Friday, May 31, 2013

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Caucasian Chalk Circle

Christopher Lloyd and Elizabeth A. Davis. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Caucasian Chalk Circle
By Bertolt Brecht
Transated by James and Tania Stern
Lyrics by W.H.Auden
Original Music by Duncan Sheik
Directed by Brian Kulick
Classic Stage Company

What's It All About?
Christoher Lloyd, a prolific stage actor, but probably more well know for the "Back to the Future" and  "Addams Family" films and TV's "Taxi," heads a good ensemble bringing to life Brecht's final play within a play about a young peasant girl who adopts a baby of noble birth, set here in the time following the fall of Lenin (literally-- his statue gets pulled down in the opening scene.) Lloyd is the storyteller as we see young Grusha (Elizabeth A. Davis) decide to care for the infant boy abandoned by his mother, the wife of the fallen governor (Mary Testa), as she makes an exit during the political upheval. Over time, Grusha keeps the boy (portrayed by a couple of creepy dolls) safe and loves him like her own, despite giving up her own chance at happiness with soldier Simon (Alex Hurt) and marrying an unpleasant man, Yussup (Jason Babinsky). The boy's high-born birth mother returns to claim him, resulting in a tug of war that requires a Solomon-like solution from judge Azdak (Lloyd).

What are the Highlights?
Music by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) and Lyrics by W.H. Auden? I'm in.
Davis (who was nominated for her turn in Once) gets to play the violin a little and there's some nice humor. When Grusha and Yussup get married an apologetic player (Tom Riis Farrel) tells us that "Due to the extravagant short sightedness of Artistic Management there are not enough members of the cast to make for a proper wedding party. We must to have wedding guests for the wedding. We promise not to accost you, touch you, or make you say any lines whatsoever." Volunteers from the audience then are clad in Anita Yavich's costumes and placed on the Russian-motif set designed by Tony Straiges so the wedding can take place. The friend who attended with me volunteered and now gets to say, with complete honesty at parties, that he has appeared on stage with Christopher Lloyd and Mary Testa....

What are the Lowlights?
Well, I'm not a big Brecht fan. It kind of wanders, especially in the second act, and I'd like to cut about a half an hour at least from the two-and-a-half-hour run time (there is an intermission). And the whole chalk-circle story of a wise judge deciding who a child's "real" mother is gets a better telling in its original form in the book of Solomon -- or even as the old tale from Confucius.
Kind of wish Lloyd had more humor to work with and that the oh-so-talented Testa had more to sing.

More Information:
The Caucasian Chalk Circle has been extended Off-Broadway through June 23 at Classic Stage Company, 136 East 13th Street.  Performances are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 pm; Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 3 pm and 8 pm; and Sundays at 3 pm. Tickets start at $60 for Tuesday through Thursday performances and $65 for Friday through Sunday performances. More info:

Christians might also like to know:
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Language
-- Sexually suggestive dialogue and actions

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Quick Hit Theater Review: Murder Ballad

Murder Ballad
Conceived by and with Book and Lyrics by Julia Jordan
Music and Lyrics by Juliana Nash
Choreography by Doug Varone
Directed by Trip Cullman
Union Square Theatre

What's It All About?
A love triangle gone wrong, cleverly set in a bar. The action takes place behind and on top of the bar, set up in between two sections of seats facing it. Actors also venture up into the seats under the direction of Trip Cullman. The story is told by a singer/narrator (Rebecca Naomi Jones). When Sara (Caissie Levy) and badboy Tom (Will Swenson) break off their hot and heavy relationship, she turns to steady Phd. Michael (John Ellison Conlee) and despite her self loathing and distrust of people, she fins something "normal" in him and they settle down and have a child. Sara has it all, but feels trapped. She starts to think about Tom and they reunite leading to tragic consequences.

What are the Highlights?
Really great concept (we're seeing more and more of this inclusive theater) with super good music and direction. The bar is functional. You can purchase refreshments there prior to the show, then enjoy them during. The lyrics are exceptional and drive the rock opera where all of the voices blend perfectly. We know someone will die -- the title is Murder Ballad, after all, but we're not really sure who or how. One plot point, that I won't divulge in the interest of not spoiling it for you, was an irritation to me throughout the show until the very end when the answer revealed sheer genius in the libretto. The music contains chords and notes that convey the emotions of the characters. I felt exhausted at the the end of the 90 minutes with no intermission -- but in a good way.

What are the Lowlights?
Sometimes it is hard to hear all of the words due to volume. Because the lyrics are so crucial, it's hard to follow the action unless you pay strict attention.

More information:
This very good musical from Jonathan Larson winner Nash played a sold-out engagement at Manhattan Theatre Club before making this Off-Broadway transfer to the Union Square Theatre, 100 East 17th St., NYC. The strictly limited nine-week engagement runs through Sept. 29.

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

Monday, May 20, 2013

And the 2013 Drama Desk Awards Go To.....

WINNERS IN EACH CATEGORY ARE NOTED IN BOLD. Check the links at right for reviews.
Outstanding Play
Annie Baker, The Flick
Christopher Durang, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Joe Gilford, Finks
Richard Greenberg, The Assembled Parties
Amy Herzog, Belleville
Deanna Jent, Falling
Richard Nelson, Sorry
Outstanding Musical
A Christmas Story: The Musical


Hands on a Hardbody

Here Lies Love

Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

The Other Josh Cohen
Outstanding Revival of a Play
Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Golden Boy
Person of Szechwan

The Piano Lesson

The Trip to Bountiful

Uncle Vanya
Outstanding Revival of a Musical or Revue


Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella

The Golden Land

The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Working: A Musical
Outstanding Actor in a Play
Reed Birney, Uncle Vanya
Daniel Everidge, Falling
Tom Hanks, Lucky Guy
Shuler Hensley, The Whale
Nathan Lane, The Nance
Tracy Letts, Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Outstanding Actress in a Play
Maria Dizzia, Belleville
Amy Morton, Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Julia Murney, Falling
Vanessa Redgrave, The Revisionist
Miriam Silverman, Finks
Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful
Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Eric Anderson, Soul Doctor
Brian d'Arcy James, Giant
Jim Norton, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Billy Porter, Kinky Boots
Steve Rosen, The Other Josh Cohen
Ryan Silverman, Passion
Anthony Warlow, Annie
Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Kate Baldwin, Giant
Stephanie J. Block, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Carolee Carmello, Scandalous
Lindsay Mendez, Dogfight
Donna Murphy, Into the Woods
Laura Osnes, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella
Jenny Powers, Donnybrook!
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
Chuck Cooper, The Piano Lesson
Peter Friedman, The Great God Pan
Richard Kind, The Big Knife
Aaron Clifton Moten, The Flick
Brían F. O'Byrne, If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet
Tony Shalhoub, Golden Boy
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Tasha Lawrence, The Whale
Judith Light, The Assembled Parties
Kellie Overbey, Sleeping Rough
Maryann Plunkett, Sorry
Condola Rashad, The Trip to Bountiful
Laila Robins, Sorry
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
Stephen Bogardus, Passion
John Bolton, A Christmas Story: The Musical
Keith Carradine, Hands on a Hardbody
Bertie Carvel, Matilda
John Dossett, Giant
Andy Karl, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
Annaleigh Ashford, Kinky Boots
Melissa Errico, Passion
Andrea Martin, Pippin
Jessie Mueller, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Christiane Noll, Chaplin: The Musical
Keala Settle, Hands on a Hardbody
Kate Wetherhead, The Other Josh Cohen
Outstanding Director of a Play
Lear Debessonet, Good Person of Szechwan
Sam Gold,Uncle Vanya
Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, Restoration Comedy
Pam MacKinnon, Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Lynne Meadow, The Assembled Parties
Ruben Santiago-Hudson,The Piano Lesson
Outstanding Director of a Musical
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bring It On: The Musical
Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
John Doyle, Passion
Diane Paulus, Pippin
Emma Rice, The Wild Bride
Alex Timbers, Here Lies Love
Matthew Warchus, Matilda
Outstanding Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bring It On: The Musical
Warren Carlyle, A Christmas Story: The Musical
Peter Darling, Matilda
Josh Rhodes, Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella
Sergio Trujillo, Hands on a Hardbody
Chet Walker and Gypsy Snider, Pippin
Outstanding Music
Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green, Hands on a Hardbody
David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, Here Lies Love
Michael John LaChiusa, Giant
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, A Christmas Story: The Musical
David Rossmer and Steve Rosen, The Other Josh Cohen
Outstanding Lyrics
Amanda Green, Hands on a Hardbody
Amanda Green and Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bring It On: The Musical
John LaChiusa,Giant
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Tim Minchin, Matilda
David Rossmer and Steve Rosen, The Other Josh Cohen
Outstanding Book of a Musical
Dennis Kelly, Matilda
Sybille Pearson, Giant
Joseph Robinette, A Christmas Story: The Musical
David Rossmer and Steve Rosen, The Other Josh Cohen
Jeff Whitty, Bring It On: The Musical
Doug Wright, Hands on a Hardbody
Outstanding Orchestrations
Trey Anastasio and Don Hart, Hands on a Hardbody
Larry Blank, A Christmas Story: The Musical
Bruce Coughlin, Giant
Larry Hochman, Chaplin: The Musical
Steve Margoshes, Soul Doctor
Danny Troob, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella
Outstanding Music in a Play
César Alvarez with The Lisps, Good Person of Szechwan
Jiří Kadeřábek, Mahir Cetiz, and Ana Milosavljevic, Act Before You Speak: The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Glen Kelly, The Nance
Eugene Ma, The Man Who Laughs
Steve Martin, As You Like It
Jane Wang, Strange Tales of Liaozhai
Outstanding Revue
Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking!

Old Hats

Old Jews Telling Jokes
Outstanding Set Design
Rob Howell, Matilda
Mimi Lien, The Whale
Santo Loquasto, The Assembled Parties
Anna Louizos, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Michael Yeargan, Golden Boy
David Zinn, The Flick
Outstanding Costume Design
Amy Clark and Martin Pakledinaz, Chaplin: The Musical
Dominique Lemieux, Pippin
William Ivey Long, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella
Chris March, Chris March's The Butt-Cracker Suite! A Trailer Park Ballet
Loren Shaw, Restoration Comedy
Paloma Young, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Outstanding Lighting Design
Ken Billington, Chaplin: The Musical
Jane Cox,Passion
Kenneth Posner, Pippin
Justin Townsend, Here Lies Love
Daniel Winters, The Man Who Laughs
Scott Zielinski, A Civil War Christmas
Outstanding Projection Design
Jon Driscoll, Chaplin: The Musical
Wendall K. Harrington, Old Hats
Peter Nigrini, Here Lies Love
Darrel Maloney, Checkers
Pedro Pires, Cirque du Soleil: Totem
Aaron Rhyne, Wild With Happy
Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical
 - a three-way tie
Steve Canyon Kennedy, Hands on a Hardbody
Scott Lehrer and Drew Levy, Chaplin: The Musical
Tony Meola, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Brian Ronan, Bring It On: The Musical
Brian Ronan, Giant
Dan Moses Schreier, Passion
Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
Ien DeNio, The Pilo Family Circus
Steve Fontaine, Last Man Club
Christian Frederickson, Through the Yellow Hour
Lindsay Jones, Wild With Happy
Mel Mercier, The Testament of Mary
Fergus O'Hare, Macbeth
Outstanding Solo Performance
Joel de la Fuente, Hold These Truths
Kathryn Hunter, Kafka's Monkey
Bette Midler, I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers
Julian Sands, A Celebration of Harold Pinter
Holland Taylor, Ann
Michael Urie, Buyer & Cellar
Unique Theatrical Experience
Bello Mania

Chris March's The Butt-Cracker Suite! A Trailer Park Ballet

Cirque Du Soleil: Totem

That Play: A Solo Macbeth

The Fazzino Ride
The Man Who Laughs
Outstanding Ensemble Performance
 This year the nominators chose to bestow a special ensemble award to the cast of Working: A Musical. "Marie-France Arcilla, Joe Cassidy, Donna Lynne Champlin, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Nehal Joshi, and Kenita R. Miller created a memorable ensemble of marvelously gifted singer-actors working together in pure artistic harmony." Individual cast members receiving this award are ineligible for acting awards in the competitive categories.
Special Awards
 Each year, the Drama Desk votes special awards to recognize excellence and significant contributions to the theater. For 2012-2013, these awards are:

  • The New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), Isaac Robert Hurwitz, Executive Director and Producer: for a decade of creating and nurturing new musical theater, ensuring the future of this essential art form.

  • Wakka Wakka (Gabrielle Brechner, Kirjan Waage, and Gwendolyn Warnock): for sophisticated puppet theater, as represented by this season's SAGA, that explores with wit, imagination, and insight serious issues of our times.

  • Jayne Houdyshell: for her artistry as an exceptionally versatile and distinctive Broadway and Off-Broadway performer.

  • Samuel D. Hunter: His empathic and indelible The Whale affirms his arrival as a distinguished dramatist who depicts the human condition.

  • Maruti Evans, the Sam Norkin Off-Broadway Award: for his ingenious lighting designs, reflecting an exquisite and bold theatrical aesthetic. This season's The Pilo Family Circus and Tiny Dynamite confirm his incandescent creativity.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Quick Hit Theater Review: Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

The cast. Photo: Chad Batka
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
By Dave Malloy
Adapted from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Choreography by Sam Pinkleton
Direction and Musical Staging by Rachel Chavkin
Kazino (West 13th Street and Washington Street)

What's It All About?
This recipient of the 2013 Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater is a mixed cocktail of romance, war, operetta, literature and vodka. The scandalous romance of Natasha (Phillipa Soo) and womanizer Anatole (Lucas Steele) is sliced from the pages of Tolstoy's classic tale of war and peace just before Napoleon's invasion of Russia. 

Designer Mimi Lien sets the show as a dinner theater in a Russian club, Kazino -- Off, Off-Broadway in the heart of the meatpacking district. The show is staged in a tent lined with red drapery, framed portraits and paintings reflecting the lights of elegant light fixtures. The mood is further enhanced by aristocratic costumes from the early 19th-century designed by Paloma Young. Your ticket includes a Russian meal, right down to the borscht with food service before curtain and during a break separating parts one through three from four and five (this is, after all, War and Peace-- run time is about two hours and 40 minutes).

The tone is anything but serious, however, and the tongue-in-cheek prologue, where writer Dave Malloy (who plays Pierre) deftly introduces all of the major and minor characters, while instructing the audience to read the information in their programs, is a quick who's who and a hoot to boot. Here's a snippet: 

"This is a complicated Russian novel; everyone has nine different names.... Hélène is a slut; Anatole is hot; Marya is old school; Sonya is good; Natasha is young; And Andrey isn’t here."

An eight-member band accompanies the vocalists from various stations throughout the house, continuing an interactive theme that might well find a character sitting down at your table or sharing your glass of vodka.

What are the Highlights?
Vodka with a twist -- it's entertaining and engaging with catchy, memorable tunes. The ensemble is good. The vegetables are very tasty.

What are the Lowlights?
Sorry, I am not a fan of shared food at tables with people I don't know. The hors d'oeuvres-type food (vegetables, pierogies, bread, shrimp, fish and chicken) is served family style and without serving utensils. My companion told me I am too concerned about such things, but a woman arriving at our table right at curtain started foraging around for food in the dark. She used her fork to spear what she thought was an round appetizer, took a large bite, then RETURNED IT TO THE DISH declaring that it was just butter. Call me Monk, but eeeeeew.

But the biggest lowlight was that I had to leave before the end to catch a train. I might just go back to enjoy the experience fully.

More information:
Food service begins about an hour before the how. You can listen to some music here:

Notes: bathrooms are sort of glorified portable toilets.
I would say this is for adults.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

New Times, Ticket Policies Announced for Shakespeare in the Park

Luke Forbes, Dorien Makhloghi, Nyambi Nyambi, Marianne Jean-Baptiste
and Lily Rabe in a scene from The Merchant from Venice in the park. Photo by Joan Marcus
The Comedy of Errors, the first of this season's Shakespeare in the Park offerings by the Public Theater in Cenral Park, begins previews May 28 and some new policies will be in place for getting free tickets to the shows, which now all will begin at 8:30 pm and last abot 90 minutes without intermission.

To make it easier for patrons to wait in line for free tickets, the ticket distribution at the Delacorte Theater will begin an hour earlier this year at noon. In order to allow as many different people as possible to attend, visitors will be limited to receiving two free tickets to two performances only of each production. As in past years, virtual ticketing lottery for free tickets will be available at on the day of the show. The Delacorte Theater is accessible by entering at 81st Street and Central Park West, or 79th Street and Fifth Avenue.

All performances this summer for The Comedy of Errors and Love's Labors Lost, a New Musical, will begin at 8:30 pm with running times of approximately 90 minutes, no intermission.  Previously they began at 8 and incuded a break.

Directed by Daniel Sullivan, The Comedy of Errors will feature Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Hamish Linklater as Dromio and Antipholus respectively and will run through Sunday, June 30.

The complete cast  includes J. Clint Allen (Ensemble);De’Adre Aziza (Courtesan); Becky Ann Baker (Emilia); Emily Bergl (Adriana); Keith Eric Chappelle (Balthasar);Robert Creighton (Angelo); Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Dromio);Reggie Gowland (Ensemble); Jonathan Hadary (Egeon/Pinch);Bryan Langlitz (Ensemble); Hamish Linklater (Antipholus);Heidi Schreck (Luciana); Skipp Sudduth (Duke/Luce); andJessica Wu (Ensemble). The non-equity ensemble includes Tyler Caffall,Reed Campbell, Brian T. Lawton, Michael McArthur, Rachel McMullin,Natalie Woolams-Torres, and Adrienne Weidert.

The design team: sccenic design byJohn Lee Beatty, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Jeff Croiter, sound design by Acme Sound Partners, original music by Greg Pliska and choreography by Mimi Leiber

Love's Labors Lost. directed and adapted by by Alex Timbers has songs by Michael Friedman. It begins previews Tuesday, July 23 and runs through Sunday, Aug. 18.

The cast features Daniel Breaker (King of Navarre),Kevin Del Aguila (Dull), Colin Donnell (Berowne), Andrew Durand (Boyet), Jeff Hiller (Nathaniel), Rebecca Naomi Jones(Jaquenetta), Justin Levine (Moth), Patti Murin (Princess),Lucas Near-Verbrugghe (Dumaine), Bryce Pinkham (Longaville),Charlie Pollock (Costard), Caesar Samayoa (Don Armado),Maria Thayer (Rosaline), and Audrey Weston (Katherine). 
The design team: scenic design by John Lee Beatty, costume design by Jennifer Moeller, lighting design by Jeff Croiter, and sound design by Acme Sound Partners.


Tickets to The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park are FREE and are distributed, two per person (age 5+) at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park beginning at noon on the day of each performance. As in the past years, the Virtual Ticketing system for free tickets will be available at on the day of the show. In order to allow as many different people as possible to attend Free Shakespeare in the Park this summer, visitors will be limited to receiving free tickets to two performances only of each production.

There will continue to be a separate line for accessible tickets for senior citizens (65+) and patrons with disabilities.

After the final ticket is distributed for each day’s performance, visitors who did not obtain a ticket may begin to form a stand-by line. The Public Theater staff will begin to monitor this line, starting at 6:30 pm. Pending availability, free stand-by tickets will be distributed, one per person.

Borough Distribution: In addition to the ticket line at the Delacorte Theater and Virtual Ticketing online, a limited number of vouchers for specific performances will be distributed, while supplies last, at locations throughout NewYork’s five boroughs. Each person in line is allowed two vouchers and each voucher is good for one ticket for that evening’s performance. Vouchers must be exchanged for tickets at the Delacorte Theater Box Office that day from 4:30-7:30 pm.

For The Comedy of Errors, ticket vouchers will be distributed, while supplies last, on Wednesday, May 29 in Manhattan at Harlem Stage at The Gatehouse (150 Convent West 135th St.); on Thursday, May 30 in Staten Island at Snug Harbor Cultural Center (1000 Richmond Terrace); on Tuesday, June 4 in the Bronx at Lehman Stages (250 Bedford Park Blvd.); on Wednesday, June 5 in Queens at the New York Hall of Science (47-01 111th St.); and onFriday, June 7 in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum (145 Brooklyn Ave.).

For Love's abors Lost, ticket vouchers will be distributed, while supplies last, on Thursday, July 25 in Staten Island at Snug Harbor Cultural Center (1000 Richmond Terrace); on Friday, July 26 in the Bronx at The Point (940 Garrison Ave.); on Saturday, July 27 in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Public Library (10 Grand Army Plaza); on Tuesday, July 30 in Manhattan at The Public Theater (425 Lafayette St.); and on Wednesday, July 31in Queens at the Queens Central Library (89-11 Merrick Blvd.)

SUMMER SUPPORTER TICKETS, first conceived by Joe Papp as a way to support free Shakespeare in the Park, are available now. A fully tax-deductible contribution of $175 entitles each Supporter to one reserved seat for either Shakespeare in the Park production. A limited number of Summer Supporter seats are available to ensure that as many free seats as possible will be available to distribute to the general public on the day of the show. Supporter contributions help to underwrite free Shakespeare in the Park.

Supporter donations can be made at The Public Theater Box Office at 425 Lafayette Street, by phone at (212) 967-7555, or online Seating locations for donors are allocated strictly by giving level and in the order that they are received.

The Delacorte Theater is accessible by entering at 81st Street and Central Park West, or 79th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Theater Review: Pippin

They've Got Magic to Do, Just for You and a Miracle Play to Play
By Lauren Yarger
If ever an opening number delivers on its promise, the exciting "Magic to Do" which opens the Broadway revival of Pippin does.

It is, in fact, one of the most breathtaking opening numbers we've seen on a stage in a long time thanks to the big-top theme imagined by Director Diane Paulus and Circus Creator Gypsy Snider and it sets the tone for the rest of the evening -- for which you definitely should leave your cheese to sour and join them for an hour or two (well, really about two and a half).

Colorful costumes  (Domenique Lemieux, design) and an old-fashioned circus tent (Scott Pask, set design) provide the backdrop for juggling, tumbling, trapeze artistry, balancing and illusions (Paul Kieve) while the story of Pippin (Matthew James Thomas), son of King Charles (Terrence Mann), the Middle Ages' Charlemagne, unfolds amidst Stephen Schwartz's beloved score and lyrics with a book by Roger O. Hirson.

Young Pippin returns from school unsure of what to do with his life. He knows it has to be extraordinary, but isn't sure where he'll find his "Corner of the Sky" (beautifully nailed by Thomas.) Just when the audience is struggling not to sing along with tunes like "Glory" or get up to dance the original Bob Fosse moves with the Manson Trio (Patina Miller starring in Ben Vereen's "Leading Player" role joined by Andrew Fitch and Anthony Wayne) the house lights come up and they are invited to join Pippin's grandmother, Berthe (Andrea Martin), in the choruses of "No Time at All." I won't give away why, but this number stopped the show twice the night I was there. Look for Martin to be making an acceptance speech at the Tonys when she receives the award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

Pippin tries to be a soldier like his cocky half brother, Lewis (Erik Altemus), but doesn't like war. He tries to find "something completely fulfilling," but fails time and time again. Women don't satisfy him. Neither does power, even after he usurps his father's throne at the urging of Lewis and his stepmother, Fastrada (Charlotte D'Ambroise). He tries so many different things, that break-away costumes almost can't keep up with the action.

He finds domestic tranquility with a widow, Catherine (Rachel Ray Jones), and her young son, Theo (Andrew Cekala and Ashton Woerz share the role), until he realizes that he has settled. He would rather "trade my ordinary life to perform one extraordinary act," he declares  The Leading Player and the the pull of earthly pleasures offer him just that opportunity, but will Pippin find what he's looking for before making the ultimate sacrifice?
"Fabulous"is the word that keeps coming to mind when describing this show. The original Broadway staging in 1972 was terrific, but Paulus has taken us to that extraordinary place for which Pippin is searching. Chet Walker's choreography is "sharper than sight" and the dramatic circus acts performed by an ensemble, many of whom have circus backgrounds, are made exemplary by an excellent technical team: Lighting Designer Kenneth Posner, Sound Designers Jonathan Deans and Garth Helm, Techincal Supervisor Jake Bell and  Design Supervisor Edward Pierce. Chic Silber provides the fire effects. The music id directed and arranged by Nadia DiGiallonardo with arrangements by Larry Hochman

Every player, no matter how small the role, stands out, especially Anthony Wayne, whose portrayal of a chicken was most entertaining.

Shout it out from the highest tower, I predict this show will snag Tonys for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Director of a Musical for Paulus (Hair). Miller (whose voice sounded a bit strained the night I attended) and Mann also are nominated, along with Walker, Pask, Lemieux, Posner and Deans and Helm. Regardless of how many Tonys the show receives (it received 10 nominations in all), it will be around for a while.

Pippin is working his magic over at the Music Box Theatre, 239 West 45th St., NYC. Tickets and info:

Christians might also like to know:
-- Sexual situations
-- Suggestive costumes
-- Sexual activity (some between two women; the scene where Pippin indulges in lust is quite graphic and dark, but appropriate to the plot)
-- Violence
-- Magic
-- God's name taken in vain
Note: Despite the circus motif, I would caution against taking very young children. The themes, as you can see by this list of content advisories, are more mature.

Fun Things to See and Do with the Kids This Summer in NYC -- Part One

I'll be highlighting some kid and family-friendy options for folks who will be spending time in the Big Apple this summer. Top picks for which shows to see will be coming soon, but we'll start with some great exhibits coming up at the Discovery Museum in Times Square:

Discovery Times Square


SHIPWRECK! Pirates & Treasure will capture your imagination and take you on an incredible voyage from the glory days of pirates to modern-day shipwrecks!

Journey to bottom of the ocean and beyond to uncover the sea's best-kept secrets and greatest treasures. Dig for treasure with a real robotic arm and experience what high-speed, storm winds feel like on the open sea with the hurricane wind tunnel.

Featuring over 500 authentic artifacts, including real gold and silver treasures, the exhibit demonstrates modern-day science and technology used thousands of feet below the ocean's surface. Click here to purchase tickets.

Opens June 16--
The Art of the Brick
Tickets Now On Sale!

Taking LEGO® bricks from child's toy to sophisticated art form and beyond!
Artist Nathan Sawaya and Discovery Times Square are bringing the exhibition CNN named 'One of the Top Ten Global Must-See Exhibitions' to New York City this June - doubling its size and introducing never-before-seen masterpieces!
THE ART OF THE BRICK, an exhibition by artist Nathan Sawaya, is a critically acclaimed collection of intriguing and inspiring works of art made exclusively from one of the most recognizable toys in the world — LEGO® bricks. The Discovery Times Square exhibit will be the world's biggest and most elaborate display of LEGO® art ever and will feature brand-new, pieces by Sawaya. Don't miss the show CNN named 'One of the Top Ten Global Must-See Exhibitions' coming to Times Square on June 14th!
226 West 44th Street (between 7th and 8th avenues) New York, NY 10036 866.987.9692

Theater Review: I'll Eat You Last

I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers
By John Logan
Directed by Joe Mantello
Starring Bette Midler
Booth Theatre

What's It All About?
A solo performance in which Bette Midler portrays Hollywood super agent Sue Mengers who represents everyone who's anyone in Tinsel Town. Wearing a kaftan circa 1981 when the play is set (Ann Roth, costumes), Mengers curls up on the sofa of her Bevery Hills home (exquisitely designed by Scott Pask) to chat with us while she awaits a call from Barbra Steisand. She's sure hr old friend is about to fire her. She gives us the dish on the superstar and other celebrities the agent has made or broken along the path to fame. The warning posted prior to curtain kind of says it all: This show contains profanity, smoking, alcohol consumption, drug use and gossip. Playwright John Logan (Red) laces it all with a lot of humor balanced by a portrait that emerges of a insecure, rather unpleasant woman. Midler seems to enjoy bringing the larger-than-life personality to the stage.

What are the Highights?
A brisk 90 minutes filled with laughs. If you like Hollywood gossip, pull up a theater seat and enjoy.
"If you cant say anything nice about someone," Mengers quips, "Come sit by me."

What are the Lowlights?
The production is well done and well directed. The profane, shallow, self-centered, greedy character is rather sad. Wish Midler got to sing something....

More information:
I'll Eat You Last runs through June 30 at the Booth Theatre, 222 West 45th St., NYC. Tickets and info:

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language (lots)
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexual dialogue

Theater Review: The Trip to Bountiful

Cicely Tyson, Cuba Gooding, Jr. Photo: Joan Marcus
A Slice of Life in Texas That Reaches Out and Makes an Audience in New York Sing a Hymn -- Now That's Theater!
By Lauren Yarger
The creative team who brought us the world of Horton Foote’s The Orphans’ Home Cycle (the winner of Drama desk, Outer Critics and NY Critics' Circle Awards for its 2009 run at Signature Theatre) and Dividing the Estate take us on another delightful voyage, this one The Trip to Bountiful, with an exceptional cast along for the ride.

Cicely Tyson shines (look for a Tony win here) as Carrie Watts, a elderly woman living in cramped Houston apartment with her son Ludie (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and controlling daughter-in-law, Jessie Mae (Vanessa Williams), who wants to return to her roots in her hometown of Bountiful, TX one last time. She has worried Ludie with repeated attempts to go off on her own, but Jessie Mae seems more concerned about making sure Carrie doesn’t take off with the pension check that helps the family make ends meet and funds her her daughter-in-law's frequent trips to the beauty shop.

Carrie consoles herself with reading her bible and singing hymns, though Jessie Mae complains that the frequent bursts into song make her nervous. One day, Carrie manages to leave with her secreted check and buys a bus ticket. At the station, she is befriended by Thelma (Condola Rashad), a young girl on her way to stay with family while her husband serves overseas. The two bond and when Carrie leaves her purse with everything in it, including that important pension check, on the bus that just departed, Thelma and station attendant in Houston (Devon Abner) help her out.

Meanwhile, the local sheriff (Tom Wopat) realizes that Carrie is the woman Ludie reported missing and lets him know where she is. He kindly takes her to her old home in Bountiful, now decrepit (the scene is stunningly designed by Jeff Cowie), and there the family reunites.

Once again, Director Michael Wilson lovingly allows Foote’s characters to command the stage and finds an undercurrent of family harmony and love under the surface of what appears to be dysfunction and cacophony. Instead of being depressed and gloomy in her stifling circumstances and frustrated at not being able to return home, Carrie delights in her faith. Tyson’s joy as she sings “Blessed Assurance” is so contagious, that the audience joins in. It’s truly a beautiful theater moment and apparently happens at each performance, according to reports.

Rashad turns a minor part into a major memory as she brings the sensitive, loving Thelma to life. When Carrie tells the girl that she would want a daughter just like her, we feel the same. At the same time, it’s a sad statement about the daughter-in-law she does have, who doesn’t appreciate the treasure she has in this wonderful woman. (I just wanted to go up on stage, hug her and sit with her as she rocked in her chair reading her bible and singing hymns. We all should be blessed to have such a woman in our lives.)

At first glance, Williams seems too glamorous and beautiful to be this working class woman in Texas. Soon that beauty takes on new meaning -- her trips to the beauty parlor and obsession with movie magazines are evidence of a life that might have been for such a beauty. The casting gives Jessie Mae a new dimension. Gooding is understated as the man caught between the two women in his life, racked with guilt for feeling like he hasn’t provided adequately for either.

Only two criticisms entered my thoughts during this otherwise absorbing, delightful evening at the theater. First, it isn’t clear why Carrie decides not to stay in Bountiful. It should be a devastating decision, born out of realization of a past long gone and of hope lost, but instead, she seems almost happy to return to the domain of Jessie Mae, who hands her a written list of “dos” and “don’ts.” Is it because deep down, they really love each other? Possibly. Is it because just seeing the old homestead somehow returns the dignity she sought? That's possible too, but this take doesn't answer the question, so we’re not sure how it happened. We're left feeling like we followed a map to Bountiful that suddenly takes us to an unexpected destination with no explanation for how we arrived there.

Second criticism: the theater is freezing. Isn’t it supposed to be hot in Texas? Later I wondered whether the cold temperature was needed for a wonderful fog effect that creates low-hanging clouds over Bountiful. Perhaps, but be sure to bring a sweater -- and some tissues. Lots of people were wiping away tears at he end.

The Trip to Bountiful runs through Sept. 1 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, 124 West 43rd St., NYC. Tickets and info:

Christians might also like to know:
No content notes. enjoy!

Theater Review: The Nance

A Tender Look at a Sad Character
By Lauren Yarger
Nathan Lane gives a tender performance in Douglas Carter Beane’s newest play, The  Nance getting a run by Lincoln Center Theater on Broadway.
In burlesque, a “nance” was a male performer who pretended to be gay. For Chauncey Miles (Lane), art imitates life. He really is gay, and while this is known to his fellow performers and theater friends, Efram (Lewis J. Stadlen), Sylvie (Cady Huffman), Joan (Jennie Barber), Rose (Mylinda Hull) and Carmen (Andrea Burns), the lifestyle is not considered acceptable by 1937 society or by the cops and politicians who constantly raid and shut down burlesque houses like New York’s Irving Place where they work.
The situation is made even more tenuous when Chauncey picks up a down-on-his-luck younger boy at the local automat (a meet-up where “the boys meet the boys.") Ned (Jonny Orsini) is hungry, dirty and used to having to exchange sexual favors to ear his keep, so Chauncey’s heartfelt kindness is different. Chauncey also is surprised to discover that the boy isn’t straight, simply turning gay tricks to get by. Ned moves in to Chauncey’s bachelor pad and the two begin a relationship.  Eventually Ned is roped into performing with the burlesque show. (John Lee Beatty’s fabulous set rotates to take us from the very cool automat to the theater, and angels so that we can see what is taking place on stage and backstage simultaneously.)
Actual vaudeville routines are included throughout the script and Lane’s comic chops are put to good use. He also gives a deeply personal portrait of a man who know what he wants, but who is unable to get it. The tale is as sad as it is funny. For some reason, Beane scripts Chauncey as a Republican, however, always supportive of the party and of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, despite his crusade to rid New York of burlesque. It’s not believable, especially when Chauncey decides to protest the censorship by performing forbidden material on stage and starts calling a certain politician’s motives into question.
Ann Roth provides the costumes for this period piece (listed as a comedy --should be categorized as a dark comedy and should also have a **MATURE advisory) for which Lane gives one of his most moving portrayals, directed by Jack O'Brien.

The Nance runs through Aug. 11 at the Lyceum Theatre, 149 West 45th St., NYC. Tickets and info:

Christians might also like to know:
-- Scantily clad actors (and racy costumes)
-- Nudity
-- Homosexuality
-- Homosexual activity
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language
-- Sexual situations

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Quick Hit Theater Review: Buyer & Cellar

Michael Urie. Photo: © Sandra Coudert
Buyer & Cellar
By Jonathan Tolins
Directed by Stephen Brackett
Starring Michael Urie
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
(transfer to Barrow Street Theatre opens June 24, 2013)

What's It All About?
Struggling actor Alex More (Michael Urie, from TV's "Ugly Betty") is hired to be the storekeeper in an underground shopping mall beneath the Malibu mansion of Barbra Streisand, as detailed in her coffee table book. When the star visits to browse the items she has stocked in her quaint little shopping center like a doll that blows bubbles, she bonds with alex and the two become friends. Or at least as good friends as you can becme when one of you is a supertar above ground.

What are the Highlights?
Very witty and great fun if you're a Barbra fan. Urie is engaging and quite adorable as the guy trying to figure out how to keep the oddest odd job.

What are the Lowlights?
It's a bit too long at about 110 minutes without intermission. Shaving 20-30 minutes off (easily done) will make this even sharper for its new home at Barrow Street.

More information:
At Barrow Street, 27 Barrow Street, east of Seventh Avenue South:
Buyer & Cellar plays Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $75: 212 More info:

Christians might also like to know:

Monday, May 13, 2013

Outer Critics Circle Awards Announced

And the winners are. . .  (in red)
Lucky Guy
The Nance
The Testament of Mary
* Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Chaplin: The Musical
A Christmas Story
Hands on a Hardbody
*Kinky Boots
Matilda the Musical

Bad Jews
* My Name is Asher Lev
Really Really
The Whale

February House
* Here Lies Love
Murder Ballad

OUTSTANDING BOOK OF A MUSICAL (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Chaplin: The Musical
Kinky Boots
* Matilda the Musical

OUTSTANDING NEW SCORE (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Chaplin: The Musical
Hands on a Hardbody
Here Lies Love
* Kinky Boots

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A PLAY (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Golden Boy
The Piano Lesson
The Trip to Bountiful
* Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The Mystery of Edwin Drood
* Pippin

Pam MacKinnon Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Nicholas Martin Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
* Jack O’Brien The Nance
Bartlett Sher Golden Boy
Michael Wilson The Trip to Bountiful

Warren Carlyle Chaplin: The Musical
Scott Ellis The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Jerry Mitchell Kinky Boots
* Diane Paulus Pippin
Alex Timbers Here Lies Love

Warren Carlyle Chaplin: The Musical
Peter Darling Matilda the Musical
Jerry Mitchell Kinky Boots
Josh Rhodes Cinderella
* Chet Walker Pippin

John Lee Beatty The Nance
* Rob Howell Matilda the Musical
David Korins Here Lies Love
Scott Pask Pippin
Michael Yeargan Golden Boy

Amy Clark & Martin Pakledinaz Chaplin: The Musical
Gregg Barnes Kinky Boots
Dominique Lemieux Pippin
* William Ivey Long Cinderella
William Ivey Long The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Ken Billington Chaplin: The Musical
Paul Gallo Dogfight
Donald Holder Golden Boy
Kenneth Posner Cinderella
* Kenneth Posner Pippin

Tom Hanks Lucky Guy
Shuler Hensley The Whale
* Nathan Lane The Nance
Tracy Letts Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
David Hyde Pierce Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Tracee Chimo Bad Jews
Amy Morton Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Vanessa Redgrave The Revisionist
Joely Richardson Ivanov
* Cicely Tyson The Trip to Bountiful

Bertie Carvel Matilda the Musical
Santino Fontana Cinderella
Rob McClure Chaplin: The Musical
* Billy Porter Kinky Boots
Matthew James Thomas Pippin

Lilla Crawford Annie
Valisia LeKae Motown: The Musical
Lindsay Mendez Dogfight
* Patina Miller Pippin
Laura Osnes Cinderella

Danny Burstein Golden Boy
Richard Kind The Big Knife
Jonny Orsini The Nance
Tony Shalhoub Golden Boy
* Tom Sturridge Orphans

Cady Huffman The Nance
Judith Ivey The Heiress
Judith Light The Assembled Parties
* Kristine Nielsen Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Vanessa Williams The Trip to Bountiful

Will Chase The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Dan Lauria A Christmas Story
Raymond Luke Motown: The Musical
* Terrence Mann Pippin
Daniel Stewart Sherman Kinky Boots
Annaleigh Ashford Kinky Boots
Victoria Clark Cinderella
Charlotte d’Amboise Pippin
* Andrea Martin Pippin
Keala Settle Hands on a Hardbody

Bette Midler I’ll Eat You Last
Martin Moran All the Rage
Fiona Shaw The Testament of Mary
* Holland Taylor Ann
Michael Urie Buyer & Cellar

JOHN GASSNER AWARD (Presented for an American play, preferably by a new playwright)
Ayad Akhtar Disgraced
Paul Downs Colaizzo Really Really
Joshua Harmon Bad Jews
Samuel D. Hunter The Whale
* Aaron Posner My Name is Asher Lev

Irish Repertory Theatre, Charlotte Moore, Artistic Director and Ciarán O’Reilly, Producing Director in recognition of 25 years of producing outstanding theatre 

Gracewell Prodiuctions

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run. She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She wrote reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

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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