Tuesday, May 13, 2008

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
Cry-Baby
In the Heights
Passing Strange
Xanadu

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
Boeing-Boeing
The Homecoming
Les Liaisons Dangereueses
Macbeth

Best Revival of a Musical
Grease
Gypsy
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

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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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