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Showing posts from June, 2015

A New Brain

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A New Brain is William Finn's deeply personal show about a fledgling composer who discovers there is a problem with his brain. (Finn wrote the show's score; he shares book writing credit with James Lapine.) In the program notes for this Encores! presentation of the show (directed by Lapine), Finn notes that he took some liberties with the details. Finn was not, for example, a struggling composer when he was diagnosed. Still, the emotion Finn packs in is real and honest.

Finn's alter ego is Gordon Michael Schwinn (Jonathan Groff). Schwinn is working on a children's show, writing jingles to pay the bills. When he is admitted to the hospital and learns that the problem is in his brain, he is faced with his own mortality. Surrounded by his mother, Mimi (Ana Gasteyer), boyfriend, Roger (Aaron Lazar), and others, he contemplates what he's doing with his life and how; he thinks about the people around him; and he thinks about what his music means to him. In all, Schwinn/F…

Week in Review 6.26.15

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NYCB Fall Gala Fashion
Summer might have just started, but the designers for New York City Ballet's fall gala, which, for the last few years, has been a fashion extravaganza, have been announced. The program includes four premieres, as well as Peter Martins's Rodgers and Hart love letter, Thou Swell. That ballet will see its costumes updated by Peter Copping (an Oscar de la Renta designer). Also collaborating: choreographer Robert Binet and designer Hanako Maeda (of Adeam); choreographer and San Francisco Ballet dancer Myles Thatcher and designer Zuhair Murad; choreographer and NYCB corps member Troy Schumacher and design house Marques Almeida; and NYCB choreographer-in-residence and Company soloist Justin Peck and designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim (of Opening Ceremony). Women's Wear Daily has details about the fashion, and head to nycballet.com to purchase tickets for the gala and the rest of the 2015-2016 season.

Graceland Returns
Graceland is back for a third season (…

Gloria

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So, it's kind of difficult to talk about fight club without talking about fight club, but I'll try. For all but the last two minutes of Gloria's first act, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins's new play seems like a typical, dare I say trite, workplace comedy. Reminiscent of Leslye Hedland's Assistance, we find three assistants (Ryan Spahn, Catherine Combs and Jennifer Kim) and one intern (Kyle Beltran, recently seen in The Fortress of Solitude) at their cubes. They complain about their work (they are magazine editors' assistants), they complain about each other, they bond over the loss of a (semi) beloved pop star. A colleague from the fact-checking department (a great Michael Crane) periodically stops by to ask the assistants to keep it down. And every now and then the assistants talk about or are briefly visited by the titular Gloria (Jeanine Serralles), a woman who works in copy and who threw a housewarming party the night before—a party that no one but Dean (Spahn) at…

Week in Review 6.19.15

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Checking in Off-Broadway
There are several great new plays running off-Broadway. Here are interviews and news about some of them:
Theater Mania and The New York Times spoke with playwright Joshua Harmon, who broke out a few years ago with Bad Jews, about his latest work, Significant Other, one of the most unflinchingly honest portrayals of being a young, single adult. Significant Other is at Roundabout.

Rajiv Joseph's fantastic new work, Guards at the Taj, has extended its run at the Atlantic Theater Company. The two-hander, which stars Omar Metwally and Arian Moayed, will play through July 12. Get your tickets now.

The New York Times spoke with Jeremy Shamos about his career, which includes starring in the provocative new Bruce Norris play, The Qualms, now playing at Playwrights Horizons. The article also notes that Shamos will be part of Roundabout's upcoming Broadway revival of Noises Off.

Heisenberg, the new play from Tony winnerSimon Stephens (The Curious Incident of the Do…

Significant Other

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Early in Joshua Harmon's fantastic new play, Significant Other, our protagonist, Jordan (Gideon Glick), says to his friend, Laura (Lindsay Mendez), that the point of life is finding someone to go through it with. Laura replies that that seems easy. Jordan is adamant: No, it's not easy. It's the hardest thing ever to know that's the point and then spend you life trying to find that significant other. Preach, Jordan.

Jordan, a gay man in his late twenties, is close with his friends, Laura, Kiki (Sas Goldberg) and Vanessa (Carra Patterson). At rise, the four are celebrating at Kiki's bachelorette party. One by one, we watch as Jordan's friends—his significant others—couple up. (John Behlmann and Luke Smith also appear as multiple characters, some significant some not.) Throughout, he fulfills his grandson duties by visiting his grandmother (usually played by Barbara Barrie; played by Alice Cannon when I saw the play), who's lived long enough to offer sage advi…

The Qualms

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Bruce Norris likes to write characters who stir the pot, and Jeremy Shamos is terrific at playing them. Re-teaming with their Clybourne Park director, Tony winnerPam MacKinnon (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), they bring us The Qualms, Norris's new play about sexual politics.

Shamos plays Chris, a sort of everyman, he seems like an average, middle-aged white guy. Chris is married to Kristy (Sarah Goldberg), a sweet-looking blonde with alabaster skin, and the newlyweds are at Gary (John Procaccino) and Teri (Kate Arrington (Grace))'s beach condo. The couples met recently while on vacation in Mexico, and Chris and Kristy have decided to accept Gary and Teri's invitation to join their swingers club.

Playing out in real time, the other members of the club begin to arrive: There's Deb (Donna Lynne Champlin), an overweight, average looking woman, and her boyfriend, Ken (Andy Lucien), a black man who is cut like an Adonis and carries himself in an effeminate manner; and …

Week in Review 6.12.15

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Casting News
Michael Esper (The Last Ship) has joined the cast of Shades of Blue, an upcoming NBC series starring Jennifer Lopez. The series is shooting in New York. Deadline has details.

Tony winnersGabriel Ebert (Matilda, Casa Valentina) and Judith Light (The Assembled Parties) have joined the cast of Therese Raquin. The Roundabout revival begins previews October 1, and opening night is set for October 29. Broadway.com has more.

Steven Pasquale (The Bridges of Madison County), John Ellison Conlee (Murder Ballad, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence), Ciara Renee (Big Fish) and Miriam Shor (Yitzhak in the original production of Hedwig) have joined the cast of the Encores! production of The Wild Party. Brandon Victor Dixon (Motown) has also joined, replacing the previously announced Joshua Henry. The show runs July 15-18. Broadway.com has more.

It is confirmed that Alex Brightman will star in the Broadway run of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical adaptation of School of Rock. Pre…

Guards at the Taj

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Set in Agra, India, circa 1648, Rajiv Joseph's latest work, Guards at the Taj, focuses on two men who are, fittingly, guards at the Taj. Humayun (Omar Metwally) and Babur (Arian Moayed) are guarding the Taj Mahal, and at rise (literally—their shift begins at dawn), it is the day the 16-years-in-the-making grand mausoleum is to be revealed.

The efficient play covers about 48 hours of these two guards carrying out their duties, which include not just guarding the Taj Mahal but also other, more gruesome handy work, though Joseph's play is less about what they do and more about what they say.

By and large, Joseph (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, The North Pool) wrote a romance play, as Huma and Babu (as the two affectionately call each other) ponder the great life questions. They talk about their purpose, they talk about their dreams, they talk about inventions. Mostly, and most deeply, they wonder what beauty is, prompted by the titular Taj, which the emperor has proclaimed to …

Tony Awards Wrap Up

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The winners for the 69th Tony Awards have been announced and honored!

I thought hosts Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth were marvelous. (I especially liked Cumming's fake freak outs over Josh Groban.) The broadcast left something to be desired, though, namely all the design and "creative" (rather than performance) categories. It is unacceptable to be honoring excellence on Broadway and not show, in full, acceptance speeches from the people who created the shows—the book and songwriters; the choreographers; the lighting, scenic and costume designers. And the Tony Awards Administration Committee MUST reinstate the Sound Design categories. Finally, all shows that are nominated for Best Musical, Best Revival of a Musical and Best Score should perform, and only those shows.

Without any further ado, here is the full list of winners, with winners in bold typeface and notated with an asterisk. (First the plays, then the musicals.)
Best Play
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the…