Monday, June 23, 2014

Much Ado About Nothing -- Shakespeare in the Park

The cast of The Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park production of Much Ado About Nothing. Photo: Joan Marcus
Much Ado About Nothing
By William Shakespeare
The Public Theater
Shakespeare in the Park


Lily Rabe…. Beatrice
Hamish Linklater….Benedick
Steel Burkhardt…. Balthasar
Austin Durant…. Friar Francis, Sexton
John Glover…. Leonato
David Manis…. Antonio, Verges
Kathryn Meisle…. Ursula
Ismenia Mendes….Hero
Brian Stokes Mitchell…. Don Pedro
John Pankow…. Dogberry
Pedro Pascal…. Don John
Eric Sheffer Stevens…. Borachio
Zoë Winters…. Margaret
Caudiio.... Jack Cutmore-Scott
Matt Bittner, Alex Breaux, Paco Lozano, and Matthew Russell…. Ensemble

Enjoying the Stars Under the Stars at Central Park
By Lauren Yarger
Lily Rabe is Beatrice and Hamish Linklater is Benedick in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, thei first of two free offerings by the Public Theater at Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre this summer.

Other big names joining the cast are John Glover and Brian Stokes Mitchell

I hate re-telling Shakespeare plots in reviews since you either are familiar with them already, or will need Spark notes to follow if you’re not, so let this brief synopsis suffice (there’s also one in the program should you venture to the park):

It’s turn-of-the-century Sicily where Don Pedro, prince of Aragon, (Mitchell) visits his friend and governor of Messina, Leonato (Glover) along with two of his offers, Benedick and Claudio (Jack Cutmore-Scott). Claudio falls in love with Leonato’s daughter, Hero (Ismenia Mendes) while Bendick falls into scathing banter with long-time thorn-in-his-side Beatrice, Leonato’s insulting, quit witted niece.  

While acquaintances scheme to make Beatrice and Benedick fall in love, Hero and Claudio’s marriage is threatened when Don Pedro’s treacherous illegitimate brother, Don John (Pedro Pascal), plots to besmirch Hero’s reputation. Betrayal, false death and a helpful Friar (Austiin Durant) -- not unlike the plot of Romeo and Juliet -- ensue, but with more comedic results as everyone makes a big ado about nothing.

This production, directed by Jack O’Brien, who plays up bits for minor characters for humor, is light and fun and takes place on an imposing set designed by John Lee Beatty including sundrenched stucco balconies, vines, vegetables and palm trees blending in with the greenery of Central Park. Jane Greenwood designs the simple costumes that place the production around late 19th century. A four-man band directed by Nathan Koce serenades with accordion, horns, strings and woodwinds as well as vocal solos.

Rabe is entertaining as the feisty Beatrice. While some of the dialogue sounds stilted and doesn’t flow easily for some of the other performers, sitting under the stars listening to the Bard isn’t a bad way to spend three hours in New York (except for those annoying helicopters that kept flying overhead).

Tickets to the Shakespeare in the Park shows are free. Virtual ticketing is done by lottery online at on the day of the show. You also can stand in line at the Delacorte the day of the show beginning at noon (but the line starts forming way before that). Supporter tickets also are available. For more information, call (212) 539-8734.

The next production will be King Lear, starring John Lithgow, beginning July 22.

FREE TICKETS to The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park are distributed, two per person (age 
5+), at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park beginning at noon on the day of each performance. 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.

VIRTUAL TICKETING LOTTERY FOR FREE TICKETS will be available at on the day of the show.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Get Up Close with Broadway Theaters, History on Walking Tour

By Lauren Yarger
Summer is almost here and I know many of you are headed into the Big Apple. Every year I get tons of emails from readers asking which shows they should see while they are in New York, where to stay, where to eat and what to do besides see good theater.

One option that combines theater with seeing the sites in the Broadway Up Close Walking Tours. 

I took the The ACT One Tour with affable and knowledgeable owner Tim Dolan, right. Armed with a tablet for photos to enhance the tour, we began at the Nederlander Theatre on 41st street between 7th and 8th avenues and visited a number of theaters between there and 45th Street in Times Square in about two hours (additional tours -- Act Two -- also are available. You can't possibly see all 42 theaters in one trip!).The tour not only gives you a chance to stop at some of New York's beautiful Broadway theaters (we even stopped inside the former Empire Theatre, left, now the lobby of a multi-plex movie theater) and saw photos Tim (an actor when he's not giving tours) took when he was granted a rare visit to the supposedly haunted apartment atop the Belasco Theatre (below, right, my personal favorite -- the Tiffany stained glass and wood trim in there are gorgeous.)

We learned amazing history about rooftop parties on competing theaters on 42nd Street (did you know there once was a farm up there?) The tours are scheduled to last two hours and 45 minutes and cover a half mile of terrain without a break or a chance to sit, so comfortable shoes are recommended.

Broadway Up Close Walking Tours doesn't operate with a set schedule. They customize tours based on  travel needs. Tours are $30 per person.  Private tours and group rates (15 or more)  are available upon request.Contact; 917-841-0187;

The Lyric, formerly Foxwood.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

TOP PICK Off-Broadway Theater Review: Fly By Night

Adam Chanler-Berat and Patti Murin. Photo: Joan Marcus
Fly By Night
Conceived By Kim RosenstockWritten By Will Connolly, Michael Mitnick and Kim Rosenstock
Directed By Carolyn CantorTo Feature

A Stellar Message We Hope Rides on Every Broadway Shooting Star
By Lauren Yarger
In the span of a year between Nov. 9, 1964 and 1965, a lot happens: people fall in and out of love, leave home and return, find jobs and quit, live and die and there are moments of blessings and of curse before a blackout sinks the northeast into darkness.

In the span of the two and a half hours it takes to tell the stories in Fly By Night, getting its New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons, I fell in love with Kim Rosenstock, who conceived the musical, and Will Connolly and Michael Mitnick who wrote it with her.

Rarely are we treated to such a sharply written, enjoyable journey on the stage. It's exciting, like a shooting star on which we wish all Broadway musicals would catch a ride.

And stars do figure prominently in this tale of two sisters, a father and son, a playwright and a shopkeeper all trying to find their way in the dark.

Beautiful Daphne wants to be a star -- on Broadway. She packs her bags, bids her mother and small-town South Dakota goodbye, and heads out the door. In tow is her sister, Miriam (Allison Case), who really is quite content being a waitress in the small town where she can remember nights with her father gazing at the stars. She's a star too -- but because she is made up of particles from the supernova that created everything.

Daphne has a bad feeling about being in New York. It grows stronger when she encounters a gypsy fortune teller (played by Henry Stram, who as narrator, jumps in to play any characters needed to help tell the story) She predicts three signs and a great love for Miriam, followed by tragedy.

Meanwhile, Daphne finds love with Harold McClam (Adam Chanler-Berat) , who hopes to become a musician -- once he learns to play more than one note on the guitar that was his mother's. Her death has caused a chasm between him and his father, (Peter Friedman), who loses himself in her memory by carrying around a recording of La traviata that once meant something to him and his wife. 

Harold does write a song about being a turtle (backed up by Foe Destroyer, a five-member band directed by Vadim Feichtner), but spends most of his time at his day job, making sandwiches for boss Crabble (Michael McCormick), who's got "hum drum" down to a science.

Dahpne's dreams of leaving her mundane job as a coat salesperson and becoming a star just might come true when Joey Storms (Bryce Ryness) falls for her and casts his muse as the lead in the new play he is writing and producing. Constant rehearsals keep her away from Harold, however, and he finds himself gravitating toward a star-crossed relationship with Miriam.

Carolyn Cantor brilliantly directs a luminous cast. The play bursts with creativity as time shifts between past and present (quite effectively). The dialogue and lyrics offer insight and soothing rhythms. The narrator tells us:

Long wide stretches of the ordinary
Spinning circles as this life rolls on 
From the cradle to the cemetery 
Just get through until tomorrow’s dawn 
Then, a burst—a soaring peak, a sudden drop 
Best, or worst—don’t let it end, please make it stop 
Instants, moments— 
One flickering flame of light—

Simply beautiful. Then, at the other end of the spectrum (blunt and crass), his oft-repeated mantra of sandwich making --  "Mayonnaise meat cheese ‘n lettuce" -- creates a Crapple who is simultaneously minstrel, prophetic, humorous and sad. His duet with Harold about the sandwich-making routine is a hoot.

Cantor also assembles an excellent creative team to help propel the story with a lesson about how we all are connected and about how what we do on earth isn't nearly as important as with whom we do it. We love these characters and root for them. At intermission, audience members were discussing what they hoped would happen and humming the tunes. 

A scene between Harold and his father, beautifully acted, is one of them most touching I have witnessed on stage.

The '6os period costumes (designed by Paloma Young) keep us anchored in time without making the show about the era and Lighting Designer Jeff Croiter, turns steps into bedrooms and the entire theater into a galactic wonder.

And if that's not enough, the simple tunes give characters a chance to shine (Sound Designers Ken Travis and Alex Hawthorn create the right mix) with non-intrusive choreography by Sam Pinkleton.

This one is stellar -- so much so that at the final curtain, I thought about buying a ticket to go back and see it again. It gets Top Pick Status.

Fly By Night plays through June 29 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC. Performances are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7, Thursdays and Fridays at 8, Saturdays at 2:30 and 8 pm and Sundays at 2:30 and 7:30 pm. Single tickets are $80-95;; 212-279-4200 (noon-8 pm daily); Box Office, 416 West 42nd St. (between 9th and 10th avenues).

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

Monday, June 16, 2014

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Ionesco's The Killer

Michael Shannon. Photo: Gerry Goodstein
The Killer
By Eugène Ionesco
Newly Translated: Michael Feingold
Featuring Kristine Nielsen, Michael Shannon, Paul Sparks, and Robert Stanton in a company of 20 actors.
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
Polonsky Shakespeare Center, Brooklyn

A Puzzling Play, Where Humor Helps Put Together the Pieces
By Lauren Yarger
So what does a director who wins the Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle awards do in his spare time?

If you are Darko Tresnjak, Hartford Stage’s artistic director who just took all of those top directing honors for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, you direct a rarely seen Off-Broadway revival of Eugène Ionesco’s dark, absurdist comedy The Killer, getting a limited run as the season closer at Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn.

The Killer was last produced Off-Broadway in 1960, perhaps because it’s not an easy work to produce (Ionesco’s Exit the King saw success on Broadway in 2009 when Geoffrey rush took home Tony for best actor in a play and seems much lighter and funnier to me.) When I ran into Tresnjak at a Drama Desk reception held during the rehearsal period for the play, he admitted that he was finding the process very difficult. The Killer was appropriately named, he joked.

Apparently he solved the puzzle of how to make this play work, because the production, starring Michael Shannon (“Revolutionary Road,” “Boardwalk Empire”), Kristine Nielsen (Vanya, Sonia, Masha & Spike, Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson) Paul Sparks (also “Boardwalk Empire) and Robert Stanton (a veteran stage actor whom you might know as the dad in the “Dennis the Menace” film), has been packing them in over at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn and whether or not the audience “gets it,” they’re definitely talking about it.

At the center of The Killer is Berenger (Shannon), Ionesco’s “every man” (the character who also gets the starring role in different portrayals in Exit the King, A Stroll in the Air and perhaps the best known of all of Ionesco’s plays, The Rhinoceros.)

Here, a downtrodden Berenger takes the wrong bus one day and discovers a city of light – a virtual paradise—where everything is clean, the gardens are lush and the sun shines perpetually. Lighting Designer Matthew Richards shines as he adds to the storytelling with effects that cast shadow on the less-than-Eden-like features of the paradise, evidenced by sewer grates and a creepy lagoon that appears on the dark set with rotating circles designed by Suttirat Larlarb (who also designs the costumes).

The Architect of this place (a comically adroit Robert Stanton) looks a bit familiar. He omnisciently listens to Berenger while chatting on his cell phone (the updated translation of Ionesco’s play is by Michael Feingold) and running a bureaucratic office with the assistance of Dennie (Stephanie Bunch), with whom Berenger falls in love at first sight.

There is a problem in this paradise – there is a killer on the loose and he is drowning people in that lagoon after showing them a picture of a colonel. Berenger is aided in his search for the killer by a mysterious (and quite funny) friend, Edward (Paul Sparks)

Highlight of the second act (there are three in all for just over three hours at the theater) is the appearance of a whacky (but dark, remember, this is Ionesco) concierge played by Kristine Nielsen, a favorite stage actress of mine who can make pushing a broom around seem like the funniest thing you’ve ever seen. She doesn’t disappoint here. She also plays Ma Piper, a totalitarian dictator dominating a political climate where protestors are rounded up by the police.

Shannon also gets a shining moment in a long monologue climax where he confronts the killer and tries to convince him that his actions are wrong.

Now, if you are looking for some answers about what this play is all about, let me direct you to Spark Notes. This type of theater is called absurd for a reason. Besides telling you there is a metaphor here for Original Sin and the fall of man as well as some references to the Occupy movement thanks to Feingold’s modernization of the text, there is a lot open to interpretation.

Tresnjak doesn’t try to answer the questions about life and death and purpose that are raised here, but instead focuses on the humor that helps us to ponder them. Good choice. Humor provides a way to fit the pieces of the puzzle together and if you run down to New York to see this limited run before it ends on June 29, you just might see the jigsaw come into focus.

The Killer runs through June 29 at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Place, between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street, Brooklyn. Performances: Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 7:30 with matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 2.

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

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Some of the Best Broadway Dads; What Names Would You Add to the Top Ten?

By Lauren Yarger
In honor of Father's Day, and my own father who introduced me to Broadway, here are a few of the best dad characters from Broadway shows. What name would you add to fill out this Top-Ten list?

Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean in the current Broadway Revival of Les Miserables. Photo: Matthew Murphy

  1. Jean Valjean from Les Mis: Jean adopts Cosette when her mother, Fantine, dies, freeing her from the tyranny of the innkeepers who were charged with her care. He loves her as his own and risks his life to save Marius when he discovers that the young boy has won Cosette's heart.
  2. Charlie Anderson from Shenandoah. Widower Charlie raises a brood of boys and a daughter and tries to keep his family out of the Civil War. His strong patriarchal presence is tempered with softness as he comforts his daughter, worried about her new husband's fate as a soldier and shoulder's a parent's worst nightmare when his youngest son is taken prisoner.
  3. Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof. Putting his children first, no matter how difficult, he supports his daughters' desires to marry for love rather than tradition. He also conveys love for his wife.
  4. Oliver Warbucks from Annie. The guy's got millions and FDR in his pocket and he is willing to share it all with a little orphan girl and her dog.
  5. The Founding Fathers of the musical 1776. The Sherman Edwards musical still gives goosebumps when the roll is called at the end to form a new nation.
  6. Father, from Life with Father, still Broadway's longest running play. The banker who runs his home like a drill sergeant masks a deep love for his wife and children.
  7. Jack Crystal, the father of comedian Billy Crystal, immortalized in memories that form the one-man play 700 Sundays. His busy, jazz promoter dad always made time for his family. You can catch this show on HBO
  8. Guy's father in Once. Moved by his son's musical talent, Da gives him the financial backing needed to pursue a career in the USA.
    Emily Weiner as Tiny Tim and Robert Hannon Davis as Bob Cratchit in Hartford Stage's A Christmas Carol. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
  9. Bob Cratchit from A Christmas Carol. Whether we see this is play or musical form, Bob always takes Top Father honors as he puts up with Scrooge to provide for his struggling family. He never holds back showing his affection for his wife and children, especially when hoisting Tiny Tim up on his capable shoulders.
  10. Which dad would you put in this slot?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Solo Production of Mark's Gospel Runs Through This Weekend

 George Drance. Photo courtesy of Magis Theatre Company

La Mama E.T.C., in association with the Magis Theatre Company’s Logos Project, presents *mark, performed by George Drance, directed by Luann Jennings, with original music composed by internationally acclaimed, award winning composer Elizabeth Swados.

*mark will be presented at La Mama’s First Floor Theatre, 74A East 4th Street (between Bowery & Second Avenue) in Manhattan through Sunday, June 15. Performances are Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:30 pm. 

The Gospel of Mark, the oldest of the four gospels, had an early tradition of being performed aloud from start to finish. Written during Nero’s brutal persecution of the followers of “the Way,” the Gospel of Mark was recited in its entirety, giving courage to this community of quiet rebels whose radical compassion threatened the Empire’s status quo. Today it is rare for an audience to hear this gospel performed in its totality, or to experience it with the immediacy of that dangerous period of oppression. In his contemporary solo performance, Magis Theatre Company’s Artistic Director George Drance examines the message of commitment and love through the eyes of a street artist, using drawings to illustrate and illuminate the text.

Magis Theatre Company, founded in 2003, is an ensemble of actors and teaching artists, who came together out of desire: desire to teach, desire to train, and desire to act. The company has produced a variety of actor driven, physically based theatre productions that explore the human condition. 

Drance, artist-in-residence at Fordham University, has performed and directed in more than countries on five continents. He has served as artistic director of Theatre YETU in Kenya and artistic associate for Teatro la Fragua in Honduras. Drance has been a guest artist and lecturer at Columbia, Cornell and Marquette University.

Jennings worked for a dozen years as a director, artistic director and arts educator in Atlanta. She is the founder and director of CAELA, a service organization for arts leaders of faith; and she founded and ran the arts ministry at Redeemer Presbyterian Church  in New York City

Perhaps best known for her Broadway and international show Runaways, Swados has composed, written, and directed issue-oriented theater for more than 30 years. Some of her works include the Obie Award winning Trilogy, at La Mama Alice at the Palace with Meryl Streep at the New York Shakespeare Theater Festival and Groundhog, which was optioned by Milos Forman for a film. Awards include: Five Tony nominations, three Obie Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Ford Grant, the Helen Hayes Award, a Lila Acheson Wallace Grant, PEN, and others.

Gentelman's Guide, All the Way Take Top Honors; Audra Makes History with 6th Award

The cast of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder with Bryce Pinkham as Monty Navarro (standing center), Jefferson Mays as Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith (red), and Jane Carr as Miss Shingle (seated) in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" at the Walter Kerr Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.
2014 Tony Award Winners

Best Musical

*A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
After Midnight
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

*Jessie Mueller, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Mary Bridget Davies, A Night with Janis Joplin
Sutton Foster, Violet
Idina Menzel, If/Then
Kelli O'Hara, The Bridges of Madison County

Best Revival of a Musical
*Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Les Misérables

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
*Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Ramin Karimloo, Les Misérables
Andy Karl, Rocky
Jefferson Mays, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Bryce Pinkham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Best Revival of a Play
*A Raisin in the Sun
The Cripple of Inishmaan
The Glass Menagerie
Twelfth Night

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
*Kevin Adams, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Christopher Akerlind, Rocky
Howell Binkley, After Midnight
Donald Holder, The Bridges of Madison County

Best Lighting Design of a Play
*Natasha Katz, The Glass Menagerie
Paule Constable, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Jane Cox, Machinal
Japhy Weideman, Of Mice and Men

Best Play
*All The Way by Robert Schenkkan
Act One by James Lapine
Casa Valentina by Harvey Fierstein
Mothers and Sons ny Terrence McNally
Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
*Bryan Cranston, All The Way
Samuel Barnett, Twelfth Night
Chris O'Dowd, Of Mice and Men
Mark Rylance, Richard III
Tony Shalhoub, Act One

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
*Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Tyne Daly, Mothers and Sons
LaTanya Richardson Jackson, A Raisin in the Sun
Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie
Estelle Parsons, The Velocity of Autumn

Best Costume Design of a Play
*Jenny Tiramani, Twelfth Night
Jane Greenwood, Act One
Michael Krass, Machinal
Rita Ryack, Casa Valentina

Best Costume Design of a Musical
*Linda Cho, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
William Ivey Long, Bullets Over Broadway
Arianne Phillips, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Isabel Toledo, After Midnight

Best Choreography
*Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine, Rocky
Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin
Susan Stroman, Bullets Over Broadway

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
*Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun
Sarah Greene, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Glass Menagerie
Anika Noni Rose, A Raisin in the Sun
Mare Winningham, Casa Valentina

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
*James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin
Danny Burstein, Cabaret
Nick Cordero, Bullets Over Broadway
Joshua Henry, Violet
Jarrod Spector, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Best Direction of a Play
*Kenny Leon, A Raisin in the Sun
Tim Carroll, Twelfth Night
Michael Grandage, The Cripple of Inishmaan
John Tiffany, The Glass Menagerie

Best Direction of a Musical
*Darko Tresnjak, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Michael Mayer, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Leigh Silverman, Violet

Best Book of a Musical
*Robert L Freedman, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Chad Beguelin, Aladdin
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Douglas McGrath
Bullets Over Broadway
Woody Allen

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
*Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Linda Emond, Cabaret
Anika Larsen, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Adriane Lenox, After Midnight
Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
*Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night
Reed Birney, Casa Valentina
Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night
Stephen Fry, Twelfth Night
Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
*Christopher Barreca, Rocky
Julian Crouch, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Alexander Dodge, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Santo Loquasto, Bullets Over Broadway

Best Scenic Design of a Play*Beowulf Boritt, Act One
Bob Crowley, The Glass Menagerie
Es Devlin, Machinal
Christopher Oram, The Cripple of Inishmaan

Best Orchestrations
*Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
Doug Besterman, Bullets Over Broadway
Steve Sidwell, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Jonathan Tunick, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
*The Bridges of Madison County Music and Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown
Aladdin Music: Alan Menken/ Lyrics: Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder Music: Steven Lutvak/ Lyrics: Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak
If/Then Music: Tom Kitt/Lyrics: Brian Yorkey

Best Sound Design of a Play
*Steve Canyon Kennedy, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Alex Baranowski, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Dan Moses Schreier, Act One
Matt Tierney, Machinal

Best Sound Design of a Musical
*Brian Ronan, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Peter Hylenski, After Midnight
Tim O'Heir, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Mick Potter, Les Misérables

Saturday, June 7, 2014

TOP PICK Off-Broadway Theater Review: Just Jim Dale

Just Jim Dale
Written by Jim Dale 

Directed by Richard Maltby, Jr.
Music Director and Co-Arranger Anna Louizos
Pianist and Co-Arranger Aaron Gandy
Roundabout at the Laura Pels Theatre

What's It All About?
Tony and Grammy Award winner and two-time Academy Award nominee Jim Dale in his brand new solo show. It's a little bit of song, a little bit of dance, a little bit of storytelling and whole lot of entertainment. Dale recounts tales from his start on the famed British Music Hall stage, through his Broadway triumphs in Scapino, Barnum and Me and My Girl, to his uproarious experiences narrating all seven “Harry Potter” audio books. Songs include "The Colors of My Life,” “The Lambeth Walk” and “Georgy Girl.” 

What Are the Highlights?
Dale is a marvelous entertainer and storyteller (aided by piano accompanist Aaron Gandy). He's not afraid to laugh at himself and as a result, he has the audience rolling. The story about a blind guy and a salami almost did me in. One of those laughs that grips a hold of you long after the story is done and makes you wonder whether you'll ever stop.

What Are the Lowlights?
None. Go. Enjoy.

Just Jim Dale plays through Aug. 10 at the Laura Pels Theatre  111 West 46th St., NYC.

Christians might also like to know:
No content notes.

My 2014 Tony Award Predictions

Neil Patrick Harris
By Lauren Yarger
It has been a really good Broadway season culminating in a list of Tony Award nominations that are missing some great additions (because there just aren't enough slots in each category) and which make it really difficult who will walk away with the Antoinette Perrys this Sunday. In just about any category, no matter who wins, I will think it was deserved. That's pretty incredible.

Meanwhile, here's who I think will win and why. Find out if I'm right. I'll be live chatting during the event on Facebook at Everyone contributing to the conversation during the Tonys will be entered in a drawing to win a prize.You can watch on CBS starting at 8 pm Eastern.

Best Play Nominees:
Act One  by James Lapine
All The Way by Robert Schenkkan
Casa Valentina  by Harvey Fierstein
Mothers and Sons by Terrence McNally
Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley

Some pretty good plays here. I especially loved Outside Mullingar, a delightful trip to Ireland starring one of my favorite actors, Bryan O'Byrne, and Deborah Messing in her Broadway debut. Loved it and am glad to see it nominated.

Act One is a love letter to the theater. Marvelously acted (Tony Shaloub, another favorite actor), directed and staged. It's success no doubt has opened doors for Moss Hart's You Can't Take it With You to open on Broadway next season. A personal favorite play, it will star none other than James Earl Jones and Kristine Nielsen. Heaven. 

I thought All the Way had a really a good book which incorporated a lot of history without being boring (at about three hours), but Bryan Cranston's portrayal of LBJ sets it apart. Mothers and Sons managed to give us a gay-issues play with a different perspective -- looking back years after the AIDS crisis and how a lot -- and not much -- has changed. 

Casa Valentina gave us John Cullum on stage, so I was happy. It also gave us an interesting story about a little known part of history -- a club for heterosexual men to get away and indulge in their desire to dress as women. It has a powerhouse cast including Reed Birney who is nominate for his chilling portrayal of a homophobic transvestite and Mare Winningham, also nominated, as the wife of the club owner who tries to be supportive of her husband's alter ego, but find it increasingly difficult.

This is a really tough one. Can I predict a tie between Act One and All the Way? Probably not. I'll have to go with **All the Way.

Best Musical Nominees

After Midnight
Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

This group is not the group I expected to see at the start of the season. First off, After Midnight, which I loved with charming emcee Dule Hill (another favorite actor) is really a revue, not what I would consider a musical. So it's hard to compare it to full-scale Broadway musicals like the others in this category. It's really good, though, with the best choreography (Warren Carlyle will win in that category -- see below) and some of the most entertaining moments on stage (there's even a rotating list of guest stars). But it won't win.

Aladdin was great. The best Disney musical on stage since Beauty and the Beast. The performances are good (the genie is a shoo-in in his category), the choreography is great and the costumes and sets are breath taking. I predict a long run for this one and am excited to see the stage adaptation of Frozen.

Beautiful was one of the most enjoyable nights I spent at the theater this year. Jessie Mueller's portrayal of song writer/singer Carole King is amazing. All of the performances are good and listening to all of that great music is enough in itself to send you to the theater, but the songs are built into a terrific book that has real-life drama and some good lessons.

This category is neck-and-neck between Beautiful and A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. Gentleman is kind of sleeper that has gained momentum, especially when other greatly anticipated contenders, like The Bridges of Madison County, If/Then and Bullets Over Broadway, fell short of expectations. That is not to say it isn't a good musical. It is fun and light and silly. And Jefferson Mays, who plays eight different parts, is entertaining. It premiered at Hartford Stage where I thought it was fun, but would never have guessed it would go on to win the Tony. It has a lot of momentum behind it though, and just might.

I still think the Tony voters, many of whom are CEOs of presenting houses that book the tours across the country, will bank on the appeal of Carole King with their mostly female ticket buyers, most of whom grew up singing her songs, so I predict **Beautiful.

David Cromer, Bryce Clyde Jenkins, Latanya Richardson Jackson, Anika Noni Rose, Denzel Washington and Sophie Okonedo Photo: Brigitte Lacombe

Best Revival of a Play

The Cripple of Inishmaan
The Glass Menagerie
A Raisin in the Sun
Twelfth Night

Daniel Radcliffe and a delightful supporting cast gave us a nice, if unremarkable night in Inishmaan and amazing set design with looming pools in the abyss and girls disappearing into couches still remain etched in my memory after The Glass Menagerie.  I loved this revival of A Raisn in the Sun with every cast member giving a truly excellent performance, including Denzel Washington. I'm kind of shocked the buzz hasn't been more in its favor. I would have voted for it. Twelfth Night gave us Shakespeare as it was done in the bard's day. An all-male cast played all the parts and even got into costume on stage where audience members sat for an up-close and personal experience. Any time Mark Rylance is in something, go.

I think the Tony will go to Twelfth Night**.

Best Revival of a Musical

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Les Misérables

I enjoyed Sutton Foster in Violet and the faith-based story of a woman who wants to change. The show featured Joshua Henry, whom I think should be required to be in every musical produced (it was a good year for favorite actors!).

Too long absent from a Broadway stage, we rejoiced with a new revival of Les Miserables. It's got a few flaws, but Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean is not to be missed. His rendition of "Bring Him Home" is worth the ticket price.

Hedwig is packing them in over at the Belasco where Neil Patrick Harris and Lena Hall rock out as transgendered folks. It's a fabulous production. Good performances, amazing sets and lighting and really good music. Just wish there were a story that didn't make me feel like I just wasted a part of my life.

Hedwig** will win the Tony. It's not even close.

Best Book of a Musical
Aladdin by Chad Beguelin
Beautiful - The Carole King Musical by Douglas McGrath
Bullets Over Broadway  Woody Allen
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder by Robert L. Freedman

Of these, my favorite was Beautiful. I also thought Marsha Norman's book for The Bridges of Madison County was terrific, but apparently the Tony nominators did not. 

Prediction: **A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder by Robert L. Freedman

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Aladdin Music: Alan Menken/Lyrics: Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin
The Bridges of Madison County Music and Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder Music: Steven Lutvak/Lyrics: Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak
If/Then Music: Tom Kitt/Lyrics: Brian Yorkey

If/Then was a big disappointment. The team who gave us Next to Normal, one of my favorite scores ever, just never quite got this one together. Aladdin we know from the animated film. Bridges was a marvelous score. Operatic with Kelli O'Hara and Stephen Pasquale singing their hearts out. Gentleman's is fun. What you don't see listed here is First Date, which I thought had a good score, but it was very early in the season, so was forgotten. Bullets Over Broadway was so-so. 

You also don't see here probably the best score heard on a NY stage this year: Fun Home by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, because it was Off-Broadway. There are plans to bring it to Broadway, however, so look for it here next year. I still am hearing "Ring of Keys" in my head months later....

The winner here will be **Bridges.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Samuel Barnett, Twelfth Night
Bryan Cranston, All The Way
Chris O'Dowd, Of Mice and Men
Mark Rylance, Richard III
Tony Shalhoub, Act One

 **Bryan Cranston will walk away all the way away with this one. No contest.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Tyne Daly, Mothers and Sons
LaTanya Richardson Jackson, A Raisin in the Sun
Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie
Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Estelle Parsons, The Velocity of Autumn

**Audra McDonald needs to move the other five Tonys on her mantle over to make room for another.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Ramin Karimloo, Les Misérables
Andy Karl, Rocky
Jefferson Mays, 
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Bryce Pinkham, 
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

**Neil Patrick Harris. Hands down.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Mary Bridget Davies, A Night with Janis Joplin
Sutton Foster, Violet
Idina Menzel, If/Then
Jessie Mueller, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Kelli O'Hara, The Bridges of Madison County

There's strong support for O'Hara, but I think it will be **Jessie Mueller.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Reed Birney, Casa Valentina
Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night
Stephen Fry, Twelfth Night
Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night
Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie

**Mark Rylance

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Sarah Greene, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Glass Menagerie
Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun
Anika Noni Rose, A Raisin in the Sun
Mare Winningham, Casa Valentina

Tough one. I personally was blown away by Sophie Okonedo, but I don't think she'll win. It's between Mare Winningham and Celie Keenan-Bolger. I think the Tony will go to **Mare Winningham.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Danny Burstein, Cabaret
Nick Cordero, Bullets Over Broadway
Joshua Henry, Violet
James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin
Jarrod Spector, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical

**James Monroe Iglehart's name was engraved on the Tony the minute he popped out of the lamp.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Linda Emond, Cabaret
Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Anika Larsen, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Adriane Lenox, After Midnight
Lauren Worsham, 
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

This is a very difficult category. Lena Hall is a favorite and has been charming on the party circuit, as has Anika Larsen. Linda Emond's performance was pretty darn good though.

Probably will go to **Lena Hall

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Beowulf Boritt, Act One
Bob Crowley, The Glass Menagerie
Es Devlin, Machinal
Christopher Oram, The Cripple of Inishmaan

**The Glass Menagerie

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Christopher Barreca, Rocky
Julian Crouch, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Alexander Dodge, 
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Santo Loquasto, Bullets Over Broadway


Best Costume Design of a Play
Jane Greenwood, Act One
Michael Krass, Machinal
Rita Ryack, Casa Valentina
Jenny Tiramani, Twelfth Night

Toss up between Casa Valentina and Twelfth Night. I'm going to go with **Twelfth Night.

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Linda Cho, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
William Ivey Long, Bullets Over Broadway
Arianne Phillips, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Isabel Toledo, After Midnight

I loved the costumes from After Midnight. Wiliam Ivey Long's creations for Bullets were stunning. Gentleman's Guide's are impressive too. I don't know for sure.

I'll guess **William Ivey Long

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Paule Constable, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Jane Cox, Machinal
Natasha Katz, The Glass Menagerie
Japhy Weideman, Of Mice and Men

**Natasha Katz, The Glass Menagerie

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Christopher Akerlind, Rocky
Howell Binkley, After Midnight
Donald Holder, The Bridges of Madison County

**Kevin Adams, Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Best Sound Design of a Play
Alex Baranowski, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Steve Canyon Kennedy, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Dan Moses Schreier, Act One
Matt Tierney, Machinal

**Steve Canyon Kennedy, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Peter Hylenski, After Midnight
Tim O'Heir, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Mick Potter, Les Misérables
Brian Ronan, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical

**Tim O'Heir, Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Best Direction of a Play
Tim Carroll, Twelfth Night
Michael Grandage, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Kenny Leon, A Raisin in the Sun
John Tiffany, The Glass Menagerie

Toss up between Glass Menagerie and Twelfth Night. I'm going to predict **Glass Menagerie.

Best Direction of a Musical
Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Michael Mayer, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Leigh Silverman, Violet
Darko Tresnjak, 
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

This is between Michael Mayer and Darko Tresnjak. It's Darko's first nomination, though, so I am going to go with **Mayer and hope I'm wrong. If I am, you'll hear a cheer from Hartford where Hartford Stage is hosting a Tony Party (which was too expensive for me to attend or I'd be over there cheering with them instead of watching it at home on TV with you).

Best Choreography
Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Steven Hoggett & Kelly Devine, Rocky
Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin
Susan Stroman, Bullets Over Broadway

**Warren Carlyle, After Midnight

Best Orchestrations
Doug Besterman, Bullets Over Broadway
Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
Steve Sidwell, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Jonathan Tunick, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

**Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County

So pop some popcorn and join me for Tiny Night tomorrow at 8 pm!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Drama Desk Award Winners

The red carpet arrivals outside of Town Hall.
For the record, here are the winners of the 59th annual Drama Desk Awards (in bold).

Outstanding Play
Nell Benjamin, The Explorers Club
Steven Levenson, Core Values
Conor McPherson, The Night Alive
Richard Nelson, Regular Singing
Bruce Norris, Domesticated
Robert Schenkkan, All the Way
John Patrick Shanley, Outside Mullingar
Outstanding Musical
A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Fun Home
Love's Labour's Lost
The Bridges of Madison County
Outstanding Revival of a Play
I Remember Mama
London Wall
No Man's Land
Of Mice and Men
The Cripple of Inishmaan
The Model Apartment
Twelfth Night*

*Shakespeare's Globe Production

Outstanding Revival of a Musical          
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Les Misérables
Outstanding Actor in a Play
Bryan Cranston, All the Way
Hamish Linklater, The Comedy of Errors
Ian McKellen, No Man's Land
David Morse, The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin
Chris O'Dowd, Of Mice and Men
Daniel Radcliffe, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Denzel Washington, A Raisin in the Sun

Outstanding Actress in a Play              
Barbara Andres, I Remember Mama
Tyne Daly, Mothers and Sons
Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill
Laurie Metcalf, Domesticated
J. Smith-Cameron, Juno and the Paycock
Harriet Walter, Julius Caesar
Outstanding Actor in a Musical            
Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Adam Jacobs, Aladdin
Andy Karl, Rocky
Jefferson Mays, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Steven Pasquale, The Bridges of Madison County
Bryce Pinkham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Outstanding Actress in a Musical       
Sutton Foster, Violet
Idina Menzel, If/Then
Jessie Mueller, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Kelli O'Hara, The Bridges of Madison County
Margo Seibert, Tamar of the River
Barrett Wilbert Weed, Heathers: The Musical
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play 
Reed Birney, Casa Valentina
Chuck Cooper, Choir Boy
Peter Maloney, Outside Mullingar
Bobby Moreno, Year of the Rooster
Bill Pullman, The Jacksonian
Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play          
Betty Buckley, The Old Friends
Julia Coffey, London Wall
Diane Davis, The Model Apartment
Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Glass Menagerie
Jan Maxwell, The Castle
Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical        
Danny Burstein, Cabaret
Nick Cordero, Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical
Joshua Henry, Violet
James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin
Rory O'Malley, Nobody Loves You
Bobby Steggert, Big Fish
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical   
Stephanie J. Block, Little Miss Sunshine
Anika Larsen, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (tie)
Adriane Lenox, After Midnight
Sydney Lucas, Fun Home
Laura Osnes, The Threepenny Opera
Jennifer Simard, Disaster!
Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder (tie)

Outstanding Director of a Play             
Joe Calarco, A Christmas Carol
Tim Carroll, Twelfth Night
Thomas Kail, Family Furniture
Bill Rauch, All the Way
Anna D. Shapiro, Domesticated
Julie Taymor, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Outstanding Director of a Musical        
Sam Gold, Fun Home
Michael Mayer, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Bartlett Sher, The Bridges of Madison County
Susan Stroman, Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical
Alex Timbers, Rocky
Darko Tresnjak, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Outstanding Choreography                    
Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Steven Hoggett, Kelly Devine, Rocky
Danny Mefford, Love's Labour's Lost
Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin
Susan Stroman, Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical
Sonya Tayeh, Kung Fu

Outstanding Music
Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
Andrew Lippa, Big Fish
Steven Lutvak, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Alan Menken, Aladdin
Kevin Murphy and Laurence O'Keefe, Heathers: The Musical
Jeanine Tesori, Fun Home
Outstanding Lyrics                       
Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Chad Beguelin, Aladdin
Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Michael Friedman, Love's Labour's Lost
Michael Korie, Far from Heaven
Lisa Kron, Fun Home

Outstanding Book of a Musical  
Chad Beguelin, Aladdin
Robert L. Freedman, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, Murder for Two
Lisa Kron, Fun Home
Douglas McGrath, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Marsha Norman, The Bridges of Madison County

Outstanding Orchestrations                  
Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
John Clancy, Fun Home
Larry   Hochman, Big Fish
Steve Sidwell, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Michael Starobin, If/Then
Jonathan Tunick, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Outstanding Music in a Play                   
Lewis Flinn, The Tribute Artist
Elliot Goldenthal, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Rob Kearns, The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle
Tom Kochan, Almost, Maine
Nico Muhly,   The Glass Menagerie
Duncan Sheik, A Man's a Man
Outstanding Revue                       
After Midnight
I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Musik from the Weimar and Beyond
Le Jazz Hot: How the French Saved Jazz
Til Divorce Do Us Part
What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined

Outstanding Set Design               
Christopher Barreca, Rocky
Alexander Dodge, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Richard Hoover, Small Engine Repair
Santo Loquasto, Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical
Ian MacNeil, A Doll's House
Donyale Werle, The Explorers Club

Outstanding Costume Design                
Constance Hoffman, A Midsummer Night's Dream
William Ivey Long, Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical
Zane   Pihlstrom, Nutcracker Rouge
Loren Shaw, The Mysteries
Jenny Tiramani, Twelfth Night
David C. Woolard, The Heir Apparent
Outstanding Lighting Design                  
Christopher Akerlind, Rocky
Jane   Cox, Machinal
David Lander, The Civil War
Peter Mumford, King Lear
Brian  Tovar, Tamar of the River
Japhy Weideman, Macbeth

Outstanding Projection Design  
Robert Massicotte and Alexis Laurence, Cirkopolis
Sven Ortel, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Aaron Rhyne, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Shawn Sagady, All the Way
Austin Switser, Sontag: Reborn
Ben Rubin, Arguendo

Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical          
Kai Harada, Fun Home
Peter Hylenski, Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical
Peter Hylenski, Rocky
Brian Ronan, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Dan Moses Schreier, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Jon Weston, The Bridges of Madison County

Outstanding Sound Design in a Play    
M.L. Dogg, The Open House
Katie Down, The Golden Dragon
Paul James  Prendergast, All the Way
Dan Moses Schreier, Act One
Christopher Shutt, Love and Information
Matt Tierney, Machinal
Outstanding Solo Performance 
David Barlow, This is My Office
Jim Brochu, Character Man
Hannah Cabell, Grounded
Debra Jo Rupp, Becoming Dr. Ruth
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, August Wilson's How I Learned What I Learned
John Douglas Thompson, Satchmo at the Waldorf
Unique Theatrical Experience
Mother Africa                       
Nothing to Hide                   
Nutcracker Rouge              
The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill Vol.

Special Awards Each year, the Drama Desk votes special awards to recognize excellence and significant contributions to the theater. For 2013-2014, these awards are:
·  To Soho Rep.: For nearly four decades of artistic distinction, innovative production, and provocative play selection.

·  To Veanne Cox: For her ability to express the eccentricities, strengths, and vulnerabilities of a range of characters, and notably for her comedic flair as evidenced in this season's The Old Friends and The Most Deserving.

·  To Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, the Sam Norkin Off-Broadway Award: For his visionary directorial excellence. This season's The Golden Dragonand The Mysteries exemplify his bold and strikingly original imagination.

·  To the ensembles of Off-Broadway's The Open House and Broadway's The Realistic Joneses and to the creator of both plays, Will Eno: For two extraordinary casts and one impressively inventive playwright.

·  The Open House: Hannah Bos, Michael Countryman, Peter Friedman, Danny McCarthy, and Carolyn McCormick

·  The Realistic Joneses:Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, and Marisa Tomei

Individual artists and productions singled out for these special awards are not eligible in their competitive categories.

Gracewell Prodiuctions

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

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

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

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

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

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

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


All material is copyright 2008- 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.

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