Monday, November 4, 2019

Be There for London's Live-Stage Concert of Les Mis

A staged concert of Les Miserables will be broadcast live in cinemas across North America on Monday, Dec. 2 from the Gielgud Theatre in London, with encore screenings taking place on Sunday, Dec. 8.

Tickets for North American cinemas will be available beginning Friday, Nov. 8 at

Leading an outstanding cast and orchestra of more than 65 are Michael Ball (Javert), Alfie Boe (Jean Valjean), Carrie Hope Fletcher (Fantine) and Matt Lucas (Thénardier), who perform the songs "I Dreamed A Dream," "Bring Him Home," "One Day More," "On My Own" and others. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Off-Broadway Theater Review: When it Happens to You

Tawni O'Dell and Kelly Swint. Photo: Jeremy Daniel
When it Happens to You
By Tawni O'Dell
Directed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett
Sheen Center
Through Nov. 10

By Lauren Yarger
What's it All About:  
The story of a daughter's rape from the mother's perspective, based the real-life experience and memoir of playwright Tawni O'Dell ("Back Roads"/"Angels Burning"), who stars. She takes us from the moment her daughter, Tirzah (Kelly Swint makng an impressive NY theater debut), calls to say she has been attacked through the months after as the family tries to deal with the tragedy that has changed them forever. Also affected in Tirzah's brother, Connor (Connor Lawrence) who toggles between grief over what has happened to his sister and jealousy that his mother seems to have no place for him as she tries to help Tirzah. And Tirzah needs help. She copes in a negative way, detaching from things she loves (including school and pursuing a career as a chef) and attaching to drugs and a deadbeat boyfriend an his dysfunctional family.  E. Clayton Cornelious. playing a multitude of characters throughout the story, rounds out the cast.

What Are the Highlights:
A gripping performance from Swint creates sympathy for the character despite the poor choices that bring her and her family more grief. She portrays a woman trapped in a roller coaster of emotions, nicely helmed by talented Director Lynne Taylre-Corbett. Here's an actress to watch.

What Are the Lowlights:
Interestingly, the main force of the play -- the story told from the mother's perspective -- ends up working against itself. Because we feel more sympathy for the daughter, we kind of want to hear more from her perspective. And while we can't truly understand how we would react in the same situation unless we have gone through this horrible tragedy, we find ourselves questioning some choices the mother makes. They seem more oriented toward her own needs rather than those of her children and a surprise twist at the end seems to confirm this. So the main character we are supposed to bond with seems a bit hard to embrace and the larger story of why we are sitting in the theater for 90 minutes gets cloudy. It feels a bit awkward since the real person is right there on stage. The play didn't start as a theatrical piece, in all fairness, though. It was an act of healing. Here are some thoughts as she expresses them:

"The first time I held my daughter after she was born I made a silent promise to her I would always protect her,"  O'Dell said. "Then came a night in our future when that promise was shattered. I couldn't protect her from the man who stalked her through the streets of her beloved New York City, broke into her home, and assaulted her. During the next few years, her life fell apart and so did my own as I tried to help her deal with the fallout from this awful crime. As a way to help make sense of what we were going through, I did what writers do: I wrote about it. I didn't know if I would ever share our story with the world, but I'm proud to say my daughter has decided that we should in the hopes that we might be able to help other victims and their families. Rape touches just about every one of us. More women are sexually assaulted in this country than are affected by heart disease and breast cancer combined. To say it is an epidemic, is not hyperbole."
More information:
When it Happens to You runs at the Sheen Center, 18 Bleecker St. at the corner of Elizabeth Street, NYC). Perfromances are Tuesday and Sunday at 7 pm; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; matinees Saturday at 2 pmM and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $49.50 - 79.50:; 212-925-2812.

Additional Credits:
Scenic Design by Rob Bissinger and Anita LaScala, Costume Design by David C. Woolard, Lighting Design by Daisy Long, and sound design by Caroline Eng.

-- Obviously mature themes
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Broadway Blessing is a Blessing

The annual Broadway Blessing ushered in the new season on the Great White Way with song, dance, talk and tributes. Chita Rivera honored Hal Prince. The Actor's Chapel at St. Malachy's was standing room only for the event produced by Pat Addiss and Kathryn Fisher.

Chita Rivera gave a tribute to Hal Prince.. whom she said 
"shaped a very large part of my life."

Gerardo Ramirez and Broadway Blessing's Founder Retta Blaney at the post-service reception.

A candle lighting and sing-along concluded the service.

"The Sabbath Prayer" from Fiddler presented by Adam Shapiro.

Jill O'Hara from the original cast of Hair sings "Good Morning Starshine."

Stephen Carlisle from The Lion King and Liseli Lugo and with the Broadway Blessing Choir 
sing "The Circle of Life."

Sydney Meyers sings "Something Happened" by David Friedman from Jane Doe No More.

Roma Torre, right, interviews Cher star Stephanie J. Block, left, who shared how faith helps her strive toward making the word a better place. Her priest encouraged her to take the role of Cher.

Conor Ryan sings "It's Good to Be Alive" from Desperate Measures accompanied 
by composer David Friedman.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Salute Her Awards Celebrate Black Women on Broadway and in New York Theater

Collage Photo Credit: Café Mocha Radio Show’s 9th Annual Salute Her Awards. Top Row - Left to Right: LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Leslie Uggams, Alia Jones-Harvey, Cookie Jordan -- Bottom Row - Left to Right: Dominique Morisseau, Dr. Indira Etwaroo, Linda Stewart, Lynn Nottage.
Café Mocha Radio Show Presents its Inaugural Celebration of Black Women on
Broadway and New York Theatre at
The 9th Annual Salute Her Awards
2019 Honorees Include Leslie Uggams, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Lynn Nottage, Alia Jones-Harvey, Dominique Morisseau, Dr. Indira Etwaroo, Cookie Jordan and Linda Stewart.

Tributes will be performed by songstress Deborah Cox and actress Lisa Arrindell. 

A Who’s Who of Broadway and New York Theater will be celebrated for their artistry and achievements at the nationally syndicated Café Mocha Radio Show’s 9th Annual Salute Her Awards presented by Toyota in association with AARP, Luster PinkAmerican Airlines and WBLS 107.5The 2019 honorees include Leslie Uggams (Legend Award), LaTanya Richardson Jackson (Director’s Award), Lynn Nottage (International Playwright Award), Alia Jones-Harvey (Broadway Producer’s Award), Dominique Morisseau (Playwright Award), Dr. Indira Etwaroo (Theater Community Award), Cookie Jordan (Woman of Style Award), Linda Stewart (Trailblazer Award). Set for Monday, Sept. 16 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theatre (524 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019), this will be the first time that the Salute Her Awards will honor distinctive women within the glittering world of the New York stage with an incredible array of women! To purchase tickets for the Salute Her Awards, go to HERE. Doors open at 7 pm, the awards ceremony will begin at 7:30.
“It’s always been my goal to celebrate women of color on Broadway and New York Theater who are legendary and making a difference today,” said Sheila Eldridge, creator and executive producer of Café Mocha and Salute Her Awards. “The collective impact of this year’s honorees has enriched the lives of so many of us and inspires the art form globally. It’s going to be a special evening for these extraordinary women of theater.”

The special musical tribute will be shared by Grammy-nominated recording artist and actress Deborah Cox, who has starred in such Broadway productions as Elton John & Tim Rice’s AIDA and Jekyll & Hyde. Cox has also starred in the national tour of The Bodyguard: The Musical, and the Asolo Repertory Theatre musical production of Josephine. Cox will be accompanied on piano by Joseph Joubert, noted theatrical composer, arranger, and musical director whose credits include The Color Purple, Three Mo’ Tenors, Century Men, and Motown The Musical.

Acclaimed stage and screen actress Lisa Arrindell will perform a dramatic reading honoring the beloved Toni Morrison. The Brooklyn native and Juilliard graduated was last seen on Broadway in the hit revival of Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. She has been featured in HARPO Productions/HBO original movie, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Christmas Wedding Baby, A Christmas Blessing, The Wronged Man, HBO’s A Lesson Before Dying, Disappearing Acts, and Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters’ First One Hundred Years. She has led in feature films such as Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion, The Second Chance, and Spike Lee’s Clockers
Café Mocha’s celebration of Black Women on Broadway and New York Theatre is the second stop (September 16th) on the national Salute Her Awards’ “Step Into Your Power” Tour. The awards ceremony series kicked-off in Washington, DC and will continue on Thursday, October 18, at the Mint Museum (Charlotte, NC); Friday, November 15, at the Black Academy of Arts & Letters (Dallas, TX); and concludes on Friday, December 6, at Riverside EpiCenter (Atlanta, GA).
A two-time Gracie Award winner, the Café Mocha Radio Show reaches more than 1.4 million listeners around the country (heard locally on WBLS 107.5 on Saturday mornings), hosted by Emmy and NAACP Award winner comedienne Loni Love, hip-hop pioneer Yo-Yo, and radio veteran Angelique Perrin.   
Since 2011, the Salute Her Awards Tour has honored more than 175 women from well-known figures to frequently under-recognized honorees for their contributions. Presenting corporate partner Toyota shares their mission as presenting sponsor for the last three years. Through the Salute Her ‘Nominate Her’ initiative, supported by returning sponsor AARP, the public is encouraged to visit to submit and put a spotlight on the unsung sheroes in their own lives. New sponsors American Airlines and legacy black haircare brand Luster Pink Products have come on board to make this year’s Salute Her Awards Tour even more spectacular. American handles the all-important skies, flying in the Nominate Her honorees. Luster Products puts a focus on millennial dynamism by hosting the Mocha Maven Chic Boutique Meet-Up ‘pitch’ competition, for young female entrepreneurs.
More information: or

Friday, September 6, 2019

Broadway Theater Review: Betrayal

Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton, Charlie Cox. Photo: Marc Brenner
By Harold Pinter
Directed by Jamie Lloyd
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
Through Dec. 8, 2019

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton, and Charlie Cox all making their Broadway debuts in Harold Pinter's study of betrayal. Hiddleston plays Robert, who discovers that his wife, Emmy (Ashton), has been having an affair with his best friend, Jerry (Cox), for seven years. Multiple layers of betrayal emerge and the actors, directed by Jamie Lloyd, dig deep for the emotions felt by their characters.

What Are the Highlights?
Strong performances. Even though the characters aren't very likable (Emmy seems to enjoy feeding her ego at the expense of the two men; Jerry has no problem sleeping with his best friend's wife; Robert appears not to care much that he has...  Hiddleston ("The Avengers") does give a hint of the inner turmoil his character feels when learning of the betrayal,  but the character, for reasons unknown to us, never really expresses it.

What Are the Lowlights?
The play doesn't really go any where and a confusing reverse chronological order to the action makes it difficult to follow what happens when (I know it is reverse chronological order, but if I didn't, that technique would not always be apparent). Information about what took place six years ago, two years ago requires the viewer to do mental math to try to see whether the years are sequenced correctly and it doesn't always seem like they are.

Set Design by Soutra Gilmour (who also designs the costumes) is stark -- a few pieces of furniture -- so prop placement is noticeable and distracting. Why are those drinking glasses downstage? Why are other props pantomimed? Why am I asking these kind of questions? Because the plot doesn't hold interest.

More Information:
90 minutes with no intermission

This production formed the culmination of Pinter at the Pinter, an unprecedented London season of Harold Pinter’s work taking place over the 2018/19 season. This project consisted of more than 30 pieces. Marking the 10th anniversary of Pinter’s death, Betrayal played in the West End theater that bears his name, breaking all box office records.

Additional Credits:
Eddie Arnold as the Waiter.
Lighting Design by Jon Clark; Sound  Design and Music by Ben and Max Ringham.

Family-Friendly Factors:
God's name taken in vain.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Off-Broadway Review: Broadway Bounty Hunter

Annie Golden and Alan H. Green. Photo: Matthew Murphy
Broadway Bounty Hunter
Music and Lyrics by Joe Iconis
Book by Joe Iconis, Lance Rubin and Jason Sweettooth Williams
Directed and Choreographed by Jennifer Werner

By Lauren Yarger
Following the force of the cult musical Be More Chill selling out Off-Broadway and rolling onto Broadway last season, another funky show by Joe Iconis has found its way to a short Off-Broadway run at the Greenwich House Theatre. Like the composer's  sci-fi Be More Chill which appeals to teens, Broadway Bounty Hunter involves a plot using mind controlling drugs for evil purposes, but this story is about an older women, Annie (Annie Golden), an actress of a certain age, who isn't getting parts any more....  The real-life Golden, who made her mark in Hair, Assassins and most recently in the TV series “Orange is the New Black,” proves that she still can belt and deliver a very humorous performance (it is award- worthy).

Down-on-her-luck Annie, still mourning the loss of her beloved husband and laughed out of an audition by a director (Omar Garibay), Annie sees some hope when she is given a chance to train as a bounty hunter under master Shiro Jin (Emily Borromeo). Colleague Lazarus (Alan H. Green) doesn't think she has what it takes, but starts to see her in a different light when they take off on their first bounty hunter assignment together to bring back notorious drug dealer Mac Roundtree (Brad Oscar). Rounding out the cast are Badia Farha, Jasmine Forsberg, Jared Joseph, Christina Sajous and  Emilie Battle. Broadway veteran Anne L. Nathan (Once, Sunday in the Park with George) performs the title role at Saturday matinee performances.

There is a lot going on on the small stage set by Michael Schweikardt with Lighting Design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauser and Projection and Viceo Design by Brad Peterson. It can be a bit dizzying, especially when Choreographer/Director Jennifer Werner gets everyone moving.

But it's fun. I have become a quick fan of Joe Iconis's quirky, catchy scores. Despite not being a 12-year-old, I really liked Be More Chill and am sorry it didn't get more traction on Broadway or with Tony voters. "Michael in the Bathroom" and "Rich Set a Fire" and other songs from Be More Chill circulate through my brain regularly making e wonder if I have ingested some kind of pill that makes you love music of certain composers... And I liked Bounty Hunter, too, though it is less developed than the other. I related to the "woman of a certain age theme" and thoroughly enjoyed the production of a musical called Young People the Musical. Funny stuff. Alas. not everyone was a fan and the show will  close Sunday,  Aug. 18, a month earlier than originally scheduled.

More Information:

Broadway Bounty Hunter plays at Greenwich House Theater (27 Barrow Street, NYC).

-- Language
-- Risque costumes (design by Sarafina Bush)
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexual dialogue

Chita Rivera Will Honor Hal Prince at Annual Broadway Blessing

Chita Rivera. Photo: Barry Gordin
Chita Rivera is scheduled to give a special tribute to Hal Prince at the 22nd annual Broadway Blessing 7 pm Monday, Sept. 16 at St. Malachy's Church (The Actors' Chapel).

Performers from other Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, including Ain’t Too Proud, Fiddler on the Roof, Phantom of the Opera, Lion King, Desperate Measures, and Hair are scheduled to participate as well.  The Broadway Blessing Choir and instrumentalists are under the direction of Stephen Fraser.  George Drance, SJ (La MaMa, Magis Theatre), will emcee again this year. The evening will culminate with a moving candle-lighting ceremony led by clergy from various churches and the rabbi from the Actors’ Temple.

Doors open at 6:30 pm; seating is open, first come/first served at St. Malachy's, 239 W. 49th St. NYC. A reception will follow. The event is free to the public. Past participants have included Lynn Redgrave, Marian Seldes, Frances Sternhagen, Kathleen Chalfant, Billy Porter, Tituss Burgess and Chad Kimball, just to name a few.

St. Malachy's, the Actors' Chapel, was founded in 1920. It is a spiritual oasis in New York’s heart for Broadway artists and fans alike. Chiming “There’s No Business Like Show Business” every day, a half hour before curtain, the chapel has welcomed such theater greats as George M. Cohen, Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino. Florence Henderson, Elaine Stritch, Danny Thomas, Bob and Dolores Hope, Antonio Banderas, Liam Neeson,and countless others. Under the leadership of Fr. John Fraser (pastor) and Stephen Fraser (director of music) it continues to offer programming to the Broadway community and develop the talent and work of the next generation of Broadway stars.

The Broadway Blessing is produced by Tony-Award-winning Producer Pat Addiss and Kathryn Fisher. Designed as a program of song, dance and story to celebrate the spirit of the new theater season, the annual Broadway Blessing was founded by theater writer Retta Blaney in 1997.
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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 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. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other 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

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

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.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


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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