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Showing posts from December, 2015

Year in Review 2015

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As we close out 2015, please enjoy this Year in Review. An American in Paris—This gorgeous, lush production was everything I wanted it to be. Leading up to its Broadway bow, I kept saying, "It's Gershwin. It's Christopher Wheeldon. It's Robbie Fairchild." I was so excited, and I couldn't wait to see it (to wit: I was at the first preview). And it was fantastic. The Gershwin score, which includes well-known tunes, like the titular theme and "I've Got Rhythm," as well as lesser-known ditties, like "Liza," is enhanced by Christopher Austin, Don Sebesky, and Bill Elliot's Tony-winning orchestrations. The peerless Christopher Wheeldon's Tony-winning choreography thrilled, beautifully welcoming ballet back to Broadway. And Robert Fairchild's Tony-nominated performance established him as a true triple-threat. He dazzles as he shows Broadway audiences his signature Robbie Fairchild flair. But beyond what I was already excited about,…

The Revenant

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Revenant is from the French, and refers to someone who returns, often a spirit or ghost who returns from the dead. Those who believe in ghosts (friendly or otherwise) will tell you that they return in order to take care of unfinished business. Such was the case with 1820s frontiersman Hugh Glass, who, after being left for dead after a bear attack, returned to avenge his son's death.

The Revenant is, as the advertisements say, inspired by a true story, and it's truly unbelievable. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Glass, who, along with his adolescent son Hawk (Glass is American, Hawk's mother is Native American), is part of a fur-trapping expedition. The American fur-trapping clan are continually at odds with Native Americans, as well as rival French fur companies. (There will be several skirmishes among the three cohorts in different combinations throughout.)

When Glass is mauled by a bear, two of his "colleagues" and his son stay behind under the auspices of seeing him t…

Brooklyn

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I knew I shouldn't have seen this. It didn't appeal to me, but I knew an actor I like was in it, and the timing and location of the screening worked perfectly, so I saw Brooklyn. I should have trusted my instincts.

Brooklyn follows Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish woman who feels there's nothing for her (no career, no man) in the Emerald Isle and sets out to make a new life in the titular New York City borough, circa the early 1950s. A New York-based Irish priest has helped book her passage, and sets Eilis up at a boarding house that's run by Mrs. Kehoe, who, as played by Julie Walters, provides much needed comic relief. Eilis is feeling homesick and having trouble coming out of her shell but begins to blossom and cotton to Brooklyn when a local Italian guy, Tony (the dull Emory Cohen), woos her.

And this is where you start to lose me. Tony doesn't seem to be anything other than a male who is paying Eilis some attention. Sure, he seems to have a colorful family…

Week in Review 12.25.15

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Behind the Scenes at Shuffle Along...
CBS Sunday Morning takes you behind the scenes during rehearsals for the upcoming Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and all that Followed. Billed as a revival, the show is an adaptation, of sorts, of the 1921 musical, Shuffle Along. As director and book writer George C. Wolfe explains in the segment, they are telling the story of Shuffle Along as well as the story of what was happening backstage and culturally when Shuffle Along hit Broadway. Choreographed by Savion Glover, Shuffle Along... boasts a cast that includes Audra McDonald (Porgy and Bess), Billy Porter (Kinky Boots), Joshua Henry (Violet), Brian Stokes Mitchell (Women on the Verge...), and Brandon Victor Dixon (The Wild Party).  Previews at the historic Music Box Theatre begin March 15, 2016, with opening night set for April 28. Watch the Sunday Morning piece below, and then head to shufflealongbroadway.com to learn more and to purchase tickets.

Year in Review

Lazarus

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Lazarusis abstract and intriguingly weird, and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

Inspired by the Walter Tevis novel The Man Who Fell to Earth, Lazarus is about...well, that's open to interpretation, which is why this complex work is so worth seeing. As the novel's title suggests, the protagonist, Newton (Michael C. Hall), is not of this world. He lives in a sparse, beige space, punctuated by an oversize screen upstage center and two large windows on either side of the screen. (We can see the band through the windows.) Both the windows and the TV screen allow Newton to see out into the world, but they also allow others to look in on him. He's living in a fishbowl (designed and lit by Jan Versweyveld), which can only make him feel more out of place.

Indeed, throughout the show (written by David Bowie and Tony winnerEnda Walsh (Once, Hunger)), all I kept thinking was "alienation." These people—not just Newton but also Elly (Cristin Milioti), who is, ostensibly, his assi…

Fiddler on the Roof

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If ever someone were perfectly cast it's Danny Burstein as Fiddler on the Roof's leading man, Tevye. Unfortunately, not everyone else in this Bartlett Sher-directed revival is as perfectly cast, which makes this an underwhelming revival of the Sheldon Harnick–Jerry Bock–Joseph Stein musical.

Fiddler on the Roof looks in on Tevye the milkman, a Jewish man of modest means living in Anatevka during the pogroms. He and his wife, Golde (Jessica Hecht), have been "blessed" with five daughters. Anatevka, like many Jewish villages and enclaves (then and now) is a place filled with tradition, as is so richly described in one of the great opening numbers in musical theatre. ("Tradition" will make me cry every time; this was no exception. And that it starts with that beautiful violin theme, played by The Fiddler (Jesse Kovarsky) is a blessing on your house.)

Traditions can be great though, on the one hand, even Tevye's now old traditions broke some earlier traditi…

Week in Review 12.18.15

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Josh Groban Set for Broadway Debut
The Grammy-nominated crooner, theatre lover, and funny guy will make his Broadway debut in a Broadway mounting of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. Written by Dave Malloy and directed by Rachel Chavkin (who collaborated on Preludes), Natasha... had a celebrated run off-Broadway in 2012, and featured site-specific staging. The musical is now at American Repertory Theatre, this time with a more traditional proscenium staging. Natasha... is inspired by a passage in War and Peace, and the original off-Broadway cast included Hamilton's Phillipa Soo. At this time, Groban is the only confirmed cast member (and he is said to have made a sizable time commitment to the show); a theatre and specific dates have yet to be announced, though performances are expected to begin in September 2016. Broadway.com has more.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2016
The inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Class of 2016, have been announced. At the A…

Spotlight

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There's been Network. All the President's Men. The Newsroom. Last year's Nightcrawler. All look at the state of the fourth estate. They have different takes, but they make us confront what we expect of journalism. Tom McCarthy's Spotlight follows in that tradition, and it makes a powerful impact.

Spotlight (written by McCarthy and Josh Singer) tells the true story of the Boston Globe reporters who broke the Boston church sex scandal in 2002. The four-reporter team made up the paper's Spotlight division, a vertical dedicated to long-form investigative journalism. There's the self-described player–coach, Walter "Robby" Robinson (Michael Keaton), and his three tenacious team members, Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d'Arcy James). The Globe had covered pieces of the alleged sex scandal before, but when the new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), arrives, he makes it a Spotlight piece, and the in…

A View from the Bridge

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I had never seen Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge before, even though there was a celebrated revival in 2010. In fact, even as a theatre major, I had never even read it before. (We always focused on Miller's Pulitzer Prize winner, Death of a Salesman.) I can't compare Ivo van Hove's vision of this drama with another, but I know good theatre when I see it.

Van Hove strips the play down to the essentials: The words and the performances. Jan Versweyveld's scenic design is bare, just a square, white resin floor closed in by a low ledge. (Versweyveld is also responsible for the effective lighting design.) The black cube covering the playing area during the pre-show lifts as the play begins, and lingers over the action throughout, threatening to come crashing down at any moment. The actors are trapped, essentially, as are the characters. They are confined to this small boxing ring and must fight to get out.

It's an epic battle, in truth, because our anti-hero…

These Paper Bullets

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I like Shakespeare. Since high school, I've read the Bard's plays for fun, and I look forward to Shakespeare in the Park every summer. I appreciate productions of his work that try to approximate how the show might have originally been staged (like the recent Twelfth Night/Richard III productions), and I also thrill over productions that re-imagine the text, adding layers and making it relevant and accessible (like Alan Cumming's Macbeth, or the Public's Mobile Shakespeare Unit's production of Comedy of Errors). I also like Green Day, and so I was particularly excited to see These Paper Bullets, a musical adaptation of Shakespeare's comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, with a book by Rolin Jones and a score by Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong.

Oof. Was I disappointed.

First, there was a technical issue. The sound mix rendered me unable to hear all the lyrics, an obvious disappointment. Best as I could tell, Armstong's (American Idiot) songs were good, a…

Marjorie Prime

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Add Jordan Harrison's Marjorie Prime to the pantheon of plays/movies/TV shows exploring the quickly evolving world of artificial intelligence. (Recent works that are also in there, in my opinion, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence and Ex Machina.)

At rise, we see Marjorie (the wonderful Lois Smith) talking to Walter (Noah Bean), her husband. Or, rather, Walter Prime, an AI robot version of her husband, as he looked when he was 30. Marjorie is elderly, and lost her husband about ten years ago. (The action of the play takes place in an unspecified time in the future; if you pay attention, though, you can pick up the little clues Harrison leaves, and guess that we're somewhere in the 2055-2060 range. Kudos to Laura Jellinek for her sparse and spacious natural futuristic set.) The fashionable thing to do in response to loss is, apparently, create a Prime, an AI version of your loved one, in order to provide companionship.

You (and anyone else you choose) can talk with t…