Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Accomplished Artists Are Students

When we’re young and starting out in the arts, we acknowledge that we don’t know everything, that mentors are a godsend and that constant learning is a part of becoming the best actor, director, musician, technician, dancer or singer we can be. As skills (and accolades) increase, however, artists sometimes can lose site of those truths. We stop learning, fear competition and don't take the time to help others starting out.

I was encouraged last week at the Drama League Awards in New York to discover that some very accomplished and honored persons in the theater have not forgotten the importance of gleaning from those with whom they work.

Bartlett Sher, honored for excellence in directing (see list of winners below), spoke of a teacher who had influenced him, said that he and his cast and crew had learned a lot from each other and that “everything is passed on.” Patrick Stewart, star of Macbeth, was cited for serving as the team’s leader who poured into his fellow cast members. All the young actors in the production “want to be him and work with him again,” we were told.

Distinguished Performer winner Patti LuPone honored those who had helped make her performance possible:
Gypsy director Arthur Laurents as a director who allowed the cast to reinvent something that “wasn’t broke”
•the producers for their boldness in restaging a musical that had just been on Broadway five years ago
•the other actors for their ensemble skills

“I’m still a student, “LuPone said, “…awed by what I see on a stage.”

Somehow I think it’s that teachable spirit that allows Ms. LuPone and others like her to reach new heights in their ability to perform. It’s when we feel we have “arrived” and that we’re the one everyone else should be looking to for inspiration that we forget who the Master teacher is and from whom the talent comes in the first place.

Make a new commitment this week to learn from all those God has placed in your circle and to pass on His wisdom to those who view you as mentor.
“You'll only hear true and right words from my mouth;
not one syllable will be twisted or skewed.
You'll recognize this as true—you with open minds;
truth-ready minds will see it at once.
Prefer my life-disciplines over chasing after money,
and God-knowledge over a lucrative career.
For Wisdom is better than all the trappings of wealth;
nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her.” (Proverbs 8:8-11 THE MESSAGE)

Winners of the Drama League Awards:
Distinguished Production of a Play
August: Osage County
Distinguished Production of a Musical
A Catered Affair
Distinguished Revival—Play
Distinguished Revival—MusicalSouth Pacific
Distinguished Performance Award
Patti LuPone, Gypsy
Julia Hansen Award for Excellence in Directing
Bartlett Sher, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific
Unique Contribution to the Theatre
Ellen Stewart and LaMaMa E.T.C.
Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre
Paul Gemignani

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Review: Boeing, Boeing

I went to see Broadway’s new hit comedy “Boeing, Boeing” on the basis of its star power (comedic treasure Christine Baranski and “The West Wing’s” Bradley Whitford) without having seen either Marc Camoletti’s French play or the Jerry Lewis/Tony Curtis ’60s movie based on it, so when a friend questioned why I would be interested to see a show based on a guy having silultaneous affairs with three airline stewardesses, I had to confess that it didn’t sound like the kind of show I usually would enjoy.
And while the plot doesn’t get much more complicated than that, there are some funny lines, good physical comedy and timing that has made it popular with theatregoers and which have earned it a Tony Award nomination for Best Revival of a Play.
Whitford plays Bernard, who thinks he’s living the perfect bachelor’s life in 1960s France juggling three airline “hostess” fiances. It’s all about the timetables, he tells Robert, his visiting unwordly, naïve Midwestern friend, ably played by Mark Rylance, Tony nominated for leading actor in a play for this role. Gloria, Gabriella and Gretchen, the objects of Bernard’s affection, or at least lust, are played by Kathryn Hahn, Gina Gershon and an atypically cast but Tony nominated Mary McCormack (also of “West Wing”). Christine Baranski steals the show, however, as Berthe, Bernard’s wisecracking, complaining housekeeper who tries to help him keep track of which hostess with which food preferences is in the apartment at any given time (and it’s hard to imagine Ryland and McCormack getting Tony nods over her). Predictably, timetable and weather conditions force complications for Bernard and Robert is enlisted to help keep the women from finding out about each other.
Overall, I liked Director Matthew Warchus and Scenic and Costume Designer Rob Howell’s retro, but updated look and feel for the show, although it could have been edited to 90 minutes with no intermission. Sound issues resulted in some dropped dialog. It also seemed to me that Berthe looked just like Edna E Mode, a character in Disney’s animated film “The Incredibles.” In a Playbill interview, Ms. Baranski said she helped create the look, but didn’t mention whether Edna was an influence and an inquiry to the show’s press agent went unanswered, so I give you photos of both Berthe and Edna above and you can decide for yourself.
There was humor in the show and the pleasure of Ms. Baranski’s performance, but I could never fully engage with a plot that suggested it was acceptable for Bernard to have affairs with three women while deceiving them all about the depth of his feelings. It all does work out all right in the end, and Berthe is a voice of conscience which keeps the show and Bernard reminded of values, but she’s not enough to overcome dialog and actions that suggest morals are unnecesssary.
Christians might be interested to know:
The show carries a “Mature” advisory
Contains sexually suggestive kisses, dialogue and touching
The Lord’s name is used twice: “Thank the Lord!” and “Oh, God!”

Broadway from a Christian Perspective

Every year in early May, I have to admit that I feel an excitement as the Tony Award nominations are announced (the 2007-2008 nominations announced this morning follow). I've been a theater lover all of my life and have always thought of attending Broadway shows as second nature, so when we come together once a year to recognize the best of the best, I can't help but be excited.

I remember the first time I actually got to attend the Tony Awards in person. It was like a dream come true. I annoyed the friend who went with me all night by saying, "This is so cool," about 4,000 times. The next year, now a Tony veteran, I went with a different theater loving friend who took over my "this is so cool" phrase duties.

In fact, there are a lot of Christians who love the theater. I know, because I work with a lot of them, or get calls from a lot of them asking my advice on what shows to see or produce. After some prodding from the Lord, I've decided to write regular reviews of Broadway shows from a Christian perspective. I hope you will find them helpful as regular reviews of a show: what works, what doesn't, whose performances are worth the more than $100 ticket prices on Broadway....as well as a means to be informed from a Christian perspective. Do the plots and themes reflect Christian values? Could language or other elements of the productions be offensive? Is it appropriate for the kids? Sometimes Christians have a hard time finding that kind of information in basic plot summaries or secular reviews and it's hard for them to choose shows they might like to attend while in New York, on vacation in other cities where Broadway shows are running or when the local performing arts center offers its tours of shows coming through for the Broadway season.

I hope these reviews will be of help to you. They will be carried here and on the Christians in Performing Arts blog (http://christianperformers.blogspot.com/)

"In the Heights," the hip-hop, salsa musical about the joys and relationships of Latino immigrants in Washington Heights led the Tony Award nominations announced this morning with 13 including Best Musical.
And the nominees are:
Best Play
August: Osage County
Rock 'n' Roll
The Seafarer
The 39 Steps

Best Musical
In the Heights
Passing Strange

Best Book of a Musical
Cry-Baby, Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan
In the Heights, Quiara Alegria Hudes
Passing Strange, Stew
Xanadu, Douglas Carter Beane

Best Original Score
Cry-Baby, Music & Lyrics: David Javerbaum & Adam Schlesinger
In The Heights, Music & Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda
The Little Mermaid, Music: Alan Menken and Lyrics: Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater
Passing Strange, Music: Stew and Heidi Rodewald Lyrics: Stew

Best Revival of a Play
The Homecoming
Les Liaisons Dangereueses

Best Revival of a Musical
Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific
Sunday in the Park With George

Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Play
Ben Daniels, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Laurence Fishburne, Thurgood
Mark Rylance, Boeing-Boeing
Rufus Sewell, Rock 'n' Roll
Patrick Stewart, Macbeth

Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Play
Eve Best, The Homecoming
Deanna Dunagan, August: Osage County
Kate Fleetwood, Macbeth
S. Epatha Merkerson, Come Back, Little Sheba
Amy Morton, August: Osage County

Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Musical
Daniel Evans, Sunday in the Park With George
Lin-Manuel Miranda, In the Heights
Stew, Passing Strange
Paulo Szot, Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific
Tom Wopat, A Catered Affair

Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Musical
Kerry Butler, Xanadu
Patti LuPone, Gypsy
Kelli O'Hara, Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific
Faith Prince, A Catered Affair
Jenna Russell, Sunday in the Park With George

Best Performance By a Featured Actor in a Play
Bobby Cannavale, Mauritius
Raúl Esparza, The Homecoming
Conleth Hill, The Seafarer
Jim Norton, The Seafarer
David Pittu, Is He Dead?

Best Performance By a Featured Actress in a Play
Sinead Cusack, Rock 'n' Roll
Mary McCormack, Boeing-Boeing
Laurie Metcalf, November
Martha Plimpton, Top Girls
Rondi Reed, August: Osage County

Best Performance By a Featured Actor in a Musical
Daniel Breaker, Passing Strange
Danny Burstein, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Robin De Jesús, In The Heights
Christopher Fitzgerald, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
Boyd Gaines, Gypsy

Best Performance By a Featured Actress in a Musical
de'Adre Aziza, Passing Strange
Laura Benanti, Gypsy
Andrea Martin, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
Olga Merediz, In The Heights
Loretta Ables Sayre, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Best Direction of a Play
Maria Aitken, The 39 Steps
Conor McPherson, The Seafarer
Anna D. Shapiro, August: Osage County
Matthew Warchus, Boeing-Boeing

Best Direction of a Musical
Sam Buntrock, Sunday in the Park with George
Thomas Kail, In The Heights
Arthur Laurents, Gypsy
Bartlett Sher, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford, Cry-Baby
Andy Blankenbuehler, In The Heights
Christopher Gattelli, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Dan Knechtges, Xanadu

Best Orchestrations
Jason Carr, Sunday in the Park with George
Alex Lacamoire & Bill Sherman, In the Heights
Stew & Heidi Rodewald, Passing Strange
Jonathan Tunick, A Catered Affair

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Peter McKintosh, The 39 Steps
Scott Pask, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Todd Rosenthal, August: Osage County
Anthony Ward, Macbeth

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
David Farley and Timothy Bird & The Knifedge Creative Network, Sunday in the Park with George
Anna Louizos, In the Heights
Robin Wagner, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
Michael Yeargan, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Best Costume Design of a Play
Gregory Gale, Cyrano de Bergerac
Rob Howell, Boeing-Boeing
Katrina Lindsay, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Peter McKintosh, The 39 Steps

Best Costume Design of a Musical
David Farley, Sunday in the Park with George
Martin Pakledinaz, Gypsy
Paul Tazewell, In the Heights
Catherine Zuber, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Kevin Adams, The 39 Steps
Howard Harrison, Macbeth
Donald Holder, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Ann G. Wrightson, August: Osage County

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Ken Billington, Sunday in the Park with George
Howell Binkley, In the Heights
Donald Holder, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Natasha Katz, The Little Mermaid

Best Sound Design of a Play
Simon Baker, Boeing-Boeing
Adam Cork, Macbeth
Ian Dickson, Rock 'n' Roll
Mic Pool, The 39 Steps

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Acme Sound Partners, In the Heights
Sebastian Frost, Sunday in the Park with George
Scott Lehrer, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Dan Moses Schreier, Gypsy

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Stephen Sondheim

Regional Theatre Tony Award
Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Special Tony Award
Robert Russell Bennett

Gracewell Prodiuctions

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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. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing 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 wrote 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 was a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com 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 president 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 (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly 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- 2022 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


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 or people of a certain race 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. 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 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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