Thursday, January 7, 2016

Top Picks for Broadway in 2016

Lin-Manuel Miranda (center) and the Public Theater company of HamiltonPhoto: Joan Marcus.
It May Be Hamilton’s Year, but There Are Other Broadway Shows Worth Seeing This Year Too
By Lauren Yarger
If you listen to some people, there really would be no reason to write a theater preview for the rest of the 2016 Broadway season. Isn’t Hamilton going to win everything anyway?

Well, maybe. Most insiders know that when Tony time arrives next June, many  -- if not all -- of the awards will be going to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit musical about Alexander Hamilton’s life and loves and other Founding Fathers, all played by a non-white cast.

This is the kind of politically correct stuff Tony Award voters love – but it’s also a great, groundbreaking show. If you are an avid reader of my reviews here at Reflections in the Light, you heard about this show back when it was still Off-Broadway and ordered your tickets early (you are welcome -- read the review here.). Now, these hot-selling tickets are almost impossible to get with waits as long as six months or more for rear mezzanine seats (at pretty hefty prices).

So while this undoubtedly will be the year of Hamilton where musicals are concerned, there still are a lot of other great shows on Broadway and coming up in the moths prior to Tony madness. Here are some tips for shows opening in the future (you also will be seeing reviews in the coming weeks for shows which have already opened).

There is a little bit of everything on the schedule and quite a few shows to which I am particularly looking forward, both on and Off Broadway, this season.


COMEDY

Noises Off. Andrea Martin (who wowed in the Broadway revival of Pippin) and Megan Hilty (you may know her from TV’s “Smash”) headline a Roundabout Theatre Company revival of Michael Frayn’s oft-produced comedy about the putting on of a play. Rob McClure, Campbell Scott and Jeremy Shamos also star. Tickets and info: roundabouttheatre.org

She Loves Me. You might recognize the story here form one of its other incarnations: the films “The Shop Around the Corner,” “The Good Old Summertime” or “You’ve Got Mail.” This Jerry Bock/ Sheldon Harnick musical also is a Roundabout production. It stars Laura Benanti (Zachary Levi, and featuring Jane Krakowski, René Auberjonois and Gavin Creel. Also are in the cast. Tickets and info: roundabouttheatre.org.

Fully Committed. Jesse Tyler Ferguson (TV’s “Modern Family” plays 40 characters connected by a restaurant reservation line in a solo comedy written by Becky Mode. Tickets and info: fullycommittedbroadway.com.

CLASSICS

Jessica Lange.
Photo: Frank Ockenfels

Long Day’s Journey Into Night. This Pulitzer-Prize winner by Eugene O’Neill is one of my favorite plays of all time. It’s perfect. End of review. The question for it always concerns the production (and in my opinion, the last Broadway revival with Brian Dennehy, Vanessa Redgrave and Philip Seymour Hoffman back in 2003 was near perfection). This revival (also, remarkably, a Roundabout Theatre production – become a subscriber today…) will star Jessica Lange as Mary and Gabriel Byrne, Michael Shannon and John Gallagher, Jr. as the rest of the troubled Tyrones. Tickets and info: roundabouttheatre.org.

Hughie. Another O’Neill play will give Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker “The Last King of Scotland”) his Broadway debut. Famed director Michael Grandage is on board. Tickets and info: hughiebroadway.com.

The Crucible. One of many plays being presented on stages across the country as part of the celebration of Arthur Miller’s 100th birthday, this is one of my favorites by this playwright. Set during the Salem witch trials in the 17th century, this play has modern-day implications about singling out people for persecution. Risk-taker Ivo van Hove directs. thecrucibleonbroadway.com.

DRAMA

Eclipsed. This tale of women surviving the horrors of war in Liberia makes a transfer from Off-Broadway at the Public Theater. Written by Danai Gurirai (TV’s “The Walking Dead”), it was produced several seasons ago by Yale Rep. It is making history with its all female creative team and all female black cast. Tickets and info: eclipsedbroadway.com.

American Psycho. With music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) this rock musical version of the popular film about an investment banker with a split personality reunited Next to Normal stars Alice Ripley and Jennifer Damiano along with Benjamin Walker and Elaine York.

Shuffle Along or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. It’s a mouthful, but when you see who’s in it, you will want to see it. Six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald is joined by Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Brandon Victor Dixon and Joshua Henry. Now that is a big helping of heavy singing talent. I am there. Tickets and info: shufflealongbroadway.com.

OFF-BROADWAY Top Pick

The Robber Bridegroom. I am super excited about this revival (and give the award for most picks for 2016 to Roundabout) with square-dance music (Robert Waldman) with a book by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy). I saw this on Broadway back in 1976 and have never seen it again, though I have been listening to the soundtrack ever since. Despite the fact that I saw the show only once 40 years ago, I still remember many scenes vividly. That’s more than I can say about some shows I saw last week….. Even more exciting? Genius Alex Timbers directs and Steven Pasquale, the popular TV star (“Rescue Me”) whose singing voice impressed me in The Bridges of Madison County and Far from Heaven stars as Jamie Lockhart, the Robber Bridegroom. Tickets and info: roundabouttheatre.org.


Lauren Yarger is Second Vice President of The Drama Desk, a member of The Outer Critics Circle and reviews Broadway, Off-Broadway and Connecticut theater. 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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