Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Theater Review: The Jungle Book -- Huntington Theater, Boston

Akash Chopra (Mowgli) and Kevin Carolan (Baloo) in Tony Award winner Mary Zimmerman’s new musical adaption of The Jungle Book. Photo: Liz Lauren
Lush New Musical Adaption of The Jungle Book Excites, Entertains
By Lauren Yarger
Spectacular flora and fauna bursting with color and size spring to life as a young boy is enticed away from his storybook by a giant peacock (Nikka Graff Lanzarone. So begins The Jungle Book in its newly adapted musical staging at Huntington Theater Company, winner of the 2013 Regional Tony Award, in Boston.

Huntington has partnered with the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, where the show ran prior to Boston, to bring Director Mary Zimmerman’s vision to life. The show is presented by special arrangement with Disney Theatricals.

Fans of Disney's animated film and of Rudyard Kipling's book on which it is based, will find favorite elements intact amid the amazing theatrical costumes and sets (Mara Blumenfeld and Daniel Osling, designers) that enhance the tale of a "man cub" named Mowgli (portrayed first by a puppet, then by Roni Akurati or Akash Chopra who share the role) who is raised by wolves in the deep jungle of India (lighting is by T.J. Gerckens).

As he grows, Mowgli leaves his wolf mother, Raksha (Anjal Bhimani) and the pack and makes other friends as he learns whom he can trust while avoiding ferocious tiger Sher Khan (Larry Yando), who wants to have Mowgli for dinner. Helping him along the way are black panther Bagheera (Usman Ally), who thinks Mowgli would be better off among his own kind, and Baloo (Kevin Carolan), an easy-going bear who helps keep an eye on the young boy and keep him safe from the likes of python Kaa (part puppet and part man played by Thomas Derrah) and a band of hyper monkeys and their leader, King Louie (a very amusing Andre DeShields).

Original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman ( the film) and Terry Gilkyson ("The Bare Necessities") is supplemented with additional jazzy music and lyrics by Lorraine Feather and Paul Grabowsky, Gilkyson and Robert Sherman. Musicians come right up out of the pit (in costume) to play for certain numbers, and a couple even fly in on a sort of tree-top platform to play Indian instruments.Doug Peck is the music director, orchestrator and conductor for the 14-member orchestra. Sound is designed by Joshua Horvath, Ray Nardelli and Andre J. Pluess.

And if the movement of the orchestra, along with cast members bounding up the aisles, Choreographer Christopher Gattelli (of the gymnastic Newsies and Godspell on Broadway) puts the large ensemble through its paces. Gattelli works with Indian dance consultant Hema Rajagopalan to combine elements of classical Indian dance forms with jazz and tap. One particularly fun number is an elephant march, with a bunch of ear-flopping, hornblowing pachyderms led in drill by Colonel Hathi (Ed Kross) and Lt. George (Geoff Packard). Some twirling butterflies are fun too, though a male insect, who I think is supposed to be a bee, also wears a skirt and is the only question mark of the evening.

Ticket demand has forced a second extension of the run of The Jungle Book at Huntington Theatre Company, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston, through Oct. 20. Tickets:; 617-266-0800; Avenue of the Arts / BU Theatre and South End / Calderwood Pavilion box offices.
Monique Haley (Elephant), Akash Chopra (Mowgli), Ed Kross (Colonel Hathi), and Anjali Bhimani (Baby Elephant) with the rest of Colonel Hathi’s elephant army. Photo: Liz Lauren

Monday, September 23, 2013

Quick Hit Broadway Theater Review: Romeo & Juliet with Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad

Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad.
Romeo and Juliet
By William Shakespeare
Starring Condola Rashad, Orlando Bloom and Jayne Houdyshell
Directed by David Leveaux

What's It All About?
If you have to ask, let me suggest you go read it, or get the Sparks Notes. In this version, the Capulets are black, the Montagues are white. Romeo (Orlando Bloom of "Pirates of the Caribbean" "Lord of the Rings" fame) makes his entrance on a motorcycle wearing red biker boots. You get the picture. Juliet (Condola Rashad (Ruined, Stick Fly and Trip to Bountiful) is the pure innocent, white clad object of his affection (Fabio Toblini creates the costumes). Their stars are crossed.

What are the Highlights?
Jayne Houdyshell as the nurse is fun. Some fire pillars (set design by Jesse Poleshuck) at the Capulets ball are very cool. Nancy Bannon provides some clever movement to original music by David Van Tieghem (who also designs the sound). Christian Camargo is the standout in this production, as a funny and sharp Mercutio. Chuck Cooper also gives a nice turn as Lord Capulet.

What are the Lowlights?
Let's start with no chemistry between Romeo and Juliet. Rashad has her best moments playing the famous balcony scene with some humor, but overall, her Juliet comes off so innocent and pure that she almost seems like a simpleton. Blame must rest with director David Levaux, because Rashad certainly has shown her ability to find deeper character in her other roles on New York stages. Brent Carver, another talented actor, is grossly miscast as Friar Laurence and most of the humor in that role is lost. Even Houdyshell doesn't seem to take a role, definitely suited for her comedic talents, and run with it. It's all sort of ho-hum and leaves us wondering why this particular version should have been the one to come to Broadway.

Technical irritations: the lighting (design by David Weiner) is problematic throughout, especially for the balcony scene (this is supposed to be night and Juliet isn't supposed to be able to see Romeo, but neither is designed) and Juliet is lost in the shadows at the moment Romeo supposedly spies her and falls in love. Also, Poleshuck uses a large bell that hangs ominously over the set (when it's not being raised or lowered to the stage for no apparent reason) as a constant reminder of -- what? Bells have no significance in Romeo and Juliet. Ask not for whom the bell tolls? The lighting also causes shadows of the rope to distract from the scene in the tomb..At any rate, Bloom almost collided with the thing while making a quick stage-left exit in the dark, but swerved just in time to avoid injury.

More information:
Romeo and Juliet is set to run through Jan. 12, 2014 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre226 West 46th St., NYC. Tickets: 800-745-3000.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Sexually suggestive moves

Quick Hit Off-Broadway Theater Review: Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play

Sam Breslin Wright, Colleen Werthmann, Jennifer R. Morris, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Susannah Flood & Gibson Frazier. Photo: Joan Marcus
Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play
By Anne Washburn
Music By Michael Friedman
Directed By Steve Cosson
Playwrights Horizons

What's It All About?
It's the Simpsons. It's us. Set "near, soon," a small band of survivors of a catastrophic nuclear catastrophe that has taken out most of the world's population, pass the time recreating episodes from The Simpsons television show. They can't watch it, because there isn't any electricity following the disaster. Communications are sketchy too, and a visitor to the campsite might just be greeted with guns and brisk pat down. The survivors perform a ritual of sharing the names of their loved ones who are missing in the hopes that the newcomer has run into them on his trek through the ruined cities of Boston and abandoned Providence. Seven years later, the group has moved into a studio of sorts, where they produce episodes of the Simpsons, complete with commercials, as best as can be pieced together by their collective memories. The friends take on the various roles (the acting is quite good) while still letting us know that the world, and man's greed for the supplies that still are available, is a danger that lies just under the surface. Fast forward 75 years into the future, and we have an operatic version that combines the memories of the nuclear holocaust with the Simpsons episodes, which make a statement about the myths that become reality as well as the enduring resilience of the arts.

What are the highlights?
An exemplary ensemble cast:  Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Gibson Frazier, Susannah Flood, Matthew Maher, Nedra McClyde, Jennifer R. Morris. Colleen Werthmann, Sam Breslin Wright.Cutting edge music from Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson composer Michael Friedman.Washburn's play is smart and witty and as leap years ahead of anything we have seen on a New York stage as we hope the Armageddon-like future of Mr. Burns will be.

What are the Lowlights?
If you aren't a fan of the Simpsons, and haven't seen the Cape Fear parody episode which the survivors reconstruct, you won't be totally lost, but you won't enjoy this play as much as aficionados of the animated TV series. As good as Friedman's music in the short second act is, the post-intermission part of the play seems forced and unnecessary. Somehow the shocking ending to the first act struck me as a better and more unsettling ending for the play.

More information:
Mr. Burns has been extended through Oct. 20 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC. Performances are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 and 8 pm and Sundays at 2:30 and 7:30 pm. There’s a special Wednesday matinee on Oct.  2 at 2 pm. Tickets start at $85: 279-4200 (Noon-8 pm daily), or at the box office.

The play had its World Premiere at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (Washington, DC) in May 2013. The design team: scenic design by Neil Patel, costume design by Emily Rebholz, lighting design by Justin Townsendand sound design by Ken Travis. Choreography is by Sam Pinkleton and Music Director is Mike Brun. Mask and wig design is by Sam Hill, special effects are by Jeremy Chernick and fight director is J. David Brimmer.

Christians might also like to know:
No content notes.

Quick Hit Off-Broadway Theater Review: The Old Friends

The Old Friends
By Horton Foote
Directed by Michael Wilson
Signature Theatre

What's It All About?
The characters of Mamie Borden (Lois Smith), Albert Price (Adam LeFevre) and Julia Borden Price (Veanne Cox) from Only the Heart are revisited in the world premiere of Horton Foote's play focusing on the the dynamics of family and relationships in 1965 Harrison, TX. Sybil Borden (Hallie Foote, the playwright's daughter) and her husband, Hugo (Mamie's son) are moving back to rent her childhood home from her sister, Julia, following their hard times in South America. It's humiliating, especially when spoiled Gertrude Hayhurst Sylvester Ratliff (Betty Buckley), an old nemesis, sees Sybil -- or the jewelry the impoverished woman needs to sell, rather -- only as the object of winning a competition with Julia as the women try to outbid each other in a show of wealth. The competition extends to men too, as lushy Gertrude stakes her claim on Howard (Cotter Smith), the brother of her late husband and the manager of her ranch, whom she jealously thinks Julia likes. Julia flirts, forcing her rotund, husband Albert (he's lushy too) into fits of jealousy. But Howard would rather be around his old love, Sybil. Rejected, Gertrude throw herself at young farmhand Tom Underwood (Sean Lyons) and threatens financial ruin for Howard if he tries to leave her employ. Mamie, however, seems oblivious to the intrigue around her and happily makes plans to go live with kind, welcoming Sybil.

What are the Highlighs?
Well, it's Horton Foote. I happen to love everything written by this playwright who recently died at the age of 92 after rewriting this piece. It has his daughter, Hallie Foote, and Director Michael Wilson, two of the premiere interpreters of the playwright's work, involved. That's a lot of highlight. LeFevre also stands out at the mean-spirited, sad Albert.

What are the Lowlights?
These folks seem a bot darker than the usual family and folks we know in Harrison. They are somewhat less forgiving, with a less hopeful message. The women might not be as likable in this work, but they still are written by a writer who understands and respects them, so their stories feel real. Betty Buckley is larger than life as Gertrude, but spends a great deal of her time yelling.

More information:
The Old Friends has been extend through Oct. 13 at Signature Theatre, 480 West 42nd St., NYC. Tickets: (212) 244-7529.

 The design team includes Jeff Cowie (Scenic Design), David C. Woolard (Costume Design), Rui Rita (Lighting Design), John Gromada (Sound Design), Paul Huntley (Wig & Hair Design), Gillian Lane-Plesica (Dialect Coach), Mark Olsen (Fight Director).

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Machine

The Machine
By Mark Charman
Directed by Josie Rourke
Park Avenue Armory

What'sIt all About?
The famous man vs. machine chess mach between World Champ Garry Kasparov (Hadley Fraser) and Deep Blue, IBM's chess-playing computer in 1997. Kasparov, perhaps the best chess player in the game, starts beating champs at a very young age (Lorenzo Allchurch and Nicholas Croucher share the role of young Garry) in his native Russia thanks to the efforts of his mother, Clara (Francesca Annis), who recognizes her son's talent and trains him. He becomes the world's youngest world champ at age 22.

Meanwhile, over at  Carnegie Mellon University, Murray Campbell (Trevor White) and Feng-Hsiung Hsu (Kenneth Lee) team up to make the chess-playing computer designed by their professor, even faster, which gives their machine a chance at beating a human. They hire Joel Benjamin (Brian Sills), a grandmaster who once played the undefeated Kasparov to a draw, to help program Deep Blue.

What are the Highlights?
The match ensues amid flashbacks to tell the story, staged with clever choreography by Jonathan Watkins and an almost boxing-match look to the set (Lucy Osbourne is the designer), placed on the floor (which evokes the design of a computer chip) and surrounded by stadium style seating with video trons overhead and play-by-play by Mandy Dinkleman (Phil Nichol) and others. The performances are nicely developed and the suspense is tangible, even if you know the outcome. An ensemble supporting cast plays multiple characters from the principal characters' lives.

There's a love story thrown in too -- Hsu's relationship with Tamsin (Antonia Bernath), a cheerleader at school. His obsession with work and becoming a success in this country threatens their chance of a future together, however.

The Renaissance Revival hallway and staircase with their turn-of-the-19th-century lighting fixtures are exquisite.

What are the Lowlights?
Sound Designer Ian Dickson for Autograph Sound has a real challenge in the armory's cavernous, 55,000-square foot drill hall with an 80-foot high, barrel vaulted roof and echoes abound.

More Information:
Performances: Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 7:30 pm; Thursday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 pm; Friday, Sept.13 at 8 pm; Saturday, Sept. 14 at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday, Sept. 15 at 2 pm; Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 7:30 pm; Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 2 pm. Tickets:  $90/$45 / (212) 933-5812.

The Machine had its world premiere at the Manchester International Fringe Festival and is a co-production by Park Avenue Armory, Donmar Warehouse (where Rourke is the artistic director) and the festival. Park Avenue Armory has an exciting line-up of offerings including shows, family programs, lectures and artist talks. For tickets and information:

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

Luckinbull's Reading of Abraham Will Benefit Abingdon Theatre Company

Laurence Luckinbill, Tony Award-nominated actor, author and Abingdon Theatre Company Honorary Board Member, will read his new one-man show Abraham at 7 pm in the June Havoc Theatre, 312 West 36th St., NYC on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 7 pm. This is a reschedule from Sept. 16 because of a conflict..

In Abraham Luckinbill portrays the titular Jewish patriarch. The play is Luckinbill's unique take on Genesis, the Bible, and how religion affects people today. Abraham reflects a recovering Catholic's earnest search for something to believe in, according to press materials.

All tickets are $25 and include a wine reception following the reading. Proceeds benefit Abingdon's upcoming 21st Season and its mission to develop and produce new plays by American playwrights. Reservations: 866-811-4111;

For more about Abingdon Theatre Company and its upcoming 21st Season, visit

Starry Gala Celebrates 90 Years of Episcopal Actor's Guild

EAG's 90th Anniversary Gala Benefit

Sunday, October 6 at 7 pm

It is with great excitement that we invite all members and friends to join us in celebrating 90 years of The Episcopal Actors' Guild. This special gala benefit will include a cocktail party and performances by stars of stage and screen. And best of all is that every dollar raised by the gala will go directly to helping local performers in need. 

Comprised of stories and popular music from the past 90 years, this special show will feature performances by MARNI NIXON (The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady), TONYA PINKINS (Jelly’s Last JamCaroline, or Change),CAROL LAWRENCE (West Side Story, Kiss of the Spider Woman), SARAH RICE (Sweeney Todd), LEE ROY REAMS (42nd StreetThe Producers), JANA ROBBINS (Gypsy, Crimes of the Heart), ANNA BERGMAN (Kennedy Center’s Sondheim Celebration), WALTER WILLISON (Pippin), HEATHER MAC RAE (Hair), ELLYN MARIE MARSH (Kinky Boots), JENNIFER FOUCHÉ (Sistas the Musical), and ALICIA SABLE (GypsyAlpha House). The show is written by FRAN HANDMAN (Polka Dot Door) and directed by MARK YORK (accompanist for Jim Dale).

Musical Direction by MARK YORK

 $40.00 (Supporter), $75.00 (Patron), $150 (Sponsor), $500 (Benefactor)
CONTACT: Matt Roberson – (212) 685-2927 –

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gathering for the Broadway Blessing

Melissa Errico
By Lauren Yarger
About 200 people gathered Monday night at the Church of the Transfiguration for the 16th annual Broadway Blessing.

Melissa Errico (Amour; My Fair Lady) gave the theater reflection and Christiane Noll (Jekyll and Hyde, Chaplin; Ragtime) sang "Ordinary Miracles" by Marvin Hamlisch (lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman) accompanied by Ian Herman on piano.
Christiane Noll

Rich Swingle
Errico spoke emotionally about her heartbreak over having to pull out of a production of Stephen Sondheim's Passion at Classic Stage Company last spring when she had vocal cord surgery. She learned a lot during her time of silence (106 days of it to be exact). Actors have to recognize that they are athletes, that they can get hurt, that they need to take care of themselves, she said. An excerpt from the Olympic-themed, one-man play Beyond the Chariots about Olympian Eric Liddell, which was performed by actor/author Rich Swingle before Errico's comments, was a perfect segue, she said. (The wife of former pro tennis player Patrick McEnroe and sister-in-law of John, she knows all about athletic discipline).

During her time out of the show and in silence she focused on family, friends, spirituality (she is the product of Quaker schooling), exercise, charities and writing about her experience on a blog:
The Broadway Blessing Choir

"These things rushed in when I was down," she said. Things don't always go the way you want them to, she said and actor/friend Patrick Page (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) reminded her to use the experience and all she'd been through in creating her next role.

"I can't wait to meet her," he told her.

That echoes advise once given to her by Marian Seldes when a very young Melissa asked the legendary actress what she should do to become an actress.

Stella Almblade Project Dance
"Live!" the legendary stage actress told her.

Errico concluded by quoting Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George:

"Stop worrying where you're going. Move on.

If you can know where you're going, You've gone.

Just keep moving on."

Also appearing at the interfaith service were Stella Almblade from Project Dance, who performed "Walk on Water" choreographed by Randall Flinn to "Storm" by Lifehouse (she wowed the audience not only with the beautiful dance, but with her ability to continue uninterrupted despite some glitches in the music tape). The Broadway Blessing Choir was under the direction of Dr. Claudia Dumschat, organist and choirmaster at Church of the Transfiguration.
Rabbi Hausman  and the Right Rev. St. John
The Right Rev. Andrew St. John, rector of the church, and Rabbi Jill Hausman of the Actors' Temple participated in the service and The Rev. Mitties DeChamplain of St. Clement's Episcopal Church gave the blessing.
Maj. Carl Ruthberg and Retta Blaney
Hosted in recent years at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Blessing moved this year to The Little Church Around the Corner, Transfiguration's nickname, home of the Episcopal Actors' Guild which co-hosted the event and a reception which followed. The Broadway Blessing is founded and directed by Retta Blaney. She writes about theater and religion on her blog Upon the Sacred Stage and is the author of Working on the Inside:  The Spiritual Life Through the Eyes of Actors.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Book Review: Backstage Pass to Broadway by Susan L. Schulman

A Fascinating Tour Behind the Scenes of the Great White Way
By Lauren Yarger
When I heard that Susan L. Schulman had written "Backstage Pass to Broadway: True Tales from a Theatre Press Agent" (Heliotrope, September, 2013), a memoir of her decades behind the scenes on Broadway, I immediately requested a copy and put it at the top of my reading pile. Who better than this insider to give us a tour of the goings on and celebrity tidbits that make Broadway one of the most exciting places to be?

I started smiling at the very opening of the book, designed to look like the credits in a Playbill:
By Susan L. Schulman
(in alphabetical order)
Don Adams - Jodi Benson - Len Cariou - Kathleen Chalfant 
Sir John Clements - Alexander H. Cohen - Kathryn Crosby
Wayne Cilento - Dorothy Collins - Bill Cosby
Merle Debuskey - Hector Elizondo - Bonnie Franklin
Penny Fuller - Julie Garfield - Gloria Gifford
Carlin Glynn - Larry Hagman - James Hammerstein - Julie Harris
Robert Joffrey - Kevin Kline - The Loud Family - Shelby Lyman
Natalie Lloyd - Peter Masterson - Andrea McArdle
Donna McKechnie - Roberta Maxwell - Jessica Molaskey
Eleanor Parker - John Pizzarelli - Otto Preminger - Ann Reinking
Marian Seldes - Alexis Smith - Jeffrey Tambor - Trish Van Devere
Arnold Wesker - Margaret Whiting - Edward Villella
Scott Wise - Karen Ziemba - and many others
What follows is a fascinating trip through Shubert Alley and anywhere else theater was being made since Schulman was there for it all. A native New Yorker who grew up loving the theater and waiting at stage doors to thank stars for the impact they had on her life, she began as a press agent with the Bill Doll Agency A typical day's work might have included pitching story ideas to Ed Sullivan or fielding interview requests from Barbara Walters while winning the confidence of an insecure Lauren Bacall trying to reinvent herself as a Broadway musical star in Applause in 1969 after her Hollywood career ebbed.

One day Schulman is  lending her reading glasses to George C. Scott. The next, she's dancing with Bob Fosse. She had me, though, with her description of watching Yul Brynner perform "Shall We Dance" from The King and I  at the Tony Awards. The description is written with a passionate love for theatermaking at its best. Did I mention that this book is simply fascinating?

There is plenty of dirty laundry hanging in the Broadway dressing room and Schulman doesn't hide it. In true journalistic fashion, she tells the story from her perspective (this is a memoir, of course) but let's us come to our own conclusions about people who were less than pleasant to deal with (there are no "catty" cheap shots here) . I have a new perspective on Leslie Ann Warren, who comes off as less than Cinderella-like, shall we say, in her dealings with cast and crew on the set of the long-ago forgotten show Dream. (Particularly funny are Schulman's attempts to shield the show from columnist Michael Riedel's scathing write-ups about the chaos and low morale on the set).

And then there are her dealings with the legendary producer David Merrick. I won't give away spoilers, but will just say, it wasn't pretty.

"I am honored to join the long list of distinguished theatre professionals to be fired by David Merrick." In "Backstage Pass," she speculates that she is the only person to win a legal judgment against Merrick and actually collect the money.

In addition to the tales from backstage, Schulman choreographs helpful information about the art of press management and offers wisdom for how actors can better relate to each other and to the people involved in trying to make their show a success.

Schulman will sign copies of the book Monday, Sept. 16 at The Drama Book Shop, 250 West 40th St. following a 5 pm question-and-answer session with theater journalist Peter Filichia. To purchase the book online, visit In New York City, it also is available at Theatre Circle, 268 West 44th St.

For more information visit

(A copy was provided by the publisher).

Friday, September 6, 2013

Broadway Blessing Will Be Celebrated Monday

Melissa Errico 
Popular Broadway singer/actress Melissa Errico will deliver the annual theatre reflection at this year’s Broadway Blessing, the free interfaith service of song, dance and story that brings the theater community together every September to ask God’s blessing on the new season. Tony nominee Christiane Noll who will sing “Ordinary Miracles.” 

Also performing will be actor Rich Swingle, Project Dance and the Broadway Blessing Choir, under the direction of Claudia Dumschat, The Little Church’s music director.

The 16th annual Broadway Blessing, directed by theater journalist Retta Blaney, (, will be ceebrated at 7 pm Monday, Sept. 9 at The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, commonly known as The Little Church Around the Corner, on 29th Street between Fifth and Madison.

For a terrific writeup about the event, see the article by colleague Leonard Jacobs on the Clyde Fitch Report. Join me there!
-- Lauren Yarger

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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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