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Three to See: October – Revival Edition

October 4th, 2016 Comments off

It’s show time! After a gloomy late summer when Broadway shows were shuttering like a hurricane was about to blow into town, things are picking up with a slew of new openings. This month, what’s old is new again with three revivals that hope to capitalize on big stars, Tony Award-winning composers, and creative visions for classic material. We’ll see what sticks!

The Front PageThe Front Page
Written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, The Front Page first opened at the Times Square Theatre in 1928. Nearly 90 years later, this revival marks the sixth production to hit the boards.

The play takes place in the press room of Chicago’s Criminal Courts Building, which is buzzing with reporters covering the story of an escaped prisoner. When star reporter Hildy Johnson (John Slattery) accidentally discovers the runaway convict, he and his editor Walter Burns (Nathan Lane) conspire to hide the man from the other reporters, while they chase the biggest scoop of their careers.

Often cited as the greatest play ever written about the newspaper business, The Front Page has also been a hit on screen. A 1931 film version starred Adolphe Menjou as Walter Burns and Pat O’Brien as Hildy Johnson. The 1940 film adaptation, His Girl Friday, starring Cary Grant as Walter Burns and Rosalind Russell as a now-female Hildy Johnson, is considered one of the classics of the screwball comedy genre, and in 1993 was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry.

The Front Page
Broadhurst Theatre
235 West 44th Street
Opening night: October 20

 

The cast of Lincoln Center Theatre's 'Falsettos.'

The cast of Lincoln Center Theatre’s ‘Falsettos.’

Falsettos
What other show could open with “four Jews in a room bitching” other than William Finn and James Lapine’s 1992 look at love and life through the lens of the AIDS crisis?

The groundbreaking, Tony Award-winning musical Falsettos comes back to Broadway this fall in an all-new production from Lincoln Center Theater. Lapine returns to direct an extraordinary cast featuring Stephanie J. Block (The Mystery of Edwin Drood), Christian Borle (Something Rotten!, Tony Award), Andrew Rannells (The Book of Mormon), Anthony Rosenthal, Tracie Thoms, Brandon Uranowitz (An American in Paris) and Betsy Wolfe (The Last Five Years).

Falsettos revolves around the life of a charming, intelligent, neurotic gay man named Marvin, his wife, lover, about-to-be-Bar-Mitzvahed son, their psychiatrist, and the lesbians next door. It’s a hilarious and achingly poignant look at the infinite possibilities that make up a modern family… and a beautiful reminder that love can tell a million stories.

Falsettos
Walter Kerr Theater
219 West 48th Street
Opening night: October 27

Les Liasons Dangereuses

Les Liasons Dangereuses

Les Liasons Dangereuses
Talk about a power play. Live Schreiber, Tony Award winner for Best Actor in Glengarry Glen Ross and star of Showtime’s “Ray Donovan”; and Janet McTeer, Tony winner for Best Actress in A Doll’s House, return to Broadway in one of the sexiest plays ever written.

Les Liasons Dangereuses begins with two ex-lovers who scheme to ruin the reputation of an innocent young aristocrat. As their game of seduction and manipulation becomes more intricate, they quickly discover that the stakes are higher than they bargained for… and their last encounter may be their most dangerous by far.

Direct from London, McTeer reprises her role in the Donmar Warehouse’s critically acclaimed, sold-out production. Written by Academy Award winner Christopher Hampton, re-imagined by Olivier Award nominee and Donmar Artistic Director Josie Rourke, and brought to Broadway by the Tony-winning producer of Red, this staging promises to breathe a bold new life into one of the theater’s most provocative and intriguing plays. 

Les Liasons Dangereuses
Booth Theatre
222 West 45th Street
Opening night: October 30

Theater Buff: Ahmad Simmons Debuts in CATS

July 21st, 2016 Comments off

Purr. Every month, a fabulous actor/singer/dancer fills out editor Matthew Wexler’s nosey little questionnaire and offers a glimpse of what he looks like from a bit closer than the mezzanine. And with all that fur and makeup, we’re happy to strip down Ahmad Simmons as he prepares for his Broadway debut in the much-anticipated revival of CATS.

Ahmad Simmons (Photo: Cheryl Mann via The Broadway Blog.)

Ahmad Simmons (Photo: Cheryl Mann via The Broadway Blog.)

Name:
Ahmad Simmons

Home State:
Texas

CATS is a Broadway legacy — when and where did you first see the show and what was your reaction?
My obsession with CATS started back when we performed a part of the opening dance recital with Dian West back home in Texas. I think I was a freshman or sophomore in high school and had just started at the studio. I got the VHS and watched it to see how to paint a unitard to look like a cat but then watched it every night for about a year. I remember playing the jellicle ball over and over again… I couldn’t get enough of it.

Ahmad Simmons (Ryan Lowry via The Broadway Blog.)

Ahmad Simmons (Ryan Lowry via The Broadway Blog.)

Tell us about your audition for the show and your role of “Alonzo.”
When I first saw the audition notice I freaked out. I actually was on a little layoff between tours with Parsons Dance so the timing was perfect. I went to the open call and was immediately terrified. It was actually my first big Broadway audition. The waiting room is my doom… There were over a hundred men. They all seemed to know everything about everything.

My main focus was just to be seen by Andy Blankenbuehler. He is my favorite choreographer. I kept thinking, “no matter what happens, you were in the same room with Andy.” When I got the email saying I was called back I flipped. Then four more rounds later, my life changed! I love playing Alonzo. He’s got a distinct look and gets to really dance a range of emotions. This particular version allows him to be more gritty and aggressive. 

This is your Broadway debut… what has surprised you about the rehearsal process?
I was pretty prepared for what the schedule would be from doing some summer stock during college. The most surprising thing to me was the amount of people involved to make a Broadway showhappen. Every department has at least five people in it. That was new for me; especially coming from a concert dance background where it’s normally just the dancers, a choreographer, a composer, and a lighting designer.   

Ahmad Simmons (Photo: Jason Ratigan via The Broadway Blog.)

Ahmad Simmons (Photo: Jason Ratigan via The Broadway Blog.)

There were some harsh words reported in the media about original choreographer Gillian Lynne’s reaction to Andy Blankenbuehler’s additional choreography, telling The Stage, “It makes me feel like I’d like to murder.” How do you think his vocabulary of movement is going to improve upon a classic?
Andy is a master of creating brilliant movement that furthers narrative, bleeds intention, and narrows focus. Those are the main things that make a show like CATS even better that it was before. He has such respect for the original body of work and is treating it with the utmost reverence. Our generation is able to access this story at a pace that suits the audience of today. The expectations are higher so our job is even harder. Loyalists will be able to recognize the CATS they fell in love with while feeling its weight and relevance in today’s society.

Which is your favorite: Places, Intermission or Curtain Call? 
Definitely places. Hearing the audience respond the overture gets me so hyped!

The best post-show cocktail in New York City is at:
My new favorite place for a drink is Tanner Smith’s. The drinks are worth the price and the atmosphere is fun. OH, and the nachos are bangin!

Ahmad Simmons (Photo: Jason Ratigan via The Broadway Blog.)

Ahmad Simmons (Photo: Jason Ratigan via The Broadway Blog.)

After you’ve hit all the traditional sites of New York City, you should totally go to:
Chelsea Market. Because who doesn’t love a ton of options for food and a sample sale.

If I could live anywhere else in the world it would be:
Probably Italy. I’ve never been but the people are beautiful, the language is beautiful, and I love carbs. 

My workout “secret” is:
This makes me feel guilty because I haven’t quite found my way to the gym since moving here in August. But… I swear by good vitamins and good natural ingredients.

Ahmad Simmons (Photo: Jason Ratigan via The Broadway Blog.)

Ahmad Simmons (Photo: Jason Ratigan via The Broadway Blog.)

When I’m looking for a date, nothing attracts me more than:
Creativity! I don’t need anything extravagant but it’s nice to be surprised with an experience that’s more than just dinner and a movie.

My favorite website to visit that you may not have heard of is:
Right now I’d say Wayfair because I just moved and all I ever want to do is shop for furniture online. 

People would be surprised to learn that I . . .
Won the gold medal at the World Choir Olympics in Bremen, Germany in 2004 with a professional boys choir I spent 10 years singing in. Texas Boys Choir, represent!

When I was 10, I wanted to be just like:
My great-aunt Yolanda Smith. She was the director of all of the choirs at my church. I used to lock myself in the bathroom, put a shirt on my head (for hair) and wave my arms at the mirror as if I was her directing my own gospel choir. How did it take me seven more years to come out?

Ten years from now I’d like to be:
Giving a new generation of dancers opportunity to realize their dreams in the arts.

CATS
Neil Simon Theatre
250 West 52nd Street
Opening night: July 31

Matthew Wexler is the Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook at @roodeloo

SYTYCD’s Ricky Ubeda Joins “On the Town”

February 21st, 2015 Comments off
Ricky Ubeda (photo provided by Matt Ross PR.)

Ricky Ubeda (photo provided by Matt Ross PR.)

The new Broadway revival of On The Town will welcome So You Think You Can Dance winner and “America’s Favorite Dancer” Ricky Ubeda to the cast beginning February 27, 2015 for a limited engagement through April 26, 2015. Ubeda received the opportunity to join the cast as part of his prize for winning SYTYCD in September 2014. Directed by John Rando (Tony Award® for Urinetown) and choreographed by Joshua Bergasse (Emmy Award winner for “Smash”) On The Town began previews on Saturday, September 20, 2014 and officially opened on Thursday, October 16, 2014 at Broadway’s Lyric Theatre (213 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036). Tickets for the new Broadway revival of On The Town are available at Ticketmaster.com.

Ricky Ubeda is originally from Miami, Florida where he began dancing at a young age. The majority of his dance training was done at Stars Dance Studio under the direction of Victor Smalley and Angel Armas. While attending Coral Reef Senior High School in 2014, Ricky auditioned for Season 11 of So You Think You Can Dance and was eventually crowned the winner as “America’s Favorite Dancer.” Immediately following SYTYCD, Ricky participated in a 77-city nation wide tour. His accomplishments have been featured in Dance Spirit Magazine and he has been a live guest on LIVE! with Kelly and Michael and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, to name a few. Ricky is also an emerging choreographer who brings his passionate and inspiring classes to young dancers across the nation.

On The Town is on more Top 10 lists than any other musical this year.  It’s an “explosion of pure joy” (David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter) with “the best dancing on Broadway” (Ben Brantley of The New York Times on NPR). Featuring eye popping sets and gorgeous costumes, On The Town has “a rapturous and red blooded score” (Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News) by Leonard Bernstein, one of America’s greatest composers, brilliantly played by a 28 piece orchestra – the biggest on Broadway.  This hit musical comedy is “everything a great show should be!” (Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal).  Join three sailors with only 24-hour shore leave in New York as three beautiful New York women sweep them off their feet for one amazing night On The Town!

'On The Town' (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

‘On The Town’ (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Review: Side Show Returns to Broadway

November 18th, 2014 Comments off

Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler reviews the Broadway revival of Side Show. Want more Broadway Blog? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

The cast of "Side Show." (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of “Side Show.” (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

I’m seeing double.

It’s been 17 years since I heard then-unknown belters Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley, along with the Side Show’s original company, sing “Who Will Love Me As I Am?” at Broadway on Broadway, a free outdoor concert presented by the Times Square Alliance. It was electrifying.

The real-life story of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton opened last night in a newly conceived production directed by Hollywood heavyweight Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Kinsey, God and Monsters). The show features music by Henry Krieger (Dreamgirls, The Tap Dance Kid) and book and lyrics by Bill Russell (Pageant). Much of the original production has been tinkered with, but the gist of the story remains the same as it follows the girls as they escape from the side show circuit to become one of vaudeville’s most coveted acts.

Emily Padgett and Erin Davie in a scene from "Side Show". (Photo Credit: Joan Marcus via the Broadway Blog.)

Emily Padgett and Erin Davie in “Side Show”. (Photo Credit: Joan Marcus via the Broadway Blog.)

As leading ladies, Emily Padgett (Daisy) and Erin Davie (Violet) are tasked with a seemingly insurmountable task of conveying the pair attached at the hip, delivering a nuanced and delicate performance that often transcends the material. Daisy wants the bright lights and stardom that Hollywood has to offer, while Violet wishes to fall in love and lead a normal life. Unfortunately, neither is going anywhere without the other. Padgett is punchy and manages to find humor in the role, while Davie is saddled with more gravitas and occasionally wallows in sniffles and tears.

The twins are lured with promises of stardom and a better life. Ryan Silverman as their manager Terry, and Matthew Hydzik as Bobby, the twin’s song and dance man with a wandering eye, offer a charming onstage presence and it’s easy to imagine how the girls might fall in love with them. Along for the ride is David St. Louis as Jake, a side show sidekick who is hired to oversee the twins’ well-being.

In its original production, Side Show lasted merely 91 performances, saddled by a clunky book and a few sequences that have become cult favorites (who remembers “The Tunnel of Love”?) Much of this has been cleaned up with the help of Condon, who is credited with additional book material, as well as new music and lyrics. Even so, the musical’s structure lacks cohesion, primarily due to a score that isn’t firmly grounded in time or place.

window cardSide Show has two epic ballads: “Who Will Love Me As I Am?” and “I Will Never Leave You,” which close each act. In between there’s a rebel rousing “The Devil You Know,” which sounds like it could be lifted from the Dreamgirls cutting room floor, vaudeville-inspired song and dance sequences, and an exhaustingly overwrought 10 o’clock number (to be followed by the aforementioned 11 o’clock one) delivered by Jake as he confesses his longstanding love for Violet.

Woven throughout, the hard-working ensemble of “freaks” (their word, not mine) comprise Daisy and Violet’s carnie sidekicks as creatively conceived by Paul Tazewell (costumes), Dave and Lou Elsey (special make-up effects), Charles LaPointe (wig and hair design), and Cookie Jordan (make-up design)—they all deserve mention because it is a cumulative and invigorating display of craftsmanship, unlike David Rockwell’s set, which falls flat on creativity.

Under Condon’s direction, this incarnation of Side Show has moments of emotional resonance, but his lack of stage experience is evident in clunky stage patterns and change-of-scene sequences, which could use a defter hand. The real Hilton sisters achieved stardom that many of the era could only dream of, eventually touring with Bob Hope and meeting the likes of Harry Houdini, who according to the program notes, taught them how to self-hypnotize to “get rid” of one another. I’m not sure this tribute to their lives will have quite the same impact, but for an entertaining evening at the theater that is a far cry from the usual display of long-legged chorus girls, Side Show should be front and center.

Side Show
St. James Theatre
246 West 44th Street
Open-ended run

Interested in the real Hilton sisters? Take a look at this fascinating documentary…

Last Chance: See Pippin Through January 4

November 17th, 2014 Comments off
Matthew Kaufman as Pippin (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Matthew Kaufman as Pippin (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

 

In a last hurrah, the creative team behind the Tony Award-winning revival of Pippin have pulled out some interesting star power. Taking over the title role is Josh Kaufman, season six winner of NBC’s The Voice.

This is Kaufman’s Broadway debut, and though he may not be as boyishly intriguing as the role’s originator Matthew James Thomas, he brings a crystal clear voice to the role, as exemplified in this acoustic version of “Corner of the Sky.”

 

 

Priscilla Lopez as Berthe (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Priscilla Lopez as Berthe (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

And for another ’70s throwback. Priscilla Lopez joins the cast. She was in the original production, taking over for the role of Fastrada in 1974, and most noted for originating the role of Morales in A Chorus Line. She returns to Pippin as Berthe, Pippin’s acrobatic grandmother.

Review: It’s Only a Play

October 18th, 2014 Comments off
The cast of 'It's Only a Play' (photo: F. Scott Schafer via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘It’s Only a Play’ (photo: F. Scott Schafer via The Broadway Blog.)

Broadway is going meta and I wonder if producers are interested in plot lines that don’t involve a life in the theater. Earlier this month we saw the opening of The Country House by Donald Margulies, a new play about a family of actors ensconced in the Berkshires. This week Michael C. Hall stepped into the role of Hedwig, a star-turn performance about a gender-bending performance artist. And of course, we’ve still got Alan Cumming and Michelle Williams traipsing along in the revival of the revival of Cabaret. But none of them tackle the theme of a life on the boards with such biting humor as Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play. Dating back to 1978 and originally titled Broadway Broadway, the script has gotten a 21 century makeover with no additional writing credits, but I would guess that the playwright had some keen millennial eyes on the prize, as this latest version is peppered with references to Lady Gaga, One Direction and other chart-toppers.

Megan Mullally and Nathan Lane in 'It's Only a Play' (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog).

Megan Mullally and Nathan Lane in ‘It’s Only a Play’ (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog).

The play centers on the opening night of Peter Austin’s (Matthew Broderick) new play as he and others gather at the home of lead producer Julia Budder (Megan Mullally) to await the reviews. Along for the ride are his longtime friend, James Wiker (Nathan Lane), who has returned from L.A. and a long TV stint to see his best friend’s work; leading lady Virginia Noyes (Stockard Channing); critic Ira Drew (F. Murray Abraham), who has another agenda on his mind; British Wunderkind director Frank Finger (Rupert Grint) and a fresh-of-the-bus coat attendee, Micah Stock.

Together, the cast rattles through McNally’s script, which is packed with one-liners and smart commentary about the business. The audience seemed revved up for a Lane-Broderick reunion, as the team appeared so famously together in The Producers. Mr. Broderick also appeared opposite Ms. Mullally in the 1995 revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. There’s a lot of history on that stage and when Mr. Lane entered for the first time, the audience burst into applause as if he was theater royalty. By the final curtain call (yes, there’s an actual curtain, along with a lux set by Scott Pask), he’s earned every last clap.

The supporting cast for the most part keeps up. Mr. Stock makes a charming Broadway debut as a naïve actor who has stepped into the world he’s dreamt about. Ms. Channing captures both the humor and gravitas of an actress of a certain age who can no longer rely on “pretty.” But Mr. Grint’s stomping and hair-pulling turn as the director desperate for a bad review is somewhat of a self-prophecy. It is an unwieldy performance untamed by director Jack O’Brien’s otherwise deft hand.

If you’re looking for a light-hearted night at the theater—about the theater—then head to the Gerald Schoenfeld where this cast of Broadway vets and their up-and-coming counterparts offer laughs, perhaps a swelling tear or two, and a gentle reminder that a play (even though it’s only a play) is a beautiful thing.

It’s Only a Play
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street
Through January 4

Rupert Grint, Megan Mullally, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, and Stockard Channing in a scene from 'It's Only a Play' (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog).

Rupert Grint, Megan Mullally, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, and Stockard Channing in a scene from ‘It’s Only a Play’ (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog).

Broadway Revival of “Side Show” Reveals Poster Art

August 25th, 2014 Comments off

SS-0000-C-WindowCard copyThe producers of the upcoming Broadway reimagining of Side Show have revealed the production’s alluring poster artwork, that features a portrait of leading ladies Erin Davie and Emily Padgett, and captures the show’s blend of vintage show business with the uniquely cinematic aesthetic that comes from the vision of Academy Award winner Bill Condon (Chicago, Dreamgirls, Twilight Breaking Dawn Parts 1 & 2). As previously announced, Mr. Condon is making his theatrical debut as director of Side Show, which opens on Broadway, this fall.

Stacey Lieberman-Prince, Executive Creative Director of Spotco, the advertising agency that created the artwork, stated, “The campaign was designed to capture the vividness that Bill Condon is bringing to the production and to evoke the intrigue that catapulted the Hilton twins to being one of the biggest entertainment celebrities of their time.  We didn’t want to give their whole story away in the initial image, instead we’re hinting at the fact that they’re conjoined.”  She went on to add, “The pose is very specific. Holding each other’s hands represents the emotional bond that they shared throughout their lives, and their faces looking off in opposite directions suggests that they were individuals who managed to live surprisingly unique lives. We worked with the celebrated fashion photographer Andrew Eccles to create the image that’s both glamorous and mysterious at the same time.”

Side Show is inspired by the remarkable true story of the Hilton twins, Daisy and Violet, who were legends in their time and the highest paid performers on the vaudeville circuit. Side Show is their heartwarming search for first love and acceptance amidst the spectacle of fame and scrutiny under the spotlight.  Mr. Condon’s vivid production of Side Show seamlessly blends the worlds of carnival, vaudeville, and Hollywood glamour.

The original musical, beloved by legions of fans, premiered on Broadway in 1997, and was hailed as “Something to marvel at” (Ben Brantley, New York Times). It went on to earn four Tony Award nominations including Best Musical, Best Original Score of a Musical and Best Book of a Musical.

Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased by visiting SideShowBroadway.com. Side Show will begin Previews on Broadway Tuesday, October 28 with an official Opening Night on Monday, November 17.

 

Double Take! Side Show Returns to Broadway

August 7th, 2014 Comments off
Side Show begins performances at the St. James Theatre Oct. 28. (photo: Cade Martin)

Side Show begins performances at the St. James Theatre Oct. 28. (photo: Cade Martin)

Are you seeing double? Nope – that’s just the return of the cult favorite musical, Side Show, which opens this fall on Broadway at the St. James Theatre. Directed by Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Bill Condon (Chicago, Dreamgirls, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Parts 1 and 2, Gods and Monsters) making his Broadway directorial debut, this exciting new staging of Side Show has “the flash and velocity of a Hollywood motion picture”and “puts gripping emotion in the main tent” (Los Angeles Times).

Side Show will begin Previews on Tuesday, October 28 with an official Opening Night on Monday, November 17.  On sale beginning August 13 at www.SideShowBroadway.com.

Featuring a score of “supercharged songs” (Charles Isherwood, New York Times), Side Show includes new music by multiple Grammy Award winner, Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Tony Award nominee Henry Krieger (Dreamgirls), with book and lyrics by Tony Award nominee Bill Russell, additional book material by Bill Condon.

It was also announced that, on the heels of their star turn at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Erin Davie and Emily Padgett will reprise their leading roles.

Bill Condon’s new production reimagines the world of Side Show, set against the backdrop of 1920’s and ‘30’s show business that seamlessly blends the worlds of carnival, vaudeville, and Hollywood glamour. Side Show is inspired by the remarkable true story of the Hilton twins, Daisy and Violet, who were legends in their time and the highest paid performers on the vaudeville circuit. Side Show is their heartwarming search for first love and acceptance amidst the spectacle of fame and scrutiny under the spotlight.

The original production, beloved by legions of fans, premiered on Broadway in 1997, and was hailed as “Something to marvel at” (Ben Brantley, New York Times). It went on to earn four Tony Award nominations including Best Musical, Best Original Score of a Musical and Best Book of a Musical.

Take a look at a montage from the Kennedy Center Production, followed by original stars Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley…

Review: Harris Rocks “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”

April 30th, 2014 Comments off

Contributor Lindsay B. Davis revisits Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway in its powerful revival starring Neil Patrick Harris.

Neil Patrick Harris and the cast of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Neil Patrick Harris and the cast of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch, John Cameron Mitchell and Steven Trask’s glam and punk influenced rock musical that originated in 1994 at a drag club called the Squeeze Box, has reinvented itself on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre. The stunning new production is the recipient of eight Tony nominations, including “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical” for its star, the formidable Neil Patrick Harris. Hedwig is back, and better than ever.

I saw Hedwig off Broadway at the (now closed) Jane Street Theater where it ran from January 1998-April 2000 and earned Obie and Outer Critics Circle awards for Best Musical. John Cameron Mitchell originated the titular role and the show’s concert-like intensity, beauty and grit (with its voraciously ambitious but unlucky in love and life transsexual heroine Hedwig at the epicenter) was a far cry from anything I had seen uptown.

Neil Patrick Harris (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Neil Patrick Harris (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

The communist East Berlin-born Hansel’s transformation into Hedwig, an aspiring performing artist diva backed up by a band—the Angry Inch (its name derived from a botched sex change operation that gave Hedwig an inch-long nub)—is what you might’ve called “unconventional” for the late 90s musical theater scene. But what made it transformational was not just that it took a few dares. With an impressive score and realization of character done with such incredible sensitivity and intelligence, it left you with no choice but to fall in love.

Cut to 2014 and Broadway’s Belasco Theatre and I had a few reservations: Would the power of the story’s intimacy that punched the guts of myself and audiences in a 300-person theater transfer well to a theater that seats over 1,000 people? Would Hedwig be whitewashed or Disney-fied or in some way watered down to appeal to Broadway audiences? And most importantly, could Neil Patrick Harris pull off Hedwig? All three questions were answered within minutes of the show’s flashy opening number “Tear Me Down” that kicks off as Hedwig is lowered from the rafters in a white gold glitter jacket and pants ensemble (courtesy of costume designer Arianne Phillips of Madonna fame) like a fusion of Elvis and Gaga.

The girl has been waiting 15 years for this moment.

Based on an uproarious crowd that erupts before Hedwig’s gold platform heels touch the ground, so have Broadway audiences. In the world of Hedwig, a few jigs to the storyline had to happen. Number one, the imagined musical Hurt Locker opened and closed in a day, leaving an empty theater waiting to be filled and two, Bob Wankel of the Shubert Organization was willing to be bribed with fellatio. As embodied by the now sinewy Harris and with lady luck on her side, Hedwig seizes the moment and fills the stage from the get go with presence, pelvic thrusts and other impressive gyrating antics. Her desire is fresh and as she struts amongst the scrap heap of the leftover Hurt Locker set (including a beat up old car and blown out brick walls as conceived by scenic designer, Julian Crouch) you get the feeling Hedwig herself has risen from battle and boy is this bitch back.

  Read more…

Tres Misérables: Pick Your Revolution

March 18th, 2014 Comments off

Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler discovers not one, but three productions of Les Misérables about to storm the theatrical barricade.

 

lesmisLes Miz Returns to Broadway
The epic tale of Jean Valjean, a stolen loaf of bread, and a chorus of Broadway belters returns to the Imperial Theatre for another Les Misérables revival 28 years after it burst onto the London stage. Since its first production, more than 65 million people have seen the show, not counting those mesmerized by the in-your-face Academy Award-winning film.

Cameron Mackintosh’s newly staged production scraps the famous turntable and opts, instead, for a reimagined design and a cast of newbies as well as Les Miz vets from previous productions. “There is no doubt that Les Misérables will be storming the barricades for many years to come,” says Mackintosh. “I know that when I go “beyond the barricade”, the part I played in bringing Les Misérables to life as a musical will remain one of my proudest achievements.

Les Misérables opens on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on Sunday, March 23.

But if you think Broadway is the only place to get your Les Miz fix, you’ve got another barricade to storm. There are two notable U.S. productions happening simultaneous to the Broadway revival. Take the keep to find out what other theater companies are tackling the French Revolution.

Read more…