Legendary director and author Arthur Laurents died yesterday at the age of 93. The creative mind behind some of the greatest musicals of the 20th century, he continued to work voraciously when others had long decamped to Boca, even nominated for a Tony Award recently for his direction of the Gypsy revival starring Patti LuPone. If you spent any time around the theater, you discovered that everyone had a story to tell about Arthur Laurents–stories that ranged from creatively inspiring memories of a master to outrageously harrowing tales of “the meanest man in show business”. That’s not talking out of school; judging by his wonderful memoir, Original Story By, Laurents probably enjoyed his blunt reputation after years of fighting to be heard. And what amazing things he had to say. Along with Gypsy, he wrote the book for the sublime West Side Story and, for those movie romantics out there, the screenplay for the blockbuster Streisand/Redford classic, The Way We Were. Broadway and Hollywood have lost one of the true greats.
The May reviewapalooza continues today with a look at three shows that are pulling out the big guns and taking Broadway by storm.
Larry Kramer’s flame-throwing, autobiographical play about the early days of the AIDS crisis in New York City gets a starry revival directed by Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe.
“More than a quarter of a century after it first scorched New York, “The Normal Heart” is breathing fire again.” New York Times
“It’s a snapshot of a city and era that feel long gone, and this production, co-directed by Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe, gives it a worthy frame.” New York Post
“…this is a spectacularly well-cast production in which every role has found its ideal interpreter.” Hollywood Reporter
“How does it hold up? Better than I expected, but not as well as I’d hoped.” Wall Street Journal
Mizer’s Two Cents: This is passionate, essential theater brought to life by top-tier actors working as a perfect ensemble. Larry Kramer can be a real pill and Joe Mantello’s central performance as Kramer’s stand-in Ned Weeks doesn’t shy away from the loud and off-putting aspects of the character, but he also manages to let us see the insecure, romantic beneath. John Benjamin Hickey is the key, allowing us to fall in love with Larry through his smart, unsentimental eyes. Yes, the play is political, lopsided and “sad;” but it is also timely, scathingly funny and stuffed with spoken arias that ring show-stopping applause from the audience. Plus, you walk out of the theater feeling like you want to kick some butt. It is unmissable for all serious, adult theatergoers.