Tuesday, June 17, 2008

And the Winner is....

At this year's Tony Awards, the real winner was the awards show itself. Hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, the show, which in past years was devoid of a host and any real personality of its own, took a step toward regaining some of the fun and passion infused in days past by former host Rosie O'Donnell. In a year where most of the offerings, except in the category of Revival of a Musical, were less than exciting and made for rather predictable winners, the show really needed to exude some enthusiasm if it had any hopes of moving potential ticketbuyers to the box office.
While I would have preferred to see the producers turn Ms. Goldberg's humor loose instead of molding it into some poorly written and corny bits, the filmed segments placing her in the casts of shows at least gave reason for chuckle. Bring her back next year and let her fly!
The acceptance speeches, too often turned into political platforms at awards shows, were devoid of agendas and were diverse and interesting, from Best Leading Actor in a Play Mark Rylance's nonsensical ramblings to Best Score recipeint Lin-Manuel Miranda's rap.
Here's a list of this year's winners:

Best Play
"August: Osage County"
Author: Tracy Letts
Producers: Jeffrey Richards, Jean Doumanian, Steve Traxler, Jerry Frankel, Ostar Productions, Jennifer Manocherian, The Weinstein Company, Debra Black/Daryl Roth, Ronald & Marc Frankel/Barbara Freitag, Rick Steiner/Staton Bell Group, The Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Best Musical
"In The Heights"
Producers: Kevin McCollum, Jeffrey Seller, Jill Furman, Sander Jacobs, Goodman/Grossman, Peter Fine, Everett/Skipper

Best Book of a Musical
"Passing Strange" - Stew

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
"In The Heights" - Music & Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Best Revival of a Play
Producers: Sonia Friedman Productions, Bob Boyett, Act Productions, Matthew Byam Shaw, Robert G. Bartner, The Weinstein Company, Susan Gallin/Mary Lu Roffe, Broadway Across America, Tulchin/Jenkins/DSM, The Araca Group

Best Revival of a Musical
"South Pacific"
Producers: Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, Bernard Gersten, Bob Boyett

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Mark Rylance, "Boeing-Boeing"

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Deanna Dunagan, "August: Osage County"

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Paulo Szot, "South Pacific"

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Patti LuPone, "Gypsy"

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Jim Norton, "The Seafarer"

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Rondi Reed, "August: Osage County"

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Boyd Gaines, "Gypsy"

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Laura Benanti, "Gypsy"

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Todd Rosenthal, "August: Osage County"

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Michael Yeargan, "South Pacific"

Best Costume Design of a Play
Katrina Lindsay, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses"

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Catherine Zuber, "South Pacific"

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Kevin Adams, "The 39 Steps"

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Donald Holder, "South Pacific"

Best Sound Design of a Play
Mic Pool, "The 39 Steps"

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Scott Lehrer, "South Pacific"

Best Direction of a Play
Anna D. Shapiro, "August: Osage County"

Best Direction of a Musical
Bartlett Sher, South Pacific

Best Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, "In The Heights"

Best Orchestrations
Alex Lacamoire & Bill Sherman, "In The Heights"

Regional Theatre Tony Award
Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Special Tony Award
Robert Russell Bennett (1894-1981), in recognition of his historic contribution to American musical theatre in the field of orchestrations, as represented on Broadway this season by "South Pacific."
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Stephen Sondheim

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Review: Inner Voices: Solo Musicals

(Jennifer Damiano Photo by Andy Criss)
One person expressing her innermost thoughts in song is the premise behind "Inner Voices: Solo Musicals" which I saw at the funky off-Broadway Zipper Factory Theater in New York. It's comprised of three commissioned pieces from composers Michael John Lachiusa (“The Wild Party,” Marie Christine”), Jenny Giering ("Songs for An Unmade Bed") and Scott Davenport Richards ("Ma Rainey's Black Bottom") in a concept developed by Artistic Director Paulette Haupt who was inspired by Alan Bennett's "Talking Heads" on PBS.
The first, "Tres Ninas" by Lachiusa featured a strong performance from Victoria Clark (most recently on Broadway in "Light in the Piazza" and "Urinetown") as she reflects on three separate incidents that shaped her life.
In the first, she and her two sisters assist a family of illegal immigrants they witness jumping off a train. "When people fall in front of you, don't we have an obligation?" she asks. They bring food anonymously, in what really is a dramatic game to the sisters, then the family vanishes in the night.
In the second vignette, Clark smuggles a young girl from Mexico into the United States to serve as a housekeeper for her and her two girls. Eventually Madelina leaves to marry and have a family of her own and Clark sings through a wide range of emotions.
The third snapshot in "Tres Ninas" has Clark as a hardened bartender who is passionate about burritos because there's not much else exciting in her life. After a night of drinking and flirting with some immigrants, she agrees to take the virginity from 18-year-old, Arturo. Drunk and afraid, she realizes that what she "saw as a lark was not for him." His friends watch and after, when she is leaving, she finds her car tires slashed. Arturo protects her and brings her home where she wonders, in librettist Ellen Fitzhugh's wonderful lyrics, "what has led to the life I've led?" and concludes that "I'm not to be trusted with myself."
This first portion of the program was by far the strongest, most polished and appealing of the three. I felt that it had potential to stand by itself in expanded form. Lachuisa's score, as always, was pleasing and challenging. Some confusion clouded the story as it wasn't clear right away whether we were seeing three tales from the same woman or one tale from each of the ninas. (Direction by Jonathan Butterell, Music Direction by Todd Almond)
The second work, Giering's "Alice Unwrapped" had a moving story about a young teen who finds herself trying to hold her family together after her father is declared missing in action and her mother, a church organist, has a breakdown. "She's checked out of our daily lives and left the rest to me," the talented Jennifer Damiano ("Spring Awakening") (pictured above)sings. She constructs an outlandish suit constructed of KELVAR™, duct tape and other materials to help her "fight my elemental fears." She eventually discovers that it is her younger sister Ellie, not she, who is the glue keeping the family together, and with her help, she begins to take the suit off one step at a time.
The storyline of this piece no doubt hit home with many, and the lyrics by Laura Harrington were thought-provoking, but I felt that the music never allowed Damiano to fully express the emotions of her character or the full range of her vocal capability. The melody seemed repetitive and only for a few moments seemed to take us deep enough to feel what Alice was feeling. (Directed by Jeremy Dobrish; Music Direction by Julia McBride)
The third component of the evening, "A Thousand Words Come to Mind" by Richards with a libretto by Michele Lowe gave us a sad, but humorous look at a mother's death through the eyes of her daughter. Barbara Walsh ("Company", "Hairspray")played the daughter who experiences a growing fascination with her mother's encounters with a long list of famous American authors. She struggles with the concept that her mother might have been important, that she might have mattered to important poeple. "Will that make her more important to me?" she wonders. What she reveals, though some top-notch acting by Walsh, is that it's she who feels unimportant and invisible. Lowe's lyrics were polished and made what would be a weak score on its own rather inconsequential to the telling of this story. (Directed by Jack Cummings, III; Musical Direction by John DiPinto)
Overall, the presentation was a worthwhile night at the theater.
Christians might be interested to know:
Contains sexually suggestive dialog
Contains offensive language
The Lord's name is taken in vain twice

Gracewell Prodiuctions

Gracewell Prodiuctions
Producing Inspiring Works in the 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 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- 2024 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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