Monday, April 6, 2015

Broadway Review: The Audience with Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren Reigns as the Queen of Broadway
By Lauren Yarger
If you think you know everything there is to know about Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, think again.

Even if you enjoyed Helen Mirren’s portrayal of the monarch in the film “the Queen,” which won her an academy award, there’s another side to the cold, detached woman you saw who doesn’t seem to get why her subjects are upset by the death of Princess Diana. Mirren gets a chance to bring a more human woman to life for her Broadway portrayal of Elizabeth in The Audience.

The film’s Oscar-nominated writer, Peter Morgan, also returns to write the book for the play, which focuses on a number of private audiences between the queen and prime ministers over the years.

When the young Elizabeth takes the throne, the first prime minister is Winston Churchill (Dakin Matthews). She has some suggestions for him and a lot of questions, but quickly is rebuffed by the bigger-than-life personality who has been the veteran of service to five monarchs before her (Victoria, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII and George VI). That’s not how these audiences are done, he tells her. He gives her updates, she mostly supports and doesn’t ask questions.

In a time-traveling format, the audiences are not presented in chronological order and rely on the talented creative design team (Production design by Bob Crowley; Hair and Makeup design by Ivana Primorac) to allow Mirren to quickly transform between ages and decades – sometimes right before our eyes. Music composed by Paul Englishby aids in the transitions, but one in particular, which has the queen in her slip seem undignified. We can’t believe her majesty would be pleased at appearing in her skivvies before a sold-out audience.

Tight direction by Stephen Daldry and the two opulent sets ranging from Buckingham Palace to Balmoral in Scotland keep us from getting lost, but the time jumping does seem unnecessary. Also superfluous is a device where the queen talks with her younger self (a role shared by Sadie Sink and Elizabeth Teeter) to present her insecurities and to express her desire to be free of the obligations of her duties.

The other prime ministers paying visits are:
·         An underdeveloped and stereotypical Margaret Thatcher underusing the talents of Judith Ivey to play the Conservative Iron Lady -- the only female to serve in the post-- from 1979-1990.
·         The youngest PM since 1812, David Cameron (Rufus Wright), who currently holds the post.
·         Gordon Brown (Rod McLachlan) who confesses he’s not sure he is cut out for the job in which he served from 2007-2010.
·         Sir Anthony Eden (Michael Elwyn), who handled the Suez crisis during his term from 1955-1957.
·         Sir John Major (Dylan Baker)
·         Tony Blair (also Wright in an almost non-existent role – I guess you’ll have to watch the movie where he is more prominent as the PM counselling Elizabeth through the death of Princess Diana. He served from 1997-2007
·         The queen’s favorite, Harold Wilson (ably played by Richard McCabe), the Labour Party’s gruff two-term PM (1964-1970 and 1974-1976) who championed social reforms. We can’t help but smile when he dunks his cookies in his tea, looking very uncomfortable in the palace surroundings, while demanding his additional four minutes of his 20-minute audience when Elizabeth indicates they are done.

Adding to the ambiance are appearances by the queen’s corgis (trained by Connecticut’s own William Berloni), a couple of footmen (Graydon Long and Jason Loughlin) who stand vigil on the stage during intermission when ushers unfortunately sell snacks instead of wheeling tea carts up the aisle…. ); the queen's Scottish nanny Bobo (Tracy Sallows) and the Queen’s Equerry (Geoffrey Beevers), who gives us some context for the audiences.


The scene leading into intermission has Elizabeth dressed in all her finery at her coronation with shouts of “Long Live the Queen!” from the audience. We have a feeling Mirren will also hear shouts of “Best Actress” coming as Drama Desk, Outer Critics and Tony Awards nominations are announced.

The Audience is in session through June 28 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm.  Tickets $75 - $145(800) 432-7250; theaudiencebroadway.com.

Christians might also like to know:
-- No content notes. Enjoy.

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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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