The Addams Family

Alfred Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps"

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (PBS telecast)

Amphitryon

Animal Crackers (Williamstown Theatre Festival)

The Apple Tree

Assassins

As You Like It

August: Osage County

 

 

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BAD DATES (Huntington Theater Company)

Barefoot in the Park

Barry Manilow's Copacabana

BEDROOM FARCE

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

Betty's Summer Vacation

Billy Elliott

Blithe Spirit

Bloody,Bloody, Andrew Jackson (SpeakEasy Stage in Boston)

Bloomer Girl

The Blue Deep (Williamstown Theatre Festival)

Boeing, Boeing

The Book of Mormon

The Boy From OZ

The Bridges of Madison Country (Williamstown Theatre Festival)

Brooklyn

Burn This

Burn This (Huntington Theatre Company)

Butley (Huntington Theatre Company)

 

 

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Cabaret ( at Northeastern)

La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage Aux Folles (The Reagle Players of Waltham)

La Cage aux Folles (2010 Revival from London)

Candide (at The Huntington theatre in Boston)

Carrie (at the SpeakEasy Stage)

Carrie Fisher: Wishful Drinking (Huntington theatre Company)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (City theatre, Biddeford, Maine)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

A Catered Affair

Cavalia: Odysseo

The Cherry Orchard (Huntington Theatre Company)

Chita Rivera: A Dancer's Life (in Boston)

Chitty,Chitty,Bang,Bang

A Chorus Line

A Clockwork Orange

Clybourne Park (at the SpeakEasy Stage in Boston)

"A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES" (at the Huntington Theatre Company)

The Color Purple

The Color Purple (At the SpeakEasy Stage in Boston)

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL'S "CORTEO"

Contact

Contact (Touring production)

A Conversation with Stephen Sondheim (at Northeastern's Blackman theatre)

A Conversation with Harold Prince (at Northeastern University)

Copenhagen

The Corn is Green (Huntington Theatre Company)

Curtains

 

 

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Dance of Death

Death of a Salesman

Deuce

"A DOLL'S HOUSE: PART 2" (Huntington Theatre Company)

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

DISGRACED

Disney's On The Record

Diva

A DOLL'S HOUSE

Dracula

The Drowsy Chaperone

 

 

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Elaine Stritch: At Liberty

The Elephant Man

Elton John's "Aida"

Equus

 

 

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A Fair Country

Far From Heaven

Father Comes Home From the Wars-Parts 1, 2, & 3(at the American Repertory theatre in Cambridge)

Finding Neverland (World Premiere, at The American Repertory theatre in Cambridge)

Finian's Rainbow

Floyd Collins

Follies

Follies-2011 revival

Forbidden Broadway-Alive and Kicking

The Full Monty

Fully Committed

 

 

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A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (at the American Repertory theatre in Cambridge, Mass.)

The Glass Menagerie (at the A.R.T. in Cambridge)

God of Carnage

The Graduate

Grey Gardens

Gumboots

Gypsy

 

 

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Hairspray

Hamlet (on the Common )

Heartbreak House

Hedda Gabler

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Henry V (Shakespeare on the Common)

High Fidelity

How Shakespeare Won The West (Huntington Theatre Company)

Hugh Jackman-Back On Broadway

 

 

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The Iceman Cometh

The Importance of Being Earnest (Williamstown Theatre Festival)

 In The Heights (at the SpeaklEasy Stage in Boston)

INDECENT (AT THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE)

Into The Woods (at Harvard)

 

 

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Jackie Mason: Much Ado About Everything

James Joyce's "The Dead"

Jane Eyre

Janie's Song

Johnny Baseball (Williamstown Theatre Festival)

June Moon (Williamstown Theatre Festival)

Jungle Book (at The Huntington theatre)

 

 

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King Hedley II

Kiss Me, Kate

Kurt Vonnegut's Make Up Your Mind

 

 

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The Last Hurrah

The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville (at the A.R.T. in Cambridge)

Legends

Lestat

The Light in the Piazza

The Lion King (at the Opera House in Boston)

A Little Night Music

"A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC" (Huntington Theatre Company)

Living on Love (at the Williamstown Theatre Festival)

Love Musik

Love's Labour's Lost (Huntington Theatre Company)

Lysistrata

 

 

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Macbeth (Shakespeare on the Common)

Mamma Mia

The Man Who Came To Dinner

Marie Christine

Marty

Mary Poppins

Matilda

"MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG" (Huntington Theatre Company)

Monty Python's Spamalot

MOULIN ROUGE (at the Colonial in Boston)

The Motherf**ker With the Hat (SpeakEasy Stage at The Calderwood Pavilion in Boston)

Movin' Out

Moving Pictures (Williamstown Theatre Festival)

Much Ado About Nothing

My Fair Lady (at the Opera House in Boston)

 

 

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Nine

9 to 5

Norman's Ark

 

 

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Oklahoma

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever

On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever-Broadway revival

On The Twentieth Century (in concert)

Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme

O.P.C.

The Opposite of Sex (Williamstown Theatre Festival)

Other Desert Cities (at the Speak Easy Stage)

 

 

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The Pajama Game

Pal Joey (The Roundabout Theatre Company at Studio 54)

Pippin (at the A.R.T. in Cambridge)

The Pirates of Penzance (Huntington Theatre Company)

Present Laughter (Huntington Theatre Company)

The Producers

 

 

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QUIXOTE NUEVO (Huntington Theatre Company)

 

 

 

 

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Rags (The Boston Conservatory theatre)

Ragtime

The Rainmaker

The Rivals (Huntington Theatre Company)

The Rocky Horror Show

ROMEO AND JULIET (Huntington Theatre Company)

Romeo and Juliet (Williamstown Theatre Festival)

The Rose Tattoo (Huntington Theatre Company)

ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD (Huntington Theatre Company)

 

 

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Salome

Saturday Night

The Seagull Huntington Theatre Company)

Seussical, the Musical!

The Shape of Things

She Loves Me (Huntington Theatre Company)

Sly Fox

"SOMETHING ROTTEN" (at the Hanover Theater)

Sonia Flew

South Pacific

South Pacific at Lincoln Center

"SPAMILTON" (Huntington Theater Company)

Spring Awakening

A Steady Rain

A Streetcar Named Desire (Williamstown Theatre Festival)

Suddenly Last Summer

SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE

Sweet Charity

Sweet Smell of Success

 

 

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Take Me Out

Taller Than a Dwarf

Tallulah

"TARTUFFE" (HUNTINGTON THEATRE in BOSTON)

The Taming of the Shrew (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company)

Tea at Five

The Tempest

Ten Cents a Dance (Williamstown Theatre Festival)

Tenderloin

The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville (at the A.R.T. in Cambridge)

Three Days of Rain

"TOP GIRLS" (Huntington Theatre Company)

The Trip to Bountiful (in Boston)

True West

Tribes (at the SpeakEasy Stage in Boston)

Twelfth Night

Twentieth Century

Two Men of Florence (Huntington Theatre Company)

Thou Shalt Not

TOP DOG/UNDERDOG (Huntington Theater Company)

 

 

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Urinetown

 

 

 

 

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Venus in Fur

The Visit (at the Williamstown Theatre Festival)

 

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Waiting in the Wings

West Side Story

The Whale (at the SpeakEasy Stage in Boston)

What The Butler Saw (Huntington Theatre Company)

Wicked

The Wild Party

Where'sCharley?(Williamstown theatre Festival)

Whistle Down The Wind (at the Wang Center in Boston)

White Christmas (at The Wang Center in Boston)

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (pre-Broadway tryout in Boston)

The Winter's Tale (Williamstown theatre Festival)

Wit

The Woman in White

The Women

Wonderful Town

 

 

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Xanadu

 

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Young Frankenstein

 

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"Zarkana" (the Cirque du Soleil show at Radio City Music Hall in New York)

 

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theatre REVIEWS- 2001-2002 Season

theatre REVIEW- "TWELFTH NIGHT" (Shakespeare-on-the-Common)  (CLOSED)

This summer's Shakespeare play on the Boston Common, is "Twelfth Night," and it's a thorough delight. Reset into a minimalist/fantasy/1950's sort of time/place, everything works, especially the work of the fools, which is often just plain silly in this play. The actors are almost all veterans of Harvard's American Repertory theatre, and they are all excellent, especially Thomas Derrah as Malvolio and Karen McDonald as Maria. Cheryl Gaysunas is a fine, and beleivable Viola/Cesario.The best part of this production, for me however, was the beautiful blues-y original music, written and performed by Will Lebow and J Hagenbuckle. It made be long for a CD of the score; it's THAT good. If you're in the Boston area, rush to see this show; it's only on for another week, until August 5th.

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Nick

MUSICAL REVIEW- "MAMMA MIA" (Pre-Broadway tryout in Boston)  (CLOSED)
First of all, let me say that I probably won't be completely objective in writing this review, because I've always loved the music of ABBA. With that in mind, let me say that I LOVED "MAMMA MIA!" It shouldn't be surprising that there isn't a bad song in the show, considering the fact that each one sold over a million copies when it first came out. What IS surprising is how well each of these independent songs is integrated into the story line of the show. The story is a reworking of the old Gina Lollobrigida movie "Buena Sera, Mrs. Campbell" now set on a Greek isle. It's her wedding day, and our young heroine has invited three of her mother's male friends(from 20 years ago)to the wedding, knowing that ONE of them is her father...but WHICH one? Ok, that's the plot, but it's only an excuse to bowl you over with some of the most hummable, danceable, music on Broadway today. Our audience was on its feet, singing along with the cast! The sets, costumes and lighting are ablaze with beautiful colors, and the choreography is wild and gymnastic, reminiscent of what Michael Kidd used to do in musicals like "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." You'll be hearing "Dancing Queen," Waterloo," "Money Money Money,""Mamma Mia,"etc. long after you've left the theatre. Join the fun; it's contagious.
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Nick

PART 1....BROADWAY SHOWS
MUSICAL REVIEW- "THOU SHALT NOT"  (CLOSED)
When musician Harry Connick, Jr. and Tony-award-winning director/choreographer Susan Stroman decided to turn Emile Zola's dark and brooding novel Therese Raquin into a musical, it might have sounded like something that they could pull off. It wasn't! The result is a ballet, with a melodramatic plot (involving adultery, a murder, and two suicides,) and six good songs by Connick. These six good songs are up-beat and terrific. Unfortunately, the other 12 songs are boring and forgettable! But what's really wrong with this musical are the two leads. Craig Bierko ("The Music Man") has absolutely no stage presence, and Kate Levering (who was so good in "42nd Street,") is a sweet young ingenue, playing a sex-starved adultress. They're both awful and that leaves a vacuum in the center of this show. Veteran stage actress Debra Monk is excellent as Madame Raquin, but the real find in this show is newcomer Norbert Leo Butz. As the cuckolded, soon-to-be-murdered husband, Camille, he steals the show...what there is of it.
Note for trivia buffs: This is the only time in a musical where there was a scene in a morgue with 7 bodies on gurneys, and only the second time that I've seen the female lead bare her breasts in a musical. (The first time involved the complete frontal nudity of the two leads in the opening duet of Stephen Sondheim's "Passion.")
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DRAMA REVIEW- "DANCE OF DEATH"  (CLOSED)
This is why people come to Broadway. If you want to see what great acting is all about, try to get a ticket to see "Dance of Death" at the Broadhurst theatre. Two of our greatest actors, Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen are performing miracles onstage, in this dark and vicious play by August Strindberg. A married couple, who live in a former prison on an island in Sweden, and who are about to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary,show us two days in their lives, and we see a marriage that has been held together by mutual need, even though the husband and wife hate and love each other simultaneously. The acting is so brilliant and realistic, that you're never quite sure if someone is going to get hurt up there. All of the action takes place in Santo Loquasto's incredible set...a masterpiece of stage design. I can only hope that someone has the good sense to preserve these performances on film for future reference; it's an historic occasion.
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Nick

 

theatre REVIEW- HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY- "BETTY'S SUMMER VACATION"  (CLOSED)
Nicholas Martin, the Artistic Director of the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston, directs at least one play there each season. That play usually becomes the hit of the season. Two years ago it was "Dead End," last year it was "Hedda Gabler" (now on Broadway,) and this season it's "Betty's Summer Vacation." Author Christopher Durang, like Voltaire, Jonathan Swift, and Monty Python(!) before him, uses outrageously funny, and often disturbing black, bent, comedies to hold up a mirror to society to show us how ridiculous we've become. The plot of "Betty's Summer Vacation" involves 5 people who share a summer home on the beach. The theme is the "tabloidization" of our culture, and how people fail to take responsibility for their actions. Durang calls the last decade the Tabloid Decade in which new technology blurred the lines between public and private life, giving rise to Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Springer and Geraldo, Court TV, Anita Hill vs Clarence Thomas,
William Kennedy Smith, Elian Gonzalez, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Menendez Brothers, O.J.Simpson, the Jenny Jones Show murder, Monicagate-starring Kenneth Starr and Linda Tripp, Survivor. Get it??? All of these are the background from which Durang creates his beach-home story of five people, four of whom are insane!
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Nick

theatre REVIEWS(2000-2001 Season)

PLAY REVIEW (HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY, BOSTON)- "KING HEDLEY II"  (CLOSED)

If you like the plays of August Wilson("Jitney," "The Piano Lesson," "Fences") then you'll probably enjoy his latest...a slice-of-life tragi-comedy about a group of down- and- out blacks living in a condemned slum in 1985 Pittsburgh. There are some fine monologues and duets, but they're all much too long. Wilson needs nothing as much as he needs an editor. Three and a half hours is a long time to spend in the company of sleazy trash with dirty mouths, philosophizing about their depressing lives. There were some fine actors on stage, and the set was beautiful, but we left at intermission!

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Nick

PLAY REVIEW-"THE TEMPEST"  (CLOSED)

If you live in the Boston area, or are in town to see the Van Gogh,(and the weather is good,) get down to the Boston Common to see the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's performance of one of Shakespeare's more difficult plays, "The Tempest." For a relatively provincial, second-rate acting company, they're doing a bang-up job with a magical , well-acted production, helped by the outdoor setting. With two minor exceptions, a miscast Trinculo, and a woman who looked too much like Aretha Franklin to be the Goddess Juno(!) the actors are all first-rate, especially Antonio Suarez as Ariel, Will Lyman as Prospero, and Thomas Derrah as a truly fine Caliban. This production, with the two previously mentioned cast changes, could easily transfer to Broadway, and be as big a success as Patrick Stewart's Prospero of a couple of years ago.

Catch it if you can; it's a great way to spend a summer evening in Boston.

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Nick

MUSICAL REVIEW- "SEUSSICAL, THE MUSICAL"(Boston Pre-Broadway tryout)  (CLOSED)

For those of you who missed the boat on "Beauty and the Beast," and "The Lion King," here's your "heads up" to get tickets for what should be the new season's first blockbuster musical. It's the perfect show for all ages, except children under 9 or 10(a little scary at times, with adult lyrics, choreography and concepts.) I did my own survey during intermission, and I couldn't find one set of children/parents who didn't love it, although some of the parents said that their children had to explain who some of the characters were! So what is this show? Conceived by Eric Idle(of Monty Python fame,) with book, lyrics and music by Ahrens and Flaherty who wrote "Ragtime", and choreographed to within an inch of its life by Kathleen Marshall("Kiss Me, Kate,") the musical takes many of Dr. Seuss' characters, settings, and plot fragments, and creates a new Seussian story for all of them to inhabit. The musical has the best original score that I've heard in years, and the dancing brings back memories of Fosse. Once again, Horton hatches his egg, The Lorax tries to save his trees, the Grinch terrorizes the town of Whoville, The Butter Battle war is waged, Circus McGurkus comes to town, and all in the most blazingly colorful sets, costumes and lighting since "Guys and Dolls!" The narrator is theCat in the Hat played by the American Roberto Benigni, David Shiner...he's wonderful. Many new faces will become stars in this show. As you can tell, I LOVED IT!!!

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Nick

MUSICAL REVIEW-PRE-BROADWAY TRYOUT OF "BARRY MANILOW'S COPACABANA"  (CLOSED)

Only someone as egotistical and self-indulgent as the former pop star, Barry Manilow, would have the conceit to think that he could turn one of his campy, cult-classic pop tunes, into a full-scale Broadway musical. The result is a simplistic joke, with mediocre tunes, outlandish costumes, and dreadful performances by everyone, but most especially, by Gavin Macleod(the Captain in the "Love Boat" TV series!) It's all very reminiscent of the TV specials of the '50's, when TV was going from black and white, to color. It is colorful...I'll give it that much. If the producers are smart, they'll close it here.Otherwise, the Broadway critics will devour it!

(1-Star)

Nick

BROADWAY SHOW REVIEW: THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW

If you're looking for the "Sing-Along Sound of Music," then you've wandered into the wrong theatre. What you have here, is the most complete wrap-around, outrageous piece of bizarro entertainment to "grace" a Broadway theatre since the original was done 25 years ago! Still based on the long-running cult film as well as the London and L.A. live versions of 25 years ago, this new version plunges you into the show the minute that you step into the lobby. (Everything has been designed by the Rockwell Group, noted environmental designers, including the lobby and the spectacular organic sets.) Any show whose cast runs the gamut from Dick Cavett to Joan Jett, and includes some of Broadway's Tony Award-winning stars, has got to have something going for it. This Rocky Horror Show where the audience comes prepared, bearing rice/confetti, newspapers, flashlights, feather boas, etc, and participates fully in the show, has enough energy to light up the new Times Square. It should keep fans and tourists alike coming for years to come. The story, as you may already know, concerns a couple of newly engaged "innocents," whose car breaks down outside a mysterious castle. When they seek refuge from the rainstorm they meet every loon from Dr. Strangelove(Dr. Scott,) to Dr. Frankenstein(Dr. Frank n' furter.) Go in the right frame of mind(bring confetti and a flashlight!) and you'll feel like you're at the Mardi Gras, a great Halloween Party, a rock concert, a drag show, or all of the above! Have fun and "do the Time Warp."

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Nick

PLAY REVIEW (PRE-BROADWAY TRYOUT)- "TALLULAH"  (CLOSED)

Although sultry, larger-than-life actress Kathleen Turner does a great impersonation of sultry, larger-than-life legendary actress Tallulah Bankhead, a play is more than just an impersonation, and someone forgot to write the play! All we have here are two acts of strung together monologues, with no connecting story line. Unless someone corrects this oversight before it gets to Broadway, the New York critics will bury it. It's a shame, because not only is the first act filled with hilarious one-liners that Turner delivers brilliantly, but also because Kathleen Turner belongs on a Broadway stage...she's such a presence.

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Nick

THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER" (at the new home of the Roundabout theatre)  (CLOSED)

Possibly there's an actor out there who could make this stupidly annoying and dated old play come alive, but Nathan Lane is NOT that actor. His performance is so campy in the role of theatre critic Sheridan Whiteside, that, he should be forced, in the future, to play nothing but Disney animals! Jean Smart was good as an overblown actress, and the set was very beautiful. But this old chestnut was a sad way to inaugurate the beautifully restored Selwyn theatre(now the American Airlines theatre,) the new home of the Roundabout theatre Company.

(1-Star)

 

HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY in BOSTON

PLAY REVIEW- "A FAIR COUNTRY"  (CLOSED)

The play is about a dysfunctional diplomatic family living in the then dysfunctional South Africa of 1977. The father commits an unpardonable sin that comes back to haunt him three years later, and destroys the entire family. The play is well written by Jon Robin Baitz, the sets are beautiful, and the acting, for the most part, is very good. The problem, at least last night, was that the leading lady, Pamela Payton-Wright was either: (a) terrified that she didn't know her lines, (b) drunk/stoned, or (c) both! That's the problem with companys like the Huntington. If you have to resort to casting plays with actors who are has-beens(or never was,) then, even though the rest of your younger cast is good(as it is in this play,) the play doesn't hold together. In this case, both of the main actors(Pamela Payton-Wright and Frank Converse) can't act any more!!!

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Nick

Musical Review- "THE FULL MONTY"

Let's get it over with. Yes, the six leading actors strip naked in the finale, and show their penises! Having said that, let me say that this musical version of the British film of a few years ago, is the most enjoyable, feel-good, new musical on Broadway this season. The story of six out-of-work steel workers has been shifted to Buffalo, but what has been added is an excellent commercial hummable musical score, great looming sets, an ensemble of extraordinary singing and dancing actors, and exhausting choreography. The book is so well-written(by Terrance McNally) that you get to know each of these people as individuals. The terrific songs and lyrics reinforce this feeling. I loved this score, and the people who get to sing it. What a wonderful show!

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Nick

PLAY REVIEW (TOURING COMPANY IN BOSTON)- "FULLY COMMITTED"  (CLOSED)

Fully Committed is a one-man show about a reservations manager (in a famous Manhattan restaurant), and all of the customers who phone him during the course of one work day. Actor Mark Setlock plays the managers, and all of the dozens of voices of the customers. He does them all badly. After a while, they all begin to sound alike! This 1-1/2 hour "play" is so boring, annoying, and repetitions, that it gave me a headache. The audience gave him a standing ovation!!! We're obviously starved for good theatre in Boston.

(1-star)

Nick

BROADWAY MUSICAL REVIEW- "JANE EYRE"  (CLOSED)

The musical of Jane Eyre has the same qualities as the classic novel by Charlotte Bronte...it's dark, melodramatic, romantic, Victorian and long. If this sounds negative, I don't mean it to be. I thoroughly enjoyed this new musical. All of the actors in the large cast are excellent, especially the two leads. John Napier has done wonders in creating moody settings (as he did with "Les Miserables,") and director John Caird (also the director of "Les Miserables,") has done a wonderful job with a difficult assignment. However, don't expect memorable music. It's not. The musical score is more like beautiful background music for a movie...enjoyable and powerful while you're hearing it, but easily forgotten a minute later. This in no way detracts from the excitement and beauty of the show. The 1 1/2-hour long first act moves with the speed of a racing stagecoach, but the second act, with less exposition, moves at a much slower pace, thereby losing my 5-star rating. Nevertheless, if you're looking for something more than your typical touristy musical, this is it. If you have daughters aged 9 -16, take them...they'll love it.

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Nick

MUSICAL REVIEW (BOSTON TRYOUT)- "GUMBOOTS"  (CLOSED)

If you're one of those people who considers entertainments like "Stomp," "Swing," and "Blue Man Group," to be legitimate theatre, then you might enjoy the new "musical" from South Africa, entitled "Gumboots." It's sort of a black "Riverdance," and I thought that it was perfectly dreadful; it gave me a bad headache.

(1-Star)

Nick

 

HUNTINGTON theatre COMPANY- "HEDDA GABLER"  (CLOSED)

Finally, this dull theatre season has its first dramatic hit, and it's up here in Boston(by way of the Williamstown theatre Festival) and not on Broadway. Although if it's up to the New York critics who have been flocking up here to see it and give it rave reviews, it'll probably be on Broadway next season. The last time I saw "Hedda Gabler," was in 1994 at the Roundabout in New York. It was a disaster, because the lead Kelly McGillis couldn't act! This time, it's the lead Kate Burton, who raises this already excellent production, to sublime heights. Much credit for the exceptional production has to be shared by playright Jon Robin Baitz who wrote the very contemporary-sounding translation, and the Huntington's new Artistic Director (who directed this production), Nicholas Martin. This story, by Henrik Ibsen of a newlywed trapped in the nightmare of her husband's virtue, is a literary masterpiece. Kate Burton makes it come to vivid life by injecting sarcastic humor into her role of the control freak who has lost control of her life. I saw it with an audience of bright high school students, who laughed in all the right places; were shocked in the right places; and very visibly moved at the surprising tragic ending. Not one cell-phone or beeper went off during the entire performances. Maybe there's hope for the future of theatrical audiences yet!

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Nick

 

MUSICAL REVIEW-"FLOYD COLLINS"(Boston Center for the Arts)  (CLOSED)

It's hard to imagine a more unlikely subject for a musical than that of "Floyd Collins." It's the true story of a man who explores caves for the sheer enjoyment of it. Only one day, he gets trapped deep in one, and although a great effort is made to get him out, he finally dies there. The effort to get him out produced the first great media circus in America. The year was 1925! Adam Guettel, the grandson of the great Richard Rodgers ("Carousel," "Oklahoma,""The King and I," "The Sound of Music," "South Pacific,"etc.) is responsible for the music and lyrics for this daring and riveting musical. The music is contemporary, and strikingly, almost hypnotically beautiful. Everything about this production was first-rate...the sets, the costumes, and most importantly, the singing-actors...all very believable, in their difficult roles. The Boston Center for the Arts must be commended for mounting a production as professional as any seen on or off Broadway this season. If I were nit-picking, I could say that the second act dragged a bit, and didn't live up to the high quality of the dramatic first act. But, as I said, this would only be nit-picking...this is a first-rate production of a musical that deserves more exposure than it's been getting.

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PLAY REVIEW- "AMPHITRYON" BY Moliere (AT THE HUNTINGTON theatre COMPANY IN BOSTON)  (CLOSED)

Moliere, inadvertently wrote a review of his own play when he has one of the characters say, "it's a stupid tale!" Indeed! It's an annoying and boring tale of the Gods and the tricks that they play on the Greeks below. The audience loved it, howling and laughing at jokes and situations that were stale when Milton Berle, Lucille Ball, and Jackie Gleason were camping it up on TV 50 years ago! I left at the intermission.

(1-Star) The sets and costumes were pretty!

Nick

 "Follies"  (CLOSED)

Stephen Sondheim's "Follies" is one of the finest musicals in the entire history of the American Musical theatre, and it certainly has always been on my list of the "ten best." So, it was with great excitement and expectation that I looked forward to this new revival...the first staged revival on Broadway, in 30 years. The Roundabout theatre Company has pulled together all of its considerable resources and come up with a spectacular revival of this masterpiece, that's every bit as exciting, innovative and creative as was the original 30 years ago! One of the hardest things about pulling off a successful production of "Follies," is that it requires 11 top stars of past and present, as well as11 talented young performers to play them as young people just starting out. This "Follies" has the stars AND the talent. They wisely chose to go with actors who could sing, rather than singers who might be able to act. The four leads, Blythe Danner, Gregory Harrison, Judith Ivey and Treat Williams are perfect. Other standouts are Polly Bergen, Betty Garrett, Marge Champion, and Carol Woods. The excitement begins immediately, as the curtain rises on the set of a theatre in ruins, in the process of being torn down, and the ghosts of the Follies girls in their magnificent gowns, begin to parade through these ruins. This level of excitement, sadness, joy, and hurt continues for the next 2 -1/2 hours as we see the lives of the former young hopefuls, unravel before us, as they celebrate their last reunion. It's about the dark side of nostalgia. and the consequences of our mistakes. It's all so relevant and contemporary...it could have been written yesterday!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 "Bloomer Girl" an Encores! presentation  (CLOSED)

In a misguided gamble, Encores! has chosen as two of its three yearly revivals this season, two hopelessly outdated musicals...musicals that were not very popular when they originally appeared 50 years ago on Broadway. The first was "A Connecticut Yankee," and the second is the current "Bloomer Girl." Encores! presentations are usually cast with many big-name stars. These first two revivals didn't even have that! In short, "Bloomer Girl" is a bore, in spite of some very pretty melodies(by Harold Arlen) and an impressive ballet(originally choreographed by Agnes DeMille.) Unfortunately, the old-fashioned book ( and dialogue) just drags the whole thing down. Not even a chorus line in bloomers could save this one!

(2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

BROADWAY MUSICAL REVIEW; "THE PRODUCERS"

The "Golden Age of Musical Comedy" has returned to Broadway...but only with one show, "The Producers." In the 50's, 60's, and 70's, there were twenty or more productions of this caliber(and better,) each season. But, instead of quibbling, let's praise the one that we've got...this show, in most respects, lives up to all of the incredible hype. it's a winner! Mel Brooks' story of two incompetent producers who try to create a failure, in order to scam two million dollars from old ladies, has been turned into a wild and crazy musical. Rent the original movie, "The Producers," and then imagine 16 new songs written by the 74-year-old Mel Brooks, and yes, the songs are terrific. The centerpiece in this musical, as it was in the film, is the musical-within-a-musical (the one that was supposed to fail!) "Springtime for Hitler." You'll have to see this to believe it. It's as politically incorrect as anything seen on Broadway in years; it's perfect! Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are letter-perfect in their roles, as is just about averyone. Direction, sets, choreography, costumes...all right on target. However, having said this, let me give a warning to people who come to "The Producers" thinking that they're coming to a contemporary "grandchild" of Broadway's great classic musicals(e.g., Carousel, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The King and I, etc.) It's not a musical with any depth to it. There's no attempt to reach out to your emotions or your intellect. What it is however, is a perfect musical comedy, a grandchild of vaudeville! Last night's audience, filled with celebrities (Jerry Seinfeld, Neil Simon, Ethan Hawke & Uma Thurman, Jack Klugman, etc.) laughed ecstatically, like a sit-com laugh track, at everything, even things that weren't funny. I found that annoying. All nit-picking aside, beg, borrow, or steal, but get a ticket. This is what Broadway musical comedy is all about.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

theatre REVIEW- "JACKIE MASON: MUCH ADO ABOUT EVERYTHING"  (CLOSED)

This man is painfully unfunny! I've been told by friends that he was once very funny, but what I saw today, was a hopelessly outdated one-man-show built around cheap-shot stereotypical descriptions of Jews, blacks, gays, Italians, etc. Everything seemed to be aimed at a Jewish audience of retirees, with snide remarks about gentiles, and references to people like Alfred Hitchcock, Winston Churchill, Bing Crosby, Henry Kissinger, and Ed Sullivan. Not exactly topical!!! Occasionally a barbed arrow would hit the target, but the waits between these bulls-eyes was long and tiring. If you have an Aunt Sadie or an Uncle Irving bring them for sure(I've never seen so many yarmulkes in a theatre before,) but leave your Uncle Bob and Aunt Sue, and everyone under the age of 60 at home.

(1-Star)

Nick

STUDENT PRODUCTIONS: "Cabaret" at Northeastern and "Into The Woods" at Harvard  (CLOSED)

Within the past three weeks, several of us have seen two very respectable student productions of classic Broadway musicals..."Into The Woods" at Harvard, and "Cabaret" at Northeastern. I was pleasantly surprised at how professional both of these "non-professional"(non-equity) performances were. In both, the acting and singing were very good, as were the sets and costumes. The pit-musicians also did a fine job. Although it came as a surprise, it's reassuring, and enlightening to know that work of such high quality can be mounted on our campuses, by students who are so busy doing a million other things as well. So, why not take a look in YOUR neighborhood to see what shows are being put on on your local campus. It'll probably be an adventure, and worth the trip.

(3 1/2- Stars) Back to Top

Nick

THE WINTER'S TALE:  (CLOSED) this was a beautiful production of one of Shakespeare's worst plays. The young (he looks like he's 18!) director, Darko Tresnjak aided by his stars (led by Kate Burton) and set and costume designers, packaged it perfectly, but it's still a problematic play...an Othello for morons. The first act is high drama, the second is Gilbert and Sullivan-like nonsense. It's hopeless! (3-Stars) Back to Top

DIVA:  (CLOSED) This new play by Howard Gould, was lots of fun. A biting satirical look at the world of TV stars, agents, and writers...all told in reverse. It starts at the end of a relationship, and works its way back to the beginning. Bebe Neuwirth and Eric Bogosian were excellent. (4-Stars) Back to Top

BROADWAY SHOWS- SEASON 1999-2000

MUSICAL REVIEW- "THE WILD PARTY"  (CLOSED)

There's more talent in the cast of "Wild Party" than there is in three lesser musicals. Each one is a clearly-defined character, especially the three leads, Toni Collete(who might get a Tony nomination to match her Oscar nomination for "The Sixth Sense,")Mandy Patinkin, and the incredible, ageless Eartha Kitt! The entire 2 hours takes place at a party(in a fabulous set,) where the tensions between "friends" becomes intolerable, as relationships develop and explode. The music(by John Michael LaChiusa)the set, the dancing, and the acting are all as good as it gets. What keeps this from getting the deserved "5-Stars," is that, because of the amplification, half of the lyrics are unintelligible. This is deadly in a musical-drama, where the story is carried by the lyrics and music.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

MUSICAL REVIEW-"WONDERFUL TOWN"  (CLOSED)

The last of this seasons Encores! Presentations was one of the best. To hear this beautiful Leonard Bernstein score sung (and danced) by such an outstanding cast, especially the always-wonderful Donna Murphy (in the Rosalind Russell part,) it's no wonder that the critics were tripping over themselves to give this show such excellent reviews. It won't surprise me if it moves right over to Broadway as another Encores! Presentation, "Chicago" did. The story, about two sisters who come to New York from Ohio in the 1930's, is the story of everyone who came to New York from somewhere else. A beautiful show.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

BROADWAY MUSICAL REVIEW- "Elton John's AIDA"

Taken as a complete entertainment package, this "Aida" is just about as good as it gets on Broadway this season. Thanks to Bob Crowley's spectacular sets and costumes it's a visual stunner. Add to this striking lighting effects, dazzling choreography, an intelligent book, and three outstanding performers in the leads, and you have most of the ingredients for a top-drawer show. The least effective element is the music by Elton John, which is easily forgettable until the last song in the first act, "The Gods Love Nubia." After that, all of the music in the second act is very good. Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year, you must know that the story follows the same story as Verdi's opera "Aida," with two princesses (one Egyptian, and one "Nubian,") in love with the same Egyptian soldier. Only the Disney people could figure out a way of burying the lovers alive (as happens in the Verdi opera,) and yet devising a way to give the story a happy ending. You'll have to see it to believe it!

(4 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

BROADWAY MUSICAL REVIEW- Encores Presentation of "TENDERLOIN"  (CLOSED)

Once again, Encores Presentations has dug into the Broadway trunk and come up with a 4-day semi-staged revival, of an old Broadway musical.....one that was a flop 40 years ago! "Tenderloin" is the story of the prostitutes and brothels in turn-of-the-century(the 19th to the 20th Century!)) New York, and the religious leaders who tried to put them out of business. The story is told in an old-fashioned and corny way, but the bouncy score is filled with melodic and catchy songs, written by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick(who would go on to write "Fiorello," "She Loves Me," and "Fiddler on the Roof.") David Ogden Stiers is the Reverend Parkhurst, the role played by Shakespearean actor Maurice Evans in the original cast. He's very good, but the discovery in this show is young Patrick Wilson, who has everything that it takes to become a big Broadway star...looks, charm, acting ability, and a big singing voice. Keep your eye on HIM.

(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

BROADWAY MUSICAL REVIEW- "CONTACT"  (CLOSED)

If you saw "Fosse" last season, and thought that it was the best musical of the year(as I did,) then "Contact" is the show for you. As with "Fosse," it's all about dance. In "Contact," we have three separate "stories," each one told through the medium of dance. They range from interesting, to stunning. The first story takes place in 1767, the second in 1954, and the third, in the present. The music covers everything from Benny Goodman and Dean Martin, to Grieg and Gounod, so in a sense it's not an ORIGINAL musical, in that no NEW music was written specifically for this show. But, in the true sense of the word, it's one of the two truly ORIGINAL musicals on Broadway this season(the other being James Joyce's The Dead.) But, be warned, whereas the tone of "Fosse" is generally upbeat, the tone of "Contact" is very definitely downbeat, with spousal abuse and attempted suicide as major elements of the "plots." The two acts before the intermission are slow, depressing, mean-spirited, and violent. The last act is a stunner, especially when the door opens and in dances the exquisite "girl in the yellow dress." But, the tone even in this piece, is very negative. Only for true lovers of the dance.

(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

PLAY REVIEW (PRE-BROADWAY TRYOUT)- "Taller Than a Dwarf"  (CLOSED)

This play could have been a very funny 1/2 hour sitcom, but at 1- hour- and 45- minutes, it's mostly an overlong and stupid play, with some very funny moments scattered throughout. Unfortunately, there aren't enough of these moments to keep the smile on your face. It's the story of Howard Miller, a young married man who is a failure at everything that he does, and one day, he decides to take to his bed and stay there. That's it folks! As played by Matthew Broderick, he starts off as a funny character, and slowly develops into a whining, annoying moron. Parker Posey, as his improbable wife, simply hasn't a clue as to what her character is all about. The funniest moments in the play come from the parents, especially Joyce Van Patten as Howard's "typical" Jewish mother. Everyone laughs at her, but you would really just love to take an axe to her! It's hard to believe that this was written by Elaine May ("The Birdcage") and directed by Alan Arkin. Actually, she gave us her seats in the last row, and moved us up to the sixth row, on the aisle. That was the best thing about the play!!!

(2- Stars) Back to Top

Nick

theatre REVIEW- "ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER"  (CLOSED)

As much as I hate to admit it, I must have been too young and naive to appreciate this musical when I saw it for the first time, back in the '60's, starring the legendary Barbara Harris. (Forget about the movie version, which was cut to pieces to suit the talents of its' star, Barbra Streisand.) But oh, what years can do to ones perceptions. This musical about ESP, hypnosis, and reincarnation is one-of-a-kind. It's intelligent, sophisticated, charming, and hilarious. Its' star, Kristen Chenoweth is Broadway's hot star right now. She's young, beautiful, and very talented. Looking like a young Angie Dickinson (remember her?) she has a singing voice that can reach the last row in the balcony, and she can act up a storm. Every gesture and facial expression is in character. She has more talent than 10 movie stars of her age. The book of the show is still a bit clunky, but the music is unforgetable. Every song is melodic, intelligent, complicated, and stays with you long after you leave the theatre. I'm still humming them. The tricky and clever lyrics are by Alan Jay Lerner who also wrote "Brigadoon," "My Fair Lady," "Camelot," and "Gigi!" "On a Clear day...." is an ENCORES presentation. Every theatre season, ENCORES revives three musicals, and puts them on for only 4 nights each. Some of these, like "Chicago," make their way to mainstream Broadway, but the others remain only on CDs. These ENCORES revivals have become the hottest tickets in town...celebrities fill the theatre every night. The next one "Tenderloin" is in March, but for now, I'll just keep humming the songs from this one until the CD comes out. In the words of one of the show's songs, "Hurry, it's lovely up here." (5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "SATURDAY NIGHT"  (CLOSED)

The latest Stephen Sondheim musical is actually his oldest, the first one that he ever wrote, 40 years ago! It's just never been performed professionally, and now I know why! This one should have been left in the bottom of the trunk...it's dreadful. I find it hard to believe that Sondheim is allowing a professional company to put it on. He was 24 when he wrote it, and it's refreshing to know thatr he wasn't always a genius! The 23-year-old Australian cabaret star, David Campbell(who was such a big hit in last seasons' ENCORES presentation of "Babes in Arms,") is the star of the show. He's good-looking, has a fine voice, but simply can't act. He lacks all credibility in his role. Even his facial expressions and gestures are insincere...and he's the best performer in the show! It's interesting that in describing him, I'm saying the opposite of all the positive things that I said about Kristen Chenoweth in "On a Clear Day...." Worse yet, I found myself humming the songs from that musical while I was watching this musical. That's as bad as it gets. (1-Star)

Nick

theatre REVIEW- "WIT"  (CLOSED)

I can't remember the last time that I went to the theatre, and was as moved by a play as I was by this year's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "Wit" by Margaret Edson. On paper, the play sounds morbid and depressing. It covers the last two hours in the life of a college professor who is in a hospital dying of ovarian cancer. But in truth, the play is life-affirming, very funny, and acted magnificently, in a once-in-a-lifetime performance by TV's Judith Light(remember her in "Who's the Boss?" with Tony Danza?) I guess that we've been starved for good writing in the theatre for so long, that when these miraculous words come along, it feels like we've been treated to a banquet. Dr. Vivian Bearing is a professor of 17th Century English Literature(specifically the sonnets of John Donne,) which she taught in an imperious fashion, with no emotion or sensitivity for her students, and now, as she lays dying, in this stark-white hospital room , she longs for the emotion and sensitivity from her doctors and nurses, that she could never give. Prepare to be 'beat up" emotionally, but you'll be better off for having gone through the experience.(5-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

PLAY REVIEW- "WAITING IN THE WINGS"  (CLOSED)

This play is on its' way to Broadway; let's hope it never gets there! Written by Noel Coward, and starring Lauren Bacall, Rosemary Harris, and a bunch of other stage and screen actresses who should have known better, it's so bad, that it's like sitting in front of the stove for 2 1/2 hours, waiting for a kettle to boil!!!(1-Star)

Nick

MUSICAL PLAY REVIEW- Marie Christine  (CLOSED)

This unusual musical, written for, and starring the 29-year-old 3-time Tony award winner, Audra McDonald, is a re-telling of the Greek "Medea" legend, now set in 19th century New Orleans and Chicago. The composer, Michael John LaChiusa, is one of the new young breed of musicians, writing daring musicals for a new generation of theatre-goers, and they've all been innovative, if not necessarily successful(e.g., "Parade," "A New Brain," Ffloyd Collins," and "Hello, Again.") Audra McDonald, a force of nature who can act and sing anything, now plays the young wife and mother, who is thrown out of her family amidst the scandal of her pregnancy and subsequent marriage to a young politician. They run away to Chicago, where he turns to other women, and she turns to murder! The music is often hard to take, the drama is overpowering, but overall Marie Christine is a disappointing somber night of theatre. (3-Stars) Back to Top

MUSICAL REVIEW- "James Joyce's 'The Dead"  (CLOSED)

As close to a masterpiece as anything that I've seen on a stage in years! James Joyce himself might have been pleased seeing the words of his short story "The Dead"(from his Dubliners,)turned into this magical, musical play. The setting: a Christmas-time party at the home of the misses Morkan in turn-of-the-century Dublin. A true ensemble of actors direct their performances to one another, rather than to us, the audience, making it more like eavesdropping on a real family. To single out any one of these great stage and screen actors wouldn't be faiur, but mention must be made of a singing and dancing Christopher Walken, giving one of the best performances of his career. If this completely-sold-out run is ever extended(as is rumored,) rush to get tickets. It's as good as it gets.(5-Stars) Back to Top

MUSICAL REVIEW- Kiss Me, Kate  (CLOSED)

If you're looking for a big, old-fashioned, somewhat sophisticated musical...with one classic hit song after another, stunning choreography, beautiful sets, and some good laughs, this one is it. However, it does have its' problems. It seems pitched at the not-very-demanding busloads of tourists, with everything in the show overstated shamelessly. Everything is "sold"...no subtlety at all. But more importantly, the leads don't seem ready yet to carry a big show like this one. Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie were fine in "Ragtime," but there they were part of an ensemble cast. Here, they've got to be stars, and they're not there yet. Neither are the two young supporting actors. The entire cast should be required to attend performaces of "James Joyce's 'The Dead" to see how real actors should act in a great musical play.(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

PLAY REVIEW- "THE LAST HURRAH"  (CLOSED)

The Huntington theatre Company was presenting the World Premiere of a stage adaptation of the classic Edwin O'Connor novel about politics in a city which is a thinly-disguised Boston, and about a charismatic con-artist of a politician, who is a thinly-disguised James Michael Curley, the one-time Boston mayor who was the last of the old-time pols.(Wow, that'a a helluva sentence!) Although well-written, and well-acted, the play would benefit from a major star in the lead...a star who could chew up the scenery(which by the way was very effective.) There are lots of funny lines, and situations, in the play, which I suspect come right out of the novel. The play climaxes with the death of the governor, on the eve of the mayoral election, his first major defeat. After that it's downhill for the final 20 minutes. Although we'll probably hear more from this play, I doubt that it will ever make it to Broadway. (Rent the movie with Spencer Tracy!)(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

MUSICAL REVIEW- "HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH"  (CLOSED)

When you write a rock musical about the autobiography of a transsexual who has had a botched sex-change operation, you know that you're not aspiring to the top-drawer, 5-star level of such Broadway megahits as "My Fair Lady," "Oklahoma," "West Side Story" or "Hello Dolly." But given the basic ingredients, this is a fine show, with an excellent rock score, and a brilliant, exhausting performance by Kevin Cahoon as "Hedwig." Come to it on its' own terms and you'll have a grand time, as we did.(3 1/2 Stars) Back to Top

Nick

The final dress rehearsal of Woody Harrelson's new play "THE RAINMAKER."  (CLOSED)

Our eight seats were in the 3rd row of the Orchestra in the center, right in front of Joanne Woodward. Although I enjoyed the entire evening, I can't say that I enjoyed the play. Why they chose to revive this 40-year-old chestnut is beyond me. It says nothing new to today's audience. It was obviously written as a star vehicle(the movie starred Burt Lancaster and Katherine Hepburn) and Woody Harrelson and Jayne Atkinson(who IS she?) were simply not able to carry it off. He overacted, and she looked like his mother, not his lover! The actors playing the other roles simply acted as stereotypical "small-town-folks," with performances ranging from preachy to simple-minded. The set was beautiful. In case you don't know the story(and care,) it's about a con-man(?) who comes to a drought-ridden town, and promises to bring rain...for a small fee.(2-stars.)

"The Iceman Cometh"  (CLOSED) - I know that this is a great, philosophical theatre piece, but it’s hard to keep your mind from wandering, when you’re forced to listen to the pipe dreams of a bar full of alcoholics for 4 ½ hours. The acting is excellent, especially that of Kevin Spacey, although at times he speaks so quickly that what he says is often lost on HOW he says it. Although the set of this old bar, is another perfect Bob Crowley masterpiece, the dialogue, albeit by Eugene O’Neill, often sounds stilted and dated. I couldn’t help feeling that, after seeing the play, I had just done a difficult piece of homework!!

(4-Stars) Back to Top

"Death of a Salesman"  (CLOSED)- A devastatingly perfect production of the Arthur Miller classic. All of the acting is splendid, but Brian Dennehy and Elizabeth Franz turn in the best performances of their great careers. This is a "Salesman" for the ages. See it, but be prepared to feel as though you’ve been hit by a large truck!!!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

BROADWAY MUSICAL REVIEW- "URINETOWN"
If you're looking for the most original, inventive, creative, imaginative, and hilarious musical on Broadway, this is it. Set in a mythical city of the near future, where a drought has eliminated all of the country's water, people are forced to "pay to pee" in public amenities owned by the insane, money-hungry, corrupt tyrant, Caldwell Cladwell (John Collum.) The style of this musical is tongue-in-cheek, "wink-wink", satire that borrows from such illustrious sources as Voltaire, Bob Fosse, Jonathan Swift, "Fiddler on the Roof," Kurt Weill's "The Threepenny Opera," "West Side Story," and Marc Blitzstein's "The Cradle Will Rock." That's grand larceny at its best! The cast plays its comic-book roles perfectly, with constant asides to the audience...like a French farce set in the Bronx! I can't think of the last time that I laughed so much at a Broadway musical...and that includes"The Producers!"
(5-Stars) Back to Top


Nick


PLAY REVIEW- "THE SHAPE OF THINGS"  (CLOSED)
Written and directed by Neil LaBute. That pretty much says it all. If you've seen any of LaBute's plays ("Bash") or movies ("In The Company of Men," "Your Friends and Neighbors," Nurse Betty,") you know what to expect. You'll meet characters who start off as "nice and normal," and then eventually reveal themselves to be unexpectedly complex and cruel monsters. This play is much of the same. Four college students, played inexplicably by actors who appear to be in their 30's (Rachel Weisz, Paul Rudd, Gretchen Mol, and Frederick Weller) start off as friends, and then one begins to manipulate the others. The one, Evelyn, is a sociopath or worse, and she sets out to do a "makeover" of Adam, the most vulnerable, naive and easily manipulated of the friends. He "loves" her and will do anything that she tells him to do. The result is shocking, pathetic, and tragic. All of the actors are excellent, but the play doesn't really come alive until the last 1/2 hour, and then it explodes. Too little, too late.
(3-Stars) Back to Top


Nick


PLAY REVIEW- "THE WOMEN"  (CLOSED)
This classic bitch-fest of a play, is rarely done because it requires a cast of eight stars. Not just actresses, but "stars." The 1930s film version starred Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, etc....the biggest stars that the studio "owned." This cast is not quite of that caliber, but it holds its own, using some well-known TV stars such as Kristen Johnson ("Third Rock From the Sun,") Cynthia Nixon ("Sex and the City,") Rue McLanahan ("Golden Girls,) etc. Throw a bunch of rich women together in classy settings and let the fireworks begin!  Clare Booth Luce has written some of the most venomous dialogue ever heard in a play. It's rivalled only by the dialogue in the film "All About Eve." The plot concerns a sweet young wealthy woman, whose husband is cheating on her. All of her "friends" know, and they let what they know spill out...no, spew out! It's mean and often hilarious. But, all of this gossip and bitchiness grows tiresome after awhile, especially if you're a man...the target of most of their bitchiness. It's like watching a Spike Lee movie where the blacks hate the whites, and you happen to be white! Being a male puts you in the minority, and because the play is at least 45 minutes too long, these tirades become boring and irrelevant, even for a period piece. The sets are beautiful, and the women are dressed by fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, who has created some of the most over-the-top and spectacular clothes for these high-maintenance women. But it's too much fluff and not enough substance. If you want to see/hear a "bitch-fest,"  stay home and rent the excellent classic film version...it's so much better...and classier...than this version.
(3-Stars) Back to Top


Nick


theatre  REVIEW- "SOUTH PACIFIC"  (CLOSED)

If the producers of this revival of the classic "South Pacific" have dreams of taking it to Broadway, these dreams could easily turn into a nightmare for them. This version is an old-fashioned bore; no better than a good college production! Michener's novel won the Pulitzer prize, and the original production, with music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics from Oscar Hammerstein, won nine Tony Awards. The play focuses on parallel love stories on a South Pacific island during World War II. Plantation owner Emile de Becque (Michael Nouri) has fallen for Nellie Forbush (Erin Dilly,) while Lt. Joseph Cable is in love with Bloody Mary's daughter, Liat. Both couples struggle with love, responsibility and prejudices. The score features some instantly recognizable songs: "Bali H'ai," "Some Enchanted Evening," "Bloody Mary," "A Cockeyed Optimist," "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair," "Younger Than Springtime" and "There Is Nothing Like a Dame." With all this going for it, how can you lose? Easily. The cast is mediocre; the sets are ugly painted flats, and the story hasn't been "dusted off" to hold the interest of today's audiences. Last year's TV version with Glenn Close and Harry Connick Jr. was so much better; rent the video.

(1 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

PLAY REVIEW (HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY, BOSTON)- "HEARTBREAK HOUSE"  (CLOSED)

"Mans' interest in the world is only the overflow of his interest in himself,"....my favorite line from what is arguably George Bernard Shaw's masterpiece. In it, he brings together an eccentric collection of characters and places them in a majestic home in Sussex, England in 1914. The home belongs to a crazy sea captain, whose daughters are as off-the-wall as he is. But, no matter. The story is only the framework on which Shaw hangs his ideas about socialism, religion, business, politics, etc., some of which resonate loudly even in the year 2002. The acting was excellent throughout the large cast, but fine as they were, the actors were dwarfed by the soaring sets, which were applauded by an audience that sat and watched them being changed during intermission. A long play, but an excellent night of theatre.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

Nick

PLAY REVIEW (CITY theatre, BIDDEFORD, MAINE)- "CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF"  (CLOSED)

Possibly because I'm a theatre purist (snob,) I usually don't review non-equity productions of plays. However, I'm making an exception in this case, because the play was directed by my mentor and friend, Mel Howards, and because the production was excellent. When we walked into the little Opera House on Main Street in Biddeford Maine, I was surprised to see such a professional and beautifully-designed set in place on stage. This was Brick and Maggie's bedroom in that old mansion filled with Tennessee Williams dysfunctional Southern "gentility." The director pulled performances out of these non-professionals, that would not be out of place on a Broadway stage. The only bad apple in the bunch was the actor who played Big Daddy, a pivotal role. Unfortunately, he thought that he was playing William Jennings Bryan in "Inherit The Wind." Because the others were so good, especially the actors playing Brick and Maggie, it didn't mar the overall performance. So, the moral is, support your own regional theatre company, and let's hear it for amateur theatricals. Bravo Mel!

(4-Stars) Back to Top

PLAY REVIEW- "THE GRADUATE" (Pre-Broadway tryout in Boston)  (CLOSED)

I loved the film of "the Graduate" when it came out in 1967, but on a re-visit, just a year ago, I found it to be dated, and, with the exception of Anne Bancroft's Mrs. Robinson, I found the acting of everyone else (especially Dustin Hoffman,) to be embarrassingly amateurish. Therefore, I went to see this theatre version of the film, with no mind-set about seeing "a classic desecrated!" What I experienced was an hilarious re-telling of a timeless tale of "the seduction of a youth." Without taking anything away from Anne Bancroft's classic portrayal, let me say that Kathleen Turner was born to play Mrs. Robinson. Everything that she says and does is right on the mark. Poor Benjamin doesn't have a chance! As Benjamin, Jason Biggs ("American Pie 1 & 2") erases all memories of Dustin Hoffman. He couldn't be better. What a gifted young comic actor he is. Because these two are SO perfect in their roles, by contrast, Alicia Silverstone as Elaine is not as good as she should be. Maybe in time she'll grow into her role, and feel as comfortable as Turner and Biggs are in their portrayal of these unforgetable characters. The acting of the two leads was not the only thing good about this play. I loved the minimalist sets; so inventive and fluid. Although the first act is much better than the second, which still needs a lot of "tightening up," taken as a whole, "The Graduate" should be a big hit when it moves on to Broadway.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "ELAINE STRITCH: AT LIBERTY"  (CLOSED)

If you've attended live theatre on Broadway anytime during the past 50 years, then the name Elaine Stritch should mean something to you. It's not that she's been in a show every season. On the contrary, her appearances have been rare but memorable. (I've only seen her 3 times before. In Noel Coward's "Sail Away" starring Noel Coward himself, in "Goldilocks," and in the original production of Sondheim's "Company," where she stopped the show with the song "The Ladies Who Lunch.") It's just that she symbolizes everything that Broadway is about...incredible singing, dancing, and acting talent, sophistication, raunchy but intelligent humor, and the ability to reach across the footlights and pull the entire audience into the show. All of these skills are evident in her current sold-out one woman show...possibly the hottest ticket on Broadway this season. With just a simple stool as a prop, she recounts her life on the stage, in song and anecdote, and everything comes alive on that stage. It's a tour-de-force performance, one that those in the audience will never forget, like "Judy at the Palace, Sinatra at Carnegie Hall, and Streisand at the Garden." As with all of these, people in years to come will be lying about having seen the show. I'm lucky to have seen all of them!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS"  (CLOSED)

The 1957 cult classic movie "Sweet Smell of Success," told the story of a vicious gossip columnist (Burt Lancaster,) a sleazy press agent (Tony Curtis,) and the smear campaign that they concocted to ruin a career. Not exactly the stuff of Broadway musicals (!) but composer Marvin Hamlisch ("A Chorus Line,") decided to write one anyway. He pulled together an excellent creative team. John Guare ("Six Degrees of Separation") wrote the book for the musical, and Nicholas Hytner ("The Crucible," "The Madness of King George," "The Object of my Affection,") is the director. John Lithgow plays the role of J.J. Hunsecker, the gossip columnist, and Brian D'Arcy James (from the musical "Titanic") plays the press agent. The musical's parents are all expert craftsmen. Their offspring, however, is a schizophrenic disaster. On the one hand, the book of the show is excellent, the sets and costumes are beautiful, and the acting on the part of two of the leads (John Lithgow and Kelli O'Hara) couldn't be better. On the other hand, the music is terrible; completely forgettable. Since this IS a musical, it doesn't bode well for the show. I smell the "sour smell of failure!"

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theatre REVIEW- (HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY) "OBSERVE THE SONS OF ULSTER MARCHING TOWARDS THE SOMME"  (CLOSED)

The time is World War I. The place is Ulster in Northern Ireland. A group of eight young misfits, all Irish Protestant Nationalists, are about to go off and fight "in Flanders fields" in Europe, at the Battle of the Somme, the most bloody and unsuccessful Allied offensive on the Western Front. But before they do, they talk, and talk, and talk, and talk! All Irish playwrights have the gift of gab. The best of them (Shaw, Wilde, O'Neill, Synge, Friel, etc.) are universally eloquent. The others, like Frank McGuinness here, will just talk you to death! Given what they have to work with, the eight actors are all outstanding, especially Scott Wolf ( TV's "Party of Five,") and Justin Theroux ("Mulholland Drive.") With the exception of the last 10 minutes, the two-hour play is an interminable bore. Just nod off, take a nap, and dream of the places that you could have been, instead of in this theatre.

(1-Star)

theatre REVIEW- "OKLAHOMA"  (CLOSED)

I've waited two years for this award-winning British (Royal National Theatre) production of the most American of Broadway musicals, "Oklahoma." Was it worth the wait? Absolutely! Having lived in Oklahoma for four years, where this musical is practically a religion, I've seen dozens of versions of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, from the most professional, to grade-school versions. This is by far the best, far surpassing the sappy, sugary 1955 movie version. Everything about this production is sheer perfection: the expert direction of Trevor Nunn,  the complex choreography by Susan Stroman, the clever sets and costumes of Anthony Ward, but especially the actors...every single one of them. I can't imagine a better Curly and Laurey than Patrick Wilson and Josefina Gabrielle, and the sociopathic but sympathetic Jud Fry of Shuler Hensley is an unforgetable performance. You hear talk about this being a darker version of the original. Let's just say that it's a more three-dimensional version. These are real people singing about meaningful things that are happening to them. With just a shift in direction, a pretty, but cheesy love song, becomes a teasing conversation between two people who are in love. There's a difference. After almost three hours, the cast started to sing the title song for the first time, and you could feel the enthusiasm and excitement in the audience as they wanted to sing along. It's a magic moment. I almost stood up and cheered. Get tickets and bring the whole family...the children will get a lot out of it, and you'll love it, as I did.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

BROADWAY MUSICAL REVIEW- "THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS" (Pre-Broadway tryout in Boston)  (CLOSED)

Poor Ann-Margret waited too long to make her Broadway stage debut. At age 60, although she still looks good, she's just plain tired, and it shows. This musical is also tired. It wasn't very good when it opened on Broadway 25 years ago, but then it benefited from the wild and sexy choreography of Tommy Tune. Now, those dances (and dancers) are gone, and all that's left is a stupid, old-fashioned, corny, poorly acted and badly sung story of the last whorehouse in Texas. Who cares? If possible, this revival is even worse than the dreadful film of the musical that was made 20 years ago, with Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds. That's saying something! Ann-Margret would have been better served if she had made her Broadway debut in one of her cheesy, glitzy, Las Vegas reviews. That's what she does best. This present show is what she does worst. (Or is it worse?) In any case, if she's smart, she'll keep this show "on the road" where people who just want a night away from their TV sets and screaming kids, might find some fun in it. The Broadway critics will kill it!

(1-Star)

theatre REVIEW- "THE ELEPHANT MAN"  (CLOSED)

Everything about this current revival of the play "The Elephant Man" is first-class...the excellent acting of Billy Crudup, Rupert Graves, and Kate Burton; the original incidental music by Philip Glass; the perfect set by Santo Loquasto; and the expert direction of Sean Mathias. Everything is first class...except the play itself! The play is tiresome, wordy, and only intermittently interesting. It's the story of John Merrick, a man with elephantiasis, who became the freak/darling of the Victorian elite in London. Played straight through with no intermission (1 hour and 40 minutes,) it's sleep-inducing, in spite of Billy Crudup's painful-to-watch, brilliant performance. Maybe it's just that we've all become jaded to the freaks in our midst. As Stephen Sondheim wrote, "don't  bother to send in the clowns, they're already here."

(2-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "COPENHAGEN" (Touring company in Boston)  (CLOSED)

When a play has something to say and is beautifully written, often, a director will chose simply to put his actors on stage and have them "say" the words, unencumbered by sets, costumes, and fussy direction. That's what director Michael Blakemore has chosen to do with Michael Frayn's brilliant play "Copenhagen," (the winner of the 2000 Tony award.) What if two atomic physicists, one working for the Nazis and one for the Allies, had had a private meeting during WWII in the home of one of the physicists? What would they have said to one another? The actors are Len Cariou and Mariette Hartley as the Danish physicist Nils Bohr and his wife, and Hank Stratton as the German physicist Werner Heisenberg.The three of them are perfect in their roles, and the play, as a result of what they do and how it's written, is elegant, insightful, and endlessly fascinating. Even if you know nothing about Quantum Mechanics and The Uncertainty Principle (and who does??) you'll find this play to be brilliant and mind-bending.

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theatre REVIEW- "LYSISTRATA" (at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge)  (CLOSED)

Departing Artistic Director Robert Brustein has chosen as his final production, Aristophanes' "Lysistrata," but he's doing it as a musical! What a wise decision this was. The result is bawdy, hilarious, musically toe-tapping, and acted to perfection by the ensemble of the ART, led by one of its most famous alums, Tony-Award-winning Cherry Jones. After firing one or two composers and directors ("for artistic differences,") Brustein ended up with composer Galt MacDermot ("Hair") and director Andrei Serban. They've created a new musical based on a play that's been popular for 25 centuries, and it could easily be a hit on Broadway today. The plot still revolves around the women of Greece, who, fed up with the terrible war that's occupied their men for 20 years, stage a revolt. No more sex unless the war stops! Cherry Jones is the stand-out in the cast, but everyone is excellent. The musical score is melodic and very Broadway-sounding. The sets and costumes are clever and often hilarious (you would have to see the balloon phalluses to see what I mean!) I laughed more at the jokes and incidents in this musical (based on a play written in 411 B.C.) than I did in "The Producers," written just three years ago. That says a lot about both shows, doesn't it?

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theatre REVIEW- "WHERE'S CHARLEY?" (Williamstown Theatre Festival)  (CLOSED)

"Corny," "old-fashioned," and "silly" are words that come to mind when describing this 50-year-old musical by George Abbott (book) and Frank Loesser (music and lyrics.) Sure, it's all of these, but it's also funny, filled with unforgettable songs, and, an opportunity for singing actors to shine in showcase roles. One of the actors in this fine revival, Jessica Stone, can come out of this production as a bankable star, if some producer is smart enough to put her in the right starring role on Broadway. She's a winner. Director Nicholas Martin has directed his cast to play this musical in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, with double-takes and asides to the audience. All except the actor who plays Charley, Christopher Fitzgerald (in the Ray Bolger role.) This capable singer/dancer/actor has been allowed to run wild on stage, and it doesn't always work, especially when he's in drag as "Charley's aunt" from Brazil ("where the nuts come from!") Sometimes he's just too stupid and annoying. But when he sings and dances to "Once In Love With Amy," all is forgiven. This old musical may be too innocent for today's audience on Broadway, but when was the last time that you left a musical and couldn't stop humming the songs? I was singing "My Darling, My Darling" days after the performance.

(4-1/2 Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "MOVING PICTURES" (Williamstown Theatre Festival)  (CLOSED)

Although the actors try to squeeze some drama out of this badly written play by Dan O'Brien (no, not the decathlon athlete!) it just goes on interminably for an hour and a half with no intermission, and very little to say. The slim-as-a-thread plot concerns the inventor Thomas Edison, and his protege, and the author hypothesizes (probably inaccurately) that Edison stole most of the ideas for his inventions from other people. Duh!

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theatre REVIEW- "HENRY V" (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company-on the Boston Common)  (CLOSED)

It's hard to believe that the play that we saw last night, was the same play that was made into two of the screen's greatest film classics about war, (and how it reveals the best and the worst of humanity.) Both Lawrence Olivier and Kenneth Brannagh were about the same age as last night's star, Anthony Rapp, when they produced and starred in THEIR versions of Shakespeare's heroic play. During the past few years, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company has given us excellent productions of "Julius Caesar," "The Tempest," and "Twelfth Night," in this beautiful outdoor setting on the Common. But last night's production was not "their finest hour." The setting (a bombed-out London underground station) could not sustain interest for 3 hours. The cast ranged from amateurish to competent, with no stand-out performances. You know something is very wrong when the highlight of a production of "Henry V" is the scene with Katherine...in which she speaks nothing but French! Anthony Rapp ("A Beautiful Mind," "Rent,") would have been perfect in the role of Prince Hal in either of the two "Henry IV" plays, but he just isn't heroic or kingly enough to play the grown-up Hal as King Henry V. Nevertheless, he recited the "St.Crispin's Day"  speech beautifully. But that speech is so perfect, anyone would look good saying it. The Battle of Agincourt (the play's centerpiece) was choreographed almost like a ballet, and was effective enough, but all of the scenes with the fools Bardolph, Pistol, and Nym were boring, stupid, and intrusive...they could have been cut without doing great harm to the play. I understand that the original intent of the Company was to do a "Macbeth" this summer, but they changed their plans due to the events of "9/11." They should have stuck to their original plans!

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theatre REVIEW- "NORMAN'S ARK" (Workshop Production in Montclair, New Jersey)  (CLOSED)

My friend Marty Bevilacqua is producing his first "Broadway" musical, in this workshop production, and the troops gathered on opening night to support the effort. In this modern allegory, a family is stranded on the roof-top of its Missouri home as a flood deluges the town. The father, Norman, retells the story of "Noah and the Flood" to ease the tensions. The lyrics and music by Glen Roven are thoroughly professional. Songs are written in an eclectic style from rock to gospel, with side-trips to the lands of jazz and country/western. If they were played by a regular Broadway pit orchestra, they'd sound beautiful. However, on the electrified, amplified instruments used, they all sounded very much alike. Two theatre and TV veterans of the cast, Rosalind Brown ("One Mo' Time") and David Garrison (TV's "Married With Children") star respectively, as God and Norman/Noah. (The original God, Melba Moore, was fired two days before opening night for what I can only assume, was "un-God-like behavior.") Backing these two up, is an impressive gospel choir of two hundred children and adults pulled from the neighboring community, and incorporated into the production as a planned interaction between the show and whatever town in which it happens to be playing. The minimalist sets and costumes were imaginative, colorful and inventive. On this opening night, there were still some rough edges, but not enough to mar our enjoyment of this charming and delightful musical adventure. My major criticism has to do with the spoken dialogue put into the mouths of the three children. They come off as the meanest, most ungrateful, obnoxious, and rudest children that I've ever seen on stage. Hopefully the author of the book will see fit to soften some of this harshness. The young amateurs, on the other hand, were obviously enjoying the show as much as the audience was. Take the children; they'll love it.

(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "BURN THIS"  (CLOSED)

Lanford Wilson has not written a great play in "Burn This," but rather a great part for a talented actor who can make it come alive. John Malkovich did this in the original 1987 production, and Edward Norton more than lives up to the demands of the part, in this current revival. Surrounded by a cast of solid supporting players (Catherine Keener, Ty Burrell, and Dallas Roberts,) Norton shines as the manic-depressive Pale, who seethes with energy, even when he's lying down! After the death of his closeted gay brother, Pale goes to the brother's apartment to collect his things, and is forced to confront his brother's room-mates...a female dancer (Keener) and a gay ad executive (Burrell)...as well as his own past. The clash of personalities is explosive and Norton makes the most of it, giving one of the most volatile performances seen on any stage this year. You won't be able to take your eyes of of him.

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theatre REVIEW- "TEA AT FIVE" (American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge)  (CLOSED)

Kate Mulgrew IS Katherine Hepburn in this astonishing one woman tour-de-force by Matthew Lombardo, playing her at two different stages in her life. ( In case you don't know who  Kate Mulgrew is, she's Captain Kathryn Janeway on "Star Trek.!".) In Act I, it's 1938 and the young Katherine Hepburn has returned to her parent's home in Connecticut, after having endured the jeers of the Hollywood press for her "six flops in a row." She looks and talks like the young Hepburn, and she regales us with stories about her love affairs, her successful films, her unfortunate return to Broadway in a bad play as a gesture to a "friend," and her hopes of getting the role of Scarlett O'Hara. But when the curtain goes up on Act II, the living room is dark, snow is falling outside the windows, and a lone woman is stoking the fire in the fireplace. When she turns to face the audience, there was an audible gasp, because the transformation to the 80-year-old Hepburn was incredible. She is in the early stages of Parkinson's complete with the shaky voice and the body tremors. Mulgrew has become Hepburn, and what she does is nothing short of mesmerizing. Whether you consider this performance an interpretation or an impersonation, it is one of the most spell-binding pieces of theatre that I've seen this year. Since Kate Mulgrew is the wife of the soon-to-be next Governor of Ohio, Tim Hagan, she is doing this show only in limited runs. I hope that it comes to a theatre near you!. 

(5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "MOVIN' OUT"

If you like the music of Billy Joel, and you like modern dance/ballet, then you'll love the new, and very different, musical "Movin' Out." Choreographer/director Twyla Tharp has taken 30 of Billy Joel's "greatest hits," and woven them together to create a full-length story ballet. The dancers neither sing nor speak, and the band (which is the greatest Billy Joel "cover" band in the world,) sits high above the stage singing and playing the songs, but doesn't get directly involved with the danced story below. All of the performers, especially Michael Cavanaugh, who sings the Billy Joel part in all of the songs, and the entire ensemble of dancers, are incredible. Although Tharp doesn't have a distinctive signature style, as do Bob Fosse and Susan Stroman, her dances are reminiscent of the muscular, gymnastic ballets of Michael Kidd. So, does all of this make for a successful Broadway musical? Well, yes, and no. To me, it's only a two-dimensional musical, with the third dimension...a narrative plot that's spoken and sung by the actors in the story...seriously, and very noticeably, missing. What you're left with is a danced story in the style of "Contact," "Fosse," and all story ballets. As someone who doesn't appreciate or understand the world of ballet, it left me hungry for more.

(3-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW- "HAIRSPRAY"

In case you haven't noticed, fat women are "in" this year...as in "My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding," "Real Women Have Curves," "The Anna Nicole Smith Show," and now, "Hairspray." Based on the 1988 John Waters cult -classic -film, starring Divine and the then-fat Ricki Lake, this brand new musical is the feel-good show of the season. It's colorful (with comic-book sets by David Rockwell,) funny, and with a terrific musical score of brand new songs that sound like they were written in the '60's. Of course, Harvey Fierstein is wonderful as the mother, but the star of the show is a fat little ball of energy called Marissa Jaret Winokur. How she can dance up such a storm carrying so much weight around, is a wonder. She must have to eat a ton of food each day, just to stay fat for the role! The book is weightier (pun intended) than it appears, with its not so tongue-in-cheek jabs at racism and sexism. It still tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, who is laughed at by all of the big-haired popular girls at Patterson Park High School in Baltimore, because she's fat, and because she's trying to integrate the all-white Dick Clark-like bandstand show on TV Station WZZT. That she succeeds AND gets the high school hunk, is a given, but how she does it makes for all the fun of this show. If you're nostalgic for the rock and roll '60's, and can handle really broad (once again, pun intended!) humor, you'll really enjoy "Hairspray."

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theatre REVIEW- "MARTY" (World Premiere and Pre-Broadway tryout at the Huntington Theatre in Boston)  (CLOSED)

In 1955, Ernest Borgnine won an Oscar for his portrayal of the painfully shy butcher from the Bronx, who falls in love with a mousy school-teacher from Brooklyn. Not exactly the stuff of musical comedy, but Charles Strouse and Lee Adams ("Annie," "Bye, Bye, Birdie") have accepted the challenge and written a sweet and moving musical, which is destined for Broadway. John C. Reilly ("Magnolia,""Boogie Nights," and just about every other film!) now plays the role of Marty, and, as always, he turns in a remarkable performance. Although you won't come away from the show humming the memorable tunes as you did in "Annie," the composers have created a score that is so much a part of the story and characters (a la Sondheim,) that it's not about hit songs, but rather an attempt to create a cumulative effect of beautiful melody. When Strouse writes in the minor key, and dips into his grab-bag of ethnic music (as he did when he wrote the musical "Rags", one of my favorites,) he comes up with some of his best music. In "Marty" the two best songs have this wonderful ethnic touch..."Niente Da Fare," and "Life Is Sweet." If only there were more of them.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "CONTACT" (Touring production at the Wang Center in Boston)  (CLOSED)

Although this touring production of the all-dance musical "Contact," was neither better nor worse than the original production that I saw four years ago at Lincoln Center in New York, there were certain elements about seeing it at the Wang Center in Boston, that made it a less enjoyable theatrical experience. The Vivien Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center (where "Contact" premiered,) is an intimate theatre with a thrust stage, putting the audience in very close contact with the performers. As I was sitting in the second row, I was practically a member of the cast, making it impossible to take my eyes off the incredible dancers. The Wang Center, on the other hand, is a cavernous, albeit beautiful, barn, with the worst sightlines of any theatre in America, except the City Center in New York. Sitting in a comfortable box, I was about a mile away from the stage, and my mind was free to wander. My wandering thoughts included the following: "Contact" is still a downer of a show, in spite of some fine dancing. Fine dancing, but not creative, inventive, and original dancing as is found in some of the great musicals ("West Side Story," "Oklahoma," "Carousel," etc.) The "story," such as it is, deals with spousal abuse and attempted suicide. The music is the weakest part of the show, as none of it is original; merely pre-recordings of music from such diverse sources as Tchaikovsky and Dean Martin!

(2 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "RAGS" (The Boston Conservatory theatre)  (CLOSED)

In 1986, a musical came through Boston on its way to Broadway. Its book was written by Joseph Stein ("Fiddler on the Roof,") and it starred the legendary opera star, Teresa Stratas. It completely blew me away. In fact, I saw it three times while it was still in Boston. Therefore, I was shocked that it flopped dismally on Broadway, playing only four performances. Why did it do so badly? I have no idea. Its story is the story of Jewish immigrants coming to New York in the early 1900's. I would think that it would have been a great success, especially in New York City. Audiences loved it; critics didn't. Now, the Boston Conservatory theatre has chosen to mount a full-scale production of this problematic musical. They have done themselves proud. The Conservatory students sing and act beautifully; the Conservatory orchestra plays magnificently; and the sets (using giant photographs of the Lower East Side) solve the problem of changing the many scenes easily. In a year or two, we may be seeing some of these students on Broadway...singing, acting, or playing in orchestras (if orchestras still exist then !!!) They're that good.

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theatre REVIEW- "NINE" (Roundabout Theatre Company)

Antonio Banderas comes to Broadway, starring in a thoughtfully reworked revival of the 1982 musical "Nine." Based on Federico Fellini's autobiographical film classic "8 1/2," the musical, set in a Venetian spa, and in the mind of its main character, Guido Contini, takes us through the troubles encountered by a womanizing Italian film director, when his personal life clashes with his professional life. The women in his life are played by some of Broadway's most talented leading ladies, from Mary Stuart Masterson, as his patient, loving wife, to Jane Krakowski and Laura Benanti, as two of his stars/lovers,  to legendary diva, Chita Rivera, as his French producer. Renowned British director David Leveaux, and composer Maury Yeston, have completely reworked the second act, emphasizing the melodramatic aspects of Contini's problems, and removing much of the stagy comedy of the original. Although more drama gives the musical more depth than it previously had, it tends to bog down during this interlude. However, it quickly recovers its momentum. All of the performers are brilliant, especially Banderas, in a breakthrough singing role. He's pitch-perfect for the part. The set, costumes, and direction are surreal, and right on the mark. The music is even better than I remembered it from the original production starring Raul Julia. A noteworthy revival; catch it if you can.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "TAKE ME OUT"

After playing to sold-out houses in its Off-Broadway run, this hit show transferred to Broadway, where it's doing the same blockbuster business. Does it deserve all of the accolades? It sure does. The last play about baseball that I can remember having seen, was the musical "Damn Yankees," in which a man sold his soul to the devil to play for the Yankees. This one is a bit more controversial. In this one, a major league star holds a press conference to announce that he's gay! To add to the controversy, star Daniel Sunjata is a clone of Derek Jeter. Controversial story line aside, this show has everything...terrific story, perfect cast, and 2 1/2 hours of laughs. It also has lots of frontal male nudity (in shower scenes.) If that offends you, stay home.

(4- Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "SALOME"  (CLOSED)

This exciting evening of theatre, is a staged reading of the Oscar Wilde classic play. That means no sets and no costumes. Just actors standing, or sitting, on a bare stage, sometimes reading from hand-held scripts. But, when those actors are as great as the ones in this play, your imagination kicks in, and produces the opulent biblical costumes, as well as the Great Hall of Herod's palace in Judea.  The actors are magnificent. Al Pacino, better than he's been in films in years, is Herod, who lusts after his beautiful young stepdaughter, Salome. He struts, he howls, he spits, he preens. Why can't he be this good in films anymore? Salome, the definitive "Jewish princess" comes to scary life in the form of Marisa Tomei, who is completely believable as the sexy, half-mad daughter of these demented parents. Her mother, Herodias, is brilliantly acted by Dianne Wiest (love her stylish tuxedo!) Someone give this Oscar-winner ("Bullets Over Broadway,") another screen role worthy of her talents. Jokanaan (John the Baptist,) the object of Salome's desire, is the always wonderful David Strathairn. Amongst the four of these, sparks fly, and acting doesn't get any better than this.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "GYPSY"

Some Broadway stars cast a very large shadow, even decades after their death. Ethel Merman was one of these stars. The role of Mama Rose was written for her, and it fit her like a glove. She was bold, brassy, and larger than life, and when she sang (without any microphones and amplification!) her voice boomed right up to the last row of the top balcony. Bernadette Peters does a very respectable job of playing Rose, albeit a kinder and gentler Rose. This in itself, is somewhat off-putting, since Rose was abusive to her children, and a kind, gentle, Rose doesn't really work. More troubling though, is the fact that Peters is obviously struggling with those big Mermanesque songs, in what is arguably the most difficult role ever written for a female Broadway star. All of the others in the cast are fine, especially Tammy Blanchard as Gypsy Rose Lee, John Dossett as Herbie, and those three wonderful strippers! What is most surprising, is the direction of the creative, innovative British director Sam Mendes ("Cabaret," "Chicago," and the films "American Beauty" and "Road to Perdition.") It's virtually a perfect copy of the original production! Nothing new from this genius of a director. On the other hand, it was fun listening to the lyrics that were written by a then "new-young-talent," Stephen Sondheim! I'm curious to see just how long Bernadette Peters lasts in this production (she's been out sick almost as much as she's been IN the show since it opened,) especially since she just lost the Tony award to the fat girl from "Hairspray!"

(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW- "MACBETH" (COMMONWEALTH SHAKESPEARE COMPANY)  (CLOSED)

This summer's "Shakespeare on the Common" production is both strengthened and weakened by the strong directorial concept imposed upon it by director Steven Maler. Maler has set Shakespeare's "Macbeth" in the Argentina of Eva Peron, and this makes for some interesting comparisons between the Macbeths of Scotland and the Perons of Argentina. Both of these infamous couples were ruled by sex and politics, and were dominated by the overpowering presence of an ambitious wife. In the current production, this staging produces strengths in some interesting settings, music and costumes, and creates three believable religious (albeit weird) women in place of the goofy witches. The weakneses lie in the fact that "Macbeth" is so firmly rooted in Scotland that the concept often is in conflict with Shakespeare's words. Luckily, the production has two strong actors in the lead roles. Jay O. Sanders, a familiar face from TV detective shows, is a tall and powerful Macbeth, and Jennie Israel as his Lady, matches him in every way. The murders are bloody, and the battle, once again, is staged in slow-motion, but is nevertheless, quite realistic. All in all, a fine production, and a perfect way to spend a warm summer evening. (Bring a sweater; it gets chilly.)

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BROADWAY MUSICAL REVIEW- "THE BOY FROM OZ"

Don't even bother to hand out Tony Award nominations next year. Just give all of the Tony Awards to this incredible show and its phenomenal star. But, I'm getting ahead of myself......................................................... Before actor Hugh Jackman was "X-Man"'s Wolverine, he was a singing star in stage musicals in both his native Australia, and in London's West End, where he was "discovered" singing Curly in "Oklahoma."(I just can't imagine a talent scout seeing someone singing "Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'," and saying, "There's our Wolverine!") In any case, the rest is history, so to speak. Jackman is making his Broadway debut in the controversial role of legendary performer Peter Allen, who after a skyrocketing career, died of AIDS. Not exactly the stuff of Broadway musicals! However, to get right to the point, this is the best Broadway musical that I've seen in years, thanks in part to its star Hugh Jackman...the hottest new star on Broadway. He can sing and dance better than anyone starring on Broadway right now, AND he acts up a storm on stage. But, it's not just Jackman that makes this a great musical. The rest of the cast is perfect, especially Jarrod Emick as Greg Connell,  Isabel Keating as Judy Garland, and Stephanie Block as Liza Minnelli, the three loves of Peter Allen's life. The music (consisting, mostly, of songs written by Allen,) is the best score of a non-revival Broadway musical in years. The sets by Robin Wagner and the costumes by William Ivey Long are a sight to behold. The amazing finale, "I Go To Rio," could have been created by the outrageous Allen himself; he would have loved it. One footnote: I think that this is the first time that I've ever seen a song and a star get a standing ovation before the end of the show! I suggest that you get your tickets early for this one. People will be going back to it more than once. I intend to!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "BUTLEY" (Huntington Theatre Company)

I hated this play when I saw it on Broadway 31 years ago (!) although I think that I did appreciate and enjoy the performance of that great English actor Alan Bates, in the title role. When I saw the revival of the play last night, I still hated it, and I know exactly what I hate about it. The play is a phony, show-offy, tour-de-force for an actor, at the expense of any believability in its story. Simon Gray's plot deals with a bad professor of English at an unspecified "London university," who hates his students, hates himself, and spends almost three hours showing why he's so hateful. Possibly because he's so self-loathing, both his male lover and his wife have left him on the same day! I was a professor for 35 years, and I never knew anyone in Academe, who spoke, or acted, like the Butley character. A brilliant actor, like Alan Bates, can bring out the pathetic sadness underlying the comedy in this very dark comedy. Nathan Lane turns the whole thing into stand-up shtick, punching the one-liners up to the balcony, where I was unfortunate enough to be sitting (someone gave me the ticket!) The last time that I saw Nathan Lane get lost in a character was when he was playing Nathan Detroit in the brilliant Broadway revival of "Guys and Dolls" several years ago. Ever since then, when he sets foot on stage, or screen, he goes "out of role," and becomes this character that he's created...something based on a queer impersonation of Paul Lynde, (a favorite center box on the old "Hollywood Squares,") who was already a queer impersonation! He was still doing it last night, only now with a phony British accent, which he lost every time he rubbed his face and threw out one of those punch lines a la Paul Lynde. Apparently his audience loves this thing that he does, because now he's getting Tony Awards for doing it! I hate it.

(1-Star) 

theatre REVIEW-"CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF"

Get yourself over to the beautiful Music Box Theatre, if you want to see this Tennessee Williams classic being performed by the perfect cast. On paper, it sounded like a dream cast, and on stage, they're even better. Ashley Judd and Jason Patric as the calculating Maggie and her alcoholic husband Brick, are sexy and beautiful to look at, and intelligent actors on top of that. Ned Beatty in the powerful role of Big Daddy, is the first actor that I've ever seen in this role, who actually looked like he was dying of the awful cancer that has riddled his body, and that brings this terrible family to the point of wanting to kill each other...psychologically, at least. All of the actors who fill out the roles of the other family members in this truly dysfunctional Southern family, are as perfect as are the leads. At three hours, it's a long play, but it's mesmerizing from beginning to end.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "WICKED"

I can't remember the last time that I saw such a wonderful Broadway musical, with such terrible music! In spite of this glaring fault, "Wicked" is still a thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining show...one of the best on Broadway. Why? Well, the story is complex, sophisticated, moving, and hilarious; the sets and costumes are glorious; and the incredible cast is as good as it gets. It's just that the music is so forgettable, especially in the big production numbers, where the music of the chorus, does nothing except to remind you of how beautiful the music is that Harold Arlen wrote for "The Wizard of Oz!" The story tells the tale, a prequel if you will, of what happened in Oz and Munchkin-land, before Dorothy's house landed on the Wicked Witch's sister. It's the tale of two witches, played by two incomparable leading ladies...Glinda the Good Witch, (an incandescent Kristen Chenoweth,) and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, (the equally powerful Idina Menzel.) Joel Grey plays the Wizard (and has the only good song of the evening..."Wonderful.") Rounding out the rest of the cast, are some of Broadway (and Williamstown's) finest: Norbert Leo Butz, Carole Shelley, and Christopher Fitzgerald. You'll enjoy seeing the back-story of "The Wizard of Oz" laid out for you: why the Cowardly Lion, the Tin-man, and the Scarecrow happened to be where they were when Dorothy met them; who the parents of the Wicked Witch were, and why is she green; what really happened at the end of the story? Oh, by the way, take all the kids. They'll love it...especially the flying monkeys, the giant dragon....................................... 

(4 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "AS YOU LIKE IT" (Theatre Royal Bath)

The hot ticket for a Shakespeare production this theatre season, is "Henry IV" at Lincoln Center in New York. If you can't get to New York, and are in the Boston area sometime during the holidays, the next best thing is Sir Peter Hall's wonderful Theatre Royal Bath production of "As You Like It." Traditional to a fault, the best thing about this letter-perfect production is the discovery of an incredible new star...Hall's daughter Rebecca Hall in the role of Rosalind. There's something to be said for nepotism! If you close your eyes, you think that you're listening to a young Emma Thompson. Her every move and mannerism is true to the character that she's portraying. I look forward to seeing her in other roles on stage and screen. Everyone else in this cast does a fine job, especially David Yelland as the two Dukes, and Philip Voss as Jaques. (It's so exciting to hear the "Seven Ages of Man" speech when it's spoken by the right actor.) The actors were costumed in a sort of early 20th Century dress, and the sets were minimalist, although the Forest of Arden looked quite magical. It's a long (three hours) play, but it's acted so beautifully, that the time flies by quickly. Why is it that English actors can make the language of Shakespeare sound like ordinary conversation, and American actors can't? I guess that it's because it IS their language, and not ours. Duh!

(4-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "SLY FOX" (Pre-Broadway Tryout in Boston)

When was the last time that you laughed out loud for almost the entire length of a play, or a movie for that matter? I can't remember when I did. If you can't either, then get yourself a ticket to this modern retelling of the centuries old Ben Johnson classic, "Volpone." Playwright Larry Gelbart ("Mash",) and director Arthur Penn ("Bonnie and Clyde") have set this new version in the San Francisco of the Gold Rush. Wealthy miser and misanthrope Foxwell J. Sly, hoards his cache of gold, and pretends that he's dying, so that his "friends" will bring expensive gifts to his death-bed with the hopes of becoming his sole heir. An ensemble cast of brilliant comic actors brings this witty tale to life. Leading the ensemble, is Richard Dreyfuss, in a role that's sure to bring him a Tony nomination next year. The rest of the large cast includes Eric Stolz, Bronson Pinchot, Peter Scolari, Elizabeth Berkley, Bob Dishy, Rachel York, Professor Irwin Corey (90 years old!) and an hysterically funny Rene Auberjonois. This raunchy comic-play is a perfect antidote for a harsh, cold winter. It'll warm up the Barrymore Theatre when it comes to Broadway next month.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW- "TWENTIETH CENTURY" (Roundabout Theatre Company)

Many years ago, I made my first investment in a Broadway musical. It was "On The Twentieth Century," and it was based on this classic play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Therefore, it wasn't surprising that as I sat through this stylish revival of the 1930's play, I kept hearing the music from that musical. It made an excellent background to this very funny screwball comedy. Unfortunately for the rest of the audience, the great score was only playing in MY head! Even without the music, that would come many years after this play was originally written, the Hecht-MacArthur original stands up beautifully...70 years after it was written. Oscar Jaffe, the great Broadway producer is broke, after producing a string of flops. To get away from his creditors, he books himself and his entourage on the streamlined Twentieth Century Limited, the famous L.A.-New York luxury train. On this very same train, is his protege, ex-lover, and current Oscar-winning movie actress, Lili Garland. Jaffe is trying to lure her back to work for him...partly because he needs her big star name on a contract,  to bail him out of his debt, and partly because he's still in love with her. The plot unravels in the lavish drawing rooms of this train...on an ingenious set that keeps moving back and forth through these rooms. The set is populated by a fine cast...one that knows how to milk all of the laughs from this juicy, hilarious script. A heavy-set Alec Baldwin, fresh from his Oscar-nominated role in "The Cooler," plays Oscar Jaffe, and Anne Heche is properly manic and glamorous as his Lili. Tom Aldredge is the comically insane religious fanatic, who roams through the train sticking "repent" signs on everything and everyone. Ryan Shively is Lili's current lover and agent, George. In the Broadway musical version of the play, these same roles were played by Jon Collum, Madeline Kahn, Imogene Coca, and a very young Kevin Kline. Isn't it about time that someone revived the musical? Until then, this fine revival of the comedy WITHOUT music is a good substitute.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW- "WHAT THE BUTLER SAW" (Huntington Theatre Company)

An hilariously insane farce, in the style of Oscar Wilde, as interpreted by The Marx Brothers or The Three Stooges! The action, involving mistaken identities, takes place in a mad house, and I couldn't even begin to explain the convoluted plot. It begins with an attempted extramarital seduction, and ends with a cast of characters, comically dressed and undressed, chasing each other through the rooms of the asylum, shooting at one another. What Joe Orton has written is nothing short of a modern comic classic, and director Darko Tresnjak puts his perfect cast through their paces as though he were directing Peter Sellars in a "Pink Panther" movie. In fact,  Inspector Clouseau would have been perfectly at home in this nut house!

(4-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "TRUE WEST" (American Voices-A Play Reading Series)

Sam Shepard's play has so much physicality in it, that it just doesn't work when it's done as a "play reading." It's a dark, depressing, disturbing "comedy" about a love-hate relationship between two brothers, one of whom is surely insane! The actors doing the reading...Paul Rudd, Jonno Roberts, Will Le Bow and Bobbie Steinback...were all excellent (especially the young New Zealander, Jonno Roberts...who was so good in "Take Me Out" on Broadway.) But, one hour and forty minutes is a long time to concentrate on four actors sitting on stools, reading their lines. Oh well, at least the company was good!

(2 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW:
(1) ASSASSINS (Roundabout Theatre Company at Studio 54)
Stephen Sondheim's musical "Assassins," is a brilliant, but cruel, shocking, and heartless musical about all of the men and women who assassinated (or tried to assassinate,) the President of the United States. This was first produced off-Broadway in 1990, and it only had a very short run, because it was considered to be too controversial then. I'm afraid that it's no less controversial now. It gives you goose-bumps watching some of these insane people singing about their pathetic lives, and why they "deserve the right to be happy." The fact that the music is some of Sondheim's best, and the acting is right-on-target (no pun intended,) doesn't make it any easier to sit through this two-hour, no intermission shoot-out. Neil Patrick Harris is especially frightening as Lee Harvey Oswald. A far cry from Doogie Hawser, M.D.!
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theatre REVIEW- "THE ROSE TATTOO" (at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston)

When director Nicholas Martin cast Andrea Martin as Serafina, the "earth mother," in his stage production of Tennessee Williams' "The Rose Tattoo," I thought that it was a joke. After all, she's a stand-up comic! But then again, so was Eric Bana a stand-up comic (in Australia,) and look at what a wonderful job he did portraying Hector in the film "Troy." In any case, I'm happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Andrea Martin is a perfect Serafina. Obviously not cut from the same cloth as the ultimate earth mother, Anna Magnani, for whom the role was written, but a different, more vulnerable Serafina. She brings out the subtle, (and not so subtle) comedy, that is so much a part of this magnificent play. Serafina is a Southern widow of Italian descent, who worships her husband's memory, until the hunky truck-driver, Alvaro, comes along, and makes her feel alive again. This is the kind of production that could easily move on to Broadway, as several other of Nicholas Martin's Huntington productions have. It has great writing, of course; excellent acting; fine directing; and a beautiful, atmospheric set. Not one of Tennessee Williams' best plays, but certainly head and shoulders above a lot of the garbage that's being written today!

(4-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "THE LION KING" (at the Opera House in Boston)

When I first saw "The Lion King" several years ago on Broadway, it served as a vehicle for the newly reopened, restored New Amsterdam Theatre (restored with millions of Disney's money.) Now, the Boston production of "The Lion King," is serving as a vehicle for the reopening of the newly restored Opera House (restored with millions of Clear Channel's money!) It's still the same wonderful, creative, colorful, imaginative show, with one of the most magical opening scenes that I've ever seen on a stage. If you only know "The Lion King" from the Disney film, then you're in for a great surprise. The Julie Taymor/Elton John theatrical version is pitched much higher, aiming at adults, as well as children. The animal costumes are brilliant, not aiming to conceal the humans operating them, but rather, integrating the human and animal aspects into a new, imaginative creature. You'll have to see it to know what I mean. Elton John has written more music for the stage version to add to the already familiar songs of the movie version (e.g., "Circle of Life" etc.) The sets are wildly colorful and creative, and the actors romping in and over them are all excellent. If you'll be in Boston anytime in the next year, this one is a MUST.

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theatre REVIEW- COMMONWEALTH SHAKESPEARE COMPANY (on the Boston Common) "MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING"

Coincidentally, the three major Eastern Shakespearean companies (New York, Boston, and Washington,) have chosen to do the same play for their summer production..."Much Ado About Nothing." Surprisingly, in spite of New York's star-filled cast, all the buzz is about the Boston production, and its hot young leading man. New Zealander Jonno Roberts, in a breakthrough performance, is stealing the show every night because of his incredible talent and looks. He did the same thing in last season's "True West," here in Boston, and in Broadway's "Take Me Out," two seasons ago. He has the acting skill of a young Kenneth Brannagh, and the looks of a young Robert Redford. Although he owns the stage whenever he's on it, Roberts is surrounded by a wonderful production of this comedy. His supporting cast is first rate. The sets and costumes, depicting a fanciful Renaissance Sicily, are colorful and fun. The incidental music is very "Italian street band" and adds to the enjoyment. Talented director Steven Maler knows how to get the most out of the play and his cast. If you're in Boston, (and why haven't you left town now that the Democratic Convention is disrupting everything?) get over to the Common, pull up a blanket or lawn chair, and enjoy this remarkable production. Hurry though...this is the last week!

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theatre REVIEW- "A CLOCKWORK ORANGE" (Company One in Boston)

Having just sat through this dreadfully amateurish production of Anthony Burgess' famous novel, I can greatly appreciate the genius of Stanley Kubrick, who managed to turn this piece of garbage into a classic film, that still holds up today. The novel (and Burgess own adaptation of his novel,) deals with the many aspects of violence, and the individual's right to chose it as a life-style. What might have been shocking back in 1962, seems hopelessly dated, and even unintentionally funny (when played by a company of such terrible "actors.") Unfortunately, in this Age of Terrorism, we've all come to take violence for granted, as much a part of life as going to work, or seeing a movie. With the shock value removed, the play becomes wordy, pompous, and boring. A clever writer or director knows that violence can be portrayed more forcefully through words, than through physical activity, especially when the physical violence is acted so badly, and unrealistically. That's the crux of the problem here. Everything about this current production is bad, from the terrible leading actor (who could barely say the tricky lines, let alone try to give them meaning, ) to the rest of the cast, which was not only incompetent, but also the most physically unattractive that I've ever seen on a stage, to the ridiculous costumes, to the music (which was credited to the Dresden Dolls, but consisted mostly of poorly-played snippets of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.) Need I go on? Was there anything good about the evening? Yes. The company of my friend who took me there as a birthday gift!

(1-Star) ...and I'm being generous!

theatre REVIEW- "DRACULA"

If you've ever been to a musical by Frank Wildhorn ("Jekyl & Hyde," "The Scarlet Pimpernel,") you know what to expect. You'll get a "Classics Comics" version of a literary classic, with an ear-shattering pop score that is played so loudly, that it's virtually impossible to enjoy the music or understand the lyrics...all of which tend to sound the same. In the case of "Dracula," with the exception of a few beautiful songs, that just about describes it, although the decibel level has been noticeably reduced for THIS show. However, what raises this show to the level of "4-Stars," is the incredible stagecraft. The beautiful, imaginative Art Nouveau sets by Heidi Ettinger, and the other feats of stage magic (including the wonderful use of flying and disappearing people,) make this an evening of pure, enjoyable theatre. It's almost worth the price of admission just to see Dracula (Tom Hewitt) fly up to the roof of the stage, turn upside down, unfurl his large cape, and turn into a bat! The large ensemble cast performs expertly in both the singing and acting departments, with Kelli O' Hara outstanding in the secondary female role of Lucy (the first one to succumb to Dracula's bite!) If you've never been to a Frank Wildhorn musical, this would be a good place to start.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "SONIA FLEW" (at the Virgina Wimberly Theatre in Boston)
The Wimberly Theatre is the first of two new theatres to open at the Calderwood Pavilion in the Atelier complex in the South End. It's a part of the Boston Center for the Arts next door, and it's the first new theatre in Boston in 35 years! Having said all that, let me say that the theatre is beautiful, comfortable, versatile and functional, and the excellent play that inaugurates the theatre, couldn't have been a better choice. "Sonia Flew" was written by Melinda Lopez, a local playwright, and it deals, a bit autobiographically, with her flight from her native Havana to the U.S. Her parents foresaw the coming problems for Cuba, and they sent their daughter away in 1961 as part of the "Pedro Pan" program. She started a family of her own , with a Jewish husband in Minneapolis (oy, that's a couple of problems right there!) The show gives us a clear picture of what it might have been like for this "fish out of water." (Given the choice of Minneapolis or Havana, I would have probably opted for Havana!) Lopez has written a beautiful, moving, and very intelligent new play, and it's directed with great passion, by Nicholas Martin. In the first act we see the problems facing Sonia, as her son declares that he's going off to fight in Afghanistan. The second act takes place in Cuba, forty years earlier, as Sonia's parents realize that they must get their daughter out of an ever-increasingly-dangerous Cuba. The two acts compliment one another in a moving, creative and very intelligent fashion. Everything about the play is right on target, and the acting couldn't be bettered, even on Broadway. Congratulations to a new young playwright, and to a beautiful new theatre.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW- "BROOKLYN"
Mark Schoenfeld, who wrote the book, music, and lyrics to this new musical, was once a homeless street musician, and this old-fashioned and amateurish soap-opera of a show, can put him back out there again! What a waste of five very talented singer/actors (Kevin Anderson, Cleavant Derricks, Eden Espinosa, Ramona Keller, and Karen Olivo,) who are forced to scream/sing songs ("if-it's-loud-it-must-be-good") like the kind of garbage that those terrible contestants scream/sing on "American Idol." (Is that ridiculous show still on?) The story is trite and saccharine, but the sets and costumes are creative and highly imaginative, made out of everything from bubble wrap to garbage bags. However, the worst part of this intermission-less mess are those terrible songs, with their awful lyrics. Guess what? The audience gave it a standing ovation, and shouted and screamed after every "song." Could there have been that many friends and relatives in the audience, or has everyone simply been dumbed-down by reality TV?
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theatre REVIEW- "BURN THIS" (at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston)

When this play was first performed in New York in 1987, it starred John Malkovich. I saw it a few years ago, in a successful revival, starring Edward Norton. The only reason to drag out this long, not always interesting Lanford Wilson play, is if one has a talented enough male lead to play the fiery, intense role of Pale. The Huntington certainly has their Pale, in the dark, riveting actor, Michael T. Weiss. I always enjoyed watching him as Jarod, the hunted lead in TV's series "The Pretender." In that highly successful series, Weiss got to play 80 different characters, as he ran from his pursuers. In "Burn This" he only plays one, but when he's onstage, he's all energy and you can't take your eyes off of him. Upon the death of his brother, a closeted gay dancer, rough-and-tough Pale goes to the apartment that his brother shared with two room-mates...a female dancer, and a gay ad executive....in order to collect his possessions When Pale starts to interact with these two, the sparks begin to fly. Weiss captures the manic-depressive characteristics of Pale, as well as his volatility, perfectly. The theatregoer is never at ease watching Pale, because you're always aware that something explosive could happen at any minute. Keeping you off balance in this way, is the job of the actor who plays Pale, and Weiss does it to perfection. The three other actors in the cast match Weiss perfectly, forming a fine ensemble. The set was as good as the actors, and better than the play!

(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "LA CAGE AUX FOLLES"
I've been trying to think back to a revival of a hit musical that was as good as the original, and all I could come up with was "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever," with the wonderful Kristen Cheneweth. Up until now, that is. The current revival of "La Cage aux Folles" is every bit as good as the 1983 original, and I was a backer of that show! In case you've been living under a rock, the musical is based on the French play and films, that gave rise to the original musical, which then inspired the Hollywood version, "The Birdcage." The plot concerns a gay nightclub owner and his transvestite lover, who own the hottest nightclub in St. Tropez. Their life is one of family bliss, until the son of one member of the couple brings his fiancee and her ultra-conservative parents home to meet his parents for dinner.  The show is at times hilarious, and at other times quite moving. In spite of the sexual preferences of the leading couple, this is the most "family-values" oriented show on Broadway today. This is a big old-fashioned musical with a perfectly cast ensemble of actors, a terrific book by Harvey Fierstein, a great score by Jerry Herman ("Helly Dolly," "Mame," "Mack and Mabel," etc.) spectacular sets, and the most outlandish, outrageous, and over-the-top costumes on Broadway. The chorus line of "Cagelles" wears them to perfection.  The opening number alone is worth the price of admission.  A big smash hit. Don't be afraid to take the kids.
(5-Stars) Back to Top


theatre REVIEW- "THE RIVALS" (at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston)
Is there a reason why both the Huntington Theatre (In Boston,) and the Lincoln Center Theatre (in New York,) chose this season to revive this 200-year old chestnut by the top author of the Restoration period, Richard Brinsley Sheridan? It's always fun to become reacquainted with the character who gave the word "malaprop" to the English language...dear Mrs. Malaprop, who misues words ridiculously, and hilariously (e.g., "He is the very pineapple of politeness," "Men are all Bavarians," etc.) A good comic actress in this role can carry this play. The always hilarious, Mary Louise Wilson, was struggling a bit last night, using a high-pitched voice, that often obscured her misused words, but she'll be perfect when she gets the hang of it. I find Restoration comedy to be ridiculous and silly, sort of like Gilbert and Sullivan without the music. The plots revolve around handsome and wealthy young men, who often have to disguise themselves to woo their witless, buxom, virginal young sweethearts; foolish and manipulative old folks who are always outwitted by their clever and funny servants; you know...that sort of thing. If you like this brand of comedy, then this production at the Huntington is about as good as any Restoration comedy that I've ever seen. Director Nicholas Martin milks it for all of its laughs...laughs usually involving clever wordplay. As always at the Huntington, the sets are brilliantly clever and beautiful, and in this case, the costumes are Crayola-colorful and very funny. A fun way to spend a winter evening...especially if you're not paying for the tickets!
(4-Stars) Back to Top


theatre REVIEW- "WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF" (at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston)
One of the reasons that I didn't rush to buy tickets for this pre-Broadway revival of Albee's 1962 play, is because I thought that it was lopsidedly miscast. I knew that Kathleen Turner would be perfect as the shrewish academic wife, Martha. But when I heard that the clown-mime Bill Irwin was going to play George, I stayed away. Just ridiculous. The young couple who complete the foursome, was cast with unknowns, so that cinched the deal. When I gave in and saw the play, I was shocked to see things reversed. Bill Irwin runs away with the show! Kathleen Turner steam-rolls her way through the whole play, while Irwin uses his comic gifts to give unique life to the male half of this truly dysfunctional family. He's the perfect straight man to his alcoholic, vulgar wife. The luckless young couple who are guests of these two wackos, are thankless parts, but Mireille Enos and David Harbour play them well enough. I don't recall the Mike Nichols film version of this play being as funny as this revival is. Maybe it's all in the direction, because the words are the same. The first act is actually very funny, before the s___ hits the fan later on. Anyway, if Turner gets her act together before the play hits New York, this could be a big hit...but that's asking a lot...and Irwin simply can't carry the whole play.
(3-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "SWEET CHARITY" (Pre-Broadway tryout in Boston)
Why revive this corny old musical? The only reason would be, is that you have a charismatic singing-dancing-actress who's willing to carry the show. When I saw the original, decades ago (in 1966,) Gwen Verdon certainly fit the bill, and Shirley MacLaine carried it off in the campy film version. Christina Applegate was starring in this revival until she "broke her foot" and was replaced by Charlotte D'Amboise who's made a career, of sorts, by taking over the roles created by other women on Broadway. Although D'Amboise is fine in the role, and Denis O'Hare is an excellent co-star, I suspect that Applegate may have tripped trying to escape from this hopeless mess. Why hopeless? Well, for one thing, the original was written by Neil Simon, and directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse who could make even Anna Nicole Smith look good! For another, stripped of the original innovative choreography, and with a dated book, the show comes across as a second-rate musical with only two good songs, "Hey, Big Spender," and "If My Friends Could See Me Now." Granted, these two are better than the entire score of some of the crappy shows on Broadway at present, but that's because the modern-day audience, raised on "American Idol," doesn't demand anything better. Based on Fellini's "Nights of Cabiria," Sweet Charity tells the story of a prostitute with a heart of gold (now that's original!), who has a hard time finding a classy guy. Well, she's not gonna find him in this show! (It's just been announced in today's New York Times, that the Broadway run of "Sweet Charity" has been cancelled, due to bad reviews in Boston, and poor ticket sales in Boston and New York...... R.I.P)
(2-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "DISNEY'S ON THE RECORD" (Pre-Broadway try-out)
Before you decide whether or not you want to see this wonderful review, you should know the following: (a) it's not a book musical, (b) it's not for children, (c) it's not about singing mice, dogs, beasts, lobsters, or any other form of animal life, (d) you must be a fan of the music of Disney's animated films. On paper it sounded like a clever idea. Not an original one, but a clever one. Take about 65 songs written for Disney movies, take them out of their original context, and using the same lyrics, present them as the score of a "new" musical with a slight excuse for a story about adults (two of whom appear to have had a relationship in the past) who come to a studio to record some songs. I've always loved most of the music in the Disney films, so I was intrigued enough to go and see what it was all about. What I saw was a magnificently creative review or cabaret, with one of the most talented casts of 8 singing/dancing actors (and an on-stage band) that I've seen on a stage in a long time. Everything about this minimal piece is flawless...the colorful set, the lighting, the staging and the placement of the songs to create a mood and, yes, a story, if you will. What these actors do with body language adds immeasurably to the lyrics of the songs. If you're of a certain age (as the French say,) each of these songs will bring back a past memory. Actually, just about everyone has grown up to these beautiful songs. Somehow, I found them to be even more beautiful out of the context of their original animated stories. By the time the music came to the finale, the audience was applauding to the beat of the songs and on its feet for the final song. It was such an uplifting show, that I could have sat through another act of 20 or 30 more songs. (By the way, I've never seen an audience filled with children who were so well behaved in a theatre, even though they had no idea what these grown-ups were doing to their favorite songs!) In spite of that last comment, don't bring young children; it's not designed for their enjoyment. It's aimed at YOU!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW- "CHITTY,CHITTY,BANG,BANG"
You'll come out of this silly, wonderful musical with confetti on your clothes and a smile on your face. If you don't, it's time for an attitude adjustment. This tongue-in-cheek fantasmagorical show is the best family show since "The Lion King." Everyone from 7 to 77 will enjoy it for different reasons. Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, wrote this book for his young son. The story combines elements of Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and a cast of some of Broadway's most talented people (Raul Esparza, Erin Dilly, Philip Bosco, Mark Kudisch, Chip Zien, Robert Sella, and Kevin Cahoon) has been assembled to make it come alive. In the British tradition of children's literature, it's often scary and dark, and there are unexpected explosions, so it might not be suitable for very young children and impressionable ones who scare easily. With that in mind, there are Gilbert & Sullivan-like tunes, wildly comical performances (especially Jan Maxwell as Baroness Bomburst, the funniest villainess on Broadway,) a fairy-tale story, and the most inventive and colorful sets seen on Broadway. All of this makes for 2 1/2-hours of pure escapism. Then there's that car! I would love to know what it cost to build that incredible automobile...surely the most expensive prop on Broadway today. It's beautiful to look at, and it floats on water and it flies up and over the first few rows of the audience. It even takes its own well-deserved curtain call! If you need an escape from the harsh realities of life, and are willing to be a child again for awhile, go and enjoy this fun-filled show. I loved it.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW- "THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA"

Did you ever see something that you knew was exceptional, but it just didn't do anything for you? The creators of this unusual new musical, appear to have aimed higher than the usual Broadway fare, and the degree to which they've succeeded, that's where they failed to reach me. Composer Adam Guettel has written such a beautiful, complex, elegant score that, rather than pulling the audience closer, it seems to push it away instead. It's too good! The story is a somber one that would be more at home on the operatic stage, as would the voices of the leads. An American mother (in the 1950's) has brought her 26-year-old daughter to Italy to see the sights of Florence and Rome.  What she neglects to tell those Italians who are attracted to her, is that her daughter is retarded! (I found it somewhat offensive that a family of upper-class Florentines would not recognize retardation when they see it!) Victoria Clark won this year's Tony Award for her portrayal of the possessive mother. I thought that her falsetto voice was annoying!  Kelli O'Hara as the daughter, plays her as someone who's awfully bright for a retardate, learning Italian, and even some Latin, in only a few weeks. So, there are things that are not very believable, and also somewhat melodramatic. about this piece. But, the acting is good, and the sets and costumes are beautiful. However, don't expect a line of chorus girls, or any production numbers built around dancing. As I said before, it's a somber piece.

(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

  

theatre REVIEW- "DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS"

I guess that I'm just a low-class vulgarian, because I loved this dirty, hilarious show right from the first few notes of the upbeat overture! It's without a doubt one of the funniest musicals that I've ever seen, and it's also one of the most tunefully melodic. (I bought the CD.) Based on the two films of the same name (the first starring David Niven and Marlon Brando, and the second starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin,) this tale of three con artists who try to rip off just about everyone on the Riviera, is performed by a true ensemble of six brilliant Broadway stars...John Lithgow (at his best in this role,) Norbert Leo Butz (who just won the Tony Award for his performance,) Sherie Rene Scott, Joanna Gleason (no one does tongue-in-cheek comedy like her,) Gregory Jbara, and Sara Gettelfinger. They don't come any better. They sing, they act, they dance, and they do comedy so well, that I laughed out loud through much of the show...and I'm a tough audience. Designer David Rockwell has designed his best sets yet...colorful and magical....and the dancers kicked up their heels all over them. This one's a winner. Stop reading and just buy your ticket. You'll thank me.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW- "MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT"

If you're a fan of the classic TV series, "Monty Python's Flying Circus," or the Monty Python films (especially "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," upon which this musical is based,) then you'll surely love this Tony Award-winning show. If you're not, you'll be confused by: the Knights of Ni, the killer rabbit, Spam, the French Taunter, the Black Knight, the catapulted cows, etc. I loved the series and the films, but I was surprised to see that I didn't fall out of my seat laughing. In fact, "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is much funnier. However, the show is faithful to the mood and tone of the originals. That is to say, it's silly, irreverent, wacky, and diabolically clever. The cast is fine, especially David Hyde Pierce (formerly of "Frasier,") Tim Curry, and Sara Ramirez (as a slutty, hispanic, Lady of the Lake! She won this year's Tony Award for her over-the-top performance, and her ta-ta's aren't bad either!) The music is good, but not memorable, and the sets are right out of the mind and sketch-pad of the brilliant Terry Gilliam...even though someone else actually designed them. Parody is the name of the game here, and everything is a fair target, from the absurd singing of those "American Idol" contestants, to Broadway shows like "Fiddler on the Roof," "The Boy From Oz," and "West Side Story." Also targeted, are gays, Jews, the Clergy, History, same-sex marriages, and just about everything else. Although this year's Tony Award for Best Musical was given to "Spamalot," as I said before, "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is a better show. As an avid fan of Monty Python for decades, I hope that I don't get struck down by a flying cow, or as the French Taunter might say to me, "I fart in your general direction!"

(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW: "HAMLET" (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company on the Common)
The only reason to mount a new production of "Hamlet" would be, if you have something new to say about this classic. All that's "new" in director Steven Maler's outdoor production, is a water-filled moat, and an actor, in the title role, who's in over his head! Maler has misdirected this classic, and the younger actors have followed his lead. Only the older actors playing the roles of Polonius, Gertrude, and Claudius, seem to understand that this is a tragedy, NOT an episode of "Dawson's Creek." There are many ways to play Hamlet, but a wacky frat-boy who is pissed because mommy didn't buy him a new car, is NOT one of them. Actor Jeffrey Donovan is not completely to blame for the vacuum at the center of this misguided production. Director Maler has given him bits to do, that are completely absurd (what's with the swimsuit and raft during the Rozencrantz and Guildenstern scene???) and their interpretation of the "to be or not to be" soliloquy indicates that neither the actor nor the director understands the meaning of the text. Modern dress should be a way of focusing in on the dialogue. In the case of this production, it was a way of focusing in on the nonsense used to detract from the dialogue. In Shakespeare's words there should have been "more matter with less art!" I left during the intermission.
(2- Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY" in concert

I've always loved this Cy Coleman-Betty Comden & Adolph Green musical, because of its terrific score, its clever story (based on the classic 1930's John Barrymore-Carole Lombard film,) and the fine actors in the original production (John Cullum, Madeline Kahn, Imogene Coca, and a new young actor in his first big role, Kevin Kline!) Also, it was the first Broadway show in which I invested some money, and it was very good to me! Now, it's being revived in concert form, in Boston, New York, and other cities, with the hopes that it will eventually make it back to Broadway in a fully staged production. In the concert version that we saw last night at the Majestic Theatre, the role of the maniacal and always broke producer, was played by George Dvorsky, and the shop-girl that he has transformed into a big star, was played by Alice Ripley. They were adequate...nothing more. Director Oscar Jaffe books adjoining drawing rooms on the exclusive 20th Century Limited train, with the hopes of tricking his former lover and now-famous Hollywood star, into appearing in his new show, in order to save his dying career. The beautiful music came through loud and clear, and it made me rush for my original cast CD, to hear it again. Unfortunately, the ghosts of the far more talented original cast (especially Madeline Kahn and Imogene Coca,) hung over this production like a huge black cloud, and the comedy never really came through. These second-rate performers were just not up to the job of bringing this wonderful show to life. Nevertheless, I've got my fingers crossed and my checkbook out, hoping that it comes back to Broadway sometime soon....with a cast that can do comedy, and sing and act as well!

(2-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "THE WOMAN IN WHITE"
Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical won't be everyone's cup of tea, because of its melodramatic, dark, story; its lack of a hit tune; and most importantly, its controversial, innovative, but dizzying to some, sets. (This may be the first musical where they have to provide barf bags!) In spite of all of these, or maybe because of all these, I loved it! Based on the classic gothic novel by Willkie Collins, it tells the Bronte-like story of two orphaned stepsisters, and of the villains who are trying to marry (and then kill) them, to acquire their wealth. The musical score is one of Lord Lloyd Webber's most sophisticated ones, with continuous sung-through music, in an operatic fashion. It flows, but not nearly as originally as does the scenery. Flow, that is. The stage is ringed by a large cyclorama, upon which are projected beautiful films of the English countryside, and the interior and exterior of manor houses and churches. As the actors walk, run, and dance on a whirling turntable, the films "project them" from place to place cinematically. It's tremendously effective, and in one case, so realistic, that the audience ducks so as to get out of the way. Actors Maria Friedman and Michael Ball are excellent...the latter in the role of a Sydney Greenstreet-like villain, who at times, is actually quite funny. The primary villain, Sir Percival Glyde (Ron Bohmer) is not funny...just scary. Give it a shot. Let me know what you think.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "JANIE'S SONG" (World Premiere at Northeastern University)

Playwright (and Artist-in Residence at N.U.) Ed Bullins, has collaborated with composer Jude Gold, to rework his Obie Award-winning Off-Broadway play, "The Taking of Miss Janie," into a musical play. The result is the controversial "Janie's Song." Set in the '60's and '70's, the musical begins and ends with the rape of a young white woman, by a black man. Then, the story flashes back to when these two met as college students in the drug-filled, free-love '60's. In telling the story of these two friends, and their circle of fellow students, the musical becomes a metaphor for race conflict, sexuality, and social struggle. The music ranges from Broadway show-type tunes, to rap and hip-hop. It's a fine score, and it's done justice by the nine professionals who sing it. I really enjoyed the show, but I must say that, if a white person had written some of the lines that the black characters say, to describe black/white relationships and the decline of the gains made by blacks since the '60's, he would have been lynched!

(4-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "BAREFOOT IN THE PARK"
If I had only rented the DVD of the movie version of this play by Neil Simon, I probably never would have bought tickets to see this well-cast revival. The movie was terrible...not one laugh in it! However, the play had four of my favorite Broadway stars in it (Patrick Wilson, Amanda Peet, Jill Clayburgh and Tony Roberts) so I thought that I'd give it a shot. Bad move! Even with these four fine stars, the play sucked! Why would anyone chose to revive such a bomb??? It's hopelessly dated, and the role of the young wife is one of the most brain-dead, immature characters ever written for the stage. Stay away.
(1- Star)
 

theatre REVIEW: "THE COLOR PURPLE"

Oprah Winfrey has sunk some of her money into this musical adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning book (and Steven Spielberg film,) and that should guarantee it a decent enough run on Broadway. But, even without Oprah's money, this musical deserves to stick around for a long time to come...and it probably will. It has a great story (adapted for the stage by prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman,) a fine all-black cast, and most importantly, great music. If you love the blues, gospel, and ragtime as much as I do, then you'll have all you can do to keep yourself from jumping out of your seat. Buy the CD, and see for yourself. As in the book and the movie, the musical is a family saga that tells the story of Celie, a woman who rises from the depths of hell to make something of her life. It's a triumph of goodness over adversity and evil. You're rooting for her all the way. LaChanze (stupid name, great voice,) acts rings around Whoopee Goldberg who played the role on film...and she sings too! Decades ago, I saw and loved the gospel musical, "Purlie," which made Melba Moore a star overnight. This one has all of the energy of that wonderful show, but it has much more depth, and a whole lot of soul. I loved it!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW: "LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST" (Huntington Theatre Company)

Director Nicholas Martin has taken Shakespeare's least interesting play, and given it a beautiful production, so that it shines on the stage of Boston's wonderful Huntington theatre. Transferring the action of the play to Europe, just before World War I, gives it enough distance, and adds an element of Noel Coward-like charm to the piece, so that even Shakespeare might have been pleased by this extra layer of depth to his somewhat shallow play. The story still involves the four noblemen who are forced to undergo a series of tests, to prove that they are truly in love with the royal ladies, who subject them to these "tests." Is it love or merely infatuation? Sounds like the lyrics of a Cole Porter song, and that's the way Martin directs the actors to play it ...all about charm, sophistication, and elegance. As with other past Huntington Theatre productions, this one could have easily made the transfer to Broadway, except for one important factor. Shakespeare or not, it's a terrible play! 
(2-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW- "THREE DAYS OF RAIN"
I admire the courage of any movie star who tries to do a play on Broadway. Being a film star doesn't guarantee success on Broadway; it's an entirely different medium, and a whole new set of skills are involved. Therefore, I commend Julia Roberts for her bravery...but what were you thinking girl when you chose this play for your Broadway debut? It's not that it's a bad play. On the contrary, it's an intriguing play. It just calls for an actress who can do a lot with very little, like its original star Patricia Clarkson ("The Station Agent.") Don't get me wrong. Contrary to what critics have said, Roberts does a fine job for a debut effort. She just doesn't have much to work with. In the first act, the three stars (Paul Rudd & Bradley Cooper, in addition to Roberts,) play two siblings. and their father's son from another liaison. In the second act, they play the father, the girlfriend, and the father's friend. It's a clever theatrical device, and it worked for me. However...Julia, with your money and clout, why didn't you just have a well-known playwright write a play for you? Or one that would show you off to your best advantage. Big deal; go back to Hollywood and make another of your wonderful films, and we'll all forget about your noble effort to go legitimate!
(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

 

 
theatre REVIEW: "LESTAT"
I was hoping that all of the critics were wrong about this one. Unfortunately, they weren't. The Elton John/ Bernie Taupin musical, "Lestat" really does SUCK. No pun intended!
(1-Star)
 

theatre REVIEW: "THE PAJAMA GAME"

Back in the "Golden Age of the Broadway Musical," the '40s, '50s, and '60s, "The Pajama Game" was considered a pleasant-enough lightweight musical, compared to all of the big shows on Broadway at the time. By comparison with the garbage that's on many of the Broadway stages today, I would consider it to be the equivalent of "Oklahoma," "My Fair Lady, and "West Side Story!" Well not quite!!! It's still pretty lightweight in terms of plot, but it does have a real musical score, instead of a bunch of sound-alike tunes, that will eventually end up pouring out of the mouths of those robots on "American Idol." Labor (Kelli O'Hara) and Management (Harry Connick, Jr.) still end up fighting, then falling in love, while a strike threatens to halt production at their pajama factory. Remember pajamas? The two stars have great chemistry, and wonderful voices to boot. Somebody needs to write a NEW musical for these charismatic stars. They're fantastic together! It's so good to hear those wonderful old songs ("Hey There," "Hernando's Hideaway," "Steam Heat," etc.) sung and danced by real stars. The comic relief is provided by Michael McKean, who's always good. A fun show for the whole family.
(4 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "ROMEO AND JULIET" (at the Williamstown Theatre Festival)

Once again, this tale of the young Italian starcrossed lovers, has been brought into a contemporary setting. This time it's been set in a contemporary Verona (albeit Verona as a police state!) Interestingly though, this is the only time that I've seen an updating of the story, when the Montagues and the Capulets were not presented as opposing racial or ethnic groups (a la "West Side Story,”) but simply as two Italian families that hated each other, as Shakespeare intended! All of the teen-agers appear to be played by teenagers, and the result is as good a "Romeo and Juliet" as I've ever seen on stage. (As far as I'm concerned, the Zeffirelli film version is still the definitive "Romeo and Juliet.") Emmy Rossum ("Mystic River" and the film version of "The Phantom of the Opera,”) and Austin Lysy ("Law and Order") are perfect as Juliet and her Romeo. All of the other pieces...the actors, the beautiful evocative set, the directing, and the music...fall into place perfectly, to make for an exciting, although dark, night of Shakespearean theatre.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "THE OPPOSITE OF SEX" (Williamstown Theatre Festival)

Back in 1998, there was a film called "The Opposite of Sex," which made a star of Christina Ricci, and established Lisa Kudrow as a serious actress. It was a kinky story about Deedee, a weirdo slut, who comes to stay with her gay half-brother, and who makes life miserable for him, and for everyone else with whom she comes in contact! Not exactly the stuff of musicals. But this one works, primarily because the acting is so good, as are the songs, and especially, the lyrics. We'll be hearing a lot more about Kerry Butler, who played the lead. She's a natural on stage. This musical would be a smash hit in a small Broadway theatre. I hope that it finds its way there.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "THE TAMING OF THE SHREW" (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company on the Boston Common.)
When we walked over the lawns and paths on the Boston Common,  to where the stage was set up, I was happy and pleased with the beautiful stage set for this production. Director Steven Maler was setting this play not in Shakespeare's time (and in Italy,) but in the 1950's in Boston's North End. That could work. But then the music started and the play began, and once again it was obvious that director Maler was not confident in Shakespeare's words, story, and comedy. He tried to change it to cater to the tastes of a dumbed-down modern audience. He turned the whole thing into a bad, dirty Italian joke. Every actor had a different accent, from common low-class Boston to phony stage Italian. Bits of inappropriate business were thrown in, from gangsters pissing on bushes, to crotch-grabbing, bumping and grinding, and blowjobs on rooftops! (No, I'm not kidding!) This was a sleazy, trashy, vulgar mess, from start to finish. No actor survived with his/her dignity intact. The audience loved it!!
(1- Star)
 

theatre REVIEW: "THE DROWSY CHAPERONE"

Nowadays, when Broadway is filled with even more revivals, remakes of old movies, and jukebox musicals based on the songs of once-famous singers like Frankie Valli, Elvis Presley, Billy Joel, John Lennon, and Bob Dylan, it's refreshing and hopeful to see a completely original new musical based on nothing but the imagination of its creators. From what I understand, the whole idea started as a skit at a bachelor party up in Canada. If so, that must have been a hell of a bachelor party! Picture this, a man (Bob Martin) sitting in a chair in his kitchen starts to describe his favorite musical, puts on the original-cast record (yes, record) of the musical, and all of a sudden, the refrigerator door opens, the walls disappear, and the musical materializes. The musical that he conjures up ( starring the always dependable Sutton Foster,)  is one of the funniest, most enjoyable evenings that I've spent in the theatre in a long time. What a wonderful way to start the new theatre season. It's not a great musical, but it's a complete original! Rush to see this one.
(4-Stars) Back to Top

 
 

theatre REVIEW: "A CHORUS LINE"

It's been thirty years since I saw this musical, and in this new revival it still comes across as innovative, imaginative, and original, with a score by Marvin Hamlisch that is filled with melodic and thought-provoking songs...some of which have become classics/standards.  Since much of this show is based on mini-autobiographies of the dancers themselves, a great deal depends on how good these dancers are as actors, and the current cast couldn't be better. Led by the veteran Charlotte D'Amboise, the brilliant "new man in town" Michael Berresse, and exciting, new discoveries Deirdre Goodwin and Jeremy Schecter, this cast is easily as good as the original, if not better! They tear their hearts out in that chorus line on stage, as they share their stories of how they fought to get to be at that audition that means so much to their careers. Each one's story is told in a great song, that's either belted out, danced, or both. The in-depth look at these dancers (who are called gypsies) in the chorus lines of Broadway shows, puts to shame the shallow books of most new musicals today. All this leads up to one of the most lively, colorful, and melodic finales in Broadway history. Don't miss this wonderful revival; it's timeless, and one of the best.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW: "HIGH FIDELITY" (Pre-Broadway tryout in Boston)

Remember that 6-year old John Cusack-Jack Black film (based on a 1995 Nick Hornby novel,) about the record-store owner and his wacky clerks? Rob, the store-owner, is a 30-something case of arrested development, who, when his girlfriend leaves him because he can't make a commitment, makes up a list of his top five worst breakups. That's what he and his friends do; they make up lists. With the record-store setting, and the musical morons who inhabit Rob's store, it would seem to be the perfect story for a new rock musical. The curtain goes up on what is one of the most ingenious sets that I've ever seen...an origami, foldout, lovingly rendered exercise in towering brick...the Championship Vinyl Record Store. Then, the music begins. Although the lyrics are very clever, this musical seems to have invented a new genre..."fake rock." People who love rock will hate it, and people who hate rock will also hate it. That pretty much eliminates their potential audience. The story follows the movie pretty closely, and although the actors are very good, they pale in comparison to John Cusack, Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tim Robbins. My advice is to save the $100 ticket price and take $5 of that to rent the DVD of the movie!
(2-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW: "MARY POPPINS"

When this production opened in London two years ago, the critics called it a "darker" version of the musical that we were used to from the Disney film; something more in line with the original P. L. Travers book. Now that it's opened on Broadway at Disney's magnificently restored New Amsterdam theatre, I'm not quite sure what they meant by "darker." New songs have been written, to add to the original songs of the film, and they're as sunny and as much fun as that famous tongue twister,  "Supercalifragilistickexpialidocious!" The nanny herself and her charming chimneysweep friend, Bert,  are almost as perfect as Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke were on film, and that's saying a lot. I suppose that the Banks family is a bit more dysfunctional than it was in the movie, but I would hardly call them "dark." Oh, who cares. Dark or light, this musical is a sheer joy, and a perfect way to usher in the holiday season. Forget "The Christmas Spectacular" at Radio City, and "The Nutcracker" at Lincoln Center, and head over to Times Square to see this wonderful new musical. By the way, don't forget the kids!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW: "THE APPLE TREE"

Kristin Cheneweth is a star in the tradition of two of the late, great stars of Broadway...Barbara Harris and Madeline Kahn...beautiful women, who act brilliantly, are very funny, and sing with operatic voices. That's a very limited category, and Cheneweth is the present reigning star. This is the first revival of the light musical, written by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick ("Fiddler on the Roof," "She Loves Me," "Fiorello," etc.) and it holds up beautifully. In fact, the one hour first act is nearly perfect. "The Apple Tree" is a three act musical, and each act is a separate musical story. The first story is "The Diary of Adam and Eve" by Mark Twain. It's beautifully melodic, funny, and poignantly sad. The three stars are the same in each of the three stories...Kristin Cheneweth, Brian D'Arcy James, and Marc Kudisch, and theyr'e absolutely perfect. The second act/story is that old piece of high school reading, "The Lady or the Tiger." and it's done as a gaudy, vulgar, Vegas-style, piece of shlock. The music is big and loud, and the performances are over the top; very funny. The third act/story is "Passionella," a 1960's retelling of the Cinderella story; sweet, funny, and beautifully sung. The three stories are so different in style that it gives the stars a chance to stretch and show their talents...and they are SO talented. This is a fun show for the whole family, with songs that get into your head, and stay there for days. I loved it.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 
 

theatre REVIEW: "SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER" at the Roundabout Theatre Company

The only time that I ever saw this Tennessee Williams play, was in the movie version, starring Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Montgomery Clift. If you haven't seen it, rent the DVD. But, if you can get to New York, to see this powerful revival, it's certainly beautifully cast, well-acted (at least in the case of the two female leads,) and it makes for an exciting 1-1/2 hours in the theatre (without intermission.) The grande dame Violet Venable (Blythe Danner,) has just lost her 30-year-old son, who was the love of her life. She traveled the world with him, living in deluxe hotels and acting as though they were "a couple." Her niece (Carla Gugino) was with him on an exotic trip when he died (Mom had just had a stroke and couldn't make it,) and tells a very different story of how he lived and died. In fact, Sebastian's death was so traumatic to this niece, that she's been living in an asylum until she recovers...if ever. Violet, on the other hand, wants to have her lobotomized! She's brought a doctor (Gale Harold) to her Garden District mansion to help to insure that this operation takes place. This play is mesmerizing (except when the actor Gale Harold is speaking. He acts at the level of a high school student in his first play!) The critics have been unkind to Blythe Danner, saying that she's miscast...not evil enough for her role. Don't listen to them. She's perfect, and so is this Roundabout production. (All except for the truly terrible Gale Harold, that is!)
(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW: "GREY GARDENS"

I loved this musical! In fact, I bought the CD in the back of the theatre. On paper it sounds very depressing (and in fact, the second act is somewhat depressing,) but what a magnificent piece of musical theatre this is, and in the leading role, Christine Ebersole gives one of the greatest performances that I've ever seen in a musical. Based on the Maysles brothers documentary of the same name, it tells the story of Jackie Kennedy's two eccentric aunts, Edith and Edie Beale (mother and daughter,) who lived in a dilapidated, filthy mansion in East Hampton, until their deaths. In the glorious elegant first act, socialite Edith Bouvier Beale (Christine Ebersole) is giving a grand party at the lavish mansion, Grey Gardens, to announce the engagement of her daughter, debutante Edie Beale, to Joe Kennedy, Jr. (older brother to JFK and Robert Kennedy.)  The music of this act is some of the best music on Broadway today. In the second act, due to what happened at the end of Act I, the mother and daughter (Christine Ebersole is now playing the daughter) are living in cat-infested Grey Gardens, in poverty, and borderline insane! (Mary Louise Wilson plays the elder Edith Beale in this act, and she's excellent as well.) I can't say enough about Christine Ebersole's performance as the elegant, grande dame of the first act, and as her eccentric, dirty daughter in the second act. It's a theatrical tour de force. See it before the cast changes. No one can replace her!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 
 

theatre REVIEW: "THE CHERRY ORCHARD" (Huntington Theatre Company)

Nicholas Martin, the Huntington's General Director, has once again revived a great classic, for his friend, actress Kate Burton. The last time these two came together, they created a magnificent "Hedda Gabler," which ended up on Broadway, after it played here at the Huntington. In both of these classics, Martin and Burton have brought out an element in each play, that is often neglected, and rarely emphasized. That element is humor, and it took this production into a new realm. I've never seen a funnier "Cherry Orchard!" Kate Burton, of course, is magnificent, as Madam Ranevskaya, but she's surrounded by a fine cast of first-rate actors, including Will Le Bow and Joyce Van Patten, who support her brilliantly. If you're not familiar with the story of Chekhov's last play, it concerns an aristocratic Russian woman and her family as they return to the family's estate, just before it is auctioned to pay the mortgage. While presented with options to save the estate, the family essentially does nothing and the play ends with the estate being sold, and the family leaving to the sound of its large and well known cherry orchard being cut down. Although it hardly sounds like the stuff of comedy, Chekhov said that "My play should be played as farce." In this glorious production it is. As always, the Huntington emphasizes high production values, and the sets and costumes are magnificent. I expect to see this on Broadway soon. I recommend that you see it there.
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theatre REVIEW: "LEGENDS" (Pre-Broadway tryout)

Back in the late 1980's, James Kirkwood wrote a play about two legendary divas who were vying for the same coveted comeback role on Broadway. Then, in its pre-Broadway tryout in Boston, it starred two legends of the Broadway musical theatre...Mary Martin and Carol Channing. I think that I enjoyed the play then (mainly because of its two stars,) but the critics didn't, so it never made it to Broadway. Now, Kirkwood has re-written the play to suit the talents of his two new stars...two legends of the night-time TV classic mini-series, "Dynasty,"...Joan Collins and Linda Evans. Now, in the re-written plot, they're vying for the chance to play in a Broadway show opposite another legend, Paul Newman. First of all, the two actresses, who must be older than Jesus, look like they're embalmed...too many face-lifts and tucks. Collins even looks a little chubby in those fancy Nolan Miller tight pants and gowns. They're not even fun to watch, because their acting is so bad. I've seen better acting in amateur high-school productions. As far as the play goes, if it was ever funny, it isn't now. It's just downright embarrassing. The supporting cast is even worse than the leads, if that's possible. There's a fat, black maid, who makes Mammy in "Gone With The Wind" look politically correct! The less said about the idiot who plays the producer, the better. I seriously doubt if these two over-hyped mummies will ever get this show to Broadway, but if they do, stay away. It's a night when you'll feel stupid having wasted your time and money on a piece of garbage!
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theatre REVIEW: "LOVE MUSIK"

On paper, this sounded great. A new musical, based on the lives of composer Kurt Weill, and his volatile wife, actress/singer Lotte Lenya. The music would be Weill's, the director would be Harold Prince, and the actors were the best of Broadway...Donna Murphy and Michael Cerveris. Let me start with the actors. They're superb! The only problem is with the theatre's audio system, which tends to muffle the all-important lyrics and dialogue...already hard to understand, because of the heavy German accents being used. The music is beautiful, although I would have liked to have heard more of the mainstream Weill ("Speak Low," "The Alabama Song," "Mac the Knife," and "September Song,"...all included in the show,) and fewer of his more obscure songs. Harold Prince, the master director, is still in top form, and his direction moves the story along stylishly, although it's way too long. That leaves the book by Pulitzer-prize winning Alfred Uhry. This is the problem. He's written a pretentious bore of a book, based on the lives of three (including Bertolt Brecht) of the theatre's most exciting and interesting personalities. That's inexcusable. In spite of my love for all of the people involved in the project, as well as three amazing performances by the leads, I'm afraid that I can't recommend this classy snoozer.
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theatre REVIEW: "CHITA RIVERA: A DANCER'S LIFE" (in Boston)

I've seen almost everything that Chita Rivera has ever appeared in on Broadway, from the groundbreaking, then-shocking "West Side Story", fifty years ago (!), to "Bye, Bye Birdie" (with Dick Van Dyke,) to the original, brilliant production of "Chicago" (with Gwen Verdon,) to "The Rink" (with Liza Minnelli as her daughter,) to "Kiss of the Spider Woman," up to "Nine" (with Antonio Banderas.) In this present production, which came to Broadway briefly, then toured the country, and is planning to return to Broadway, Chita Rivera gets to relive moments from most of these landmark musicals, for herself, and for me and the rest of the audience. It's like watching your life pass before your eyes, accompanied by some of Broadway's finest music, and the incredible singing and dancing of this 75-year-old miracle woman! Don't miss it.
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theatre REVIEW: "CURTAINS"
I went to this musical predisposed to love it, because I've seen and loved, just about everything that this great team has ever written for Broadway..."Cabaret," "Chicago," "Zorba," "The Rink," "Woman of the Year," "Kiss of the Spider Woman," etc. This is their last musical written together, because Fred Ebb died three years ago! Although I've heard that it's not one of their better shows, I was prepared for the best. The story of the musical is about a murder that takes place backstage, during the Boston pre-Broadway tryout of a new musical. The time is 1959. The producer of the show (Debra Monk,) brings in a detective (David Hyde Pierce,) to solve the crime. Is it a hit or a miss? Well, it's a little of both. I thought that the musical score was the best this season after "Grey Gardens." It's really a toe-tapper in the true Kander & Ebb tradition. Not up there with their best scores, but really good nevertheless. The story means to be a tongue-in-cheek murder mystery/comedy, but sometimes, the tongue is not far enough "in cheek," and what comes across is sappy melodrama.  But, most of the time, it's very funny...funnier than most musicals. All of the stars are excellent, especially David Hyde Pierce and Debra Monk, and Jason Danieley has one of the best singing voices on Broadway today. I guess that I really liked it.
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theatre REVIEW: "DEUCE"
I can't imagine why the great actress, Angela Lansbury, waited so long to return to Broadway, the scene of her greatest successes, "Mame," "Sweeney Todd, and "Dear World." She, and Broadway grande-dame, Marian Seldes, play two retired tennis stars, who once made up a championship doubles team...maybe the greatest in tennis history. Needless to say, both of these great ladies are wonderful. However, the critics were merciless in ripping Terrance McNally's play to shreds. They all said that it wasn't worthy of the talents of two great actresses who could read a menu from "Burger King" and make it sound like Shakespeare. Well, I beg to disagree. I thoroughly enjoyed this one-hour-and-forty-minute intermission-less play. I found it, in turn, moving, mesmerizing, hilarious, and sad. It has so much to say about so many things, using the world of tennis as a metaphor for the world at large. While thoroughly engrossed in the play, I was still able to try to imagine what other play suited the phenomenal talents of these two women, but I couldn't think of one. Seldes plays the "Lady" to Lansbury's more earthy woman, but both are giants, and you won't be able to take your eyes off of them, as they sit there on the sidelines, watching a championship tennis match and reminiscing about their lives and careers.
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theatre REVIEW: "PRESENT LAUGHTER" (Huntington Theatre Company in Boston)
This production really NEEDS to go to Broadway! Not only is it the funniest play of this theatre season, in both New York and Boston, but it's also the best play of the season. Nicholas Martin directs, and Victor Garber and Tony-nominated Brooks Ashmanskas chew up the very-elaborate, gorgeous scenery, in this perfect revival of one of Noel Coward's funniest plays. Garber plays Garry Essendine (really just a stand-in for Coward himself,) a self-absorbed actor, who is surrounded by a solar system of brilliantly eccentric characters, all played beautifully by a made-to-order cast. Each and every one of them could steal the show away from a lesser actor than Garber, but the one who almost succeeds is Ashmanskas, in one of the most hilarious characterizations that I've ever seen on a stage. You wonder how much is Noel Coward and how much is Brooks Ashmanskas. This is the kind of drawing-room comedy that the British have always done so well, and finally, here's an American company that's doing it better than they could have done it. Anyway, it's worth a trip up to Boston to see this one...and if it DOES come to Broadway, don't miss it!
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theatre REVIEW: "SPRING AWAKENING"
There's something about this new musical that appears to be speaking to young people, because at the performance we attended, the theatre was just about filled with teen-agers. Based on an old German play by Frank Wedekind, the story tells us about a group of teen-agers in 19th Century Germany who are learning about sex, for the first time. The story is old, but the music (by Duncan Sheik) is new. It's not the loud screamings of a show like "Rent," and the singers aren't the amateurs of "American Idol." In fact, most of the music would appeal to a traditional Broadway audience. The cast is young and extremely talented. They act, sing, and dance well. In fact, movement (choreographed by Bill T. Jones,) is what propels the musical. That, and the brilliant lighting that bathes the unusual minimalist set. The story is at times very funny, and at other times, sad and even tragic. In short, it covers just about all of the emotions that teen-agers are learning to deal with. I can't say that the score is one that would prompt me to buy the CD, (as most of the teen-agers in the audience were doing,) but it is melodic, and not at all offensive. Although I enjoyed the musical very much, I have to admit that there are some things that will just appeal more to young people, than they will to me. I loved the young actor/singers, the choreography, the lighting, and some of the music. But it's just NOT "My Fair Lady,"......nor was it meant to be!

(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "XANADU"
No, this isn't "My Fair Lady" or "The Sound of Music," but if you're looking for a funny 90 minutes on Broadway, this might be what you're looking for. I can't imagine who got the idea of basing a new musical on one of the biggest flops in movie history..."Xanadu" starring Olivia Newton-John. Whoever's idea it was, it was helped along by inspired casting, and by spoofing the movie in a tongue-in-cheek way. Everyone is over the top, and the whole thing is high camp. The ridiculous story starts on Mount Olympus where Clio and her sister muses decide to help a mortal in a creative endeavor. His dream is to open a roller disco. Come on, it's the '70s! Clio goes down to Earth "disguised" as Kira, a mortal with an Australian accent! OK, no more exclamation points. Clio and the brain-dead meathead (redundant?) mortal are played by Kerry Butler and Cheyenne Jackson. They're both extremely talented, good-looking comedians, who can sing, dance, roller-skate, and play farce beautifully. Tony Roberts is along for the ride, as a rich entrepreneur, and also as Zeus! Oops. Two of Clio's sister muses are played by two of the most gifted comediennes on Broadway, Mary Testa and Jackie Hoffman. They steal the show. If you saw the movie (why???) you'll probably remember some of the songs (e.g. "Magic," "Evil Woman," "Have You Never Been Mellow?" etc.) Is it a great musical? Absolutely not. Is it a fun, entertaining, short musical? Definitely. The kids would love it.
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theatre REVIEW: "ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S 'THE 39 STEPS" (Huntington Theatre Company)
I had such high hopes for the pre-Broadway try-out of this award-winning comedy from London. I remember seeing Alfred Hitchcock's thriller "The 39 Steps," on TV decades ago, and from the little that I remember of it, it starred Madeline Carroll and Robert Donat, and IT WAS NOT A COMEDY! Now, in this new version, with Hitchcock's name as a part of the title, we get a play that's supposed to be a send-up of the original spy film. It's a clever idea for a farce, with four stars playing all of the roles, and it should have been very, very, funny. The play won the Olivier Award in London for Best Comedy, but it certainly isn't obvious why, in this transplanted version of the same play. Once you get over the idea that four actors are going to be playing all of the roles, and doing some very quick changes of costume, the gimmick gets old very quickly. Although only one of the four members of the cast was brought over from the London original, it's obvious 10 minutes into the play, that this is NOT the Monty Python Troupe. The story involves Richard Hannay, a Canadian visitor to 1930's London. After a disturbance at a music hall, he meets Annabella Schmidt, who is on the run from foreign agents. He takes her back to his apartment, but they are followed, and later that night Annabella is murdered. Hannay goes on the run to break the spy ring and thus prove his innocence. That's the bare outline of the plot, and what the writer, director, and stars have tried to do with it, is to turn it into a slapstick spoof of the entire spy-film genre. It just doesn't work. It's stupid, silly, and I was bored to death. I almost left at the intermission. As I said before, it's opening on Broadway after it closes here this week. Be warned. It's a bomb!
(1-Star)

theatre REVIEW: "YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN"
I loved this show! If you're a fan of the Mel Brooks classic comedy film, "Young Frankenstein," then you'll love it too, because it's a scene by scene translation of the movie into a Broadway musical. All that's been added are 17 really good songs, which enhance the story. Of course, the actors are different, and because they're all Broadway veterans, with the exception of one, they do an excellent job. The actors are Roger Bart, Megan Mullally (from "Will and Grace" on TV,) Sutton Foster, Andrea Martin, Shuler Hensley, Fred Applegate, and Christopher Fitzgerald. Andrea Martin, as Frau Blucher (horses whinnying!) steals the show. Who needs Cloris Leechman? Christopher Fitzgerald as "Igor," comes close to stealing it as well. Susan Stroman directs and choreographs the show, and the dance numbers are great, especially the famous "Puttin' on  the Ritz" number, which has been expanded. The sets and special effects by Robin Wagner, are absolutely perfect and beautiful as well. Is there a scene that stood out for me? I'd have to say the scene with the blind hermit and the monster, in the hermit's cottage in the forest.  I almost fell out of my seat laughing. I also loved the scene in the hay wagon, as Dr. Frankenstein, Inga and Igor are riding through the woods of Transylvania towards the castle. The trees fly by, as Inga sings "Roll in the Hay," while trying to seduce the young doctor. All of the classic lines are there (e.g. "Those are beautiful knockers. Thank you doctor," "What hump?" "Walk like this," "He vas my boyfriend," etc.) I could go on and on, but I won't. Just go see it. I might even see it again. I enjoyed it better than I enjoyed "the Producers."
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theatre REVIEW: "WHITE CHRISTMAS" (at the Wang Center in Boston)
Yes, we've got The Christmas Pops, and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and The Nutcracker, and a Christmas Carol, but the latest Boston holiday tradition has become one of the most popular of them all at Christmas time. It's the Broadway musical (which never played on Broadway,) Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," (based on the 1954 classic movie that starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney.) It's so good, that it's worth a trip to Boston to see it. Why? Well, let's start with the wonderful Irving Berlin score ( "White Christmas," "Blue Skies," "How Deep Is The Ocean?" "Snow," "Happy Holiday," "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm," "Count Your Blessings," etc.) Then, there's the terrific dancing, and the colorful sets and costumes. (Yes, it snows on the audience at the end.) The cast is letter-perfect, especially Brian D'Arcy James in the Crosby role. The story is serviceable, and although it's old-fashioned and corny, it works. After leaving the Army after W.W.II, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis team up to become a top song-and-dance act. They meet a pair of sisters, who also have a song-and-dance act. When the girls travel to a Vermont lodge to perform a Christmas show, Wallace and Davis follow, only to find their former commander, General Waverly, is the lodge owner, who may lose the lodge, because it hasn't snowed in ages, and the regular customers aren't coming. You can figure out the rest. If you miss the show this year (it ends in early January,) you can, and should, catch it next year. It runs from Thanksgiving until New Years. It's a great family show, and it'll certainly put you in the Christmas mood. You'll be humming those classic songs for days afterward. I did.
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theatre REVIEW: "WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND"
Andrew Lloyd Webber has written some popular and successful musicals in the past ("Jesus Christ Superstar," "Cats," "Evita," "Sunset Boulevard," and "Phantom of the Opera,") and so it's sad to see his career come to an end with a show like this one. It's really dreadful. What makes a musical bad? Well, first of all, obviously, it's the music. The music to this show is not even top draw Andrew Lloyd Webber, let alone up there with the real top draw composers, like George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Lerner & Loewe, etc. There's only one beautiful song in the whole show. The rest is easily forgotten. Then, there's the story. This story, based on a film, is truly absurd. It's set in rural Louisiana in the '50s, and tells the story of three children - 16 year old Swallow, sister Bluejay (known as Brat), and younger brother Robin (known as Poor Baby) - as they approach their first Christmas since the death of their mother. Discovering an escaped criminal hiding in their barn, they become convinced that he is Jesus, and agree to keep his location secret. The plot contrasts the innocence of the children with the fervour of the town's residents to inflict punishment on the supposed evil in their midst. I suppose that there's nothing inherently wrong with that story, but the way it plays out is stupid and unbelievable. Fault the director and the actors for that. Speaking of the actors, the three who portray the children are three of the worst that I've seen on a stage in a long time. In any case, only Jesus could help Webber get this musical to Broadway!
(1-Star)


theatre REVIEW: "MY FAIR LADY" (at The Opera House in Boston)
"My Fair Lady" is my favorite Broadway musical of all time. Because of that, I was apprehensive about seeing this new revival, which was a smash hit in London where it originated. In order to be done right, this musical, based on George Bernard Shaw's play, Pygmalion," has to be done with class and elegance. The leading roles have to be cast with actors who can act and sing convincingly, and the sets and costumes can't be done "on the cheap." They have to be realistic and lavish. The original Broadway production with Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison set the standard 50 years ago, and the Oscar-winning movie is still one of the classiest, and most beautiful movies ever made. Having said all that, I'm happy to report that this new revival is just about perfect. Everything about it comes together to show a new generation what "My Fair Lady" is all about. The musical score by Lerner and Loewe,  is still one of the best ever written, and the songs shine and glisten like expensive crystal, especially when they're sung by Dana DeLisa as Eliza Doolittle, the street bum, who's turned into an elegant lady, by the autocratic phonetics professor Henry Higgins, played by Christopher Cazenove. Both of the leads are worthy successors to the Eliza's and Higgins's that came before them.  If you've never seen "My Fair Lady," this is a perfect way to introduce yourself to one of the treasures of the American Musical theatre.
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theatre REVIEW: "SHE LOVES ME" (Huntington Theatre Company in Boston)
I love this musical! it's always been one of my favorites since the first time that I saw it on Broadway decades ago, and so I was very happy to hear that Nicholas Martin would be directing a revival of it , here at the Huntington, and then taking it to the Williamstown theatre Festival, and then on to New York. The revival is flawless, a perfect little gem. The book, based on an excellent play and a classic movie ("The Shop Around the  Corner,") tells the story of two clerks at a Hungarian cosmetics shop in the year 1934. In the shop they just can't stand each other, but unknowingly they're both carrying on a correspondence with someone they think that they love. Of course, they're writing to each other, and don't know it. The book by Joe Masterhoff ("Cabaret") doesn't waste a word in telling their story. It's a model of book-writing for a musical. The music by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick ("Fiddler on the Roof") is one of the best ever written for a musical. As director Nicholas Martin says in the program notes, "The score is arguably the most eloquent, original, and varied ever composed." There isn't a dull song in the show; you'll come away humming the songs. The production of this revival is filled with beautiful sets and costumes, with sets that flow into one another in a cinematic way. But the biggest round of applause must go to the cast (as it did in the theatre today.) They're unknowns now, but that won't be for long. The five leads are as good as anyone on Broadway now, and the two main stars Kate Baldwin and Brooks Ashmanskas will some day have musicals written for them...especially Ashmanskas. I saw him last year, in my favorite show of last season, "Present Laughter," and he stole that show. He does it again in this show. He's one of a kind. Remember his name...but then how can you forget it, if you can pronounce it? Don't miss this show, if it comes anywhere near where you live. You'll thank me.
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theatre REVIEW: "SOUTH PACIFIC" at LINCOLN CENTER
In just the past few months, I've been lucky enough to see revivals of four of my favorite musicals of all time...two in concert versions, and two in excellent fully-staged productions. The four are "Camelot," "A Little Night Music," (both seen in concert versions,) and "She Loves Me," and the present show, "South Pacific." Although I was two young ( yes, too young...it was 60 years ago! ) to see the original "South Pacific" when it debuted on Broadway, with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza, I can't imagine it being any better than this glorious, spectacular revival. Directed by the incredible Bartlett Sher, and starring two incomparable leads, Kelli O'Hara and Paulo Szot, this revival is one for the history books...an already legendary revival that is as good as the original. The plot, far ahead of its time in 1948, deals with two interracial romances on an island in the South Pacific during World War II. The young men and women stationed on this island seem like real people, although every few minutes they open their mouths to sing some of Rodgers and Hammerstein's greatest music. A word to the Rodgers and Hammerstein families (who sanctioned this revival...the first in 60 years.) Hire this complete team, form a repertory company here at Lincoln Center, and give them permission to re-create every single musical in the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon...from the rarely performed "Allegro," to the ubiquitous "The Sound of Music." I'll see all of them!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "A CATERED AFFAIR"
I can sit through a musical that's depressing and simple, if the music is so glorious, that it illuminates the miserable lifestyle of the people being portrayed, or if the characters and setting are mesmerizing. Unfortunately, "A Catered Affair" is just a downer! Harvey Fierstein wrote the book for the musical, really a play with music,  based on the Paddy Chayefshy TV drama and movie of 1956 (which starred Bette Davis, Ernest Borgnine and a very young Debbie Reynolds.) Jayne, the daughter of a cab driver, is planning to get married to Ralph. They want a small wedding...something that they can afford. Unfortunately, Ralph's parents are used to big weddings, and that's what they expect. Should Jayne's father give up the money that he's saved for a taxi license to finance a lavish wedding to satisfy her future in-laws, and his selfish, self-centered, miserable wife? I know what I'd tell those in-laws, and that loser of a wife!!! The cast is excellent. Tom Wopat and Faith Prince are the suffering parents of the bride, who have lived a life of hard times and sacrifice, and have very little to show for it. The young couple are Leslie Kritzer and Matt Cavenaugh. Harvey Fierstein, in a very subdued part ( for Harvey Fierstein, that is,) plays the gay live-in uncle. In the movie the uncle was not gay, but rather a twinkling Irishman (played by Barry Fitzgerald!) If you're not looking for laughs, hummable tunes, and 1 1/2 hours (no intermission) in the company of uplifting people, then this might be your cup of tea. If not, stay home and rent the movie!
(2-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "HOW SHAKESPEARE WON THE WEST" (at the Huntington theatre Company)
We're lucky enough to have two of America's most distinguished theatre companies right here in Boston. One is the American Repertory theatre at Harvard, and the other is the Huntington Theatre Company. Both have sent many award-winning shows to Broadway. Because the beautiful Huntington Theatre is, literally, right around the corner from where I live, I go there fairly often. In fact, two of my favorite shows of the last two seasons (and that includes Broadway,) I saw at the Huntington..."Present Laughter" and "She Loves Me." This is the world premiere of this play by Tony-award-winning playwright Richard Nelson. Although it needs some cutting of its one hour and forty minute intermission-less length, and a rethinking of its final scene, it's still charming, clever, funny and very entertaining. The story involves a ragtag troupe of actors who get together, and head West during the Gold Rush, to seek their fortune and fame performing Shakespeare for enthusiastic '49ers. Their ambitious Candide-like cross-country adventure makes for several wonderful stories. According to the program notes, this kind of thing happened all the time, and miners often rewarded the actors with bags of gold. Some true-to-life characters like Lincoln and Buffalo Bill appear in the story, and add to the color of the piece.  With a little work on the part of the author, this could be a smash hit. By the way, the actors, who play multiple roles, are all excellent.
(4-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "CARRIE FISHER: WISHFUL DRINKING" (at the Huntington Theatre Company)
If you're a part of my generation, you know Carrie Fisher as the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, the step-daughter of Elizabeth Taylor, and wife of singer Paul Simon. Later generations know her as Princess Leia in "Star Wars." She's widely recognized as a novelist and screenwriter. Her memoirs were turned into the movie "Postcards From The Edge," starring Meryl Streep as Ms. Fisher, and Shirley MacLaine as her mother Debbie Reynolds. In this very funny one-woman show, she manages to make such subjects as her hairdo in "Star Wars," her drug addiction and rehabilitation, her insane life in Hollywood as the daughter of highly dysfunctional parents, her bipolar disorder, being left by her second husband for another man, and having a friend die in her bed, the subject of some of the funniest stories that I've ever heard on a stage before!  The audience laughed so hard during these two hours, that I missed some of the lines. Turning tragedy, illness, and death into a night of laughs, is one way of dealing with life's hardships, I suppose. I hope that it keeps Carrie Fisher out of any more asylums in the future.  Although it's nowhere near as hilarious as I thought that it was going to be, it's still a very funny show. It's going to Broadway, so you can see it there, if you miss it here in Boston.
(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: " A CONVERSATION WITH STEPHEN SONDHEIM"(at Northeastern's Blackman theatre)
Imagine what it would have been like to sit in a small theatre to hear Chopin or Beethoven talk about how they wrote some of their greatest music, and then to hear some of that music played. Not that I'm comparing Stephen Sondheim to those classic composers, but it was thrilling to hear this modern-genius talk about some of his greatest works..."A Little Night Music," "Follies," "Sweeney Todd," "Company," etc. He's a brilliant, articulate man, and even though he appears to be uncomfortable on a stage being interviewed, he was unbelievably interesting and informative about the craft of composing, and a wonderful teller of anecdotes. Singer Kate Baldwin (the wonderful Amalia in last season's hit "She Loves Me,") was also on stage to sing some of the music from his Broadway musicals...sort of a Sondheim's Greatest Hits! If she was terrified having to perform in the company of the composer, she didn't show it. She is beautiful, and really has class. Brava! Someone write a musical for this future star. How about it, Mr. Sondheim, you're long overdue?
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW: "EQUUS"
Picture this. A British producer says, "let's do a revival of one of the darkest and most depressing plays ever written, 'Equus,' and put that kid from Harry Potter in the role of the very unstable stable-boy." Could you imagine anyone investing in that? Well, they should have. Because it was a big hit in London, and now it's a smash hit on Broadway. Daniel Radcliffe ("Harry Potter") made a very smart career choice when he accepted the role, thereby exposing himself (in more ways than one) to what could have been devastating reviews. Instead, the critics embraced him. It is an extremely difficult role, and one that is diametrically opposed to anything he's done in the Harry Potter films. Here he plays a very troubled stable boy, who tends a bunch of horses (played by men in stylized, very effective, costumes.) When he fails to perform, while making sexual advances on the woman he wants, he takes it out on the horses, in one of the most frightening and effective scenes on stage. Richard Griffiths (his cruel uncle in the Potter films,) plays the psychiatrist to whom the boy bares his soul. Did I mention that Radcliffe bares more than his soul, when he appears completely naked in one important scene? It's a great leap into adult roles for Daniel Radcliffe, and a very exciting evening in the theatre for the rest of us.
(4-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY"
Sometimes when a play receives so much critical acclaim, so many awards, and so much hype, it often disappoints. This one doesn't. The 3 1/2-hour play by Tracy Letts, is so good, that it could have been written by William Inge, Tennessee Williams, or Eugene O' Neill. High praise indeed. In fact, the two leading characters in both this play and "Long Day's Journey Into Night," have the same unfortunate weaknesses. The mother is a drug addict and the father is an alcoholic. The Weston family of Osage County, Oklahoma is a highly dysfunctional family. They've gathered at the family home because a tragic event has taken place. During the course of a few days together, the family members open wounds and pour salt in them. They're cruel and vindictive. Everyone appears to hate everyone else. We deal with suicide, incest and addiction of all kinds. This is a true ensemble piece by the Steppenwolf Company of Chicago. They've been joined by Estelle Parsons and John Collum. I recommend it highly.
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theatre REVIEW: "BOEING, BOEING"
OK, the play is funny, but nowhere near as funny as I expected it to be. I wanted it to be hilarious, as the reviews said it would be, and as the audience around me, howling at everything that was said and done on stage, told me it was. But, it wasn't. I got a few good laughs out of it, but that's it...and I LOVE slapstick....and this IS slapstick humor. This French farce, written by Marc Camoletti in 1960, ran on the Paris stage for 19 years (!) and in London's West End for 7 years. It's closing in New York after only 7 months. At least we're a bit more discriminating than the French and the Brits when it comes to SOME things! The play is about Bernard (Greg Germann,) an American bachelor living in Paris, who has three mistresses, all of whom are airline stewardesses on different time schedules, until the schedules change and the shit hits the fan! The actresses who play the stewardesses are all expert at this kind of comedy. The play is stolen, however by the Shakespearean actor Mark Rylance who is absolutely hilarious as Bernard's American friend, Robert, who drops in unexpectedly, for a short stay in the apartment. He is brilliant...a combination of Buster Keaton and Jerry Lewis. (A completely miscast Christine Baranski is wasted as the French maid.) Oh, by the way, did I mention that this play was made into a movie in the '60s, starring Tony Curtis, Thelma Ritter...and Jerry Lewis?
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theatre REVIEW: "BILLY ELLIOTT"
If it was Elton John's idea to team up with the writer Lee Hall and the director Stephen Daldry of that charming inspirational film of a few years back "Billy Elliott," to create a musical version of the story, then it was a stroke of genius. The new Broadway musical is a brilliant masterpiece. It's easily the most creative, innovative, and yes, inspirational musical this season. The story of both the film and the musical of "Billy Elliott" takes place in 1984, in the coal area of Northern England , on the eve of the Miners Strike, which would eventually destroy the livelihoods of every man in the region. In the midst of all this, Billy Elliott, the son of one of the miners, aspires to be a ballet dancer. The obstacles in his path are many, and his triumph is all the greater because of them. This is one of Elton John's best scores, and the actors who sing, dance, and act the story, are the best that I've seen in a long time. I have to single out the young dancer/singer/actor who played Billy at the performance that I saw. His name is David Alvarez, and he is one of three young boys who share the role. He was incredible! Such talent in someone so young. This is a musical for everyone, especially those of you who have dreams of becoming something very special.
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theatre REVIEW: "PAL JOEY" (The Roundabout Theatre at Studio 54)
The last time that I saw "Pal Joey," was 15 years ago, when I took my nephew to see an excellent revival starring Donna Murphy, at The Huntington Theatre in Boston. It's been a long time between revivals, and I wish that I could say that this one was worth the wait. Starring Stockard Channing, Martha Plimpton, and an inexperienced newcomer Matthew Risch as Joey, it's still the same dark, cynical, mean-spirited show that it was when it was first written by Rodgers and Hart, based on the book by John O'Hara. But, unfortunately, it's also dated, old-fashioned, and boring, for long stretches of time. Joey is a 26-year-old dancer, who's down on his luck, and will stab anyone in the back to get ahead. He finally meets his match when he meets the 60-year-old boozy socialite Vera (Stockard Channing,) who takes him on as her lover. He uses everyone he can, and heads straight for the top until.... All of this is accompanied by a sophisticated, but forgettable, score, with a few classic songs like "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered," and "I Could Write a Book." It's an OK show, that really doesn't hold up well after all of these years. Aside from the beautiful costumes, and some decent acting by Stockard Channing (she can't sing, though,) the only real reason to see it is to see Martha Plimpton, who shows that she can sing and dance with the best of them. The singing and dancing is in her genes. She's the daughter of Keith Carradine after all. In any case, I wouldn't rush over to Studio 54 to see it.
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theatre REVIEW: "THE CORN IS GREEN" (Huntington Theatre Company in Boston)

I love the actress Kate Burton, and this classic play fits her like a glove. You'll see why in a minute. The setting is a big, beautiful house in a small mining town in 19th Century Wales. Miss Moffat, a schoolteacher, comes to town to educate the largely illiterate population of this town of miners. One of her students is a young man who works in the mines, and who she sees has great potential. She sets out to educate him so that he can receive a scholarship to go to Oxford. No small task. It was inevitable that Miss Burton chose to play this role. The play was written by her godfather, the great playwright Emlyn Williams. Her father was the brilliant British actor, Sir Richard Burton, who was born and raised in Wales. He played the role of the young man, Morgan, when he was just starting out. In this production, the role is being played by his grandson, Morgan Ritchie, Kate Burton's son. It's wonderful to see the chemistry that exists between mother and son on stage. So there you have it. This fine production is due largely to DNA and good genes! I loved it.
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 theatre REVIEW: "TWO MEN OF FLORENCE" (Huntington Theatre Company in Boston)
Wow, here's a play for the thinking man/woman. Two men who became friends in Renaissance Venice and Florence, meet up again in Rome. One has become Pope Urban VIII; the other is Galileo Galilei. Their conflicting ideas about the world set them up as adversaries; opponents in the battle of ideas. Richard Goodwin (speechwriter for John F. Kennedy, and husband of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin,) has written a thought-provoking and very wordy play about men, friendship, intelligence and religion. To make things less straightforward and stereotypical, he presents Pope Urban as the intellectual, and Galileo as the spiritual one. It's the kind of play that would have been cast with actors like Lawrence Olivier and Anthony Quinn, or Jason Robards and Christopher Plummer had it been put on 50 years ago. I don't mean to imply that the present actors, Edward Herrmann and Jay O. Sanders aren't up to the task. They certainly are. But as I said before, the play is loaded with verbiage, to the point where it bogs down at times. I think that I nodded off once or twice! I couldn't end without making mention of the spectacular, imposing sets and costumes. They're truly inventive and very mystical. I don't think that I would recommend this play to everyone, because it's so damn talky, but it was a good way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.
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theatre REVIEW: "WEST SIDE STORY"
The last time that I saw "West Side Story" on stage, was 50 years ago, on the night that the Russians put Sputnik up into Space. The launch was the talk of the theatre during intermission, and it added excitement to an already exciting event. This current revival came about, because the original writer, Arthur Laurents (age 90+) wanted it to happen, and he supervised every aspect of it. He wanted to "make it more real" by having more believable singers and dancers in all of the roles (especially the three leads, who are perfect.) He even has the actors speaking and singing some of the dialogue in Spanish. In spite of these worthy goals, the big problem that I had with this revival, is that it comes across as old-fashioned, corny, and unbelievable, especially when the gang members speak or sing to one another. They sound like suburban high school kids trying to sound tough. The dialogue is trite, dated and, yes, corny! The reason that you should go to see this production is to hear the classic music by Leonard Bernstein, and to see the remarkable, outstanding dancing, in which the troupe of dancers recreates the original Jerome Robbins choreography. Other than that, try to imagine contemporary language and cursing whenever the gang members speak. Hell, I would have given anything to hear just one angry "fuck you!"
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theatre REVIEW: "BLITHE SPIRIT"
The funniest play on Broadway! With an ideal cast, this could be Noel Coward's funniest play (although I loved last season's production of "Present Laughter" up here at the Huntington. It's coming to Broadway next season.) Luckily, this revival does have a perfect cast, lead by the ageless Angela Lansbury, who steals the show, as the nutty spiritualist Madame Arcati. This wonderfully funny and clever comedy, is about a successful novelist (Rupert Everett,) who is haunted by his biggest fan...his deceased first wife (Christine Ebersole.) Needless to say, his present wife (Jayne Atkinson) is not too happy about the third "person" in their home. So, they hire a spiritualist (Lansbury) to rid the house of the unusual guest. The things that Lansbury does as Arcati have to be seen to be believed! She's a riot. Nothing is off limits for her including some dotty dancing. My God, the woman is 80!! And oh those sophisticated and witty lines written by Coward for these great characters. Only Oscar Wilde could write funnier lines when it came to British drawing-room comedy. I loved this show. Don't miss it!
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theatre REVIEW: "GOD OF CARNAGE"
Yasmina Reza ("Art") has written an intelligent and brilliant comedy for four exceptionally talented actors, who can not only shine in their own spotlight on stage, but who can also support their three fellow actors, in the most extraordinary ensemble cast on Broadway this season. Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini, and Marcia Gay Harden are the four actors, all of whom have been nominated for this season's Tony award for this play. I've seen three of the actors do great work on stage in the past, but Gandolfini is the revelation. He's not just Tony Soprano anymore! Reza's play deals with two couples, one very uptown and snobbish ( Daniels and Davis,) the other very nouveau-riche and still rough around the edges (Gandolfini and Harden.) Their sons have gotten into a brawl in the schoolyard of their fancy prep school, and the parents have come together in the home of one of the couples, to resolve the problem. What ensues is hilarious, as the action escalates from civility, to a knock-down-drag-out-battle, involving fistfights and vomit! I laughed my head off for two hours.
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theatre REVIEW: "9 TO 5"
Remember that 1980's movie comedy "9 to 5," with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton? Well, now Dolly Parton has taken the song that she wrote for that movie, written 15 other songs to go with it, and she's turned the story of the movie into a Broadway musical. Easier said than done. The story is still the same. Three overworked and badly treated workers decide to exact revenge on their pig of a boss. The form of torture that they use on him is not exactly waterboarding, but it's fun to watch, even if you're male, and not a sexual predator. The three women are played by three competent actresses...Stephanie J. Block, Megan Hilty, and especially, the wonderful Allison Janney ("The West Wing.") The boss is Marc Kudisch who played another sexual predator on Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera! The problem with this musical version of the story rests in the music. Although Dolly Parton has written a bunch of fine songs for the show, they're generic Dolly Parton songs...good, but not Broadway caliber. Also, the choreography leaves much to be desired. It's frantic, but not necessarily fun to watch. So, what I guess I'm saying is that, this isn't a top-drawer Broadway musical by any means (what IS nowadays?) Go see something better.
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theatre REVIEW- "THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE" (Huntington Theatre Company in Boston)
Absolutely hilarious! If you're in Boston, rush to see this glorious show before it closes next weekend. I've seen several memorable productions of "Pirates of Penzance," my favorite Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Most notable of these, until this current one,  was the unforgettable 1980 production in Central Park, starring Linda Ronstadt, Kevin Kline, George Rose, Rex Smith, and Estelle Parsons. (Those of you who saw that one with me, and there were lots of you,  will know what I'm talking about.) This current revival, with no known stars, is one of the best,  and it does the Huntington proud. The action has been transferred from the Southern coast of England, to the Caribbean, making it a sort of Pirates of the Caribbean, minus Johnny Depp. The actor playing The Pirate King does a perfect imitation of Depp. As always with all Huntington shows, the settings and costumes are spectacular. But Gilbert and Sullivan rests on how well the singing actors can convey the comic parody of the lyrics and the music, and these "unknowns" do it as well as any stars could. They're really wonderful. Each and every one has mastered the art of "tongue-in-cheek" acting, as well as the ability to sing the satirical Gilbert & Sullivan songs. This is truly a show that everyone can enjoy.
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theatre REVIEW: "LA CAGE AUX FOLLES" (The Reagle Players of Waltham, MA)
It would appear that "La Cage" is a foolproof musical, if it can survive being performed by a cast of unfamiliar performers, in a suburban high school auditorium! It not only survived last night, but this production was outstanding in just about every way. The cast of unknowns was near-perfect, the sets and costumes were more than adequate, and the full pit orchestra played beautifully. You may be familiar with the story of the musical, if you saw the French film "La Cage aux Folles,"  or its American remake "The Birdcage" (with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.) A pair of aging "queens" (a middle-aged gay couple,) own and operate a seedy transvestite nightclub in the South of France. Their idyllic life is interrupted, when the son of one of the men comes home to announce that he's going to be married...to the daughter of the right-wing conservative leader of the Morality Party...and that they're all coming to dinner tomorrow night. What ensues is a night of hilarious, clean fun, all set to the glorious music of composer Jerry Herman ("Hello Dolly," "Mame," Mack and Mabel," etc.) Two additional notes: the lead actor who played the role of Albin/Zaza (David Engel,) was as good as the lead in the original Broadway cast. That's saying a lot. Also, I was one of the many backers of the original Broadway production, so I'm a bit biased in favor of this musical. Biases aside, this was a wonderful night of musical theatre, in the most unlikely of places!
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theatre REVIEW: "A STEADY RAIN"
Here's a play that's too small to carry the weight of its two world-famous stars...Daniel Craig ("James Bond,") and Hugh Jackman ("Wolverine.") When it was first performed, in Chicago, there were no famous names in the cast, and the emphasis was on the merits of the play itself. I can see an audience enjoying it more, when it was only trying to see two Chicago cops interacting, instead of being overwhelmed by the overpowering aura of these two megastars. Yes, the play is about two Chicago cops, best friends, whose lives start to come apart as they are tested in one tragic incident after another. One is meek, the other powerful, but both feel that they're right, and to say that their friendship is tested, is putting it mildly. It's a true tragedy in the Greek sense of the word, as the stronger of the two starts to disintegrate, as the weaker one starts to gain strength at the expense of his friend. It's a fascinating case of role reversal. Craig and Jackman are incredibly good in roles that are not usually associated with their film roles. They're both trained stage actors, and it shows. I would like to see them on stage in a play that is worthy of their fine acting skills. Perhaps "Becket?" Is there a producer out there who's smart enough to finance this???
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For the play, and the way that it's presented.
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For the two actors, Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig.

theatre REVIEW: ":A CONVERSATION WITH HAROLD PRINCE" (at Northeastern University)
Each year, the Drama Department at University University, under Del Lewis, invites a Broadway dignitary and his guest, to come to Northeastern to be interviewed on stage by Mr. Lewis, and to have his star-guests sing some of the music asociated with him on Broadway. Last year, it was composer Stephen Sondheim and his guest Kate Baldwin (starring in "Finian's Rainbow" this season on Broadway.) This year it was producer/director Harold Prince, and his guest-stars were Broadway stars Judy Kaye and Tom Wopat. Last night was a glorious night of nostalgia and great music, for anyone who loves the Broadway musical theatre as much as I do. Not only did we get to hear Hal Prince reminisce about his illustrious career, but we got to hear Judy Kaye and Tom Wopat sing some of the songs from the past shows that he's directed ("Fiddler on the Roof," "Cabaret," "Company," "On The Twentieth Century," "West Side Story," "Sweeney Todd," "Phantom of the Opera," etc.) We also were extremely lucky to get a preview of his upcoming Broadway musical, "Paradise Found," starring Mandy Patinkin, John Collum, Judy Kaye, Emily Skinner, and Christine Andreas. The composer of the music for this new show is none other than Johann Strauss!!! Now THAT'S something to look forward to. The one song that was sung from this show was something called "Feeling Good," set to one of Strauss' waltzes. It was beautiful. All in all, a glorious night of music, for anyone who loves Broadway musical theatre.
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theatre REVIEW: "RAGTIME"
Unless my memory is playing tricks on me, this revival is even better than the original, in spite of the lack of stars. (Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald became big stars after appearing in the original.) Stripped down of the overpowering scenery of the first show, the complex story and the incredible music really stand out now. The set isn't simple; it's just stylized and quite dramatic and beautiful. In case you're not familiar with the E. L. Doctorow book, or the movie, or the original musical, it tells the story of the three groups of people who dominated the scene in New York just after the turn of the century (19th to 20th.) There were the white upper middle class, emphasis on white. Representing this group are Mother, Father, and Mother's Younger Brother. They have no names. Also, there are real people such as J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, Admiral Perry, and Evelyn Nesbitt and Stanford White. Then , there are the blacks, represented by Coalhouse Walker, Jr., a piano player, and his girlfriend Sarah, who becomes the maid to Mother and Father. Also, there's Booker T. Washington and Matt Henson, polar explorer. The final group are the immigrants, represented by Tateh and his daughter. Also real-life immigrants, Emma Goldman and Harry Houdini. I could go on forever praising this show, but I won't. It's a perfect revival of an historic musical. See it, if you can.
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theatre REVIEW: "FINIAN'S RAINBOW"
It's old-fashioned, corny, often silly, and it's absolutely wonderful! It's easily the most melodic musical in town. Out of the 13 musical numbers, 10 of them are classics...standards from the American Songbook (e.g. "That Old Devil Moon," "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?," "Look To The Rainbow," "If I'm Not Near The Girl I Love, I Love The Girl I'm Near," etc.) The musical was written 60 years ago, and was a big hit on Broadway in 1948. They haven't changed anything in the original story-line, so there are lots of racial references that might not pass the politically-correct police today. (A white Senator who's a bigot, is turned black!) It's the story of Finian and his daughter Sharon, who've just come from Ireland, to find the proverbial pot of gold in America, at the end of the rainbow. To cover his bets, Finian has stolen a pot of gold from a leprechaun in Glocca Morra, their home-town, in order to bury it near Ft. Knox! Og, the leprechaun, has followed them all the way to the American South, to recover his gold. The cast is absolutely perfect, especially Jim Norton (Tony-award winning Irish actor,) Kate Baldwin (who I've followed since she starred up in Boston in "She Loves Me" at the Huntington Theatre, as well as at Northeastern in "An Evening with Stephen Sondheim...with Sondheim himself,) Christopher Fitzgerald (from the Williamstown theatre productions, as well as "Wicked,") as the leprechaun, and Cheyenne Jackson. It's a grand night of musical theatre for the entire family. The audience in the sold-out house loved it, as I did.
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theatre REVIEW: "A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC"
A perfect revival of one the most intelligent and melodic musicals ever written...and one of my top-ten favorites. Even in an excellent ensemble cast where 6 of the 8 stars are letter-perfect in their roles, the two stand-outs are Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury. They bring new excitement to this classic Stephen Sondheim musical...a Chekhovian story based on Ingmar Bergman's film "Smiles of a Summer Night. In turn-of-the-last-century Scandinavia, eight people come together in the suburban villa of a famous courtesan, and there, unexpectedly, they explore the faces of love...all in 3/4 waltz-time. See it, if you can!
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theatre REVIEW: "THE ADDAMS FAMILY"
A few of my friends had seen this new musical, and they really enjoyed it. Others, including most of the critics, have hated it. Let me weigh in. I loved it! Aside from the stars (Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwirth, Terrence Mann, Carolee Carmello, Kevin Chamberlin, etc.....all Broadway veterans,) the best thing about this show is the beautiful score by Andrew Lippa. The songs are clever, melodic, and memorable. I'm still humming some of them. The book is good enough, and the sets and costumes are perfect. It's a very funny show, and at times very moving. Much of it is based on the original Charles Addams cartoons, and some of it takes its humor from the TV show and movies. My God, I'm still humming one of the damn songs, and that says a lot for me, when I can't even remember one song from a recent new musical, five minutes after I've heard it. I hear that the new director/consultant, Jerry Zaks, is constantly working on the show to make it even better. Keep working Mr. Zaks, you're doing a great job!
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theatre REVIEW: "LA CAGE AUX FOLLES" (2010 revival from London)

I've seen so many productions of "La Cage aux Folles" since the original production which opened on Broadway in 1983, and I've never seen a bad one! That includes a production by the Reagle Players in Waltham near Boston, which played in a high school auditorium (!) and surprisingly, it was one of the best. I was originally introduced to the musical of "La Cage," when I invested a modest sum in the show, before it opened its tryout run in Boston, prior to its Broadway opening. I loved it from the very beginning, just as I loved the French film on which the musical is based. (If you've never seen that film, rent it. It's beyond hilarious! It was remade in English, as "The Birdcage" starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.) Then Jerry Herman added one of Broadway's best musical scores; Harvey Fierstein rewrote the book into Broadway musical form, and history was made. The original Broadway production was lavish and opulent, with a chorus line that was so beautiful that you couldn't tell the boys from the girls. All were made up to look like the gorgeous Cagelles, of the "La Cage" transvestite club in St . Tropez. The club is owned by a long-time married gay couple, and when the son of one of the two men announces his engagement to the daughter of the French Minister of Ethics and Morality, all hell breaks loose at "La Cage." In this new production imported from London (starring Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge as the couple,) everything is more minimalist. The club is slightly seedy, and the scaled-back-to six chorus line looks a bit more manly than in former productions. They're not the beautiful "women" of those past productions. The recession has hit "La Cage." Well, it works, and it works big time. The emphasis is on the relationships of the main characters, and less on spectacular sets and costumes. We loved it!
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theatre REVIEW: "THE BOOK OF MORMON"
 The funniest musical in town, and the hottest ticket as well! If you're a fan of "South Park" and its creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, you'll know that they write some of the most intelligent and X-rated material around. They're vulgar, potty-mouthed, racist, sexist, and politically in tune with what's going on in the world. They insult everyone equally, thereby eliminating the charges of anti-religion, anti-gay, racist and sexist...and all of this to one of the most melodic scores on Broadway today. It's actually old-fashioned, in the best sense of the word. It's such a joy to hear hummable tunes, in this unhummable pop-musical world! The plot involves two young Mormons, Elder Price (Andrew Rannells) and Elder Cunningham (Josh Gad) who are sent out as missionaries, to convert the unbelievers, to the doctrines of The Church Of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. Elder Price is hoping to be assigned to Orlando (he loves Disney World!) What the two young missionaries get is Uganda, Africa, where the village doctor has "maggots in his scrotum," and the neighboring warlord is called General Butt-fuck Naked!!! The General is trying to circumcise all of the women in the village, and he shoots anyone who gets in his way. The Elders are trying to convert and baptize all of the villagers. Obviously, there's a conflict of interests! Don't miss it!
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theatre REVIEW: "A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE" (at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown in The Berkshires)

Mesmerizing! This is the finest production of this Tennessee Williams classic that I have ever seen, even though it's being presented on the more intimate stage of The Nikos theatre, rather than on the larger stage of the Main Stage in the large adjoining theatre at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the country's premiere summertime theatrical venue. This is minimalism at its best, with the audience surrounding the small two room set, with the rest of the stage being utilized by stage seats at the rear of the stage. What's the point of stripping the play down? Now the emphasis is on the actors, who must make these memorable characters and their words come alive...and what an incredible job they do. Less well known than the larger-than-life actors who I've seen play these roles before them (Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy on stage, and Brando and Vivien Leigh on screen, and in the famous Roundabout revival, Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange,) Sam Rockwell and Jessica Hecht don't "act" the parts, they ARE Stanley and Blanche! From the minute Jessica Hecht stops, almost stunned, in front of the front door of her sister's small apartment on a seedy street in New Orleans, she is a shocked, stripped of reality, Blanche Du Bois, crazed with fear and delusional. Director David Cromer has directed Hecht to be "wacko from the start." She's paranoid, manipulative, and crazy. I hated her, and, at times, wanted to scream out "shut up bitch!" Sam Rockwell steals the show. He starts off nice and friendly to his intrusive sister-in-law, but then his hatred of her builds, and it erupts from every pore. He's animal-like in his fury...brutal and abusive. These two are once-in-a-lifetime performances, and I hope that someday they're available to the general public. They could be used in all acting classes as examples of acting at its best. A must-see performance.

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I was definitely in the minority on this Cirque du Soleil show at Radio City. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but my other three friends thought that it was "just OK." They didn't like the performers ("too few and too slow,") or the music ("too screechy.") I loved both! First of all, let me back up a bit. The show actually starts as you enter the cavernous Art Deco lobby at Radio City, which is dotted with performers, dressed in classic white clown-like costumes, singing around and above the guests as we entered. Inside the theatre itself, the show makes full use of the theatre's enormous stage and side-stages, with spectacular sets and costumes, and a massive LED wall and side-screens that create dramatic, hypnotic, and unforgettable stage effects. The performers, mostly acrobats, swing from trapezes and fly through the air and over the stage on various devices, while bizarrely-costumed extras climb over and around the sets in the background, creating kaleidoscopic stage pictures. The effect is sensory overload, and meant to be. The music is like that of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Fellini's Nino Rota combined. It's perfect for the story of Zarkana and his quest for his love, Leah. Although you may not remember it after you leave the theatre, it serves the purpose beautifully. If I had to do some nit-picking, I would like to have had it sung in any other language but English (as are most other Cirque du Soleil shows.) That would add to the mystery. But that's just small stuff. In general, I loved the show.
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The setting is a dimly lit, high-ceilinged basement nightclub, with instruments strewn about the large grand piano. Johnny walks down a ceiling to floor spiral staircase, stares around, and then proceeds to the piano. Five women, all wearing the same style gown come down the stairs, walk over to various instruments, pick them up, and begin to play and sing the first of 80-minutes worth of great classics by Rodgers and Hart. There's no dialogue, but the bittersweet love story is told through all of these great songs. Directed by the inventive John Doyle, and starring Malcom Gets, Donna McKechnie, Lauren Molina, Jane Pfitsch, Jessica Tyler Wright, and Diana DiMarzio, this creative theatre piece could be a masterclass in how to put together a brilliant musical play. All you need are great songs, talented actors who can act, play multiple instruments, and listen and respond to one another in meaningful ways, and a genius of a director. Because of the rave review in the New York Times (and every other paper,) this play is sure to come to Broadway. Don't miss it!
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theatre REVIEW: "THE GERSHWINS' PORGY AND BESS" (at the American Repertory theatre in Cambridge) Prior to Broadway.

This re-imagined version of the classic George and Ira Gershwin opera, "Porgy and Bess," is the best production of this classic piece outside of an opera house today. It's been "rethought" by a Pulitzer-prize-winning writer, Suzan-Lori Parks, a Tony-award winning director, Diane Paulus, and a four-time-Tony-award-winning star, Audra McDonald. The famous songs are still there, but the music between the songs (recitatives,) has been replaced by spoken dialogue. All of the cast members, including Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis, and David Alan Grier are perfect, as is the direction and choreography. Even the stylized set, which looks more like a cave in Carlsbad Caverns, than a black ghetto, Catfish Row, in 1930's Charleston, South Carolina, works just fine. My problem with this musical piece, is that I just don't like "Porgy and Bess!" Outside of an opera house, where most plots are absurd, the story comes across as completely dated...corny, old-fashioned, and highly melodramatic. Even the standard songs ("I Got Plenty of Nothing," "It Ain't Necessarily So," "Summertime," "Bess, You Is My Woman Now," etc., seem old-fashioned, outside of an opera-house venue. I'm sorry. I just don't like it. Keep it in the opera house where it belongs.
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In this new adaptation by famed theatre and opera director Mary Zimmerman, things start to go wrong from the very beginning. When the lively overture begins, you realize that this small 15-piece orchestra isn't very good! Leonard Bernstein wrote some of his most soaring and beautiful music for "Candide," and one of his best pieces is the Overture. This orchestra killed it! That's the problem. It's not that Zimmerman's new adaptation...which draws more seriousness from the actual Voltaire book into the production, especially in the second act, and less of the campy comedy that's crept into the revivals over the past few decades...is bad. It's just that the singers and musicians are! They're not up to the demands of Leonard Bernstein's difficult score. They can't can't hit the notes, and their diction is so bad that the clever intelligent lyrics (by Stephen Sondheim, Lillian Hellman, Richard Wilbur, and Bernstein himself,) are lost. Therefore the satire and the story are lost. Therefore. I was lost!
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If you only know Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, or as a leading man in the movies, then you only know half of what he is as an entertainer. On Broadway, he's a song-and-dance man, and one of the best there is. Backed by an on-stage full orchestra, in a set that looks like a New York supper club of the 40's, 50's, and 60's, and with six gorgeous talented women as his singer/dancers, he puts on what is arguably the best show on Broadway this season. For almost 2 1/2 hours, he sings, dances, and tells anecdotes about his life, his family, his career, and Australia. He's charming, funny, charismatic, and extremely audience-friendly. Everyone loved him. Pay whatever it takes, but don't miss him!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

Harry Connick, Jr. is hopelessly miscast in this rewritten version of the ill-fated 1965 musical. As a result, he looks downright uncomfortable in the role of the depressed psychiatrist who is still mourning the death of his wife. The original version of the musical was a tour de force for the actress playing Daisy, the doctor's patient, who, under hypnosis, brings forth a character with whom Dr. Bruckner falls in love. In the original Broadway version, Daisy was played by the incomparable Barbara Harris, and in the film version, by Barbra Streisand. Now, in the rewritten version, Daisy has become David, a gay young man! Under hypnosis, he brings forth Melinda Wells, a 1940's jazz singer. So, things get complicated! The positives about this reincarnated version of the musical. are still the beautiful score, and the two young stars who play David and Melinda, David Turner and Jessie Mueller. They steal the show; stars in the making. One of the negatives, aside from poor Harry Connick, Jr., are the hideous costumes. The show is now set in 1974, one of the worst periods in modern history for clothing. Everyone on stage looks like a stray from "Hair." I really wanted to like this show more than I did, but I couldn't.
(2-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW: "FOLLIES"

I had seen the stars of this revival, singing their big numbers, on YouTube, and from what I saw there, they all seemed either stiff or campy. So, I decided not to check out this revival of one of my favorite musicals. But today (New Year's Eve,) someone at the hotel gave me a ticket to the matinee performance, and I went. Was I glad that I went. What I saw is a near-perfect production of a classic masterpiece! The stars (Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, Ron Raines, Danny Burstein, Elaine Paige, Rosalind Elias, etc.) were all excellent, and the set and costumes were lavish and opulent. Money wasn't spared. In fact, unless my memory is playing tricks on me, this revival is every bit as good as the original, which I saw almost 40 years ago. It certainly beats any of the previous revivals, See it, if you can, before it leaves.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 
theatre REVIEW: "VENUS IN FUR"
Everything I've heard about this show and its incredible new star, Nina Arianda, is more than true. Wow! I felt the way I did when I saw Barbra Streisand when she was an unknown teenager on Broadway in "Funny Girl," decades ago. There are two stars in this show, and together, they're giving the most spectacular performances of the year, and the show, although not up to the acting of its stars, is wonderful. Young British star, Hugh Dancy, is excellent, but the night belongs to Nina Arianda. A star is born. You just can't take your eyes off of her, and in one scene, when the male tries to put high leather boots on the female, the audience is collectively holding its breath. You can't hear a sound in the theatre. Just magic. The plot of the story is almost irrelevant, but it's about a young seemingly brainless young actress, who comes in late, to audition for a play, in front of the director. She appears to be nervous, but then watch what happens. You can get clues about where the plot might be going if you're familiar with the book Venus in Fur, by the father of sado-masochism, Von Sacher Masoch. But don't let that put you off. It's hilarious, and very sexy, and the acting is pure magic. Don't miss it.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST" (Williamstown Theatre Festival)
It was a brilliant stroke to take the ladies and gentlemen of Oscar Wilde's classic satire, and transplant them from Victorian London to the London of the 1930's, and to make them Damon Runyonesque "Guys and Dolls"-like mobsters and their molls. I'm assuming that it was director David Hyde Pierce's idea, and although I was apprehensive when I first heard about it, I was completely won over when I saw it last night. It works. All of the famous Oscar Wilde dialogue is still there, especially the notable quotations. At the middle of a first-class ensemble cast (especially the women,) is Tyne Daly as Lady Bracknell. When she's on stage, she steals the show. All eyes and ears are on her. What surprised me is how well the language of Oscar Wilde, translates into the language of the former mobsters on the run, and hiding out in London. They speak all of the words as though they were born to them. Of course, Lady Bracknell does it the best! She alone is worth the trip to see the show. Also, a word about the sets and costumes. They're absolutely perfect, especially the first act in Algernon's apartment in London, with the scenery sliding from room to room in his flat. Brilliant! As an Oscar Wilde purist, I can say that I loved the production.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW: "THE BLUE DEEP" ( Williamstown Theatre Festival)
I hated this play! The set was beautiful, and the actors (including Blythe Danner) were fine, but they had nothing to work with. The play sucks!

(1-Star)

theatre REVIEW: "FAR FROM HEAVEN" (at the Williamstown Theatre Festival)

Buy your tickets as soon as they're available, for this unique and original musical play, coming to Broadway for the Fall Season. It's that good. Based on the old Todd Haines film that starred Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid, it still has the same troubling story, but now it has a beautiful score by the composer of "Grey Gardens," and a blockbuster star, Kelli O'Hara, in the lead. It's a thinking person's musical, with a deep, often disturbing story...a show that you'll be thinking about long after you leave it. The time is 1957, and the place is Hartford, Connecticut. We meet the perfect American family, the Whitakers...successful husband, model housewife, two perfectly mannered children and the ever-faithful servants...a maid and a gardener. Then, the issues of the times (racism, homosexuality, etc.) enter the picture and all hell breaks loose. At times, you'll be watching from the edge of your seat, it's that tense, but it's all worth the edginess. You'll know that you've seen a great show, with Tony awards written all over it, especially for the leads. I highly recommend it.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

I hated this play! Not just because it deals with the kind of people I despise...the convicts and their sluts, who populate the few remaining "hoods" in New York City...junkies and whores, with no morals, values, or intelligence...like animals in heat. But also because the play itself is just plain bad, with no plot, no character development, and in this production, a hideous set design. It's a two hour play, with no intermission, and it's just plain boring. The actors were good, but I would like to have seen what Bobby Cannavale, Chris Rock, and Annabelle Sciorra did with it on Broadway. (The latter two, making their Broadway debuts got bad reviews.) Even if they had transferred the play to a 19th-Century Victorian drawing room, and had the characters speak the same lines but with British accents, it would still be bad. The problem is the play itself; it stinks!
(1-Star)
 

theatre REVIEW: "FORBIDDEN BROADWAY"

"Forbidden Broadway" is back after a four year break from ripping up the current stock of Broadway musicals. They've been doing it for years, with biting satire, clever wit, and parody at its best. Gerard Alessandrini created the first "Forbidden Broadway" decades ago, right after graduating from the Boston Conservatory of Music. His concept is simple. Find the Achilles heel of the shows running on Broadway each season, and then write original lyrics and music to rip them apart. This requires an expert cast of about 4 or 5 singing comic actors. He's certainly found them this season. When asked why he took a four-year break from doing these shows, his answer was, "The musicals of the last four years on Broadway, were so bad, that they were parodies of themselves!" I agree. But now they're back and better than ever. You'll find it hilarious even if you haven't seen the shows, but it's better if you've seen them. It's only 90 minutes long, with an intermission, and it's hilarious from beginning to end.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

If you're in Boston, and looking for a fun night in the theatre, head over to the Calderwood Pavilion on Tremont, where the SpeakEasy Stage is presenting this musical history lesson on the life of Andrew Jackson. OK, it's not one of the top-drawer musicals like "My Fair Lady, but in the same draw as "The Book of Mormon," it's irreverent, very clever, and yes, melodic. The gifted, and highly talented young cast knows how to act tongue-in-cheek, and to sing and dance up a storm, and to stage a barroom brawl that's the best choreographed "fight" scene since "West Side Story." The show started out at The Williamstown Theatre Festival, then went to Off-Broadway, then Broadway, and now here. It's a highly comedic romp through the life of Andrew Jackson from his early childhood and the murder of his parents by Indians (the funniest scene in the show,) through his bizarre presidency, and beyond. If you don't take anything seriously you won't be insulted by the racism, homophobia, bloody murders, genocide, and dirty jokes. It's all so damn funny, how can you be insulted? Remember, it's a musical comedy, not a college lecture. Anyway, it's only there for another week. Try not to miss it.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

Wow. Now THAT'S a show! Rush out and get your tickets to this smash hit revival of the 40-year-old musical by Stephen Schwartz ("Wicked.") After it leaves here, it's going straight to Broadway in March. I predict that it'll be the first big musical hit of this rather dull season. As part of its regular season of plays this year, the American Repertory theatre, here in Cambridge, decided to do "Pippin" as its musical centerpiece. Once again, the A.R.T.'s director Diane Paulus ("Hair," "The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess") was at the helm. "Pippin" was always a rather light-weight musical, with a simple story and a pleasant musical score. So, when it was originally done on Broadway, the direction and choreography of Bob Fosse, and star Ben Vereen, made it a big hit. Now, director Paulus has blown it up, by bringing in a cast of Broadway veterans, as well as a troupe of circus performers, "Les 7 Doigts de la Main,") AND reproducing much of Bob Fosse's original choreography to turn it into a full-blown musical smash for the entire family. The story is still the same...Pippin, the rather nerdy first-born son of the great Charlemagne, goes on an idealistic and naive quest for "an extraordinary life." It's brought to life by a remarkable cast: The Leading Player, a role made famous by Ben Vereen, is actually made better by Patina Miller, who was the best thing about "Sister Act" on Broadway. She's incredible. Charlemagne and his slutty queen Fastrada, are played by the real-life husband and wife team, Terrence Mann and Charlotte D'Amboise. They're perfect. Angela Martin, as always, steals the show as Berthe, Pippin's grandmother. My God, at her age, the woman goes up on a trapeze and does some stunts! Matthew James Thomas, formerly the original Spider Man on Broadway, is the perfect Pippin. He's like a young Matthew Broderick. His love interest, Catherine, is played by a wonderful newcomer. Rachel Ray Jones. A perfect ensemble cast. But the REAL stars of the show are the Cirque du Soleil-like performers, "Les 7 Doigts de la Main." They're the glue that pulls it all together. The acrobatics, stunts, and magic are so well-integrated into the story and the performances with the other "stars," that it's all seamless. OK, that's enough. Go see this show. It's what musical theatre is all about!!!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

The Wyeth family Christmas erupts when daughter Brooke arrives bearing a soon-to-be-published memoir full of family secrets. She is a well-known young author. They are well-to-do retired conservative Republicans. The secret is shocking and could destroy them all. So there it is. The play is well-written and well acted, by a cast of Boston's best actors, including the brilliant Karen MacDonald from the A.R.T. The only weak link was the actress who played the daughter. She was terrible, but not terrible enough to ruin this excellent play. I don't want to say anymore, because I don't want to give anything away. Just go see it. By the way, if you DO go, and are planning to eat next door at "Sibling Rivalry," give yourself about an hour and a half for dinner. Service has become very slow...but the food is still great.
(4-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "THE GLASS MENAGERIE" (at the A.R.T. in Cambridge)
In the midst of yet another windy snowstorm, I got a call from a friend, inviting me to see the A.R.T. production of "The Glass Menagerie," which received a rave review from the critic of The New York Times (see an excerpt from his review below.*) I said, "what the hell; why not?" and went. Am I glad that I did. The last time that I saw a revival of Tennessee Williams' masterpiece, was at the Roundabout Theatre in New York in 1994, and it starred two of the best...Julie Harris and Calista Flockhart. This production was better! Cherry Jones was the best Amanda that I've ever seen. She's perfect. Zachary Quinto (who was the young Mr. Spock in that last "Star Trek" movie, was a revelation as her son Tom, a stand in for the playwright himself. Williams would have loved him. The other two members of the cast, Celia Keenan-Bolger as Laura, the lame, agoraphobic daughter and owner of the glass animal collection, and Brian J. Smith as "the gentleman caller" were also perfect. The set by Bob Crowley, consisted of several polygon-shaped platforms, with minimal furniture on them, and surrounded by dark water, was perfect for this play that takes place in the memory of one of the characters. Direction by John Tiffany was so good, it could have been done by the author himself! This production is so excellent that it will surely follow the last show here, "Pippin," down to Broadway. It'll only be here for another couple of weeks. Rush to see it. If anyone wants company, just let me know. I'd love to see it again...and I don't usually do that!!!
(5-Stars) Back to Top


*[I know you’re aching to hear about Ms. Jones, perhaps the greatest stage actress of her generation, as Amanda Wingfield, one of the greatest roles in American theatre. Let me assure you that she’s both even more than you hoped for and not at all what you might have expected.]

 

 

Wow! Ever feel like you're being tickled and beaten over the head at the same time? That's what this Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning play does to you. Metaphorically speaking, of course! The wildly controversial play is all about RACE, and although you probably won't learn anything that you didn't already know, or have thought, about the subject, the author, Bruce Norris, creates a fascinating structure for this unique play, in order to tell his story. In the first act, which takes place in 1959 in Chicago, we meet a typical white couple, in a typical white neighborhood, who are about to sell their typical white house to a "colored couple," the first in the neighborhood. We also meet some of their neighbors, who try to convince them not to do this to them and the neighborhood. The second act takes place in the same house 50 years later. The house is a mess, as is the all-black neighborhood which is now a slum. In the house, we meet a white couple who have just bought the house, and are hoping to be the beginning of a gentrification process to "reclaim" the neighborhood. Meeting with them are a lawyer, their builder (they're planning to rip down the house and rebuild it,) and two black neighbors who represent the other neighbors. What ensues is explosive, divisive, tension-filled, and hilarious. I loved it!
(5-Stars) Back to Top

I stayed away from this Tony-award-winning show when it was on Broadway several years ago, because I hate rap and hip-hop. I was right to do so! In the production that we saw at the SpeakEasy Stage in Boston last night, the story was trite, contrived, and often boring, and the music all sounded the same, like eating in a Middle Eastern restaurant where all the food tastes the same. Anything good about it? Well, the sets were colorful and inventive, and the energy level of all of the singers/dancers was very high. But the more energetic they got, the more I felt like going to sleep!!
(2-Stars) Back to Top

I'm sorry to say that I was slightly disappointed in the British musical "Matilda," in spite of all of the Olivier awards that it won in London, and the Tony awards that it won here on Broadway. Let me give you the good news first. The performers are all excellent singers, dancers and actors, especially Bertie Carvel, who won a Tony for his portrayal of the insane headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. The sets are spectacular...absolutely ingenious. The music is fine...serviceable, but not memorable. No, I wouldn't buy the CD of the show. The book follows the classic Roald Dahl book very closely. That may be the problem. OK, here's the big negative. "Matilda" is so dark, that I wouldn't recommend it to young children! The treatment of children, goes far beyond scary and nasty, into the frightening realm, of abusive and sadistic. The cruelty is unrelieved. Even the punishment of the villains at the end is relatively mild, compared to the damage that they've done to the children throughout the story. This isn't the kind of child abuse that one finds in shows like "Annie." It borders more on Dickens! All of this took away from my enjoyment of the musical, and took away one star from my review.
(4-Stars) Back to Top

From the minute you walked into the Main Stage of the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the mood was set. The stage had been rebuilt with a beautiful Art Deco 1930's proscenium and stage complete with footlights at the front. We were back in the 1930's for this nutty recreation of the Marx Brothers Broadway musical and film. All the rules of sanity were thrown out the window, and what followed was a night of hilarious fun. The story, something about three lunatics crashing a party for rich snobs in a mansion on Long Island, and turning it upside down, was just the skeleton on which all of the craziness could be draped. The three actors playing the three Marx Brothers were perfect, especially the two playing Groucho and Chico. I had forgotten that "Animal Crackers" was a musical, and it's filled with lovely music (songs like "Three Little Words, etc.) sung and danced by an incredibly talented young cast. The book was written by George S. Kaufman, one of the wittiest and most brilliant playwrights, so even at its craziest, it was always clever. You had to go in with a 1930's mind-set, leaving all of your present-day problems outside. Easy to do with such lunacy onstage and such a beautiful set, and good-looking, talented young people on stage. We loved it.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

What a joy it is to experience a show that exceeds your expectations, as did "The Bridges of Madison County," a musical version of the book by Robert James Waller, and the movie starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. The music and lyrics are by the brilliant young composer Jason Robert Brown, and the book for the musical is by Marsha Norman. It's directed by Bartlett Sher. This creative trio is about as good it gets on Broadway, but the music steals the show. The outstanding score is one of the best that I've heard in about a decade, filled with twenty songs ranging in style from love ballads, rock, country, salsa, to drop-dead great Broadway show-tunes. I'll buy the CD when it comes out. The ensemble cast is perfect and I won't single anyone out. The story centers around a beautiful Italian woman, who marries an American soldier and moves with him to his hometown in Iowa. There, she makes a good life for herself raising their family, until a photographer from National Geographic walks up her driveway to ask directions to the nearest covered bridge. The movie ends at a certain point in the book, but the musical goes on to cover more of the story, and arrive at a more satisfying conclusion, than did the movie. In short, I loved this show, and I highly recommend that you buy tickets for it before it comes to Broadway in January. It'll sell out fast. Or even better, you can still see it in Williamstown, before it ends its run on August 18th. It's more than worth the trip.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW: "JOHNNY BASEBALL" ( at the Williamstown Theatre Festival)
This fine musical has been making the rounds in Massachusetts for a few years now. Friends of mine saw it a couple of years ago at the American Repertory theatre in Cambridge. It's the story of two young kids who come to Boston in 1919 to make a name for themselves. He's a promising young pitcher who has just been picked up by the Red Sox. She is trying to make a name for herself as a blues singer. They find each other, fall in love, and because they're so young and naïve, they see no problem with the fact that he's white, and she's black. They truly love each other, and so they refuse to end the relationship as everyone has recommended. Although he's been mentored by an over-the-top Babe Ruth, his career is destroyed, but she goes on to prosper as a famous singer in Paris. This is just the beginning. The music is very good and the story is well-served by the fine songs. The actors are perfect, especially the leads, and the ensemble cast, each of whom play several roles. The show is a fine American musical, weaving social history, music, and baseball, into a highly entertaining show.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

 

theatre REVIEW: "CAVALIA:ODYSSEO"
To describe this as a horse show, is to completely minimize what to me is the biggest, most spectacular show that I've seen in a "theatre" since I saw "KA" in Vegas at the MGM! First of all, one of the co-founders of "Cirque du Soleil", has built the largest big-top in the world (the size of two football fields) to house the show. In this massive tent, the set designers have built a mountain and a lake, and surrounded them with huge LED screens on which are projected scenic images to enhance the action within. The action consists of horses, acrobats, gymnasts, riders, dancers, etc. beautifully costumed, to tell the story of Cavalla. In short, it's magical, mystical, musical, and for lovers of horses, a dream come true! If you're lucky enough to have it come to your town, don't miss it.
(5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "JUNGLE BOOK" (at The Huntington theatre)

The group of eight friends who came to see the show with me was better than the show itself! That's not to say I didn't enjoy the show, it's just that I didn't love it. If you love things Indian, then you probably will love the show. Director Mary Zimmerman has based this new musical more on the Rudyard Kipling stories than on the Disney animated film. The story of the animated film is still there...Mowgli, the "man cub," is still raised by the animals in the jungle. But, everything is colored by the setting in India. The pit orchestra is made up of six jazz musicians, and six Indian musicians playing traditional Indian instruments. So, now everything sounds distinctly Indian. The only two songs that really stand out are those that have the least Indian sound..."Bare Necessities" and my favorite, "I Wanna be Like You." Andre DeShields as King Louie, the leader of the monkeys makes that a show-stopper. The most enjoyable aspect of the "Jungle Book" are the beautiful costumes and sets. They're colorful, clever, and creative. The least enjoyable aspect is the story itself, which slows down and lags much too often. But then it picks up again, either due to the actors, who are all good, or to the costumes and sets. Oh, go see it. You'll probably love it.

(3 1/2- Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "TRIBES" (at the Speak Easy Stage in Boston)

After eating a very filling dinner at the Beehive restaurant/nightclub, the cavernous Parisian-like venue in the South End (complete with live music,) we proceeded upstairs to see our first play of the SpeakEasy season, and what an intriguing play it was. Nina Raine has written a play about a highly dysfunctional British family, but this horrible family really needed a Tennessee Williams or a Eugene O'Neill to make it a great classic, rather than just a fine play. Why? Because they're horrible, and the playwright's words just aren't enough to convey just how horrible they really are! At the center of this babbling family, all of whom live under the same roof, is Billy, born deaf, into an academic family of garrulous monsters. Billy was never taught to fully assimilate into the hearing world, because his family only taught him to read lips, thereby missing much of what everyone was saying around him. He was their mascot! Then he meets a young woman, who introduces him to the Deaf community and to sign language, and he sees that he needs and wants more of life, and decides that his family needs to learn to sign as well, or else he'll never speak to them again. Although the story slows down and almost stops at times, most of the time, it's so moving that most of the audience was brought to tears, watching Billy try to connect with the world around him. A wonderful way to start the SpeakEasy season.

(4-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW: "KURT VONNEGUT'S MAKE UP YOUR MIND" (at the SpeakEasy Stage in Boston)

I've always been a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut. I've read just about every one of his books. He's one of the two men whose books made me laugh out loud while reading them. (The other being Woody Allen.) That's why I was excited to hear that SpeakEasy Stage was putting on the World Premiere of his only play. How disappointing it turned out to be. It's not that "Make Up Your Mind" isn't funny or entertaining. It's just just that it's not top-drawer Vonnegut. His standards are so high, and the play doesn't meet up to those standards. The four actors did an excellent job of portraying his quirky, nutty characters, and I did laugh a lot,  but not enough. The slim story, as thin as a TV sitcom episode, involves a quack who runs an agency to help indecisive people...the Make Up Your Mind agency. Into his rundown office one day,  walks a distraught woman, who turns out to be the wife of one of the country's richest men (he owns South Korea and Blue Cross-Blue Shield!) They become lovers, and make a porn film that goes viral. Don't ask!  The other two characters are another patient, and the quack's even crazier father. The whole thing is very funny, and very Vonnegut at times, but just not funny or Vonnegut enough. And so it goes.

(3-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW: "A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER"

This show is the best musical that I've seen on Broadway in 10 years...the 10 years in which American Idol-inspired crap dominated the stages of Broadway. "A Gentleman's Guide..." brings class back to the Broadway musical. You'll leave the theatre humming the wonderful songs, written by Steven Litvak, who's making his Broadway debut. The lyrics are devilishly clever, intelligent and hilarious. The director is Darko Tresniak, who has created a stylish show, which plays like the Ascot Races scene from "My Fair Lady,"...stylized, satirical, and very funny. The story involves a distant poor relative of the Earl of Highhurst, who plots to inherit the title by murdering the eight other heirs who stand ahead of him in the line of succession. In a brilliant acting feat, Jefferson Mays plays all of the eight heirs, and makes this the must-see event of the theatre season. He's brilliant and hilarious. All of the other actors support his tour de force performance perfectly. To repeat myself, every song in the show is old-school perfect...tuneful, hummable, and with intelligent, very funny lyrics. I can't wait to buy the CD and hear them again and again. Don't worry about taking the kids. They'll love it too. All of the murders are done as musical comic vignettes...laugh out loud funny. The sets and costumes are perfect...a Victorian music hall that does all sorts of magical things, and costumes that are as stylish as anything seen on Broadway in years. In short, I loved this show, and would like to see it again.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

I'd love to give it 6!

theatre REVIEW: "THE COLOR PURPLE" (at the SpeakEasy Stage in Boston)

After a long, confusing, and often slow first act on a very dreary set, this musical finally pulls it all together in the second act, and brings it close to the level of greatness that it achieved on Broadway, many years ago. The story of Celie, who goes from a life of hell with a monster of a father, who rapes and tortures her while her sister can do nothing but offer her love and moral support, to a marriage to a man who's just as bad as her father, to success as a person, when she comes into her own as a businesswoman and mother, is enacted here by an all black cast of talented actors, singers and dancers, many of whom have come out of Boston's fine conservatories. The score is filled with gospel, ragtime, and an occasional American Idol-like screaming anthem, and it services the story (by Marsha Norman) very well, especially in the hands of the fine cast. The single set, unfortunately, is dark and dreary, consisting primarily of a large tree, which could easily serve as the set for a production of "Waiting for Godot!" All in all, the evening is a rewarding one, if you can make it through the first act. We all came away saying, 'that was wonderful, wasn't it?"

(4-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "THE WHALE" (at the SpeakEasy Stage in Boston)

The critics loved it. Ignore what they had to say. This play sucks! The playwright, Samuel D. Hunter, has written a play with a boring story and very little character development. His cast consists of five repulsive people, the least repulsive of whom is a 600-pound man who occupies center stage for almost three hours. He is visited by a nurse-tech, who is basically the queen of enablers who brings him his daily doses of fast food; his estranged daughter who he hasn't seen in 15 years, and who is evil personified; a young Mormon, on a mission, or is he; and his ex-wife, who divorced him when he ran off with his gay lover. They could have been interesting, even fascinating, but they're not. They're dull, and what they have to say and do goes nowhere. The fat man is just a device, and his character is a dull cipher. If he were a normal-sized man, there would be no play. Even the garbage-strewn set is nauseating. Why go on. As I said earlier, the play sucks. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.

(1-Star)

theatre REVIEW: "THE SEAGULL" (Huntington Theatre Company)

The last time that I saw "The Seagull," was 15 years ago at Mike Nichols' free production in Central Park with its' famous all-star cast, featuring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Christopher Walken, Marcia Gay Hayden, John Goodman, Stephen Spinella, and Debra Monk. "The Seagull" production that I saw yesterday at the Huntington Theatre, had only one name star, Kate Burton, and it was better!!! There were no great stars vying for the spotlight. Just an excellent ensemble cast of fine actors serving the brilliant text of Anton Chekhov. The famous actress Irina Arkadina's (Kate Burton) visit to her aspiring playwright son with her successful novelist lover in tow, kindles unrequited passions and petty jealousies. In this play, everyone loves the wrong person. It's all about relationships...relationships beginning, relationships ending and relationships that should never have happened at all.  It's one of Chekhov's wordiest plays, with long monologues, but the words are so beautiful that the length of the monologues doesn't matter. I can see why Kate Burton chose this play for her return to the Huntington this season. Although her role is not the focus of attention, the role of her son Konstantin, played by her real son, Morgan Ritchie, is, and she allows him to shine in the spotlight, basically supporting him. Now THAT'S true love!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

  

theatre REVIEW: "CARRIE" (at the SpeakEasy Stage in Boston)

A musical version of the Stephen King horror story? Why not? Think of "Sweeney Todd." It works, although it's not as good as it could have been, nor as bad as I thought that it would be. The story is still that of the sheltered teen-aged misfit, Carrie, raised by an insane religious fanatic of a mother. She's taunted by her schoolmates in high school, until she finally gets her revenge on them, helped considerably by her telekinetic abilities. The musical score, composed by Michael Gore ("Fame") consists primarily of songs about teen aged angst, sung by overage actors trying to look and sound like teen agers. It doesn't really matter, because the music is easily forgotten. This production was postponed three nights, so that they could continue to refine and upgrade the special effects. They could have saved their time and energy, because the special effects, especially the big scene of the destruction of the school gym on the night of the prom, are pretty pathetic. If you hadn't read the book or seen the movie, you might not even know what was happening! In any case, I'm glad that I saw, but remind me never to see it again.

(3-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "JUNE MOON" (at the Williamstown Theatre Festival)

It's a mystery to me, why departing  Artistic Director Jenny Gersten chose to open the 2014 Williamstown Theatre Festival in the Berkshires, with this lightweight 1929 comedy by playwrights Ring Lardner and George S. Kaufman. The first play of the season is always enjoyable for those of us who make the trek from Boston or New York, to spend some time in this "most beautiful town in America," but it's even better when the play is a good one. This one is just OK. The last comedy to play on Broadway before the 1929 stock market crash, it's a wisecracking, biting portrait of the music industry in the 1920s. The story involves an impossibly innocent hick from upstate New York, who becomes a songwriter on Broadway with his first hit, "June Moon," and gets plunged into the chaotic life of Tin Pan Alley, where the songs were written. Boy meets innocent girl, boy  gets thrown into the insanity of Broadway in the "20s, boy almost loses girl, boy gets girl. There are lots of funny incidents and lines in the show, enough to make it enjoyable, but there could have been so many other choices for a blockbuster opening show. I guess that we'll just have to wait for the next two big shows of the season. In any case, the acting was excellent, by a huge cast of mostly unknown actors (the only star was Christopher Fitzgerald,) and the sets and costumes were spectacular. It was fun, but it could have been better.

(3 1/2-Stars) Back to Top

THEATER REVIEW: "LIVING ON LOVE" (at the Williamstown Theatre Festival)

If you can make me laugh out loud for two hours and ten minutes, you're doing something right in my book! This world premiere of a play by Joe Di Pietro, based on a play by Garson Kanin, did just that. It's an absolutely charming play about an aging opera diva, and her over-the-hill conductor husband, who have a love-hate relationship with one another, and who are constantly trying to one-up the other. They live lavishly and spend foolishly. When he decides to hire a ghost writer to "help him" write his autobiography, things come apart. Because he's an egotistical windbag, very little gets written, and the ghost writer quits. Enter the diva, who realizes that they're so much in debt, that she decides to write HER autobiography. She rehires the ghost writer, and because she's as much of a windbag as her husband, very little gets written. But the maestro gets jealous and hires his own female ghost writer. The two young ghost writers move in to the lavish penthouse and the farce begins. Throw in two gay live-in butlers and you have the makings of a side-splitting comedy. All of this is directed to perfection by Broadway's Kathleen Marshall, and the expert sextet of actors are all equally wonderful, especially Justin Long and Anna Chlumsky as the young writers, and the butlers Blake Hammond and Scott Robertson. But the night belongs to the two name stars, Broadway matinee idol Douglas Sills, and the opera world's grand diva herself, Renee Fleming. Of course, everyone in the standing room only sold out houses has come to see Fleming in her first almost-all-non-singing role, and she doesn't disappoint. She hams it up hysterically, and tears up opera divas everywhere. She's wonderful, and perfect. A true comedienne is born. We all loved it. I wish that you could get to see it. You'd love it too!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "THE VISIT" (at the Williamstown Theatre Festival)

It's taken 14 years for this musical (in one form or another) to make it to this point, on its road to Broadway. Now, it's ready, and all I can say is "wow." It's magnificent. A creative mix of Federico Fellini and Bob Fosse. If you know the names, you'll know what I mean. Claire Zachanassian, when she was a young girl living in the European town of Brachen, was raped by her young lover, abandoned,  and having fled town, went on to become a whore, and then married a series of wealthy men, who after divorces or deaths, left her the richest woman in the world. She has now returned to her hometown, whose citizens are awaiting her arrival, hoping that she'll give some money to their poverty-stricken town. Her former lover, Anton Schell, now married to a local woman, is among those who have come to greet the old lady. Claire has come for revenge. She agrees to give the town a billion marks, if one of them will kill Anton Schell! So there you have it. Not exactly a happy, light-hearted story. What it is is dark, yet funny; cruel, yet moving, and always stylishly staged. The score by Kander and Ebb, is reminiscent of their scores for "Cabaret" and "Chicago." High praise indeed! The two leading stars, Chita Rivera as Claire, and Roger Rees as Anton, are absolute perfection, even at their advanced ages. Even though they're supported by some of Broadway's finest younger stars like Jason Danieley and Judy Kuhn, the show rests on their shoulders. Chita Rivera is a pro, in every sense of the word, but she IS 81 years old, and I'm worried if she can handle the grueling task of a Broadway run at this age. Good luck to her, because the show deserves a long run on Broadway. It's wonderfully creative, intelligent,  beautifully written (Terrence McNally,) and brilliantly directed (John Doyle.) The single set is majestic and dramatic. Most importantly, you'll come away humming  the music from the beautiful score. It's one hour and forty minutes long with no intermission. The time will fly because you'll be spending it in the presence of one of the great ladies of the American Musical theatre, and in a show that frames her beautifully.

(5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "FINDING NEVERLAND" (World Premiere at The American Repertory theatre in Cambridge)

Who doesn't love the story of "Peter Pan?" As a gift to all of us, we have the World Premiere of this eagerly-awaited musical, heading for Broadway next Spring, under the powerful watchful eyes of creative team, producer and Miramax mogul Harvey Weinstein, and director Diane Paulus ("Hair," "Pippin," "Porgy and Bess," and "All The Way.") This one has Tony award written all over it. It's the story of how playwright J. M. Barrie created his beloved classic "Peter Pan," inspired by the family that lived next door to him in Kensington Gardens in London. Director Diane Paulus, a genius in making magic on stage, has assembled a brilliant creative team to bring this story to life. For starters, she brought in set designer Scott Pask, who did that brilliant set for "The Visit" in Williamstown this summer, and told him to make magic. He did. The sets and special effects are often breathtaking. Then, she asked the young choreographer Mia Michaels, who created shows for Madonna and Celine Dion, to make her dancers and actors move on stage like a fun-filled team. They're the hit of the show. The book was written by British playwright James Graham, and the composing team of Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, who come from the world of British pop music, wrote the music. Both the book and the music tell the story perfectly. The entire cast of actors, too numerous to mention, couldn't be better. As the playwright of the show says, "once upon a time, we were all children who didn't care about money or career...we cared only about silliness and play." If you can bring this attitude to the show, when you see it, you'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll be tapping your feet for two and a half hours. But most of all, you'll love it, as I did. Have fun!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL"

A good play, not a great one, serves as a vehicle for a truly great performance by Cicely Tyson. It's a tour de force for the 80+ year old actress...the best role in her career of memorable stage and screen roles. The year is 1953, and the place is a cramped two room apartment in Houston. The occupants are an old lady (Cicely Tyson,) her overworked and underpaid son (Blair Underwood,) and his self-centered, shallow, shrew of a wife (Vanessa Williams.) The tight quarters cause bitter quarrels and strained relationships. Not making it any easier, is the fact that the old lady keeps running away, trying to get back to her childhood home in Bountiful, where she raised her family. One of these trips to Bountiful, takes up most of this two and a half hour play, and most of that trip involves Cicely Tyson acting up a storm. She's a wonder to behold!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

 

theatre REVIEW: "O.P.C." (World Premiere at The American Repertory theatre in Cambridge)

This new play by award-winning playwright Eve Ensler ("The Vagina Monologues.") is an overfly wordy, pretentious, sloganeering, cliche-ridden piece of shit, about consumerism, politics, and political correctness! I was bored to death!!!

(0-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS-PARTS 1, 2, & 3 ((at the A.R.T. in Cambridge)

This is theatre at its best! It's certainly the most powerful play that I've seen this season, and one of the most powerful plays that I've ever seen. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Suzan-Lori Parks in words that could have been written by O'Neill or Steinbeck, its theme is "Slavery in America," but as the story unfolds, we see a greater picture exploring questions of "society, ourselves, and the true cost o f freedom,." The play is actually a trilogy of plays, conceived as part of a larger cycle, which will eventually comprise nine plays, tracing the course of American history from the Civil War to the present day. The current play focuses on the lives of a group of slaves and their "boss-master," on a plantation in the South, during the final days of the Civil War. As events proceed during its three-hour length, these slaves are forced to confront life-changing decisions concerning their relationships with one another, human values in general, and in fact, humanity itself. The author was influenced by the great Greek tragedies, (giving her characters names liker Homer, Ulysses, Penelope, and Hero) and her writing is operatic in style, with each of these characters speaking what amounts to arias, and yet, doing so in a natural way. The cast is brilliant. It seems that they've been living together all of their lives! If you know me, you know that I don't generally seek out stories that deal with "race in America," but this particular play had me mesmerized, from start to finish...and so that you don't think that it's a heavy thing to sit through, I laughed a lot, more than in any other play that I've seen this season. See it if you can. If you can't, read it!

(5-Stars) Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "THE LAST TWO PEOPLE ON EARTH: AN APOCALYPTIC VAUDEVILLE" (at the A.R.T. in Cambridge)

I have no idea what the hell we saw last night! Two very talented song-and-dance actors (Mandy Patinkin and Taylor Mac) sang a program of obscure Broadway show tunes on a vaudeville stage, and the whole evening was directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, Broadway's best. The acting, singing, and dancing were all excellent but...it was all set into a context that these two men were the last two people on earth, which had been destroyed by a great flood. What????? Their only means of communicating with one another was through song and dance, so they sang songs for 80 minutes, ranging from Rodgers and Hammerstein and Queen, through Sondheim and Jerry Herman! Whoever thought of this idea must have been on serious drugs! Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (Huntington Theatre Company)

In a word, magnificent! This near-perfect revival of one of my favorite Broadway shows, brings one of Stephen Sondheim's masterpieces to the stage of the Huntington, where it should run forever...if money and economics weren't a factor. An almost flawless ensemble cast of Broadway and Boston singing actors, an actress from London's West End, and three extremely talented students from the Boston Conservatory of Music, tell this tale of mismatched lovers, brought together at the chateau of an aging former courtesan, for a memorable "weekend in the country." The country being Sweden at the end of the 19th Century. Based on Ingmar Bergman's film, "Smiles of a Summer Night," Sondheim has written one of his most beautiful scores, all in variations of 3/4 time. Madame Armfeldt, who counts kings and dukes as her former lovers, tells her young granddaughter to watch for the summer moon to smile three times...once for the young who are foolish, once for the middle-aged, who are fools, and once for the old, who have seen everything and know too much. It does that weekend, and that's our story. Get a ticket if you can, and rush to see it. You'll love it. (5-Stars) September 11, 2015 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES" (at the Huntington Theatre Company)

The book A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, is a cult classic, a comic masterpiece read by millions around the world. This new play written by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, and based on the novel, receives its world premiere at the Huntington Theatre Company, and it's a complete disaster, almost from beginning to end. I say "almost," because the first scene is hilarious, but it deteriorates from there, culminating in a second act that makes no sense whatsoever. The author, whoever the hell he is, seems to think that all one has to do is create colorful characters, throw them on stage, and a play will write itself. Well, it doesn't, unless you happen to be William Shakespeare! Simply said, there is no play here. The main character, Ignatius J. Reilly (played excellently by TVs "Parks and Recreation's" Nick Offerman) is fat, indigent, living at home with his mother in New Orleans, and crazy as a loon. When his mother Irene (Anita Gillette) finally decides to commit him to an asylum, it's too late. He's too far gone, and has inflicted his brand of "creative thinking" on all of the other characters in the story. Ooops, I forgot, there is no story. He runs off with a wacko from New York to inflict his way of thinking on others in another state. I just made the mistake of trying to weave a story out of the unconnected dots on stage. That's what the author should have done. Last night, it appeared that the audience loved it!!! Caveat emptor. (1-Stars) November 13, 2015 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: "DISGRACED" by Ayad Akhtar (Huntington Theatre Company)

In this explosive, controversial, and highly disturbing Pulitzer Prize winning play, we're back in the territory of "Gods of Carnage" several years ago, where the supposedly sophisticated main characters mask their hatred and fear, with a thin veneer of intelligent conversation and behavior. In "Disgraced, " the hatred and fear is more relevant to us today, because the main character is a Muslim, who is trying to reject his identity. The settings are two dinner parties on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the present day. The characters are two couples who supposedly have their politically correct act together, but in reality, they are seething with racial, religious, and marital fears and hatreds. After the "civilized" veils are stripped away, what emerges are ideas that could have come out of the mouth of Donald Trump today, and friends turn on each other viciously and even physically. I won't say any more, because I want you to experience the snowball to avalanche effect of the play as I did. It's a brilliant piece of writing, and extremely well acted. Go and experience it. It'll make you want to discuss it, as we did, long after it's over.

(5-Stars) January 8, 2016 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: : "BEDROOM FARCE" by Alan Ayckbourn (Huntington Theatre Company)

Although I really enjoyed having dinner and the theater with dear friends last night, the play was very disappointing. British playwright Alan Ayckbourn has received lifetime achievement awards in both the U.K. and the U.S. for writing hilarious comedies, like "The Norman Conquests," and "Absurd Person Singular." "Bedroom Farce", one of his older plays, sounds like a fun premise for a farce...three bedrooms, four couples! It isn't. In fact, it's just barely funny. Halfway through the first act, my ass began to burn like fire, even though I don't have hemorrhoids, and the seats at the Huntington are very comfortable! That's never a good sign. My ass felt better as the play progressed, but the play never got funnier. It's a long play, and I began to look forward to getting home...mercifully, just around the block from the theater.

(2-Stars) November 12, 2016 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: : "SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE" (Huntington Theatre Company)

It's taken me two weeks to get around to writing this review of the beautiful production of Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece that I saw at the Huntington, because I was still recovering from my second surgery, and was just too weak to write it. I can't believe that I had the strength to go to see it two weeks ago, but I'm certainly delighted that I did. It's a magnificent production. Although I never thought that it was up there with Sondheim's best ("Into The Woods, "A Little Night Music," and "Company,") it's still classic Sondheim, and that's as good as it gets. In my book, the music was just not as melodic as the others. The cast for this production was good...not great...but then who could equal the originals, Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin? However, the sets and costumes were as good as the originals on Broadway 30 years ago, especially the second act. Creative and dazzling. As you must know, the story follows Georges Seurat's creation of the pointillist masterpiece "Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of The Grand Jatte." It describes his love affair with Dot, the model in the painting, and follows Dot to America as a grandmother. The story is incidental. The look and the music are everything...and the Huntington has given us its best. I've run out of steam. Back to bed!

(5-Stars) October 23, 2016 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: : "A DOLL'S HOUSE" (Huntington Theatre Company)

In its revival of the Henrik Ibsen classic about a Norwegian wife who cheats, in 19th Century Norway, the sets are surrealistic, the casting is color-blind, and the actors are weak. That's too much for this fragile, and very specific, tale to bear. If there was a fjord on stage, it would sink into it!

(1-Star) January 8, 2017 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW: : "TOP DOG/UNDERDOG" (Huntington Theater Company)

The Italians have a phrase for it..."squarcia di vida"... slice of life. That's what this Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Susan-Lori Parks is. The setting is a squalid $100-a-month one-room apartment, shared by two black brothers, Lincoln and Booth. During the course of the long two acts, they reveal that their parents ran out on them, they don't have real jobs, and that they make their living playing three-card-monte on the streets of the big city where they live. They have a love/hate relationship, that ultimately ends in a tragedy that reflects their names. The two actors in the play, Matthew J. Harris and Tyrone Mitchell Henderson are excellent and are the main reason to see this unusual comic/tragic play. It grows on you.

(4-Stars) March 11, 2017 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW:: "MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG" (Huntington Theatre Company)

The year was 1979. Previously, I had invested in three Broadway shows, all of which were tremendously successful. Now I was planning to back a new show. It couldn't lose. It was a new musical by Stephen Sondheim. I invested the money. It was a flop! The show closed in two weeks. Fast forward to 2017. "Merrily We Roll Along" has opened at the Huntington Theatre Company. Nothing was different except the audiences. It got rave reviews and the audiences gave it standing ovations every night. We had changed. The story was still a difficult concept; it unfolded backwards. At the opening of the musical, we meet the three main characters...a boozy alcoholic, and her two friends, a composer who's getting another divorce, and their lyricist friend, who is now estranged from them. Each succeeding scene takes place several years earlier than the preceding scene. At the end of the musical, the three characters are meeting for the first time. This new production was put together with great care. The young actors were perfect, and they responded beautifully to the expert direction of Londoner, Maria Friedman. When it opened in London, prior to coming to the Huntington, it won every award given out there, including the coveted Olivier. "Merrily We Roll Along" has a fine score, with two of my favorite Sondheim songs, "Old Friends," and "Not a Day Goes By." Rumor has it that the production is going to Broadway. If you're down there, don't miss it!

(5-Stars) September 30, 2017 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW:"TARTUFFE" (HUNTINGTON THEATRE in BOSTON)

I hated this Huntington Theatre production of the classic Moliere masterpiece! Everything about it is wrong. First of all, the misguided director has chosen to move the action from 17th Century France, to a present-day Trump Tower-like condo penthouse. Secondly, the translation from the French is terrible. The rhyming couplets are maintained, but are translated into a combination of the King's English and modern-day street jargon. It sounds unintelligible and more importantly, the actors can't speak it! Speaking of the actors, each and every one of them is awful. Their acting is at the level of a high-school play, and a bad one at that. Why go on? I don't think that I missed anything anyway. Don't waste your time.

(0-Stars) October 19, 2017 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW:"BAD DATES" (Huntington Theater Company)

Generally, I don't like one-person shows, but this one was a pleasant surprise. Theresa Rebeck wrote a very funny, clever, moving play, about a woman (with a shoe fetish,) who tells us all about her bad dates of the night before. While she's telling us all about these messed-up "adventures," she changes one dress after another. It takes a very talented person to pull all of this off, and unknown (to me) actress, Haneefah Wood, makes it all happen. She's attractive, a born comic, and a very physical one at that. The well-designed apartment on stage is hers for 90 minutes, with no intermission, and she rules it like a thorough professional. Although I didn't laugh out loud, I got a lot of smiles and chuckles out of it. That was worth the price of admission.

(4-Stars) February 10, 2018 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW:"SOMETHING ROTTEN" (at the Hanover Theater)

For three hours yesterday, we were able to escape the bad news in America these days, by going to the beautiful historic Hanover Theater in Worcester to see the touring company of the hilarious Broadway musical "Something Rotten." It's a big, colorful, old-fashioned, silly-funny show, in the same category as shows like "The Book of Mormon" and "The Producers." The music is hummable, the sets and costumes are big and colorful, and the actors are perfect for their roles. The lightweight story involves two playwright brothers in Elizabethan England, who are struggling to come up with a new idea for a play. Unfortunately, their rival is none other than a very pompous rock-star-like William Shakespeare! In the process of competing with Shakespeare, the brothers invent something new...the musical! The big production number "A Musical," in which they discover this new song and dance addition to "theater," is a terrific show-stopper. If "Something Rotten" comes to your town, see it. An extra bonus when enjoying the show, is to try to spot all of the references to famous musicals of the past. I think that we got up to 15. Have fun!

(5-Stars) February 24, 2018 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW:"TOP GIRLS" (Huntington Theatre Company)

Unless my memory is failing me, this is the worst play that I've ever seen at the Huntington. If I were psychotic or even just bi-polar, I could tell you what it was about, but since I'm neither, I can't!

(0-Stars) May 20, 2018 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW:"MOULIN ROUGE" (at the Colonial in Boston)

Wow! Broadway has been awaiting this big new show, where it's anticipated to explode onto the Great White Way, after its tryout here in Boston. The question is, does it live up to all its hype. The answer is a resounding YES! First things first. "Moulin Rouge" is less of a Broadway show in the traditional sense, than it is a super-spectacular Las Vegas revue. The story is slim, and when it does intrude onto the scene, it leans toward operatic melodrama. It tells the sad story of a love triangle playing out at the Moulin Rouge nightclub in the time of artist Toulouse Lautrec. Forget the story and just sit back and enjoy everything else. From the minute you enter the beautifully restored Colonial Theater, you enter the world of the Moulin Rouge, designed to look like the interior of the renowned nighclub. When the curtain goes up, the sets, costumes, and lighting are truly spectacular, like nothing on Broadway right now. Rather than an original score, the music consists of well-known songs drawn from The Stones, to Offenbach, from Madonna and Celine Dion to Bizet. It could have been terrible, but it works. The audience, younger and more comfortable at a rock concert than at a Broadway show, loved it. I did too!!! I can't remember experiencing a louder standing ovation than at the end. Get your tickets now. I predict it'll be a phenomenon when it hits Broadway.

(5-Stars) July 16, 2018 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW:"AN AMERICAN IN PARIS" (PBS telecast)

Last night, I watched a complete Broadway show on TV. What a great idea! PBS chose to record a live performance of "An American in Paris" complete with the live theater audience, just before it recently closed. The show, loosely based on the classic Gene Kelly/ Leslie Caron film, is now more of a complete ballet with a slight story attached. The ballet, choreographed by the ballet star/director Christopher Wheeldon, has a classic score by George Gershwin, brilliant visual projections creating Paris on stage, and the incredible dancing/singing/acting of Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope. Both are brilliant. What a wonderful, cheap way to see a Broadway show from the comfort of your own home. Get moving PBS. Start recording every Broadway show just before it closes. They already have the Bette Midler "Hello Dolly" recorded. Hopefully, they can do other shows as well. What an exciting future that holds for theater enthusiasts like me.

(5-Stars) November 3, 2018 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW:"A DOLL'S HOUSE: PART 2" (Huntington Theatre Company)

No, Henrik Ibsen never wrote a sequel to his famous play "A Doll's House," nor did anyone else...until recently. This play is advertised as a new comedy...a satirical poke-in-the-ribs to the Norwegian classic play. What we saw yesterday was anything but a simple comedy. In fact, it's a complex, real sequel to the original play. It's a brilliantly written play which picks up where the original ended...with Nora walking out of her home, out of her marriage and slamming the door behind her. The place is 19th Century Norway, and the time is fifteen years after the original play. The main characters are still Nora, and her husband Torwald. Nora has walked out of an unhappy marriage, leaving behind her husband and children. She's gone on to become a famous writer, writing under a pseudonym. But something terrible has happened to her, and so she returns to her home and family, to try to solve her problem. What ensues is this 90-minute intermission-less play. As I said before, it's so well-written...there isn't a wasted word in the play, which is also very well acted. Intertwined throughout the play, author Lucas Hnath has written long monologues, which the gifted actors deliver beautifully. The best thing I can say about this excellent new play, is that it could have been written by Ibsen himself!

(5-Stars) February 3, 2019 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW:"ROMEO AND JULIET" (Huntington Theatre Company)

Don't fuck with Shakespeare! If you know me, you know that I hate it when great classic plays or operas are "modernized" by dip-shit directors who think that they know more than the people who wrote them. Unless you can shed new light on some aspect of the play or opera, don't mess with a masterpiece!This production is a mess. When the lights go up, actors in modern dress are fooling around, they start to speak, the language is Shakesperare's iambic pentameter, and the whole production falls flat on its face and it never recovers. Actors in t-shirts in jeans are not believable speaking Shakespeare's poetry. What makes things worse is that the two leads are terrible, especially the "actress" who plays Juliet. They're like two high-school kids reading the Cliff-notes and not understanding what they're reading. That's not all that's wrong with this Huntington misfire. The set is hideous. It looks like the lobby of an ugly office building. The modern music is offensive, and the costumes even worse. Why go on. We should have left at the intermission!

(1-Star) March 10, 2019 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW:"SPAMILTON" (Huntington Theater Company)

So disappointing! I've been seeing writer/director Gerard Alessandrini's "Forbidden Broadway" reviews ever since they first started decades ago, so I was expecting this one to be clever and hilarious, as were all the others. Well, it was clever, but I barely even cracked a smile during its short 75 minutes! It just wasn't hilarious as it should have been. It's mainly a spoof of the mega-hit "Hamilton," and a parody of other Broadway shows and stars. Unfortunately much of it was hard to understand rap, and the other half was dated. There were so many pre-teens in the audience, and I'm wondering how many of them have even heard of Bernadette Peters, Liza Minnelli, and Barbra Streisand. Mr. Alessandrini, it's time to update your material. In spite of a very talented cast of six players and a pianist, what you have here is mostly boring.

(2-Stars) April 1, 2019 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW:"INDECENT" (AT THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE)

When this play by Paula Vogel appeared in New York, it was a musical in the klezmer style, with twenty sung songs. Here in Boston, director Rebecca Taichman has chosen to remove most of the music, leaving the stark story of the play brutally exposed. The story, told as a play within a play, tells the highly controversial story of a troupe of traveling Jewish actors who are performing a highly controversial story by Sholem Asch, about a lesbian relationship. They perform all over Europe in the time just before the rise of Nazi Germany. "Indecent" is moving, thrilling, sad, mesmerizing, and even though the play is hard to watch at times, I defy you to take your eyes off the stage. I must admit that I did miss the music, which I heard on You Tube, but I was glued to my seat for the entire intermissionless one hour and forty five minutes of this spellbinding play with music. It's definitely worth seeing.

(5-Stars) May 5, 2019 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW:CIRQUE DU SOLEIL'S "CORTEO"

I'm a big fan of the Cirque du Soleil shows, and I've seen about a dozen of them. This latest one, "Corteo," is a remake of one of their earlier ones, and is a traveling arena show, so it's more intimate than the big shows in Vegas ("KA," "O", and "La Reve,) and Disney World, all of which I've seen and loved. But just because this one is not as gigantic as the others, it's no less wonderful to see. "Corteo" is inspired by Fellini's film "Clowns" and begins with the funeral of a clown, and then vaguely tells his story through flashbacks. It's filled with Cirque du Soleil's usual beautiful European music, accompanying the show-stopping acrobats, jugglers, trapeze artists and clowns. The dramatic lighting and visual effects add to the excitement of the show. All of this takes place in Agannis Arena which has been transformed to look like a gigantic, spectacular European opera house. It looks more like a setting for "Phantom of the Opera," than a Cirque performance. In any case, it's a spectacular, exciting, family show. You'll love it. See it if you can.

(5-Stars) June 23, 2019 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW:ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD (Huntington Theatre Company)

Fifty years ago, playwright Tom Stoppard wrote a flood of words, words, words, which the actors in this production spoke, spoke, spoke brilliantly. But what is the play about? Nothing happens. Stoppard will say that nothing has to happen in a play. I disagree. As an intelligent theatergoer who paid full price for his ticket, and who sat through three boring hours, in which the highlight was the two ten-minute intermissions, I strongly disagree. I'll end this brief review with two quotes from the play:
..."I won't pretend it...it's just not interesting"
..."a story has to have a beginning, a middle,and an end."
I strongly agree with both.

(1-Star) September 28, 2019 Back to Top

theatre REVIEW:QUIXOTE NUEVO (Huntington Theatre Company)

This imaginative, highly creative fantasy, tells the story of a modern-day Don Quixote...actually a retired English professor with dementia...in the Texas of today. As with the original Quixote, he sets off on a quest to find his life-long love, Dulcinea...who may or may not exist! His actual relatives and friends, set out to find him and bring him to an assisted living facility. These same friends and relatives also double as the characters in his fantasy, as do the actors who play them. All are excellent. There's a great deal of mariachi-like music in the play, sung and danced primarily by the demons in Quixote's fantasies. Helping to make this the unique production that is the total package, are the fanciful scenic designs, and especially the beautiful lighting effects that make this play the wonderful theater experience that it is. I highly recommend it.

(5-Stars) November 23, 2019 Back to Top