Tag: New York

Desperate Measures

York Theatre Company, New York
2017-05-15 • 14:00

This musical, “loosely based on Measure For Measure by William Shakespeare,” is given a couple of performances as part of the York Theatre Company’s Developmental Reading Series. It appears to have been around for more than ten years, so it cannot rightly be described as new.

The score, not very convincingly described as “country & western,” is an absolute delight – especially as performed here by a piano, a bass, a violin (alternating with a mandolin) and a guitar (alternating with a banjo). The book and lyrics, written in rhyming verse, are irresistibly witty and clever. The humour blissfully crosses into un-PC territory at times, which probably limits the show’s commercial potential… but Desperate Measures would most definitely deserve a healthy Off-Broadway run.

Words fail me to praise the achievements of the great, great cast, which brought out with infinite talent the delicious comedic content of the play. It was fun to see the talented A. J. Shively again (after La Cage aux Folles, February House, Unlock’d and Bright Star) as well as Lauren Molina, infamous for being one half of The Skivvies, whom I also saw in Marry Me a Little and as a hilarious Countess Charlotte in A Little Night Music in Boston. Heath Calvert’s incredibly mellow voice also deserves a special mention.

Music by David Friedman. Book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg.
Directed by Bill Castellino. Music Direction by David Hancock Turner. With Bill Buell (Father Morse), Heath Calvert (Sheriff Green), Erika Henningsen (Susanna, aka Sister Mary Jo), Lauren Molina (Bella Rose), A. J. Shively (Johnny Blood), Nick Wyman (Governor von Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber).

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, New York
2017-05-14 • 18:30

This musical, which opened in London in 2013, has finally made it to Broadway, but in a rather different form.

For one thing, the producers have hired a new director, Jack O’Brien (the original production was directed by Sam Mendes). The first act has been given a radically different structure, giving more prominence to Willy Wonka and sadly eliminating the part of Charlie’s Father in the process. New songs have been added, like the lovely “The View From Here,” while several songs from the 1971 movie have been inserted: “The Candy Man,” “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” and “The Oompa-Loompa Song” — “Pure Imagination” was the only song from the movie in the original London production, much to the audience’s chagrin.

In my opinion, this New York production is, overall, a more satisfying version of a show that’s been problematic since day one. Yet, there are moments when the discomfort of the American creative team at dealing with such un-PC material as a Roald Dahl novel is so palpable one is led to wonder why they chose to base a musical on it in the first place.

Christian Borle, arguably the most talented Broadway actor of his generation, gives yet another shining performance as Willy Wonka. He portrays the many complexities of the character with admirable gusto and inexhaustible charisma. Special mention to Emily Padgett for her touching portrayal of Charlie’s mother — her rendition of “If Your Father Were Here” is one of the show’s most touching moments. 
Music by Marc Shaiman. Lyrics by Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman. Book by David Greig. Based on the novel by Roald Dahl. With songs from the 1971 film, by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley.
Directed by Jack O’Brien. Choreography by Joshua Bergasse. With Christian Borle (Willy Wonka), Emily Padgett (Mrs. Bucket), John Rubinstein (Grandpa Joe), Jackie Hoffman (Mrs. Teavee), …

A Bronx Tale

Longacre Theatre, New York
2017-05-14 • 15:00

I have fond memories of seeing the World Premiere of this new musical at the Paper Mill Playhouse in February last year. It has now moved to Broadway, almost unchanged, retaining two of its male leads, Nick Cordero and the silky-voiced Richard H. Blake.

I found the story even more moving than in my memories and Alan Menken’s score even greater than I remembered, in no small part thanks to Doug Besterman’s catchy orchestrations. The staging is smooth and most of the cast is highly charming.

My only quibble is that some voices sounded tired, especially in the second act… and that the child actor who plays Young Calogero tried too hard to please with too few assets — a typical case of over-eagerness. 

Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Glenn Slater. Book by Chazz Palminteri.
Direction by Robert de Niro & Jerry Zaks. Choreography by Sergio Trujillo. With Nick Cordero (Sonny), Richard H. Blake (Lorenzo), Bobby Conte Thornton (Calogero), Ariana Debose (Jane), Lucia Giannetta (Rosina), Bradley Gibson (Tyrone), Hudson Loverro (Young Calogero). 

Sunset Boulevard

Palace Theatre, New York
2017-05-13 • 20:00

This semi-staged version originated in London, where I saw it in April last year.

Glenn Close herself made an announcement before the show over the public address system to ask the audience for their indulgence given that she was “battling a cold.” It was indeed a little painful to see her struggle with the score, but it didn’t prevent the audience from going wild every time she was on stage. (Close’s understudy is Nancy Anderson, who’s a lot younger. I would have liked to see her take on the role.)

The production looks tighter and rather more fluid than in London. Michael Xavier seems to have found his pace; his performance was more convincing. As in London, most of the pleasure comes from hearing one of Lloyd Webber’s best scores played by a decent-sized orchestra.

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Book & lyrics by Don Black & Christopher Hampton.
Directed by Lonny Price. Musical direction: Kristen Blodgette. With Glenn Close (Norma Desmond), Michael Xavier (Joe Gillis), Siobhan Dillon (Betty Schaeffer), Fred Johanson (Max von Mayerling), …

The Golden Apple

New York City Center
2017-05-13 • 14:00

This mythical sung-through 1954 show, which is almost an opera, has achieved legendary status among musical theatre aficionados. Based on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, it boasts one of the most glorious scores ever written for the musical stage, as well as some wildly clever lyrics. The score by Jerome Moross lies somewhere between Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein; it is bouncy and rhythmic, unmistakably American… and mostly superb.

This Encores! production could hardly have got it more right. The direction by Michael Berresse wisely chooses to showcase the material instead of commenting on it. As always, Joshua Bergasse’s choreography is original and to the point… while the brilliant cast does complete justice to the show. I have always loved Lindsay Mendez: her voice is about as amazing as her comic timing. Mikaela Bennett sounds eerily like Audra McDonald. And it is always nice to see the charming Ryan Silverman, who recently played Giorgio in Passion both in New York and in Paris. 

Music: Jerome Moross. Lyrics: John Latouche.
Directed by Michael Berresse. Music Director: Rob Berman. Choreography by Joshua Bergasse. With Mikaela Bennett (Penelope), Ryan Silverman (Ulysses), Lindsay Mendez (Helen), Baron Cowperthwaite (Paris), Jason Kravits (Hector Charybdis), …


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.

Come From Away

Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, New York
2017-03-11 • 20:00 [last preview]

On 11 September 2001, almost 40 commercial aircraft were ordered to make emergency landings in Gander, Newfoundland when US airspace was closed. (Gander once used to accommodate transatlantic aircraft in need of refuelling, which is why it is equipped with a rather large airport.) The warm welcome given by the local community to the 6,500 stranded passengers and crew members is the subject of this surprisingly uplifting musical.

Come From Away is one of those free-form, almost sung-through, musicals that lean a little more towards a song cycle than towards a traditional theatrical piece, with characters frequently talking/singing to the audience. Although there have been such musicals for a long time, they seem to have become a lot more frequent lately.

Even though I missed a more theatrical approach (the lack of sets, especially, is a big obstacle in my book) and even though the style of the music isn’t really my cup of tea, I was won over by Come From Away’s unique mixture of warmheartedness, humour and sheer energy. The twelve actors play an amazing number of characters with astonishing ease and fluidity. The intermissionless play ended on a high just when I was starting to look at my watch.

Are Newfoundlanders the most welcoming people on the planet? It is remarkable that a play set in the aftermath of 9-11 ends up celebrating human resilience in such a heart-warming manner. The audience seemed genuinely touched.

In Transit

Circle in the Square, New York
2017-03-11 • 14:00

This a cappella musical, which is nearing its 100th performance, has been doing so meagrely in terms of grosses that I was convinced it would close before I got an opportunity to see it. (I had a ticket to see it in December, but I gave it up in order to be able to catch the first preview of The Band’s Visit, which was worth it.)

The show starts looking like an old-fashioned revue until it appears there is a common backstory linking those characters whose only commonality, at first, is that they travel by subway.

As charming as it is, it doesn’t quite feel at home in a Broadway theatre, be it the modestly-sized, 650-seat, Circle in the Square.

I can’t say the score touched me very much, in spite of the cast’s undeniable commitment (although I couldn’t help noticing that James Snyder sometimes looked like he’d rather be elsewhere, especially during the ensemble numbers).

The audience was genuinely enthusiastic at the end, though, which is probably what keeps the show running in spite of its disappointing grosses.

Written by: Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan, Sara Wordsworth. Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall. Music Director: Rick Hip-Flores. With Justin Guarini, Telly Leung, Laurel Harris (understudy), James Snyder, Moya Angela, Erin Mackey, …