Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Theater Year in Review

Annalee Jefferies and Bill Heck in The Orphans' Home Cycle
(Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

The Highlights -- and Lowlights -- of the 2010 Theater Season
By Lauren Yarger
It’s time to say goodbye to 2010 and in doing so, revisit some of the most wonderful moments from theater during the year.

Thumbing through notes starting in January 2010, it wasn’t so easy to come up with a list of the top 10. Some moments found their way quickly onto the list, but others took some more thought.

This has been a hard year for Broadway. The economy isn’t making it easy for shows to find investors or for theatergoers to be able to afford to see them if they do get produced. As a result, some shows that aren’t the best productions have done well at the box office (mostly due to the draw of star names on the marquis, though even this weapon isn’t a guarantee – Brendan Fraser, Julia Stiles and even Patti LuPone heading casts couldn’t prevent early closings of their shows).

Other critically acclaimed works close early because they don’t have star names to drive the box office or they are deemed “too intelligent” for the average ticket buyer who is looking for pure entertainment value. In addition, 2010 saw a lot of eagerly anticipated shows fizzle into big disappointments, so the pickings for this year’s best moments in the theater were slimmer than usual.

That said, here are the moments that stand out for me between Jan. 1, 2010 and Jan. 1, 2011. May next year’s list be so abundant that I have a hard time choosing.

Top 10 moments of theater in 2010:

10.) Manhattan Theatre Club’s quiet, but terrific production of Bill Cain’s Equivocation, a play within a play using William Shakespeare, the Gunpowder Plot and some terrific acting to bring Shakespeare to life in an interesting, contemporary way. This was one of the most satisfying plays I saw all year. John Pankow was terrific as Shakespeare.

9.) Katie Finneran as Marge MacDougall, a drunken bar pick up whose 15 minutes on stage were the best part of the revival of Promises Promises. Her masterful, comedic performance immediately charged the set and within seconds I was thinking, “There’s the Tony award for Best Supporting Actress in a musical.” I was right – she walked away with the award hands down.

8.) Jim Brochu’s Zero Hour, a play giving a glimpse into the life of legendary Zero Mostel. This performance was so good, you’d swear that was Zero up there on the stage. Deservingly, it won the Drama Desk Award for Best Solo Performance.

7.) Viola Davis’ moving performance as Rose, a wife and mother trying to keep her family together in August Wilson’s Fences. The depth and strength of her performance were palpable (she swept the Tony, Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk awards). The play also starred Denzel Washington who took the Tony and Outer Critics awards too. An excellent time at the theater.

6.) Memphis. Yes, I’ve heard all the complaints that this musical shouldn’t have won the 2010 Tony because it’s just too much fluff, but honestly, this tale of an inter-racial romance at the birth of rock and roll in Memphis was the most exciting, fun musical I saw last season. I loved Chad Kimball and Montego Glover in the leads and the book by Joe Pietro. Books make all the difference in musicals, and this one is well written, giving a platform for David Bryan (formerly of Bon Jovi) to write some really catchy tunes that show off Glover’s fabulous voice. It deserved all the awards and still is one of the best sees on Broadway.

5.) Some excellent shows incorporating religious themes. Standing out were:
• Geoffrey Nauffts’ play Next Fall, which was touted as a play that was supposed to be about everything from relationships to gay marriage rights, but which in reality was a study of faith and how having God, or not having God in our lives drives relationships and everything else.
• Kia Corthron’s A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick (at Playwrights Horizons) with its delightful and honestly depicted pastor in training/evangelist Abebe.
• Max McLean’s The Screwtape Letters based on the C.S. Lewis classic book in which demons look for ways to interrupt, deceive and ultimately devour their human assignees. The play gives us humans a lot to chew on too with regards to just how much we allow Satan to influence us. (Note: McLean and Corthron were honored as the 2010 recipients of Masterwork Productions’ “The Lights are Bright on Broadway” awards for these productions.)
• MCC Theater’s production of Neil LaBute’s The Break of Noon recently completing a limited run starring an excellent David Duchovny as a man who suddenly finds God in the midst of a tragedy and the disbelief of those who know him (including himself) about whether his conversion is real and whether he really can change into a better person.

4.) Mark Rylance and David Hyde Pierce in David Hirson’s delightful rhyming couplet play La Bête. Rylance tears up the stage during an opening monologue that is one of those moments where you know you are witnessing a piece of theater history. It’s outrageous, disgusting, funny and totally over-the-top and probably will bring a Tony Award nomination for the actor in 2011. Making his tour-de-force performance possible is the understated, controlled, skillful performance by David Hyde Pierce, who reacts with facial expressions and gestures that spark and fuel a perfect foil for Rylance’s zaniness.

3.) The Scottsboro Boys. This was one of the best books (David Thompson) with one of the best scores (the last collaboration of John Kander and Fred Ebb), with some of the best direction and choreography (Susan Stroman) with one of the best ensemble casts I’ve ever seen on Broadway (the cast was headed by Joshua Henry, Colman Domingo, Forrest McClendon and John Cullum, but every single performer in the show was excellent). Unfortunately the story of the unjust imprisonment of nine black men accused of raping two white women in 1931 Alabama told in the form of a minstrel show didn’t go over well with theater goers. Some folks, offended by the minstrel theme, protested outside the theater, though if they actually had gone inside and seen this fabulous show, they might have discovered that instead of shining a positive light on the racist entertainment form, The Scottsboro Boys, instead, exposed the minstrel, along with its two end men, the interlocutor, the cake walk, black face, and the prejudice that condemned these men to death for a crime they didn’t commit as a sad page in the nation’s history. It was the most savvy, slick musical to come along in a long time and I am sorry that it closed so soon. there is some talk about bringing it back. You can make a pledge to go see it for just $99 if it does at

2.) The spontaneous, standing ovation given to composer John Kander as he took his seat during the final performance of The Scottsboro Boys. The ovation was heartfelt and one of those moments you’re grateful to have been in the theater that night. The warm regards for the show were continued throughout the performance when prolonged, screaming applause met each musical number. Director Susan Stroman led a toast at the final curtain for the late Fred Ebb and for the original Scottsboro Boys. Theater doesn’t get much better than this.

1.) And finally, the top theater experience I had during 2010 was nine hours long and I’d go back and see it again. It was Horton Foote’s The Orphans’ Home Cycle, a condensing of nine of the playwright’s works into three plays following the life of Horace Robedaux (Bill Heck). The work was commissioned by Michael Wilson, Artistic Director at Hartford Stage, where the saga ran last fall before moving to the Signature Theater Company in New York. The fabulous cast, which included Foote’s daughter Hallie, played multiple roles in the three plays which ran in rep at both venues. (You could see the plays individually, or in a marathon). The amazing performance by Heck, the meticulous direction by Wilson, the astonishing sets (designed by Jeff Cowie and David Barber) and the wonderful story itself combined to transport the audience out of the theater and into the lives of these people. It was like a visit with old friends, sad, fun, satisfying and over too quickly, despite the nine-hour run time. (Keep your eye on Heck, by the way. He also has delighted in New York last summer in the Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park productions and most recently in a riveting performance as Joe in Signature’s revival of Tony Kushner’s Angel’s in America. He’s quickly establishing himself as one of the best actors on stage.)

Biggest surprises of 2010:
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. I wouldn’t have thought a farce portraying the seventh president of the United States as a tight-pants-wearing, rock star singing emo/punk type music would be to my taste, but Alex Timbers’ tongue-in-cheek story delighted me from the moment I entered the cleverly decorated theater. It was smart, funny and surprisingly contemporary. Alas, another smart one bites the dust. It closes Jan. 2.
American Idiot – another one I didn’t think I was going to like. Punk music (with one of the songs titles Jesus of Suburbia?) and an anti-war story involving drugs? But, I’ll be darned if it isn’t terrific with a redeeming message to boot. On top of being surprised by how much I enjoyed this musical, the night I attended, Green Day, on whose music and album 'American Idiot" the show is based, made a surprise appearance and rocked out the house at the encore. In fact, Green Day’s lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong will be performing the role of St. Jimmy January 1-9, January 18-30 and February 10-27. Definitely worth it if you haven’t seen it yet.

Biggest disappointments of 2010:
Driving Miss Daisy. Alfred Uhry’s study of racial relations and the friendship between a Jewish woman and her African-American chauffeur during the civil rights era is one of my favorite plays. The casting of Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones along with Boyd Gaines seemed a guarantee of a terrific production, even if Broadway seems a little big for the intimate setting (it played to acclaim Off-Broadway and the film version of the play won the Academy Award). The play at the Golden Theater has been doing good box office, but for me, it drives in an unsatisfying direction and misses most of the depth. One of my most-anticipated shows quickly became one of my biggest disappointments.
A Little Night Music. The original of this Stephen Sondheim musical, back in the late 1970s, was one of the best theater experiences I ever have enjoyed. The first revival starring Angela Lansbury (perfect casting) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (really?) was high on my list of must sees. Quickly, it was apparent that this rendition wasn’t even trying to recreate the magic of the original. Very disappointing on so many levels (minimal sets, weak performances). The handing of the Tony award to Zeta-Jones, especially following her terrible performance of “Send in the Clowns” on the Tony broadcast was an added disappointment. I haven’t seen the show since Elaine Stritch and Bernadette Peters took over the roles, but both are theater gems, so it might be worth seeing just because they are on stage. Hurry, though. It closes Jan. 9.
Women on the Verge of A Nervous Breakdown. Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti, Sherry Rene Scott, Brian Stokes Mitchell and excellent director Bartlett Sher – sounds like the recipe for a fabulous musical, doesn’t it? Guess again. This poorly written story with an explosion of sets and lackluster music closes early on Jan. 2 – and that’s a good thing in the opinion of someone who almost never likes to see a show close ealrly. The best part of this show was getting to see the newly refurbished Belasco Theatre.
The Addams Family. Well-known characters, a fun story idea and Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth (perfect casting). Unfortunately, a mess of a book, totally unmemorable songs and lackluster performances combined to make this highly anticipated musical a disappointment. The star power of Lane and Neuwirth, as well as the Addams Family brand, continue to translate into big box office, though.
Banana Shpeel, a different kind of show from Cirque du Soleil at the newly restored Beacon Theatre. It didn’t work. It wasn’t funny, well written or even special effect or tumbling heavy – nothing like any of the other Cirque shows we’ve enjoyed. Let’s hope the eagerly anticipated Zarkana, moving the Tony awards out of Radio City Music Hall to set up shop this summer, won’t end up on this list next year.
All About Me – Dame Edna and Michael Feinstein. Alone they’re great. Together they didn’t work.
The Miracle Worker at Circle in the Square – Distracting, flying set pieces, so-so performances and a Helen Keller (Abigail Breslin) who was too connected with the outside world caused a misfire with this Circle in the Square revival. A production, just a few weeks prior to this one at Connecticut’s Ivoryton Playhouse directed by Jacqueline Hubbard with Helen played by Jenilee Lea Simons Marques, who in real life is deaf, was far superior and is one of the highlights of last year’s Connecticut season.
• The postponement of Love Never Dies, the sequel to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera, the postponement of the revival of You Can’t Take it With You (one of my personal favorites) and the multi-times postponement of the opening of Spiderman Turn Off the Dark, not to mention all of the trouble this musical has experienced with safety issues, injured actors and bad press. Here’s hoping that these three shows find their way to a future “top 10” list.

Most confusing show of the year
• Hands down, this goes to Lincoln Center Theatre’s production of Andrew Bovell’s When the Rain Stops Falling. When they put a family tree in the program, you’re probably going to need it. It didn’t help. Even stars Victoria Clark, Marybeth Hurt and fabulous director David Cromer couldn’t help me figure out who anyone in this play was or what was going on. I wasn’t alone. At a restaurant for lunch after the show, everyone was sitting around questioning each other about who was who and what had just happened. No one knew.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Catch Them While You Can!

January traditionally marks the quiet season on Broadway with many shows closing up after the holiday rush. 2011 will be no different with some 18 shows bringing down the final curtain in January.

Some of the closings were planned; others are earlier than scheduled. The first shutterings will start on Sunday, Jan. 2. For a reviews, click on the show. For a list of all shows playing on Broadway and a link to the show website, scroll down at left.

Tickets, many discounted, are available at

Broadway's lights won't stay dim for long, though. Check back tomorrow for a preview of what's coming in 2011 as well as a look back at the highlights and lowlights of 2010.

Shows closing in January:
Jan. 2
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Brief Encounter
Donny & Marie: A Broadway Christmas
Promises, Promises
Pee-wee Herman
West Side Story
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Jan. 9
A Free Man of Color
A Little Night Music
In the Heights
La Bête
Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
The Merchant of Venice
(goes on hiatus -- will be back for three more weeks beginning Feb. 1)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow Doesn't Stop Broadway

The weather outside is frightful, but the Broadway shows inside are delightful!

As of now, the great white way is open for business and all Broadway shows will perform today as previously scheduled. Whether you live in New York or are a visitor stranded in our city, it's a wonderful time to see a show! Tickets to hit shows will be available due to cancellations from the cold winter storm.

Please check individual show information (scroll down at left) for holiday schedules and curtain times. For information about refunds or exchanges, theatregoers should contact their point of purchase.

Tonight is a great night to sit in a warm Broadway theatre and see one of Broadway's great shows!

- Paul Libin, Chairman, The Broadway League and Executive Vice President, Jujamcyn Theaters

Friday, December 24, 2010

On Vacation

Due to illness and the holidays, we've been on a sort of hiatus here. Will return after New Years. Meanwhile, best wishes for a safe and blessed holiday!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

League's Annual Demographic Report Shows Who's Sitting in Those Theater Seats

63 Percent of Audiences Were Tourists
The Broadway League’s 13th annual demographics report, The Demographics of the Broadway Audience 2009-2010, compares current theatergoing habits to previous seasons in predicting trends for the future.

Of note, the newest study reveals that tourists accounted for 63 percent of the 11.89 million Broadway admissions this year. (See my piece on doing my part to help these tourists while they are in New York at )

Resources such as and the Broadway Concierge & Ticket CenterTM located in the Times Square Information Center provide information in six different languages for tourists and New York residents alike. Overall, international tourists accounted for 17 percent of all admissions to Broadway shows in New York City. With 8.6 million visits* by foreign tourists, approximately one in four took in a Broadway show. (Tourists planning a visit to New York can see a list of what's playing on Broadway and which shows are headed to Broadway by scrolling down on the left side of this site. In addition, you can see which shows are playing in other cities by scrolling down to "Coming to a Theater Near You."

“Our annual demographic report reflects the consistency of the Broadway audience, yet slight nuances demonstrate how audiences and their behaviors do change from year-to-year,” commented Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League. “We did see a drop in the international tourists from a record high, most logically due to the changing economic conditions. New York City continues to show strong tourism numbers as such a significant number of our visitors do come from outside the NYC metro area.”

The analysis is based on extensive survey data gleaned from audience questionnaires distributed throughout the 2009-2010 Broadway season in New York City. It includes highlights on the demographics of the audience and their ticket purchasing habits. The report is part of an ongoing series that profiles Broadway theatergoers each season.

The report also shows that the use of the Internet for the purchase of tickets has decreased by 5percent since the 2008-2009 season (from 39 to 34 percent). However, online purchase continues to be the most popular method of ticket buying for a sixth year in row.

For show selection, critics’ reviews were the most influential factors for playgoers, followed closely by personal recommendation. However, 48 percent of theatergoers at musicals said that personal recommendation was the single strongest reported factor in deciding which show to see. (Our reviews here at are the only source for a review with added Christian perspective. We also provide hundreds of personal recommendations via email. Contact us at

Playgoers also tended to be more frequent theatregoers than musical attendees. The typical playgoer saw seven shows in the past year, compared with five for the musical attendee. Those who saw fifteen or more shows comprised 6 percent of the audience, but represented 31 percent of all admissions.

Reflecting a trend of the past few decades, 66.3 percent of the audiences were female, marking the highest percentage of female audiences. Furthermore, 69 percent of those making the purchasing decisions were female.

Three quarters of admissions were Caucasian theatergoers, but audiences have become slightly more diverse over the past decade. There were a higher percentage of Asian theatergoers this season, moving up from 3.9 to 6.1 percent.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Playwrights Craft Fair Benefits City Harvest

Playwrights Horizons will host its second annual Holiday Craft Fair on Tuesday, Dec. 14 from 1 to 4 pm in Playwrights Horizons’ festively made-over Ford Motor Company Lobby (416 West 42nd St. Featuring works created by PH’s very own staff, the crafts for sale will include jewelry, knitwear, handmade greeting cards, homemade jam and much more!

Serious holiday shoppers and curious browsers alike will enjoy complimentary refreshments and, of course, their favorite music from the festive season. Please note: cash payments only.

In keeping with the spirit of the holiday season, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to charity. Additionally, shoppers are encouraged to bring a canned good for a food drive to benefit City Harvest. City Harvest is New York City’s only food rescue program. The organization helps feed more than 260,000 people each week serves more than 600 community programs annually. Each year, Playwrights Horizons’ staff, artists and audiences help City Harvest by holding a Holiday Food Drive. Last year, the company donated 240 pounds of food, a Playwrights Horizons record.

Currently playing at Playwrights Horizons’ Peter Jay Sharp Theater is Amy Herzog’s critically-acclaimed After the Revolution. Directed by Carolyn Cantor, the New York premiere has been extended by popular demand to Sunday, Dec. 12.

The theater company’s next production will be the world premiere of Adam Bock’s A Small Fire. Directed by Trip Cullman, previews will begin Thursday, Dec. 16 at Playwrights Horizons’ Mainstage Theater.

For subscription and ticket information to all Playwrights Horizons productions, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200, noon to 8 pm daily, or purchase online at the Playwrights Horizons website at

Playwrights Horizons, celebrating its 40th Anniversary Season, is a writer’s theater dedicated to the support and development of contemporary American playwrights, composers and lyricists and to the production of their new work.

Broadway Talks with Patti LuPone

Jordan Roth, president of Jujamcyn Theaters, continues his popular multi-evening 92nd Street Y conversation series “Broadway Talks,” with two-time Tony Award-winning actress Patti LuPone.

Roth and LuPone will discuss her current role in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and her recently published autobiography, among other topics at 92nd Street Y (1395 Lexington Ave. at 92nd Street) on Sunday, Feb. 6 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $29 and are available at or by calling 212-415-5500.

Previous conversations have featured Liev Schreiber (Tony Award nominee, A View from the Bridge), Laura Linney (Tony Award nominee, Time Stands Still), Sean Hayes (Tony Award nominee, Promises, Promises), Nathan Lane (The Addams Family), Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer (American Idiot), David Hyde Pierce (La Bête) and Elaine Stritch (A Little Night Music).

An audience Q&A will follow the conversation. Questions for LuPone can be submitted prior to the event to Roth via twitter at

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Theater Review: Elf

Elf photo by Joan Marcus.

An Old-Fashioned Musical with Fun for the Whole(some) Family
By Lauren Yarger
While this version, like the film, isn’t quite as funny as you might hope and Buddy (Sebastian Arcelus), a human raised by Santa (George Wendt) and his elves at the North Pole, isn’t quite as silly as he could be, Broadway’s staging of the hit film Elf (the movie stars Will Ferrell) does offer an old-fashioned, colorful holiday musical with a few laughs for the adults and a plot pleasantly devoid of the major angst so common in modern children’s entertainment.

In Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin’s book Buddy discovers why he’s not skilled at toy making and why he towers over the other elves: he’s not one of them. He sets out for New York to find his human father, Walter Hobbs (Mark Jacoby), a publishing executive whose work stress doesn’t leave much time for wife, Emily (Beth Leavel) or son, Michael (Matthew Chumley). Buddy also finds romance with a glum department store elf, Jovie (Amy Spanger). Can Buddy help everyone find Christmas spirit again? Santa’s sleigh might not fly without it.

The tale of Buddy’s quest to fit in and the family’s acceptance of the innocent, sugar-loving, snow-throwing, trouble-causing human-elf unfolds on elaborate colorful sets (David Rockwell, design) with animated projections (Zachary Boroway, design) that give the production the look of a storybook come to life. Director Casey Nicholaw’s fun choreography, Gregg Barnes’ festive costumes and Matthew Skylar’s big-band score with wonderful orchestrations by Doug Besterman, complete an entertaining show that little ones will enjoy. The catchy songs help sustain the plot, though about 20 minutes easily could be cut to shorten the two-and-a-half-hour run time.

The story is entirely predictable, the lyrics (Chad Beguelin) are simple and the humor doesn’t get you laughing out loud much, but it will make you smile in places. It is, after all, a kids’ show and it is really nice to enjoy one without having to encounter some super villain or demonically powered character for a change. Here, the biggest fears come from things like whether the dad will lose his job, whether he’ll be mad when Buddy makes a mistake and whether the mom and dad will get divorced or stop their arguing -- real situations kids have to deal with every day, unfortunately, and to which they can relate.

The show plays a holiday run at the Al Hirschfeld Theater, 302 West 45th St., NYC through Jan. 2. For tickets, visit

Christians might also like to know:
-- God’s name taken in vain
-- Some sexual references in the dialogue
-- Language
-- I would give it a PG rating.

Theater Review: Elling

Roommates from Hell -- or Maybe from Heaven?
By Lauren Yarger
Just how well do we know -- or want to know -- anyone or ourselves for that matter?

Simon Bent’s new English adaptation of Elling (Angvar Ambjornsen, novel; Axel Hellstenius, original stage and film adaptation) explores that question as two men become roommates in present-day Oslo, Norway.

Denis O’Hare is the title character, paired with Kjell Bjarne (Brendan Fraser, making his Broadway debut) by social worker Frank Asli (Jeremy Shamos) first in a home for the mentally ill, then in a government supplied apartment when the men are released to see whether they can make it on their own. Both men have issues. Elling is still trying to adjust following the death of his overbearing mother and doesn’t want to meet people or go out of the house. Bjarne’s mother situaton was a little different. He thought about killing her a lot. Meanwhile, he gets excited at the mere mention of the word “sex” and wants to meet a girl.

He does: upstairs neighbor Reidun Nordsletten (the incomparable Jennifer Coolidge, unfortunately underused in the several roles she plays here). Elling is jealous of the relationship, until he discovers his proclivity for poetry and forms his own friendship with once-famous poet Alfons Jorgensen (Richard Easton).

The play contains some intriguing thoughts about how people become dependent on each other and how difficult it is to forge one’s own path. As a sidebar, it’s also somewhat eye-opening about the realities of government-controlled health care. O’Hare gives a compelling performance of the paranoid, fragile Elling. Fraser holds his own as the slow-witted, horny Bjarne. Doung Hughes directs.

Elling has posted a closing notice. It will run at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 West 47th St., NYC through Nov. 28. Discounted tickets are available through Masterwork Productions by clicking here.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- Sexual dialogue
-- God’s name taken in vain
-- Porn magazine shown
-- The roommates exchange underwear -- other clothing covers their private areas -- at least I didn’t see any nudity from my angle.
-- Show posts a MATURE advisory.

Theater Review: Colin Quinn Long Story Short

Colin Quinn. Photo by Carol Rosegg
An Abbreviated and Clever History of the World
By Lauren Yarger
Ancient looking steps lead to a modern video screen as past meets present and we find that one really isn’t all that different from the other in Saturday Night Live comedian Colin Quinn’s Broadway stand-up Long Story Short.

It’s the history of the world in less than an hour and a half with no nation or religion safe from the comedian’s storytelling which cleverly overlays history and modern culture. It's all very simple (and done respectfully, believe it or not). The Romans were the first mobsters, he asserts; the Middle East conflict, descended from the biblical story of Jacob and Esau, is about father issues, not land, he jokes, and in the 1700s, America was pursuing happiness while Russia was pursuing depression.

It all comes together in a witty presentation, directed by Jerry Seinfeld, that makes some very perceptive commentary of what we think is important and ultimately on the sinful nature of man.

His routine is enhanced by video projections (David Gallo, scenic and projection design) with some animation (Steve Cannn, associate projection designer) and original compositions by Scott Elmegreen.

Long Story Short is extended through Feb. 5 at the Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 West 44th St., NYC. Discounted tickets are available through Masterwork Productions by clicking here.

Christians might also like to know:

Lots of language
Lord’s name taken in vain
A nude painting is shone on the screen

Friday, November 19, 2010

Theater Review: Driving Miss Daisy with Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines

Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones in the Broadway premiere of Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize winning "Driving Miss Daisy", now in performances at The Golden Theater (252 W. 45th Street). © Annabel Clark
This Version Gets Steered on a Disappointing Detour
By Lauren Yarger
I always weep with emotion at Driving Miss Daisy, whether I’m reading Alfred Uhry’s wonderful Pultizer-Prize winning play, viewing the movie version (Urhy won the Oscar for his screenplay) or watching it on stage, but after attending the Broadway version, directed by David Esbjornson, I wept with disappointment.

Whether Esbjornson was just trying to do something so different from the norm or whether he couldn’t stand up to interpretations by his star-packed cast of Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines (they have seven Tony awards among them), I’m not sure, but Miss Daisy gets driven right off the road at the Golden Theater in a very disappointing detour that doesn’t do justice to this Rolls Royce of drama.

Jones is Hoke Colburn, who is hired by wealthy businessman Boolie Werthan (Gaines) to chauffeur his elderly mother, the indomitable Miss Daisy (Redgrave), after she no longer is able to drive herself. Daisy resists and at first, won’t give Hoke the time of day, but over time, the two learn to live with each other and eventually the black man and the Jewish woman forge a strong friendship. Uhry’s play is about the development of that friendship and about racial tension, not only between the characters, but in the United States during the Civil Rights Movement (the play is set in Georgia).

Granted, Esbjornson and the cast had their work cut out for them in recreating the piece, especially since most people have seen the Oscar-winning film starring Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman (reprising the role he originated Off-Broadway) and Dan Akroyd –all perfect—in the roles. Recreating it on stage in the wake of the film’s success is possible, even for those of us who love it, however, as long as the characters and layers of writing come through.

Ivoryton Playhouse in Connecticut, for example, just finished a very well done run of Daisy that left me as teary-eyed as ever. In this Broadway production, John Lee Beatty’s minimal set (the car is a bench and some chairs with a stand-alone steering wheel) is enhanced by Wendall K Harrington’s projections to provide visuals of locations. Between-scenes music by Marc Bennett is reminiscent of Hans Zimmer’s movie score. It’s a nice solution to competing with any thoughts of the film, but the rest of the production seems to veer off just for the sake of going in a different direction.

Jones’ Hoke is more self-assured than we’ve seen before, less fearful of speaking truth around the white folks. He makes it believable, though and he gives a nice new interpretation to some of Hoke’s lines and actions. Gaines, however, gives us none of Boolie’s depth. He’s perky, but doesn’t show the layers that normally give the character a full scope of appreciation for the complexities of Hoke and his mother as well as the ability to banter with them.

Redgrave fails to capture Daisy on any level and seems to just be reciting lines. There’s no bounce between her and Hoke. One of the play’s most telling moments -- when Daisy tells Hoke that he is her best friend -- sounds like a line being said as a page of script is turning instead of being the deep revelation it’s supposed to be. It’s not only a defining moment in the friendship, but helps conclude the play’s racial relations theme, and it’s completely lost here.

Then things get worse. Redgrave ages Daisy suddenly (though this should have been happening gradually throughout for all the characters and doesn't) and gums her final lines as though she’s forgotten to put in her dentures. The audience starts to giggle. When the play’s most dramatic moment comes (the pie scene, for aficionados), Jones plays it for a laugh – and gets it.

Imagine, if you will, the audience bursting out in laughter when Juliet stabs herself over Romeo’s body, or when Helen Keller says “wa wa,” or when Sydney Carton heads to the guillotine and you’ll have some understanding of how this detour of Daisy smacks head-on into a roadblock and finds itself at a dead end -- literally.

It’s really a shame. It’s such a great play. They’re all such great actors. It should have been a smooth ride, but instead, I felt like I’d been run over – by disappointment.

Daisy plays an extended engagement through April 9 at the Golden, 252 West 45th St., NYC. Discounted tickets are available through Masterwork Productions by clicking here.

Christians might also like to know:
• God’s name taken in vain

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Commercial Theater Institute's Fall/Winter Sessions Announced

Learn how to be a Broadway rpducer:

14-WEEK PROGRAM Jan. 10 – April 11, 2011
application deadline extended to Nov. 30, 2010


The Commercial Theater Institute, now in its 30th year, is a project of Theatre Development Fund (TDF) and The Broadway League. Dedicated to training the next generation of commercial theatre producers, CTI provides resources and guidance to individuals interested in the various paths one can take towards creating commercial productions for the stage.

a brand new one-day Investor Relations Seminar: "Show me the money." How to find it? How to make every investment a positive experience for those involved? This one-day seminar will review specific strategies for how to identify financial sources, how to develop and present an investment proposition, and how to communicate, inform and involve investors as the project unfolds.

The seminar will last from 10 am to 5 pm at Theatre Row located at 410 West 42nd St. (between 9th & 10th avenues). Registration is now open on CTI’s website and costs $125 for pre-registration, $140 for day-of registration, and $110 for alumni and special discount participants. This seminar will also be available on April 8, 2011.

a one-day intensive seminar that will take an in-depth look at topics that include: The Analysis of Wage Reports and 10-Day out schedules; Box Office Treasurers - your marketing partner; Analysis of e-Blasts, direct mail, and other promotional tools; Identifying and understanding your audience before opening night; and Third Party Promotion Planning.

The Marketing and Measurement Half-Day Seminar will take place from 10 am to 1 pm at Theatre Row. Registration is now open on CTI’s website and cost $65 for pre-registration and $75 for day-of registration.

CTI Fourteen Week Program: Advanced Topics for Commercial Producers and Managers (Monday, January 10th – Monday April 11, 2011, 7 to 10 pm).

For more information and registration:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Theater Review: The Pee-wee Herman Show

The Audience is as Much Fun to Watch as the Show
By Lauren Yarger
Today’s magic word is fun, Pee-wee Herman tells us, but one look around the audience reveals that having fun isn’t much of a secret at The Pee-wee Herman Show, playing a limited Broadway run at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre through Jan. 2.

The mostly baby-boomer-aged audience members laugh, clap, scream and totally enjoy the antics of nerdy, bow-the-wearing, childlike Pee-wee (Paul Reubens), the character created by the actor (who also co-writes with Bill Steinkellner) made popular on television’s “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” which won 22 Emmy awards during its five-year television run in the 1980s. The show also has seen other stage and film renditions.

Loud cheering applause greets each of the visitors to the colorful house (David Korins, design) including Cowboy Curtis (Phil LaMarr), Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart, who reprises her TV role), Sergio (Jesse Garcia), Mailman Mike (John Moody), Bear (Drew Powell), Jambi (John Paragon), King of Cartoons (Lance Roberts) as well as some parts of the house brought to life by eight puppeteers (Basil Twist, puppetry; Chiodo Bros. Productions, Inc., puppet company). They include an overstuffed chair named Chairry (voice by Lexy Fridell who also plays a magic screen and some talking fish and flowers), a talking window, a globe, a clock, a super-sham wipe, a flying pterodactyl and a robot named Conky (Josh Meyers) among others. Ann Closs-Farley costumes the crowd with make-up, hair and wig design by Ve Neill.

If it seems a little outrageous, it is. Think Mr. Rogers on crack and you’ll be somewhere in the neighborhood. Alex Timbers (of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson fame) directs the show, which offers a nominal plot about Pee-wee getting a new computer and a love story between Miss Yvonne and Cowboy Curtis (a role played on the TV show for a while by Laurence Fishburne, if you can believe it), but the thrust of the show is just laughing at Pee-wee and the double-entendre jokes which are silly funny. Even some things that don’t seem all that funny to the uninitiated bring uproarious laughter from the adoring audience, like Pee-wee’s popping some popcorn or letting the air slowly out of a balloon.

Pee-wee plays (no pun intended) at the Sondheim, 124 West 43rd St., NYC. Tickets are available by calling 212-239-6200 or 800 432-7250.

Christians might also like to know:
• God’s name taken in vain
• Sexually charged dialogue is veiled in the script, including a reference to gay marriage.
• Jambi is a genie who grants wishes and who chants to contact the spirit world.
• Pee-wee wears an abstinence ring which is the source of sarcastic humor.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Theater Review: The Scottsboro Boys

Oh Boys! Scottsboro is Savvy, Sad and Stupendous
By Lauren Yarger
It’s a show that makes you cringe with awkward, uneasy embarrassment, but it’s not because of the singing, dancing and acting – they’re all superior. In the case of The Scottsboro Boys, the last musical partnership of John Kander and Fred Ebb (both credited with music and lyrics), the unease comes from thoroughly enjoying yourself as a tale of horrible injustice unfolds. It’s guilty pleasure.

Set as a minstrel show, a racist form of entertainment popular in America in the early 19th century, The Scottsboro Boys tells the true tale of nine black men convicted in 1931 Alabama for raping two white women. The men, one of whom was only 13 years old, went through numerous trials and retrials for years, despite the fact that one of the women recanted her story. Their plight prompted protests nationally, changed laws about juries and legal representation and is one of the most glaring examples of racial injustice in the nation’s history.

Turning this tragic story into a musical would seem no easy task, but using the minstrel show form, with its two end men, Mr. Bones (Colman Domingo) and Mr. Tambo (Forrest McClendon) with an Interlocutor (John Cullum), a sort of emcee who interacts with them and the others in the troupe, is a masterful stroke of genius. A gripping book by David Thompson (who also has written the book for other Kander and Ebb musicals like Chicago and Steel Pier), skillful and creative direction by Susan Stroman, who also choreographs, and an excellent ensemble cast not only succeed in telling the story, but create one of the savviest, moving and dynamic musicals to hit a Broadway stage is quite a while.

The interlocutor, the endmen and the Scottsboro Boys (Josh Breckenridge, Derrick Cobey, Jeremy Gumbs, Joshua Henry, Rodney Hicks, Kendrick Jones, James T. Lane, Julius Thomas III, Christian Dante White) also assume other identities to help tell the story. White and Lane, for example, play the two women of questionable character who cry rape and Tambo and Bones play the roles of the white redneck-type sheriff and deputy who arrest the nine men doing nothing more than riding a train one day looking for jobs and better lives.

Every performance is excellent, with Henry featured as Haywood Patterson, who rebels at the injustice. “Song and dance” take on a more sinister meaning as he changes his strong assertion of his innocence to a milder, more pleasing plea to accommodate the whites in control of his fate.

Standing out is Gumbs, who plays the youngest victim, Eugene Williams, who taps up a storm and who sings with a lovely tenor advanced for someone so young.

Cullum, always excellent, is perfect as the Interlocutor, a Southern gentleman with kind manners and a friendly smile on the outside who struggles to hide his disdain and utter lack of genuine compassion for the nine victims. Stroman expertly balances the placement of the Interlocutor between center stage and disinterestedly wandering around the action -- like the nation’s indifference toward discrimination at the time -- paying lip service, but not really concerned enough to get involved.

The Interlocutor really just wants a happy ending (a cake walk, in the case of a minstrel show) and insensitively declares one when four of the nine prisoners are released, oblivious to the fact that the five still wrongly imprisoned and facing possible hanging might not agree with him.

Also wandering around the action is The Lady (Sharon Washington) who silently is moved by the boys’ situation. She represents the spirit of African Americans forced to remain quiet – until she speaks in a dramatic way to show how the Scottsboro case was a forerunner to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Intricate storytelling also surfaces with the arrival of Samuel Leibowitz (also played by McClendon), a New York attorney who takes over the Boys’ case. A song called “Financial Advice” in which Jews and their money are ridiculed makes you cringe, until you realize that it brings to light the same kind of prejudice and indifference toward Jews. Leibowitz, after all, took over the case in 1933, just when Hitler was coming into power in Germany.

Beowolf Boritt’s very simple set is framed by three angled frames that look like railroad ties – and a gallows. CChairs with metallic slats are creatively used to create the train car (tamborines become the locomotive's wheels), the prison (the slats are the bars), the court and other locations.

The final number, performed in black face, is the last uneasy step in the journey, in which the audience has been an accomplice from the top when the minstrel show enters through the theater's house. It’s masterful storytelling and Stroman’s best work since The Producers and don't be surprised when it receives numerous award nominations at the end of the season.

The Scottsboro Boys is at the Lyceum Theater, 149 West 45th St., NYC. Discounted tickets are available through Masterwork Productions by clicking here.

Theater Review: Women on the Verge

Even Stars like Patti LuPone, Sherie Rene Scott, Laura Benanti and Brian Stokes Mitchell Can't Keep This Show from a Complete Breakdown
By Lauren Yarger
It had such great potential: four of the most popular and talented stars of the Broadway stage, music and lyrics by the composer who gave us fun shows like The Full Monty and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and a fabulous creative team led by award winning director Bartlett Sher (who helmed the wonderful revival of South Pacific) all under the auspices of Lincoln Center Theater.

But just like last year’s disappointing The Addams Family proved that having star names on the marquee doesn’t guarantee a good show, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is more evidence that nothing is a sure thing.

This musical, playing the beautiful Belasco Theatre, fails on so many levels it almost defies explanation. Very little works well in this stage rendition of Pedro Salmodovar’s film about the relationships of women in 1987 Madrid. The production has the feel of an early concept rehearsal instead of a polished Broadway musical. The opening number fizzles and things don’t get better. Before it’s all over, the only thing really on the verge of a nervous breakdown is the audience.

Sherie Rene Scott plays Pepa, an actress and singer who gets dumped by her lover, Ivan (Brian Stokes Mitchell). She follows him, with the help of an ever-present taxi driver (Danny Burstein) to the apartment of a strange woman, who turns out to be Ivan's ex, Lucia (Patti LuPone), who is suing him for abandonment with the help of attorney Paulina (de' Adre Aziza). Lucia might just be abandoned again too if her timid son, Carlos (Justin Guarini), gets up the nerve to tell her he’s moving out to marry Marisa (Nikka Graff Lanzarone).

Meanwhile, Pepa’s best friend, Candela (Laura Benanti), a ditzy, free-spirited model, who's free with lots of things, discovers that her latest lover, Malik (Louis Salgado), is a terrorist.

Thrown into the mix are 17 unmemorable songs with silly lyrics by David Yazbek, a few robotic steps of choreography by Christopher Gattelli and a book full of holes (characters appear on stage for exchanges of dialogue -- we have no idea who they are or why they are there) from Jeffrey Lane.

While you’re scratching your head, the action takes place an a set (Michael Yeargan, design) so full of fast moving parts and video projections (Sven Ortel) that you start to think a swig of the valium-laced gazpachos Pepa mixes wouldn’t be a bad idea, especially in the midst of motion sickness from the turning taxi which gives new meaning to the words “let’s go for a spin.”

The nausea intensifies with clashing colors used in the odd costumes designed by Catherine Zuber and soon the audience is on the verge of its own nervous breakdown. (I actually checked the program twice to be sure the unflattering and scanty clothes, heavy on the bras, were indeed the work of Zuber who usually has me wishing some of her creations were hanging in my closet.)

Why the gazpacho is drunk cold from cups that look like they are filled with a red substance, but which pour clear water, is just one of many puzzling questions, like
• Wouldn’t it have been a good idea to cast someone who actually is Hispanic or who can at least maintain a credible accent in one or more of these roles? Sometimes accents just disappear…
• Who was that scantily clad woman who just floated by in a window frame?
• Is the ventilation not working properly or was that pyro effect (Gregory Meeh, design) just a little too intense?
• Is she singing about being married for 20 years or has this song just been going on for 20 years?

But don’t take my word alone. Let the two-and-a-half-hour show speak for itself. In a song titled, ironically, “Tangled,” come the lyrics “You’ve been trying to follow the plot like there’s some twist you forgot … it’s like you’re losing your mind.” Another exchange of dialogue has one character saying, “What are you talking about?” to which another replies, “I have no idea, I’m just talking.”

Yup, those characters say it all, unfortunately.

I hate to be all negative, however, so here are some positive notes, because sometimes things just don’t work out the way you’d hoped and I love all of the people involved in this show and Lincoln Center:

• Benanti’s energetic and comedic performance gives the show most of its few laughs. She’s a champ and commands the stage.
• It’s a pleasure to hear the lovely voices of Benanti, LuPone and Thomas as well as Mitchell’s dreamy baritone, even if they aren’t singing great songs. Guarino, making his Broadway debut, does a nice turn as the wimpy Carlos who becomes attracted to the feisty Candela and lends his lovely tenor to nice harmonies with Scott and Benanti.
• Patti LuPone hops a motorcycle and her windblown wig (Charles LaPointe, design) is one of the highlights of the evening.
• The newly refurbished Belasco Theatre really is a Broadway treasure with its beautiful murals, paneling and stained glass enhanced ceiling. When you’re bored, just look up.

The Belasco is at 111 West 44th St., NYC. Tickets are available at 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• God’s name taken in vain
• Cross dressing
• Sexual moves
• Scanty costumes
• Show posts a MATURE advisory

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Theater Review: Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles

The cast of Rain. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
Imagine It‘s Yesterday and The Beatles are on a Broadway Stage
By Lauren Yarger
They look like the Beatles and sound like the Beatles and if you’re a fan of the group’s music that became the voice of the 1960s and ‘70s cultural revolution, you’ll love the latest jukebox-style musical to play Broadway: Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles.

Unlike other musicals in the jukebox category, Rain, the brainchild of Mark Lewis, who nurtured a touring sensation and Broadway engagement from a 1970s California bar bad, doesn’t have a plot.

The show sort of follows the Beatles through some well-remembered events like their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and the 1965 concert at Shea Stadium where police had trouble containing the screaming, hair-pulling girls trying to climb fences and barricades to get closer to the Fab Four.

Large retro TV video screens show footage of news, events of the era and shots of the Beatles themselves to propel the songs along. Make no mistake, though, this is a concert, complete with lighting (Stephen Gotschel, design), terrific graphics and projections (Scott Christensen, Todd Skinner, scenic design; Darren McCaulley, Matthew St. Arnaud, video design), sound enhancements (Abe Jacob, sound design) and four talented vocalists who also play their own instruments.

Joey Curatolo (Paul) McCartney, Steve Landes (John Lennon), Joe Bithorn (George Harrison) and Ralph Castelli (Ringo Starr) don’t try to impersonate as much as represent the Beatles. Arrangements for the more than 30 tunes are true to the originals, though many favorites don’t make it into the mix (there‘s only so much of the songbook you can fit into two hours).

As the style of the music changes over the years, so do the costumes and hair styles of the group. It’s very nostalgic and most of the baby-boomer-aged audience claps, bops and sings along with happy smiles on their faces.

Particularly funny are some vintage commercials shown in between other footage.
It’s an enjoyable evening, particularly if you like the music of the Beatles and some very skilled guitar playing.

Rain runs through Jan. 9 at the Neil Simon Theatre, 250 West 52nd St., NYC. For tickets, call 212-307-4100 or 800-755-4000..

Christians might also like to know:
No content notes.

Cirque du Soleil Names New Show to Play at Radio City

Cirque du Soleil announced today that its major new acrobatic spectacle, Zarkana, will begin performances at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on June 9, 2011 for a limited engagement through Sept. 4, 2011. Presented by iShares, Zarkana is written and directed by acclaimed film and theatre director François Girard ("The Red Violin," "Silk").

Zarkana is a fantastically bizarre world where we follow the adventures of Zark, a magician who has lost his love and, with her, his powers. As he cries and begs for her return he is plunged into a world inhabited by surreal creatures. The diverse cast of 71 international artists transports the audience into a fantastical and suspenseful world, blurring the boundaries between the real and imaginary.

About The Show Title:
The name Zarkana is a fusion of the words “bizarre” and “arcana” (arcana means “mystery” or “secret”). The twisted fictional world of Zarkana is an elusive destination that is fantastic yet bizarre. The name refers to the irresistibly odd and delightfully strange aura of this place and its inhabitants.

Ticket Information:
Starting today, Zarkana tickets are available exclusively to Cirque Club Members. Tickets range from $47 to $130 with a limited number of premium tickets available for all performances.

Cirque Club membership is free and benefits include access to advance tickets, special offers and exclusive behind the scenes information. To join, go to

Starting Nov. 22, tickets will be available to the general public at 1- 866-858-0008 or

James Barbour Tours Holiday Concert

Broadway star and vocal power house, james Barbour, will premiere his six-city 2010 Holiday Concert Tour on Saturday, Dec. 4 at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, CA.

The tour will then play The 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, CA, (Sunday, Dec. 5), The magic Castle in Hollywood, CA (Monday, Dec. 6 and Tuesday, Dec. 7), a private Fundraiser for the American Cancer Society in Morristown, NJ (Friday, Dec. 10), Birdland Jazz Club in New York City (Sunday, Dec. 12 and Monday, Dec. 13) and a Special Fundraiser for the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind at the Pacific Club in Honolulu (Monday, Dec. 27).

Each concert will feature special surprise guest stars and a program of Christmas and holiday songs. Click here for a review of the concerts given in New York in 2008. barbour was a performer at this year's Broadway Blessing at St. John the Divine.

Box Office information is available at:
The Rubicom Theatre 805-667-2900
The 142 Throckmorton Theatre 415-383-9600
The Magic Castle 323-851-3313
Birdland 212-581-3080

For more information, visit

The New Victory Theater Presents Get Melodramatic!

A Workshop with Creators of Squirm Burpee Circus: A Vaudevillian Melodrama

WHAT: A theatrical workshop where families have fun together to create memorable characters and act out zany adventures along with The Handsome Little Devils, the hilarious circus talents featured in the show Squirm Burpee Circus: A Vaudevillian Melodrama.

Squirm Burpee Circus will run at The New Victory Theater, New York’s first and only nonprofit, full-time performing arts theater dedicated to kids and families, from Nov. 12 – 28. In Squirm Burpee Circus, Mike the Handsome, Dashing Dave and The Lovely Little Lolo make up a beloved circus trio who must outwit the dastardly Baron Vegan Von Hamburger – a mustachioed villain decidedly dedicated to their demise. Will Dave ever find his true love? Will Lolo unlock Mike’s heart? Or will the Baron destroy them all? Tune in to this dazzling display of first-class circus skills, dapper dance moves and outrageous comedy to find out!

WHERE: Children’s Museum of Manhattan, 212 West 83rd St., Tisch Building
This workshop is free with paid admission to the Museum; best for families and kids ages 4 and older. The Children's Museum of Manhattan inspires children and their families to learn about themselves and a culturally diverse world through unique interactive exhibitions.

WHEN: Wednesday, Nov. 24 from 10:45 – 11:15 am.

For more information, contact Allison Mui at (646-223-3067), Laura Kaplow-Goldman at (646-223-3065) or Philip Ramirez at (212-784-5713).

Broadway Community Mourns Jill Clayburgh

The Broadway community mourns the loss of Jill Clayburgh, who passed away Friday at age 66. The marquees of Broadway theatres in New York will be dimmed in her memory tonight, Nov. 9, at 7 pm for one minute.

Paul Libin, chairman of The Broadway League and executive vice president of Jujamcyn Theaters, said, “Jill Clayburgh was a versatile and talented actress. I had the distinct pleasure of working with her in Noel Coward's Design for Living at my Circle in the Square Theatre. Her performances on Broadway and in film and television will be missed by many of us who have been fans of hers for many years. The Broadway community mourns her loss and extends our sympathies to her family."

Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The League, continued, "Thanks to the talents of Ms. Clayburgh, her husband David Rabe and daughter Lily Rabe, this family has had significant impact on Broadway, both past and present. We are grateful for the memories of her performances, and our thoughts are with her family and friends."

Clayburgh was an iconic actress who starred in such notable projects as Broadway’s Pippin and the film "An Unmarried Woman." She was born in New York City in 1944, attended Sarah Lawrence College, and made her Broadway debut with The Sudden & Accidental Re-education of Horse Johnson in 1968.

On Broadway, Miss Clayburgh also appeared in Tom Stoppard's Jumpers, and was the leading lady of Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock’s Tony Award® nominated The Rothschilds in 1970. Most recently, she appeared on Broadway in Richard Greenberg's A Naked Girl on the Appian Way and the 2006 Broadway revival of Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park.

Clayburgh is survived by her husband, playwright David Rabe, son Michael Rabe, stepson Jason Rabe, and daughter Lily Rabe who is currently starring on Broadway in The Merchant of Venice.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Broadway Lights Dim Tonight for Jerry Bock

The Broadway community mourns the loss of Jerry Bock, who passed away yesterday at age 81. The marquees of Broadway theatres in New York will be dimmed in his memory tonight, Nov. 4, at exactly 8 pm for one minute.

Paul Libin, Chairman of The Broadway League and Executive Vice President of Jujamcyn Theaters, called Jerry Bock, “one of Broadway's great composers of more than a dozen memorable musicals; he also wrote the book and lyrics for many of his productions. His work will live forever on Broadway.”

Bock was an inspired musical composer who wrote the scores to such shows as Fiddler on the Roof and The Apple Tree. Jerrold Lewis Bock was born in New Haven, CT on Nov. 23, 1928. He was raised in Flushing, Queens where he studied piano from a young age and began early compositions. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison where he wrote the musical Big As Life. Bock made his Broadway debut in 1955 with Catch a Star, a musical revue in which he collaborated on music and lyrics.

Bock was best known for the memorable and thoughtful score for Fiddler on the Roof, which incorporates Jewish prayer and klezmer music within a musical theater score. He also composed the shows Mr. Wonderful, The Body Beautiful, Fiorello!, Tenderloin, Never Too Late, Man in the Moon, She Loves Me, Baker Street, Generation, and The Rothschilds. He scored another musical hit in 1966 with The Apple Tree which was revived on Broadway in 2006. Bock collaborated with many notable Broadway writers, but he consistently worked with the late Joseph Stein, who wrote the book to Fiddler , and his long-time creative partner lyricist Sheldon Harnick, also of Fiddler on the Roof.

Mr. Bock received the 1965 Tony Award® for writing the music to Fiddler , which also won the 1965 Tony Award® for Best Musical. He won his first Tony Award® for Fiorello! in 1960. Fiorello! also won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama that same year.

He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972. In 2010, he became an Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Original Song — Children's and Animation category — for "A Fiddler Crab Am I," penned with Larry Hochman and Billy Aronson. It was heard on the series "Wonder Pets."

The Jerry Bock Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre was established in 1997 and continues to provide an annual $2,000 grant presented to a composer and lyricist.

He is survived by his wife, Patti, daughter Portia Bock, son George Bock and granddaughter Edie Mae Bock.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Theater Review: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson cast. Photo by Joan Marcus
It's Emo-Cracy in Action
By Lauren Yarger
Backroom deals in Washington, slogans of “take the country back,” “teabags,” “change” and a celebrity US president who promises transparency, vows to reglulate bankers on Wall Street and makes unilateral decisions he “knows” the American people really want even when they say they don’t.

Headlines ripped out of today’s newspapers? No, they’re issues from nearly 200 year-ago life of the nation’s seventh president and parts of the script from Broadway’s musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.

In this tongue-in-cheek story by Alex Timbers, who directs, with emo-rock music by Michael Friedman (who also wrote the lyrics), Jackson (Benjamin Walker) is personified as a tight-jean-wearing rock star persona, whose tale is told with a lot of sarcasm and humor. It’s enjoyable and a subtle commentary on today’s politics, which haven’t changed all that much in the last two centuries, it would seem. It is especially funny on the eve of Tuesday’s election.

The savvy presentation with choreography by Danny Medford takes place on a stage decorated with an explosion of frontier-themed props, chandeliers and tiny lights that extend into the house. Everything glows a bloody red as the audience enters the theater (watch out for that floating horse carcass.) Modern/period costumes are designed by Emily Rebholz.

The “bloody” refers to Jackson’s obsession with ridding the nation of Indians (they killed his family). After one massacre, he sends a surviving infant home to his wife Rachel (Maria Elena Ramirez) as a “souvenir.” Black Fox (Bryce Pinkham), who survives as the leader of the last nation of Native Americans by cooperating with Jackson, helps raise the boy until his refusal to go along further with the relocation of his people breaks his friendship with Jackson.

There’s a lot of history thrown in with the gags, like Jackson’s initial failed bid for president against John Quincy Adams (a very funny Jeff Hiller), charges of bigamy -- Rachel apparently was legally married to someone else -- and the Louisiana Purchase. These are thrown in amidst some very funny interpretations of politicians of the time: James Monroe (Ben Steinfeld), Henry Clay (Pinkham), Martin Van Buren (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) and John C. Calhoun (Darren Goldstein).

Rounding out the zaniness is Kristine Nielsen as the wheel-chair-bound Storyteller, the voice of history, who has a love-hate relationship with Jackson.

This fresh take on the “man who puts the man in manifest destiny” is a treat and makes the transition from last season’s Off-Broadway presentation to Broadway well (many of the cast members repeat their performances for this rendition).

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson plays at the Bernard R. Jacobs Theatre, 242 West 45th St., NYC. For tickets call 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250 outside New York.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• God’s name taken in vain
• Sexual dialogue
• Two women kiss

Theater Review: Lombardi with Dan Lauria and Judith Light

Performances in Broadway’s Lombardi are Winners Too
By Lauren Yarger
Now, everyone knows legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, but back in the early 1960s the intimidating, growling man who had turned the losing Greenbay Packers around and led them to back-to back Super Bowl championships was still something of a mystery.

To tell the story of Lombardi, playwright Eric Simonson has focused on one week in 1965 during which reporter Michael McCormick (Keith Nobbs) talks with the coach (Dan Lauria), some of his players and his wife, Marie (Judith Light) to write a profile piece for Look magazine.

Lauria is great as the taciturn gridiron leader who doesn’t believe in losing (“We just ran out of time”) and who would rather die than finish second, which the Packers have just done twice following their championship seasons. He looks and sounds like Lombardi.

Light is very funny as sarcastic Marie, supportive of her husband’s obsession with the sport, but downing martinis while pining for the metropolitan New York area she left behind for the “frozen tundra” of Wisconsin. She appears to have trouble walking in high- heeled period shoes (Paul Tazewell, costume design), but it’s hard to tell whether they’re slipping on the stage surface, or Marie just has had a little too much to drink.

McCormick has a hard time getting Lombardi to open up, and his players, Dave Robinson (Robert Christopher Riley), Paul Horning (Bill Dawes) and Jim Taylor (Chris Sullivan) are even less cooperative. Marie, especially when plied with liquor, gives him some background. Thomas Kail effectively directs flashback scenes where the reporter looks on.

The week with the coach results in McCormick's finding out more about himself, his relationship with his father and what he wants to do with his life instead of producing the magazine profile that he thought would propel his reporting career.

The play is nicely staged with Packer footage projected on video screens (Zachary Borovay, design). Images also transform the stage into the football field and a chalkboard with circles and arrows showing plays. Props needed for the scenes seamlessly rise up out of the floor (David Korins, scenic design; Howell Binkley, lighting; Acme Sound Partners, sound).

Lombardi runs 90 minutes without an intermission. It plays at Circle in the Square, 235 West 50th St., NYC. Discounted tickets are available through Masterwork Productions at

Christians might also like to know:
 Language
 Lord’s name taken in vain
 References to Lombardi’s Catholic faith, his belief in the Jesuit philosophy “freedom through principle’ and to Paul’s writings about running the race.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Theater Review: La Bête with David Hyde Pierce, Mark Rylance and Joanna Lumley

From left, Greta Lee, Mark Rylance, Joanna Lumley and David Hyde Pierce

It’s a Drive-By Wording and Lots of Fun
By Lauren Yarger
It’s a drive-by wording: You’re struck so many times so quickly that you don’t know what hit you and you didn’t have time to get the license plate. In the case of Broadway’s La Bête, the driver is Mark Rylance and the vehicle is playwright David Hirson’s imaginative and rhyming couplets and meter script. In all, it’s one of the most unique stage experiences of the season.

Rylance’s tour de force which includes an opening 20-minute monologue during which he hardly takes a breath is one of those moments on stage when the audience knows its witnessing theater history. It’s a perfect storm of acting, writing and direction (Matthew Warchus) that sends a tsunami of theatergoers out onto the streets saying, “You have to see this!”

Truthfully, you’ll need to see the work to appreciate it since the couplets delivered in doublets (it takes place in mid 17th century France) is very different and such a wall of words, that ironically, it leaves one almost speechless to describe it.

Rylance is Valere, a nose-picking, belching and otherwise disgusting and obnoxious street performer who possesses little theatrical talent. He is capable of speaking in long, run-on sentences, however, which his even larger ego believes everyone is as interested in hearing as he. The portrayal is bizarre and funny (think Bobcat Goldthwait’s character Zed from the 'Police Academy" movies, only not quite as smart and drunk). He’ll have you saying, “Oh my gosh, did he really just do or say that?” and if you aren’t sharp, you won’t be sure because about 5000 other words of dialogue probably already sped by (or “verbobos“ as Valere likes to call his many words).

Valere’s performances have moved the Princess (Joanna Lumley, known to television audiences for her role in “Absolutely Fabulous”) and she has commanded that Valere join the thespians at court, led by classical writer Elomire (David Hyde Pierce). He can’t stand the clown and protests, when he can get a word in edgewise, that Valere won’t fit in with his troupe (Stephen Ouimette, Sally Wingert, Robert Lonsdale, Lisa Joyce, Michael Milligan and Liza Sadovy round out the ensemble of players and courtiers). Also part of the craziness at court is Greta Lee as Dorine, Elomire’s maid who can speak only in words that rhyme with “oo” and who engages the others in charades-like pantomiming to convey messages.

“A year at court has undermined your morals,” Princess tells Elomire. “You’ve grown content to rest upon your laurels as if afflicted by some dead ennui. Valere will challenge your complacency!” In other words, she uses her power to challenge Elomire and to give Vallere a shot and since there's no doubt about who is in charge here, made obvious by her fabulous entrance (Mark Thompson, set and costume design), they have to try to work something out.

A competition of sorts ensues between the two artists. Who will get the royal endorsement and get to stay at court? Hirson gets the golden pen award for writing an engaging play in verse that also manages to deliver a knock-down commentary on today’s culture and society and what influences them. Elomire discovers that in the end we need to stand by our principles and be “measured by the choices that we make.”

While Rylance chews up the stage for almost two hours, the fork and knife are provided by Hyde Pierce’s understated performance. He reacts with expressions, actions, silence and humor that are a foil to the more flamboyant Rylance. In not needing to upstage or get his fair share of the action, he perfects the piece. It’s a welcome change of pace (it’s almost like Hirson took the princess’s challenge himself and wrote something different from the same-old, same-old that seems to be infecting new plays these days?) and a theater experience that won’t be matched.

The Broadway run of La Bête (it means beast in French), which won the 1990 Olivier Award (England’s equivalent of the Tonys) for Best Play, follows a run at the Comedy Theatre in London’s West End. It’s at the Music Box Theater, 239 West 45th St., NYC until Feb. 12. Tickets are available by calling 212-239-6900 or by visiting

Christians might also like to know:
 God’s name taken in vain
 Minor language
 Sexual dialogue
 Two men kiss

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Theater Review: A Life in the Theater with Patrick Stewart and TR Knight

T.R. Knight and Patrick Stewart. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Interesting if You Share the Life, but Probably Like Viewing Someone Else’s Vacation Slides if You’re Not
By Lauren Yarger
Theater is a wonderful life: relationships develop and creativity and opportunities abound. Some not-so-wonderful things are a part of it too, like jealosy, ego, forgotten lines and prop disasters.

All of it is profiled in a biographical tale of two actors in David Mamet’s A Life in the Theater, running on Broadway, but if you’re not in the industry or don’t do a lot of community theater, this play might feel more like being forced to watch someone else’s vacation slides than a good time at the theater.

Numerous, brief scenes follow the relationship that develops between the two actors played by Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight as they interact in various productions and backstage. The dynamics of the relationship change as the veteran actor, Robert (Stewart), drops in esteem as up-and-comer John’s (Knight) career solidifies.

Because there’s not much plot beyond that and the actors are more than capable of delivering their lines without much guidance, Director Neil Pepe seems to have felt a need to over direct the scenes where the men appear in productions together. Some of the scenes are elaborately staged (Santo Loquasto, scenic design) with the actors lavishly costumed (Laura Bauer, design). I’ve seen full productions that didn’t generate as much set and costuming as A Life in the Theater does for a five-minute bit to show the actors delivering a few lines from a show.

Probably the most entertaining part is seeing Stewart appear in a number of silly wigs (Charles LaPointe, design). Fans of the classical Shakespeare actor, known also as no-nonsense Captain Picard on TV’s “Star Trek: the Next Generation,” can’t help but chuckle and think what a good sport the bald actor is when he appears in various wigs (Charles LaPointe, design) and silly costumes and, among other things, performs ballet.

The two actors work well and have a chemistry that helps the play along, though it offers no real plot other than to allow you to recognize elements of your own theater experience somewhere in the lives of the two actors. Fortunately, it also doesn’t offer all of the profanity or women bashing Mamet includes in some of his other works. It doesn’t offer a lot to hold your interest, however, if you’re not involved in the theater (except of course the chance to get to see two of your favorite television stars -- Knight also is known to television audiences for his role on “Grey’s Anatomy.”)

If you are in the industry, you’ll chuckle your way through some of it, see yourself either as the wise veteran or the actor just starting out and groan, probably with empathy, when things go wrong on stage.

A Life in the Theatre runs through Jan. 2 at the Gerald Schoenberg Theatre, 236 West 45th St., NYC. Special discounted tickets are available through Masterwork Productions at

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• Lord’s name taken in vain

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Theater Review: The Language Archive

Words Say Mean a Lot -- or Not -- in Relationships
By Lauren Yarger
The floor-to-ceiling shelves cluttered with books and knickknacks (Neil Patel, set design) are the backdrop for the home an office life of a man stuck between his love for preserving dying languages and his inability to express himself adequately in his native tongue.

The communication between linguist George (Matt Letscher), his wife Mary (Heidi Schreck) and his assistant, Emma (Betty Gilpin), are explored with playwright Julia Cho’s own gift for intelligent insight and lyrical language, but unless you’re someone like me, who preferred staying in the dorm room in college to research etymologies while your friends went to the kegger, the charm of Roundabout Theatre’s The Language Archive, playing Off Broadway might by ephemeral. (In other words, if you can’t define etymology or ephemeral, this play might not be for you.)

George is unable to express his feelings or to say I love you to Mary, who resorts to leaving notes around the house in the hopes that they will prompt him. He’s more excited about preserving languages that are close to extinction. When a language dies, so does the imagination, memory and way of life for the people who spoke it, he says, and that fills him with a passion he doesn’t seem to have for Mary. In fact, the linguist has nothing to say when she tells him she’s leaving.

Meanwhile, as Emma assists George in his recordings of languages, she’s unable to express the love she feels for her boss, even in the man-made language esperantos which he adores. They both learn some valuable lessons from an elderly couple, Alta (Jayne Houdyshell) and Resten (John Horton), the last speakers of an extinct language, who provide some of the play’s comic relief (Houdyshell and Horton also play a few other characters along the way). Mary, on the other hand, has no trouble expressing herself, but seems constantly surprised at the words that she utters.

It’s interesting, again insofar as you’re willing to immerse yourself in the language and the subtleties of the communication between the characters, but the lack of a real plot and a pronounced depreciation of momentum (OK, I could have said the pace slows, but I’m trying to be worthy of the linguistic lovers who still might be reading this review) in the second act fail to keep us on board. Some of the staging (Mark Brokaw, director) is hard to define as well, with George apparently asleep on a table or nearby for some reason when some other characters interact.

The Language Archive plays a limited run through Dec. 19 at the Laura Pels Theatre, 111 West 46th St., NYC. Tickets are available by calling 212-719-1300.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language (no pun intended)
• Homosexuality discussed in dialogue
• God’s name taken in vain

Monday, October 25, 2010

Donny & Marie Osmond Celebrate Christmas on Broadway

Donny & Marie - A Broadway Christmas, a new holiday production will play a limited engagement of 12 performances Thursday, Dec. 9 through Sunday, Dec. 19 at Broadway’s Marriott Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway at 46th St., NYC.

In the holiday tradition of the “Osmond Family Christmas” television specials, siblings Donny and Marie share a Broadway stage for the first time to share their favorite hits mixed with the irresistible chemistry that made them international stars.

Donny began his career in entertainment at the age of 5, and by 13 had already collected 18 gold records, eventually earning a grand total of 33 throughout his career. He starred in Andrew Lloyd Weber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for a record-breaking, six-year run of 2000 performances and in 2007 he starred on Broadway as Gaston in Beauty & The Beast.

Marie made her Broadway debut in The King and I following a national and international tour as Maria in The Sound of Music.

The performance schedule for Donny & Marie - A Broadway Christmas is as follows: Monday at 7 pm, Tuesday at 6:30 pm, Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm, with matinees Saturday at 2 pm and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets ranging from $136.50 - $51.50 are available at or by calling 877-250-2929.

Gracewell Prodiuctions

Gracewell Prodiuctions
Producing Inspiring Works in the Arts
Custom Search
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

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was 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 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


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.

All Posts on this Blog