Month: April 2017

Whisper House

The Other Palace, London
2017-04-29 • 19:30

I almost decided not to attend this performance based on word of mouth, but I’m glad I did nonetheless. The somewhat gothic plot, which involves two ghosts, didn’t appeal to me at all, but I did fall for Duncan Sheik’s melodic score, Adam Lenson’s simple but effective direction, and the great cast. The orchestrations, which include a trumpet part and a horn part, were particularly entrancing.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

Old Vic, London
2017-04-29 • 14:30

I had never seen Tom Stoppard’s 1966 brilliant play about two peripheral characters from Hamlet lost in bewilderment as to what’s going on in Shakespeare’s tragedy… as well as in life generally. Its very peculiar brand of wit, combined with a Brechtian knack for the absurd, make it a hugely entertaining experience, very well served here by Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire.


Stadttheater, Klagenfurt
2017-04-22 • 19:30

I always look forward to my trips to Klagenfurt as very few theatres — most of them in Europe — can now afford full-size orchestras when presenting musicals. My excitement was even greater given that Gypsy arguably has one of the most thrilling scores even written for the musical theatre.

As with A Chorus Line in 2016 and Victor/Victoria in 2015, the quality of the performance was outstanding. There might have been a couple of weak links (the part of Tulsa is very difficult to cast right), but most of the cast was first rate, from the three hilarious strippers to the very good Rose of Susan Rigvava-Dumas, whom I’d already seen play Mrs. Danvers in the Vienna production of Rebecca.


anastasiaBroadhurst Theatre, New York
2017-04-16 • 15:00

I went into Anastasia with no prejudice except that I have a soft spot for the movie — some scenes in particular — and that I love its score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens.

I didn’t expect to be so entranced by the stage adaptation. Everything that was wrong in the movie has been made right, especially with the writing off of Rasputin and Bartok. The existing songs have been rearranged along the revised story line and plenty of new ones have been added.

The new songs are very inspired and superbly orchestrated. One of them, the hauntingly beautiful “Stay, I Pray You”, sung by the soon-to-be-exiled Russians, could have been written by Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff. Later on, the scene at the Paris Opera interweaving the music of Swan Lake with Flaherty’s is a musical triumph.

The staging uses projections to superb effect. Two of the most striking scenes pay tribute to some of the movie’s most spine-tingling moments: the reminiscence of the ball with the ghost dancers popping out of the walls (“Once Upon a December”) and the booming up of the camera to reveal St. Petersburg (in the movie) / Paris (in the play) (“Journey to the Past”).

The cast is very good. I’ve loved Derek Klena ever since I saw him in Dogfight. Caroline O’Connor, who only appears in the second act, gives a wonderful performance. And it’s always great to see the wonderful Mary Beth Peil.



Walter Kerr Theatre, New York
2017-04-15 • 20:00

I was never a big fan of the movie this show is based on… so it didn’t come as a big surprise that this production didn’t grab me. Phillipa Soo is lovely, but I found very little to enjoy in either the plot, score or staging.

I even allowed myself to go to sleep after a while, which provided a welcome relief amidst so much boredom.



Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, New York
2017-04-15 • 14:00

A pleasant surprise. In spite of a paper-thin plot, the show has many strong points: a wonderfully melodic, brassy score, a highly likeable cast… and, above all, the remarkably inspired musical staging by Andy Blankenbuehler.



Ford’s Theatre, Washington DC
2017-04-14 • 19:30

An absolutely thrilling production. Apart from the trite staging gimmick of having the cast warm up on stage before the performance started and observe from the sides as in a Bartlett Sher production, there was little that I didn’t love.

The onstage orchestra was out of this world. The trumpet and trombone players, in particular, were outstanding and gave me goosebumps throughout the performance.

Kevin McAllister gave a wonderful performance as Coalhouse — more nuanced than most. Nova Y. Payton played Sarah with gusto, even though her voice erred a little bit too much into Effie White territory at times. Tracy Lynn Olivera, DC’s resident diva, managed to bring subtlety to the part of Mother. But no performance came close to matching that of Jonathan Atkinson as Tateh.