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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…

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Review: ROCKY

March 21st, 2014 Comments off

Yo, Rocky. You done good, kid.

Andy Karl in "ROCKY" (photo: Matthew Murphy) via The Broadway Blog.

Andy Karl in “ROCKY” (photo: Matthew Murphy) via The Broadway Blog.

It takes a lot for a down-on-his-luck guy from Philly to pull off a $16.5 million musical but you got heart, and that goes a long way. But then I was wonderin’… why are you singing “My Nose Ain’t Broken” in the first place?

I get it. You’ve got more on your mind than seven years of hard luck and your best buddy’s sister blowing you off. You wanna be a champ. You’ve got heart. But that Adrian, she’s caught your eye and you can’t shake it.

An odd one, that Adrian. Tough life. Parents dead, alcoholic brother—no wonder she shuts down any time you get close to her. But you’re a softy, Rocky, and who can resist a guy with a goofy grin and two pet turtles who’s built like a brick shithouse? She can’t.

Margo Seibert and Andy Karl in "ROCKY" (photo: Matthew Murphy) via The Broadway Blog.

Margo Seibert and Andy Karl in “ROCKY” (photo: Matthew Murphy) via The Broadway Blog.

You two make a nice couple. Real nice. Too bad her brother Paulie messes things up. I guess that’s what the bottle will to ya if you’re not careful. Nothing like a guy throwing a turkey out the window or trampling a Christmas tree to let everyone know who’s in charge.

But you respect your brawn, Rocky, and I appreciate that. Even as a henchman for the local bookie you manage to keep things civil. You save it for the ring… but only if you had one good fight in you.

Ding! Apollo Creed shows up and you’ve got the chance of a lifetime. Fight for the Heavyweight World Championship and you pocket $150K win or lose? What a deal. But nobody makes Rocky the fool and who wants to hop in the ring only to have their ass whooped on national television? Not you.

You train hard and your old coach, Mickey, who gave away your locker to give you some tough love says, “You gotta have a little respect for yourself. It’s a waste of a life, kid. A waste of a goddam life.” He’s good for ya, though. Not so much when he’s singin’—but still.

Training is tough, when those dozen or so sides of beef fly in from the rafters I know you mean business. But I’m thinkin that maybe I’ve taken too many hits to the head myself cuz all the sudden there’s two of you, then three… then the whole place is filled with dudes in gray hoodies running in place while video projections of Philly whiz by. But where is the real Rocky? I’m gettin’ lost. And why are you singin’ again?

Time for the big fight and you’re looking good. It’s like we’ve all died and gone to heaven—or is it Vegas? I can’t tell the difference. And what year is it? 1975? With all the TV coverage and video graphics I could swear I was watching ESPN, but you put up a good fight. Even if you lose in the ring, you win over the crowd. They even give you a standing ovation. Some of them have to stand because their seats were removed, but still.

I know what you’re gonna say, Mr. Italian Stallion. Love wins. And you’re right. No matter that you’ve taken a shiner and probably got your nose broken. You got the girl and a bunch of fans rooting for you.

ROCKY
The Winter Garden Theatre
1634 Broadway
Open ended run.

Wondering what the critics think of ROCKY? Take the leap!
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Three to See: March… And the Winner Is?

March 3rd, 2014 Comments off

This month’s roundup of opening is inspired by the Oscars. And while Blue Jasmine The Musical may only exist in our wistful imaginations, there are three big-budget musicals that are relying on Hollywood notoriety to lure audiences into the theater.

Andy Karl in "ROCKY" (photo: Matthew Murphy) via The Broadway Blog.

Andy Karl in “ROCKY” (photo: Matthew Murphy) via The Broadway Blog.

ROCKY
The 1977 film won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Tony Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated songwriters Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens hope that they’ll have a knockout on their hands with the help of director Alex Timbers. Word on the street is that ROCKY is an underdog, save the last epic 20 minutes of the show where the theater is literally transformed into a boxing arena. But we’re rooting for the adrenaline-infused musical, whose tagline is, “Love Wins.”

ROCKY
Winter Garden Theatre
1634 Broadway
Opening night: March 13, 2014

Adam Jacobs as "Aladdin" (photo: Cylla Von Tiedemann) via The Broadway Blog.

Adam Jacobs as “Aladdin” (photo: Cylla Von Tiedemann) via The Broadway Blog.

Aladdin
Disney’s 1993 animated feature film snagged two Academy Awards: Best Music, Original Song (“A Whole New World) and Best Music, Original Score. More than 20 years later, Disney Theatrical is hoping that one rub of a magical lamp (and a whole lot of theatrical innovation), will create another hit for family-friendly audiences.

The creative team is relying on Adam Jacobs (Aladdin), to bring the magic and charm necessary to carry the show and connect with the audience. With Broadway credits including Les Miserábles (Marius) and The Lion King (Simba) and a number of national tours, he certainly has the chops.

Alongside James Monroe Igleharte as Genie and Courtney Reed as Jasmine, the trio will lead an ensemble of multi-talented performers as they dance, sing and fly through this adventurous tale directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw.

Aladdin
New Amsterdam Theatre
214 West 42nd Street
Opening Night: March 20, 2014

Meet star Adam Jacobs up close and personal…

Curious about our third pick? Take the leap!

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