Friday, April 29, 2016

Broadway Theater Review: Waitress

Waitress Serves Up a Slice of Life Women Can Understand
By Lauren Yarger
The endearing new Broadway musical Waitress, based on Adrienne Shelly’s film and featuring a score by pop singer/song writer Sara Bareilles, serves up a satisfying helping of just what I have been asking for: a show featuring women on stage dealing with women’s issues.

The show is written by women featuring a number of women characters dealing with issues common to many women. So if one more person refers to this show as “chick flick,” I might be tempted to hit them in the face with a pie. There are plenty of them to be had in this production as two cases tower either side of the proscenium in Scott Pask’s set transforming the Brooks Atkinson Theatre into a pie-serving diner where ushers dressed like waitresses sell snack cups with pie during intermission when the smells of mouth-watering baking pour into the house.

The ambiance invites us to take up a stool at Joe’s Pie Diner where Jenna (Jessie Mueller, who won a Tony for her moving portrayal of Carole King in Beautiful) finds solace in creating pies. The working of the dough and creativity of finding just the right blend of flavors give her an outlet to express her emotions and the activity brings her comfort as she remembers learning the craft from her mother.

The pies reflect what she is experiencing in life and are given names like “Couch Potato Pie,” “Humble Crumble Rhubarb,” “Mama’s Lavender Lullaby” or "Up a Stream Without a Banana Cream.” If they don’t all sound happy, that’s because Jenna’s life isn’t.

Husband Earl (Nick Cordero) is no longer the man of her teenage dreams. He is pretty useless, really, except when demanding Jenna’s hard-earned tip money.

“How’d we do today?” he asks, even as his hot temper causes him to lose his job. Right about here, I wanted to strike him with a rolling pin (this can’t be a fun role for Cordero to play night after night).

He drinks a lot and we get the impression (through some of Diane Paulus’ direction) that he might be physically abusive, though this is not depicted on stage.

There is a bigger problem than the tensions in their relationship, however. Jenna is pregnant. Order up: “Betrayed By My Eggs” pie

Her waitress friends at the diner, Dawn (Kimiko Glenn) and Becky (a delightful Keala Settle), hide her condition from Earl and their boss, Cal (Eric Anderson), until she figures out what to do. Finally, Jenna decides to save up to enter a baking contest and use the prize money to leave Earl.

The friend characters don’t get a lot of development, but what is there is interesting. Wisecracking Becky, whose husband is ill, finds unexpected companionship with crusty Cal who normally serves as her verbal sparring partner. Shy, insecure Dawn finds dating success with enthusiastic and humorously persistent Ogie (Christopher Fitzgerald). Jenna might even get a second chance at love with handsome Doctor Pomatter (Drew Gehling), though there is a lack of visible spark between the actors to convince us of this.

Though the pie names and some of their ingredients aren’t exactly appetizing, the book by Jessie Nelson (known for her screenplays for “I Am Sam,” “Stepmom” and “The Story of Us”) provides a slice of life to which many women can relate (Lorin Latarro’s choreography adds to the storytelling). We’ve either tasted this pie filling or know someone close who has and Bareilles’ music and lyrics are the cherry on top. The ballad “She Used to Be Mine” had me leaning in to hear every word of the lyrics, not only because the sentiment was wise and genuine and seemed to be speaking to my heart, but because Mueller can be difficult to hear at times (I don’t think it is the fault of Sound Designer Jonathan Deans; it seems to be Mueller’s enunciation.) Listen to a clip below.

At any rate, this self-discovery story touches a chord with the audience, which most women’s stories do since 65 to 70 percent of theater ticket buyers are women. So while I would offer a recipe for some garnishes (Paulus should tone back the yell singing by Glenn and Settles, for example, and not shy away from the abuse element -- making that real might cause women to recognize themselves and seek help,) 

Waitress and its really pleasing score are a winner, I am in love with a recurring few lyrics sung about sugar, butter and flour that are a mixture of love and hope shared among the generations of bakers. Music Supervision and Arrangements are by Nadia DiGiallonardo; Orchestrations are by Bareilles and the Waitress Band.

Diner owner Joe (Dakin Matthews) offers a wonderful example of how one person can make a difference in someone’s life.

So if a show written and directed by women about women for women is considered “chick flick,” then I suppose that means stories written and directed by men about men for men -- that would most of what we see on stage these days -- should be labeled “prick flicks.” Serving up some “I Dare You” pie.

Waitress takes your order at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 West 47th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday Wednesday, Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $59 - $145: (877) 250-2929;

Additonal casting:
Charity Angél Dawson, Thay Floyd, Henry Gottfried, Molly Hager, Aisha Jackson, Max Kumangai, Jeremy Morse, Ragan Pharris, Stephanie Torns and Ryan Vasquez…. Ensemble

Additional credits:
Associate Direction by Nancy Harrington, Associate Choreography by Abbey O’Brien, Costume Design by Suttirat Anne Larlarb, Hair Design by Rachel Padula Shufelt and Jason Allen. Lighting Design by Christopher Akerlind.

-- Adultery
-- Sexually suggestive actions
-- Sexual activity
-- Horoscope consulted

2016 Drama Desk Nomnations

Matthew Morrison and Vanessa Williams announced the nominations. Photo: Barry Gordin
Outstanding Book of a Musical
John Caird, Daddy Long Legs
Michael John LaChiusa, First              Daughter Suite
Jessie Nelson, Waitress

Outstanding  Play
The  Christians, PlaywrightsHorizons
The  Humans, Roundabout
John, Signature  Theatre
King  Charles  III
The  Royale,  Lincoln  Center  Theater

Outstanding  Musical
First  Daughter  Suite, Public  Theater Daddy  Long  Legs
School  of  Rock
Shuffle  Along

Outstanding  Revival  of  a  Play 
Cloud  Nine,  Atlantic  Theater
Death  of  a  Salesman, New  Yiddish        Rep
Henry  IV, Donmar  Warehouse  at St.      Ann’s  Warehouse
Long  Day’s  Journey  Into  Night,              Roundabout Theatre  Company
A  View  from  the  Bridge
Women Without  Men, Mint Theater

Outstanding  Revival  of  a  Musical The  Color  Purple
The  Golden  Bride, National  Yiddish Theatre  Folkesbiene
Fiddler  on  the  Roof
She  Loves  Me, Roundabout Theatre        Company
Spring  Awakening

Outstanding  Actor  in  a  Play Andrew  Garman,  The  Christians
Avi  Hoffman,  Death  of  a  Salesman Frank  Langella, The  Father
Tim  Pigott-Smith,  King  Charles  III Mark  Strong,  A  View  from  the               Bridge

Outstanding  Actress  in  a  Play Georgia  Engel,  John
Mamie  Gummer,  Ugly  Lies  the Bone
Marin  Ireland, Ironbound
Jessica  Lange,  Long  Day’s  Journey  Into  Night
Nicola  Walker,  A  View  from  the  Bridge

Outstanding  Actor  in  a  Musical Danny  Burstein, Fiddler  on  the  Roof
Robert  Creighton,  Cagney
Michael  C.  Hall,  Lazarus
Zachary  Levi,  She Loves Me
Benjamin  Walker,  American  Psycho

Outstanding  Actress  in  a  Musical Laura  Benanti, She  Loves  Me Carmen  Cusack,  Bright  Star
Cynthia  Erivo,  The  Color  Purple Jessie  Mueller,  Waitress
Annette  O’Toole,  Southern  Comfort

Outstanding  Orchestrations
August  Eriksmoen,  Bright  Star
Larry  Hochman,  She  Loves  Me
Joseph  Joubert/Catherine  Jayes,  The  Color  Purple
Andrew  Lloyd  Webber,  School  of  Rock
Michael  Starobin/Bruce  Coughlin,  First  Daughter  Suite

Outstanding  Music  in  a  Play
Billie  Joe  Armstrong,  These  Paper  Bullets!
Estelle  Bajou,  Please  Excuse  My  Dear  Aunt  Sally
 Shaun  Davey,  Pericles
Philip  Glass,  The  Crucible
Tom  Kitt,  Cymbeline

Outstanding  Set  Design  for  a  Play Riccardo  Hernandez,  Red Speedo
Mimi  Lien,  John G.  W.  Mercier,  Head  of  Passes
 Christopher  Oram,  Hughie
 Derek  McLane,  Fully  Committed

 Outstanding  Set  Design  for  a  Musical 
Es  Devlin,  American  Psycho
Emily  Orling,  Matt  Saunders,  Eric  Farber,  Futurity
 David  Rockwell,  She  Loves  Me

Outstanding  Costume  Design  for  a  Play 
Jessica  Ford,  These  Paper  Bullets! Martha  Hally,  Women  Without  Men
Constance  Hoffman,  Pericles William  Ivey  Long,  Shows  for  Days
Anita  Yavich,  The  Legend  of  Georgia  McBride

 Outstanding  Costume  Design  for  a  Musical 
Jane  Greenwood,  Bright  Star Katrina  Lindsay,  American  Psycho Jeff  Mahshie,  She  Loves  Me
Alejo  Vietti,  Allegiance
Ann  Roth, Shuffle  Along

Outstanding  Lighting  Design  for  a  Play 
Neil  Austin,  Hughie Mark  Barton,  John Bradley  King,  Empanada  Loca Tyler  Micoleau, Antlia  Pneumatica
Justin  Townsend,  The  Humans

Outstanding  Lighting  Design  for  a  Musical
 Jane  Cox,  The  Color  Purple
 Jake  DeGroot,  SeaWife
Ben  Stanton,  Spring  Awakening Justin  Townsend,  American  Psycho Jules  Fisher/Peggy  Eisenhauer,  Shuffle  Along

 Outstanding  Projection  Design   Nicholas  Hussong,  These  Paper  Bullets!
Darrel  Maloney,  Tappin’  Thru  Life Peter  Nigrini,  Dear  Evan  Hansen Finn  Ross,  American  Psycho
Tal  Yarden,  Lazarus

Outstanding  Sound  Design  in  a  Play
 Fitz  Patton,  An  Act  of  God
 Fitz  Patton,  The  Humans
 Miles  Polaski,  Fulfillment
Bray  Poor,  John Ryan  Rumery,  Empanada  Loca

Outstanding  Sound  Design  in  a  Musical 
Mick  Potter,  School  of  Rock
 Brian  Ronan,  Lazarus
Nevin  Steinberg,  Bright  Star
Dan  Moses  Schreier,  American  Psycho
Scott  Lehrer,  Shuffle  Along

Outstanding  Wig  and  Hair
David  Brian  Brown,  She  Loves  Me Jason  Hayes,  The  Legend  of  Georgia  McBride
Robert-Charles  Vallance,  Women  Without  Men
Charles  G.  LaPointe,  The  School  for  Scandal
 Mia  M.  Neal,  Shuffle  Along

Outstanding  Solo  Performance Simon  Callow,  Tuesdays  at  Tesco’s Kathleen  Chalfant,  Rose
James  Lecesne,  The  Absolute  Brightness  of  Leonard  Pelkey   Daphne  Rubin-Vega,  Empanada  Loca
 Jesse  Tyler  Ferguson,  Fully  Committed

Unique  Theatrical  Experience ADA/AVA,  Manual  Cinema/3LD/The  Tank/ Antigona  –  Soledad  Barrio/Noche  Flamenca
That  Physics  Show   The  Very  Hungry  Caterpillar  Show YOUARENOWHERE – 3LD/The Tank

Special  Awards
The  Humans  –  Special  Drama  Desk  Award  for  Outstanding  Ensemble Cassie  Beck,  Reed  Birney,  Jayne  Houdyshell,  Lauren  Klein,  Arian  Moayed,  and  Sarah  Steele  spend  a very  special  Thanksgiving  Day  together  in  Stephen  Karam’s  play,  reminding  us  that  home  is  indeed where The Humans are.

The  Royale  –  Special  Drama  Desk  Award  for  Outstanding  Ensemble The  heavyweight  cast  of  McKinley  Belcher  III,  Khris  Davis,  Montego  Glover,  John  Lavelle,  and  Clarke Peters  gels  as  a  unit  in  bringing  Marco  Ramirez’s  story,  inspired  by  Jack  Johnson,  to  unforgettable  life, offering a trenchant statement on racism in America.

Sheldon  Harnick  –  Special  Drama  Desk  Award New  productions  of  Fiddler  on  the  Roof,  Rothschild  and  Sons, and  She  Loves  Me  this  season  remind us that this veteran lyricist’s takes on faith, family and community are as resonant as ever. Camp Broadway  –  Special  Drama  Desk  Award For  more  than  20  years,  this  indispensable  organization  has  introduced  young  people  to  the  magic  of theater. Camp Broadway plays a crucial role in creating tomorrow’s audiences.

Danai  Gurira  –  Sam  Norkin  Award Whether  writing  about  women  in  wartime  Liberia  in  Eclipsed  or  about  an  affluent  immigrant  family  from Zimbabwe  struggling  with  assimilation  in  Familiar, Danai  Gurira  demonstrates  great  insight,  range,  and depth, bringing a fresh new voice to American theater.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Dry Powder

Claire Danes, John Krasinski, and Hank Azaria. Photo: Joan Marcus
Dry Powder
By Sarah Burgess
Directed by Thomas Kail
The Public Theater
What's It All About?
High finance, greed, integrity, ambition and loyalty, all rolled into a wad of priceless humor. Normally dialogue about mergers, corporate buy-outs, limited partners and sourcing jobs out of the US probably would cause our eyes to glaze over as we try to follow the plot, but in the skilled hands of playwright  Sarah Burgess, Dry Powder (a recipient of the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award and a finalist for the Blackburn Prize) is a compelling 95-minute study of modern business dealings and their effects on the people who orchestrate them -- and on the country as a whole as we tolerate them. 

Hank Azaria (most known for his work on The Simpsons) is Rick, the senior founding partner of a top-tier financial management firm in New York that has been weathering some really bad press lately. It seems the American pubic (and people world-wide, for that matter) didn't react well when he and his fiance through a million-dollar engagement party complete with elephants just after the firm took over a national grocery store chain and put lots of people out of work. High-strung, workaholic, numbers-crunching Jenny ("Homeland's" Claire Danes) assures Rick the hatred will blow over. The third partner, Seth (John Krasinski of TV's "The Office") isn't so sure. He had advised the boss to call the party off. And it looks like he was right. He always is, after all, he would tell you, when he and Jenny disagree. which is always -- that is why Rick chose them, so he can hear all sides before making a decision.

Meanwhile, Seth brings the partners a super deal that might turn things around for the company. CEO Jeff Schrader (Sanjit DeSilva) is willing to sell his luggage firm at a really unbeatable price, and Seth has plans to expand it by introducing a new line of customizable luggage. Jeff sees a way to cash out his aging owner and get a cushy job and bonus out of the deal for himself to finance the failing side business he and his wife started. There's just one catch. Seth has promised during the negotiations that none of the company's employees will lose their jobs and Jeff is holding him to that. Rick might have other plans, though.

When Jenny gets her analysts crunching numbers she finds that stripping the bleeding luggage company of assets and employees and refocusing production overseas might prove a higher return on the partners' fund investment.  Just how far are these folks willing to go --and what level of deceit is acceptable to use when you are looking out for Number 1?

What Are the Highlights?
Easily one of the best plays of the season. Taut direction by Thomas Kail, a stark, cool minimal set by Rachel Hauck to depict the souls of these folks, Original Music and Sound Design by Lindsay Jones and Costume Design by Clint Ramos all merge for the perfect Wall Street backdrop. The performances are stellar, from the bickering, insulting colleagues -- Seth gripped by the remnants of a conscience long ago abandoned by his partners and Jenny annoyingly shaking her head to emphasize every word hurled at Jeff, and confirming her matter-of-fact admission that her analysts "don't love me -- that's how you know their numbers are true." 

Azaria finds balance between a personality that appeals to people willing to part with large amounts of money to invest in his schemes, inspires his employees to go to any length for him while communicating a sincere lack of caring about anything or anyone in the end. DeSilva provides a softer, more likable character as contrast to the cut-throat atmosphere generated by Jenny and Seth, but not all is as it seems there either.

What Are the Lowlights?
None. Thoroughly entertaining. Well written.

More information:
Dry Powder runs through May 1 at The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., NYC.

Off-Broadway Review: The School for Scandal

Mark Linn Baker and Helen Cespedes. Photo: Carol Rosegg
The School for Scandal
By Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Directed by Marc Vietor
Red Bull Theatre

What's It All About?

Gossip, gossip and more gossip. Mark Linn-Baker and Dana Ivey star in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's late 18th -century farce in the vein of Moliere. Several plots unfold and entwine. Sir Oliver Surface (Henry Stram) returns home after a longtime abroad to test the character of his two nephews, Charles (Christian Demaris) and Joseph (Christian Conn) to see if they are worthy to be his heirs. Meanwhile, Lady Sneerwell (Frances Barber), a widow interested in Joseph, starts some gossip when she discovers he is interested in Maria (Nadine Malouf) ward of Sir Peter Teazle (Linn-Baker) and suggests that Teazle's wife (Helen Cespedes) is herself involved with Charles. Helping her circulate rumors are gossip columnist and critic Mr. Snake (Jacob Dresch), Sir Benjamin Backbite (Ryan Garbayo ), who is a gossip with poetic flare, and Mrs. Candour (Ivey). who deplores gossiping while proving herself a champion at it. The Teazles try to work their way through an unsuited marriage and Sir Oliver, with the help of friend Master Ranji (Ramsey Faragalah), tries to discover the true character of Joseh and Charles.

What Are the Highlights?
This is a classy, entertaining revival. Linn-Baker is the perfect straight man, enhancing the humorous chaos taking place around him.

Costumes by Andrea Lauer enhance the characters -- from elegant and stylish to vulgar (with period Hair and Wig Design by Charels G. LaPointe. Scenic Design by Anna Louizos, Music and Sound by Greg Pliska and Choreography by Paul McGill complete the silly picture.

What are the Lowlights?
I found the pace in the almost two-and-a half-hour run (with one intermission) a bit draggy.

More Information:
The School for Scandal runs through May 8 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St., NYC. Tickets are $80-$100 www.redbulltheater.com212-352-3101.

-- No content notes. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Broadway Theater Review: The Crucible

Saoirse Ronan as Abigail Williams, Elizabeth Teeter as Betty Parriss, Ashlei Sharp Chestnut as Susanna Walcott, Erin Wilhelmi as Mercy Lewis and Ben Whishaw as John Proctor. Photo: Jan Versweyveld
Spellbinding Crucible Magically Conjures Contemporary Hatred 
By Lauren Yarger
Some people, fueled by hatred, tell lies about others, threatening their livelihood and perhaps even their lives. 

A story ripped from today’s headlines about racial tension in Ferguson, MO, terrorist threats amidst refugees crossing borders or Christians refusing to obey laws that violate their beliefs?
No – it’s the plot of Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible about hysteria during the Salem witch trials getting a spellbinding revival directed by Ivo Van Hove on Broadway. The message could apply to any of those more contemporary issues filling our culture with hate, however, so fresh and raw is the presentation.

Award-winning film actress Saoirse Ronan is a chilling Abigail Williams, a young girl who seeks revenge on John Proctor (Ben Whishaw) who, guilt-ridden after succumbing to her seduction, allows his godly wife, Elizabeth (Sophie Okonedo) , to turn the servant girl out of their home when she suspects something might be going on.
Abigail enlists the help of other young girls, who may or may not have joined her in practicing some witchcraft. Betty Parris (Elizabeth Teeter) has been in a trance since the girls met and apparently danced naked in the woods, much to the horror of The Rev. Samuel Parris (Jason Butler Harner). Parris askes the Rev John Hale (Bill Camp) to come investigate.

In the ensuing inquiry and trials which have scores arrested and on trial for their lives, the girls stick together in their story which implicates innocent townsfolk in witchcraft: Tituba (Jenny Jules), Rebecca Nurse (Brenda Wehle) and even elderly Giles Corey (Jim Norton). The madness if fueled when people like the Putnams (Thomas Jay Ryand and Tina Benko) start to wonder if losing many children at young ages might have been due to witchcraft and when Abigail refuses to stop her persecution and the other girls are too frightened to speak against her.

One girl, the Proctors’ new maid, Mary Warren (Tavi Gevinson), tells the truth, but with disastrous results. After all, what does the truth matter when society has decided what you must think and say or lose your life?

The brilliant direction includes setting the play in a school room (designed by Jan Versweyveld, who also designs the lighting) and dressing the girls in school uniforms (Costume Design is by Wojciech Dziedzic). The result is that we see a tale taking place in late 17th-century Salem, but which could be happening today. This, of course, was Miller’s intent, as the play was written in response to the anti-Communism hearings being conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.

The contemporary connection is so compelling that the pointing of a finger and screaming the word “witch” can be applied today as people point and scream “Christian!” or “Racist!”  You either get on board with politically correct policies or find yourself ruined – and little care is given to the motivation of those doing the accusing.

Fascinating in their modern application also, are messages about the church. There are comments about people staying away from church because God is hardly mentioned there (a nod toward today’s churches who opt for popularity over preaching the Gospel). The 10 commandments are written on the blackboard, then obliterated as other things are written over them  Video Design by Tal Yarden, in a nod to rewriting scripture when we don’t like what it says – and the silence required about it in our schools).

We have a sheriff of sorts, Ezekiel Cheever (Michael Braun), and Deputy Governor Danforth (Ciaran Hinds) who don’t necessarily agree with what is happening around them, but say nothing because they are just doing their jobs (and don’t want to lose them – remind you of any of today’s politicians?)

The worst offenders are Judge Hawthorne (Teagle F. Bougere) who won’t listen to any version of the truth except the one he wants to hear and Hale, who realizes too late what is happening and then, because he didn’t do what is right in the first place, is impotent.

Though I have seen other versions of The Crucible and thought them good and timely, never before have I been blown out of my seat by the fright of seeing modern events depicted in such a dark and cunning way. The suggestion later, in very dramatic special-effect that devil worship might just behind all of this is particularly chilling and the Original Score by Philip Glass seals the feeling.
Van Hove is my go-to director now for exciting theater (he also made A View From the Bridge more compelling than I ever have seen it earlier this season.)

The Crucible casts its spell through July 17 at the Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 West 48th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $42-$149:; (877) 250-2929.

-- God's name taken in vain

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Outer Critics Award 2016: She Loves Me, American Psycho, Dear Evan Hansen Lead Nominations

Outer Critics Circle
2015-2016 Award Nominations

The Father
The Humans
King Charles III
Thérèse Raquin

American Psycho the Musical
Bright Star
On Your Feet!
Tuck Everlasting the Musical

The Christians
Hold On to Me Darling
The Legend of Georgia McBride

Daddy Long Legs
Dear Evan Hansen
Southern Comfort

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Bright Star
Daddy Long Legs
Dear Evan Hansen
On Your Feet!

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
American Psycho the Musical
Bright Star
Daddy Long Legs
Dear Evan Hansen

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
The Crucible
Fool for Love
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
A View From the Bridge

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
The Color Purple the Musical
Dames at Sea
Fiddler on the Roof
She Loves Me
Spring Awakening

Evan Cabnet     Gloria
Mike Donahue     The Legend of Georgia McBride
Rupert Goold     King Charles III
Joe Mantello     The Humans
Ivo van Hove     A View From the Bridge

Michael Arden     Spring Awakening
Walter Bobbie     Bright Star
Scott Ellis     She Loves Me
Rupert Goold     American Psycho the Musical
Michael Greif     Dear Evan Hansen

Joshua Bergasse   Cagney
Spencer Liff     Spring Awakening
Josh Rhodes     Bright Star
Randy Skinner     Dames at Sea
Sergio Trujillo     On Your Feet!

(Play or Musical)
Beowulf Boritt     Thérèse Raquin
David Korins     Misery
Mimi Lien     John
David Rockwell     She Loves Me
Walt Spangler     Tuck Everlasting the Musical

(Play or Musical)
ESosa     On Your Feet!
Jane Greenwood     Bright Star
Katrina Lindsay     American Psycho the Musical
Jeff Mahshie     She Loves Me
Tom Scutt     King Charles III

(Play or Musical)Donald Holder     She Loves Me
Natasha Katz     Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Kenneth Posner     On Your Feet!
Ben Stanton     Spring Awakening
Justin Townsend     American Psycho the Musical

(Play or Musical)Lucy MacKinnon     Spring Awakening
Peter Nigrini     Grounded
Peter Nigrini     Dear Evan Hansen
Finn Ross     American Psycho the Musical
Tal Yarden     Lazarus

Reed Birney    The Humans
Gabriel Byrne     Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Frank Langella     The Father
Mark Strong     A View From the Bridge
Ben Whishaw     The Crucible

Jayne Houdyshell     The Humans
Jessica Lange     Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Lupita Nyong’o     Eclipsed
Nicola Walker     A View From the Bridge
Michelle Williams     Blackbird

Alex Brightman     School of Rock the Musical
Danny Burstein     Fiddler on the Roof
Robert Creighton     Cagney
Ben Platt     Dear Evan Hansen
Benjamin Walker     American Psycho the Musical

Laura Benanti     She Loves Me
Carmen Cusack    Bright Star
Cynthia Erivo     The Color Purple the Musical
Jessie Mueller     Waitress
Ana Villafañe     On Your Feet!

Sanjit De Silva     Dry Powder
Matt McGrath     The Legend of Georgia McBride
Jim Norton     The Crucible
Robert Sella     Sylvia
Michael Shannon     Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Pascale Armand     Eclipsed
Zainab Jah     Eclipsed
Judith Light     Thérèse Raquin
Saycon Sengbloh     Eclipsed
Myra Lucretia Taylor     Familiar      

Nicholas Barasch     She Loves Me
Roger Bart     Disaster!
Michael Esper     Lazarus
Christopher Fitzgerald     Waitress
Terrence Mann     Tuck Everlasting the Musical

Danielle Brooks     The Color Purple the Musical
Andrea Burns     On Your Feet!
Sophia Anne Caruso     Lazarus
Jane Krakowski     She Loves Me  
Heléne Yorke     American Psycho the Musical

Mike Birbiglia    Thank God For Jokes
Kathleen Chalfant     Rose
Anne Hathaway     Grounded    
James Lecesne     The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey
Daphne Rubin-Vega     Empanada Loca

(Presented for an American play, preferably by a new playwright)
Lindsey Ferrentino     Ugly Lies the Bone
Lauren Gunderson     I and You
Martyna Majok     Ironbound
Marco Ramirez     The Royale
Anna Ziegler     Boy

James Houghton     Signature Theatre Company

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