Sunday, April 30, 2017

Broadway Theater Review: Anastasia

Music by Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Book by Terrence McNally
Choreography by Peggy Hickey
Directed by Darko Tresnjak

By Lauren Yarger
Tween girls who want something to watch in between performances of Wicked, look no further. The big-set, big costume musical Anastasia, inspired by the 20th Century Fox films (1997 animated starring the voice of Meg Ryan and 1956 movie starring Ingrid Bergman) is just what you are looking for.

Christy Altomare, who has received Outer Critics and Drama Desk award nominations in her Broadway debut, stars as Anya, a young girl who just might really be Anastasia, the daughter of Tsar Nicholas II (Constantine Germanacos) and Tsarina Alexandra (Lauren Blackman) who were murdered when Revolution gripped Russia in 1907. 

The young girl, who has little memory, but whose dreams are haunted, is recruited by Dmityr (Derek Klena) and his companion, Vlad (John Bolton) to school her in the ways of royalty and pass her off as Duchess Anastasia. There are some obstacles to this plan in Terrence McNally's book: 
  • Gleb (Ramin Karimloo), a Communist official takes an interest in Anya. If she really does turn out to be Anastasia, he vows to finish the job of his father, who was charged with executing the royal family.
  • The Tsar's mother, the Dowager Empress (an elegant Mary Beth Peil), is in Paris and is growing tired of imposters claiming they are her long-lost granddaughter whom she last saw 20 years ago as a young girl (Little Naastasia is played by Nicole Scimeca.)
  • No one can get to the Grad Duchess without first getting past her friend, Countess Lily (an amusing Caroline O'Connor). Vlad just might have that covered, however, as he used to have a thing with Lily back in the day.
  • Anya and Dmitry fall in love, throwing a wrench in his plan to collect a monetary reward for finding Anastasia and part ways with the amnesiac girl. 
The sets designed bu Alexander Dodge are lavish and large. Aaron Rhyne's Projection Design helps take us from St. Peterburgh to Paris and the train ride is so realistic you might just get car sick.  The biggest star of this show, however, is Linda Cho. Her costumes are numerous and breathtaking and range from street clothes to grand ballgowns and formal attire for the men. Anya makes an entrance in an exquisite blue gown trimmed with silver that is sartorial perfection. It brings screams, gasps and applause form an audience I didn't think could get much mire enthusiastic. Every tune in the Stephen Flaherty score is greeted by enthusiastic applause, especially Altomare's belt of the first-act finale"Journey to the Past" ( think "Defying Gravity" and you'll capture the feel of the moment....).

While the show, directed by Darko Tresnjak (who is reunited with some of his team from the Tony-Award winner A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, including Chorepgrapher Peggy Hickey), is grand to look at, the story is predictable and has little tension (including no discernable chemistry between Anya and Dmitry). What tension it has is a bit dark, with Anya haunted by ghosts from her past and a scene depicting the murder of her family (a bit much for little ones for whom fantasy shows are needed on Broadway) and Gleb suddenly decides killing Anastasia isn't all that important after all...... Some changes have been made from the premiere at Hartford Stage (it won the CT Critics Circle award for Best Musical last year), but it still could use some tweaks.

Besides the Academy-Award nominated "Journey to the Past," and "Once Upon a December" (the music box song), both from the animated film, the rest of the score from the team that brought us Ragtime isn't all that memorable. A humorous song called "“The Countess and the Common Man,” where Vlad and Lily try to ignite their youthful passion in middle-aged bodies, is amusing, however. 

I kept wanting something more all the way through this story, but apparently I was alone based on the enthusiastic audience response. so I predict a nice long run for this musical, which has been nominated for a bunch of Outer Critics and Drama Desk awards. Cho is nominated for a Tony for her costume designs and Peil is nominated as Featured Actress, but the musical was shut out in other Tony categories.

Anastasia charms audiences at the Broadhurst Theatre, 235 West 44th St., NYC.  Tickets are $69-$189:

Full cast:
Christy Altomare, Derek Klena, John Bolton, Ramin Karimloo, Caroline O’Connor, Mary Beth Peil, Zach Adkins, Sissy Bell, Lauren Blackman, Kathryn Boswell, Kyle Brown, Kristen Smith Davis, Janet Dickinson, Constantine Germanacos, Wes Hart, Ian Knauer, Ken Krugman, Dustin Layton, Shina Ann Morris, James A. Pierce III, Molly Rushing, Nicole Scimeca, Jennifer Smith, Johnny Stellard, McKayla Twiggs, Allison Walsh

-- God's name taken in vain
-- I would recommend for 10 and up

Broadway Theater Review: Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day
Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin
Book by Danny Rubin
Directed by Matthew Warchus
August Wilson Theatre

By Lauren Yarger
If you're a fan of the movie, you'll enjoy the screen-to-stage version of the comedy Groundhog Day starring Andy Karl as a weatherman who finds himself trapped in a day that won't end.

Karl, who injured his knee just before the show's opening, valiantly continued on with a "show-must-go-on" attitude and won the hearts of the audience. Awards nominations surely will follow.

Following his acclaimed performance in the London production of the Tim Minchin/Danny Rubin musical, Karl plays Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray in the film) unenthusiastically covering the antics of Punxsutawney Phil, the Pennsylvania groundhog who once a year predicts whether there will be six more weeks of winter by whether or not he sees his shadow.  The small-town experience doesn't interest the human Phil much, until he realizes the day keeps repeating itself.

He finds himself in the same situations and the same conversations with the townsfolk and his associate producer, Rita Hanson (Barrett Doss). When he realizes he isn't dreaming, he tries to end it all to stop the futility of his existence, but finds that no matter what he does, the alarm clock wakes him at exactly the same time for the exact same day.

Phil starts to wonder whether he can use his knowledge of what is to happen to make a difference and change outcomes for some of the town's residents. When his heart changes, so does the relationship between him and Rita.

The score is pleasing and the lyrics are clever as well as humorous. Matthew Warchus (who reunites with Minchin and Rubin from Matilda) expertly directs the action on the fabulous set designed by Rob Howell. The storytelling is set to movement by Choreographer Peter Darling and Co-Choreographer Ellen Kane. In fact, everything blends together so well, a cameo appearance by Karl's knee brace even seems like it could be part of the original script.

The relationship between Phil and Rita could use some development. Rita doesn't seem to sure of herself or what she wants, but Nancy (Rebecca Faulkenberry), who is no more than window dressing to Phil and the guys of Small Town USA gets an unexpected solo about why she is the way she is and how women are taught to focus on their looks) called "Playing Nancy."

Filling out the townsfolk and various characters is a strong ensemble cast: John Sanders, Andrew Call, Raymond J. Lee, Heather Ayers, Kevin Bernard, Gerard Canonico, Rheaume Crenshaw, Michael Fatica, Katy Geraghty, Camden Gonzales, Jordan Grubb, Taylor Iman Jones, Tari Kelly, Josh Lamon, Joseph Medeiros, Sean Montgomery, William Parry, Jenna Rubaii, Vishal Vaidya, Travis Waldschmidt, and Natalie Wisdom.

Additional credits:  Christopher Nightingale (orchestrator and musical supervisor), Hugh Vanstone (lighting designer), Simon Baker (sound designer), Paul Kieve (illusions), Finn Caldwell (additional movement), Andrzej Goulding (video designer), Campbell Young Associates (hair and wig design) , David Holcenberg (music director).

Groundhog Day repeats eight times a week at the August Wilson Theatre, 245 West 52nd St., NYC).

-- Suicide
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language
-- Sexual references

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Broadway Theater Review: Indecent

The cast. Photo: Carol Rosegg
By Paula Vogel
Directed by Rebecca Taichman
Created by Paula Vogel and Rebecca Taichman
Choreographed by David Dorfman
Cort Theatre

By Lauren Yarger
Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Paul Vogel (How I Learned to Drive) makes her Broadway debut with the tale of a tale that was labeled Indecent.

Creator/Director Rebecca Taichman brings history to life on the stage by combining three musicians (Matt Darriau, Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva) and an ensemble of actors who play various roles as a  (Matt Darriau, Lisa Gutkin, Aaron Halva, Katrina Lenk, Mimi Lieber, Max Gordon Moore, Tom Nelis, Steven Rattazi, Richard Topol and Adina Verson) to tell the story of the mounting of the Yiddish play God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch.

Containing the first on-stage kiss between two women, the play, which premiered in 1907 in Poland. and enjoyed success touring across Europe.  In 1923 it was translated into Englaish and got a Broadway run -- until it was cut short when the cast was arrested for indecency.

Vogel's play focuses on how God of Vengence touched the lives of those involved, including two actresses who find love as they play the characters who dare to explore their lesbian attraction. Interestingly, God of Vengeance itself recently had an acclaimed run in New Yiddish Rep in New York, where in 2017, nothing is considered indecent.

The play, in a brisk 100 minutes, is a fine blend of music (Co-Composed and Music Directed by Gutkin and Halva), movement and strong acting by all of the ensemble members. The Yiddish tunes, choreography by David Dorfman and costuming by Emily Rebholz set the mood, complimented by expert Lighting Design by Christopher Akerlind. Riccardo Hernandez creates a backstage set and Projection Design by Tal Yarden keeps us up to date on dates and locations.

The play, which won last year's CT Critics Circle Award for its premiere at Yale Repertory and had a successful Off-Broadway run this season before transferring to Broadway, Taichman and Akerlind all have been nominated for Tony Awards.

Indecent plays at the Cort Theatrem 138 West 48th St., NYC. Ticjets are $39-$129:

-- Homosexuality
-- Sexual Activity
-- God's name taken in vain

Friday, April 28, 2017

Off-Broadway Theater Review: The Profane

Lanna Joffrey, Tala Ashe and Francis Benhamou. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Profane
By Zayd Dohrn
Directed by Kip Fagan
Playwrights Horizons
Extended through May 7

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
The world premiere of a new play by Zayd Dohrn exploring just how far tolerance will stretch. Emina (Tala  Ashe) and Sam (Babak Tafti) are in love and want to get married. There's just one problem (well, more than one). Sam's parents, Peter and Carmen Osman (Ramsey Faragallah and Lanna Joffrey), are old school when it comes to religion: daily prayers on their prayer rugs and head covering for Carmen. Emina's folks, Raif (Ali Reza Farahnakian) and Naja (Heather Raffo) Almedin
are much more modern -- and Americanized. Their older daughter. Aisa (Francis Banhamou, who plays a dual role) is a bartender and likes to party a lot. She hides her lesbian leanings from them, but talks about everything with her sister, whose attraction to conservative Sam she doesn't understand. Neither do her parents. Naja had hopes that Emina would follow in her steps as a dancer and for Raif, a dissident novelist, his daughter's embracing traditions on which he turned his back is his worst nightmare. 

"I know these people," he says angrily -- before the two families meet.

While Sam waivers in his own devotion to the faith, Emina embraces it and feels more at home with the Osmans, even when Sam's secret, which could split the couple up for good, is revealed.

What Are the Highlights?
Dohrn writes compelling characters propelled by human emotion rather than a political agenda (kudos!). The play raises questions about how far tolerance stretches, but also about how much the people we become are the product of our parents and how much we take our freedoms for granted. Its timely and shows that prejudice isn't only found among white Americans.

Director Kip Fagan steers strong performances across the board.

Takeshi Kata's set creates the completely different homes for both families and then provides a nice side transition toward the end.

What Are the Lowlights?
The theme of how these folks might have encountered prejudices from non Muslim Americans might have been interesting to explore. It's a little hard to know why Emina has embraced Islam so easily.

More Information:
The Profane has been extended through May 7 at Playwright Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 pm; Saturday at 2 and 7:30 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.
Additional credits:
Costume Design by Jessica Pabst; Lighting Design by Matt Frey; Sound Design by Brandon Wolcott.

-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dolly, Anastasia, Come From Away Lead Drama Desk Nominations

Outstanding Play
If I Forget, by Steven Levenson, Roundabout Theatre Company
Indecent, by Paula Vogel, Vineyard Theatre
A Life, by Adam Bock, Playwrights Horizons
Oslo, by J. T. Rogers, Lincoln Center Theater
Sweat, by Lynn Nottage, The Public Theater
Outstanding Musical
The Band's Visit, Atlantic Theater Company
Come From Away
Hadestown, New York Theatre Workshop
The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical
Outstanding Revival of a Play
The Front Page
The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
Jitney, Manhattan Theatre Club
The Little Foxes, Manhattan Theatre Club
 "Master Harold"... and the Boys, Signature Theatre Company
Picnic, Transport Group Theatre Company
Outstanding Revival of a Musical
Falsettos, Lincoln Center Theater
Hello, Dolly!
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sweet Charity, The New Group
Tick, Tick...BOOM!, Keen Company
Outstanding Actor in a Play
Bobby Cannavale, The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
Daniel Craig, Othello, New York Theatre Workshop
Kevin Kline, Present Laughter
David Hyde Pierce, A Life, Playwrights Horizons
John Douglas Thompson, Jitney, Manhattan Theatre Club
Outstanding Actress in a Play
Cate Blanchett, The Present
Laura Linney, The Little Foxes, Manhattan Theatre Club
Laurie Metcalf, A Doll's House, Part 2
Amy Ryan, Love, Love, Love, Roundabout Theatre Company
Harriet Walter, The Tempest, St. Ann's Warehouse
Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Nick Blaemire, Tick, Tick...BOOM!, Keen Company
Jon Jon Briones, Miss Saigon
Nick Cordero, A Bronx Tale
Andy Karl, Groundhog Day
Jeremy Secomb, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Christy Altomare, Anastasia
Christine Ebersole, War Paint
Sutton Foster, Sweet Charity, The New Group
Patti LuPone, War Paint
Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!
Laura Osnes, Bandstand
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
Michael Aronov, Oslo, Lincoln Center Theater
Danny DeVito, The Price, Roundabout Theatre Company
Nathan Lane, The Front Page
Jeremy Shamos, If I Forget, Roundabout Theatre Company
Justice Smith, Yen, MCC Theater
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Jayne Houdyshell, A Doll's House, Part 2
Randy Graff, The Babylon Line, Lincoln Center Theater
Marie Mullen, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, BAM
Cynthia Nixon, The Little Foxes, Manhattan Theatre Club
Emily Skinner, Picnic
Kate Walsh, If I Forget, Roundabout Theatre Company
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!
Jeffry Denman, Kid Victory, Vineyard Theatre
George Salazar, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical
Ari'el Stachel, The Band's Visit, Atlantic Theater Company
Brandon Uranowitz, Falsettos, Lincoln Center Theater
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
Kate Baldwin, Hello, Dolly!
Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos, Lincoln Center Theater
Jenn Colella, Come From Away
Mary Beth Peil, Anastasia
Nora Schell, Spamilton
Outstanding Director of a Play
Richard Jones, The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
Anne Kauffman, A Life, Playwrights Horizons
Richard Nelson, What Did You Expect?/Women  of a Certain Age, The Public Theater
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jitney, Manhattan Theatre Club
Daniel Sullivan, The Little Foxes, Manhattan Theatre Club
Daniel Sullivan, If I Forget, Roundabout Theatre Company
Outstanding Director of a Musical
Christopher Ashley, Come From Away
Bill Buckhurst, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
David Cromer, The Band's Visit, Atlantic Theater Company
Jerry Zaks, Hello, Dolly!
Outstanding Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand
Warren Carlyle, Hello, Dolly!
Aletta Collins, The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
Kelly Devine, Come From Away
Denis Jones, Holiday Inn, Roundabout Theatre Company
Outstanding Music
Stephen Flaherty, Anastasia
Dave Malloy, Beardo, Pipeline Theatre Company
Richard Oberacker, Bandstand
Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away
David Yazbek, The Band's Visit, Atlantic Theater Company
Outstanding Lyrics
Gerard Alessandrini, Spamilton
GQ and JQ, Othello: The Remix
Michael Korie, War Paint
Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away
David Yazbek, The Band's Visit, Atlantic Theater Company

Outstanding Book of a Musical
Terrence McNally, Anastasia
Itamar Moses, The Band's Visit, Atlantic Theater Company
Richard Oberacker, Bandstand
Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away
Joe Tracz, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical
Outstanding Orchestrations
Doug Besterman, Anastasia
Bruce Coughlin, War Paint
Benjamin Cox, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen, Bandstand
August Eriksmoen, Come From Away
Jamshied Sharifi, The Band's Visit, Atlantic Theater Company

Outstanding Music in a Play
Daniel Ocanto, Graham Ulicny, and Sean Smith, Alligator, New Georges in collaboration with the Sol Project
Marcus Shelby, Notes from the Field, Second Stage
Bill Sims Jr., Jitney, Manhattan Theatre Club

Outstanding Revue
Hello Dillie!, 59E59
Life is for Living: Conversations with Coward, 59E59
Outstanding Set Design for a Play
David Gallo, Jitney, Manhattan Theatre Club
Nigel Hook, The Play That Goes Wrong
Laura Jellinek, A Life, Playwrights Horizons
Stewart Laing, The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
Douglas W. Schmidt, The Front Page
Outstanding Set Design for a Musical
Lez Brotherston, 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, St. Ann's Warehouse
Simon Kenny, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Mimi Lien, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!
Jason Sherwood, The View UpStairs
Outstanding Costume Design for a Play
Jane Greenwood, The Little Foxes, Manhattan Theatre Club
Susan Hilferty, Present Laughter
Murell Horton, The Liar, CSC
Toni-Leslie James, Jitney, Manhattan Theatre Club
Stewart Laing, The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
Ann Roth, The Front Page
Outstanding Costume Design for a Musical
Linda Cho, Anastasia
Toni-Leslie James, Come From Away
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!
Anita Yavich, The View UpStairs
Paloma Young, Bandstand
Catherine Zuber, War Paint
Outstanding Lighting Design for a Play
Christopher Akerlind, Indecent, Vineyard Theatre
James Farncombe, The Tempest, St. Ann's Warehouse
Rick Fisher, The Judas Kiss, Brooklyn Academy of Music
Mimi Jordan Sherin, The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
Stephen Strawbridge, "Master Harold"...and the Boys, Signature Theatre Company
Justin Townsend, The Little Foxes, Manhattan Theatre Club
Outstanding Lighting Design for a Musical
Jeff Croiter, Bandstand
Mark Henderson, Sunset Boulevard
Bradley King, Hadestown, New York Theatre Workshop
Bradley King, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Amy Mae, Sweeney Todd: The Barber of Fleet Street
Malcolm Rippeth, 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, St. Ann's Warehouse

Outstanding Projection Design
Reid Farrington, CasablancaBox, HERE
Elaine McCarthy, Notes from the Field, Second Stage
Jared Mezzocchi, Vietgone, Manhattan Theatre Club*
John Narun, Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey, Life Jacket Theatre Company
Aaron Rhyne, Anastasia
Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
Mikhail Fiksel, A Life, Playwrights Horizons
Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin, The Encounter
Brian Quijada, Where Did We Sit on the Bus?, Ensemble Studio Theatre/Radio Drama Network
Leon Rothenberg, Notes from the Field, Second Stage
Jane Shaw, Men on Boats, Playwrights Horizons/Clubbed Thumb
Matt Stine, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical
Simon Baker, 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, St. Ann's Warehouse
Peter Hylenski, Anastasia
Scott Lehrer, Hello, Dolly!
Nicholas Pope, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Mick Potter, Cats
Brian Ronan, War Paint
Outstanding Wig and Hair
David Brian Brown, War Paint
Campbell Young Associates, Hello, Dolly!
John Jared Janas, Yours Unfaithfully, Mint Theatre Company
Jason Hayes, The View UpStairs
Josh Marquette, Present Laughter
Tom Watson, The Little Foxes, Manhattan Theatre Club
Outstanding Solo Performance
Nancy Anderson, The Pen (Inner Voices), Premieres
Ed Dixon, Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose
Marin Ireland, On the Exhale, Roundabout Underground
Sarah Jones, Sell/Buy/Date, Manhattan Theatre Club
Brian Quijada, Where Did We Sit on the Bus?, Ensemble Studio Theatre/Radio Drama Network
Anna Deavere Smith, Notes from the Field, Second Stage
Unique Theatrical Experience
CasablancaBox, HERE
The Paper Hat Game, The Tank/3-Legged Dog
The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, National Theatre of Scotland
The Ephemera Trilogy, The Tank/Flint & Tinder
Outstanding Fight Choreography
J. David Brimmer, Yen, MCC Theatre
Donal O'Farrell, Quietly, Irish Repertory Theatre
Michael Rossmy and Rick Sordelet, Troilus and Cressida, New York Shakespeare Festival
Thomas Schall, Othello, New York Theatre Workshop
Thomas Schall, The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
U. Jonathan Toppo, Sweat, The Public Theatre
Outstanding Adaptation
David Ives, The Liar, Classic Stage Company
Ellen McLaughlin, The Trojan Women, The Flea Theatre
Outstanding Puppet Design
Basil Twist, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Lyndie Wright, Sarah Wright, 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, St. Ann's Warehouse
Outstanding Ensemble
The Wolves, The Playwrights Realm: The superbly talented cast of Sarah DeLappe's debut play -Mia Barron, Brenna Coates, Jenna Dioguardi, Samia Finnerty, Midori Francis, Lizzy Jutila, Sarah Mezzanotte, Tedra Millan, Lauren Patten, and Susannah Perkins-jelled as one, proving that team spirit is just a alive on the stage as it is on the soccer field.

Special Award to Phil LaDuca: Proving that character comes from the ground up, the designer's innovative flexible dance shoe ensures that hoofers on any stage remain on point.

Sam Norkin Award: Lila Neugebauer:  During a season that saw her helm the original worksThe AntipodesEverybody, Miles For Maryand The Wolves, and resurrect the works of esteemed playwrights Edward Albee, Maria Irene Fornes, and Adrienne Kennedy inSignature Plays, director Lila Neugebauer has shown that her dauntless insight into the human condition knows no bounds.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Broadway Theater Review: The Little Foxes

The Little FoxesBy Lillian Hellman
Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Manhattan Theatre Club

By Lauren Yarger
In April, the busiest month of theater, when all of the last shows rush to open before awards deadlines, what could ever convince me to go back and see a play right after I just had seen it?

For Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes, it was the chance to see stars Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon trade off the roles of Regina Giddens and Birdie Hubbard At certain performances, Linney plays uppity, ambitious Regina, who isn't going to let her brothers, Oscar Hubbard (Darren Goldstein) and Ben (a superby Michael McKean), cheat her out of any of the money from the lucrative deal her family is striking with Mr. Marshall (David Alford) to save their business.

Her cold heart isn't warmed either by her estranged and infirm husband, Horace (Richard Thomas), or daughter, Alexandra (Frances Carpanni), who obviously adores her kind father more than her overbearing mother.

The girl, in fact, is the apple of the eye of her Aunt Birdie (Nixon), who also has a soft spot for Horace. She has loftier hopes for her niece than the same fate she had forced upon her: to be married for her money -- even if the man who will benefit is her own son, untrustworthy and cruel Leo (Michael Benz). Birdie hides the physical abuse she suffers at the hands of Oscar and urges the girl to get away before it's too late.

But then switch! The next performance, Linney is shy, almost-invisible Birdie and Nixon is calculating, manipulative Regina.  It's fascinating to watch, not only because the actresses, directed by Daniel Sullivan, so easily produce such different characters, but because of the consistency in the performances of the supporting actors as well. There is virtually no difference in the presentation or chemistry between the women and the others with whom the interact. This is some pretty great acting we get to witness and if you have the opportunity to see both versions, I urge you to do so. Personal preference: Linney as Birdie, which is opposite from the opening-night casting. The two seemed a perfect fit in these roles and allowed for great depth.

Jane Greenwood's period costumes take us to the turn of the 20th Century and Set Designer Scott Pask places us in a rich southern manse owned now by the Giddens, but where Birdie fondly remembers an Alabama childhood where things were gentile and sweet. Ownership passed to her husband, however, and now she feels like an unwelcome guest at . Filling out the cast is Caroline Stefanie Clay as family servant Addie. It's a tale of time gone by, greed, deception and some of the worst family relationships you can imagine.

It's pretty absorbing and surprisingly contemporary for a play that was written in 1939. And it makes me want to see it again, maybe this time with Bette Davis starring as Regina in the 1941 film.

The Little Foxes steal from the hen house at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St., NYC.

Family-Friendly Factors:
-- God's name taken in vain

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Anastasia Leads Outer Critics Circle Award Nominations

Anastasia at Hartford Stage. Photo: Joan Marcus
Outer Critics Circle
2016-2017 Award Nominations

A Doll’s House, Part 2

A Bronx Tale
Come From Away
Groundhog Day
Holiday Inn

If I Forget
A Life
Love, Love, Love

The Band’s Visit
Himself and Nora
Kid Victory

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Terrence McNally     Anastasia
Itamar Moses     The Band’s Visit
Chazz Palminteri     A Bronx Tale
Danny Rubin    Groundhog Day
Irene Sankoff & David Hein     Come From Away

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Stephen Flaherty & Lynn Ahrens     Anastasia
Alan Menken & Glenn Slater     A Bronx Tale
Tim Minchin    Groundhog Day
Irene Sankoff & David Hein     Come From Away
David Yazbek     The Band’s Visit

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
The Front Page
The Little Foxes
The Price
(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Finian’s Rainbow
Hello, Dolly!
Miss Saigon
Sunset Boulevard
Sweeney Todd

Lila Neugebauer     The Wolves
Jack O’Brien     The Front Page
Daniel Sullivan     The Little Foxes
Rebecca Taichman    Indecent
Kate Whoriskey     Sweat

Christopher Ashley    Come From Away
David Cromer     The Band’s Visit
Darko Tresnjak    Anastasia
Matthew Warchus    Groundhog Day
Jerry Zaks     Hello, Dolly!

Andy Blankenbuehler    Bandstand
Warren Carlyle     Hello, Dolly!
Savion Glover     Shuffle Along
Kelly Devine     Come From Away
Denis Jones     Holiday Inn

(Play or Musical)
Alexander Dodge    Anastasia
Nigel Hook     The Play That Goes Wrong
Mimi Lien     Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Scott Pask     The Little Foxes
Douglas W. Schmidt    The Front Page

(Play or Musical)
Linda Cho     Anastasia
Susan Hilferty     Present Laughter
Santo Loquasto     Hello, Dolly!
Ann Roth     Shuffle Along
Catherine Zuber     War Paint

(Play or Musical)Christopher Akerlind    Indecent
Donald Holder    Anastasia
Natasha Katz     Hello, Dolly!
Bradley King     Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Kenneth Posner     War Paint

(Play or Musical)Duncan McLean    Privacy
Jared Mezzocchi    Vietgone
Benjamin Pearcy for 59 Productions     Oslo
Aaron Rhyne    Anastasia
Tal Yarden     Indecent

(Play or Musical)Gareth Fry & Pete Malkin     The Encounter
Gareth Owen     Come From Away
Nicholas Pope    Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Matt Stine     Sweeney Todd
Nevin Steinberg    Bandstand

Doug Besterman    Anastasia
Larry Blank     Holiday Inn
Bill Elliott & Greg Anthony Rassen    Bandstand
Larry Hochman     Hello, Dolly!
Jamshied Sharifi     The Band’s Visit

Daniel Craig     Othello
Michael Emerson    Wakey, Wakey
Kevin Kline     Present Laughter
David Oyelowo    Othello
David Hyde Pierce     A Life

Janie Dee     Linda
Sally Field     The Glass Menagerie
Allison Janney     Six Degrees of Separation
Laura Linney     The Little Foxes
Laurie Metcalf     A Doll’s House, Part 2

Christian Borle    Falsettos
Nick Cordero     A Bronx Tale
Andy Karl     Groundhog Day
David Hyde Pierce    Hello, Dolly!
Tony Shalhoub     The Band’s Visit

Christy Altomare    Anastasia
Christine Ebersole    War Paint
Katrina Lenk     The Band’s Visit
Patti LuPone     War Paint
Bette Midler     Hello, Dolly!

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- 2022 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

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

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

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

Reviewing Policy

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

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