Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Take a Stroll on Super Bowl Boulevard

Broadway welcomes Super Bowl attendees to Times Square with a map that clearly shows the location of Super Bowl Boulevard and informs that all cross streets are open with easy access to Broadway theatres. During Super Bowl week, Times Square will be busy, but accessible. As per the attached map, the cross streets will be open as usual to allow paths to Broadway theaters.

The Super Bowl Fan’s Guide to Broadway on provides special performance schedules and information during Super Bowl week.

Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The Broadway League, says, “We are happy to welcome visitors from around the world to Broadway and Times Square! Our Broadway Plazas are filled with Super Bowl fun and activities, but we want to clarify and reiterate that all cross streets are open as usual, providing easy access to the theatres.  To help provide information for our theatregoers, Broadway – the theatre district – is open, and we encourage our theatregoers to arrive early to enjoy the live performances taking place all over Times Square while enjoying the excitement of Super Bowl Boulevard.”

How to score tickets: Go to  to get tickets at all price points from official ticketing sources.

Broadway Week 2-for-1 promotion will be available from January 21 through February 6, 2014; tickets to participating shows are on sale at

Spectators will be treated to special Broadway performances at numerous NFL sponsor and host committee events around town during the week. PepsiCo will host Super Bowl Celebration in New York City’s Winter Village at Bryant Park,including Broadway performances from PippinNewsiesMotown, RockyMamma Mia!, and Chicago, appearing on stage throughout the day.

Broadway + Super Bowl VIP hospitality programs are available. Contact: or call at 866-442-9878(toll-free) / 646-274-0876 (NY). 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

TOP PICK -- Broadway Theater Review: Beautiful, The Carole King Musical

Carole King's Story Made Beautiful with a Beautifully Written Book
By Lauren Yarger
In the land of jukebox musicals, one thing makes the difference between a good one (Jersey Boys, for example) and a not-so-good one: the book.

On stage, there really needs to be a plausible story to link favorite songs by a particular artist, or you might as well just call it a revue, play the songs and get off stage. When plot is contrived to make an excuse to sing the next song, we see Broadway at its worst.

This is not the case for the Carole King Musical Beautiful with an excellent book by Douglas McGrath which just opened on Broadway. In fact the book is so good, I'm going to take a leap here, and say I think it's the best book of a musical that tries to theatrically bring pop hits to the stage that I ever have seen. In this case, the songs are those written by King and Gerry Goffin as well as Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

So skilfull is the plot and telling of the life of music legend Carole King (sensitively and skillfully portrayed by Jessie Mueller), that if I hadn't known better, I would have thought that the songs had been written specifically for this musical. There are no hokey build ups, humorous puns or other gimmicks to get to a song. They simply tell the story, or express how the character feels. 

King's story is personal, moving and surprising. At least it was for me. I became aware of the singer during the "Tapestry" album era in the 1970s, but had absolutely no idea that she had written so many rock and roll classics. As tunes like "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?," "Up on the Roof," and the "Locomotion" were performed (with choreography by Josh Prince) I discovered King had written a lot of songs I knew before I knew who she was.

This autobiographical story follows the composer from age 16, when she hopes to be a song writer and tries to sell her tunes to music promoter "Donnie" Kirschner (an engaging Jeb Brown). When she meets fellow college student and lyric writer Gerry Goffin (Jake Epstein) a professional and personal partnership takes off. They marry young and have a child, so Gerry spends most of his time working a day job to earn enough to move the little family into their own place and out of the home of Carole's mother (Liz Larsen) who never has been supportive of her daughter's song-writing ambitions.

"Girls don't write music; they teach is," she tells Carole, who went on to write dozens of chart hits. 

Carole and Gerry struggle through his depression issues and infidelity. They find friendship with the rival songwriting team of Barry Mann (Jarrod Spector) and Cynthia Weil (Anika Larsen) who see their professional relationship deepen into a personal one. Their tunes, like "He Sure is the Boy I Love," You've Lost That Loving Feeling," "Walking in the Rain," and "We Gotta  Get Out of This Place" fill out the musical's score.

Director Marc Bruni's vision combines the story with visual elements (there's a fabulous staging of a Broadway Melody near the top of the show) to make the production entertaining as well as a piece of theater. Alejo Vietti designs costumes for the multiple characters and recreates some of the fashions from the era.

That said, there are a couple of areas that could use improvement, notably the musical direction. No one holds the title and it's obvious. Steve Sidwell does the orchestrations and vocal and music arrangements and Jason Howland supervises the music and additional arrangements. Arrangements for group numbers by The Drifters (E. Clayton Cornelious, Douglas Lyons, Alexander J. Robinson and James Harkness) and The Shirelles (Ashley Blanchet, Alysha Deslorieux, Carly Hughes) result in voices not being mixed well. To make matters worse, the sound (Brian Ronan, design) was not mixed well either. Some signers are loud, other we can't hear. Leads are drowned out by backups, etc. There also were loud pops and feedback the night I attended.

Jessie Mueller, Anika Larson, Jarrod Spector, and Jake Epstein in Beautiful - The Carole King Musical on Broadway at the Stephen Sondheim Theater (c) Joan Marcus

Beautiful plays at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, 124 West 43rd St., NYC.

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

Broadway Theater Review: Machinal

The Setting of the Times Prompts Murder; The Setting for the Play Prompts Applause
By Lauren Yarger
Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Sophie Treadwell's Machinal is another that begs the  question "why this one?" in the midst of so many other great plays out there just waiting for a production, but Designer Es Devlin's awesome sets prove reason enough to see this dark piece.

The action starts with the sounds of a subway car, the riders of which amazingly appear. Trapped among them, a Young Woman (Rebecca Hall) searches for escape on her way to her job as a stenographer at the George H. Jones Company. Her feelings of being trapped without hope escape intensify as she contemplates marriage to her uber-boring boss (Michael Cumpsty) whose "fat hands" repulse her.

But it's 1922 in New York City. What other options are available to a woman? Her mother (Susanne Bertish) offers an example of a woman who still yearns for a man who wasn't exactly a prize and who left his family years ago. It's all about marriage.

The Young Woman (whose name we eventually discover is Helen) goes through with the wedding, but hates the marriage and the subsequent motherhood it brings.

"Somebody!" she wails from within the deepest yearning of her soul.

Looking for escape, Helen joins a good-time-loving friend (an entertaining Ashley Bell) for drinks at a bar (the terrific set revolves to become the various places in Helen's story) and meets a Lover (Morgan Spector). The relationship, though offering a glimpse into what happiness might look like, is not sustainable and fuels her desire to be free of her obnoxious husband.

I will spare you more plot details except to say that the story is loosely  inspired by the real life murder trial and execution of Ruth Snyder and it's a bummer. Hall, who is known for her work on the London stage and films like "Iron Man 3," is making her Broadway debut. While she gives a solid performance and amazes with the memorization skills needed to utter long monologues of broken thoughts and single words that mean so much more, the character isn't likable and director Lyndsey Turner doesn't try to make her sympathetic.

Crumpsty's portrayal of the officious husband whose major goal in life is to  buy a Swiss watch in Switzerland and who, at 10:46 pm, refuses to let his wife go to bed because it is not bedtime (exactly 11) is skilled and gives us some understanding of why an ordinary woman might be compelled to kill him in violent fashion, however. (That non-sentence dialogue as well as a title that has most people googling it to find out the definition is don't make the play likable either).

The ensemble includes Damian Baldet, Jeff Biehl, Arnie Burton, Ryan Dinning, Scott Drummond, Dion Graham, Edward James Hyland, Jason Loughlin, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Daniel Pearce, Henny Russell, Karen Walsh and Michael Warner.

Well worth the trip just for those amazing sets, though. They sort of become a character in themselves and we find ourselves waiting for the next change just to see what brilliance came to Devlin's mind next.

Machinal plays at American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St., NYC through March 2.

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

Monday, January 6, 2014

20at20 is Back

The Off Broadway Alliance will again sponsor 20at20, the bi-annual celebration of Off Broadway. The popular promotion, which begins Jan. 21 and continues through Feb. 9, makes $20 tickets available for 48 Off Broadway plays and musicals 20 minutes prior to curtain. 

 Now in its 8th year, 20at20 has become one of New York’s most eagerly-anticipated promotions for budget-conscious theatre-goers.

All 20at20 ticket sales are cash only. For a complete list of participating shows and venues see below or visit

If you see seven Off Broadway shows during the OBA’s 20at20 promotion, you can enjoy a FREE DINNER. See any seven of the participating 20at20 shows between Jan. 21and Feb. 9 and receive a voucher for free dinner for two at an area restaurant. Just mail your original ticket stubs (no photocopies accepted) for seven 20at20 shows to: 20at20 Dinner Special, 555 Eighth Avenue, Suite 905, NY, NY 10018. All entries must be postmarked by Feb. 9 to be valid. Please include your name, phone, email, and mailing address.

20at20 is presented by The Off Broadway Alliance (OBA), a non-profit corporation organized by theater professionals dedicated to supporting, promoting and encouraging the production of Off Broadway theater and to making live theater increasingly accessible to new and diverse audiences. The Alliance holds monthly meetings and membership is open to everyone in the Off-Broadway theater community. Among its initiatives, The Off Broadway Alliance sponsors a free Seminar Series focusing on the culture, business and history of Off Broadway featuring major players from the Off Broadway scene. And the OBA created the Off Broadway Economic Impact Report, which details Off Broadway's over $500 million annual impact on the economy of the City of New York."

20at20 is presented with additional support from Playbill,,,,,

For complete info on 20at20 go to or address any question via email

Off Broadway shows participating in 20at20: 

A Man’s A Man                                                                                                                 
Classic Stage Company                                                                                   

Accidental Pervert                                                                                                            
13th Street Repertory Theater                                                                                                                                                                    

Almost, Maine
Transport Group Theatre Company - The Gym at Judson

Angelina Ballerina the Musical                                                                                      

Avenue Q                                                                                                                            
New World Stages-Stage 3
Bayside! The Musical!                                                                                                       
Theatre 80                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Bedlam’s Hamlet                                                                                            
The Lynn Redgrave Theater                                                                                                                                                         

Bedlam’s Saint Joan                                                                                      
The Lynn Redgrave Theater                                                                                                                                                         

Bikeman-The 9/11 Theatrical Experience
Tribeca Performing Arts Center

Bill W. and Dr. Bob                                                                                          
Soho Playhouse                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Black Angels Over Tuskegee                                                                              
Actors Temple Theatre                                                                                                     

Breakfast With Mugabe
The Lion Theatre at Theatre Row

Cougar the MusicalSt. Luke’s

St. Luke’s Theatre

Fancy Nancy the MusicalMcGinn/Cazale

Gazillion Bubble ShowNew World Stages-Stage 2                                                                                       

Handle With CareWestside Theatre Downstairs         

How To Be A New YorkerThe Screening Room Theatre at Planet Hollywood Times

New World Stages-Stage 4

IntimacyThe Acorn Theatre at Theatre 

It’s Just Sex
Actor’s Temple Theatre
Juno and the Paycock                                                                                                          
Irish Repertory Theatre                                                                                                  

La Soiree
Union Square Theatre                                                                                                    

London Wall                                                                                                     
Mint Theater Company                                                                                                                                                                            

Red Bull Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theater                                                         
Murder for Two
New World Stages-Stage 5                                                                                          
My Big Gay Italian Funeral                                                                                 
St. Luke’s Theatre                                                                                             
My Big Gay Italian Wedding                                                                                                  
St. Luke’s Theatre                                                                                                                                                                                                         
Naked Boys Singing                                                                                                                 
The Kirk Theatre at Theatre Row                                                                                              
NEWsical The Musical                                                                                                               
The Kirk Theatre at Theatre Row                                                                                                           
Perfect Crime                                                                                                                              
Snapple Theater Center                                                                                                           
Piggy Nation: The MusicalSnapple Theater Center

Riding the Midnight Express                                                                             
St. Luke’s Theatre

Row After RowCity Center Stage

Sam Eaton’s The Quantum Eye- Mentalism and Magic ShowTheatre
Sex, Relationships, and Sometimes Love
Snapple Theater Center/ Jerry Orbach Theater

Sex Tips For Straight Women From A Gay ManThe 777 Theatre

Showgirls! The Musical!Theatre 80                                                                                                                            

SistasSt. Luke’s

The Amazing Max and the Box Of Interesting ThingsManhattan Movement and Arts Center (MMAC)

The Berenstain Bears LIVE!Manhattan Movement and Arts Center (MMAC)

The Chocolate Show! A Tasty New Musical
47th Street Theatre

The Clearing
Theatre at St. Clements

The Fantasticks
Snapple Theater Center

The Greatest Pirate Story Never Told!
Snapple Theater Center/Jerry Orbach Theater

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
St. Luke’s Theatre

The Tribute Artist
Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters

The Wonderful Wizard of Song: The Music of Harold Arlen

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Broadway Theater Review: Macbeth (Lincoln Center)

Ethan Hawke. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
Shakespeare Sleeps No More on Broadway
By Lauren Yarger
Gosh, there's some guy named Will making quite a splash on Broadway this season. We have seen productions of Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, Richard III and that's before a few Off-Broadway offerings in 2013. The latest of the Bard's plays to beat the Broadway boards is Macbeth starring Ethan Hawke.

Don't get me wrong. I am a big Shakespeare fan. I have read and seen a lot of his works and as long as Romeo isn't wearing red sneakers (as in one Yale production....), I am there. When producers feel the need to bring the off-produced plays to Broadway, however, I have to wonder why. What is so special about this particular interpretation that is worth taking up theater space in New York and charging people $135 for a seat -- especially when we have the Public Theater's excellent (and free) Shakespeare in the Park presentations every summer?

Most of the time, the answer to those questions is pretty unsatisfying. Romeo and Juliet starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad was a big disappointment (hence you will not be able to find it still playing....). Twelfth Night and Richard III have Mark Rylance as the star and that makes any play worth seeing (get over to the Belasco before, forsooth, they close in mid February). The Old Globe productions, presented by all male casts, as was the custom in Shakespeare's day, even give us a chance to see the actors on stage while they get into costume. Every high school English class should make a field trip. As productions of the plays, however, they aren't the best I have seen.

So now we have another Macbeth at Lincoln Center with Hawke reuniting with Director Jack O'Brien (Coast of Utopia, Henry IV) to play the nobleman who soon finds how hard it is to live with the consequences of choosing evil (even though Broadway had a mostly panned, one-man Macbeth just last season starring Alan Cumming).

Anne-Marie Duff makes her Broadway debut as a compelling Lady Macbeth, fully consumed by greed as she convinces her husband to murder King Duncan (Richard Easton) as well as the wife (Bianca Amato) and children of Macduff (Daniel Sunjata) to secure his place on the throne of Scotland. Brian D'Arcy James lends is a much needed bright spot as Macbeth's friend, Banquo. (If you don't know the rest of the story, maybe it's time to hit the classics -- or just break out the Sparks notes).

This stark Scotland (minimal set design by Scott Pask) is set somewhere in the past (Costume Designer Catherine Zuber outfits the actors in clothes that evoke the past with modern lines) on a black stage etched with pentagrams and other letters and symbols.

For some reason, the three witches are played by men (Malcolm Gets, John Glover and Byron Jennings). Why? Who knows? The trend to have female roles played by men for no apparent reason continues. My voice often seems the lone raised against it. In fact, O'Brien's production is heavy on the males anyway. At the party for Duncan, the attendees are all males....

But the witches (augmented by other swamp-like, demons) are supposed to be women -- at least one has prosthesis breasts in her swamp-like outfit and very deliberately walks around the thrust of the stage so the audience can see them hanging along with chest hair (this brought some laughter the day I attended. So did Banquo's question:  "What are these so wither'd and so wild in their attire, that look not like the inhabitants o' the earth, and yet are on't?")

Why not just use women who actually have breasts? But I digress.... in fairness, Hecate (Francesca Faridany), queen of the witches gets some stage time and floats between being a witch and filling the role of a servant. Though why isn't clear. Perhaps I just got lost in the very neat fog and storm effects (Japhy Weideman, lighting design; Mark Bennett, original music and sound).

Hawke is pretty disappointing, spouting off lines routinely and without much emotion. We're not sure what feisty Lady Macbeth sees in him. Also very disappointing is the Birnam Wood scene (OK, the scene where the trees appear to be moving toward Macbeth's castle, as predicted by the witches, is my favorite in the play and I haven't seen too many convincing depictions). A bunch of guys shaking fake tree branches doesn't do it, even with added projections (Jeff Sugg).

My conclusion after two hours and 45 minutes: "Gee, I wish I could see Hartford Stage's really vibrant production again."

This one boils and toils at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, 150 West 65th St., through Jan. 12.

Christians might also like to know:
-- No content notes, but those demons and the etchings are a bit on the dark side.

Gracewell Prodiuctions

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

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

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

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

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2024 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women or people of a certain race are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide, or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

All Posts on this Blog