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The Broadway Blog’s Best and Worst of 2014

December 30th, 2014 Comments off

The Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler rounds up what we loved and loathed in 2014.

We witnessed standing ovations as well as patrons storming out of the theater (sometimes at the same show)! It was a polarizing year on Broadway and beyond—packed with enough theatrics and star turns to keep the Great White Way blazing through the season. We’ve highlighted our favorite moments: the good, the bad, and the ugly. One thing is for certain, though. There’s nothing like that moment when the house lights dim. And what happens next? Well… that’s the magic of the theater.

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.

When Life’s a Drag
Neil Patrick Harris’s star turn in John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s glam-punk musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch took Broadway by storm and with good reason. Based on his previous Broadway experience (Cabaret, Assassins and Proof) and four years as an Emmy-Award winning Tony Awards host, Harris clearly had the mastery and precision to make this character into even more of an icon than she already is, and that is no small feat. From head to toe, Harris was all Hedwig. The reimagining by director Michael Mayer introduced the show to a new generation, but for those with nostalgia, Mitchell returns to the role he originated January 21.

 

Terence Archie and Andy Karl in "Rocky" (photo: Matthew Murphy) via The Broadway Blog.

Terence Archie and Andy Karl in “Rocky” (photo: Matthew Murphy) via The Broadway Blog.

Sucker Punch
It takes a lot for a down-on-his-luck guy from Philly to pull off a $16.5 million musical. True, Rocky had heart, but it wasn’t nearly enough to have us believe why he’d break out into a song titled, “My Nose Ain’t Broken.” Speaking of which, the troubled book and score couldn’t be saved by director Alex Timbers or the monstrous sets by Chris Barreca. Rocky was a knockout; unfortunately it was the audience who was left with a concussion.

 

Steven Reineke and Stephanie J. Block (photo: Richard Termine) via The Broadway Blog.

Steven Reineke and Stephanie J. Block (photo: Richard Termine) via The Broadway Blog.

Defying Gravity
The Broadway Blog was privileged to interview some of today’s greatest talent, including Betty Buckley and Andrew Lippa, but none touched us as deeply as Stephanie J. Block on the brink of her performance with The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall. The California native now has a handful of Broadway credits under her belt due to her consistently grounded performances and a powerhouse voice that shakes the rafters. “I was a waitress for four months, and I was hideous at it! I’ve supported myself through the arts, sometimes many jobs at a time,” says Block. “I needed to respect and take nothing for granted. It served me well—people can get jaded and over it quickly. But I’m still in awe to be in the position to do the things I love.”

Ruthie Ann Miles in "Here Lies Love" (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Ruthie Ann Miles in “Here Lies Love” (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Papp Lives On
Joseph Papp conceived of the Public Theater nearly 60 years ago and through the decades it has established itself as home to an array of culturally diverse artists that push the boundaries of storytelling. Two of our favorite shows of the year appeared at the Public: Here Lies Love and The Fortress of Solitude. The former was an unconventional telling of Imelda Marcos’s life that relied on live video feed as well as archival footage—all seamlessly integrated into palpitating performances, a mobile set, and a catchy score by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim (with additional music by Tom Gandy and J Pardo). The latter, as described by the Public’s artistic director Oskar Eustis, embodied “the things The Public Theater strives to achieve: it is a tremendously personal story that takes place within a larger social context, and a story that reveals how our most intimate relationships are shaped by history, class and race.” We can’t wait for Fun Home to arrive on Broadway this spring.

 

"Bullets Over Broadway," set design by Santo Loquasto. (photo: Paul Kolnik via The Broadway Blog)

“Bullets Over Broadway,” set design by Santo Loquasto. (photo: Paul Kolnik via The Broadway Blog)

Bum Deal
We admit it. We were one of the few who enjoyed Susan Stroman’s staging of Bullets Over Broadway. The flashy spectacle received mediocre reviews but we felt the director/choreographer nailed the style and humor of 1920s New York City with some flashy help from costume designer William Ivey Long and set designer Santo Loquasto, who collectively delivered some of the most lush and period-perfect designs of the season.

 

"Allegro" at Classic Stage Company (photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

“Allegro” at Classic Stage Company (photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Shades of Grey
No, we’re not talking about the “erotic” novel by E.L. James, but rather the conflicted season at Classic Stage Company. While we were bewildered by Bertolt Brecht’s A Man’s Man, easily one of the snooziest and poorly staged productions of the year, the off Broadway company bounced back with a stellar revival of Allegro, proving that a little faith goes a long way. We have high hopes for the upcoming production of A Month in the Country starring Peter Dinklage and Peter Sarsgaard’s take on Hamlet.

There’s more! Take the leap…

Read more…

Broadway (and Off-Broadway) Bargains!

January 23rd, 2014 Comments off

For theater die-hards, there’s no better time to catch a show in New York City than during the cold winter months of January and February. Sure, you can pay top-dollar to watch Elphaba soar into the rafters of the Gershwin Theater in Wicked… or you can see a show that hasn’t been around for a decade and support the wildly eclectic theater season currently underway. Here are two options to score great seats at bottom dollar:

The cast of "Twelfth Night."  (photo: Joan Marcus)

The cast of “Twelfth Night.”
(photo: Joan Marcus)

Broadway Week: 2-For-1 Tickets Through February 6
Many of Broadway’s biggest hits are participating. Here are our picks:

PippinOne of our favorite shows from last season, you can still catch Tony winner Patina Miller as The Leading Player—a performance not to miss.

Twelfth Night — Direct from its sold-out run in London’s West End, this all-male retelling of Shakespeare’s classic tale is nothing short of spectacular.

Cinderella — Wait until February 4 and you’ll catch pop star Carly Rae Jepsen in the title role and TV star Fran Drescher as her evil stepmother.

Feeling lucky? Enter to win the ultimate Broadway experience, which includes dinner for six and tickets to a Broadway show.

The cast of "Disaster!" (photo: Jeremy Daniel)

The cast of “Disaster!”
(photo: Jeremy Daniel)

20at20: $20 Tickets Through February 9
Why should Broadway have all the fun? Take a few steps off the Great White Way and discover a more intimate theater experience. Simply go to the box office of one of the participating shows 20 minutes before curtain and request a $20 ticket. Here is our shortlist of not-to-miss productions:

Disaster! — We recently reviewed this hysterical mash-up of 70s disaster movies and gave it a thumbs up. Life jackets not included.

The Clearing — Are you looking for a modern family drama with plot twists and turns? One of the best new plays off Broadway this winter.

iLuminate — Sometimes you need a little bling, and this groundbreaking combination of storytelling, music and technology will be sure to get your heart racing.

FringeNYC Festival Unravels Unusual Theatrics

August 9th, 2013 Comments off

Contributor Lindsay B. Davis offers Broadway Blog readers a sneak peek at this year’s New York International Fringe Festival. 

"Manic Pixie Dream Girl" (photo: Chesca Rueda; Illustration: Rob Dario)

“Manic Pixie Dream Girl” (photo: Chesca Rueda; Illustration: Rob Dario)

The 2013 FringeNYC Festival, now in its 17th year and featuring close to 200 shows performed at 18 different venues throughout lower Manhattan from August 10th-25th, kicks off tonight. The engine that drives the Fringe is emerging talent – approximately 2,000 artists from around the world descend on New York City to perform plays, poetry, solo shows, musicals and more. These are stars yet to be born, independent production companies crowd-sourcing to get make their dreams a reality, young playwrights achieving milestones and theatrical entrepreneurs who write, produce and perform their own new works.

How is a theatergoer to choose? The TomKat Project and Recipe For Success With Chef Michael Denardi are appearing on most buzz lists for very good reasons — they both successfully satirize celebrity culture to hilarious effect. If you like shows inspired by show business itself, also check out The ABC’s Guide To Getting Famous and for “The Godfather” lover in you, Horsehead. (No word yet on whether they reenact the epic, bloodcurdling scream.)

From Hollywood to Eastern seeking, look for Melting in Madras and Shyama: The Legend of Krishna, both of which use music to advance stories about spiritual quests and pilgrimages. Ndebele Funeral also uses music — and gumboot dancing! — in this case to tell the story of three characters living together in Soweto, South Africa.

Graphic novels more your thing? The Fringe has that, too, of course. Look for Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A Graphic Novel Play, a dark comedy about an artist and his muse. There is also the play about a Manhattan woman’s attempts at celibacy — check out See Jane Give Up Dick — which you might want to pair with Swedish import Fxxx Me before recovering with Carroll Gardens Aborning, a show about two Brooklyn couples dealing with secrets on the road to parenthood. For something a little sweeter, Australian import, I (honestly) Love Youa comedy about two people who find love after being inflicted with a disease that compels them to tell the truth.

If looking to get political, don’t miss Somewhere Safer, which tackles the dangers of extremism in the aftermath of a terrorist explosion in New York City. For sports enthusiasts (guilty!) you must check out Pep Talk, a fictionalized monologue play based on the wisdom of former FC Barcelona football coach, Pep Guardiola. There is even a play about the rain! Or, more specifically, Strange Rain, a “noir journey of conspiracy about a relentless rain and its link to the 1950s and a scientist building weather-control machines.”

Lee J. Kaplan in "Bully." (photo: www.standuptothebully.com)

Lee J. Kaplan in “Bully.” (photo: www.standuptothebully.com)

Are any Fringe shows appropriate for the whole family? Yes. The Young Olympians and The Most Amazingly Awesome Adventure Ever is described as “Part Goonies, part Scooby Doo and musical fun for all ages” as well as Bully, which chronicles the life of a boy who was bullied throughout childhood but triumphs to tell the tale.

And for that experimental, “I-have-no-idea-what-is-going-on here-but-I-think-I-like-it” performance art piece, I leave you with Morning to be Changed from the Morning to the Morning, or Belly of the Whale and its mind altering show blurb: A Portrait in 24 hours or 25 frames Fragments of a broken Self journey through the hours of a day. 5678910111212345678910111212345 But who are these people? What is it in their language that is so contagious? Don’t they recognize each other?

Enjoy and Happy FringeNYC 2013!

Lindsay B. Davis is an arts/culture journalist, actress, playwright and director. She resides in New York City.

The Best Deal in Town: 2-for-1 Broadway Tickets this Fall

August 2nd, 2013 Comments off
The cast of "Big Fish," coming to Broadway this fall. (photo: bigfishthemusical.com)

The cast of “Big Fish,” coming to Broadway this fall. (photo: bigfishthemusical.com)

Seeing a Broadway show is a dream. (Unless it’s that disastrous 2006 production of Ring of Fire, but that’s another story — and this is about celebrating Broadway, right?) Besides running the risk of seeing a flop, you’re also going to put out some serious chunk change – triple digits these days.

Fortunately, NYC & Company, New York City’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization, announced this week that Broadway Week Fall 2013 will return this year to offer theatergoers two-for-one tickets to 19 popular Broadway shows from September 2 through 15. Returning for its sixth iteration, Broadway Week was originally created in the winter of 2011 to boost ticket sales for Broadway while providing savings for New Yorkers and visitors alike. Through NYC & Company’s Broadway Week promotion, more than 300,000 theater tickets have been sold generating nearly $20 million in revenue. Tickets for Broadway Week Fall 2013 will go on sale August 19 at nycgo.com/broadwayweek.

“Nothing says New York City like Broadway,” said CEO of NYC & Company George Fertitta. “Each year millions of New Yorkers and tourists visit Broadway to experience the unmatched creativity and talent that define our theaters. Through NYC & Company’s Broadway Week two-for-one ticket promotion, we are giving everyone the opportunity to enjoy some of the best theater in the world at an affordable price.”

“Broadway contributes over $11 billion to the economy of New York City on top of ticket sales and supports 86,000 local jobs. NYC & Company’s innovative two-for-one programs benefit the City, the industry and, of course, the consumer,” said Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The Broadway League. “Broadway Week has become a much anticipated fall tradition for everyone.”

New Broadway Week participants this fall include the award-winning shows The Trip to Bountiful and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella as well as the highly anticipated productions of Big Fish and The Glass Menagerie. So mark your calendar and let’s hope you pick a winner. We also encourage you to discover your inner Ben Brantley…  share your thoughts on your theatergoing experience on The Broadway Blog’s Facebook page. Who knows, maybe we’ll invite you to become a guest critic!

"The Glass Menagerie" (photo: Michael J. Lutch)

“The Glass Menagerie” (photo: Michael J. Lutch)

Shows participating in Broadway Week Fall 2013:*

• Annie

• Big Fish

• Chicago

• First Date

• Forever Tango

• The Glass Menagerie

• Jersey Boys

• Let It Be

• The Lion King

• Mamma Mia!

• Newsies

• Once

• The Phantom of the Opera

• Rock of Ages

• Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella

• Soul Doctor

• Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

• The Trip to Bountiful

• Wicked

*Subject to availability. Blackout dates may apply.

New York Musical Theatre Festival Concludes Season 10

July 31st, 2013 Comments off

The Broadway Blog’s editor Matthew Wexler recaps Icarus at the New York Musical Theatre Festival and shares the NYMF Awards for Excellence. 

The cast of "Icarus."

The cast of “Icarus.” (photo: Chris McIntosh)


The New York Musical Theatre Festival
concluded another whopping year of new works, concerts, symposiums, workshops and readings that celebrate the craft (and challenges) of music, lyrics, dance and storytelling. As you might imagine, the 20-day festival had its fair share of triumphs and tribulations, but all should be commended for tackling such an indelible art form.

The final show I caught was Boston-based Liars & Believers’ production of Icarus. The musical tale, told through innovative puppetry, movement and music is based on the Greek myth of the same name, though this interpretation was set in an unconventional Depression-era sideshow. Nathan Leigh’s music and lyrics have soaring potential, but were somewhat limited by an inexperienced cast. Austin Auh as the title character lacked the emotional connection to the story while his romantic interest, Penny (played by Lauren Eicher) was also missing the dynamic range to help Icarus fly.

As an ensemble piece, Icarus is filled with visual splendor — so much so that I wish Tim Gunn was around to edit some of the creative team’s work. Puppetry (by Faye Dupras), costumes (by Kendra Bell) and set pieces (by Aaron Sherkow) occasionally get muddled, but there is enough genuine, organically created inspiration that you can’t help but root for this production. With more seasoned performers, Liars & Believers have great potential for telling more emotionally truthful theatrical stories.

As for the rest of the festival, the closing night party revealed audience favorites and some forerunners as to what you may see on the commercial stage in seasons to come.

Take the leap for NYMF Awards for Excellence and a peek at scenes from Volleygirls, the “Best of Fest” Audience Winner.
Read more…

Review: “Kerrigan and Lowdermilk Live at NYMF”

July 27th, 2013 Comments off
Kait Kerrigan, Brian Lowdermilk

Kait Kerrigan, Brian Lowdermilk

She’s vintage girl-next-door with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. He’s got a self-deprecating sense of humor and “stubby fingers.” Together, they are the songwriting team of Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk. And while their musicals have been developed at La Jolla Playhouse and Manhattan Theatre Club (among others), that break-through commercial project has eluded the team so far — or they’re not telling us about it yet.

Even so, Kerrigan and Lowdermilk have become cult musical theater favorites and I understand why. Their contemporary melodic riffs and underdog lyrics tug at the heartstrings but avoid cliché. Broadway’s top performers are clamoring to wrap their vocals around the duo’s work, hence the all-star revue at this year’s New York Musical Theatre Festival. Big belters like Jeremy Jordan (Smash, Newsies, Bonnie and Clyde), Kate Shindle (A Christmas Story, Wonderland) and Josh Young (Jesus Christ Superstar) showed up to sing through their songbook, led by Lowdermilk on piano and narrative by Kerrigan.

Brian Lowdermilk, Kait Kerrigan

Brian Lowdermilk, Kait Kerrigan

For an avid listener of musical theater, you’ll pick up on the inspiration of other contemporary composers like Jason Robert Brown and Andrew Lippa, fine-tuned phrases from the likes of Ed Kleban and Richard Maltby, Jr. as well as modern masters like William Finn. There is something warm and fuzzy about K&L’s work—wholly unique, yet informed by the grand lineage of musical theater.

While I haven’t seen K&L’s full scripts, this showcase of their work captured one prolific, vulnerable, intimate and soaring song after the next. The two have written for young audiences (Henry and Mudge is still touring with Theatreworks USA) as well as explored themes of young adulthood (The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown). One such highlight was Josh Young’s interpretation of “Run Away With Me.”

Michael Arden sings “Run Away With Me.”

K&L also used the NYMF platform to showcase songs from new works, including Republic, a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV set in 1970s Northern Ireland. Another work in progress is Unbound, based on the harrowing story of one of the Beijing Dance Academy’s most famous dancers, who traveled thousand of miles across China to pursue her dream. It is in these sequences where I wonder what is to become of K&L’s body of work. The team needs is a visionary director who can shepherd these story songs into a fully realized vision that resonates beyond the insular bond of the supportive theater community.

An audience-participation performance of “Holding On” from Tales From the Bad Years, led by Dee Roscioli (Wicked), concluded the evening, as the following lyrics echoed throughout the theater…

The earth keeps turning,
The light keeps shifting,
And I keep holding on.

I’m holding on to see where Kerrigan and Lowdermilk go next. I think the next great writing team for musical theater has arrived. Somebody find them a producer and let’s put on a show.

“Southern Comfort”: A Transformative New Musical at Barrington Stage Company

July 19th, 2013 Comments off
Scenes from "Southern Comfort" (photos: Matthew Murphy)

Scenes from “Southern Comfort” (photos: Matthew Murphy)

I had the good fortune of interviewing Tony Award-winner William Finn last year as part of a feature about the Berkshires for Passport Magazine. The composer/lyricist is known for his humanely funny and poignant works, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, A New Brain, and Falsettos, among others. This fall his latest project, Little Miss Sunshine, will appear Off Broadway at Second Stage Theatre, starring powerhouses Stephanie J. Block and Will Chase. At the moment, Finn is ensconced in Pittsfield, Mass, contributing his creative talents at Barrington Stage Company (BSC) where he oversees the nonprofit theater’s Musical Theatre Lab, but during our conversation all those months ago, there was one show that put a sparkle in his eye — an unconventional musical about transgender friends in rural Georgia. With the collaborative efforts of BSC, Finn has helped shepherd the production of Southern Comfort, which begins performances tonight.

The world premiere production of Southern Comfort features book and lyrics by Dan Collins, music by Julianne Wick Davis, and direction by Thomas Caruso. A musical with a folk/bluegrass score, Southern Comfort is a true story based on Kate Davis’ 2001 Sundance Award-winning documentary.

Annette O'Toole as Robert Eads. (Photo: Matt Murphy)

Annette O’Toole as Robert Eads. (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Winner of the Jonathan Larson Award, Southern Comfort is the story of male transgendered Robert Eads (Annette O’Toole) and his trans girlfriend Lola Cola (Jeff McCarthy) as they navigate life and its challenges in the back hills of ‘Bubba Land’ Georgia. A celebration of a uniquely American family living life openly, honestly and courageously in the community they have grown to love.

“From contemporary country to Appalachian bluegrass, the score mines the country’s heart, and unveils, along its way, surprising pathways to a new world,” says Finn. “The remarkable Southern Comfort is about transformation, love, and redefining family.

Southern Comfort
BSC’s St. Germain Stage at the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center
36 Linden Street, Pittsfield, MA
Tuesday-Friday at 7:30pm
Saturday at 4pm and 8pm
Sunday at 3pm
Tickets start at $40.

Tickets to performances July 19 & 20 are $15.
Seniors: $32 all matinees.

July 25, 4:00 p.m.
Free Conversations with… Event:
Join Julianne Wick-Davis and Dan Collins, along with members of the Berkshire transgendered community, as they discuss gender identity and social acceptance in today’s world.

BSC’s St. Germain Stage at the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center
36 Linden Street, Pittsfield, MA
Free, although reservations are highly recommended. All seating is general admission.
Call the Box Office at 413-236-8888.

Review: “Venice” Goes Under Water at the Public Theater

June 20th, 2013 Comments off

The Broadway Blog’s editor Matthew Wexler heads downtown to the Public Theater for the latest Public Lab productions. SCUBA equipment not included. 

Matt Sax (center) and the cast of  "Venice." (photo: Joan Marcus)

Matt Sax (center) and the cast of “Venice.” (photo: Joan Marcus)

U.S. scientists suggest that Venice (as in Italy) is sinking five times faster than local experts believe. That’s a far better projection than the theatrical nosedive running at the Public Theater through June 30.

This new work with book by Eric Rosen, music by Matt Sax and lyrics by the both of them, Venice is a post-apocalyptic hodgepodge that feels like one part Hunger Games and another part Othello. The storyline picks up 20 years after a horrific attack wiped out the majority of the population, leaving some to escape to the Safe Zone while other were left on the streets to fend for themselves. Willow (played by Jennifer Damiano) was one of the lucky ones while her childhood buddy, Venice (played by Haaz Sleiman), was left behind in the rubble along with his half-brother Markos (played by Leslie Odom, Jr.) who ends up as a military official for the corporate monstrosity that orchestrated the attack.

Backstabbing (and front stabbing), proclamations of love and a Beyoncé rip-off all make appearances as the people rise up to take back their city. If only from a logical perspective, the show loses credibility from the get-go as these long lost lovers reconnect after twenty years of separation. Weaving in and out of the story is the Clown MC (played by Matt Sax). The production may have been better served if its authors stepped back (Rosen also directed the piece) and allowed others to fine tune the material.

Jennifer Damiano and Haaz Sleiman in "Venice." (photo: Joan Marcus)

Jennifer Damiano and Haaz Sleiman in “Venice.” (photo: Joan Marcus)

Willow and Venice have communicated through the years by letter writing — having last seen each other when they were seven — and are madly in love upon their reunion. It just doesn’t make sense. Damiano’s utterly wooden performance doesn’t help. While the actress has an incredibly rich and pure tone to her voice (I actually shut my eyes during the performance so I could appreciate it without all of the surrounding histrionics), there is no sense of danger, urgency, or most of all — love. Sleiman doesn’t fare much better and looks impeccably groomed for your typical revolutionary.

If there is any glue holding things together, it is Leslie Odom Jr. as the power-hungry Markos. Showcasing a wide vocal range and tasked with musical styles from rap to soaring anthems, he manages to create and live in this imaginary world.

And what a world it is. Beowulf Boritt’s industrial set serves as a visual playground for the fantastical projection design by Jason H. Thompson. The eye candy is almost enough to distract from what is happening on stage, but this Venice is destined to sink.

While Venice doesn’t work on a lot of levels, it is important to recognize the challenges and triumphs of creating new and original works of musical theater. The production is part of The Public Theater’s Public Lab — a platform that offers both emerging as well as established artists a chance to showcase their work. Past shows have included Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and The Good Negro, among others. The Public has never shied away from challenging and controversial productions, embracing non-traditional casting and new forms of theatrical expression. And that is something that I hope stays afloat.

Venice
The Public Theater
Astor Place at 425 Lafayette Street
Through June 30

Here’s what other critics have to say about Venice:

 “The Public Lab is entitled to experiments gone wrong, but Venice is a Frankenstein monster of unusual ungainliness. Stitched from lifeless parts, this dystopian hip-hop Shakespeare musical is a bleakly preposterous mess. Imagine Urinetown played straight, for pseudomythic melodrama instead of comedy. Graft on plot points from Othello willy-nilly, and put it through a blender of sloppy rhymes; then picture a cast of musical-theater people performing it with the fervent seriousness of Smash’s Hit List. That’s this show, more or less, and it’s truly a trial. (Venice is two-and-a-half hours long. Had I not been reviewing it, I’d have bolted after five minutes.)” TimeOut New York

“There’s enough plot in Eric Rosen and Matt Sax’s “Venice,” the action-flooded new musical at the Public Theater, to fill a whole year in a Marvel comics series. Though it borrows some of its story from Shakespeare’s “Othello” and much of its tone from apocalyptic movie blockbusters like “The Dark Knight Rises,” this tale of a once-and-future civil war still seems to translate into two-dimensional panels as you watch it.” The New York Times

Review: “Spandex, a new musical for all SIZES”

May 25th, 2013 Comments off

Guest contributor Scott Redman puts on his scrunchy socks and heads to a new off Broadway show that leaves him in a sweat for all the wrong reasons. 

(l to r) Will Boyajian, Jerielle Morwitz and Zachary Karon are among the synthetically clad cast members of "Spandex, a new musical for all SIZES." (photos: www.spandexmusical.com)

Where would the world be without spandex? Spandex, a new musical for ALL SIZES is finishing up its run at the 777 Theatre in Midtown West. I caught the show last Friday and sat through the 80s inspired show trying to figure out what this was all about. I still have no idea.

The show stretches and lunges itself into two full acts — a bit overdone for this skimpy premise involving a house wife, Linda, who is determined to reclaim her youth where she once ruled the football field as head cheerleader. Her husband is an oaf who fails to realize his wife has needs and dreams, instead focusing on fixing his car and watching TV. Enter a pair of sassy aerobics instructors who inspire the timid housewife into jumping into a spandex exercise suit and away we go! And that’s not all — one of the instructors has an addiction to caffeine pills (very reminiscent to the famous Jessie Spano freak out on “Saved by the Bell” – see clip below) but must keep up her energy if she has any hope of making it to the Crystal Light National Aerobics Championship, hosted by Alan Thicke (see video below).

The large ensemble delivers bright and energetic performances as they pounce out the aerobic exercise numbers. There are a few catchy tunes including, “My Body Is My Temple” and “Whatever Happened to Caring?” catching wind from the 80s rock we all miss dancing to at The Pyramid Club. Liz Piccoli’s choreography does a good job utilizing the talents of the cast. Daniel F. Levine and Annie Grunow’s book, peppered with political jokes and nods to Michael Dukakis, thinks it’s smarter than it is and is overwrought.

Overall Spandex is underwhelming as a musical and an evening of theater. It’s not cheeky or fun enough to be a guilty pleasure and not tempered with enough realism to be heartfelt or leave with any takeaway. Unfortunately, this musical proves to be as synthetic as its inspiration.

Spandex, a new musical for all SIZES
777 Theatre (Eighth Avenue at 47th Street)
Through May 26.

Take the jump for that famous “Saved by the Bell” clip as well as the Crystal Light National Aerobics Championship, which insipred Spandex, a new musical for all SIZES.

Read more…

Review: Musicalizing the World’s Oldest Profession, “Rentboy”

March 25th, 2013 Comments off

Guest blogger Scott Redman gets an earful about the ups and down about life as an escort. Did he get bang for his buck or choose theatrical celibacy instead? 

The highs and lows of working as a rent boy are currently on display at the Richmond Shepard Theatre on East 26thStreet. Rent Boy, the Musical is a humorous jaunt into the world of male escorts and their clients. The show is framed as an awards show, appropriately named the Hookies with awards given out to male escorts for accomplishments in the “field.” The snappy show consists of multiple vignettes and songs featuring a talented ensemble of performers. The song list itself is enough to make you chuckle with titles including, “Pete’s Tool Rental”, “Tops and Bottoms” and “Who Invented the Jockstrap?”

The evening’s escapades are led by Awards Host & Master of Ceremonies, David Leddick, who not only stars in the production but also has written the book and lyrics. He brings to the stage a wisdom that is intriguing and experienced. He is brassy and takes the stage, fully loaded with one-liners and zingers throughout his performance. Leddick has a quiet moment in the act two song, “Waiting for the Dark Man” where he almost brings himself to tears while reflecting on his dreams of finding the perfect man.

The show isn’t nearly as trashy as it sounds. The tone is light and full of bawdy humor but aligns itself closer to a vaudeville revue more than Naked Boys Singing! This twist on the oldest profession is entertaining and creatively staged by David Kringery. The songs are very catchy and I caught my theater date humming one of the tunes as we left the black box theatre. This isn’t a show I would take my grandmother to but Rent Boy delivers the goods as a well produced evening of romp.

Rent Boy, the Musical
Richmond Shepard Theatre
309 East 26th Street
Through March 31

The cast of "Rentboy, the Musical" (photo courtesy of www.rentboythemusical.com)