Monday, September 11, 2017

Broadway Theater Review: Prince of Broadway


Prince of Broadway
New songs, Arrangements, Orchestration and Music Supervision by Jason Robert Brown
Book by David Thompson
Direction and Choreography by Susan Stroman with direction by Harold Prince
Manhattan Theatre Club

By Lauren Yarger
Hal Prince and I would have been great theater buddies. We apparently love the same musicals. 

In Prince of Broadway, theatergoers get to enjoy almost 40 tunes celebrating the career of 21-time Tony-winner Producer/Director Harold Prince as arranged and orchestrated by Jason Robert Brown (The Bridges of Madison County; The Last Five Years) and Choreographed and Directed by a legend in her own right, Susan Stroman (The Producers, The Scottsboro Boys) with some direction by Prince himself. With almost every number, I found myself saying, "Oh, I love this song," or " I love that show" and finally, I just thought, "Thank you, Hal Prince."

The problem is that if you aren't me, or at least an aficionado of musical theater from the past 60 years, you probably won't know a lot of the songs, or what show they are from, or why those particular songs have been selected. And even if you recognize the songs and shows (or are able to follow along in the Playbill in the dark) David Thompson's uneven book, still might still leave you scratching your head.

The very capable ensemble features Tony Award winner Chuck Cooper (Caroline, or Change; Choir Boy), Drama Desk Award winner Janet Dacal (In The Heights, Good Vibrations), Bryonha Marie Parham (After Midnight, Porgy and Bess), Emily Skinner (Side Show, The Full Monty), Brandon Uranowitz (Falsettos, An American in Paris), Kaley Ann Voorhees (The Phantom of the Opera, Candide), Michael Xavier (Sunset Boulevard, Into The Woods), Tony Yazbeck (On the Town, Gypsy), and Tony Award winner Karen Ziemba (Contact, Curtains). There just is no rhyme or reason to why they are performing the songs which recreate moments from the Prince theater repertoire (in many cases faithfully reproduced visually by Scenic and Projection Designer Beowulf Boritt.) 

All of them speak in the voice of Prince. Some of the shows are identified; some background is given and logos from some of the shows are depicted through projections. (A critic colleague seemed to think they all had been, and perhaps they weren't visible form my seat.) At any rate, I jotted notes about how I thought many audience members wouldn't be able to identify numbers like "Tonight at Eight" and "Will He Like Me?" from 1963's She Loves Me or "Dressing Them Up," from 1993's The Kiss of the Spiderwoman. There are some other selections from Follies, Parade and Merrily We Roll Along that might evade identification by the more casual theatergoer too.  "You've Got Possibilities" from the hardly known 1966 musical  "It's a Bird, It's a Plane. . . It's Superman" at least is properly identified and explained.

There's no reason why "Heart" from Damn Yankees or "If I Were a Rich Man" were singled out to represent those shows (the latter causing some negative comments from colleagues about the casting of Cooper, particularly from Jewish reviewers) when other shows got two or three songs. 

There are some wonderful moments: Parham is sensational as Queenie in "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" from Showboat and Ziemba is a saucy, meaty Mrs. Lovett in the medley of tunes from Sweeney Todd. I immediately wanted to see them both in revival of those shows. Skinner delivers the most moving "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music -- and I saw Glynis Johns in the original production so that is saying something. Goosebumps and this number alone is probably worth the ticket price to this show.

I loved revisiting The Phantom of the Opera (with costumes by William Ivey Long that recreate the look of Maria Björnson's original designs) and Yazbeck taps up a perfect storm in "The Right Girl" from Follies.

It's entertaining and a lovely waltz down memory lane - with a new finale composed by Brown called "Do the Work" which nicely sums up Prince's theater contributions -- even if we seem to lose our way a bit on his journey.



More information:
Prince of Broadway entertains at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St., NYC. For performances and tickets: manhattantheatreclub.com

Additional credits: Howell Binkley (lighting design), Jon Weston (sound design), Paul Huntley (wig design), Angelina Avallone (makeup design), Fred Lassen (music direction) and Jeffrey Seller (creative consultant).

Be sure to stop by the lower lobby of the Friedman Theatre to view a preview of the upcoming Hal Prince exhibition from the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

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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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