Monday, November 4, 2019

Be There for London's Live-Stage Concert of Les Mis

A staged concert of Les Miserables will be broadcast live in cinemas across North America on Monday, Dec. 2 from the Gielgud Theatre in London, with encore screenings taking place on Sunday, Dec. 8.

Tickets for North American cinemas will be available beginning Friday, Nov. 8 at

Leading an outstanding cast and orchestra of more than 65 are Michael Ball (Javert), Alfie Boe (Jean Valjean), Carrie Hope Fletcher (Fantine) and Matt Lucas (Thénardier), who perform the songs "I Dreamed A Dream," "Bring Him Home," "One Day More," "On My Own" and others. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Off-Broadway Theater Review: When it Happens to You

Tawni O'Dell and Kelly Swint. Photo: Jeremy Daniel
When it Happens to You
By Tawni O'Dell
Directed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett
Sheen Center
Through Nov. 10

By Lauren Yarger
What's it All About:  
The story of a daughter's rape from the mother's perspective, based the real-life experience and memoir of playwright Tawni O'Dell ("Back Roads"/"Angels Burning"), who stars. She takes us from the moment her daughter, Tirzah (Kelly Swint makng an impressive NY theater debut), calls to say she has been attacked through the months after as the family tries to deal with the tragedy that has changed them forever. Also affected in Tirzah's brother, Connor (Connor Lawrence) who toggles between grief over what has happened to his sister and jealousy that his mother seems to have no place for him as she tries to help Tirzah. And Tirzah needs help. She copes in a negative way, detaching from things she loves (including school and pursuing a career as a chef) and attaching to drugs and a deadbeat boyfriend an his dysfunctional family.  E. Clayton Cornelious. playing a multitude of characters throughout the story, rounds out the cast.

What Are the Highlights:
A gripping performance from Swint creates sympathy for the character despite the poor choices that bring her and her family more grief. She portrays a woman trapped in a roller coaster of emotions, nicely helmed by talented Director Lynne Taylre-Corbett. Here's an actress to watch.

What Are the Lowlights:
Interestingly, the main force of the play -- the story told from the mother's perspective -- ends up working against itself. Because we feel more sympathy for the daughter, we kind of want to hear more from her perspective. And while we can't truly understand how we would react in the same situation unless we have gone through this horrible tragedy, we find ourselves questioning some choices the mother makes. They seem more oriented toward her own needs rather than those of her children and a surprise twist at the end seems to confirm this. So the main character we are supposed to bond with seems a bit hard to embrace and the larger story of why we are sitting in the theater for 90 minutes gets cloudy. It feels a bit awkward since the real person is right there on stage. The play didn't start as a theatrical piece, in all fairness, though. It was an act of healing. Here are some thoughts as she expresses them:

"The first time I held my daughter after she was born I made a silent promise to her I would always protect her,"  O'Dell said. "Then came a night in our future when that promise was shattered. I couldn't protect her from the man who stalked her through the streets of her beloved New York City, broke into her home, and assaulted her. During the next few years, her life fell apart and so did my own as I tried to help her deal with the fallout from this awful crime. As a way to help make sense of what we were going through, I did what writers do: I wrote about it. I didn't know if I would ever share our story with the world, but I'm proud to say my daughter has decided that we should in the hopes that we might be able to help other victims and their families. Rape touches just about every one of us. More women are sexually assaulted in this country than are affected by heart disease and breast cancer combined. To say it is an epidemic, is not hyperbole."
More information:
When it Happens to You runs at the Sheen Center, 18 Bleecker St. at the corner of Elizabeth Street, NYC). Perfromances are Tuesday and Sunday at 7 pm; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; matinees Saturday at 2 pmM and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $49.50 - 79.50:; 212-925-2812.

Additional Credits:
Scenic Design by Rob Bissinger and Anita LaScala, Costume Design by David C. Woolard, Lighting Design by Daisy Long, and sound design by Caroline Eng.

-- Obviously mature themes
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Broadway Blessing is a Blessing

The annual Broadway Blessing ushered in the new season on the Great White Way with song, dance, talk and tributes. Chita Rivera honored Hal Prince. The Actor's Chapel at St. Malachy's was standing room only for the event produced by Pat Addiss and Kathryn Fisher.

Chita Rivera gave a tribute to Hal Prince.. whom she said 
"shaped a very large part of my life."

Gerardo Ramirez and Broadway Blessing's Founder Retta Blaney at the post-service reception.

A candle lighting and sing-along concluded the service.

"The Sabbath Prayer" from Fiddler presented by Adam Shapiro.

Jill O'Hara from the original cast of Hair sings "Good Morning Starshine."

Stephen Carlisle from The Lion King and Liseli Lugo and with the Broadway Blessing Choir 
sing "The Circle of Life."

Sydney Meyers sings "Something Happened" by David Friedman from Jane Doe No More.

Roma Torre, right, interviews Cher star Stephanie J. Block, left, who shared how faith helps her strive toward making the word a better place. Her priest encouraged her to take the role of Cher.

Conor Ryan sings "It's Good to Be Alive" from Desperate Measures accompanied 
by composer David Friedman.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Salute Her Awards Celebrate Black Women on Broadway and in New York Theater

Collage Photo Credit: Café Mocha Radio Show’s 9th Annual Salute Her Awards. Top Row - Left to Right: LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Leslie Uggams, Alia Jones-Harvey, Cookie Jordan -- Bottom Row - Left to Right: Dominique Morisseau, Dr. Indira Etwaroo, Linda Stewart, Lynn Nottage.
Café Mocha Radio Show Presents its Inaugural Celebration of Black Women on
Broadway and New York Theatre at
The 9th Annual Salute Her Awards
2019 Honorees Include Leslie Uggams, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Lynn Nottage, Alia Jones-Harvey, Dominique Morisseau, Dr. Indira Etwaroo, Cookie Jordan and Linda Stewart.

Tributes will be performed by songstress Deborah Cox and actress Lisa Arrindell. 

A Who’s Who of Broadway and New York Theater will be celebrated for their artistry and achievements at the nationally syndicated Café Mocha Radio Show’s 9th Annual Salute Her Awards presented by Toyota in association with AARP, Luster PinkAmerican Airlines and WBLS 107.5The 2019 honorees include Leslie Uggams (Legend Award), LaTanya Richardson Jackson (Director’s Award), Lynn Nottage (International Playwright Award), Alia Jones-Harvey (Broadway Producer’s Award), Dominique Morisseau (Playwright Award), Dr. Indira Etwaroo (Theater Community Award), Cookie Jordan (Woman of Style Award), Linda Stewart (Trailblazer Award). Set for Monday, Sept. 16 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theatre (524 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019), this will be the first time that the Salute Her Awards will honor distinctive women within the glittering world of the New York stage with an incredible array of women! To purchase tickets for the Salute Her Awards, go to HERE. Doors open at 7 pm, the awards ceremony will begin at 7:30.
“It’s always been my goal to celebrate women of color on Broadway and New York Theater who are legendary and making a difference today,” said Sheila Eldridge, creator and executive producer of Café Mocha and Salute Her Awards. “The collective impact of this year’s honorees has enriched the lives of so many of us and inspires the art form globally. It’s going to be a special evening for these extraordinary women of theater.”

The special musical tribute will be shared by Grammy-nominated recording artist and actress Deborah Cox, who has starred in such Broadway productions as Elton John & Tim Rice’s AIDA and Jekyll & Hyde. Cox has also starred in the national tour of The Bodyguard: The Musical, and the Asolo Repertory Theatre musical production of Josephine. Cox will be accompanied on piano by Joseph Joubert, noted theatrical composer, arranger, and musical director whose credits include The Color Purple, Three Mo’ Tenors, Century Men, and Motown The Musical.

Acclaimed stage and screen actress Lisa Arrindell will perform a dramatic reading honoring the beloved Toni Morrison. The Brooklyn native and Juilliard graduated was last seen on Broadway in the hit revival of Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. She has been featured in HARPO Productions/HBO original movie, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Christmas Wedding Baby, A Christmas Blessing, The Wronged Man, HBO’s A Lesson Before Dying, Disappearing Acts, and Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters’ First One Hundred Years. She has led in feature films such as Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion, The Second Chance, and Spike Lee’s Clockers
Café Mocha’s celebration of Black Women on Broadway and New York Theatre is the second stop (September 16th) on the national Salute Her Awards’ “Step Into Your Power” Tour. The awards ceremony series kicked-off in Washington, DC and will continue on Thursday, October 18, at the Mint Museum (Charlotte, NC); Friday, November 15, at the Black Academy of Arts & Letters (Dallas, TX); and concludes on Friday, December 6, at Riverside EpiCenter (Atlanta, GA).
A two-time Gracie Award winner, the Café Mocha Radio Show reaches more than 1.4 million listeners around the country (heard locally on WBLS 107.5 on Saturday mornings), hosted by Emmy and NAACP Award winner comedienne Loni Love, hip-hop pioneer Yo-Yo, and radio veteran Angelique Perrin.   
Since 2011, the Salute Her Awards Tour has honored more than 175 women from well-known figures to frequently under-recognized honorees for their contributions. Presenting corporate partner Toyota shares their mission as presenting sponsor for the last three years. Through the Salute Her ‘Nominate Her’ initiative, supported by returning sponsor AARP, the public is encouraged to visit to submit and put a spotlight on the unsung sheroes in their own lives. New sponsors American Airlines and legacy black haircare brand Luster Pink Products have come on board to make this year’s Salute Her Awards Tour even more spectacular. American handles the all-important skies, flying in the Nominate Her honorees. Luster Products puts a focus on millennial dynamism by hosting the Mocha Maven Chic Boutique Meet-Up ‘pitch’ competition, for young female entrepreneurs.
More information: or

Friday, September 6, 2019

Broadway Theater Review: Betrayal

Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton, Charlie Cox. Photo: Marc Brenner
By Harold Pinter
Directed by Jamie Lloyd
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
Through Dec. 8, 2019

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton, and Charlie Cox all making their Broadway debuts in Harold Pinter's study of betrayal. Hiddleston plays Robert, who discovers that his wife, Emmy (Ashton), has been having an affair with his best friend, Jerry (Cox), for seven years. Multiple layers of betrayal emerge and the actors, directed by Jamie Lloyd, dig deep for the emotions felt by their characters.

What Are the Highlights?
Strong performances. Even though the characters aren't very likable (Emmy seems to enjoy feeding her ego at the expense of the two men; Jerry has no problem sleeping with his best friend's wife; Robert appears not to care much that he has...  Hiddleston ("The Avengers") does give a hint of the inner turmoil his character feels when learning of the betrayal,  but the character, for reasons unknown to us, never really expresses it.

What Are the Lowlights?
The play doesn't really go any where and a confusing reverse chronological order to the action makes it difficult to follow what happens when (I know it is reverse chronological order, but if I didn't, that technique would not always be apparent). Information about what took place six years ago, two years ago requires the viewer to do mental math to try to see whether the years are sequenced correctly and it doesn't always seem like they are.

Set Design by Soutra Gilmour (who also designs the costumes) is stark -- a few pieces of furniture -- so prop placement is noticeable and distracting. Why are those drinking glasses downstage? Why are other props pantomimed? Why am I asking these kind of questions? Because the plot doesn't hold interest.

More Information:
90 minutes with no intermission

This production formed the culmination of Pinter at the Pinter, an unprecedented London season of Harold Pinter’s work taking place over the 2018/19 season. This project consisted of more than 30 pieces. Marking the 10th anniversary of Pinter’s death, Betrayal played in the West End theater that bears his name, breaking all box office records.

Additional Credits:
Eddie Arnold as the Waiter.
Lighting Design by Jon Clark; Sound  Design and Music by Ben and Max Ringham.

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Off-Broadway Review: Broadway Bounty Hunter

Annie Golden and Alan H. Green. Photo: Matthew Murphy
Broadway Bounty Hunter
Music and Lyrics by Joe Iconis
Book by Joe Iconis, Lance Rubin and Jason Sweettooth Williams
Directed and Choreographed by Jennifer Werner

By Lauren Yarger
Following the force of the cult musical Be More Chill selling out Off-Broadway and rolling onto Broadway last season, another funky show by Joe Iconis has found its way to a short Off-Broadway run at the Greenwich House Theatre. Like the composer's  sci-fi Be More Chill which appeals to teens, Broadway Bounty Hunter involves a plot using mind controlling drugs for evil purposes, but this story is about an older women, Annie (Annie Golden), an actress of a certain age, who isn't getting parts any more....  The real-life Golden, who made her mark in Hair, Assassins and most recently in the TV series “Orange is the New Black,” proves that she still can belt and deliver a very humorous performance (it is award- worthy).

Down-on-her-luck Annie, still mourning the loss of her beloved husband and laughed out of an audition by a director (Omar Garibay), Annie sees some hope when she is given a chance to train as a bounty hunter under master Shiro Jin (Emily Borromeo). Colleague Lazarus (Alan H. Green) doesn't think she has what it takes, but starts to see her in a different light when they take off on their first bounty hunter assignment together to bring back notorious drug dealer Mac Roundtree (Brad Oscar). Rounding out the cast are Badia Farha, Jasmine Forsberg, Jared Joseph, Christina Sajous and  Emilie Battle. Broadway veteran Anne L. Nathan (Once, Sunday in the Park with George) performs the title role at Saturday matinee performances.

There is a lot going on on the small stage set by Michael Schweikardt with Lighting Design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauser and Projection and Viceo Design by Brad Peterson. It can be a bit dizzying, especially when Choreographer/Director Jennifer Werner gets everyone moving.

But it's fun. I have become a quick fan of Joe Iconis's quirky, catchy scores. Despite not being a 12-year-old, I really liked Be More Chill and am sorry it didn't get more traction on Broadway or with Tony voters. "Michael in the Bathroom" and "Rich Set a Fire" and other songs from Be More Chill circulate through my brain regularly making e wonder if I have ingested some kind of pill that makes you love music of certain composers... And I liked Bounty Hunter, too, though it is less developed than the other. I related to the "woman of a certain age theme" and thoroughly enjoyed the production of a musical called Young People the Musical. Funny stuff. Alas. not everyone was a fan and the show will  close Sunday,  Aug. 18, a month earlier than originally scheduled.

More Information:

Broadway Bounty Hunter plays at Greenwich House Theater (27 Barrow Street, NYC).

-- Language
-- Risque costumes (design by Sarafina Bush)
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexual dialogue

Chita Rivera Will Honor Hal Prince at Annual Broadway Blessing

Chita Rivera. Photo: Barry Gordin
Chita Rivera is scheduled to give a special tribute to Hal Prince at the 22nd annual Broadway Blessing 7 pm Monday, Sept. 16 at St. Malachy's Church (The Actors' Chapel).

Performers from other Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, including Ain’t Too Proud, Fiddler on the Roof, Phantom of the Opera, Lion King, Desperate Measures, and Hair are scheduled to participate as well.  The Broadway Blessing Choir and instrumentalists are under the direction of Stephen Fraser.  George Drance, SJ (La MaMa, Magis Theatre), will emcee again this year. The evening will culminate with a moving candle-lighting ceremony led by clergy from various churches and the rabbi from the Actors’ Temple.

Doors open at 6:30 pm; seating is open, first come/first served at St. Malachy's, 239 W. 49th St. NYC. A reception will follow. The event is free to the public. Past participants have included Lynn Redgrave, Marian Seldes, Frances Sternhagen, Kathleen Chalfant, Billy Porter, Tituss Burgess and Chad Kimball, just to name a few.

St. Malachy's, the Actors' Chapel, was founded in 1920. It is a spiritual oasis in New York’s heart for Broadway artists and fans alike. Chiming “There’s No Business Like Show Business” every day, a half hour before curtain, the chapel has welcomed such theater greats as George M. Cohen, Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino. Florence Henderson, Elaine Stritch, Danny Thomas, Bob and Dolores Hope, Antonio Banderas, Liam Neeson,and countless others. Under the leadership of Fr. John Fraser (pastor) and Stephen Fraser (director of music) it continues to offer programming to the Broadway community and develop the talent and work of the next generation of Broadway stars.

The Broadway Blessing is produced by Tony-Award-winning Producer Pat Addiss and Kathryn Fisher. Designed as a program of song, dance and story to celebrate the spirit of the new theater season, the annual Broadway Blessing was founded by theater writer Retta Blaney in 1997.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Broadway Producer Pat Addiss Among Speakers at 2nd Act Series at CT''s Waterbury Palace

Presenters have been selected for the second season of 2ND ACT, the Palace Theater’s acclaimed speaker’s series that features stories by people post age 50, who are doing some extraordinary things after mid-life.

Among them are Pat Addiss, a Tony-Award-winning Broadway producer based in New York, who will kick the series off on Sept. 17 with her presentation, "Necessity is the Mother of Reinvention," and Lisa Lampanelli, a life coach formerly known for her acerbic comedic style, who will present her new show Losin’ It on the main stage of the theater on Nov.16.

The series may be purchased in its entirety, as a five-presentation option, individually or by adding on Lampanelli’s show. All presentations with the exception of Lampanelli’s include light fare pre-show and are held in the intimate space of the Poli Club on the venue’s second floor. A cash bar will be available. Tickets:; 203-346-2000; Box Office, 100 East Main St., Waterbury.

Part inspirational, aspirational, experiential and comical, these after-50 life stories will ignite the audience member’s own imaginations and a desire to become part of a growing community of 2ND ACTers! As one regular attendee has commented, ‘you always leave with a nugget to ponder’. Series Creator Sheree Marcucci, marketing and public relations officer for the theater, states “we are living much longer than past generations and are expecting our later years to be as rich and vivid as possible. This series, and many like it popping up all over the country and world, attest to this- we are as a group, just not going quietly into that good night!”

The presenters, chosen by a selection committee who viewed short videos of presenter candidates, are engaging and have a personal story that will inspire others as they share how they pursued a passion, dream or championed a cause after the age of 50. 


Tuesday Sept. 17 – 6 pm

Necessity is the Mother of Reinvention

How does a woman break into the tough world of showbiz as a Broadway Producer at an when most are looking to retire? After 30 years running her own promotions company hear Broadway producer Pat Addiss tell her gutsy story. They say that necessity is the mother of re-invention… 40 years ago putting food on the table for her children after her husband left was just the beginning of her many fascinating incarnations.

Tuesday Oct 29 – 6 pm


The Stranger in the Mirror

Jillian is a 58-year-old transgender woman who transitioned from male to female three years ago. Growing up, the person staring back in the mirror was not her…it was a stranger. She will share her personal journey of starting life over again as her authentic self by discussing her challenges, hardships and victories. Since transitioning, she has become an advocate for the transgender community and speaks at various venues, including: conferences, universities and medical centers. She has returned to college to obtain her master's degree in psychology to become a counselor for the LGBTQ+ community, and recently finished an internship at the Yale Gender Program.

Saturday Nov 16 –8 pm


Lisa Lampanelli’s LOSIN’ IT! is an intimate collection of humorous observations and real-life stories curated and performed by Lisa and a few of her friends. Inspired by her work with The Moth Radio Hour, Lisa has created a heartfelt theatrical evening focusing on the issues of weight, body image, and “losin’ it!” Performed in the spirit of The Vagina Monologues and Love, Loss and What I Wore, Lisa and friends enchant theatergoers with hilarious, touching anecdotes about their own weight struggles, and lively audience interaction.

“I decided stand-up comedy really wasn’t for me anymore. It wasn’t making my heart happy. So, I created LOSIN’ IT! a show using comedy to talk about weight and body issues, which are things I’ve struggled with for years," she said. "This is so much more fulfilling!”

Tuesday Dec 10 – 6pm


Change in the Blink of an Eye

Life can change in the blink of an eye. The secret to living life more joyously and peacefully lies in our ability to choose how we respond to situations that challenge us. Learning to shift how you view any situation is the key.

Tanya Detrik’s backstory is one of post-traumatic growth. At a moment of extreme stress she was gifted the realization that making a simple shift in her perspective catalyzed instantaneous mental and emotional relief.

That discovery more than ten years ago has transformed her life, never more so than in 2019 with the death of her husband.

Her message is that it is not necessary to experience trauma in order to be inspired to see life through different lenses, and that the ability is liberating and life enhancing. See what you may have been missing.

Saturday Jan 11 - Noon


Listen to Your Heart

2ND ACTs typically come from the heart. Karenna Alexander should know. She's a dating and relationship expert, and former matchmaker, who helps women find love. Her 2ND ACT came about after conquering dating dilemmas of her own. If you’re looking for love in all the wrong places, come hear her share the secrets of finding love in the 21st century.

Saturday Feb 1 – Noon


Things To Do When (They Say) You Can’t


Shortly after her 57th birthday, Kate Katcher read an NY Times article that revealed that women over 55 who fall out of the workplace will most likely not get back in. She had just fallen. With retirement not an option and no prospects, Kate turned to the one person she could rely on: herself. Over the next eleven years, she created a blog, a theatre company, pursued and acquired two University teaching jobs, served elite clients in the luxury suites of Madison Square Garden, and returned to school for a Master’s Degree. Follow her journey over hurdles and through closed doors. Performance (script in hands) of a short playlet is part of this presentation.

Tuesday Mar 3 – 6 pm


Laughing Out Loud

Author, actor. standup comedian and improv performer Jack Levine feared being bored in retirement. So, when he finally retired as chief financial officer of a school district at 72, he decided to try the performing arts and found the journey to be awesome. Jack will use stand-up comedy, improv, comedy sketches, personal storytelling and acting to entertain as he offers insights and inspiration to his audience to try something new, creative and fun.

Tuesday Apr 21 – 6 pm


The Gift of Rudy: A Second Chance

While Sharon Ruchman has always loved music, studying voice and piano since childhood, she felt pressure to become something that she was not ready to become. Stress and anxiety took the joy out of learning until about four years ago when her great uncle’s viola from 100 years ago found its way to her. Sharon felt compelled to learn and play it, and as a result, her creative floodgates opened. Today, she’s composing everything from chamber music to tango, believing that it is never too late to do something fabulous.

Tuesday May 19 – 6 pm


BE the Change

Inspired by the famous quote by Ghandi and deeply affected by her own experience, Donna wants to empower people to fight back against injustice and become the change they want to see in the world. Donna shares her personal insights into what allowed her to make the choices she did, and how she sought guidance along the way. Using her story as a case study, she explores not only the fight against sexual assault, but draws on her experience as a business woman and the challenges she faces in that role as well, to move her audience to action on behalf of themselves and the greater good.

Tuesday June 23 – 6pm


Don’t Just Dream it, Live it!

RICH Cyr was born with cerebral palsy, given the last rites three times, was told that he would never walk or talk, and encountered many obstacles during his life.

In his early 50s he became a financial advisor, actor, podcaster, author, voice actor, stand-up comedian, and motivational speaker.

He is now living the life that he always dreamed of.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Broadway Theater Review: Moulin Rouge

Danny Burstein. Photo: Matthew Murphy
Moulin Rouge! 
Book by John Logan
Music by various artists
Choreography by Sonya Tayeh
Directed by Alex Timbers
Al Hirschfeld Theatre

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
It's a love story set against the seedy streets and Bohemia of turn-of-the-century Paris. This production has been seeing good traction at the New York Box Office following a sold-out run at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre last summer. Word of mouth about the over-the-top optics has fueled some of the rusg to see the newest musical written by John Logan (Red) and helmed by Alex Timbers It's hard to imagine topping the big/wow factor for Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson and Beetlejuice, but he does...)

Here's the gist: The Moulin Rouge Theater is going bankrupt under the management of Harold Zidler (Danny Burstein). He persuades his star chanteuse, Satine (Karen Olivo), to do what ever is necessary to attract the Duke of Monroth (Tam Mutu) and get him to put some of his considerable fortune into the theater's next show (so much for seeing better roles for women on Broadway in the Me Too Era, I suppose....) Meanwhile, songwriter Christian (the golden-voiced Aaron Tveit) agrees to pitch a new musical written by friends Toulouse Lautrec (a moving Sahr Ngaujah) and ladies' man Santiago (Ricky Rojas).  After some mistaken identity, Christian and Santine become lovers and continue down a dangerous road as they and the other members of the acting roup, keep their passion a secret from the possessive and violent Monroth.

As in the film, the musical celebrates some of the greatest popular music of the last 50 years -- some with just a line or two and others will full song (music supervision, orchestrations and arrangements by Justin Levine who also joined Timbers for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson).The stage musical features many of the iconic songs from the movie (the credits in the program are microscopic there are so many -- the folks in charge of copyright clearance for this show deserve a raise). It  also includes recent hits released since the movie's  premiere almost 20 years ago when it was nominated for eight Oscars, including best [icture.

What Are the Highlights?
Derek McLane's sumptuous sets and Justin Townsend 's lighting design (perfection)  are ooh la la!  They, with Timbers, make this bigger than life. Performers pose and interact on stage in the house, and event overhead in the boxes where a colossal elephant and windmill expand the setting on either side.  Get there early. This show has the best pre-show action on a Broadway stage.

It's posh and encompassing, much like the Moulin Rouge itself. which started life as a popular cabaret and dance hall, then became an iconic music hall in the Roaring Twenties, then a theater where numerous famous French and international artistes stepped out into the limelight.

Aaron Tveit's voice is as smooth and delightful as always and it is so good to hear him singing on a Broadway stage again -- it has been a while since Catch Me if You Can and Next to Normal.

Just as the pre-show is terrific, the curtain call is spectacular too. Don't slip out early on this one.

What Are the Lowlights?
Olivo, who wowed in West Side Story,  is miscast in this role. The music doesn't fit her voice and she and Tveit have no chemistry. Burstein seems out of place in his role as well, trying hard to sell the boisterous pimp of a theater manager.

Even more troubling is the question that keeps coming to mind throughout the two -hour, 35-plus minute show: Is this a comedy or drama? It often is hard to tell. Things are pretty serious until about 20 minutes in when some song choices bring laughter from the audience. This continues throughout because some of the lyrics are really hokey where they are sung. That makes us think it is on purpose. But other songs are dramatic and most of those have us wondering why that particular song was chosen when many others more suited come to mind. It's confusing and takes us out of the story.

More information:
Moulin Rouge! The Musical plays at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 West 45th St., NYC. A block of tickets recently was released through July 2020.

Additional casting: Robyn Hurder as Nini. Ensemble: Amber Ardolino, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Olutayo Bosede, Kyle Brown, Sam J. Cahn, Max Clayton, Karli Dinardo, Aaron C. Finley, Paloma Garcia-Lee, Bahiyah Hibah, Ericka Hunter, Holly James, Evan Kinnane, Reed Luplau, Jeigh Madjus, Morgan Marcell, Caleb Marshall, Brandt Martinez, Jodi McFadden, Kaitlin Mesh, Kevyn Morrow, Fred Odgaard, Dylan Paul, Khori Michelle Petinaud and Benjamin Rivera

Additional credits: Catherine Zuber (costumes); Peter Hylenski (sound), Drama David Brian Brown (wig and hair design); Sarah Cimino (Make-up design).

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

Saturday, July 20, 2019

CT Theater Review: Because of Winn Dixie at Goodspeed

Bowdie and Josie Todd  with the cast of Goodspeed Musicals’ Because of Winn Dixie, extended through Sept. 5 at The Goodspeed. Photo by Diane Sobolewski.
Because of Winn Dixie
Book and Lyrics by: Nell Benjamin, based on the Novel by: Kate DiCamillo
Music by: Duncan Sheik
Choreographer: Chris Bailey
Animal Direction: William Berloni
Director: John Rando

By Lauren Yarger
Because of Winn Dixie at Connecticut's Goodspeed Opera House restores our faith in a wholesome, fun, moving story as a viable theater offering. Can I get an "awooo!"?

This charmer, with music by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) a book by Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde, Mean Girls), based on the popular young people's novel by Kate DiCamillo is full of kids, a dog, faith, laughter, friendship and second chances. What's not to love? Especially when you see the tons of kids in the audience. In a climate where most new theater offerings (and updated revivals) feel the need to push every political and social agenda to be "woke" and justified in the "me-too" environment, it is doggone refreshing (sorry, couldn't resist) to enjoy one that focuses on everyday people with everyday issues in a positive, uplifting way. After all, when times are trying, theater should be a happy release some of the time.

And that is just what Because of Winn Dixie is.  It follows the story of 13-year-old Opal (Josie Todd), who moves to a trailer park with her preacher father (J. Robert Spencer) when her mother leaves them. The preacher has no trouble speaking in front of his new congregation, but communicating with his daughter is tougher as he won't discuss their recent loss. Opal overcomes her loneliness by saving a stray she names after the local grocery store. "Winn Dixie" (Bowdie, trained by Connecticut's Tony-Award-winning animal trainer William Berloni) becomes her constant companion and the dog wins the hearts of the congregation and community members.

They are

  • The Dewberry boys, Dunlap and Stevie (Jamie Mann and Jay Hendrix) and their single mom, Jeanne (Kacie Sheik -- yes, she is Duncan's half sister), who starts spending time with the preacher, much to Opal's disapproval
  • Slow-witted Callie and Jiggs Thomas  (Crystal Kellogg and Brian Michael Hoffman) and their little peanut of a daughter, Sweetie Pie (Sophia Massa), for whom they want a better life.
  • Millie and Carl Wilkinson (Nicole Powell  and John Edwards), who are grieving over the death of their son and who don't know how to communicate with their bookworm daughter, Amanda (Chloë Cheers), whom Opal doesn't like at all.
  • Otis (David Poe) , a guitar-playing pet store owner who is treated as an outsider in town because of his prison record.
  • Librarian Fanny Block (Isabel Keating (Franny Block)) who entertains the kids with her story times.
  • Gloria Dump (Roz Ryan ) the witch who lives in the woods and encourages the kids to add their deepest thoughts and wishes to pages storesd in the bottles hanging from her trees and representing her drinking days of past.
All of the characters are dealing with loss of some kind and the feeling that they don't fit in. Winn Dixie changes all of that, breathes some new life into them and unites them all when he disappears during a terrible storm (Lighting and Sound Design by Jeff Croiter and Jay Hilton, respectively.) Choreographer Chris Bailey wisely keeps movement on the subtle side and coordinates nicely so the storytelling isn't overshadowed.

Even if the story weren't engaging, the show would be a hit just because of Winn Dixie, or Bowdie, rather. The pooch, described as a mix between a poodle and something larger,  receives applause on entrance (the audience  is shocked by his large size) and delights as he hits all of his marks and cues perfectly.  There were a lot of "awwwww"s from the audience and even more smiles throughout the production. Here's hoping this musical ends up on Broadway and tours for a long time around a country in need of some "aaaaw" and smiles.

A few things need to happen before that can happen. While there are some nice ballads and an opportunity for Ryan to show her vocal talents -- her "Bottle Tree Blues" is one of the more entertaining numbers -- Sheik's score needs a boost. The openings of both acts are pretty weak and a number of songs seems to offers tunes that sit on the same few notes (and even still, some of them proved a stretch for some of the younger vocalists). It's a new type of musical for the composer of Spring Awakening and American Psycho, but he's up to the challenge.

Donyale Werle's sets are simple, with easy changes between the church, the library, the trailer and other locales. Lighting needs some tweaking, however as there are some awful glares and color and scene changes are telegraphed.

But if anyone can bring it together, it's Director John Rando, who has helmed another family-friendly musical on Broadway, A Christmas Story: The Musical. (He won the Tony for Urinetown). This one is worth tweaking. Kids love DiCamillo's book and the movie on which it was based. The stage musical seems the next natural incarnation of the story and can entertain audiences for years, just like that other wholesome musical starring a dog -- also trained by Berloni -- Annie.

More information:

The run has been extended through Se[t. 5 at Goodspeed, 6 Main St., East Haddam, CT. Performances are Wednesday at 2 and 7:30 pm; Thursday at 7:30 pm (with select performances at 2); Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3  and 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm (with select performances at 6:30). Tickets: 860-873-8668;

Additional credits:
Costumer Designer: Emily Rebholz; Wig and Hair Designer, Mark Adam Rampmeyer; Music Supervisor / Orchestrator,  Jason Hart;  Music Director, Adam Souza

Additional casting: Ryan Halsaver (Townsperson); Mackenzie Warren (Townsperson)

Open Caption Performance: Friday, July 26, 8 pm. Open-captioning is a service that displays the text of a show simultaneously with the performance without the use of any special equipment by the patron. The words are displayed on a 4-foot by 1-foot LCD screen located near the edge of the stage and are thus “open” to anyone within view.


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Donna Walker-Kuhne Receives LPTW's First Rachel Crothers Leadership Award

LaChanze, André DeShields and Donna Walker-Kuhne. 
Photo: Valerie Terranova Photography

By Lauren Yarger
Marketer and Audience Developer Donna Walker-Kuhne received the first Rachel Crothers Leadership Award on June 27, presented by the League of Professional Theatre Women at an inaugural luncheon at Sardi's hosted by André DeShields.

Pop singer and Broadway star LaChanze (currently Off-Broadway in The Secret Life of Bees) performed "Feeling Good," accompanied by Marco Pagula on piano.

An award-winning marketing consultant, Walker-Kuhne is the founder of Walker International Communications Group, a boutique marketing, press and audience development agency. She is recognized as one of the country's foremost experts in audience development and she and her team specialize in multicultural marketing, group sales, multicultural press and promotional events.

The leadership award is named in honor of playwright Rachel Crothers, (Susan and God; The Three of Us) who was a champion of women's rights before women could vote. She worked to help those serving on the front during World War I and II and founded an organization that later went on to become the American Theatre Wing, which partners with the Broadway League, to present the annual Tony Awards, honoring Broadway's best each season.

The  League of Professional Theatre Women will present the newly established Crothers leadership award to a theater woman "who has distinguished herself in exemplary service and sacrifice for a common cause—a cause which leaves our society and the world a little better than the way we found it."

"We are very excited by the opportunity the League has now to award a theater woman who brings her gifts and talents to bear in addressing a national or local cause or issue affecting our fellow citizens and everyday Americans," said Yvette Heyliger, co-vice president of programming at LPTW.

The award was presented by Playwright Rehana Lew Mirza (Barriers). In addition, Marvin Lowe, a soloist with the Harlem Gospel Singers, presented "Siyahamba," a South African welcome song, and longtime LPTW member Zoe Coralink Kaplan and DeShields reminded the crowd that Crothers made famous the quote about a woman's place being in the house -- and the Senate!

Walker-Kuhne expressed her appreciation by acknowledging and thanking her mentors who taught her along the way and opened doors. Among them were famed director George C Wolfe and Arthur Mitchell, founder of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, who in 1985, while touring around the country, asked the question. "Where are the Black people?”

"That questioned launched my career in audience development and community engagement," Walker-Kuhne said.

Walker-Kuhne said she loves teaching and providing tools and support for the next generation of arts administrators. She challenged those coming up to "shake up society and revitalize the whole world. Create a winning life and through your art, inspire the world, inspire all of us to be our best. Advance like young lions—be ferocious, tenacious, innovative and warm-hearted."

DeSheilds, currently starring on Broadway in Hadestown, entertained the luncheon attendees with political comments, prayers and some of his popular  snippets of advice:

"Don't give up, in or over. Stay on the path until you win," he said.

For more information of the League of Professional Theatre Women, visit

Monday, July 1, 2019

A New Path

Photo: Alexander Cy
I am still seeing a lot of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, but I won't be formally reviewing all of them. Starting with the 2019-2020 season, I am producing and writing a number of shows. Information will be coming soon about those. If you would like to join the new mailing list, please contact

Reflectionsinthelight  at
-- Lauren Yarger

Monday, May 13, 2019

Hadestown Tops Outer Critics Award Winners

Amber Gray and the Broadway cast of Hadestown credit Matthew Murphy

Outer Critics Circle
2018-2019 Awards
Winners are in bold with *

*The Ferryman
To Kill a Mockingbird
What the Constitution Means to Me

Be More Chill
Head Over Heels
The Prom

The House That Will Not Stand
Lewiston / Clarkston
The Light
*White Noise

The Beast in the Jungle
Black Light
*Girl from the North Country
The Hello Girls
Midnight at the Never Get

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
*Robert Horn     Tootsie
Conor McPherson     Girl from the North Country
Peter Mills and Cara Reichel     The Hello Girls
Anaïs Mitchell     Hadestown
Jeff Whitty and James Magruder     Head Over Heels

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin      The Prom
Joe Iconis     Be More Chill
Peter Mills     The Hello Girls
*Anaïs Mitchell     Hadestown
David Yazbek     Tootsie

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
*All My Sons
By the Way, Meet Vera Stark
Juno and the Paycock
Our Lady of 121st Street
The Waverly Gallery

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Carmen Jones
*Fiddler on the Roof (in Yiddish)
Kiss Me, Kate
Smokey Joe’s Café 

Rupert Goold     Ink
*Sam Mendes     The Ferryman
Jack O’Brien     All My Sons
Bartlett Sher     To Kill a Mockingbird
Logan Vaughn     The Light

*Rachel Chavkin     Hadestown
Scott Ellis     Tootsie
Daniel Fish     Oklahoma!
Joel Grey     Fiddler on the Roof (in Yiddish)
Cara Reichel     The Hello Girls

*Warren Carlyle     Kiss Me, Kate
Christopher Gattelli     The Cher Show
Denis Jones     Tootsie
David Neumann     Hadestown
Sergio Trujillo     Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

(Play or Musical)
Beowulf Boritt     Bernhardt/Hamlet
Bunny Christie     Ink
Rachel Hauck     Hadestown
Rob Howell     The Ferryman
*David Korins     Beetlejuice

(Play or Musical)
Rob Howell     The Ferryman
*Bob Mackie     The Cher Show
William Ivey Long     Beetlejuice
William Ivey Long     Tootsie
Arianne Phillips     Head Over Heels

(Play or Musical)
Neil Austin     Ink
Stacey Derosier     Lewiston / Clarkston
*Bradley King     Hadestown
Jason Lyons     Sugar in Our Wounds
Peter Mumford     King Kong

(Play or Musical)
*Peter England     King Kong
Alex Basco Koch     Be More Chill
Peter Nigrini     Beetlejuice
Jeff Sugg     All My Sons
Tal Yarden     Network

(Play or Musical)
John Gromada     All My Sons
*Peter Hylenski     King Kong
Drew Levy     Oklahoma!
Eric Sleichim     Network
Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz     Hadestown

Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose     Hadestown
Simon Hale     Girl from the North Country
Joseph Joubert     Carmen Jones
*Daniel Kluger     Oklahoma!
Harold Wheeler     Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

McKinley Belcher III     The Light
*Bryan Cranston     Network
Daveed Diggs     White Noise
Bill Irwin     On Beckett
Jeremy Pope     Choir Boy

Glenn Close     Mother of the Maid
Edie Falco     The True
Glenda Jackson     King Lear
Mandi Masden     The Light
*Elaine May     The Waverly Gallery

Brooks Ashmanskas     The Prom
Reeve Carney     Hadestown
Damon Daunno     Oklahoma!
*Santino Fontana     Tootsie
Steven Skybell     Fiddler on the Roof (in Yiddish)

*Stephanie J. Block     The Cher Show
Kelli O’Hara     Kiss Me, Kate
Beth Leavel     The Prom
Anika Noni Rose     Carmen Jones
Mare Winningham     Girl from the North Country

Bertie Carvel     Ink
John Clay III     Choir Boy
Hugh Dancy     Apologia
John Procaccino     Downstairs
*Benjamin Walker     All My Sons

Joan Allen     The Waverly Gallery
Stephanie Berry     Sugar in Our Wounds
Fionnula Flanagan     The Ferryman
Harriett D. Foy     The House That Will Not Stand
*Celia Keenan-Bolger     To Kill a Mockingbird

John Behlmann     Tootsie
*André De Shields     Hadestown
Reg Rogers     Tootsie
George Salazar     Be More Chill
Ephraim Sykes     Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

*Amber Gray     Hadestown
Leslie Kritzer     Beetlejuice
Bonnie Milligan     Head Over Heels
Sarah Stiles     Tootsie
Ali Stroker     Oklahoma!

*Mike Birbiglia     The New One
Maddie Corman     Accidentally Brave
Jake Gyllenhaal     A Life
Carey Mulligan     Girls & Boys
Renée Taylor     My Life on a Diet

(Presented for an American play, preferably by a new playwright)
Jeremy O. Harris     Slave Play
*Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell     The Lifespan of a Fact
Donja R. Love     Sugar in Our Wounds
Ming Peiffer     Usual Girls
Charly Evon Simpson     Behind the Sheet

The Executive Committee voted and decided upon the presentation of Special Achievement Awards to:
The Puppetry Team That Created and Operates King Kongrecognizing the artistry and technical achievement that brings a 2,000-pound gorilla to life:
 * Puppet designer and builder Sonny Tilders and the Creature Technology Company
 * Scenic designer Peter England, who collaborated on the aesthetics of the puppet 
* Aerial and movement director Gavin Robins 
* The members of the King’s Company, who move Kong on stage: Mike Baerga, Rhaamell Burke-Missouri, Jōvan Dansberry, Casey Garvin, Gabriel Hyman, Marty Lawson, Roberto Olvera, Khadija Tariyan, Lauren Yalango-Grant, David Yijae, Christopher Hampton Grant, Jena VanEslander, Scott Webber, Warren Yang, James Retter Duncan, Jonathan MacMillan, and Leigh-Ann Vizer.
 * Kong’s Voodoo Operators, who control his facial expressions: Jon Hoche, Danny Miller, and Jacob Williams.

The York Theatre Company
James Morgan, Producing Artistic Director
Evans Haile, Executive Director
in recognition of 50 years of producing new musicals, as well as classics from the past

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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