelman, who is an absolute hoot), Durdles (Robert Creighton), a stone carver and cemetery caretaker who has a drinking problem, Princess Puffer (Chita Rivera), who runs an opium den frequented by Jasper, clerk Bazzard (Peter Benson), who is starved for attention, or the stranger Dick Datchery who suddenly starts asking questions about what happened to Drood.

The audience gets to decide the muderer's identity as well as a happy ending (Rupert wrote songs for each and every possibility, giving the show hundreds of possible concuding combinations.)
The night I attended, it was determined that The Rev. Crisparkle and Princess Puffer would end up together and Edelman, who seemed genuinely surprised, and Rivera seemed to have as much fun playing that out as we had watching.

There probably are a couple of the some 18 music numbers that could be eliminated to trim the two-hour-and-40-minute run time, but it is an enjoyable night at the intimate Studio 54, which seems a perfect fit for the revival of this romp, which won a bunch of Tonys in 1986, including Best Musical.

Drood has been extended through March 20 at Studio 54, 254 West 54th St., NYC. Tickets: 212-719-1300; www.roundabouttheatre.org.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- Sexual situations

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Theater Review: Giant

Brian d'Arcy James, John Dossett, and Kate Baldwin. Photo: Joan Marcus.
A Sweeping Tale with Music as Big as the Heart of Texas
By Lauren Yarger
A tip of the Stetson is due to the Public Theater and the new Michael John LaChiusa musical starring Brian D'Arcy James and Kate Baldwin. It has been a while since we have enjoyed such a sweeping tale so neatly executed. It brings to mind the fabulous Orphan's Home Cycle by Horton Foote and War Horse up at Lincoln Center.

The staging, directed by Michael Grief, doesn't shy away from the fact that the epic 1956 film of cattle and oil in Texas (with Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean to boot) is looming. Instead, the production team embraces it and gives an almost big-screen look to the set and lighting (Allen Moyer and Kenneth Posner, designers). The result is to create a larger-than-life feel to the production that doesn't compete with memory of the movie. It also effectively brings the vast landscape of Texas and the span of decades onto the small stage at Off-Broadway's Public Theater. Well done!

LaChiusa's score also is epic, echoing in the memory days after it is heard. The composer does an amazing job of capturing character and emotion with each tune playing an equal part in conveying Edna Ferber's sweeping tale of life in Southwestern Texas between 1925 and 1952 (Costume designer Jeff Mahshie helps take us on the journey with everything from cowhand garb to beautiful dresses worn by the women trying to find high couture in a dusty land). Choreography is by Alex Sanchez.

Some of Broadway's best are singing that score, too (Chris Fenwick is Music Director). The beautifully voiced Kate Baldwin is Leslie Lynnton Benedict, who gives up a life in high society to marry rough cow rancher Jordan "Bick" Benedict (Brian d'Arcy James in one of his best roles yet) when he goes east to buy a horse from her family's upscale Virginia farm. Besides a sexual attraction (which actually is lukewarm between these performers), the two have little in common and find sudden marriage a bit of a struggle. First Leslie has to adapt to a different way of life on Reata Ranch. She is appalled at the prejudice against Mexicans and at the conditions in which ranch workers live. She also has to stand up to Bick's formidable sister, Luz (Michele Pawk), who runs things at the ranch with an iron hand and believes she knows what is best for the man she has raised from the time he was a small child.

She finds allies in other wives and surprisingly in Luz's original choice for Bick, Vashti Hake Snythe (Katie Thompson). A song later, where the women reflect on their lives and marriages is truly one of the most moving numbers ever to grace a stage,

Incapability between Bick and Leslie continues through the years, especially when it comes to their children,  Jordy Jr (Bobby Steggert) and Little Luz (Mackenzie Mauzy). The meek and stuttering Jordy is a disappointment to his father. Like his mother, he loves reading books. He has no desire to take over the ranch and wants, instead, to be a doctor. He commits the unforgivable  crime when he falls in love with Mexican Juana Guerra (Natalie Cortez). Tomboy Little Luz, on the other hand, loves the ranch, but doesn't have much chance of ever taking the reins because she is a girl.

When Bick looks at the horizon, he sees "genuine freedom." When Leslie looks, she sees emptiness. Their determination to hold things together despite the odds fuels the story (with a really good book here by Sybille Pearson).

Also turning in memorable  performances are John Dossett as Bick's Uncle Bawley, PJ Griffith as the family's nemesis, Jett Rink, and Raua Aranas as the guitar-playing cowhand Polo Guerra, who taught all the boys how to rope and is like a member of the family (at least as far as racial bias will allow).

Giant has been extended through Dec. 16 at the Public Theater, 225 Lafayette St., NYC. The show runs three hours, with evening performances Tuesday through Sunday at 7. Matinees are Sunday at 1 pm. Tickets: http://www.publictheater.org/.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language

Friday, December 7, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Vania and Sonia and Masha and Spike
By Christopher Durang
Directed by Nicholas Martin
Lincoln Center

What's it about?
Three siblings named after Chekhov characters whose lives -- and conversations -- have traces of The Seagull, Three Sisters, Uncle Vanya and Chekhov themes in their lives but these folks are way funnier. Vanya (the always excellent David Hyde Pierce) and sister, Sonia (a marvelous Kristine Nielsen) live uneventful lives in their Bucks County, PA farmhouse. They gaze out at the cherry orchard and at the lake where a heron lands every day and wonder what their lives might have been like if they hadn't missed out by having to care for their elderly parents until their death.Vivacious sister, Masha (Sigourney Weaver at her comic best), paid the bills, but escaped to a more glamorous life as a successful Hollywood actress.

To Vanya and Sonia's horror, Masha considers selling the expensive home (a combination of interior and exterior of f the house -- is there some Chekhov here? -- by designer David Korins). She arrives for a visit with much younger, dimwitted actor boyfriend, Spike (Billy Magnussen) in tow. The two share a sexual attraction, but the perfectly coiffed and attired Masha (Emily Rebholz, costume design) worries about the age difference, especially when Spike takes an interest in Nina (Genevieve Angeson), a nymph-like, beautiful and young wanna-be actress he meets on the beach next door.

Adding more humor to the mix is Cassandra (Shalita Grant), the family's housekeeper who is gripped with strong clairvoyant visions, not unlike her Greek goddess namesake.

What are the highlights?
Solid performances across the board and taught direction. Kudos to Durang for a sharp, humor-filled script that has depth with regards to the Chekhov themes layered in there. Everything is really, really funny. In fact, the last time I remember an audience laughing throughout a show like this was at God of Carnage. Both Nielsen, who delivers a wide spectrum of emotions, and Pierce have soliloquies that are tours de force and Weaver is enchanting with amazing body language to tell Masha's self-absorbed, insecure story. Her turn as Masha talking like Snow White on her way to a costume party is a hoot.

What are the lowlights?
None. A lot of good theater.

More information:
The play was commissioned by and is presented in association with the McCarter Theater Center at Princeton. It runs Off-Broadway at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, 150 West 65th St., NYC through Jan. 13. Tickets: 212-239-6200; http://lct.org/showMain.htm?id=212.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Homosexuality
-- Sexual actions
-- Voodoo

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: Scandalous

Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson
Book and Lyrics and additional music by Kathie Lee Gifford
Music by David Pomeranz and David Friedman
Choreographed by Lorin Latarro
Directed by David Armstrong

What's it about?
Well, it's like the title says: the life and trials of Aimee Semple McPherson (Carolee Carmello), the first real superstar evangelist (this is 1927) and founder of the Foursquare Church (the Foursquare Foundation is a producer of this show). McPherson leaves her stern, religious parents, Minnie and James Kennedy, (Candy Buckley and George Hearn) to marry first husband, Robert Semple (Edward Watts), an Irish missionary. He dies, shortly after their marriage, while on a mission in China, leaving Aimee pregnant. She and her infant daughter return home. When she almost dies giving birth to a son with second husband, Harold McPherson (Andrew Samonsky), Aimee has an epiphany of sorts, and decides to preach the gospel. She leaves Harold and the kids behind to start a ministry managed by her mother in Hollywood, where sermons are preached in a large, hokey, theatrical manner (the grand sets are by Walt Spangler) and where Aimee is suddenly the belle of the press corps. The "scandalous" part really comes in when Aimee suddenly turns up missing, then claims to have been kidnapped, but possibly was off cheating on much younger third husband, David Hutton (also Watts)  with married church employee Kenneth Ormiston (also Samonsky).

What are the highlights?
Carolee Carmello belts her heart out and manages to gives Aimee some depth of character with spirit and enthusiasm. She might earn award nominations. Hearn adds some gentle touches as Aimee's father. Roz Ryan's performance as a converted brothel madame brings some comic relief and another terrific singing voice to the mix.

What are the Lowlights?
Too many to waste time discussing here, given that almost universal pans by the critics have resulted in the show's announcing an early closing date of this Sunday. "w'ere out of time; we need a miracle" goes some of the dialogue. Turns out to be prophetic.

More information:
If you do want to catch one of the remaining shows at the Neil Simon Theatre, 250 West 52nd St., NYC:
Tickets 800-745-3000, 877-250-2929; www.ticketmaster.com. More info: http://www.scandalousonbroadway.com/.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Scantily clad actors
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexually suggestive moves

Friday, November 30, 2012

Theater Review: A Christmas Story, the Musical

ERIN DILLY, ZAC BALLARD, JOHN BOLTON and JOHNNY RABE
in A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL. photo credit: (c) 2012 Carol Rosegg
What a Gift! A Holiday Musical That Works
By Lauren Yarger
Every Christmas Broadway tries its best to find a show that will attract the millions of people visiting New York for the holiday. With the exception of the perennial A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden (no longer running) nicely staged Off-Broadway at Madison Square Garden, if flawed in its adaptation some years back, there hasn't been one that really grabbed me beyond being a tolerably nice show to bring the kids to enjoy.

This year we have a return of Elf and Annie just in time for the season, but we also have a unique offering: a musical that warms the heart, offers a wholesome Christmas story and makes us wish it could play all year long instead of just around the holidays. It's  A Christmas Story, the Musical, a lavishly decorated and choreographed send-up of Jean Shepherd's popular film in which 9-year-old Ralphie dreams of getting a BB gun for Christmas.

Dan Lauria. Photo: 2012 Carol Rosegg
It has all of the parts we love from the movie: the leg lamp, the tongue sticking to the flag pole, the little brother swimming in too much snowsuit and the dog eating the turkey. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you don't need to. The musical, with book by Joseph Robinette and music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, stands on its own. Colossal, ever-changing sets by Walt Spangler, spot-on choreography by Warren Carlyle and expert direction by John Rando create a delightful, heart-warming world. Dan Lauria (the dad from TV's "The Wonder Years") guides us through his memories of one particular Christmas in 1940, when what he wanted, more than anything else in the world was a a Red Ryder carbine action BB gun.

Ralphie (Johnny Rabe or Joe West at certain performances) tries to drop hints so that his mother (a beautifully voiced Erin Dilly) or his "Old Man" (John Bolton) might stop in the midst of worrying about the broken furnace or trying to get his little brother Randy (Zac Ballard) to eat to notice what Ralphie hopes to find under the tree on Christmas morning. He writes an essay about it hoping his teacher, Miss Shields (Caroline O'Connor) will be so struck by the brilliance of his argument for needing a BB gun, that she will help him overcome what seems to be everyone's objection: "You'll shoot your eye out."

Ralphie's hopes are dashed, however, when everyone's attention shifts to the hideous leg lamp his father wins in a crossword-puzzle-solving contest. Bolton is a hoot as the leg-lamp worshipping man and Carlyle comes up with a Busby Berkeley-inspired kick line number to send it over the top. The balance is just right between extremes like silly elves with a less-than-jolly department store Santa and a heartfelt, loving apology between Ralphie's parents following an argument.

The catchy and memorable songs -- 16 in all -- also strike the proper balance between making us laugh and moving us to tears. Different styles link familiar themes and we never feel as though someone has crammed a score down the throat of someone telling a favorite Christmas story (like the awfully staged musical version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, for example). This musical is an entity of its own while incorporating all we love about the movie. It's a holiday event of its own which deserves perennial holiday production until we have seen it as many times as the movie, which usually runs in a 24-hour marathon on TBS beginning Christmas eve (though listings for this year could not be verified).

Adding to the atmosphere are Elizabeth Hope Clancy's wide-ranging costumes (there's a fantasy number "Ralphie to the Rescue," for example, where Ralphie imagines himself a hero in the Old West where his BB gun keeps bandits at bay.) Turning in some standout performances in the large ensemble are John Babbo as the waiter at a Chinese restaurant, Jeremy Schinder and J.D. Rodriguez as bullies Flick and Schwartz, Pete and Lily (two pooches who play the neighbor's dogs trained by William Berloni, who has another client starring over at Annie....) and tap dance sensation Luke Spring who brought down the house.

Lots of fun, wholesome (the bad language even is masked or funny) and a nice trip down memory lane. I double-dog dare you to see it at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 West 46th St., NYC where it runs through Dec. 30. Tickets: 800-745-3000, 877-250-2929; http://achristmasstorythemusical.com/tickets.

More interesting information:
Full disclosure -- one of the producers of A Christmas Story is Pat Addiss, who is a personal friend. She knows I won't change my review in any way just because I like her -- there are a couple of less-than-enthusiastic writeups I have done for other shows she has produced to prove it -- but you should know that you'll always get the truth here, dear readers. Another producer on the show is Peter Billingsley, who plays Ralphie in the movie.

Performance times vary week to week.
November 26 – December 2: Mon.11/26 – DARK; Tues. 11/27 – 7PM; Wed. 11/28 – 7PM; Thurs. 11/29 – 7PM; Fri. 11/30 – 8PM; Sat. 12/1– 2PM & 8PM; Sun. 12/2 – 2PM & 7:30PM

December 3 – 9: Mon. 12/3 – DARK; Tues. 12/4- 7PM; Wed. 12/5 – 2PM & 8PM; Thurs. 12/6 – 7PM; Fri. 12/7 – 8PM; Sat. 12/8 – 2PM & 8PM; Sun. 12/9 – 2PM

December 10 – 16: Mon. 12/10 – DARK; Tues. 12/11- 7PM; Wed. 12/12 – 2PM & 8PM; Thurs. 12/13 – 7PM; Fri. 12/14 – 8PM; Sat. 12/15 – 2PM & 8PM; Sun. 12/16– 2PM & 7:30PM

December 17 – 23: Mon. 12/17 – DARK; Tues. 12/18- 7PM; Wed. 12/19 – 2PM & 8PM; Thurs. 12/20 – 7PM; Fri. 12/21 – 8PM; Sat. 12/22 – 2PM & 8PM; Sun. 12/23– 2PM & 7:30PM

December 24 – 30: Mon. 12/24 – 3PM (Christmas Eve); Tues. 12/25- DARK (Christmas); Wed. 12/26 – 2PM & 8PM; Thurs. 12/27 – 7PM; Fri. 12/28 – 8PM; Sat. 12/29 – 2PM & 8PM; Sun. 12/30– 2PM

Young Writer's Contest: I, now on Broadway this holiday season, has partnered with STOMP Out Bullying to launch an Anti-Bullying Story Competition. Young writers in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades can submit stories about bullying. In five pages or less, tell a story about how bullying has affected your life, about a bullying incident you might have witnessed, or about your own strategies for avoiding bullies at school or in your neighborhood. Every story should include at least one idea, ONE ACTION, that you believe other kids, your school administrators, or your community could initiate to limit or prevent bullying in the future. The competition is open to students inside the Tri-State Area, within 100 miles radius to Broadway.

One winner of the First Place prize will receive two tickets and a walk-on role in the 2012 Broadway production of A Christmas Story, The Musical, plus the Original Cast Album, Backstage Tour and an Award Certificate. Second and Third Place price recipients (1 winner in each category) will receive 2 tickets to A Christmas Story, The Musical, plus the Original Cast Album, Backstage Tour and an Award Certificate. Finally, 10 lucky Runners-Up will also receive the Original Cast Album and Award Certificates.

All entries must be sent via email on or before Dec. 8, 2012 to ANTIBULLYINGETNRY@GMAIL.COM.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Language

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Theater Review: Annie

The Sun Comes Up on Another Annie, but No New Deal
By Lauren Yarger
Another production of the Charles Strouse/Martin Charnin musical Annie? We have all seen countless versions if it on tour, in local community theater, on out high school stages, we've seen the movie and can sing all the songs by heart, so what would would motivate us to get excited about a revival on Broadway?

For me, interest piqued when I heard that Katie Finneran, who stole the show and won a Best Featured Actress Tony for her 15-minute turn in the otherwise uninspiring revival of Promises, Promises a few seasons back. So, having anything but a "Hard Knock Life" as a theater reviewer, I ventured once again into book writer Thomas Meehan's land of  "Tomorrow,"  where President Franklin D. Roosevelt (an engaging Merwin Foard) looks for a way to guide the nation out of the Depression and where millionaire Oliver Warbucks (Anthony Warlow) bonds with little Annie (Lilla Crawford) who thinks she's "Gonna Like it Here" at his house on "East Street" after living in an orphanage run by Miss Hannigan (Finneran) who isn't too fond of "Little Girls," played here by numerous kids including Emily Rosenfeld as Molly, Taylor Richardson as Duffy, Madi Rae Diietro as July, Junah Jang as Tessie, Tyrah Skye Odoms as Kate and Georgi James as Pepper.

Helping Annie make her transition to Warbuck's posh New York mansion (opulent in sweeping, folding design to create other settings by designer David Korins) are his secretary, Grace Farrell (a bland Brynn O'Malley), the butler, Drake (Joel Hatch) and housekeepers Mrs. Greer (Jane Blass) and Mrs. Pugh (Liz McCartney). Working against her are Hannigan, her brother, Rooster (Clarke Thorell) and his girlfriend, Lily (J. Elaine Marcos), who hatch a plot to have Rooster and Lily pose as Annie's long-lost parents and collect a reward posted by Warbucks (despite ethnic casting by Director James Lapine that makes this claim obviously bogus at first glance).

So, what's so different about this Broadway version? Not much. In fact, surprisingly, it seems more rote than some non-professional versions. Everybody seems to be going through the motions. The orphans don't seem as adorable as usual. Now, before I get buckets of hate mail because I don't like kids, let me explain. They are cute kids. They just seem to be meticuously executing choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler) that is constructed to look like cute kids doing exact moves. There's no fun or bounce to it.

Finneran is entertaining, gives it her all, and dusts off the "funny drunk" skills from Promises Promises (that turn also won her Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards), but she never seems to be "fully dressed" as Hannigan. In an ironic twist, she is upstaged this time by another co-star who only gets about 15 minutes of stage time: Sandy the dog (played by Sunny, trained by William Berloni, who rescued the first dog who played Sandy in the original production.) The dog really is cute and naturally looks with affection at Crawford as she belts her song, causing a bunch of "aws" to be issued by the audience. In fact, most of the post-show talk I heard on the way out of the theater was about how people wished the dog had a bigger part. Good for the dog. Not good for the adorable orphans (see paragraph above).

And while, I am being critical of the kids, here are two more problems: Molly can't be heard a good deal of the time and Annie belts even when she isn't singing, shouting her lines through most of the show (Brian Ronin, sound design). I'll stop short of complaining about lopping off her long, flowing, curled locks to make her over with the recognizable, short, red frizzed do associated with the Annie comic strip (Susan Hilferty, costume design).

What is good, and very good, is Warlow's portrayal of Warbucks: just the right combination of overbearing and humble with a terrific singing voice to boot. What a pleasure to hear this multi-range operatic singer make his Broadway debut here. It's also a pleasure to hear the Strouse/Charnin score. Every song is good -- something that can't be said about a lot of shows these days. The songs are a lot of why this show ran for almost six years after opening on Broadway in 1977 and why revivals are still being done today. Will there ever be one as exciting as the original? "Someday."

Annie runs at the Palace Theatre, Broadway at 47th Street., NYC. Tickets: 800-745-3000, 877-250-2929; www.ticketmaster.com. For more info: http://www.anniethemusical.com/

Christians might also like to know:
-- minor language (damn)
Wholesome show. Bring the family.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: Emotional Creature

Joaquina Kalukango. Photo: © Carol Rosegg
Emotional Creature
By Eve Ensler
Directed by Jo Bonney
Featuring Ashley Bryant, Molly Garden, Emily S. Grosland, Joaquina Kalukango, Sade Namel and Olivia Oguma
Signature Center

What's it about?
Based on Ensler’s 2010 bestselling book, Emotional Creature features a multi-ethnic cast that explores what it means to be a girl through a series of original monologues, stories and songs (Charl-Johan Lingenfelder) against a backdrop of video projections (Luam, Choreography, Myung Hee Cho, Scenic and Costume Design, Lap Chi Chu, Lighting Design and Shawn Sagady, Projection Design.

Girls in the United States obsess with their weight and with being popular at school. They sit around talking about sex; a girl from a religious family considers abortion for an unwanted baby. An African-American girl wonders whether having two moms makes her look like a lesbian. Another girl, actually a lesbian, reflects about a sexual encounter and her feelings of betrayal when the other girl snubs her at school, denying that anything happened between them.

Then things turn global. A 16-year-old speaks of being sold into a life of rape, torture and sexual disease; a young woman in the Congo provides coping techniques used while she was raped and impregnated by a soldier over two years; a 15-year-old Chinese factory worker expresses herself by sending telepathy messages through the Barbie doll heads she manufactures; a young woman in Tanzania prays to God to protect her from the female circumcision that awaits her.

Highlights:
Joaquina Kalukango is compelling as the women from the Congo and Tanzania. She manages to convey complex character and wide ranges of emotion in the short vignettes. The contrast about struggles in America and with those of girls in Third World nations is stark, but Ensler manages to show it without judging.

Lowlights:
While the subject matter is based in truth and certainly is the life experience of some women, it isn't as reflective of the "every girl" experience Ensler (The Vagina Monologues) would like us to embrace. Many of the characters seem stereotypical. Middle class, white girls or girls grounded in self esteem, faith or motivated to pursue high-paying careers, for example, aren't represented here. And the emphasis is on girls -- all very young -- so women over 20 aren't going to relate personally with everything here (and well men, you're on your own.) Maybe "Some Faces of the Emotional Creature" would be a more accurate title.

More information:
Emotional Creature was first workshopped at New York Stage and Film at Vassar College with subsequent workshops in Johannesburg, South Africa and Paris. It is performed through Jan. 13 at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd St., NYC). Tickets: http://emotionalcreature.com; 212-279-4200.

Christians might also like to know:
-- It doesn't contain an official **MATURE advisory, but I would give it one.
-- Sexual dialogue
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Heiress

The Heiress
By Ruth and Augustus Goetz
Directed by Moises Kaufman
on Broadway

What's it about?
It's a revival of the 1947 Tony Award winning adaptation of Henry James' "Washington Square," about Catherine Sloper (Jessica Chastain), shy daughter of a well-to-do New York doctor Austin Sloper (David Strathairn) who suddenly finds herself the object of affection for debonair, but financially unstable Morris Townsend (Dan Stevens). At first, Catherine can't believe that someone as handsome and interesting as Morris could be interested in her. after all, her father wastes no opportunity to let her know what a disappointment she is, particularly in contrast to his memories of her mother, who died in childbirth. Her Aunt Lavinia (a charming Judith Ivey) helps facilitate a match between the two and they plan an elopement.

Highlights:
Ivey is fun to watch as the bubbly, always smiling aunt, especially when she is bantering with Caitlin O'Connell, who plays her blunt-speaking sister, Liz. Stevens is very beguiling as the cad. We understand why women fall for the charm of this good looking guy. Another highlight is Derek McLane's beautifully appointed 1850 parlor with dark wood paneling and rich wallpaper. If Washington Square homes still look like this, I want to move there. Lighting by David Lander also is exceptional, giving us the smoky gas lighting in an overhead chandelier as well as stained glass highlighted on the wall from sunlight breaking along the wall from a front entrance.

Lowlights:
Chastain seems monotone with the performance going downhill significantly in the second act as Catherine becomes more independent and takes control of the people around her. We don't feel a lot of emotion from her. Many times, Chastain's intonation telegraphs that there is more meaning behind the character's words -- as if the audience wouldn't get that without a hint. Some of the dialogue doesn't seem to spill easily off of Strathairn's lips.

Other Information:
This is a limited engagement through Feb. 10, 2013 at the Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 west 48th St., NYC. Tickets range in price from $50 to $135: http://www.telecharge.com/behindTheCurtain.aspx.

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Outgoing Tide

Pete Strauss and Michael Learned. Photo: Matt Urban
The Outgoing Tide
By Bruce Graham
Directed by Bud Martin
59 E 59 Theaters
Presented by the Delaware Theatre Company
Through Dec. 16

What's it about?
Gunner (Peter Strauss) relaxes while fishing off the dock at his summer cottage on Chesapeake Bay and talking with a young man, until his wife, Peg (Michael Learned) has to remind him that the young man is their son, Jack (Ian Lithgow). Gunner is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and as it becomes more apparent that his mind is slipping, he decides to decide his own fate in a way that will provide for his family. While the illness is at the center of the plot, the real action takes place in the family dynamics as Peg and Gunner both use their son, who is concerned with his own impending divorce, as a means to communicate with each other. Current dialogue is nicely interrupted by memory sequences that allow a glimpse into earlier phases of the family's relationships.

Highlights/Lowlights:
I was forced to leave the performance early to catch the last PATH train (still not running late service after Hurricane Sandy) so can't really give accurate review of the show, but I will tell you that I very much was enjoying the play (there is a lot of humor, which makes the suject less depressing), the performances and the direction before leaving. Strauss in particular  was quite engaging.

More information:
This is a limited engagement through Dec, 16 in Theater A at 59 East 59th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7pm, Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 and 8 pm and Sunday at 3 and 7 pm. Tickets are $60: (212)-279-4200; www.59e59.org.

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language
Last part of show not seen

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Women's Stories Project Includes Dance, Music, Stories

Infinity Dance Theatre will present the world premiere of The Women's Stories Project, a unique and inspiring theater work that includes dance, music, and the spoken word that grew out of a relationship between the dance company and The Creative Center (Arts in Healthcare). 

Conceived and created by Kitty Lunn, pictured above, The Women’s Stories Project features five amazing women, with courage and resourcefulness to spare, who tell their stories of love, loss, illness, and aging Nov. 17 at 2 pm and Nov. 18 at 5 pm at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, NYC. Tickets: $20; $15 for students/seniors/persons with disabilities. Reservations: 917.289.0799

Depressing? Not at all. The 75-minute work is just the opposite - it's funny, sad, ironic, and unexpected. It begins with wheelchair-bound Kitty Lunn’s performance of In Time Like Air, a solo created for her by Peter Pucci and set to a haunting saxophone solo by Don Cherry. She “slipped on and off the chair, tilting it, tipping it over and responding to its presence as if it had a personality all its own” (Jack Anderson, New York Times, 2001). The women’s solos were choreographed by Kitty Lunn, who also narrates.

Lunn is followed by longtime dancer Lynn Barr, dealing with the loss of her husband of 50 years; Sister Margaret, an outspoken Catholic nun for nearly 60 years, who speaks about the trials of her life, vocation, and mission; and the adorable Lucy, who lost her mother to breast cancer, and after burying her mother in Puerto Rico, discovers she has developed the same cancer. She undergoes horrific treatment and discovers her own strength through art, music, and dance. Lucy takes up belly dancing and Puerto Rican Bomba dancing, which she will demonstrate on the program. 

The company's scholar is Alice, a native of England, a professor of Medieval Literature, and proficient in 14 medieval languages. She became a wheelchair user as a result of an acquired spinal disease. Alice later began studying dance with Lunn and has now become a member of Infinity. 

Marcia Bernstein adds a haunting vocal as the women weave the common threads of their lives. Though these endearing women represent different ages, races, and walks of life, they represent all of us, connected through common threads of humanity, with one another and with the audience in this celebration of the triumph of the human spirit. Performances of The Women’s Stories Project will be sign language interpreted.

More About Kitty Lunn:
A New Orleans native, Kitty Lunn started dance classes as a child and performed with several companies, including the Washington Ballet, where she danced in Swan Lake, Giselle, Les Sylphides, The Nutcracker, and the full company repertory. Lunn moved to New York in 1967, and in 1987 while preparing for her first Broadway show, she was injured in an accident which left her paraplegic. 

Determined to show that dancers can move in a multitude of ways, Lunn founded Infinity in 1995 to expand the boundaries of dance and change the world’s perceptions of what a dancer is. In addition to regular New York seasons, the company’s schedule has included appearing at festivals in Italy, two seasons at the Kennedy Center in D.C., and the 1996 Cultural Paralympiad in Atlanta. Lunn is also active as an actress on stage and TV (including a long stint on “As The World Turns”), a dance educator, and an advocate for people with disabilities.

Unlike the theater piece "The Women's Stories Project," the programs of November 15-17 at 7 pm focus more on dance, and feature Lunn's Infinity and Toni Taylor's Pi Dance Theatre in works for disabled and non-disabled dancers. Choreography is by Lunn, Taylor and Roxana Lewis, with new music composed and performed live by William Catanzaro, and poetry by Andrew Macmillan.
www.elementsinfinitypi.com,

The Ride Offers Holiday Schedule



The Ride -- an electronically interactive tour of New York City on motor coaches has announced holiday schedules and pricing.

The Ride, on five motor coaches, has played 23 months of sold-out, multi-million-dollar, state-of-the-art tours of the Midtown Area and more than 70,000 customers have enjoyed the 4.2-mile journey that has been termed “a Passport to New York City.” (Stay tuned for a first-hand account of a tour coming up by Lauren Yarger).
 
The buses are specifically designed theatrical vehicles; the tallest allowed by federal law, fitted with stadium-style seating that orients the 49 participants sideways looking through the massive windows that deliver New York as the most successful Broadway show on earth.

The coaches are equipped with surround sound, 3,000 LED lights and 40 video screens. They are, in essence, rolling state-of-the-art theatres. External speakers and lighting allow riders and on-board performers to interact with street performers as well as anyone else they pass on the street.

Tickets are $50 -$74 and are availabe by calling 866-299-9682 or at the Box Office located at Madame Tussauds on 42nd Street in Times Square. Groups: 212-244-2551 (x155).
 
THE HOLIDAY PLAYING SCHEDULE through December 31.

Through - November 11
Mon, Thur, & Fri: 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Wed: 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sat: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm & 4:00 pm

November 12 - November 18
Mon, Wed, Thur, & Fri: 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sat: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm & 4:00 pm

November 19 - November 25
Mon, Wed, Thur, & Fri: 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sat: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm & 4:00 pm
Thanksgiving Day: 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm

November 26 - December 16
Mon, Wed, Thur, & Fri: 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sat: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm & 4:00 pm

December 17 - December 31
Mon: 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:00 pm & 4:00 pm
Wed, Thur, & Fri: 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sat: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm & 4:00 pm

Christmas Day, New Year's Eve &; New Year's Day: Dark


HOLIDAY TICKETS: $50 -$74
Individual Tickets: Telecharge.com & 866-299-9682
Groups: 212-244-2551 (x155)

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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.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 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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