Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Broadway Theater Review: Airline Highway


A Group of Airline Highway Characters That Never Take Flight
By Lauren Yarger
A group of down-on-their-luck people gather for the funeral of a close friend in Manhattan Theatre Club’s presentation of Steppenwolf’s Airline Highway, but before it’s all over, we kind of wish the funeral were for us so we don't have to attend.

Lisa D’Amour’s play is just downright depressing and features characters we just can’t warm up to – perhaps because there are so many misfits, we never really get a chance to know them very well. They are a bunch a sad, hopeless folks whom we wish we could help, but we don't know them well enough to want to insert ourselves into the depressing environment.

There’s stripper Krista (Caroline Neff) who isn’t happy that her ex, Bait Boy (Joe Tippett), has returned for the funeral, dragging along his stepdaughter, Zoe (Carolyn Braver), who is doing a school paper on subcultures, like theirs at the Hummingbird Motel on Airline Highway in New Orleans.

Wayne (Scott Jaeck) is the super in the rundown place (designed by Scott Pask), that’s also home to Sissy NaNa (K. Todd Freeman), an orange-haired crossdresser, Francis (Ken Marks), an older biker type who has a thing for Krista, Terry (Tim Edward Rhoze), a guy who tries to earn a few bucks fixing things up for Wayne, and Tanya (Julie White), an aging prostitute, among others, including a tenant who frightens her and who is disliked by the others, but we don’t know why.

The funeral isn’t your typical funeral, however. It’s being held at the request of a very much alive Miss Ruby (Judith Roberts) who is dying, but who wants to hear her friends' eulogies while she still can. The friends decorate and plan the funeral program while reconnecting with Bait Boy, who left the squalor at the Hummingbird behind to make a new life with Zoe’s well-off mother.

Attraction between him and Krista rekindles, however, but she is embarrassed about her current circumstances – she doesn’t even have a room at motel because Wayne threw her out when she got behind on the rent.

At intermission, the woman behind me consoled her companion: “Shows like this start slow, but then they get better. They’ll have the party…..”

It doesn’t really get better. We just have a bunch of misfits who appear to have made poor choices, most of whom aren’t very likable, talking over each other. Krista, on the other hand, shouts all of her lines as directed by Joe Mantello. The characters are all uninteresting stereotypes except for Tanya. We discover a little more about her (and White has been nominated for awards).

She has three kids who she has given up. So I would have liked to know more about her and how she came to become a prostitute, why she decided to keep the children and give them up rather than have abortions and who the fathers were. Does she know? Will she decide to allow contact from the one daughter searching for her birth mother?

How did Bait Boy land a good life on the other side of the tracks and why would he go so long for the name of Bait Boy?

D'Amour never lets us find out. Storytelling gets lost in the clutter, which is disappointing, because I know she’s capable of thought-provoking characters ad themes, like those in Detroit, which I enjoyed very much. When Miss Ruby gives a long discourse on life, the script goes further off track. The message seems to be explore your sexuality, everyone matters and should be loved unconditionally. Unfortunately, we don't know or like these characters enough to comply.

Airline Runway has announced an early closing on June 7. It plays at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St., NYC. Performances times vary. Tickets are $67 – $130: http://www.manhattantheatreclub.com.

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Broadway Theater Review: Gigi


A Visual Delight, but Not Enough Intellectual Stimulation
By Lauren Yarger
In what is the biggest snub of the 2015 Tony Award nominations, Gigi snagged only a Best featured Actress nomination for Victoria Clark, but failed to get a nod for its beautiful costumes by Catherine Zuber or Parisian sets designed by Derek McLane.

This Broadway revival is a sensory delight, so the oversight is a bit baffling. The book and lyrics Alan Jay Lerner with a score by Frederick Loewe are pretty unremarkable, though a few songs, like "I Remember It Well" and "Thank Heaven for Little Girls"  live on. An old-fashioned overture opens the show.

The action directed by Eric Schaeffer, is insipid. But the gorgeous sets, which look like artist sketches and works of art in a gallery and those meticulously created costumes are worth the price of the ticket. The show was robbed as far as the Tonys go (Zuber did receive Drama Desk nomination.)

Gigi began life as a 1944 novella by Colette, was adapted for the Broadway stage in 1951 as a straight play by author Anita Loos and starred an unknown Audrey Hepburn in the title role. In 1956 as Gigi, it became Lerner and Loewe's first screen musical. turned it into the musical, "Gigi," as their first musical written for the screen and it swept the Oscars.

Now a plot that was fresh and exciting in 1951 doesn't always revive well onstage, so Heidi Thomas of TV's “Call the Midwife”) was brought in for a new book adaptation, It still doesn't work. The story and music is fairly uninteresting (people were getting up and walking out to use the facilities during the show) and the jokes don't work.

Gigi (High School Musical's Vanessa Hudgens) is an effervescent young girl in turn-of-the-20th century Paris who is being groomed as a courtesan in the tradition of her Aunt Alicia (Dee Hoty) and grandmother, Madame "Mamita" Alvarez (Clark).

OK, I'm out. The idea of offering up this young girl as a sex object to some man is not a good plot for anything in my opinion.
Complications ensue as Mamita's old flame, for lack of a better word, Honoré Lachaille (Howard McGillan) and his dashing nephew, Gaston (Corey Cott) become involved in the lives of the women. Gigi realizes she has fallen in love with Gaston, but Aunt Alicia wants her to wait until a deal is struck.

Gaston initially courts Liane d'Exelmans (Stefanie Leigh) but finds that he too has fallen in love with the little girl he has known so long -- who has grown into a beautiful woman (made plain by Zuber's stunning gown). Gigi balks at the offer of being only his mistress, however.

The always excellent Clark does her best with the role and delivers a moving rendition of "Say a Prayer." Hudgens has a lovely voice and shows amazing breath control while doing Joshuah Bergasse's choreography,

But while I enjoyed watching the show, I didn't enjoy it. I and Gigi needed something more.

Gigi plays at the Neil Simon Theatre, 250 West 52nd St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm;  Tickets are $75.75 - $156.75: http://gigionbroadway.com.

Full disclosure: One of the show's producers, Pat Addiss is a personal friend. 

Christians might like to know:
-- Besides the whole courtesan thing, no content notes.


Broadway Theater Review: It Shoulda Been You

Chip Zien, Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris, Michael X. Martin. Photo: Joan Marcus
It Shoulda Been Funnier; It Shoulda Been a Hit
By  Lauren Yarger
A star-studded ensemble featuring Tyne Daly, Sierra Boggess and Montego Glover takes the stage at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre for a new musical directed by David Hyde Pierce . Sounds like is should be a great night at the theater, but It Shoulda Been You isn't as good as it coulda/should been, so we are as dissatisfied at all the misfits who show up for this doomed wedding.

The music and book are by a relatively unknown team: Barbara Anselmi and Brian Hargrove. None of the 19  musical numbers in the 100-minute, no intermission production stood out and I kept thinking the show would work much better as a straight play, which Pierce, with his weath of comedic talent, probably could have shaped into something more.

Rebecca Steinberg (Boggess) is getting married to Brian Howard (David Burtka). Get it. She's Jewish; he's not. Their families aren't happy. Georgette Howard (a very snooty Harriet Harris) and her husband, George, (Michael X. Martin) muster up their courage to mingle with the Steinbergs, but Georgette manages to throw some zingers their way. She wishes her son had been gay so he wouldn't replace her with another woman; George wants his son to have Rebecca sign a pre-nup. Things kind of go downhill fast.

Murray Steinberg (Chip Zien) tries to keep his formidable, insult-throwing wife, Judy (Daly) calm and their daughter, Jenny (Lisa Howard), tries to keep family fireworks off of the program of her sister's big day as she teams with a wedding planner extraordinaire, Albert (a comedic Edward Hibbert), to keep things running smoothly. at  the St. George Hotel (designed by Anna Louizos). William Ivey Long provides the costume design.

Complicating matters is the arrival of Rebecca's ex -- also and Jenny's best friend -- Marty Kaufman (Josh Grisetti), who wants to stop the wedding. (And believe me, until his funny arrival, this show is about as fun as being seated at the kids table at a wedding reception.)  There are a bunch of other characters thrown in too, like Uncle Morty (Adam Heller), Aunt Sheila (Anne L. Nathan), and the maid of honor and best man, Annie Shepherd (a criminally underused Glover who lit up the stage in Memphis) and Greg Madison  (Nick Spangler).

But all is not as it seems and suddenly the real reasons for the wedding are revealed and the families must decide whether they can accept their children's choices and their definition of family, and love them unconditionally.

Lisa Howard gives an affecting performance as the overweight second daughter used to playing second fiddle to her beautiful, preferred sister, who doesn't believe anyone thinks she is beautiful. She doesn't think she deserves a chance at love. The actress received a Drama Desk nomination for Best Actress and  Daly and Grisetti got nods in the Featured Actor categories for both Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards. Standing out to me, however, are servants played by Heller and Nathan who steal the comedy in scenes with very minor parts.

It Shoulda Been You, which received an Outer Critics Circle nomination for Best Musical as well as nominations for book, score and direction, plays at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 West 47th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $59 - $132: http://www.itshouldabeenyou.com.

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

Broadway Theater Review: Skylight

Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan. Photo: John Haynes
Not Sure What These Characters See in Each Other, Or What Everyone Sees in the Play
By Lauren Yarger
I am starting to sound like a broken record, I know, but the Broadway revival of David Hare's Skylight is another play that is getting raves, but which left me wanting more.

It features excellent performances by Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy as reunited lovers, but the characters didn't give me much to like. Instead, Hare's script, which has been labeled as "beautiful," "gripping" and "illuminating" since it premiered in London's West End back in 1995, left my mind wandering.

Kyra Hollis (Mulligan) and Tom Sergeant (Nighy) had been lovers when Krya worked for the charismatic restaurant owner and lived in his home, where she became good friends with his wife, Alice, and son, Edward (Matthew Beard). When Tom's wife discovered their betrayal, Kyra left and moved to a rundown area of town to teach under-privileged children.  Her drafty,  drabby apartment, designed to show us interior and exterior perspectives, complete with a baffling moving wall, is designed by Bob Crowley.

One night, Edward visits, to voice his displeasure at Kyra's just up and leaving him and to announce that his mother has died. A short time later, there's another visitor: Tom. The domineering, restless, fidgety man is a complete contrast to the laid back, submissive, sweats-clad Kyra. We kind of wonder how they ever had a long-time affair. Tom, in his dapper, finely tailored suit obviously isn't comfortable in Kyra's cold and shabby digs.

 Woven into the threads of their conversation are messages about corporate and banker greed and the lack of concern about the poor by folks who have money. There also are some plugs for education reform. Kyra has left Tom's world of privilege and has a much different perspective. So despite a mutual attraction (why???) that flares up again, it might not possible for them to be together even now that Alice is out of the way.

In addition to boring dialogue, Hare has the two exchange long minutes of exposition so we know how they met and what happened in their relationship. I found myself composing a shopping list in my head, then coming back to the dialogue to find they still were talking about the same thing they had been when my mind wandered.

Couldn't understand what Kyra ever saw in Tom, what he ever saw in her, or why Edward seemed to prefer Kyra to his own mother. I felt really bad for Alice. And I have no idea why the play is called Skylight. Obviously, I didn't connect with this one.

Director Stephen Daldry has Kyra prepare a real dinner -- some sort of pasta with odd ingredients while Tom micro-manages the process. It smells really good though, and I immediately started adding things to my grocery list. At intermission, all the conversation was about the dish's savory aroma and how everyone was now hungry. Nothing about the play's being beautiful, gripping or illuminating, however.

Skylight has received Tony nominations for Best Revival of a Play, Nighy, Mulligan, Beard, Crowley, Daldry and Natasha Katz, who designed the lighting, so what do I know?

It plays through June 21 at the Golden Theatre, 252 West 45th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday a t 3 pm. Tickets: $60 - $149: http://www.skylightbwy.com/

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




Broadway Theater Review: On the Twentieth Century with Kristin Chenoweth


Revival Has Its Whistlestops, but Goes Off Track
By Lauren Yarger
Everyone is all aboard for Kristin Chenoweth as zany Lily Garland in Roundabout Theatre's revival of the Cy Coleman musical On the Twentieth Century.

She has received Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for the part and probably will win one or all of them. The Broadway darling always draws rave reviews, whether she she is turning in  a stellar performance or not. Actually, people stand and applaud if she just speaks, so the Tonys have tapped her as co-host of the June 7 Tony Awards with Alan Cumming. Her appeal transcends the stage -- she also is the popular star of films ("RV,"  "Four Christmases") and TV ("The West Wing." "Pushing Daisies").

So why wasn't I blown away by her performance in On the Twentieth Century?

Don't get me wrong. She's good. And funny. But I honestly didn't think it was beyond any performance I have seen this season. In fact. Chenoweth didn't look quite well. Somehow strained. So I suppose I'll have to pass it off to her having a bad day, given the glowing accolades she is receiving.

Also not impressing me too much was her leading man, Peter Gallagher, who recently had been out due to voice strain and who sounded as though he hadn't yet had enough rest. The repetitive-sounding Coleman score isn't one of his most exciting either, so overall, I kept waiting for this train to pull out of the station.

The book Book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (who gave us other classics like Applause and On the Town, which also is enjoying a revival this year on Broadway) are based on  plays by Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur and Bruce Millholland. It tells the 1932 story of characters bound from Chicago to New York aboard the luxury train the Twentieth Century Limited (designed by David Rockwell, who has received a Tony nomination) where theater producer Oscar Jaffee (Gallagher) hopes to convince successful Hollywood actress Garland, whom he discovered when she was boring Mildred Plotka, to star in his new play and save his career.

Lily's attentions are focused on her boy toy, Bruce Granit (Andy Karl, nominated for a Featured Actor Tony), so Oscar enlists the help of Owen O'Malley (Michael McGrath) and Oliver Webb (Mark Linn-Baker), his press agent and business manager, to get Lily to sign a contract. They discover wealthy investor  Leticia Peabody Primrose (Marie Louise Wilson) is on board and get her backing for a show they make up on the spot.

Director Scott Ellis and Choreographer Warren Carlyle move the actors about on board the train, send them into flashback sequences and even throw in some tap dancing. For some reason, a lot of tongues are used and one scene features some kink sexual activity. I thought this was 1932? I do thank Ellis for not having the characters actually light the cigarettes they are holding. (So unnecessary in theater.) Costume Designer William Ivey Long gets it right, with each period costume specifically made for the character and with rich fabrics all working together.

My favorite part was watching Baker and McGrath. They have great on-stage chemistry and lots of comedic chops.

On the Twentieth Century, which is nominated for a Best Revival Tony, has extended its voyage at American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St., NYC through July 19. Performances are Tuesday - Saturday a t 8 pm; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday  at 2 pm. Tickets are $67 - $147: http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/.

Christians might als like to know:
-- Sexual activity

Broadway Theater Review: Living on Love with Renee Fleming


It's Not the Fat Lady, but a Weak Script That Ends This Play
By Lauren Yarger
Opera star Renee Fleming makes her Broadway debut, as, well, an opera diva, in Living on Love, a surprisingly underwritten comedy by Joe DiPietro (Memphis, Nice Work if You Can Get It), loosely based on Peccadillo.

It's hard to believe the DeAngelis couple of Raquel (Fleming) and Vito (Douglas Sills), ever had time to fall in love because they are so self absorbed. "Call me Maestro," Vito insists while his wife thinks she hears birds singing when entering a room where operatic strains are heard on the record player. "Oh, no. That was me," she smiles. A huge collection of snow globes, gifts given on return of a trip, shows just how many separations the couple has endured.

Raquel, just having returned from another tour, suspects her husband might not have remained faithful to his promise to, well, remain faithful. He claims he has been immersed in writing his autobiography, but ghost writer Robert Sampson (Jerry O'Connell) would disagree. He only has two pages of information after weeks of trying to get the maestro to sit down on one of the beautifully upholstered chairs in the gorgeous New York penthouse (designed by Derek McLane)  and concentrate on the project. His frustration is greater because he doesn't really care about the maestro's life --  he took the job so he could be near Raquel, whom he adores.

Raquel decides to hire Robert herself, when Vito ends up working for another editor at the publisher's, Iris Peabody (Anna Chlumsky) and the couple enters a competition to see who can finish first (even if all the stories contained aren't true) and start a new romance. Raquel's career might be over, but an upcoming tour that includes Fort Lauderdale, of all places, might be made more pleasant if Robert accompanies her. Meanwhile, a friendship develops between Iris and Robert.

If you can't figure out where this is going, you will be one of the few audience members for whom Living on Love isn't totally predictable. When DiPietro runs out of things to do, he has the couple's synchronized butlers, Bruce and Eric (Blake Hammond and Scott Robertson), deliver a lengthy pro-gay-marriage statement when they aren't singing opera while changing the set (direction is by Kathleen Marshall). Disappointing work from one of my favorite comedic book writers.

Stealing the show, more than once, is Raquel's little dog Puccini (played by Trixie, a rescue pooch with prior Broadway credits as Mr. Wuffles in Bullets Over Broadway. She is trained by William Berloni.)

While it's a treat to hear Fleming sing a few notes from time to time (and a disappointment not to hear Sills sing any), there's just not enough here to keep us entertained. And there's nothing anyone can do about it (to quote the statement made ad nauseum by the butler), even  Michael Krass, who designs flowing costumes for Fleming.

Living on Love has announced an early closing on May 3 at the Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th St., NYC. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $25 - $145: livingonlovebroadway.com.

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

Fun Home, An American in Paris Top Tony Award Nominations for 2015

Nominations for the 2015 American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards®
Presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing


Best Musical
An American in Paris
Fun Home
Something Rotten!
The Visit

Best Play
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Disgraced
Hand to God
Wolf Hall

Best Musical Revival
The King and I
On the Town
On the Twentieth Century

Best Play Revival
The Elephant Man
Skylight
This Is Our Youth
You Can’t Take It With You

Best Book of a Musical
An American in Paris
Craig Lucas
Fun Home
Lisa Kron
Something Rotten!
Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell
The Visit
Terrence McNally

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Fun Home
Music: Jeanine Tesori
Lyrics: Lisa Kron
The Last Ship
Music & Lyrics: Sting
Something Rotten!
Music & Lyrics: Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick
The Visit
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Steven Boyer, Hand to God
Bradley Cooper, The Elephant Man
Ben Miles, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
Bill Nighy, Skylight
Alex Sharp, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Geneva Carr, Hand to God
Helen Mirren, The Audience
Elisabeth Moss, The Heidi Chronicles
Carey Mulligan, Skylight
Ruth Wilson, Constellations

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Michael Cerveris, Fun Home
Robert Fairchild, An American in Paris
Brian d’Arcy James, Something Rotten!
Ken Watanabe, The King and I
Tony Yazbeck, On the Town

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Kristin Chenoweth, On the Twentieth Century
Leanne Cope, An American in Paris
Beth Malone, Fun Home
Kelli O’Hara, The King and I
Chita Rivera, The Visit

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Matthew Beard, Skylight
K. Todd Freeman, Airline Highway
Richard McCabe, The Audience
Alessandro Nivola, The Elephant Man
Nathaniel Parker, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
Micah Stock, It’s Only a Play

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Annaleigh Ashford, You Can’t Take It with You
Patricia Clarkson, The Elephant Man
Lydia Leonard, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
Sarah Stiles, Hand to God
Julie White, Airline Highway

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Christian Borle, Something Rotten!
Andy Karl, On the Twentieth Century
Brad Oscar, Something Rotten!
Brandon Uranowitz, An American in Paris
Max von Essen, An American in Paris

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Victoria Clark, Gigi
Judy Kuhn, Fun Home
Sydney Lucas, Fun Home
Ruthie Ann Miles, The King and I
Emily Skeggs, Fun Home

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Bunny Christie and Finn Ross, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Bob Crowley, Skylight
Christopher Oram, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
David Rockwell, You Can’t Take It with You

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Bob Crowley and 59 Productions, An American in Paris
David Rockwell, On the Twentieth Century
Michael Yeargan, The King and I
David Zinn, Fun Home

Best Costume Design of a Play
Bob Crowley, The Audience
Jane Greenwood, You Can’t Take It with You
Christopher Oram, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
David Zinn, Airline Highway

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Something Rotten!
Bob Crowley, An American in Paris
William Ivey Long, On the Twentieth Century
Catherine Zuber, The King and I

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Paule Constable, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Paule Constable and David Plater, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
Natasha Katz, Skylight
Japhy Weideman, Airline Highway

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Donald Holder, The King and I
Natasha Katz, An American in Paris
Ben Stanton, Fun Home
Japhy Weideman, The Visit

Best Direction of a Play
Stephen Daldry, Skylight
Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Scott Ellis, You Can’t Take It with You
Jeremy Herrin, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
Moritz von Stuelpnagel, Hand to God

Best Direction of a Musical
Sam Gold, Fun Home
Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten!
John Rando, On the Town
Bartlett Sher, The King and I
Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris

Best Choreography
Joshua Bergasse, On the Town
Christopher Gattelli, The King and I
Scott Graham & Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten!
Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris

Best Orchestrations
Christopher Austin, Don Sebesky, Bill Elliott, An American in Paris
John Clancy, Fun Home
Larry Hochman, Something Rotten!
Rob Mathes, The Last Ship

Recipients of Awards and Honors in Non-competitive Categories

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Tommy Tune

Special Tony Award
John Cameron Mitchell

Regional Theatre Tony Award
Cleveland Play House, Cleveland, Ohio

Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award
Stephen Schwartz

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre
Arnold Abramson
Adrian Bryan-Brown
Gene O’Donovan

Monday, April 27, 2015

Broadway Theater Review: Hand to God

Steven Boyer in a scene from Robert Askins' HAND TO GOD on Broadway. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
Hand to God
By Robert Askins
Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel
The Booth Theatre

What's It All About?
The Broadway transfer of Robert Askins' very dark (and I do mean very) play about a church puppet ministry in Texas and a demon-possessed puppet named Tyrone that takes over his handler, Jason (Steven Boyer, who reprises the role for which he has been honored with Obie, Lucille Lortel and the Clarence Derwent Awards.) Jason is forced to take part in the ministry by his mother, Margery (Geneva Carr, in her Broadway debut), who directs it to keep herself busy after the death of her husband. 

The sleazy pastor, Greg (a miscast Marc Kudish) tries to hit on her, but when she gives into temptation, it's for a repulsive S&M relationship with puppet ministry teen Timothy (Michael Oberholtzer, also making his Broadway debut). All this wreaks havoc with sensitive Jason, who is influenced more and more by Tyrone, who gives him tips for how to win the affections of the other member of the puppet team, Jessica (Sarah Stiles).

Tyrone leads Jason to horrible violence -- and to a lengthy session of puppet porn as he and Jessica's puppet engage in every possible type of sexual activity while the teens talk.

What are the highlights?
Boyer's performance is very good. His puppetry skills and body language are amazing. He is a nominee for the 2015 Drama League Distinguished Performance and will host those awards, along with Tyrone, on May 15.

What Are the Lowlights?
Really repulsive show. It doesn't find the uncontested humor of something like Book of Mormon, that crosses some lines of reverence, but overwhelmingly uses the religion's own questionable points for laughs (we all need to poke fun at ourselves). This just portrays Christians as idiots. It's message, spoken directly to us by Tyrone, that evil and the devil are  man-made things, that Jesus dying on the cross is just something made up  and that we should all just let ourselves off the hook for having natural desires that should just be allowed to thrive. 

When I saw this Off-Broadway, I thought it was not very funny and misguided, but not particularly hostile in its intent, despite the fact that it's just another play by a playwright who obviously has walked away from faith and wants to vent. This Broadway version, however, focuses on the dark and evil -- the scene after Tyrone possesses Jason designed by Beowulf Boritt includes pentagrams, upside-down crosses, "Hail Satan," the number 666 and a picture of Jesus with his private parts (looking uncircumcised) exposed -- all greeted by wild laughter from the audience. I felt uncomfortable and it takes a lot to do that with me. That puppet sex scene is like watching porn.

Kudish is as uncomfortable trying to figure out what to do with his stereotypical role as the character is trying to figure out how to ask Margery out. Carr shouts all her lines in one tone.

If you really want to see a show that bashes God and Christians, wait until I have a chance to review An Act of God starring Jim Parsons, which opens May 28. Somehow, I am guessing it will be funnier.

More information:
The design team for Hand to God includes costumes by Sydney Maresca, lighting by Jason Lyons, sound by Jill BC Du Boff, puppet design by Marte Johanne Ekhougen, and fight direction by Robert Westley.

It plays at the Booth Theatre, 222 West 45th St., NYC;  www.HandToGodBroadway.com.

Christians might like to know:
In addition to the concerns listed above..
-- Sexual dialogue
-- Bondage
-- Ripping of bible
-- Cursing against God
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Language
-- Graphic violence with blood
.

Broadway Theater Review: The Heidi Chronicles

Elisabeth Moss. Photo: Joan Marcus
The Heidi Chronicles
By Wendy Wasserstein
Directed by Pam MacKinnon
The Music Box Theatre
Through May 3, 2015

What's It All About?
A journey with Heidi Holland ("Mad Men's" Elisabeth Moss) and the women's rights movement from the 1960s through the 1980s She enters a career as an art historian and shares the ups and downs of her life with gay best friend, dentist Peter Patrone (Bryce Pinkham), and Scoop Rosenbaum (Jason Biggs), a magazine editor who manipulates her through a sexual relationship and longtime, tense friendship, though he marries another woman Lisa (Leighton Bryan). The journey through the years also is shared with a number of friends and acquaintances (played by Bryan, Tracee Chimo, Elise Kibler,  Ali Ahn and Andy Truschinski ) and is marked by a sense of betrayal that the women's movement didn't deliver on its promises.

"On a scale from one to 10, if you aim for six and get six, everything will work out nicely," scoop tells Heidi prophetically. "But if you aim for 10 in all things, and get six, you're going to be very disappointed. And unfortunately that's why you quality time girls are going to be one generation of disappointed women. Interesting, exemplary, even sexy, but basically unhappy."

Heidi finally decides she can be a mother on her own and adopts.

What are the Highlights?
Many women are excited to see this play again. When it first was produced in the late 1980s, it touched a chord with many of them as they recognized themselves in Heidi, It won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize.

Moss is a good actress and gives Heidi a range of emotion and growth. She will be honored with a caricature at Sardi's tomorrow at an unveiling ceremony.

What are the Lowlights?
I was surprised at how much I didn't relate, even though I had enjoyed reading the play years ago. I came a bit behind Heidi in in the time period, but experienced many of the same moments with regards to the women's movement (while some progress has been made, there are still some things that haven't improved in my lifetime and the women's movement seems almost dead to me).  I found most of the characters unlikable. The action seemed to drag at two hours and 35 minutes.

More information:
The design team includes scenic design by John Lee Beatty, costume design by Jessica Pabst, lighting design by Japhy Weideman, sound design by Jill BC Du Boff, projection design by Peter Nigrini, and hair and make-up design by Leah J. Loukas. 

Performances are Tuesday - Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $59 - $139: theheidichroniclesonbroadway.com.

The Heidi Chronicles ends its run at the Music Box Theatre, 239 west 45th St., NYC on May 3.

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Homosexuality
-- Language
-- Nudity in a projection
-- Sexual dialogue

Things to Do While You Are in New York City -- South Street Seaport Museum

Photo courtesy of Michelle Tabnick Communications
Tons of activities await at South Street Seaport Museum, home to a fleet of six ships including the 1907 lightship AMBROSE, a “floating lighthouse” to guide ships safely from the Atlantic Ocean into the broad mouth of lower New York Bay, the 1885 ship WAVERTREE, one of the last large sailing ships built of wrought iron, and the 1885 schooner PIONEER, an authentic 19th Century Schooner, with public sails daily from May thru October.



The museum is located at 12 Fulton St.,  NYC. southstreetseaportmuseum.org

Thursday, April 23, 2015

2015 Drama Desk Nominations

2015 DRAMA DESK AWARDS
NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED

Awards will be presented Sunday, May 31st at The Town Hall

www.DramaDeskAwards.com

(Thursday, April 23, 2015) - Nominations for the 2015 Annual Drama Desk Awards were announced this afternoon at 54 Below by previous Drama Desk winners Judith Light (The Assembled Parties, Other Desert Cities) and Jessie Mueller (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical).

The nominations announcement was streamed live on www.TheaterMania.com. The full list of nominees is available on the website, and below.

In keeping with Drama Desk's mission, nominators considered shows that opened on Broadway, Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway during the 2014-2015 New York theater season.

The 2014-2015 Drama Desk nominating committee is composed of: Barbara Siegel, chairperson, (author and freelance critic); Benjamin Coleman (literary associate, Samuel French Inc.); Adrian Dimanlig ("Interludes," www.adriandimanlig.com); Steve Garrin (broadcast producer; sound designer); Mahayana Landowne (theater director; interactive artist); and Steve Marsh (Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Theatre Arts, Stony Brook University).

Eligibility and award category designations for the productions under consideration this season were determined by the Drama Desk board of directors with recommendations from the nominating committee. Because of the abundance of great work throughout the season, the Board also authorized the increase in the number of nominees allowed in select categories.

The Drama Desk nominees will receive their official nomination certificates at the nominees' reception on May 6th from 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. at New World Stages.

The 60th Annual Drama Desk Awards, hosted by Laura Benanti, will take place on Sunday, May 31, 2015, at 8:00 PM at The Town Hall in Manhattan. TheaterMania.com will present the awards ceremony. Gretchen Shugart is Managing Executive Producer of the Drama Desk Awards. Joey Parnes Productions will produce and manage the show. The President of Drama Desk is Charles Wright.

About Drama Desk
Drama Desk was founded in 1949 to explore key issues in the theater and to bring together critics and writers in an organization to support the ongoing development of theater in New York. The organization began presenting its awards in 1955, and it is the only critics' organization to honor achievement in the theater with competition among Broadway, Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway productions in the same categories.

The 2014-2015 Board of Directors of the Drama Desk consists of: David Barbour (Lighting&Sound America), Leslie (Hoban) Blake (Two On The Aisle), Arlene Epstein (South Shore Record and Herald Community Newspapers), Elysa Gardner (USA Today), Isa Goldberg (www.theaterlife.com), John Istel (Freelance), Edward Karam (offoffonline.com), David Kaufman (Author & Freelance), Richard Ridge (BroadwayWorld.com), William Wolf (adjunct professor, NYU and www.wolfentertainmentguide.com), Charles Wright (A+E Networks), Lauren Yarger (Manchester Journal-Inquirer & www.reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com).

About TheaterMania.com
Founded in 1999, TheaterMania connects the theater industry to a mass consumer audience, with comprehensive listings, news, reviews, features, interviews, and video content covering theater across the United States. TheaterMania's widely distributed email newsletters provide special ticket offers to over one million subscribers.  In addition to providing theaters with online marketing programs to drive ticket sales, TheaterMania's proprietary ticketing system OvationTix™ is used throughout America by hundreds of performing arts organizations, museums, concerts, festivals, and events to process tickets sales, and manage fundraising and patron information.  TheaterMania also owns London-based WhatsOnStage.com, a source for information and tickets to UK theatre, and the producer of the annual WhatsOnStage Awards.

About Joey Parnes Productions
Led by Joey Parnes, a Broadway producer and general manager with over 35 years' experience, Joey Parnes Productions produces, executive produces, and general manages theatrical productions from the commercial and non-profit worlds, both on and off Broadway, internationally and on the road. Currently represented on Broadway by The Tony Award winning A Gentleman's Guide To Love and Murder, Fish in the Dark, and Skylight; recent credits include A Delicate Balance, This Is Our Youth, A Raisin In The Sun (2014; Tony Award), Betrayal (2013), Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike (Tony Award), and the revival of HAIR (Tony Award). Joey served as the Coordinating Producer of the Tony Awards from 2001 to 2008 and with his colleagues Sue Wagner and John Johnson has produced the Drama Desk Awards since 2012.

For more information, please visit: www.DramaDeskAwards.com



2014-2015 DRAMA DESK AWARD NOMINATIONS

Outstanding Play
Clare Barron, You Got Older
Lisa D'Amour, Airline Highway
Anthony Giardina, The City of Conversation
Stephen Adly Guirgis, Between Riverside and Crazy
Elizabeth Irwin, My Manãna Comes
Simon Stephens, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Jack Thorne, Let the Right One In

Outstanding Musical
An American in Paris
Hamilton
Fly By Night
Pretty Filthy
Something Rotten
The Visit

Outstanding Revival of a Play
The Elephant Man
Fashions for Men
Ghosts
The Iceman Cometh
Tamburlaine the Great
The Wayside Motor Inn

Outstanding Revival of a Musical
Into the Woods
The King and I
On the Town
On the Twentieth Century
Pageant
Side Show

Outstanding Actor in a Play
Reed Birney, I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard
Bradley Cooper, The Elephant Man
Stephen McKinley Henderson, Between Riverside and Crazy
Ben Miles, Wolf Hall, Parts 1 & 2
Bill Pullman, Sticks and Bones
Alexander Sharp, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Outstanding Actress in a Play
Brooke Bloom, You Got Older
Kathleen Chalfant, A Walk in the Woods
Kristin Griffith, The Fatal Weakness
Jan Maxwell, The City of Conversation
Helen Mirren, The Audience
Carey Mulligan, Skylight
Tonya Pinkins, Rasheeda Speaking

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Brian d'Arcy James, Something Rotten!
Robert Fairchild, An American in Paris
Jeremy Kushnier, Atomic
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Matthew Morrison, Finding Neverland
Ryan Silverman, Side Show

Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Kate Baldwin, John & Jen
Kristin Chenoweth, On the Twentieth Century
Leanne Cope, An American in Paris
Erin Davie, Side Show
Lisa Howard, It Shoulda Been You
Chita Rivera, The Visit

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
F. Murray Abraham, It's Only a Play
Reed Birney, You Got Older
K. Todd Freeman, Airline Highway
Jonathan Hadary, Rocket to the Moon
Jason Butler Harner, The Village Bike
Jonathan Hogan, Pocatello
José Joaquin Perez, My Mañana Comes

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Annaleigh Ashford, You Can't Take It with You
Beth Dixon, The City of Conversation
Julie Halston, You Can't Take It with You
Paola Lázaro-Muñoz, To the Bone
Lydia Leonard, Wolf Hall, Parts 1 & 2
Julie White, Airline Highway

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
Christian Borle, Something Rotten!
Peter Friedman, Fly By Night
Josh Grisetti, It Shoulda Been You
Andy Karl, On the Twentieth Century
Leslie Odom Jr., Hamilton
Brad Oscar, Something Rotten!
Max von Essen, An American in Paris

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
Carolee Carmello, Finding Neverland
Tyne Daly, It Shoulda Been You
Elizabeth A. Davis, Allegro
Renee Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Luba Mason, Pretty Filthy
Nancy Opel, Honeymoon in Vegas
Elizabeth Stanley, On the Town

Outstanding Director of a Play
Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Jeremy Herrin, Wolf Hall, Parts 1 & 2
Anne Kauffman, You Got Older
Lila Neugebauer, The Wayside Motor Inn
Austin Pendleton, Between Riverside and Crazy
Joe Tantalo, Deliverance
John Tiffany, Let the Right One In

Outstanding Director of a Musical
Carolyn Cantor, Fly By Night
Bill Condon, Side Show
John Doyle, The Visit
Thomas Kail, Hamilton
Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten!
Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris

Outstanding Choreography
Joshua Bergasse, On the Town
Warren Carlyle, On the Twentieth Century
Steven Hoggett, The Last Ship
Austin McCormick, Rococo Rouge
Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten
Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris

Outstanding Music
Jason Robert Brown, Honeymoon in Vegas
Michael Friedman, The Fortress of Solitude
John Kander, The Visit
Dave Malloy, Ghost Quartet
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Sting, The Last Ship

Outstanding Lyrics
Jason Robert Brown, Honeymoon in Vegas
Fred Ebb, The Visit
Michael Friedman, The Fortress of Solitude
Karey Kirkpatrick & Wayne Kirkpatrick, Something Rotten!
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Benjamin Scheuer, The Lion

Outstanding Book of a Musical
Hunter Bell & Lee Overtree, Found
Karey Kirkpatrick & John O'Farrell, Something Rotten!
Craig Lucas, An American in Paris
Terence McNally, The Visit
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Kim Rosenstock, Will Connolly, & Michael Mitnick, Fly By Night

Outstanding Orchestrations
Christopher Austin, An American in Paris
Mary-Mitchell Campbell, Allegro
Larry Hochman, Something Rotten!
Alex Lacamoire, Hamilton
Rob Mathes, The Last Ship
Don Sebesky, Larry Blank, Jason Robert Brown, & Charlie Rosen, Honeymoon in Vegas

Outstanding Music in a Play
Cesar Alvarez, An Octoroon
Danny Blackburn & Bryce Hodgson, Deliverance
Sean Cronin, Kill Me Like You Mean It
Bongi Duma, Generations
Freddi Price, The Pigeoning
Arthur Solari & Jane Shaw, Tamburlaine the Great

Outstanding Revue
Forbidden Broadway Comes Out Swinging!
Just Jim Dale
Lennon: Through a Glass Onion
Lonesome Traveler

Outstanding Set Design
Bob Crowley, An American in Paris
Christine Jones, Let The Right One In
David Korins, Hamilton
Mimi Lien, An Octoroon
Scott Pask, The Visit
Daniel Zimmerman, Fashions for Men

Outstanding Costume Design
Bob Crowley, An American in Paris
Bob Crowley, The Audience
Christopher Oram, Wolf Hall, Parts 1 & 2
Paul Tazewell, Hamilton
Andrea Varga, The Fatal Weakness
Catherine Zuber, Gigi

Outstanding Lighting Design
Howell Binkley, Hamilton
Paule Constable, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Paule Constable & David Plater, Wolf Hall, Parts 1 & 2
Maruti Evans, Deliverance
Natasha Katz, The Iceman Cometh
Ben Stanton, Our Lady of Kibeho

Outstanding Projection Design
59 Productions, An American in Paris
Roger Hanna & Price Johnston, Donogoo
Darrel Maloney, Found
Peter Nigrini, Our Lady of Kibeho
Finn Ross, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Austin Switser, Big Love

Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical
Peter Hylenski, Side Show
Scott Lehrer, The King & I
Scott Lehrer & Drew Levy, Honeymoon in Vegas
Brian Ronan, The Last Ship
Nevin Steinberg, Hamilton
Jon Weston, An American in Paris

Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
Nathan Davis, The Other Mozart
Ien Denio, Deliverance
Ian Dickinson (for Autograph), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Gareth Fry, Let the Right One In
John Gromada, Lives of the Saints
Matt Tierney, Our Lady of Kibeho

Outstanding Solo Performance
Christina Bianco, Application Pending
Jonny Donahoe, Every Brilliant Thing
Tom Dugan, Wiesenthal
Mona Golabek, The Pianist of Willesden Lane
Joely Richardson, The Belle of Amherst
Benjamin Scheuer, The Lion

Unique Theatrical Experience
Catch Me!
Everybody Gets Cake
The Human Symphony
Queen of the Night
A Rap Guide to Religion

Special Awards: Each year, the Drama Desk votes special awards to recognize excellence and significant contributions to the theatre.

For 2014-15, these awards are:
This year the nominators chose to bestow a special award for outstanding ensemble to the actors who so brilliantly shared a room in the world of A. R. Gurney's The Wayside Motor Inn: Kelly AuCoin, Jon DeVries, Quincy Dunn-Baker, Rebecca Henderson, Marc Kudisch, Jenn Lyon, Lizbeth Mackay, David McElwee, Ismenia Mendes, and Will Pullen.

To Bess Wohl, the Sam Norkin Off-Broadway Award: For establishing herself as an important voice in New York theater, and having a breakthrough year with the eclectic American Hero, Pretty Filthy, and Small Mouth Sounds. Her writing expresses sensitivity, compassion, and humor with a sure hand.

To John Douglas Thompson: For invigorating theater in New York through his commanding presence, classical expertise, and vocal prowess.  This season he demonstrated exceptional versatility in Tamburlaine the Great, and The Iceman Cometh.

To Ensemble Studio Theatre: For its unwavering commitment to producing new works by American playwrights since 1968, and enriching this season with productions of When January Feels Like Summer, Winners, and Five Times in One Night. EST's Youngblood program fostered and nurtured Hand to God, setting Tyrone off on his devilish path to Broadway.          

To Andy Blankenbuehler: For his inspired and heart-stopping choreography in Hamilton, which is indispensible to the musical's storytelling. His body of work is versatile, yet a dynamic and fluid style is consistently evident. When it's time to "take his shot," Blankenbuehler hits the bull's-eye.

Note: Eligibility and award category designations for the productions under consideration this season were determined by the Drama Desk Board of Directors. Because of the abundance of work throughout the season, the Board also authorized increasing the number of nominees allowed in select categories.

Hand to God was considered in the 2011/2012 season in its first production at Ensemble Studio Theatre. New elements were considered in the MCC production in the 2013/2014 season. There were no new elements in the Broadway transfer.

Fun Home was considered in its run at the Public Theatre in the 2013/2014 season. It received nominations for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical, Outstanding Director of a Musical, Outstanding Music, Outstanding Lyrics and Outstanding Book of a Musical.

Disgraced was considered in its Off-Broadway premiere at Lincoln Center in the 2012/2013 season, and only new actors and technical staff were eligible in the Broadway transfer.

The 39 Steps was considered in its initial Broadway production in the 2007/2008 season and won for Unique Theatrical Experience.

Broadway Review: The King and I


Disappointing, but Still Satisfying Revival of a Favorite
By Lauren Yarger

When it comes to Broadway musicals, it doesn't get much better than The King and I for me. There's a longer story about the part this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic has played in my life (you can read it here), but suffice it to say I was really looking forward to Lincoln Center's revival of the musical starring the golden-voiced Kelli O'Hara.

It was disappointing, but still satisfying. The score still brings goosebumps and hearing O'Hara sing "Hello Young Lovers." I Whistle a Happy Tune" and "Shall We Dance" with a 29-piece orchestra behind her was an experience I am glad I didn't miss. Other highlights are a well staged reproduction of the ballet "Small House of Uncle Thomas" and a terrific performance by Ruthie Ann Miles as Lady Thiang. 

The production, directed by Bartlett Sher (who did an amazing job with Lincoln Center's revival of South Pacific), seems as well intentioned as its opening number which features a massive boat sailing up onto the stage and out into the audience as Anna Leonowens (O'Hara) and her young son, Louie (a delightful Jake Lucas) expectantly arrive in mid-19th century Siam. The excitement of the opening number quickly dissipates as the rest of the sets (designed by Michael Yeargen) become rather minimal. And things really get complicated when the King (Ken Watanabe) arrives on the scene.

The Japanese actor, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his gripping performance in "The Last Samurai," doesn't speak English very well, and despite reports that he sought to improve his skills when people were complaining during rehearsals that he couldn't be understood, I'm afraid it was too little too late.

I know the script by heart (again, read here why I am obsessed with this musical) and I couldn't understand what he was saying most of the time. The main conversation almost everyone was having at intermission: "Can you understand anything the king is saying?" An after-show chat by a group of people who had never seen it before: "The music was beautiful!" "Oh, that dress -- all the costumes were beautiful!" "I couldn't understand anything the king said, though."

Clearly, Sher should have replaced Watanabe in rehearsals (though a critic colleague of mine who attended the same performance said he had absolutely no problem understanding Watanabe, so go figure.) The effect of leaving him in, besides missing a good part of the story, if you aren't familiar with it, also is that there is little chemistry between him and Anna. I felt as though O'Hara were sleepwalking through the part. I guess it's hard to engage in sizzling banter if you can't react to what is being said.....

The character interpretations for Anna and the King seemed off to me as well, communications aside. The King seemed weak -- his angry son, Prince Chulalongkorn (Jon Viktor Corpuz), seems better able to convey a scorn-to-admiration transformation in his relationship with the teacher sharing Western thought with the court of Siam. And Anna seems so laid back, that we don't feel her contempt for the king's treatment of women, her anger in the song "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You," or even any justification for the king's telling her that she has "been very difficult woman." (OK, I still teared up when Anna read that final letter from the King.)

So you get the picture. It wasn't what I have dreamed..... It's still The King  and I, though, so there is a lot to like.

That score! Still wonderful, and movement director Christopher Gatelli recreates a lot of the original choreography by Jerome Robbins. Sets pieces in Small House of Uncle Thomas even look like the originals.

Designer Catherine Zuber comes through with costumes we expect. There is pinstripe in the dress for the classroom scene of "Getting to Know You" the "Shall We Dance" dress dazzles and moves with perfection as the King (also clad in expected red and gold) and Anna polka around the stage.

Miles, who wowed us as Imelda Marcos in Here Lies Love, bring nuance to the King's head wife, Lady Thiang. She serves as a link between Anna, the King, his concubine and slave, Tuptim (Ashley Park), and the king's chief advisor, the Kralahome (a convincingly frightening Paul Nakauchi). 

She also advises her son, Chulalongkorn, who is heir to the throne, and is key in another plotline involving Tuptim's plans to escape with her secret love, Lun Tha (Conrad Ricamora), the man who was ordered to bring her to Siam as a present from the King of Burma. 

Lady Thiang's character seems stronger than Anna, despite the King's reliance on the English woman to teach his children and wives and to assist him in matters of state, like when an English delegation led by Edward Ramsey (Edward Baker-Duly) arrives in Siam, which they consider taking as a protectorate because they hear the king is a barbarian.

The King and I plays at Lincon Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre,  150 West 65th St., NYC. Tickets are $87-$142; 212- 239-6200; kingandibroadway.com.

Christians might also like to know:
-- There is some praying to Buddha



Monday, April 20, 2015

Outer Critics Award Nominations Announced

Outer Critics Circle, the organization of writers and commentators covering New York theater for out-of-town newspapers, national publications and other media beyond Broadway, announced today (April 20, 2015) its nominees for the 2014-15 season in 24 categories. Broadway stars Raúl Esparza and Katie Finneran presided over the (11AM) announcement ceremony at Manhattan’s Friars Club. 

Celebrating its 65th season of bestowing awards of excellence in the field of theater, the Outer Critics Circle is an association with members affiliated with more than ninety newspapers, magazines, websites, radio and television stations, and theatre publications in America and abroad. The winners will be announced on Monday, May 11th. The annual Gala Awards Dinner and presentation of awards to the winners will be held on Thursday, May 21st (4PM) at the legendary Sardi's Restaurant.



Outer Critics Circle
2014-2015 Award Nominations


OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY PLAY
The Audience
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Wolf Hall

OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY MUSICAL
An American in Paris
It Shoulda Been You
The Last Ship
Something Rotten!
The Visit

OUTSTANDING NEW OFF-BROADWAY PLAY
Between Riverside and Crazy
The City of Conversation
The Nether
Rasheeda Speaking
The Village Bike

OUTSTANDING NEW OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL
A Christmas Memory
Disenchanted
The Fortress of Solitude
Hamilton
Lonesome Traveler

OUTSTANDING BOOK OF A MUSICAL
(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Hamilton
It Shoulda Been You
The Last Ship
Something Rotten!
The Visit

OUTSTANDING NEW SCORE
(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Hamilton
It Shoulda Been You
The Last Ship
Something Rotten!
The Visit

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A PLAY
(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
The Elephant Man
Fashions for Men
The Heidi Chronicles
Skylight
You Can’t Take It With You

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Into the Woods
The King and I
On the Town
On the Twentieth Century
Side Show

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A PLAY
Stephen Daldry    The Audience
Marianne Elliott    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Scott Ellis   The Elephant Man
Scott Ellis    You Can’t Take It With You
Jeremy Herrin    Wolf Hall

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL
Scott Ellis    On the Twentieth Century
Thomas Kail    Hamilton
Casey Nicholaw    Something Rotten!
David Hyde Pierce    It Shoulda Been You
Christopher Wheeldon    An American in Paris

OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHER
Joshua Bergasse   On the Town
Andy Blankenbuehler    Hamilton
Warren Carlyle    On the Twentieth Century
Casey Nicholaw    Something Rotten!
Christopher Wheeldon    An American in Paris

OUTSTANDING SET DESIGN
(Play or Musical)
Bunny Christie    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Bob Crowley    An American in Paris
Scott Pask    Something Rotten!
David Rockwell    On the Twentieth Century
Michael Yeargan    The King and I

OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN
(Play or Musical)
Gregg Barnes    Something Rotten!
Bob Crowley    The Audience
William Ivey Long    On the Twentieth Century
Christopher Orem    Wolf Hall
Catherine Zuber    The King and I

OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN
(Play or Musical)Paule Constable    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Jeff Croiter     Something Rotten!
Rick Fisher     The Audience
Natasha Katz     An American in Paris
Japhy Weideman    The Visit

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Reed Birney    I’m Gonna Pray For You So Hard
Bradley Cooper    The Elephant Man
Stephen McKinley Henderson    Between Riverside and Crazy
Ben Miles    Wolf Hall
Alex Sharp    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Greta Gerwig     The Village Bike
Jan Maxwell    The City of Conversation
Helen Mirren    The Audience
Elisabeth Moss    The Heidi Chronicles
Tonya Pinkins    Rasheeda Speaking

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Christian Borle    Something Rotten!
Brian d’Arcy James    Something Rotten!
Robert Fairchild    An American in Paris
Peter Gallagher    On the Twentieth Century
Tony Yazbeck    On the Town

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Kristin Chenoweth    On the Twentieth Century
Leanne Cope    An American in Paris
Tyne Daly    It Shoulda Been You
Kelli O’Hara    The King and I
Chita Rivera    The Visit

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Paul Jesson     Wolf Hall
Richard McCabe   The Audience
Alessandro Nivola   The Elephant Man
Nathaniel Parker    Wolf Hall
Bryce Pinkham     The Heidi Chronicles   

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Annaleigh Ashford   You Can’t Take It With You
Patricia Clarkson   The Elephant Man
Francesca Faridany   The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Julie Halston   You Can’t Take It With You
Lydia Leonard   Wolf Hall

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
John Cariani   Something Rotten!
Josh Grisetti   It Shoulda Been You
Andy Karl   On the Twentieth Century
Paul Alexander Nolan   Doctor Zhivago
Max von Essen   An American in Paris

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Heidi Blickenstaff   Something Rotten!
Victoria Clark   Gigi
Megan Fairchild   On the Town
Ruthie Ann Miles    The King and I  
Mary Louise Wilson   On the Twentieth Century

OUTSTANDING SOLO PERFORMANCE
Joe Assadourian     The Bullpen
Jim Dale    Just Jim Dale
Tom Dugan    Wiesenthal
Cush Jumbo    Josephine and I
Benjamin Scheuer    The Lion

JOHN GASSNER AWARD
(Presented for an American play, preferably by a new playwright)
Ayad Akhtar     The Invisible Hand
Halley Feiffer     I’m Gonna Pray For You So Hard
Elizabeth Irwin     My Mañana Comes
Markus Potter     Stalking the Bogeyman
Benjamin Scheuer     The Lion

2014-15 Outer Critics Circle Executive / Nominating Committee
Simon Saltzman (President)
Mario Fratti (Vice-President) Patrick Hoffman (Corresponding Secretary)
  Stanley L. Cohen (Treasurer) Glenn Loney (Historian & Member-at-Large)
 And Aubrey Reuben & Harry Haun (Members-at-Large)

TheWritePros.com

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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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