Posts Tagged ‘Public Theater’

Three to See: July

July 7th, 2016 Comments off

The heat is on. Summer is in full swing and Broadway casualties are dropping like a dehydrated groupie waiting in line for Hamilton cancellation tickets. No more Shuffle Along, She Loves Me, Bright Star, American Psycho, The Crucible, or Fully beyond.

Daniel Radcliffe (Featureflash Photo Agency / via The Broadway Blog.)

Daniel Radcliffe (Featureflash Photo Agency / via The Broadway Blog.)

Daniel Radcliffe returns to the New York stage in a new play by James Graham that explores our complicated relationship with technology and data through the funny and heart-breaking travails of a lonely guy Radcliffe), who arrives in the city to figure out how to like, tag, and share his life without giving it all away.

This provocative theatrical event will ask audiences to charge their phones, leave them ON during the performance and to embark on a fascinating dive online and into a new reality where we’re all connected… for better or worse.

The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street, NYC
Opening: July 18


Jellicle cats come one, come all. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical 1983 Tony Award-winning musical has been loved and loathed by theatergoers for more than three decades.

Trevor Nunn returns to remount the production with new choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler (based on the original by Gillian Lynne, who reportedly was none to happy about the decision to revisit her work.) Leona Lewis makes her Broadway debut in the role of Grizabella, for which Betty Buckley won a Tony Award. We’ll see how many lives this CATS has.

Neil Simon Theatre
250 West 52nd Street, NYC
Opening: July 31


War Paint

War Paint
Chicago’s Goodman Theatre premieres this new musical starring Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole as iconic female entrepreneurs Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden. Their 50-year tug-of-war would give birth to the cosmetics industry. From Fifth Avenue society to the halls of Congress, their rivalry was relentless and legendary—pushing both women to build international empires in a world dominated by men. Directed by Michael Greif (Rent, Next to Normal).

War Paint
Goodman Theatre
170 North Dearborn, Chicago
Opening: July 18


Three to See: March

March 5th, 2016 Comments off

The 2015-16 season is kicking into high gear, with three unique musicals opening this month that are sure to catch your attention. Here are our top picks of what not to miss…

southern comfort

Southern Comfort
Transgender themes continue to prevail in 2016, with Southern Comfort as the latest theatrical endeavor to tackle the topic. Based on Kate Davis’ 2001 Sundance Award-winning documentary, the new musical tells the true story of a group of transgender friends living life on their own terms in the back hills of rural Georgia. Tony-winning lyricist/composer of Falsettos William Finn calls Southern Comfort, “remarkable,” with a score that “mines the country’s heart, and unveils, along its way, surprising pathways to a new world.”

Southern Comfort
The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
Opening night: March 7

Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti in 'She Loves Me.' (Photo: Joan Marcus the The Broadway Blog.)

Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti in ‘She Loves Me.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus the The Broadway Blog.)

She Loves Me
The Roundabout’s 50th anniversary season continues with a revival of She Loves Me, a beloved musical that served as inspiration for the hit film You’ve Got Mail. Scott Ellis directs a star-studded cast including Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Gavin Creel, Jane Krakowski, and Michael McGrath.

She Loves Me follows Amalia and Georg, two parfumerie clerks who aren’t quite the best of friends. Constantly bumping heads while on the job, the sparring coworkers can’t seem to find common ground. But little do they know the anonymous pen pals they have both been falling for happen to be each other! Will love continue to blossom once their identities are finally revealed?

She Loves Me
Studio 54
254 West 54th Street, NYC
Opening night: March 17

The cast of 'Bright Star' (Photo:  Joan Marcus - Kennedy Center production, via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘Bright Star’ (Photo: Joan Marcus – Kennedy Center production, via The Broadway Blog.)

Bright Star
Grammy winners Steve Martin and Edie Brickell have teamed up to write a moving tapestry that tells a sweeping tale of love and redemption set against the rich backdrop of the American South in the 1920s and 40s. When literary editor Alice Murphy meets a young soldier just home from World War II, he awakens her longing for the child she once lost. Haunted by their unique connection, Alice sets out on a journey to understand her past—and what she finds has the power to transform both of their lives. Tony winner Walter Bobbie (Chicago) directs.

Bright Star
Cort Theatre
138 West 48th Street, NYC
Opening night: March 24

Review: “Josephine and I” at Joe’s Pub

March 10th, 2015 Comments off

by Samuel L. Leiter

Cush Jumbo in "Josephine and I" (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog).

Cush Jumbo in “Josephine and I” (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog).

Cush Jumbo isn’t an easy name to forget; nor, for that matter is the electrifying British actress to whom it belongs. Jumbo is the “I” in Josephine and I, the winning one-woman musical biodrama she wrote and stars in about Josephine Baker (1906-1975), the glamorous black performer from St. Louis who rose to fame in 1920s New York and became an international star. The spirited show, originally done at London’s Bush Theatre in 2013, is now in the cabaret environs of Joe’s Pub, where you sit, knee to elbow, at tiny candlelit tables from which you can order food and drinks (there’s no cover charge). The intimate room is a perfect venue for the multitalented Jumbo, who, in addition to recently co-starring on Broadway with Hugh Jackman in The River, was a terrific Marc Antony in last season’s all-woman Julius Caesar at St. Anne’s Warehouse. That production, like this one, was staged by the gifted Phyllida Lloyd.

Following an old-time jazzy overture played by the excellent pianist/music director/arranger Joseph Atkins, practically hidden behind an upright on the postage stamp stage, Jumbo makes a dramatic entrance, quickly ingratiating herself by informing us in her native British accent of how, as a child of eight, the offspring of a British mother and Nigerian father, she discovered and identified with Josephine Baker. But since this character is listed in the program as “Girl,” just how much of her is autobiographical is left to the audience’s imagination. The Girl’s obsession with Baker extends to her having painted a Tiny Tears doll in Baker’s skin color (she often handles and talks to it as if it were a puppet-confidante) and having collected all sorts of Baker memorabilia as she grew up.

Cush Jumbo in "Josephine and I" (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog).

Cush Jumbo in “Josephine and I” (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog).

Soon, the Girl morphs into the young Baker herself, telling her story in the first person, speaking in the voices of various people in Baker’s life, but frequently slipping back into the Girl’s persona to describe her life as an aspiring actress. While there are a few moments when it’s not immediately clear who’s talking, by and large Jumbo’s exceptional ability to do a variety of American accents quickly establishes the speaker. The Girl’s story involves her relationship with her environmentalist boyfriend, and the sequence of auditions she’s been having for a lead role in a Hollywood-based TV crime series; if she’s cast, it will mean huge sums of money, but also will require a major life change affecting her relationship.

This tale is smoothly woven into a recounting of the highlights of Baker’s life, from Broadway chorus girl in Shuffle Along to a spectacular career as a Parisienne cabaret star at the Folies Bergère, noted for her scanty—but also elaborate—costumes and unconventional lifestyle. Baker’s private life (she first married at 13, was divorced a year later, and had many lovers and husbands) is covered, including her activity with the French resistance; given especially sharp emphasis is the discrimination she had to face in America, as opposed to the acceptance she found abroad. Late in the piece, we discover Baker as an important participant in the early 1960s civil rights movement led by Dr. King.

There could be no better conclusion for the show than for Jumbo to give her impression of Baker’s commanding 1973 rendition at Carnegie Hall of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’”. The Girl tells us she herself received racial insults, although her experiences pale when compared to Baker’s. Still, given the recent news, the times don’t seem to have been a-changin’ all that much.

Josephine and I offers Jumbo numerous opportunities to sing and dance in the Baker mold, including familiar songs like “I’m Just Wild about Harry.” Both still and video projections (by Ravi Deepres) provide images that illustrate the people and times of Baker’s colorful life. At one point, the star walks through the audience, wearing a Hattie McDaniel-like calico apron and cap, picking up dolls and identifying them as the dozen children she adopted from seven countries. (One of them, Jean-Claude Baker, proprietor of Chez Josephine on Theatre Row, died this January.)

Sporting a boyish ‘20s bob, and, making the most of her lithe dancer’s body, Jumbo wears a sequence of clever costumes designed by Anthony Ward. While simple, they allow her to suggest, without being too literal, Baker’s fabled allure. Kate Ashton’s lighting, based on Neil Austin’s original design, greatly enhances the effect. Jumbo exhibits such a kaleidoscopic range of physical grace, vocal ability, wit, charm, poignancy, anger, determination, strength, and intelligence, not to mention vivacity, energy, and good will, that her lack of resemblance to Baker quickly becomes insignificant.

Napoleon may or may not have said, “Not tonight, Josephine,” but when it comes to this show, I can definitely recommend, “Yes, tonight, Josephine.”

Josephine and I
Joe’s Pub
Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street, NYC
Through April 5

Samuel L. Leiter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Theater) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has written and/or edited 27 books on Japanese theater, New York theater, Shakespeare, and the great stage directors. For more of his reviews, visit Theatre’s Leiter Side (

Review: “Hamilton” at The Public Theater

February 27th, 2015 Comments off

by Samuel Leiter

The cast of "Hamilton" (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of “Hamilton” (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

As anyone who’s been following the theater season lately is undoubtedly aware, Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s new musical at the Public Theatre, based on the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, is the hottest ticket of the new year. Visitors to the Public’s website seeking tickets, even at the Broadway-level price of $120 a pop, will discover that nary a seat is to be found for the duration of the run. But savvy readers also know that the show will be moving to Broadway later in the year.

Lin-Manuel Miranda (center) and the cast of "Hamilton" (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Lin-Manuel Miranda (center) and the cast of “Hamilton” (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

This will be a risky move, given the current climate for Broadway musicals, what with the revival of Side Show having disappeared shortly after opening, and the box offices of two other critics’ favorites, On the Town and Honeymoon in Vegas, gasping for oxygen. Can Hamilton, a sung-through show, much of it performed in rhyming hip-hop verse, draw the tourist trade that supports the Great White Way? Remember, for all the imaginative contemporary vibes the show produces, this is a two hours and forty-five minute endeavor based on an 800-page doorstopper by Ron Chernow about the abundantly active life of Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), America’s first Secretary of the Treasury, and the face on the ten-dollar bill.

There’s no disputing the show’s brilliance. Despite his extensive use of hip-hop rhythms, Miranda (In the Heights)—who’s responsible for the book, lyrics, and music, and also plays the title role—infuses his 34 songs with a large number of musical styles, including jazz, pop, R&B, conventional Broadway, and even the Beatles, all terrifically orchestrated by Alex Lacamoire. But, with no spoken dialogue, per se, conversations are necessarily cast as rap routines (including occasional profanity), which are used for biographical, historical, political, military, personal, and romantic communication. It’s a tribute to Miranda’s genius that his imagination never runs dry and that he’s capable of continual surprises in how well he uses his original approach to convey an incident-laden narrative with humor, passion, and historical accuracy (Chernow served as an advisor).

And history is definitely the big takeaway, since Hamilton covers so much ground concerning the man’s role in the American Revolution and the subsequent political turmoil surrounding the new nation’s birth. The action focuses on Hamilton and his friend and nemesis, Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.), while also covering the wide sweep of events in late eighteenth century America, with a number of characters getting their moment to shine. It’s fascinating to see how effectively actors of varying ethnicities and skin colors embody such white leaders as Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs), Lafayette (also Diggs), George Washington (Christopher Jackson), Hercules Mulligan (Okieriete Onaodowan), James Madison (also Onaodowan), and others. And then there are the women in Hamilton’s life, notably the Schuyler sisters, Angelica (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Peggy (Jasmine Cephas Jones), and Eliza (Phillipa Soo), whom Hamilton weds. The diversity of Hamilton’s America is made deliciously palpable during the several sequences devoted to the sneeringly self-satisfied King George, played with hilarious arrogance by the whiter than white Brian D’Arcy James (soon to be replaced by Glee and Looking star Jonathan Groff).

Read more…

Theater Buff: Andrew Chappelle of “Hamilton”

February 18th, 2015 Comments off

Every third Wednesday of the 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. This month we go political with Andrew Chappelle, who appears in the new musical Hamilton (by In The Heights creator Lin-Manuel Miranda), a rousing take on one of our founding fathers.

Andrew Chappelle (photo: Evan Sherman via The Broadway Blog.)

Andrew Chappelle (photo: Evan Sherman via The Broadway Blog.)

Andrew Chappelle

Los Angeles, CA

Besides Hamilton’s, what is your favorite political sex scandal?
I suppose the Bill Clinton Monica Lewinsky fiasco. The Anthony Weiner mess was also funny given his name.

Andrew Chappelle (center) and the cast of "Mama Mia!" (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Andrew Chappelle (center) and the cast of “Mama Mia!” (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

If I weren’t a performer, I would be:
Somewhere driving people in an office crazy.

Places, Intermission or Curtain Call:
Places! There is always excitement in the air before our show begins. The audience doesn’t know what’s they are about to see. The cast comes together and has a moment to focus and then its showtime!

The best post show cocktail in New York City is at:
The Library at The Public Theater, of course! I love a dirty martini.

After you’ve hit all the traditional sites of New York City, you should totally go to:
Blind Barber in the Lower East Side or you could go see an improv show at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Chelsea.

Take the jump for more with Andrew, including a sneak peek at his sketch comedy show, Sketch Betch.

Read more…

Three to See: February

February 2nd, 2015 Comments off

This month The Broadway Blog offers an eclectic round-up of theatrical offerings that are sure to invigorate theatergoers during the cold winter months. The Great White Way is quiet as new productions prepare to move in, so we’re casting our focus on three off Broadway shows that are garnering plenty of buzz…

Hamilton at The Public Theater

The cast of "Hamilton" (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of “Hamilton” (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

The year was 1969 when the revolutionary 1776, won the Tony Award for best musical (and triumphed again with the 1998 revival.) But now American history gets a makeover thanks to the creative team behind the Tony Award-winning In The Heights, offering theatergoers a wildly inventive new musical about the scrappy young immigrant who forever changed America: Alexander Hamilton.

Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda wields his pen and takes the stage as the unlikely founding father determined to make his mark on a new nation as hungry and ambitious as he is. From bastard orphan to Washington’s right hand man, rebel to war hero, loving husband caught in the country’s first sex scandal to Treasury head who made an untrusting world believe in the American economy, Hamilton is an exploration of a political mastermind.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Eliza Hamilton, and lifelong Hamilton friend and foe, Aaron Burr, all attend this revolutionary tale of America’s fiery past told through the sounds of the ever-changing nation we’ve become. Tony Award nominee Thomas Kail directs this new musical about taking your shot, speaking your mind, and turning the world upside down. The production is already sold out, but lottery tickets are available for certain performances.

The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
Opening night: February 17


MCC_THE_NETHER__ArtThe Nether at MCC Theater
Things are getting otherworldly at MCC this winter with Jennifer Haley’s The Nether—a haunting thriller that will make you question when the fantastic becomes too real.

There is a new immersive realm for the senses online, a virtual playground where those who plug in are coaxed into acting out their darkest fantasies—with no consequences in the “real” world. Or so it seems… until a young female detective begins an investigation to determine if there is a point at which thought or intention may actually constitute a crime within—and outside of—this new frontier. Fans of Nurse Jackie will be excited to see Emmy winner Merritt Weaver alongside Frank Wood (Side Man) and Peter Friedman (Circle Mirror Transformation).

The Nether
MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theatre
121 Christopher Street
Opening night: February 24


Brooklynite at the Vineyard Theatre

The powerhouse team of director Michael Mayer (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Spring Awakening) and choreographer Steven Hoggett (Once, American Idiot) team up with composer/lyricist Peter Lerman for an unconventional story inspired by the real Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company located in Park Slope.

The plot follows Trey Swieskowski is an idealistic hardware store clerk who dreams of becoming a superhero. Astrolass, Brooklyn’s most celebrated superhero, is determined to throw in the cape and live like a normal Brooklynite. When they meet they hatch a plan that will change their lives forever. But can they save Brooklyn when it suddenly teeters on the brink of disaster?

Vineyard Theatre
108 East 15th Street
Opening night: February 25

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…

Review: The Fortress of Solitude

October 23rd, 2014 Comments off
The Fortress of Solitude (photo: Doug Hamilton via The Broadway Blog.)

The Fortress of Solitude (photo: Doug Hamilton via The Broadway Blog.)

There is an old record player (remember, those?) placed at the foot of the stage. Dylan Ebdus (played by Adam Chanler-Berat) enters, puts on an old Motown-inspired vinyl, and begins to weave an emotional tale of friendship, race and the impact of music. That device remains a constant throughout the production of The Fortress of Solitude, a new musical by Michael Friedman (music and lyrics) and Itamar Moses (book) based on the novel by Jonathan Lethem. The story’s peeks and valleys follow Dylan as his visionary mother drags the family from Berkeley, California, to Gowanaus, Brooklyn—now gentrifically referred to as Boerum Hill. She quickly abandons the family and leaves Dylan with his emotionally distant artist father (Ken Barnett). He is one of the few white kids on the block and quickly strikes a friendship with Mingus Rude (played by Kyle Beltran), son of a has-been singer, Barrett Rude Junior (Kevin Mambo) and grandson of an urban preacher gone bad (André de Shields).

The Fortress of Solitude (photo: Doug Hamilton via The Broadway Blog.)

The Fortress of Solitude (photo: Doug Hamilton via The Broadway Blog.)

The Public Theater’s artistic director Oskar Eustis says, “The Fortress of Solitude embodies 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.” He’s absolutely right.

The largely linear plotline spends must of the first act with Dylan and Mingus as tweens as they discover comic books and navigate the social structure of the neighborhood. The show nearly veers off track into children’s theater territory, with the adult cast portraying pre-adolescent angst. Mingus takes up graffiti, tagging the city streets with his moniker, “dose,” a chilling foreshadow of the direction his life is headed. Eventually, Dylan places into a magnet high school, which sets him on a trajectory for a college education, while Mingus is left in the shadows. The second act is a more somber reflection of what happens when the cards are stacked against you and Mingus faces the ramifications of a family dispute gone terribly awry.

Mr. Friedman captures a spirit of authenticity with his Motown-inspired score, which is also peppered with contemporary musical theater anthems that are sure to bring tears to your eyes. But it is the heartfelt and achingly emotional performances of Mr. Berat, Mr. Beltran and the eclectic ensemble (special note should be made of Rebecca Naomi Jones’ spot-on performance of Dylan’s girlfriend Abby in Act 2) that breaks down the fortress walls and connects theatergoers to a timely topic rarely expressed so effectively on the stage.

 The Fortress of Solitude
The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
Through November 2

Matthew Wexler is the Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on Twitter at @roodeloo

Review: “The Library” Tackles Gun Violence But Misses Target

April 18th, 2014 Comments off

Contributor Lindsay B. Davis reviews The Library, a theatrical collaboration between Hollywood heavyweights Scott Z. Burns and Steven Soderbergh.

Daryl Sabara and Chloë Grace Moretz in the "The Library" (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Daryl Sabara and Chloë Grace Moretz in the “The Library”
(photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

In The Public Theater’s The Library, two film veterans—writer Scott Z. Burns (Side Effects, The Informant, Contagion, co-writer of Bourne Ultimatum) and Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brokovich, sex, lies, and videotape)—tackle the topic of gun violence in American schools by awakening the Off Broadway theater community to a few ideas they’ve probably debated over Sunday brunch or a recent cocktail party: the media is sensationalistic, law enforcement just wants to close a case, Bible thumpers are hypocritical, surgeons are arrogant, teenagers struggle with emotions and guns are bad.

The narrative centers on Caitlin Gabriel (Chloë Grace Moretz in her stage debut), who survives being shot in the Golden Valley High School’s library, only to become the subject of an investigation for possibly aiding the gunman during the attack. The plot maneuvers its way through a “Did she do it?” canal but never feels terribly suspenseful.

Ben Livingston, Jennifer Westfeldt, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Michael O’Keefe in "The Library" (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Ben Livingston, Jennifer Westfeldt, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Michael O’Keefe in “The Library” (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Meanwhile, Caitlin’s parents, Elizabeth Gabriel (Jennifer Westfeldt) and Nolan Gabriel (Michael O’Keefe), whose marriage is under attack thanks to the former’s alcoholism and latter’s extramarital affairs, struggle to support Caitlin through the recovery from her gunshot wounds against the backdrop of their unspecified town’s (“Somewhere in the United States of America”) increasingly accusatory, witch hunt-esque treatment of their little girl. Amongst the most vocal is a fellow student’s very Christian mother, Dawn Sheridan (Lili Taylor), whose daughter died in the attack. There is also Ryan Mayes (Daryl Sabara), Caitlin’s fellow student who was present at the time of the shooting and becomes a key witness who struggles with trauma from the event.

Unfortunately, Soderbergh’s direction misfires. The best theater is not slick or sanitized. It’s hot and intimate, but The Library doesn’t pack heat. Stark lighting scheme hide the actors’ faces to the detriment of being able to connect. The set—a collection of silver tables and chairs used to establish the inside of a library, operating room, or the family home on which the characters occasionally stand to make direct addresses to the audience or each other—is too experimental for this story, particularly in combination with the harsh lighting design.

While Moretz (Kick Ass 2, Carrie, Dark Shadows, Hugo) does fine work as an adolescent defending her truth without necessarily speaking it, we are cheated from being able to experience the beauty of her work. Of her supporting players Taylor (Three Sisters, The Dead Eye Boy, Aunt Dan and Lemon), Westfeldt (Wonderful Town, 24 Hour Plays) and O’Keefe (Reckless, Side Man, The Fifth of July), while all experienced film and stage actors, only Taylor really resonates. This has a lot to do with a production that seems more intent to disturb by way visual effects and all too familiar sounding characters that border on the stereotypical.

I hate to say it, but this Soderbergh-Burns brainchild would make a far better movie.

The Library
The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
Through April 27

Lindsay B. Davis is an arts/culture journalist and theater artist living in New York City.

Interview: Star Quality Goes Rock Bottom with Bridget Everett

October 30th, 2013 Comments off

Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler chats with Bridget Everett about booze, Broadway and the secret of success. This post contains adult content.

Bridget Everett and The Tender Moments (photo: Kevin Yatarola)

Bridget Everett and The Tender Moments (photo: Kevin Yatarola)

This now established icon of New York City’s cabaret scene (and not of the Andrea Marcovicci variety) has been pounding the pavement for more than a decade and A-listers are starting to notice.

“I moved to New York and wanted to be a singer,” says Everett, who ironically earned her Actor’s Equity card doing children’s theater. Work was slow to come her way so she started singing in karaoke bars and “going ape shit.”

She developed her signature character, a big-busted, wine-guzzling woman who walks a fine line between female empowerment and battered vulnerability, out of necessity. “It’s not like there’s part for me on Broadway, it’s not coming across my desk. I started singing and telling stories, doing whatever I could to get on stage,” Everett says.

Bridget Everett (photo: Allison Michael Orenstein)

Bridget Everett (photo: Allison Michael Orenstein)

A big break came from off Broadway’s Ars Nova Theater and artistic director Jason Eagan, who gave Everett a performance slot to further develop her show. She created “At Least It’s Pink” and slowly started to gather a cult following from theatergoers craving boundary-pushing antics with the musical chops to back it up. While performing a number at a New Year’s Eve show hosted by Dina Martina and Murray Hill at Joe’s Pub, Everett caught the eye of the Public Theater’s staff and has continued to find a creative home at the venue, which continues to cultivate her unique brand of talent.

“[The Public] is such a great place for developing art, they let me do what I want. They never say no. They feel like friends and family,” says Everett. The feelings are mutual. The Public recently commissioned Everett and her band The Tender Moments to create a new theatrical event as part of its New York Voices series, which lets musicians explore different ways of storytelling, narrative and songwriting while connecting them to the Public Theater’s artistic staff and a wider theater audience.

Everett has partnered with Tony-winning writing duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman as well as Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys to create Rock Bottom, which explores “what happens when you’re too passionate to give up, and too big to fail. “It has been a unique pleasure to watch Bridget’s career develop over the years and to see her audience continue to grow,” says Joe’s Pub director Shanta Thake.

If you can’t catch Rock Bottom, head to Carnegie Hall on November 7, where Everett will be appearing as a special guest performer for none other than Patti LuPone. And if you think the sweeping success has gone to Everett’s head, just ask her what she thinks about her Carnegie Hall debut: “Holy shit. I can’t believe it.”

Click Here for tickets to Rock Bottom at Joe’s Pub.
Oct. 30, Nov. 1, 2
9:30 p.m.

Take the jump for a sneak peek at what happened when Patti LuPone crashed Everett’s recent show at Joe’s Pub as well as performance captured for HBO Canada.

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