Friday, November 30, 2012

Theater Review: A Christmas Story, the Musical

in A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL. photo credit: (c) 2012 Carol Rosegg
What a Gift! A Holiday Musical That Works
By Lauren Yarger
Every Christmas Broadway tries its best to find a show that will attract the millions of people visiting New York for the holiday. With the exception of the perennial A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden (no longer running) nicely staged Off-Broadway at Madison Square Garden, if flawed in its adaptation some years back, there hasn't been one that really grabbed me beyond being a tolerably nice show to bring the kids to enjoy.

This year we have a return of Elf and Annie just in time for the season, but we also have a unique offering: a musical that warms the heart, offers a wholesome Christmas story and makes us wish it could play all year long instead of just around the holidays. It's  A Christmas Story, the Musical, a lavishly decorated and choreographed send-up of Jean Shepherd's popular film in which 9-year-old Ralphie dreams of getting a BB gun for Christmas.

Dan Lauria. Photo: 2012 Carol Rosegg
It has all of the parts we love from the movie: the leg lamp, the tongue sticking to the flag pole, the little brother swimming in too much snowsuit and the dog eating the turkey. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you don't need to. The musical, with book by Joseph Robinette and music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, stands on its own. Colossal, ever-changing sets by Walt Spangler, spot-on choreography by Warren Carlyle and expert direction by John Rando create a delightful, heart-warming world. Dan Lauria (the dad from TV's "The Wonder Years") guides us through his memories of one particular Christmas in 1940, when what he wanted, more than anything else in the world was a a Red Ryder carbine action BB gun.

Ralphie (Johnny Rabe or Joe West at certain performances) tries to drop hints so that his mother (a beautifully voiced Erin Dilly) or his "Old Man" (John Bolton) might stop in the midst of worrying about the broken furnace or trying to get his little brother Randy (Zac Ballard) to eat to notice what Ralphie hopes to find under the tree on Christmas morning. He writes an essay about it hoping his teacher, Miss Shields (Caroline O'Connor) will be so struck by the brilliance of his argument for needing a BB gun, that she will help him overcome what seems to be everyone's objection: "You'll shoot your eye out."

Ralphie's hopes are dashed, however, when everyone's attention shifts to the hideous leg lamp his father wins in a crossword-puzzle-solving contest. Bolton is a hoot as the leg-lamp worshipping man and Carlyle comes up with a Busby Berkeley-inspired kick line number to send it over the top. The balance is just right between extremes like silly elves with a less-than-jolly department store Santa and a heartfelt, loving apology between Ralphie's parents following an argument.

The catchy and memorable songs -- 16 in all -- also strike the proper balance between making us laugh and moving us to tears. Different styles link familiar themes and we never feel as though someone has crammed a score down the throat of someone telling a favorite Christmas story (like the awfully staged musical version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, for example). This musical is an entity of its own while incorporating all we love about the movie. It's a holiday event of its own which deserves perennial holiday production until we have seen it as many times as the movie, which usually runs in a 24-hour marathon on TBS beginning Christmas eve (though listings for this year could not be verified).

Adding to the atmosphere are Elizabeth Hope Clancy's wide-ranging costumes (there's a fantasy number "Ralphie to the Rescue," for example, where Ralphie imagines himself a hero in the Old West where his BB gun keeps bandits at bay.) Turning in some standout performances in the large ensemble are John Babbo as the waiter at a Chinese restaurant, Jeremy Schinder and J.D. Rodriguez as bullies Flick and Schwartz, Pete and Lily (two pooches who play the neighbor's dogs trained by William Berloni, who has another client starring over at Annie....) and tap dance sensation Luke Spring who brought down the house.

Lots of fun, wholesome (the bad language even is masked or funny) and a nice trip down memory lane. I double-dog dare you to see it at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 West 46th St., NYC where it runs through Dec. 30. Tickets: 800-745-3000, 877-250-2929;

More interesting information:
Full disclosure -- one of the producers of A Christmas Story is Pat Addiss, who is a personal friend. She knows I won't change my review in any way just because I like her -- there are a couple of less-than-enthusiastic writeups I have done for other shows she has produced to prove it -- but you should know that you'll always get the truth here, dear readers. Another producer on the show is Peter Billingsley, who plays Ralphie in the movie.

Performance times vary week to week.
November 26 – December 2: Mon.11/26 – DARK; Tues. 11/27 – 7PM; Wed. 11/28 – 7PM; Thurs. 11/29 – 7PM; Fri. 11/30 – 8PM; Sat. 12/1– 2PM & 8PM; Sun. 12/2 – 2PM & 7:30PM

December 3 – 9: Mon. 12/3 – DARK; Tues. 12/4- 7PM; Wed. 12/5 – 2PM & 8PM; Thurs. 12/6 – 7PM; Fri. 12/7 – 8PM; Sat. 12/8 – 2PM & 8PM; Sun. 12/9 – 2PM

December 10 – 16: Mon. 12/10 – DARK; Tues. 12/11- 7PM; Wed. 12/12 – 2PM & 8PM; Thurs. 12/13 – 7PM; Fri. 12/14 – 8PM; Sat. 12/15 – 2PM & 8PM; Sun. 12/16– 2PM & 7:30PM

December 17 – 23: Mon. 12/17 – DARK; Tues. 12/18- 7PM; Wed. 12/19 – 2PM & 8PM; Thurs. 12/20 – 7PM; Fri. 12/21 – 8PM; Sat. 12/22 – 2PM & 8PM; Sun. 12/23– 2PM & 7:30PM

December 24 – 30: Mon. 12/24 – 3PM (Christmas Eve); Tues. 12/25- DARK (Christmas); Wed. 12/26 – 2PM & 8PM; Thurs. 12/27 – 7PM; Fri. 12/28 – 8PM; Sat. 12/29 – 2PM & 8PM; Sun. 12/30– 2PM

Young Writer's Contest: I, now on Broadway this holiday season, has partnered with STOMP Out Bullying to launch an Anti-Bullying Story Competition. Young writers in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades can submit stories about bullying. In five pages or less, tell a story about how bullying has affected your life, about a bullying incident you might have witnessed, or about your own strategies for avoiding bullies at school or in your neighborhood. Every story should include at least one idea, ONE ACTION, that you believe other kids, your school administrators, or your community could initiate to limit or prevent bullying in the future. The competition is open to students inside the Tri-State Area, within 100 miles radius to Broadway.

One winner of the First Place prize will receive two tickets and a walk-on role in the 2012 Broadway production of A Christmas Story, The Musical, plus the Original Cast Album, Backstage Tour and an Award Certificate. Second and Third Place price recipients (1 winner in each category) will receive 2 tickets to A Christmas Story, The Musical, plus the Original Cast Album, Backstage Tour and an Award Certificate. Finally, 10 lucky Runners-Up will also receive the Original Cast Album and Award Certificates.

All entries must be sent via email on or before Dec. 8, 2012 to ANTIBULLYINGETNRY@GMAIL.COM.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Language

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Theater Review: Annie

The Sun Comes Up on Another Annie, but No New Deal
By Lauren Yarger
Another production of the Charles Strouse/Martin Charnin musical Annie? We have all seen countless versions if it on tour, in local community theater, on out high school stages, we've seen the movie and can sing all the songs by heart, so what would would motivate us to get excited about a revival on Broadway?

For me, interest piqued when I heard that Katie Finneran, who stole the show and won a Best Featured Actress Tony for her 15-minute turn in the otherwise uninspiring revival of Promises, Promises a few seasons back. So, having anything but a "Hard Knock Life" as a theater reviewer, I ventured once again into book writer Thomas Meehan's land of  "Tomorrow,"  where President Franklin D. Roosevelt (an engaging Merwin Foard) looks for a way to guide the nation out of the Depression and where millionaire Oliver Warbucks (Anthony Warlow) bonds with little Annie (Lilla Crawford) who thinks she's "Gonna Like it Here" at his house on "East Street" after living in an orphanage run by Miss Hannigan (Finneran) who isn't too fond of "Little Girls," played here by numerous kids including Emily Rosenfeld as Molly, Taylor Richardson as Duffy, Madi Rae Diietro as July, Junah Jang as Tessie, Tyrah Skye Odoms as Kate and Georgi James as Pepper.

Helping Annie make her transition to Warbuck's posh New York mansion (opulent in sweeping, folding design to create other settings by designer David Korins) are his secretary, Grace Farrell (a bland Brynn O'Malley), the butler, Drake (Joel Hatch) and housekeepers Mrs. Greer (Jane Blass) and Mrs. Pugh (Liz McCartney). Working against her are Hannigan, her brother, Rooster (Clarke Thorell) and his girlfriend, Lily (J. Elaine Marcos), who hatch a plot to have Rooster and Lily pose as Annie's long-lost parents and collect a reward posted by Warbucks (despite ethnic casting by Director James Lapine that makes this claim obviously bogus at first glance).

So, what's so different about this Broadway version? Not much. In fact, surprisingly, it seems more rote than some non-professional versions. Everybody seems to be going through the motions. The orphans don't seem as adorable as usual. Now, before I get buckets of hate mail because I don't like kids, let me explain. They are cute kids. They just seem to be meticuously executing choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler) that is constructed to look like cute kids doing exact moves. There's no fun or bounce to it.

Finneran is entertaining, gives it her all, and dusts off the "funny drunk" skills from Promises Promises (that turn also won her Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards), but she never seems to be "fully dressed" as Hannigan. In an ironic twist, she is upstaged this time by another co-star who only gets about 15 minutes of stage time: Sandy the dog (played by Sunny, trained by William Berloni, who rescued the first dog who played Sandy in the original production.) The dog really is cute and naturally looks with affection at Crawford as she belts her song, causing a bunch of "aws" to be issued by the audience. In fact, most of the post-show talk I heard on the way out of the theater was about how people wished the dog had a bigger part. Good for the dog. Not good for the adorable orphans (see paragraph above).

And while, I am being critical of the kids, here are two more problems: Molly can't be heard a good deal of the time and Annie belts even when she isn't singing, shouting her lines through most of the show (Brian Ronin, sound design). I'll stop short of complaining about lopping off her long, flowing, curled locks to make her over with the recognizable, short, red frizzed do associated with the Annie comic strip (Susan Hilferty, costume design).

What is good, and very good, is Warlow's portrayal of Warbucks: just the right combination of overbearing and humble with a terrific singing voice to boot. What a pleasure to hear this multi-range operatic singer make his Broadway debut here. It's also a pleasure to hear the Strouse/Charnin score. Every song is good -- something that can't be said about a lot of shows these days. The songs are a lot of why this show ran for almost six years after opening on Broadway in 1977 and why revivals are still being done today. Will there ever be one as exciting as the original? "Someday."

Annie runs at the Palace Theatre, Broadway at 47th Street., NYC. Tickets: 800-745-3000, 877-250-2929; For more info:

Christians might also like to know:
-- minor language (damn)
Wholesome show. Bring the family.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: Emotional Creature

Joaquina Kalukango. Photo: © Carol Rosegg
Emotional Creature
By Eve Ensler
Directed by Jo Bonney
Featuring Ashley Bryant, Molly Garden, Emily S. Grosland, Joaquina Kalukango, Sade Namel and Olivia Oguma
Signature Center

What's it about?
Based on Ensler’s 2010 bestselling book, Emotional Creature features a multi-ethnic cast that explores what it means to be a girl through a series of original monologues, stories and songs (Charl-Johan Lingenfelder) against a backdrop of video projections (Luam, Choreography, Myung Hee Cho, Scenic and Costume Design, Lap Chi Chu, Lighting Design and Shawn Sagady, Projection Design.

Girls in the United States obsess with their weight and with being popular at school. They sit around talking about sex; a girl from a religious family considers abortion for an unwanted baby. An African-American girl wonders whether having two moms makes her look like a lesbian. Another girl, actually a lesbian, reflects about a sexual encounter and her feelings of betrayal when the other girl snubs her at school, denying that anything happened between them.

Then things turn global. A 16-year-old speaks of being sold into a life of rape, torture and sexual disease; a young woman in the Congo provides coping techniques used while she was raped and impregnated by a soldier over two years; a 15-year-old Chinese factory worker expresses herself by sending telepathy messages through the Barbie doll heads she manufactures; a young woman in Tanzania prays to God to protect her from the female circumcision that awaits her.

Joaquina Kalukango is compelling as the women from the Congo and Tanzania. She manages to convey complex character and wide ranges of emotion in the short vignettes. The contrast about struggles in America and with those of girls in Third World nations is stark, but Ensler manages to show it without judging.

While the subject matter is based in truth and certainly is the life experience of some women, it isn't as reflective of the "every girl" experience Ensler (The Vagina Monologues) would like us to embrace. Many of the characters seem stereotypical. Middle class, white girls or girls grounded in self esteem, faith or motivated to pursue high-paying careers, for example, aren't represented here. And the emphasis is on girls -- all very young -- so women over 20 aren't going to relate personally with everything here (and well men, you're on your own.) Maybe "Some Faces of the Emotional Creature" would be a more accurate title.

More information:
Emotional Creature was first workshopped at New York Stage and Film at Vassar College with subsequent workshops in Johannesburg, South Africa and Paris. It is performed through Jan. 13 at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd St., NYC). Tickets:; 212-279-4200.

Christians might also like to know:
-- It doesn't contain an official **MATURE advisory, but I would give it one.
-- Sexual dialogue
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Heiress

The Heiress
By Ruth and Augustus Goetz
Directed by Moises Kaufman
on Broadway

What's it about?
It's a revival of the 1947 Tony Award winning adaptation of Henry James' "Washington Square," about Catherine Sloper (Jessica Chastain), shy daughter of a well-to-do New York doctor Austin Sloper (David Strathairn) who suddenly finds herself the object of affection for debonair, but financially unstable Morris Townsend (Dan Stevens). At first, Catherine can't believe that someone as handsome and interesting as Morris could be interested in her. after all, her father wastes no opportunity to let her know what a disappointment she is, particularly in contrast to his memories of her mother, who died in childbirth. Her Aunt Lavinia (a charming Judith Ivey) helps facilitate a match between the two and they plan an elopement.

Ivey is fun to watch as the bubbly, always smiling aunt, especially when she is bantering with Caitlin O'Connell, who plays her blunt-speaking sister, Liz. Stevens is very beguiling as the cad. We understand why women fall for the charm of this good looking guy. Another highlight is Derek McLane's beautifully appointed 1850 parlor with dark wood paneling and rich wallpaper. If Washington Square homes still look like this, I want to move there. Lighting by David Lander also is exceptional, giving us the smoky gas lighting in an overhead chandelier as well as stained glass highlighted on the wall from sunlight breaking along the wall from a front entrance.

Chastain seems monotone with the performance going downhill significantly in the second act as Catherine becomes more independent and takes control of the people around her. We don't feel a lot of emotion from her. Many times, Chastain's intonation telegraphs that there is more meaning behind the character's words -- as if the audience wouldn't get that without a hint. Some of the dialogue doesn't seem to spill easily off of Strathairn's lips.

Other Information:
This is a limited engagement through Feb. 10, 2013 at the Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 west 48th St., NYC. Tickets range in price from $50 to $135:

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Outgoing Tide

Pete Strauss and Michael Learned. Photo: Matt Urban
The Outgoing Tide
By Bruce Graham
Directed by Bud Martin
59 E 59 Theaters
Presented by the Delaware Theatre Company
Through Dec. 16

What's it about?
Gunner (Peter Strauss) relaxes while fishing off the dock at his summer cottage on Chesapeake Bay and talking with a young man, until his wife, Peg (Michael Learned) has to remind him that the young man is their son, Jack (Ian Lithgow). Gunner is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and as it becomes more apparent that his mind is slipping, he decides to decide his own fate in a way that will provide for his family. While the illness is at the center of the plot, the real action takes place in the family dynamics as Peg and Gunner both use their son, who is concerned with his own impending divorce, as a means to communicate with each other. Current dialogue is nicely interrupted by memory sequences that allow a glimpse into earlier phases of the family's relationships.

I was forced to leave the performance early to catch the last PATH train (still not running late service after Hurricane Sandy) so can't really give accurate review of the show, but I will tell you that I very much was enjoying the play (there is a lot of humor, which makes the suject less depressing), the performances and the direction before leaving. Strauss in particular  was quite engaging.

More information:
This is a limited engagement through Dec, 16 in Theater A at 59 East 59th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7pm, Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 and 8 pm and Sunday at 3 and 7 pm. Tickets are $60: (212)-279-4200;

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language
Last part of show not seen

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Women's Stories Project Includes Dance, Music, Stories

Infinity Dance Theatre will present the world premiere of The Women's Stories Project, a unique and inspiring theater work that includes dance, music, and the spoken word that grew out of a relationship between the dance company and The Creative Center (Arts in Healthcare). 

Conceived and created by Kitty Lunn, pictured above, The Women’s Stories Project features five amazing women, with courage and resourcefulness to spare, who tell their stories of love, loss, illness, and aging Nov. 17 at 2 pm and Nov. 18 at 5 pm at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, NYC. Tickets: $20; $15 for students/seniors/persons with disabilities. Reservations: 917.289.0799

Depressing? Not at all. The 75-minute work is just the opposite - it's funny, sad, ironic, and unexpected. It begins with wheelchair-bound Kitty Lunn’s performance of In Time Like Air, a solo created for her by Peter Pucci and set to a haunting saxophone solo by Don Cherry. She “slipped on and off the chair, tilting it, tipping it over and responding to its presence as if it had a personality all its own” (Jack Anderson, New York Times, 2001). The women’s solos were choreographed by Kitty Lunn, who also narrates.

Lunn is followed by longtime dancer Lynn Barr, dealing with the loss of her husband of 50 years; Sister Margaret, an outspoken Catholic nun for nearly 60 years, who speaks about the trials of her life, vocation, and mission; and the adorable Lucy, who lost her mother to breast cancer, and after burying her mother in Puerto Rico, discovers she has developed the same cancer. She undergoes horrific treatment and discovers her own strength through art, music, and dance. Lucy takes up belly dancing and Puerto Rican Bomba dancing, which she will demonstrate on the program. 

The company's scholar is Alice, a native of England, a professor of Medieval Literature, and proficient in 14 medieval languages. She became a wheelchair user as a result of an acquired spinal disease. Alice later began studying dance with Lunn and has now become a member of Infinity. 

Marcia Bernstein adds a haunting vocal as the women weave the common threads of their lives. Though these endearing women represent different ages, races, and walks of life, they represent all of us, connected through common threads of humanity, with one another and with the audience in this celebration of the triumph of the human spirit. Performances of The Women’s Stories Project will be sign language interpreted.

More About Kitty Lunn:
A New Orleans native, Kitty Lunn started dance classes as a child and performed with several companies, including the Washington Ballet, where she danced in Swan Lake, Giselle, Les Sylphides, The Nutcracker, and the full company repertory. Lunn moved to New York in 1967, and in 1987 while preparing for her first Broadway show, she was injured in an accident which left her paraplegic. 

Determined to show that dancers can move in a multitude of ways, Lunn founded Infinity in 1995 to expand the boundaries of dance and change the world’s perceptions of what a dancer is. In addition to regular New York seasons, the company’s schedule has included appearing at festivals in Italy, two seasons at the Kennedy Center in D.C., and the 1996 Cultural Paralympiad in Atlanta. Lunn is also active as an actress on stage and TV (including a long stint on “As The World Turns”), a dance educator, and an advocate for people with disabilities.

Unlike the theater piece "The Women's Stories Project," the programs of November 15-17 at 7 pm focus more on dance, and feature Lunn's Infinity and Toni Taylor's Pi Dance Theatre in works for disabled and non-disabled dancers. Choreography is by Lunn, Taylor and Roxana Lewis, with new music composed and performed live by William Catanzaro, and poetry by Andrew Macmillan.,

The Ride Offers Holiday Schedule

The Ride -- an electronically interactive tour of New York City on motor coaches has announced holiday schedules and pricing.

The Ride, on five motor coaches, has played 23 months of sold-out, multi-million-dollar, state-of-the-art tours of the Midtown Area and more than 70,000 customers have enjoyed the 4.2-mile journey that has been termed “a Passport to New York City.” (Stay tuned for a first-hand account of a tour coming up by Lauren Yarger).
The buses are specifically designed theatrical vehicles; the tallest allowed by federal law, fitted with stadium-style seating that orients the 49 participants sideways looking through the massive windows that deliver New York as the most successful Broadway show on earth.

The coaches are equipped with surround sound, 3,000 LED lights and 40 video screens. They are, in essence, rolling state-of-the-art theatres. External speakers and lighting allow riders and on-board performers to interact with street performers as well as anyone else they pass on the street.

Tickets are $50 -$74 and are availabe by calling 866-299-9682 or at the Box Office located at Madame Tussauds on 42nd Street in Times Square. Groups: 212-244-2551 (x155).

Through - November 11
Mon, Thur, & Fri: 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Wed: 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sat: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm & 4:00 pm

November 12 - November 18
Mon, Wed, Thur, & Fri: 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sat: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm & 4:00 pm

November 19 - November 25
Mon, Wed, Thur, & Fri: 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sat: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm & 4:00 pm
Thanksgiving Day: 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm

November 26 - December 16
Mon, Wed, Thur, & Fri: 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sat: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm & 4:00 pm

December 17 - December 31
Mon: 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:00 pm & 4:00 pm
Wed, Thur, & Fri: 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sat: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm & 8:30 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm & 4:00 pm

Christmas Day, New Year's Eve &; New Year's Day: Dark

Individual Tickets: & 866-299-9682
Groups: 212-244-2551 (x155)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Theater Review: The Whale

Honest,  Gripping Performances Harpoon a Whale of a Play
By Lauren Yarger
Samuel D. Hunter's play The Whale Off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons features a hate-filled person obsessed with killing a sperm whale , but in this "Moby Dick" inspired tale, Ahab is a pint sized daughter and Moby is the 600-pound man who provided the sperm for her birth, but who hasn't there for most of her 17 years. And in this case, the whale is happy to help in the kill.

Charlie (a marvelous Shuler Hensley), so grossly overweight that he barely can move off the couch in the untidy living room of his northern Idaho apartment  (Mimi Lien, scenic design), makes a living teaching online classes in expository writing and grading the mostly horrible essays written by his students on things like "Moby Dick."

He has few visitors, but good friend and nurse Liz (Cassie Beck) stops by regularly to bring food and check on his health, which is deteriorating. Without health insurance, Charlie refuses to go to the hospital for treatment of the congenital heart failure that frequently brings chest pain and shortness of breath.

During a particularly bad attack, while Liz isn't around, Charlie gets help from an unexpected visitor: Elder Thomas (Cory Michael Smith), a Mormon making door-to-door calls as part of a mission for his church. When Liz arrives, she makes it clear that Thomas' religion isn't welcome. Turns out Liz is a former Mormon and so was Charlie's late boyfriend, Alan, whom she claims, was killed by the church. Taken aback, Thomas leaves, but a hint that Charlie might be interested in talking about the church's beliefs prompts him to stop back a few more times. The young Mormon is convinced that, in the face of impending death, Charlie needs to hear about religion more than ever.

What Charlie really wants, however, is to spend some time with his daughter, Ellie (Reyna DeCourcy), whom he hasn't seen since she was 2. Suspended from high school for making "vaguely threatening" remarks about a classmate on her hate blog where she trashes everyone and everything, Ellie shows up at Charlie's doorstep spewing more contempt (made plain in DeCourcy's unwavering body language and facial expressions) and showing no sign that she wants to establish a relationship with her father:

"Just being around you is disgusting. You smell disgusting. Your apartment is disgusting. You look disgusting. The last time I saw you, you were disgusting," she blurts.
Discovering that she is flunking out of school, Charlie strikes a bargain with Ellie and agrees to pay her with his hidden nest egg to let him write her essays for her. Liz isn't happy with another interloper. She's convinced that she's the only one who can care about or care for Charlie. She proves this by providing CPR to save him after he chokes on one of three meatball sandwiches she happily provides for him.
When Charlie's angry, alcoholic, ex wife Mary (Tasha Lawrence) finds out that Ellie is with her father, we almost can hear the cry of "Thar she blows!" Mary still obviously cares for Charlie, though she is shocked at the size of his girth. She admits that she is at a loss about how to control their cruel daughter who gets joy only by hurling verbal harpoons carrying barbs laced with vitriol.

Not even she can get through to Charlie about taking care of his health, however, as it becomes apparent that his weight gain is a self-imposed suicide attempt in response to the mysterious events around his partner's death.  

David McCallum's razor-sharp direction enables all of the actors to give multi-layered, moving performances of characters who often surprise us by turning out to be different from our first perception. Hensley is superb, mastering not only the emotional side of Charlie's pain, but also his physical limitations, including an alarming wheezing, while costumed in the realistic padding of Jessica Pabst's costume design.

Reminding us of the allusion to that other whale is the sound of the ocean under scene changes (Fitz Patton, sound design). Jane Cox designs the lighting.

Hunter's script, needing very few tweaks, is totally engaging despite the harshness of its topic. This is a "don't miss" of the early season.

The Whale plays a limited engagement through Dec. 9 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC, between 9th and 10th avenues.

Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 2 and 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 and 7 pm with an additional Wednesday matinee performance on Nov. 21 at 2. Single tickets, $60 with some premium seats available at $72, may be purchased online via, by phone at 212-279-4200 (noon-8 pm daily), or in person.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Drug usage
-- Homosexuality

Thursday, November 1, 2012

More Off-Broadway Performance Updates

Following is the performance status fo some Off Broadway offerings for Thursday, November 1, 2012:
5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche
Performances through Tuesday, 11/6 are pending due to cast travel difficulties (the ladies are stranded in Chicago!), with future performances pending.
The power at the SoHo Playhouse remains out due to the widespread power outage in lower Manhattan.
For more information, visit
Blue Man Group
No performance tonight with future performances pending.
The power at Astor Place Theatre remains out due to the widespread power outage in lower Manhattan.
For more information, visit
York Theatre Company’s Closer Than Ever
Resumes performances tonight at 8:00 p.m.
Ticket holders to any cancelled Off Broadway show are offered free tickets for Closer Than Ever tonight with the presentation of unused tickets or confirmation orders at the York Theatre box office between 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. today (pending availability).
For more information, visit
Eve Ensler’s Emotional Creature
Resumed performances yesterday, 10/31 and will perform as scheduled at 7:30 p.m. tonight at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center. Opening night still on as planned for November 12, 2012.
For more information, visit
Culture Project’s The Exonerated
No performance tonight with future performances pending.
The power at Culture Project/45 Bleecker remains out due to the widespread power outage in lower Manhattan.
For more information, visit
The Old Man and the Old Moon
No performance tonight with future performances pending.
The power at the Gym at Judson remains out due to the widespread power outage in lower Manhattan.
For more information, visit
MCC Theater’s Don’t Go Gentle
No performance tonight with future performances pending.
The power at the Lucille Lortel Theatre remains out due to the widespread power outage in lower Manhattan.
For more information, visit
Labyrinth Theater Company’s Radiance
No performance tonight with future performances pending.
The power at the Bank Street Theater remains out due to the widespread power outage in lower Manhattan.
For more information, visit
Sleep No More
No performance tonight with future performances pending.
The power at The McKittrick Hotel remains out due to the widespread power outage in lower Manhattan. The hotel staff has released the following advisory to future guests: “We have an unusually large amount of correspondence to tend to and kindly ask for your patience while we respond to all inquiries as quickly as possible.”
For more information, visit
Target Margin Theater’s 2012 TMT LAB: Exploring Yiddish Theater
Resumes performances tonight at 8:00 p.m. at The Brick (579 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn).
There is a special added performance tomorrow, 11/2 at 5:00 p.m. 2 for 1 tickets are available for all remaining performances with the code OYSANDY.
For more information, visit
No performance tonight with future performances pending.
The power at the Barrow Street Theatre remains out due to the widespread power outage in lower Manhattan.
For more information, visit

Son of a Gun! Pay What You Can Performances Offered

The producers of Son of a Gun, the new folk rock musical which begins performances at Theatre Row tomorrow evening, have announced that the first four performances will operate on a Pay What You Can basis.

John Capo, the show's spokesperson, said: "Many people are still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy. There's no reason we shouldn't be doing everything in our power to give people who might otherwise be sitting in a dark apartment the opportunity to be entertained for a few hours regardless of their ability to afford a ticket."

This offer is available in-person at the box office for the Friday, November 2 performance at 8pm, the Saturday, November 3 performances at 2pm and 8pm, and the Sunday, November 4 performance at 3pm. Theatre Row is located at 410 West 42nd Street.

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

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.

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