Sunday, December 15, 2013

Off-Broadway Theater Review: The Commons of Pensacola

The Commons of Pensacola
By Amanda Peet
Directed by Lynne Meadow
Manhattan Theatre Club

What's It All About?
Blythe Danner and Sarah Jessica Parker reunite ( they previously starred together in MTC’s 1995 hit production of Sylvia by A.R. Gurney), for a play that explores the strength of family ties. Judith (Danner) has been forced to leave her luxurious New York life after her husband’s Wall Street scam becomes headline news and the talk of gossip columnists everywhere. When her daughter, Becca ( Parker), and Becca’s filmmaker boyfriend (Michael Stahl-David) pay Judith a visit to the one bedroom condo the medication-taking Judith now occupies in Pensacola, FL, everyone’s motives are called into question. The situation is compounded by a housekeeper ( Nilaja Sun) being paid under the table and a visit from Judith's estranged daughter, Ali (Ali Marsh), and granddaughter, Lizzy (Zoe Levin), who makes an alarming discovery in the kitchen that could bring more dark clouds than the approaching hurricane.

What are the Highlights?
A well written script, interesting characters and fine acting. Makes us ask the question, "What would you do?"

What are the Lowlights?
None

More Information:
The Commons of Pensacola plays at New York City Center – Stage I, 131 West 55th St., NYC through Jan. 26, 2014. http://www.manhattantheatreclub.com/.

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Broadway Theater Review: Richard III and Twelfth Night


Richard III and Twelfth Night
By Lauren Yarger
The Globe is presenting Richard III and Twelfth Night in repertory at the Belasco Theatre in what is becoming one of the most Shakespeare-filled seasons on Broadway in recent history (Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth are on the Great White Way at the moment too).
Mark Rylance stars in both as Richard and as Olivia. Here are thoughts on the presentations, which are presented with all-male casts as they were in Shakespeare's time (in fact, I wasn't even able to detect any microphones in use). 

The audience is invited to come about 30 minutes prior to curtain to witness the ritual of the actors getting into costume and to see the lighting of the chandeliers using 100 beeswax candles. Some audience members are seated on stage in two levels of box seats and occasionally the actors interact with them.

Both productions feature period-instrument-playing musicians on stage (they are up on top of the oak-paneled backdrop wall) with music by Claire van Kampen. And as is the Globe's tradition, each performance ends with a delightful Elizabethan dance curtain call.

Any time you can see Rylance on stage, go. He's brilliant. I took very few notes during Richard III, partly because I know the story and partly because Rylance was so fascinating, I just sat back and watched. His take on Richard is different (not really surprised). This king seems half inebriated and half mad with the thought of power and securing England's throne for himself regardless of whom he might have to kill to do it. His bursts of joyful laughs are at once humorous and frightening.

Standing out is Richard is Joseph Timms as Lady Anne, whom Richards woos despite the fact that he has killed her husband and her father-in-law and in spite of his physical deformities, depicted here as a limp and a malformed left hand. Also riveting is Samuel Barnett as Queen Elizabeth, whose ill-fated sons are the boys in the tower.
In Twelfth Night, Rylance plays Olivia, the unrequited love interest of Count Orsino (Liam Brennan). She falls in love with Viola (Barnett), who, washed up on shore after a shipwreck, assumes the disguise of a man in Orsino's service. Rylance's Olivia is very frail and frazzled. Her quick little steps under the voluminous Elizabethan gown brings guffaws. (The costumes, meticulously researched and created by Jenny Tirimani, are engrossing to observe themselves).

This Twelfth Night, my personal favorite of Shakespeare's comedies, is really very funny. Lots of laughs throughout and one of the best jobs of making Viola and her twin brother, Sebastian (Timms), look alike in any production that I have seen. Stephen Fry plays a satisfying Malvolio, Colin Hurley is notable as a humorous Sir Toby Belch and Paul Chahidi is a surprisingly nasty Maria.

While I recommend seeing both productions just for the opportunity to see Rylance and to experience Shakespeare in its original form, neither production is my favorite for these particular works. Directed by Tim Carroll, the pace of Twelfth Night is too slow (a number of nearby audience members nodded off and one was snoring rather loudly). If you aren't already familiar with the plot, you will have trouble following it. Because the action takes place against the stationary backdrop setting, it is not clear at all that Viola has washed up on shore following a shipwreck -- or that Sebastian is her twin brother. The whole man-playing-a-woman-playing-a-man thing was confusing for many. 

Richard III plays more effectively against the interior set -- until the battle scene. Carroll has Richard being visited by some ghosts that look like kids trick-or-treating with sheets over their heads, then seemingly attacked in his castle, where he appears to be running through arched doorways pledging his kingdom for a horse.... It just doesn't work. In addition, sounds from outside the theater, like groups of people laughing or talking and police and fire sirens, can be heard in the house and too often remind us that we are not really in 16th-century England.

Richard III and Twelfth Night play in rep at the Belasco, 111 West 44th St., NYC through Feb. 1. http://www.shakespearebroadway.com/.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Two men kiss, but in the context of one being a female character.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Quick Hit Off-Broadway Theater Review: Disaster! A 70s Disaster Movie Musical

Jennifer Simard and Mary Testsa. Photo: © Jeremy Daniel
Disaster! A 70s Disaster Movie Musical
Written by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick
Original Concept by Seth Rudetsky and Drew Geraci
Music Director and Orchestrations: Larry Pressgrove
Choreographed by Denis Jones
Directed by Jack Plotnick

What's It All About:
It's a send up of those famous disaster movies of the 70s. You've heard of them if you don't remember them: "The Poseidon Adventure," "Airport," "Earthquake," "The Towering Inferno".... with songs from the time period fit into the silly plot about the grand opening of New York's first floating casino and disco. Many, many disasters of many, many kinds threaten the casino and the various characters, played by a large, enthusiastic ensemble. Heading the cast are Broadway vet Mary Testa and Rudetsky, popular afternoon host on SiriusXM's Broadway program, among other credits in the industry both as a performer and as a musician. Plotnick recently joined the cast too when an actor departed and that is who I saw the afternoon I attended. It is a corny, groan-inducing, slapstick kind of funny.

What are the highlights:
Rudetsy's consummate knowledge of songs and lyrics makes for some unexpected and humorous selections among the songs which include "Alone Again Naturally," "Daybreak," "Hot Stuff," "Hooked on a Feeling," "Don't Cry Out Loud," and, of course, "Feelings," among others from the era.

Testa on a stage is a treat any time (and made even more entertaining by the horrendous orange plaid pantsuit designed for her by Brian Hemesath). She had the blue-haired matinee crowd rolling in the aisles as a woman (slightly reminiscent of Shelly Winters' character in the "Poseidon Adventure") who tries to keep her illness and impending death, complete with its Tourette-like outbursts, a secret from her devoted husband, Maury (Tom Rhys Farrell). Young Jonah Vernon charmed the crowd playing both  in-peril twins Lisa and Ben while managing to sing with himself. The real standout here, though, is Jennifer Simard as understated, guitar-playing (think "Airport") Sister Mary, who is a hoot as a conflicted nun trying to bring souls to the Lord while fighting her addiction to the slot machines ("Torn Between Two Lovers....")

What Are the Lowlights:
At two hours and 10 minutes, it's way too long. It's not a direct spoof of the disaster movies (which is kind of disappointing), just an homage to them, so the joke can only go so far before it gets old. The silly plot and minimally designed set by Josh Iacovelli (who also designs the lighting) would lend themselves better to a dinner theater setup like the one hosted across the street at Sophia's Downstairs.

Information:
Disaster! plays at St. Luke’s Theatre, 308 West 46th St., NYC. A previous version of Disaster! played weekly performances at The Triad Theater in NYC from January – March 2012. This production marks the show's Off-Broadway premiere.

Performances: Mondays and Tuesday at 7:30 pm; Wednesdays at 2:30 pm; Fridays at 8 pm. Tickets are $39.50 – $69.50: 212-239-6200(800-447-7400 (outside of NYC); disastermusical.com.

Full disclosure: One of the members of the ensemble is the daughter of a close friend and I have recused myself from commenting on her performance or the role she plays.
--Lauren Yarger

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

Quick Hit Off-Broadway Theater Review: The Patron Saint of Sea Monsters

Laura Heisler, Rob Campbell and Candy Buckley. Photo: Joan Marcus
The Patron Saint of Sea Monsters
By Marlayne Meyer
Directed by Lisa Peterson
Playwrights Horizons

What's It all About?
Bet you didn't know there was a patron saint of sea monsters. No one does, except for Aubrey Lincoln (Laura Heisler), who regularly dons wedding dresses, lights candles and prays to St. Martyr Bride for the perfect husband. She might need the help of saints when she takes up with her "soulmate," alcoholic Calvin Little (Rob Campbell), who calls her Audrey and who just might have killed his last wife. Mothers aren't any help here. Aubrey's controlling mom, Lynette (Candy Buckley), shares her daughter's diary with the family priest and Calvin's repulsive, sociopath mother, Helen (also Buckley) is evil incarnate. The couple is surrounded by a bunch of loony tunes too -- Calvin's best friends are Speedy (Danny Wolohan), who's not exactly Speedy in the brain department, and Canadian Bill (Hayes Thigpen) who has a crush on Aubrey. Aubrey's best friend is Penny (Jacqueline Wright), the abused wife of Calvin's brother, Jack (Wolohan), who takes after his mother. Her landlady is Mrs. Carlsen (Buckley again), who let's Aubrey stay on even when she gives her rent money to Calvin and despite the objections of her crazy daughter, Molly (Wright). Mrs. Carlsen's son, Tom (Thigpen) helps out by providing physic predictions. There even are some forest and sea creatures who come to visit....

What are the Highlights?
A fine ensemble cast, ably directed by Peterson, who keeps the pace just right for the two-hour-15-minute-show. Complete transitions between multiple characters are made with the help of costuming by Paloma Young. Whimsical set design by Rachel Hauck includes everything from a forest to an ocean to puppet creatures.

What are the Lowlights?
It's a bit on the bizarre side without definitive focus. If you toss aside any thoughts of reality, however, you can enjoy this humorous, if unclear glimpse into backwoods family life we might not otherwise experience.

Information:
The Patron Saint of Sea Monsters plays at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC through Dec.1. http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/shows/plays/patron-saint-sea-monsters/.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- Sexual dialogue
-- Sexual activity
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Tarot cards and reading

Quick Hit Off-Broadway Review: Domesticated

Laurie Metcalf, Jeff Goldblum and Misha Seo. Photo: Joan Marcus
Domesticated
By Bruce Norris
Directed by Anna D. Shapiro
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre, Lincoln Center

What's It All About?
Vanessa Aspillaga, Mia Barron, Robin De Jesus, Jeff Goldblum, Lizbeth Mackay, Emily Meade, Mary Beth Peil, Karen Pittman and Misha Seo join Laurie Metcalf in a new play by Bruce Norris (Pulitzer-Prize winner for Clybourne Park). 

When doctor-turned-politician Bill (Goldblum) is caught in a scandal, his author wife, Judy (Metcalf) stands by him, even though the prostitute he was entertaining, Becky (Aleque Reid), is in a coma and Bill might or might not have put her there by causing her head injury. His actions have a negative effect on his family. Daughter Casey (Emily Meade), who gives new meaning to the words angry, rebellious child when her college tuition money is in jeopardy, and adopted daughter Cassidy (Misha Seo), who internalizes her insecurities. Even housekeeper Pilar (Vanessa Aspillaga) gets caught in the backlash.

Bill's plight is very amusingly compared throughout the play with Cassie's school report on the dominance of females and the virtual unimportance of the male in certain species. Slides are shown on screens above the action which takes pace on a minimal in-the-round set, through which designer Todd Rosenthal creates the image of a boxing ring. A fight to the death is more what happens for the couple's marriage, especially when Judy discovers that Bill's infidelities have been many and include her best friend and his attorney, Bobbie (Mia Barron). The situation becomes more difficult when the prostitute's mother, Jackie (Lizbeth Mackay), takes her story public. 

Clueless Bill just doesn't seem to understand what all the fuss is about and is surprised when women might object to his resuming his career as a gynecologist.... 

"What am I, a salmon?" he asks. "I'm supposed to mate once and die?"

Maybe it has something to do with how he was raised by a mother (Mary Beth Piel in one of four roles) who still thinks he can do no wrong? When he complains to his family that he isn't happy, we want to laugh him out the door.

What Are the Highlights?
Metcalf is brilliant as a woman betrayed, not only by her husband, but by her own ability to discern what is happening around her or to control it. The dialogue is witty and bitingly true. Goldblum brings enough to his reprehensible character to make him understandable if not likable. Standing out is Karen Pittman who is an absolute hoot as an Oprah-like television interviewer. I suspect I will be in the minority on this, but I liked Domesticated far more than Clybourne Park. Funny, dark stuff expertly directed. Metcalf's sharp, sarcastic dialogue contains a lot of unfinished sentences -- but we know exactly how to fill in the blanks.

What Are the Lowlights?
Some of the plot twists verge on the absurd.The second act loses steam.

Information:
Domesticated plays at the Mitzi E. Newhouse theater at Lincoln enter, 150 West 65th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm, with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $75 to $85: box office; telecharge.comwww.lct.org.  A limited number of tickets priced at $30 are available at every performance through LincTix, LCT’s program for 21 to 35 year olds.  For information and to enroll, visit LincTix.org.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- Very graphic, Sexual dialogue
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Transvestite

Quick Hit Off-Broadway Theater Review: The Landing

Julia Murney, David Hyde Pierce and Frankie Seratch. Photo: Carol Rosegg
The Landing
Music by John Kander
Book and Lyrics by Greg Pierce
Choreography by Josh Rhodes
Directed by Walter Bobbie
The Vineyard Theatre

What's It All About?
John Kander's first full new theatre collaboration with another writer since the passing of Fred Ebb. (Kander and Ebb gave us Scottsboro Boys, Chicago, Cabaret and many others). The Landing is three separate stories of desire, love and loss starring David Hyde Pierce, Julia Murney, Paul Anthony Stewart and Frankie Seratch. David Loud is musical director and orchestrations are by Larry Hochman.

The first story, Andra, has Pierce as a narrator with Stewart as Ben, a carpenter working on cabinets in the home of a woman (Murney) whose husband neglects her and her son, Noah (Seratch), while he works. Ben,'s love of stars and constellations, along with an understanding of lonely kids (his daughter is shy because of a disfigurement) appeal to Noah and the two form a friendship. The second story , The Brick, has Pierce playing a brick from the wall bloodied in the Valentine's Day Massacre, which seduces a boy's aunt, who is bored with her husband. The third tale, The Landing, has Pierce and Stewart as a gay couple adopting a son who comes with a odd background -- and perhaps a sinister purpose.

What are the Highlights?
Pierce on stage is always a treat.Bobbie lends nice touches to enhance the stories.

What Are the Lowlights?
All three stories are a little strange and end up being rather depressing. Is there music, yes. Do I remember it? No. There are strains of the Kander sound, but no tunes that stand out.

Information:
The show has been extended and will conclude with a special VIP benefit reception for patrons following the final performance Sunday, Nov. 24 at 3 pm. The Vineyard is at 108 E. 15 St., NYC. http://www.vineyardtheatre.org/the-landing/.

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

Friday, November 15, 2013

Quick Hit Off-Broadway Theater Review: This Is My Office

David Barlow. Photo: Carol Rosegg
This Is My Office
By Andy Bragen
Performed by David Barlow
Directed by Davis McCallum
The Play Company
at chashama, 210 East 43rd St., NYC

What's It All About?
Well, it's a bout an office, and memories, and father/son dynamics. Andy' Bragen writes a site-specific piece for The Play Company in a store-front office on East 43rd Street. David Barlow plays Bragen, trying to write in an office provided to him through a grant, when he discovers an old photograph. He realizes that the office used to be his father's and that he had visited when he was a young boy. The realization triggers memories and the strained, yet poignant relationship between the father and son is revealed. The audience begins in seats in the front office, then moves with Barlow to other rooms for the 85-minute presentation without intermission.

What Are the Highlights?
It is directed by Davis McCallum. He was the draw for me to see this show because I admired his work on the Pulitzer-Prize winning Water by the Spoonful at Hartford Stage and the very excellent The Whale at Playwrights Horizons.

What Are the Lowlights?
I am not a fan of interactive theater. Call me odd, but I want to go sit in a seat and watch, not have to wear a listening device and roll my little office chair around corners to keep up with the actor, or worse, have him come speak to me directly or wheel my chair around for me because I rolled in his way. The monologue seemed very long and rambling, and for the most part, was not engaging.

"I will get to the point very soon. I promise," he told us one point.

At times it was hard to tell whether Barlow was having trouble remembering where he was in the script or if the dialogue had been written that way to try to sound natural.

Information:
The show runs through Dec. 8. Tickets: $30-40 at playco.org or 866-811-4111; due to the intimate space, tickets are extremely limited. The not-for-profit chashama nurtures artists by transforming unused property into 'space to create'. This Is My Office received workshop productions at Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep in July 2010, and at Studio Roanoke in April 2011.

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

Free Presentations of Filichia's 'Adam's Gifts' Set at Lutheran Church

Adam's Gifts by Peter Filichia will be presented in three performances 7 pm Dec. 19, 20 and 21 at St. John's Lutheran Church, 81 Christopher St., NYC.

In a seasonal riff on Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," Adam's Gifts is a story of redemption and the heart-melting surprise of feeling needed. It stars Broadway performers William Parry, Maureen Silliman,  and Philip Hoffman. Rounding out the cast are Julia Peterson and Hayden Wall.

Filichia is the theater critic emeritus for both the Newark Star-Ledger and its television station, News 12 New Jersey. He writes a weekly column for Musical Theatre International. He has served four terms as president of the Drama Desk, the New York Association of Drama Critics and is now head of the voting committee and the emcee of the Theatre World Awards. A frequent contributor to theater publications and the writer of many cast-album CD liner notes, he lives in New York City. This World Premiere production of Adam's Gifts is directed by Daniel Neiden; casting consultant Nancy Carson; and co-produced by June Rachelson-Ospa, a member of The League of Professional Theater Women.

Filichia also wrote the recently released "Strippers, Showgirls, and Sharks: A Very Opinionated History of the Broadway Musicals That Did Not Win the Tony Award."

Tickets are FREE with a donation to St. John's "at the door." Reservations required. Contact info@adamsgiftstheshow.com.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Take a Holiday Ride for a Rolling Theater Experience

For folks looking for fun things to do with the family while in New York this holiday season, The Ride's holiday version announces a second season Nov. 20 through Jan. 5

The Ride has played 27 months of sold-out tours with  74,800 customers taking the 4.2-mile journey that has been termed “a Passport to New York City.” Four motor coaches become a fleet of traveling, audience-participation theater. They are specifically designed theatrical vehicles; the tallest allowed by federal law, fitted with stadium-style seating that orients the 49passengers sideways to look through the massive windows that deliver New York as the most successful Broadway show on earth. The multi-million dollar coaches are equipped with surround sound, 3,000 LED lights and 40 video screens.  (I took a tour ast year. Read about it here: http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/2012/12/what-to-see-and-do-this-holiday-season.html#.UnzpWvmUQnM)

This year's Holiday Ride schedule:
NOVEMBER 2013
Nov 15th, 2pm, 4pm (Previews)
Nov 16th, 7pm, 8:30pm (Previews)
Nov 17th, 12 noon, 2pm, 4pm (Previews)
Nov 18th, 7pm, 8:30pm (Previews)
Nov 20th, 7pm, 8:30pm
Nov 21st, 7pm, 8:30pm
Nov 22nd, 2pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8:30pm
Nov 23rd, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8:30pm
Nov 24th, 2pm, 4pm
Nov 25th, 7pm, 8:30pm
Nov 26th, 7pm, 8:30pm
Nov 27th, 7pm, 8:30pm
Nov, 28th, 7pm, 8:30pm
Nov, 29th, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 7pm, 7:30pm, 8:30pm
Nov 30th, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 7pm, 7:30pm, 8:30pm

DECEMBER 2013
Dec 1st, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm
Dec 2nd, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 3rd, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 4th, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 5th, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 6th, 2pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 7th, 2pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 8th, 2pm, 4pm
Dec 9th, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 10th, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 11th, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 12th, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 13th, 2pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 14th, 2pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 15th, 2pm, 4pm
Dec 16th, 2pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 17th, 2pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 18th, 2pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 19th, 2pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 20th, 2pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 21st, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 22nd, 2pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 23rd, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 7pm, 7:30pm, 8:30pm
Dec 24th, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 7pm, 7:30pm, 8:30pm
Dec 25th, 2pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8:30pm
Dec 26th, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 7pm, 7:30pm, 8:30pm
Dec 27th, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 7pm, 7:30pm, 8:30pm
Dec 28th, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 7pm, 7:30pm, 8:30pm
Dec 29th, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 7pm, 7:30pm, 8:30pm
Dec 30th, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 7pm, 7:30pm, 8:30pm

JANUARY 2014
Jan 1st, 7pm, 8:30pm
Jan 2nd, 7pm, 8:30pm
Jan 3rd, 7pm, 8:30pm
Jan 4th, 7pm, 8:30pm
Jan 5th, 2pm, 4pm

THE BOX OFFICE:
Located on 42nd Street between Broadway & Eighth Avenue.
Directly beside Madame Tussauds.

TICKETS: $74

Individual Tickets:
ExperienceTheRide.com & 866-811-4111

Groups: 212-244-2551 x168
Holiday Groups: 212-244-2551 x168

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Broadway Theater Review: After Midnight

The cast of After Midnight. Photo: Matthew Murphy
Cotton Club Musical is Entertaining Class Act
By Lauren Yarger
Dulé Hill and Fantasia Barrino head the cast of the don't-let-it-end, entertainment-packed musical revue After Midnight playing Broadway in a production based on last season's sold-out NY City Center Encores! and Jazz at Lincoln Center presentation of Cotton Club Parade with musical direction by Wynton Marsalis.

This foot-stomping, hand-clapping good time with excellent choreography by Director Warren Carlyle is pure entertainment. The 90 minutes without intermission comes to a fabulously staged curtain call way to soon. I wanted more and gladly would have sat through another hour and half. And that's not something I say about many shows.

Hill, known to many for his TV work on "The West Wing" and "Psych," doesn't have a Broadway belt voice, but holds his own and charms us in the role of a sort of MC/narrator in the presentation as conceived by Jack Viertel. It doesn't take the route of most jukebox musical by trying to put an unlikely story around a bunch of songs. Instead, Hill occasionally gives us times and places and uses the words of poet Langston Hughes to create the mood.

The show's thrust is its singing and dancing. Popular singing star Fantasia is one of several guest artists planned for the s how's run. She will be followed by Grammy Award-winners k.d. lang (2/11/14 – 3/9/14) and Toni Braxton & Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds (3/18/14 – 3/30/14). Future “Special Guest Stars” will be announced soon.

The show isn't dependent on star power for its locomotion. A cast of 25 excellent vocalists and dancers: Tony Award-winner Adriane Lenox reprising her critically acclaimed role as the blues singer with a sense of humor; Julius “iGlide” Chisolm from the renowned dance crew RemoteKontrol, reimagining Harlem’s popular 1920’s “snakehips” dance; hip hop star Virgil J. Gadson; Tony Award-nominated modern dancer Karine Plantadit; Michael Jackson’s tap coach Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and tap-dancing choreographer Jared Grimes in stunning tap routines.

The cast also includes a male quartet comprised of Grammy Award-nominee and member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band Everett Bradley, Cedric Neal, T. Oliver Reid and Monroe Kent III; a female trio of Broadway vets including Carmen Ruby Floyd, Rosena M. Hill Jackson and Bryonha Marie Parham; and accomplished dancers Marija Abney, Phillip Attmore, Christopher Broughton, Taeler Elyse Cyrus, C.K. Edwards, Danielle Herbert, Bahiyah Hibah, David Jennings, Erin N. Moore, Justin Prescott, Tony Award nominee Desmond Richardson, Allysa Shorte, Monique Smith and Daniel J. Watts.

After Midnight also features The Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars, a world-class big band of 17 musicians hand-picked by Marsalis up on the stage in the tradition of The Duke Ellington Orchestra: Mark Gross,
Godwin Louis, Dan Block, Andy Farber and Kurt Bacher on woodwinds; Gregory Gisbert,
Bruce Harris, Alphonso Horne and James Zollar on trumpets; Wayne Goodman, Art Baron and James Burton III on trombones; Adam Birnbaum on piano; James Chirillo on guitar Jennifer Vincent on bass and Alvester Garnett on drums. Musical supervision and additional arrangements are by Daryl Waters.

This ensemble triggers something I never remember seeing before: at the end of the curtain call, the audience sits down to hear the postlude -- no dashing up the aisle before the house lights come on for a quick exit for this musical.

The show's creative elements wow the crowd also. The ballroom at the cotton club is designed by Jean Lee Beatty with precision lighting by Howell Binkley. Isobel Toledo, the fashion designer who created First Lady Michelle Obama's first inaugural gown, designs the flashy, swirling deco costumes.

It's all really, really good -- and one of the most enjoyable shows I have seen in a long time. A personal highlight for me was the precision "penguin" routine. I could have watched a whole show of just that.

Tap on over to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 West 47th St., NYC After Midnight. http://www.aftermidnightbroadway.com/.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language

Monday, November 4, 2013

Broadway Theater Review: Betrayal

Star Power Sells Out at the Box Office
By Lauren Yarger
Nine scenes, travelling backward in time, tell the story of Betrayal, Harold Pinter's 1978 play getting a sold-out Broadway revival thanks to the star power of Daniel Craig, a.k.a. James Bond, and his movie-star wife Rachel Weisz.

Stories that don't use chronological time lines, or which are dependent on film stars for box office sales, usually don't excite me, but this play, as directed by Mike Nichols, who is more than experienced at directing stars of stage and screen, is worth the trip.

Craig already proved himself to be a good stage actor when he appeared on Broadway a few seasons ago with Hugh Jackman in A Steady Rain. His return to the Great white way following his last Bond flick, "Skyfall," caused a rush on the box office, especially when it was announced that Weisz ("The Constant Gardener," "The Deep Blue Sea," "The Bourne Legacy") would be making her Broadway debut in the play alongside her real-life husband.

Joining them, as the third party in the triangle is Rafe Spall, also making his Broadway debut. Kind of have to feel for the guy. After the show, conversations alluded to "Daniel Craig" and "The not Daniel Craig guy." Even more intimidating must be having to get rather intimate with James Bond's wife...

The story follows the relationship between Emma (Weisz) and Jerry (Spall) who meet up in 1977 after not having seen each other for two years following an affair of seven years. She is married to his former best friend, Robert (Craig) and is thinking about leaving him after a fight the night before. She felt a need to see Jerry and asked him to meet her. It's obvious that the sparks between them are not extinguished and that the embers could reignite given the chance.

The scenes that follow take us backward in the relationship -- to 1975 -- the last time they did see each other, when they called off the affair -- and to various stages of the relationship over the years, back to its beginning in 1968. It goes from exciting to mundane, but never is perfect. Emma always seems to want something more. She endeavors to make the apartment they use for secret rendez-vous a home, but how can it be when their homes, with spouses and children, are somewhere else? Ian MacNeil uses simple set pieces to create locations. The illicit apartment is very boring, in a gray shade of blue, indicating a lack of warmth.

Pinter's usual repetitive dialogue is annoying, but the structure is smart and when we get to the beginning of the relationship, we're left with some new thoughts about just who has betrayed whom.

Craig and Spall are very good and even a fourth character, a waiter, played by Stephen DeRosa, stands out in his small role. Weisz seems less comfortable in her role, but holds her own.

Betrayal plays through Jan. 5 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 West 47th St., NYC. http://betrayalbroadway.com/.

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

Broadway Theater: A Night with Janis Joplin

By Lauren Yarger
Sorry, this show has the distinction of causing me to do something I never do -- leave at intermission.

Not because it's a bad show. In fact, the performances by Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin and backup singers the Joplinaires Taprena Michelle Augustine, De Adre Aziza, Allison Blackwell and Nikkia Kimbrough, who also perform as Chantel, Bessie Smith, Odetta, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin and Etta James, among others, are really terrific.

No, I left because the intense flashing lights (Justin Townsend designs the set and lighting) as the curtain went up, combined with the very loud music triggered a migraine and I had to go seek medication and a dark room at intermission. So I can;t really review the show for you, but I can tell you that if you are a fan of Joplin, you will like it. Davies, in her Broadway debut, gives a deep portrayal, singing the songs with rock gusto (accompanied by very good orchestra under the musical direction of Ross Seligman (Watch for award nominations for Daves. She's that good.) She offers some thoughts and memories from time to time -- and that's where those other singers come in thanks to the book written by Director Randy Johnson.

The Queen of Psychedelic Soul describes herself as an everyday woman who feels the blues. Her goal early in life was to enjoy sex and get high. Drugs claimed her life at age 27. Kacee Clanton plays the role of Joplin at certain performances (no doubt because of the strain on the voice to perform eight shows a week).

The splashy costumes and 1960s jeans and peasant type shirt worn by Joplin are designed by Amy Clark. Patricia Wilcox does the choreography.

There was some language in the first act.

Odysseo -- Rodeo Meets Cirque du Soleil in Stampede of a Production

By Lauren Yarger
Finally back from a prolonged road trip to share with you a wonderful show I saw while in Washington, DC.

It's Cavalia's Odysseo, a gigantic production featuring 63 horses and 47 artists (riders and tumbling performers). It's a veritable rodeo meets Cirque du Soleil and it is selling out where ever it goes. The DC show has been extended through Nov.10 at the Harbor Yard. Next stop: Seattle. Check http://www.cavalia.net/en/odysseo for information.

The action takes place in a huge tent on a stage with a panoramic backdrop that changes to different terrains as the story takes us to different places around the earth (though, ike with Cirque du Soleil, the story kinds of gets lost in the wake of all of the thrilling visuals and music taking place).

I'm just going to paste here some information from the show because this isn't really something I can "review" in the regular sense. Trust me, it's worth it, even before the amazing finale which floods the stage with a river and falls through which the horses ride. A great show for the family:

From the show:
Odysseo: Larger Than Life 
The horse has marked human history and progress more than any other animal. Horses have 
taken us to the ends of the earth, enabled us to build bridges between cultures and expand 
civilization. It is the beauty and harmony of this ancient relationship, this meeting of two worlds 
– those of horse and man – that inspired the creators of Cavalia’s second show, Odysseo. As 
friends, partners and inseparable performers on stage, 63 horses and 47 artists lead the viewer 
on a great journey in yet another world – a world of dreams – where, together, they discover 
some of the planet’s most unforgettable landscapes. 
With this new creation, Cavalia marries the equestrian arts, stage arts and high-tech theatrical 
effects at never-before-seen levels. A veritable revolution in live performance, Odysseo 
comprises a list of superlatives: the world’s largest touring big top, the biggest stage, the most 
beautiful visual effects, and the greatest number of horses at liberty. 
The creators of this new ode to the horse made the decision to indulge their wildest artistic 
ambitions. Their gamble paid off: Odysseo pushes the limits of live entertainment by creating a 
larger-than-life show that sends hearts racing, but it is also a feast for the eyes that succeeds in 
delivering the spectacular with soul.

Scenography and Visual effects 
To give life to this extraordinary equestrian adventure, Cavalia created a 17,500 square feet 
stage, in the middle of which rise two hills each three storeys tall. Some 10,000 tons of rock, 
earth and sand are trucked in and then sculpted to create the vast space of freedom where 
human and horse come to play in complicity. 
Above the stage hangs an imposing technical grid capable of supporting 80 tons of equipment 
including, a full-sized merry-go-round, far beyond anything attempted to date on any touring 
show and comparable to the best-equipped theaters of Las Vegas, London or New York. 
Odysseo presents a “live 3-D” voyage with extremely high-definition computer graphic images 
that transport the audience across the world’s most beautiful landscapes. To project these 
breathtaking graphic backdrops on an immense cyclorama the size of three IMAX screens, 
Odysseo uses projectors as powerful as those illuminating the grandest movie theaters. But 
whereas a cinema has only one projector, Odysseo uses 18 simultaneously! 

A world of dreams and fantasies 
The dream begins in a misty, enchanted forest where horses graze and frolic under a sky of 
rolling clouds and a setting sun. Horses, riders, acrobats and musicians embark on a soulful 
journey that leads them from the Mongolian steppes to Monument Valley, from the African 
savannah to Nordic glaciers, from the Sahara to Easter Island. 
Throughout this grand voyage, spectators discover urban stilters and applaud the prowess of a 
troupe of African acrobats. Viewers are mesmerized by horses powering angelic aerialists in a 
four-person silks act that takes them into the skies. To the sound of an African harp called a 
Kora, audiences witness the beauty of 20 horses lying on sand dunes awaken. They will likewise 
appreciate the beautiful liberty number, uniting purebred Arabian horses directed by inaudible 
vocal commands from their kneeling trainer. 
The scenes follow the seasons and their attendant wonders. At times, the horses and people in 
this fabulous caravan become too numerous to count. 
The Odysseo epic wraps up with a fantastic crescendo as the stage is inundated with 80,000 
gallons of water in just a few minutes. A vertiginous virtual waterfall overhangs the resulting 
lake, in which horses, riders and artists join to frolic, leaving behind them the traces of their 
splashes and an astonished audience. 

A show that feeds the soul 
Although the audacity, inventiveness and monumental scope of Cavalia’s new creation may 
boggle the mind, the essence of this magnificent equestrian odyssey lies elsewhere. Beyond the 
impressive technical display and equestrian and acrobatic numbers that are unlike anything 
ever seen on stage, Odysseo is first and foremost a work that feeds the soul. In these difficult, 
troubled times, Odysseo offers up something gentle, even tender. The poetry flowing from this 
grand adventure shines a light on a more humane world where human and horse may live in 
harmony. For just a few hours, the spectator sets off to discover new horizons, the limits of his 
imagination, and gets to experience a waking dream in a world where beauty, serenity and 
hope reign. 

CAVALIA’S ODYSSEO WHITE BIG TOP 
Standing 125 feet tall, the White Big Top is a traffic-stopping addition to the skyline of each city 
Cavalia’s Odysseo performs. When visitors enter, they are immediately transported into a lavish 
and intimate environment reminiscent of any permanent theatre. 
Following the instant success of the first Cavalia show in 2003, Latourelle began to dream of 
how to break through the limitations of a big top tent. The biggest challenge was to open up 
the performance area. Latourelle knew that such unprecedented flexibility would allow him to 
showcase more horses and acrobats to create mind-boggling scenes. This involved removing 
supporting masts from the stage, a common staging issue in tent shows. A specially-designed 
big top was created in Europe, where the weight of the structure shifted from masts to three 
arches above the tent. The Italian firm Canobbio, in collaboration with Artistic Director 
Normand Latourelle, designed the tent and supervised construction. Asteo of France and 
Genivar of Canada supervised engineering operations. The arches that support the massive 
structure were built by Show Canada. 
More than twice the size of the structure created for Cavalia’s original production, the White 
Big Top is the size of two NFL football fields. The 17,500 square feet stage, larger than a hockey 
rink, and the 50-foot wide backstage area offer a vast playground for more than 30 cantering 
horses. The grandiose stage also offers incredible possibilities for large-scale stagings 
A total of five tents comprise Cavalia’s Odysseo village. 

A show that feeds the soul 
Although the audacity, inventiveness and monumental scope of Cavalia’s new creation may 
boggle the mind, the essence of this magnificent equestrian odyssey lies elsewhere. Beyond the 
impressive technical display and equestrian and acrobatic numbers that are unlike anything 
ever seen on stage, Odysseo is first and foremost a work that feeds the soul. In these difficult, 
troubled times, Odysseo offers up something gentle, even tender. The poetry flowing from this 
grand adventure shines a light on a more humane world where human and horse may live in 
harmony. For just a few hours, the spectator sets off to discover new horizons, the limits of his 
imagination, and gets to experience a waking dream in a world where beauty, serenity and 
hope reign. 

FUN FACTS 
 Odysseo features 63 horses of 11 different breeds including the Appaloosa, Arabian, 
Canadian, Holsteiner, Lusitano, Oldenburg, Paint Horse, Quarter Horse, Spanish 
Purebred (P.R.E.) and Warmblood. 
 The horses are from Spain, Portugal, France, The Netherlands, Germany, The United 
States and Canada. 
 There are 47 artists - riders, acrobats, aerialists, dancers and musicians. 
 The artists are from around the world including the United States, Canada, Brazil, 
France, Belgium, Guinea, Russia, Spain and Ukraine. 
 There are 350 costumes and 100 pairs of shoes and boots in the show. Artists may have 
up to seven different costumes. 
 An artist may have no more than 90 seconds to do a quick costume change between 
numbers. 
 A team of 20 artisans, including four cutters, 13 dressmakers, one property master, one 
designer and one shoemaker worked in the Cavalia studios to create the costumes. 
 Materials used in the costumes include linen, silk, cotton, leather and some imitation 
fur. The use of natural fibers gives the clothes a sheen and lets them fall in a way that 
synthetic fibers simply cannot match. 
 The costumes are adapted to the artists’ needs, especially those of the acrobats and 
riders, to facilitate their onstage movement while not compromising their appearance. 
 The on-tour costume department consists of one wardrobe person and three dressers 
who launders, mends and cares for the costumes. At times during the show, they juggle 
15 simultaneous wardrobe changes. They have two sewing machines, one shoe-repair 
machine and one overlock machine.

TICKETS in DC - Ticket are priced from $34.50 to $149.50 + applicable taxes and fees. For a memorable evening, the Rendez-Vous package offers the best seats in the house, exquisite buffet-dinning before the show, open bar, desserts during intermission and an exclusive visit of the stable after the show. This unique VIP experience takes place in a luxurious tent alongside the White Big Top. The Rendez-Vous package prices range from $154.50 to $229.50 + applicable taxes and fees.

ABOUT CAVALIA INC. – Headquartered in Montreal, Canada, Cavalia Inc. is an entertainment company that specializes in the creation, production and touring of innovative shows for audiences of all ages. Founded by Normand Latourelle, the company has an expertise in equestrian and performing arts, and is known for making the most of cutting-edge technology, multimedia and special effects, which allows for the creation of magical, unique, never-before-seen theatrical experiences. Cavalia, seen by some 4 million people across North America and Europe since its 2003 debut, celebrates the relationship between humans and horses by loosely recounting the evolution of this bond. Odysseo, which premiered in 2011, takes the next step, leading viewers on a great journey where horses and humans, together, discover some of the planet’s most unforgettable landscapes. Follow Cavalia Inc.’s latest developments at www.twitter.com/cavalia or www.facebook.com/cavalia.

Monday, October 28, 2013

New Subscription Method for Receiving These Posts -- Don't Miss Out!

We will be making some changes to the way posts are made to Reflections in the Light which will affect how you can subscribe to them.

To receive reviews via email, send your name and email address to ReflectionsintheLight@cox.net with the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject line. When the transition is made to a new service provider, you will not receive posts via email unless you resubscribe using this address.

Don't miss out on all the latest reviews and news from Broadway, New York and beyond.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Meet Me In St. Louis ... in Pennsylvania

Bucks County Playhouse has announced members of the cast and creative team for the 2013 holiday show Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play, set in a similar fashion as last year’s Bucks County holiday show It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, both adapted by Joe Landry.

Featuring direction by Playhouse alumni Gordon Greenberg and choreography by Lorin Latarro the cast includes Broadway's Geoff Packard, Jay Russell and Broadway and Bucks County alumni Garth Kravits, Lauren Molina and Chelsea Packard. Additional casting will be announced soon.

The creative team for Meet Me In St. Louis: A Live Radio Play includes Nicole V. Moody (Costumes), Ed Chapman (Sound Design), and Phil Reno (Music Direction).

Based on The Kensington Stories by Sally Benson and the MGM motion picture "Meet Me In St. Louis" starring Judy Garland, the stage play will feature songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine, including the classics such as: “The Boy Next Door,” “Skip To My Lou,” “The Trolley Song,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and is adapted from the book by Hugh Wheeler.

Performances run from Wednesday, Dec. 4 through Sunday, Dec. 29 at the Bucks County Playhouse, 70 South Main St., New Hope, PA. Tickets and info: bcptheater.org; l215-862-2121.

Kids' Night on Broadway 2014

The Broadway League announced today that the dates for 2014 KIDS’ NIGHT ON BROADWAY® will be from Monday, February 24, 2014 to Sunday, March 2, 2014. Tickets to participating shows will be available to the public on Wednesday, January 8th, 2014. Theatre fans who join The Broadway Fan Club atBroadwayFanclub.com are eligible for special pre-sale opportunities.

KIDS’ NIGHT ON BROADWAY is when kids ages 6 to 18 can see participating Broadway shows for free when accompanied by a full-paying adult. A KIDS’ NIGHT ON BROADWAY ticket includes pre-theatre activities, restaurant discounts, parking discounts, educational programs, and more.

The 18th annual KIDS’ NIGHT ON BROADWAY will kick off in New York City. Details and participating shows to be announced.

KIDS’ NIGHT ON BROADWAY will also take place in multiple cities around the country, with different shows and venues putting their own spin on the event, on numerous dates throughout the year. Check kidsnightonbroadway.com for specific dates and locations.

Broadway Review: The Snow Geese

Snow Geese Doesn't Make Our Emotions Fly
By Lauren Yarger
A group of people argues and talks over each other sentences for a while, obviously upset about something, but what that might be is much less obvious.

So begins The Snow Geese, Sharr White's puzzling play getting a Broadway run by Manhattan Theatre Club. And perhaps it would have been best if it ended there too, for it never engages us, causes us to care for any of the characters, -- save one -- and never fully justifies its presence in a Broadway theater given all the really great plays out there just waiting to be produced.

Propelling the production is its star, Mary-Louise Parker, a terrific actress whom I was looking forward to seeing on stage. The Snow Geese teams her again with Proof Director Daniel Sullivan. They both took home Tonys for that one. MTC also might have been banking on their success last season with White's play The Other Place, which earned its star Laurie Metcalf a nomination.

Whatever forces joined to result in this production, they aren't enough to make it interesting. The Gaesling family is in crisis (hence the argument at the dinner table). The patriarch, Teddy (Christopher Innvar) died two months ago and his grieving wife is in denial, big time. She has other things to worry about any way, like eldest son, Duncan (Evan Jonigkeit) getting ready to ship off to the front (it's 1917, by the way). Second son, Arnold (Brian Cross) has discovered that his father was a terrible financial manager and the family is broke.

And to the mix poor relations (and unfortunately for the time, German-accented) Max Hohmann (Danny Burstein) and his wife, Clarissa (Victoria Clark), who take up residence at the Gaesling family hunting lodge just outside Syracuse, after their home is burned by German haters. Angst is in the air as Duncan hopes to enjoy one last hunt for snow geese before shipping out.

The parts of the plot and play never come together, though, as though White took aim at the material with buckshot instead of a sharp-shooting rifle. Yes, we get that Duncan is selfish. Yes, we get that Elizabeth (Parker) would rather fantasize about being with her dead husband than live in reality. Yes, we get (thanks to Ukrainian maid and war refugee Victorya Grayaznoy (Jessica Love) that Americans are a bunch of spoiled, naive and ungrateful people. But do we care? Not much.

Clarissa, the one character for whom we feel some warmth, acts like a mother goose to fluttering Arnold when his own mother isn't really available. Is it any coincidence that the family's name seems so close to the word gosling?

The set and period costumes (designed by John Lee Beatty and Jane Greenwood) are nice to look at. My favorite part of this play was a projection effect that creates a flutter of startled geese flying around the stage (Rocco DeSanti, projection design). Not much else excited me.

It's a shame, because  there is some pretty extraordinary talent up there on stage with very little to do. Sullivan is one of the best directors on Broadway and MTC has a built-in subscription audience. Too bad all those positive elements come together in play that isn't worthy.

The Snow Geese plays at the Samuel J.  Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St., NYC through Dec. 15. http://www.manhattantheatreclub.com/.

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

Broadway Theater Review: A Time to Kill

Fred Dalton Thompson, John Douglas Thompson, and Sebastian Arcelus. Photo: (c) Carol Rosegg
A Page-Turner Without the Pages
By Lauren Yarger
It's a John Grishma page turner, with all of the elements we expect: a horrible crime, an impossible case and intrigue in the courtroom. This A Time to Kill is on stage, however, not in the pages of a book, as Rupert Holmes excellent adaptation of the best-selling thriller comes to Broadway.

This version, directed by Ethan McSweeny, is every bit as as sharply written as the original -- a nail biter that has us engaged and eagerly anticipating the verdict every second of the two-and-a-half hour drama -- even if we already have read the book.

The drama takes place in early 1980s Mississippi where racial tensions are anything but relaxed. A 10-year-old girl has been raped by two white men. Her father, Carl Lee Hailey (John Douglas Thompson), decides to take justice in a highly white county into his own hands and kills the suspects while they are in jail awaiting trial.

Hailey asks white attorney, Jake Brigance (Sebastian Arcelus), who get along well enough with Blacks around Ford County, including Sheriff Ozzie Walls (Chike Johnson), to take his case. Jake has a reputation for winning cases, especially against DA and nemesis Rufus R. Buckley (Patrick Page), who hopes publicity from the controversial trial will propel him to the governor's mansion.

Overwhelmed in his one-man practice, Jake turns to law mentor Lucien Wilbanks (Tom Skerritt), who takes a break form his inebriated existence in forced retirement on a Caribbean island to offer his assistance. Wilbanks produces fellow drunk, W. T. Bass (john Procaccino) to testify that Hailey's mind snapped upon learning the circumstances of his daughter's rape and that he can't be held accountable for his actions. When Buckley challenges Bass' credibility as an expert witness, Wilbanks starts hatching a plot to buy off the jury.

Also assisting Jake is hot-shot legal intern Ellen Roarke (Ashley Williams) who offers her cracker-jack research skills -- along with anything else Jake might be interested in while his wife and daughter are out of town to avoid threats against them by the Ku Klux Klan, which  isn't exactly happy about a white man defending Hailey.

Jake and his client stick with each other, however, despite urging from the rape victim's mother that her husband should allow the NAACP to take over his defense. Jake just lives in a different world, she argues.
Gwen (Tonya Pinkins) also isn't happy that Carl's actions have left her without his paycheck, alone to cope with their traumatized daughter while worrying about whether he will end up in the gas chamber.

The second act is all trial with the audience brilliantly positioned as jury.

McSweeny may have selected Arcelus more for his resemblance to Actor Matthew McConaughey, who starred in the 1988 movie, than for his ability to portray the affable, but go-for-the-jugular attorney. John Douglas Thompson is riveting in his portrayal of Hailey. We're never quite sure how much he lost -- or took -- control  over the situation. The ensemble here, is top notch.

Also turning in excellent performances are Pinkins, Page and Fred Dalton Thompson as Judge Omar Noose. A slip in dialogue was deftly handled by Thompson and Page the night I attended.

Grisham's legal thrillers have readers flipping pages from start to finish. Holme's really excellent stage adaptation creates the feeling for the live experience. My complaints: a rotating and expanding set (James Noone, design) and the use of projections (Jeff Sugg, design) and upbeat music (original music and sound design by Lindsay Jones), all of which are out of place and distract form the drama.

A Time to Kill runs at the Golden Theatre,252 W. 45th St., NYC.http://atimetokillonbroadway.com/

Christians might also like to know:
-- The description of the rape is detailed and graphic.
-- Lord's name taken in vain

A Christmas Carol Will Play in New York

A Christmas Carol (AChristmasCarolOnStage.com) the new stage adaptation by Patrick Barlow (39 Steps) has announced casting for its upcoming holiday engagement at Theatre at St. Clement's (423 W. 46th Street). 

A Christmas Carol begins performances on Nov. 16th with opening night set for Monday, Nov. 25.

The cast of A Christmas Carol features Peter Bradbury (Cyrano De Bergerac, Picnic) as Scrooge with Mark Light-Orr, Jessie Shelton,  Franca Vercelloni, and Mark Price playing all of the other roles.

Tickets, priced at $75, are available at www.Telecharge.com or by calling 212-239-6200. Premium seating is available.

Casting Announced for 2014 Broadway Staging of Les Mis

Ramin Karimloo 
Joining the cast of the new Les Miserables headed to Broadway this Spring are Ramin Karimloo (West End and current star of Les Misérables in Toronto, and The Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies in London) as Jean Valjean; Will Swenson (Tony Award-nominated star of Broadway’s Hair and Priscilla Queen of the Desert) as Javert; Caissie Levy (West End and Broadway star of Ghost and Hair and Elphaba in Broadway’s Wicked) as Fantine and Nikki M. James (Tony Award winner for The Book of Mormon) as Eponine. 

 The official opening night for Les Miserables is
Sunday, March 23. Additional casting, including the roles of Marius,
Cosette, Enjolras and the Thenardiers, will be announced in the coming
weeks.

This newly re-imagined Les Miserables is still breaking box-office records
and receiving rave reviews across North America, grossing more than $160
million. Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Les Miserables is written by Alain
Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg and is based on the novel by Victor
Hugo. It has music by Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer
and original French text by Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, original
adaption by Trevor Nunn and John Caird and additional material by James
Fenton.

The new production is directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell, designed
by Matt Kinley inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo with costumes by
Andreane Neofitou and Christine Rowland, lighting by Paule Constable, sound
by Mick Potter and projections by Fifty-Nine Productions.

Read a review of the tour of the new staging, which played at the Bushnell in Hartford, CT, here. (And look for an interview here with J. Mark McVey, who has played the role of Jean Valjean more often than any other actor, coming soon on Reflections in the Light).

Friday, October 25, 2013

Broadway Theater Review: The Winslow Boy

Taut Production Explores the Knots in Family Ties
By Lauren Yarger
Just how far will a parent go to protect his or her child? In the case of  Broadway's The Winslow Boy, the answer is all the way -- and maybe too far -- both at the same time.

The Old Vic's production of Terence Rattigan's play is getting a stellar staging by Roundabout Theatre Company, under the careful direction of Lindsay Posner. Roger Rees and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio head the cast as the parents, Arthur and Grace Winslow who enjoy a peaceful life in pre-World War I Kensington, England.

Their daughter, Catherine (Charlotte Parry), is newly engaged to John Watherstone (Chandler Williams), a respectable military chap from an upstanding family who doesn't exactly approve of Cate who shows much more emotion about her cause of women's suffrage than she does outward affection for John. Arthur's gift of a settlement on Cate is welcome, since the couple will have to live on John's meager Army salary and an allowance he receives form his father.

Dickie (Zachary Bolt) gets by at Oxford, but can't compete with the perfection -- at least that's how Dickie thinks everyone sees him -- of younger brother Ronnie (Spencer David Milford), who is studying at Arthur's alma mater, the Royal Naval College at Osborne.

The biggest threats to their peaceful existence come from their overly familiar parlor maid, Violet (Henny Russell) and the awkward position Cate's engagement has put the family solicitor, Desmond Curry (Michael Cumpsty) in since he has been in love with her for years. That's until one Sunday morning in July when Ronnie comes slinking home, expelled form school after being accused of forging a signature on a postal note and stealing 5 shillings.

Arthur makes it his goal in life to clear the boy. He re-appropriates funds allocated for Cate's settlement and Dickie's schooling to hire the best attorney in England: Sir Robert Morton (a very impressive Alessandro Nivola to take the case. Dickie is forced to accept a position at his father bank and Cate's wedding plans might be scrapped as John is influenced by the loss of his allowance and in the face of the growing attraction between Cate and Morton. Initially in support of her husband's efforts to defend their son's name, Grace comes to wonder whether the case known as "The Winslow Boy," was worth the sacrifices, especially in light of Ronnie's own lack of concern about it.

The acting and directing here are superb making the two-hour-45-minute run time breeze by. The sets and costumes (designed by Peter McNish) are nice to look at too.

The Winslow Boy runs through Dec. 1 at American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St., NYC. Tickets: http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/

Christians might also like to know:No content notes

Broadway Theater Review: Big Fish

Kate Baldwin and Leo Norbert Butz. Photo: Paul Kolnik
The Story Gets Lost in a Sea of Big-Splash Effects
By Lauren Yarger
The latest attempt to turn a movie into a Broadway musical has landed a little like a fish out of water.

Big Fish tries to make a big splash with 19 songs by Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family), big-number choreography by Director Susan Stroman and amazingly complex sets and costumes (designed by Julian Crouch and William Ivey Long), but all of the over-the-top action drowns out the really good story of a frustrated young man trying to get to know his big-tale-telling father before it's too late.

Edward Bloom (Norbert Leo Butz) and his son, Will (Bobby Steggert), never have had a great relationship. A traveling salesman, Edward wasn't around much and when he was, he was full of exaggerated stories. No longer a little boy (the young Will's role is shared by Zachary Unger and Anthony Pierini), Will wants to know the real story about who his dad is.

In Edward's stories, he always is the hero, saving his hometown from a giant (Ryan Andes), a witch (Ciara Renee) or a bully (Ben Crawford). The most beautiful woman, of course, is Will's mom, Sandra (Kate Baldwin) -- except in one. That one is about Edward's high school sweetheart, Jenny Hill (Kirsten Scott), whose name shows up for real in a mysterious document.

Will's new wife, Josephine, (Krystal Joy Brown), announces that they are expecting a son and when Edward's health starts to deteriorate, Will decides it is time to find the truth about his Dad and Jenny.

All of Edward's fantastic stories are brought to life in minute detail with a cast of characters, including, among many, many, many many others, a mermaid (Sarrah Strimel), the fortunetelling witch and  her backup chorus of twirling swamp creatures), a bunch of cheerleaders, a human canon ball, dancing elephants and even the big fish that got away....

Long gets to use some of his color-changing fabric magic again (see Cinderella, also running on Broadway) with lighting (David Holder, design) and projection enhancement (Benjamin Pearcy for 56 Productions, design) that produce breathtaking effect. It, with the Stroman-signature choreography ( a chorus line of dancing swamp things and a dancing campfire?)  eclipses the book by John August, who adapts his screenplay from the 2003 movie starring Robin Williams, which was based on Daniel Wallace's novel.

Some questions arise in the parts of the story that we do catch like:

  • In a scene where a kid in the woods discovers a bug in his pants and his companions shine their flashlights on his shoes to coax it out. Don't bugs usually run from the light?  
  • Jenny says Edward hasn't returned to their hometown since he left, yet she knows Will's name 
  • The villagers are afraid of a giant, but the giant is agoraphobic and afraid to come out of his cave so how do they know he's there?
  • What are the names of Will's wife and mother? When I sat down to write this review, I couldn't remember. I'd lost them somewhere in the avalanche of visual stimulation and cool sound effects (Jon Weston, design).
  • Good heavens, there is still a second act to come? (This was my thought at about one hour and 15 minutes in when I realized we hadn't even come to intermission yet in the interminable collection of songs and scene changes.)

Lippa's twangy tunes are mostly not memorable, with some distracting orchestrations by Larry Hochman, but it is always a treat to hear Baldwin, who has one of the finest voices on Broadway, sing anything on a New York stage. Steggert lends his strong voice to his songs and a solo, "Stranger" is particularly nice.

Big Fish splashes at the Neil Simon Theatre 250 West 52nd St., NYC. For tickets and info: http://www.bigfishthemusical.com/. You can view a sneak peek video there to see some of the action.

Christians might like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Scantily clad actress
-- The witch uses a crystal ball to predict Edward's fate.

Theater Review: The Glass Menagerie

Zachary Quinto, Cherry Jones, Brian J. Smith and Celia Keenan-Bolger. Photo: Michael J. Lutch
A New Way to Reflect on an Oft-Seen Classic
By Lauren Yarger
Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie is one of his most produced plays. In New York alone, we just saw Roundabout Theatre Company's Off-Broadway version (via Long Wharf in Connecticut) with Judith Ivey in 2010.

On Broadway, Jessica Lange and Julie Harris starred in 2005 and 1995 following version with Jessica Tandy following three other versions back to the original in 1946. (My personal favorite, is a 1973 TV version, believe it or not, with Katharine Hepburn).

It's back again on Broadway in an exquisitely-staged American Repertory Company production  with Cherry Jones in the role of Amanda, a controlling mother obsessed with finding her daughter a gentleman caller while smotherng her writer son, a hardly disguised version of Williams himself.

The play is enjoyed as a vehicle for meaty female roles -- fierce Amanda and shy, "crippled" daughter Laura (here, Celia Keenan-Bolger). Look for Tony award nominations for both.

As compelling as their performances are, the real stars of this production, directed by John Tiffany, might just be Bob Crowley (sets and costumes) and Natasha Katz (lighting design). Look for nominations here too. Together they have created the isolated world of a fading southern beauty hanging on to to memories of her youth -- an island floating on a lake of reflection.

The story is told from Tom's point of view. Zachary Quinto steps into this role with authority and truth be told, the persona of Williams himself. It really s his tale to tell and Quinto makes us understand both the writer's love and loathing for his mother and sister (at risk of repeating myself, it's a nomination-worthy performance). He addresses the audiences directly at beginning and end to frame the memories surrounding one particular night when Tom brings a friend to dinner at the family's apartment.

The "gentleman caller" (Brian J. Smith) turns out to be a boy who had been kind to Laura in high school (and played here as a happy-go-lucky guy not as sensitive to Laura as we have come to expect.)  He wins her confidence and she entrusts him with a piece of her glass menagerie-- a collection of glass figurines that provide the only beauty or happiness in the bleak life of a girl so isolated that she fades into the folds of a sofa without notice (with the help of Crowley and Katz). The menagerie itself is represented by one spotlighted crystal piece and hundreds of lights of point reflected in a pool below.

The pool is fascinating -- quietly undetectable until it reflects an upside-down image of the reality taking place above it. This alter-reality just below the surface  beckons to Tom, who leans over the jagged edges of his world in thoughts of escape. It's exquisite staging. You might want to consider a mezzanine seat for this show to get the full effect.

The barebones staging and props balance the impact of the special effects. One scene in particular, where Amanda and Laura flip a non-existent tablecloth, brings home the idea of "what's real?"

This Glass Menagerie has great performances, but the visionary staging gives lots of room for reflection on the play's themes.

The Glass Menagerie has been extended through Feb. 23 at the Booth theatre, 222 West 45th St., NYC. For tickets and information: http://www.broadway.com.

Note: Ladies, don't plan on using the restroom at this theater. Half the line won't get through before curtain.

Christians might also like to know:

  • No content notes.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Photos: At the Episcopal Actors' Guild's 90th Anniversary Gala

Scenes from "90 Years of Broadway: EAG's Theatrical Journey," a benefit gala held last night at New York Open Center.

The event was sold out with 150 attendees enjoying a cocktail hour and show, written by Fran Handman and directed by Mark York. Jim Dale was the MC and also performed "There's a Sucker Born every MInute" from Barnum.
Ellyn Marie Marsh (Kinky Boots) sang Don't Rain on My Parade
Sarah Rice: And I Was Beautiful
Jennifer Fouche wowed the crowd with a humorous take on Bring on the Men



Heather MacRae performed Surrey With the Fringe on Top
Marni Nixon charmed with two tunes: All the Things You Are and One More Kiss, performed with Sarah Rice

Tonya Pinkins (A Time to Kill) sings My Funny Valentine

Lee Roy Reams did a medley of tunes from Hello Dolly.
Carol Lawrence improvised a line of male dancers from the attendees.

Alicia Sable performed It's a Perfect Relationship.

Jayne Summerhays: Don't Blame Me

Jana Robbins reprises "Everything's Coming Up Roses
Carol Lawrence and Walter Willison, who reprised I Do Not Know a Day I Did Not Love You from Two By Two. 








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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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