THIS WEEK @ JK's TheatreScene

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

TBT: La Cage aux Folles

I've written before about my first experience with La Cage aux Folles, a 17 year-old closeted guy in New York with my very first (and equally closeted) boyfriend.  It was the original Broadway cast, shortly after it opened.  It wasn't my first show that depicted openly gay characters (that was A Chorus Line), but I never felt more connected to the whole "gay experience," such as it was in 1983.  Protesters lined Times Square decrying the "SIN" of the show.  I felt so proud to break that picket line.  I remember the lights going down and feeling the thrill of a fully-orchestrated overture wash over me.  And I remember feeling my boyfriend stealthily take my hand.  We held hands in a public place and I never felt more alive or more me.

31 years ago tonight, the now-classic Jerry Herman-Harvey Fierstein-Arthur Laurents opened at the Palace Theatre, where it stayed for nearly four and a half years.  The show was nominated for 9 Tony Awards, winning 6 including Best Musical.  Of the three Broadway productions so far, the original ran the longest - an impressive 15 previews and 1,716 performances.


LES CAGELLES

George Hearn as Albin/Zsa Zsa

Gene Berry as Georges

It was an historical achievement from the minute it opened..  Today, it is the perfect Throwback!


Jeff
5.223

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

CONTEST! WIN TICKETS TO DONKEY PUNCH!

Hey, readers!  I hope you are having a terrific summer!  Here's an offer you can't refuse - FREE TICKETS!  And, what could be better that a hot new play in these last hot days of summer? 

THIS CONTEST IS EASY AND FAST!!! (Don't want to enter, but still want to see the show? Scroll down for a discount!) NOTE: The engagement is limited through August 31 only.

Answer the two questions below the article and email the answers to jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com, along with your name.  Put DONKEY PUNCH in the subject heading.  The first three entries with the correct answers received will win a prize voucher for TWO tickets to the show!  (The contest will end when three correct entries are collected!)


WIN TWO TICKETS TO DONKEY PUNCH!

Soho Playhouse
15 Vandam Street

Uninhibited Kareena delves into monogamy while her uptight best friend, Sam, starts dating a pornographer. In the ultramodern world of sex, relationships and blurred lines, is it punch or be punched? Provocative, funny yet heartwarming, this is a tale of two very different women and what it means for each of them to be sexually free and fulfilled — and at what cost.  After a critically acclaimed run in June, Ivy Theatre has transferred their production of Micheline Auger's DONKEY PUNCH to Off-Broadway’s Soho Playhouse. Whether it’s a date night or a girl’s night out, this show will deliver just the right punch.

"Donkey Punch doesn't peddle any answers or even closure for its characters. But it does offer crackling dialogue, voyeuristic thrills and inevitable juicy post show conversation." – Time Out New York

“[Donkey Punch is] an edgy and modern piece that presents relationships and friendships through a nuanced filter… Director Audrey Alford has been able to skillfully contain the characters’ tensions and our anxieties, releasing them through sexual and violent acts that flare up throughout the piece.” – Stage Buddy

 “A fierce and biting satire... The writing is sharp as a tack, making for a most
 provocative evening of theater.” – Talkin’ Broadway

Don't miss out on this incredible discount for the summer's hottest show! Come down to the
Soho Playhouse and find out...who is the donkey?

CONTEST RESTRICTIONS: Winner will receive a ticket voucher redeemable for two tickets to a performance of his/her choice. Blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.


CONTEST QUESTIONS:

1. DONKEY QUESTION: This year's Best Play All The Way featured LBJ, a democratic president.  What is the traditional symbol of the Democratic Party?

2.  PUNCH QUESTION: What musical from this past season featured its title character punching meat, sand bags and Apollo Creed?

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

DONKEY PUNCH – SPECIAL OFFER
If you don’t win tickets, you can still see the show at a great deal!

SPECIAL OFFER:
$36 Tickets – now through August 31st (reg. $45)

TO REDEEM:
ONLINE: CLICK HERE and enter code RRM20
PHONE: Call 212-691-1555 and mention code RRM20

RESTRICTIONS: Subject to availability. Not valid on prior purchase.
Offer cannot be combined with other discounts or promotions. Additional blackout dates and
restrictions may apply. No refunds or exchanges. Offer may be revoked at any time.

Standard service fees apply to all phone and internet orders.  

Jeff
5.222

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

2014 - 2015 Season (Mini) Trends: Americana

What a difference eight years can make in history.  When You Can't Take It With You opened on Broadway in 1938, the US was two decades out of the first World War, and when On the Town opened in 1944, the country was fully embroiled in the second.  Both times the country was in a weird mix of melancholy and epic patriotism.  And both shows sought to bring the public some relief from the former and capitalize on the latter.  On the Town closed as the country celebrated the end of the war.


On the Marquee: Two Shows:
Same colors, similar lettering, romantic couples

Now, the country seems to be in a constant state of anger and sadness, tempered by a movement toward inclusion and somewhat less self-indulgence (social media and personal devices notwithstanding).  And this season, both shows are poised for major revivals.  Both seem to be aiming for the same audience - at least the similarly colored and lettered designs of their logos.  Red, white and blue and as "American" as apple pie...

How's this for nostalgia: Vintage Times Square,
vintage cab, sailor and girl kinda 
like that famous Life photo!

How's this for nostalgia: 
Vintage New York brownstones,
a patriotic rocket and 4th of July fireworks!

How successful they will be remains to be seen, especially since patriotism is on the wane and we are all sick of the fighting.  Still, I think it is notable that these two classics are hitting the boards at the same time, and with similar ad campaigns.

Next week: a look at another mini trend that is shaping up this season.  I'll give you a hint: curiosity abounds!

Jeff
5.221

Thursday, August 14, 2014

TBT: Peter Pan

With the recent casting announcements for NBC's Peter Pan Live, and the news that Finding Neverland  will be coming to Broadway this season, I thought looking at Peter Pan would be a great Throwback Thursday topic!


Peter Pan (the play) debuted on Broadway in November of 1905.  It starred Maude Adams as Peter.  And she repeated her performance in 3 subsequent revivals.

The Original Broadway Peter Pan - Maude Adams

The play was revived again in 1928, starring Eva Le Gallienne.  But the last time it was revived - in late 1950-51 - was perhaps its most famous run beyond its debut.  It starred Jean Arthur as Peter and the legendary Boris Karloff as Captain Hook.

Jean Arthur as Peter and Boris Karloff as Captain Hook

Peter Pan (the musical) made its debut in 1954 starring Broadway icon Mary Martin as Peter and Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook.  It ran an underwhelming 152 performances.  But after it aired several times in later years, the show became a classic.  I love the score, don't you?

Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard


Jerome Robbins and Mary Martin

In 1979, the now legendary Sandy Duncan-George Rose revival took Broadway by storm.  It ran more than 3 times longer than the original. And Cathy Rigby has played The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up in four 1990's revivals of the show!  (And she's toured the hell out of it, too.)

Sandy Duncan and George Rose


Cathy Rigby




Peter, Wendy and the Lost Boys have also appeared on Broadway in Jerome Robbins' Broadway (with Tony-nominee Charlotte d'Amboise as Peter), and most recently in the award-winning play, Peter and the Starcatcher. I believe that Adam Chanler-Berat was the first boy to play the boy!




With all of the upcoming Pan-mania, can a revival of the musical or play be far behind?  That would be something to crow about!

And finally, I join the world
in mourning one of its eternal boys,
the bangarang Pan, Robin Williams.
RIP

Jeff
5.220

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New Season! New Play! Special Discount! DISGRACED on Broadway!

I got this really interesting press release and video yesterday, and I just had to share it with you!  And, loyal readers, why not use the special discount they sent, too?!  Big Stars + Pulitzer Prize Winner + Hot Topic = The Talk of the Town - my words, not theirs.  This one looks really great.


THE DETAILS
The winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Price, DISGRACED is an explosive tale of the stories we tell our friends, the secrets we tell our lovers, and the lies we tell ourselves to find our place in the American Dream.

Following sold-out engagements in Chicago, London and New York, this “rollicking play that bristles with wit and intelligence” (The New York Times) makes its Broadway premiere this September.


Starring Josh Radnor (“How I Met Your Mother”), Gretchen Mol (“Boardwalk Empire”), Karen Pittman (Domesticated), and Hari Dhillon (star of the acclaimed London’s Bush Theatre production), and written by Ayad Akhtar, one of the most astonishing new voices in American theatre, this proactive tale of big city aspiration and cultural assimilation dares to face the truth hiding just below the deception.

THE VIDEO



  • Visit the show’s website for more information: http://www.disgracedonbroadway.com
  • Connect with DISGRACED on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Google+ at @DisgracedBway.

THE DISCOUNT OFFER
The discount code is DIMAIL811 and can be utilized through TelechargeOffers.com or at the Lyceum Theatre box office.  The offer gives users access to discounts up to 36% off, with tickets ranging from $48 - $87.  The discount is valid through 11/9/14 and some blackout dates may apply. 

PRINT OUT THIS BLOG PAGE FOR USE AT THE BOX OFFICE!


Jeff
5.219 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

REVIEW: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Re-Visit)

Review of the Saturday, July 26th 10 PM performance at the Belasco Theatre in New York City.  Starring Neil Patrick Harris and Lena Hall.  Musical Staging by Spencer Liff.  Direction by Michael Mayer.  95 minutes, no intermission.

Check out the JKTS Grade Grid after the review!


No one will ever be able to say that Neil Patrick Harris is resting on his Tony-winning laurels or phoning it in during his final weeks in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (as this posts, he's starting his last seven shows).  The same goes for his Tony-winning co-star, the luminescent Lena Hall.  Audiences are being treated to a show that actually lives up to its hype, a rarity these days.  In fact, after having seen it close to its opening, and now again toward the end of its original cast run, I can even say I enjoyed it more the second time around!

Actually, my quibbles with the show remain the same (see them in detail in my original review HERE).  Harris is still uneven with the accent - and I'm not talking about the "voices' he uses when reenacting episodes in Hedwig's turbulent life.  It still also feels just wee bit too much like his Tony Awards hosting shtick in places.  I mean, would Hedwig really be able to make all of those modern Broadway jokes/references with such a knowing authority?  Also, I still can't quite wrap my head around the ending of the show...

It is a rare thing indeed that a show with a slightly uneven lead performance and such a perplexing finish can still be so thrilling.  But the sheer force of nature that is NPH more than makes up for it.  His charisma pours off the stage and into your soul.  Then there is Ms. Hall, who really earns her Tony show after show.  This time around, I paid really close attention to her (his) every move.  It is a very detailed, full performance, from the intensity of  the songs, to the stolen passionate glances toward Hedwig to the heartbreaking looks of anger/painful jealousy.  And I also noticed that "The Angry Inch" is much more at ease, and goes well beyond an earnest playing of Stephen Trask's rock score.  Even though most of them don't even speak, you get a sense of who they each are.  Remarkable.

I am a little envious of those with tickets for this week's shows.  I imagine the energy onstage will blow the doors off the place.  And I am in awe of Andrew Rannells, who is so brave to be the follow up to what will likely be an iconic Broadway performance for the ages.  I'm sure he will be terrific.  I just hope the fans will give him a fair shake.


JKTS GRADE GRID:
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH
WRITING
25 pts
Book (10)
8
Score: Music (5)
5
Score: Lyrics (5)
5
Orchestrations (5)
23
5
DIRECTION
25 pts
Staging (15)
15
Choreography (10)
23
8
ACTING                    
20 pts
Leading Roles (7)
6
Supporting Roles (7)
7
Ensemble (6)
19
6
TECHNICAL ELEMENTS
20 pts
Scenery (5)
5
Costumes (5)
5
Lighting (5)
5
Sound (5)
20
5
ARTISTIC IMPRESSION
10 pts
Unity of Concept (5)
5
Entertainment Value (5)
10
5
FINAL GRADE
95
A
100-98 A+
97-93 A
92-90 A-
89-88 B+
87-83 B
82-80 B-
79-78 C+
77-73 C
72-70 C-
69-68 D+
67-63 D
62-60 D-
59-00 F

Jeff
5.218



Thursday, August 7, 2014

REVIEW: The Fantasticks

Review of the Sunday, July 27th matinee at The Jerry Orbach Theater at The Snapple Theater Center in New York City.  Starring Max Crumm, Michael Sharon, Samantha Bruce, Don Sharkey, Kevin R. Free, MacIntyre Dixon, Michael Nostrand and Pierce Cravens. Music by Harvey Schmidt.  Book, lyrics and direction by Tom Jones. 2 hours 5 minutes, including one intermission.

It is a true classic, a living landmark, really.  And well into the 20,000 performance range, it is by far the world's longest running musical (a record that would still be true even if you only counted the 17,000+ performances that happened pre-4-year "hiatus").  So, as a devout musical theatre enthusiast, I am almost ashamed to admit that I am just now seeing The Fantasticks live on stage for the very first time.  I managed to get through roughly 15 minutes of the horrible film version before shutting off the DVD player.  I am thrilled to report that I really enjoyed the production at the charming Snapple Center's Jerry Orbach Theatre.

There is that show that is Broadway's longest-running musical a few blocks away, and there's that other show that claims to be "the world's longest-running musical," currently in revival a couple blocks closer.  But there are two reasons why this little show holds the title, despite being the anti-spectacle musical that it is.  First, and perhaps most importantly, the story is both timeless (Boy Meets Girl a la Pyramus and Thisbe with a dash of Romeo and Juliet) and still feels fresh and modern.  The heart wants what the heart wants, right?  And secondly, this show revels in and celebrates its theatricality, wearing its big heart on its mystical, magical sleeve.

The Mute (Pierce Cravens) and The Narrator (Michael Sharon)

From the minute it starts, the show is in-your-face presentational, with the Narrator and the entire company speaking directly to us throughout. The staging (on a space roughly the size of a dining room table) is simple, yet effective, with a bench, a chair, a trunk and a sheet with the show logo painted on it, being the entirety of the scenery.  A few props handled by the Mute (the absolutely terrific Pierce Cravens - who also serves as a wall!) fill in the visual blanks.  The rest of the show is left up to our imagination, a relatively easy task, given the sharp book, witty, poetic lyrics and the delightfully simple staging by Tom Jones.  The music - including the standard "Try to Remember" and "Soon It's Gonna Rain" by Harvey Schmidt is just as lovely, and is actually aided by the fact that it is played by an orchestra of two - Robert Felstein at the piano and Maria Banks at the harp. Occasionally does the show feel its age, like when its mysticism gets a tad too self-aware.  Only then does the show betray its trippy early 60's birth.

The current eight member company is very good.  MacIntyre Dixon, as The Old Actor, is a very charming presence, managing to seem both world weary and vibrantly alive at the same time.  His partner in crime, The Man Who Dies - his specialty is faking his death in a variety of ways - is played with superb timing and really amazing physicality by Michael Nostrand. The feeling of spontaneity that this guy exudes is remarkable in and of itself, given that he has played the role over 1,000 times!

The Old Actor (MacIntyre Dixon) and 
The Man Who Dies (Michael Nostrand)

The Boy's Father (Don sharkey) and
The Girl's Father (Kevin R. Free)

The two fathers, a pair of conniving co-conspirators, Don Sharkey and Kevin R. Free work wonderfully together, with both of their duets being show highlights.  Both infuse their performances with an excellent mix of modern musical comedy finesse and vaudevillian style.  The Narrator (aka El Gallo) is superbly rendered by Michael Sharon, whose sly looks and off-putting dimpled smile are the perfect recipe for an actor who must guide us as well as provide a mysterious "bad guy" character in the story.  I loved his smooth delivery of "Try to Remember."

Girl (Samantha Bruce) meets Boy (Max Crumm)

As the central characters, The Boy (aka Matt) and The Girl (aka Luisa) must carry the romantic story in a believable way, of course.  But they also get some great (and very important) opportunities for sharp comedy and some relatively impressive physical demands.  Samantha Bruce is delightful throughout, with a terrific voice and a warm sincerity, while Max Crumm (most famous for his reality show/Broadway turn in Grease) has an engagingly off-handed, low-key delivery and a nice singing voice. If he isn't entirely convincing as a swashbuckling adventurer, he is an interesting actor to watch at all times.  Together, they have chemistry to spare, and I found myself pulling for them every second, despite the obvious-from-the-start and inevitable conclusion of their tale.

What made this show especially good for me, though, was a lovely surprise.  There was a little girl there, who was attending her first "grown up" play.  She was thoroughly enthralled and giggled in delight at every turn, and gasping in awe when the two old actors made their entrance from within the onstage trunk.  And every time fist fulls of confetti were thrown about, her face lit up.  Considering how many times there was confetti in the air, she was lit up a lot.  In this day and age of fancy special effects and cellphone video games to bombard the senses, it is great to see that simple theatricality can still excite.  I suspect that we all witnessed the birth of a life-long theatre lover.  And that was, well, "fantastick."

(Photos by Carol Rosegg)

JKTS GRADE GRID: THE FANTASTICKS
WRITING
25 pts
Book (10)
8
Score: Music (5)
5
Score: Lyrics (5)
5
Orchestrations (5)
23
5
DIRECTION
25 pts
Staging (15)
15
Choreography (10)
23
8
ACTING                    
20 pts
Leading Roles (7)
6
Supporting Roles (7)
6
Ensemble (6)
18
6
TECHNICAL ELEMENTS
20 pts
Scenery (5)
4
Costumes (5)
4
Lighting (5)
4
Sound (5)
17
5
ARTISTIC IMPRESSION
10 pts
Unity of Concept (5)
5
Entertainment Value (5)
9
4
FINAL GRADE
90
A-
100 - 98 A+
97 - 93 A
92 - 90 A-
89 - 
88 B+
87 - 83 B
82 - 
80 B-
79 - 
78 C+
77 - 
73 C
72 - 70 C-
69 - 68 D+
67 - 63 D
62 - 
60 D-
59 and lower F

Jeff
5.217
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