THIS WEEK @ JK's TheatreScene

Grab the widget  Get Widgets
HERE'S WHAT'S NEW:

SHOW REVIEWS: The Curious Incident..., On The Town, It's Only a Play

FACE OF THE FUTURE: The Last Ship's Collin Kelly-Sordelet!

HOT or NOT VINTAGE: Mamma Mia! Get ready to vote, Dancing Queens! POLL CLOSES TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28!

HOT or NOT: The Last Ship Edition poll is done! Check out who made it to the finals by clicking the HOT or NOT tab above!!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

TBT: Jerome Robbins' Broadway

On the Town really has e waxing nostalgic for one of my all-time favorite shows, Jerome Robbins' Broadway. Called "the Musical of Musicals," it featured numbers from some of the greatest musicals ever, including West Side Story, The King and I, Fiddler on the Roof, Gypsy and, as you might have guessed, On the Town.

25 years ago, it won 6 Tonys, including Best Musical and ran for 633 performances.  It starred Tony-winners Jason Alexander, Debbie Shapiro-Gravitte and Scott Wise.  The company included such now-familiar names as Charlotte d'Amboise and Faith Prince, and later replacements included Karen Mason, Terrence Mann and Tony Roberts.
























Jeff
6.030


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

VINTAGE HOT or NOT: Mamma Mia Edition

You asked for it, and I think it'll be fun!  I've gotten tons of requests for including long-running shows in the HOT or NOT contest, and so in between this season's polls, we'll select candidates for THE HOTTEST VINTAGE BROADWAY CAST 2015! First up, the current cast of Mamma Mia! (You already know you're gonna love it!  LOL)

Just as with all the other HOT or NOT polls, as you consider each cast member, all you need to do is click either "HOT" or "NOT".  That is it! Of course, what you think is hot or not is up to you.  Is it all just about looks?  Or is it also about talent? Performance? Potential?  To me, it's probably all of these things combined.  BUT THIS IS ALL UP TO YOU!

The top "HOT" vote-getters in each category will move on to the end-of-the-year finals. (In categories where there is only one potential finalist, they will only go on if they receive more "HOT" votes than "NOT" votes.)

I've included a few pictures below so you can see them in action.  Below the pictures is a hyperlink for you to click. A pop-up window with the poll in it will appear.  After the introduction, click "START SURVEY," cast your votes (there are pictures of each cast member there), and be sure to click "FINISH SURVEY " to make your votes count.

THIS POLL WILL CLOSE AT 6PM ON TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28!
(POLL HYPERLINK APPEARS AFTER THE PHOTOS)





CLICK THE HYPERLINK BELOW TO CAST YOUR VOTE

Jeff
6.029

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Face of the Future: The Last Ship's Collin Kelly-Sordelet

No matter what the critics and audiences decide about The Last Ship, I can tell you this: Collin Kelly-Sordelet, who is making his Broadway debut in the show, is going to be huge in theatre (and probably beyond).  I won't review the show or his specific performance until after it opens later this month.  But I will say that this young man makes quite an impression - in both roles he plays.









He's recently attended Julliard, was a member of Paper Mill Playhouse's New Voices 2011, and graduated from Montclair New Jersey's High School of Visual and Performing Arts.  He is a young guy.  And he is going places.

Famous Father with Soon-
to-be-Famous Son: Collin
with his dad, Rick, Broadway
fight director/choreographer

How often do you get such variety in Broadway stars' high school pictures?  Here he is in the casts of Pride and Prejudice and Miss Saigon, along with a video of him as Bobby Strong in the school's production of Urinetown!





His other New York appearance was in the concert presentation of Reefer Madness.


And now he's on Broadway...look at some of the people he's met!


(Left) Jim Parsons and (Right) Alan Rickman



Break a leg! And Happy Opening Night, Collin!

Jeff
6.028

Monday, October 20, 2014

REVIEW: On the Town

Review of the Saturday, October 11 evening preview performance at the Lyric Theatre in New York City.  Starring Tony Yazbeck, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Clyde Alves, Elizabeth Stanley, Alysha Umphress, Megan Fairchild, Jackie Hoffman, Philip Boykin and Michael Rupert.  Choreography by Joshua Bergasse. Direction by John Rando.  2 hours 30 minutes, with one intermission.

Looking back on it, I think the main reason I didn't love On the Town as much as I wanted to was that my expectations were very, very high for this revival.  I've been in love with the score and a large portion of the dancing since seeing the On the Town segment of Jerome Robbins' Broadway.  It was stunning, and in the 25 years since seeing that I've often looked back on it fondly.  Anything would pale in comparison to that memory. So, knowing that, I've purposely taken a few extra days to sort out my feelings about the whole thing.  The bottom line is this: what is excellent about this revival is so excellent, it makes me feel shivers of delight even at the memory.  But what is wrong with this revival is so wrong, it makes me cringe at the memory.

There were a few things that were just a shame.  Cast-wise, what a waste of time for Tony winner Michael Rupert, who was basically a running joke.  And not a very funny one.  Sometimes he was as bland as plain pasta, others he was way over-the-top, and what should have at least been a decent pay-off, "I Understand," fell very flat.  Aside from a stellar opening ("I Feel Like I'm Not Out of Bed Yet"), Tony-nominee Phillip Boykin played several characters, none remarkably, and at worst as a cringe-worthy cliche.  Why oh why does every show host-type character have to be so fey? Boring. But the most egregious performance has to go to Jackie Hoffman, who I normally adore - worship, even. Here, she has so much going on that it just isn't funny.  Not when she's mugging her way through a cliche of an old lady, or over doing the accents of her main characterization Madame Dilly and a series of lounge singers.  Not when she chews every single piece of scenery she comes close to on the Lyric's enormous stage, and especially not when she is literally dry humping the scenery in order to make a "funny" exit. She's simply exhausting to watch and, quite frankly, after a while, she's boring.

Megan Fairchild and Jackie Hoffman
Also on the downside is the scenic and projection design by the normally amazing Beowulf Boritt.  Now I love red, white and blue as much as the next guy, but everything is made out of red, white and blue flat plastic (with the occasional blinding yellow).  It reminded me of very flat Legos, but not nearly as creative. These design elements didn't jibe with the other, far superior, design elements: Jess Goldstein's colorful costumes, Jason Lyons' bombastic lighting, and Kai Harada's pitch-perfect sound design which are all superlative.

But the most enormous problem with this production is its nearly complete lack of subtlety, which I blame entirely on director John Rando.  I realize that there is probably an inescapably natural need to play everything in this huge theater larger than life.  But there's large and there's too damn big.  The cast as a whole is pushing so hard that not much of it feels even remotely honest.  And it is pretty apparent that Rando doesn't trust the material, over doing every joke and every emotion.  Instead of a loving, appreciative rendering, he's zapped the entire thing of any sense of nostalgia it might have brought to the audience.  Most of the old-school conventions of this 70 year old classic, like the cross-stage chases that used to be done to cover scene changes, come across like they are being parodied at best, made fun of at worst.  Over-reaching and unabated intensity ends up feeling like so much white noise.  (Side note: aren't we past ridiculing plus-sized women?) The direction here is a product of today's style of entertainment - be the loudest and most crass to get the most attention.  And it is a shame.



On the upside, the show is full of wonderful performances and music that are good in spite of everything going on around them.  First, the 28 piece orchestra plays the hell out of Leonard Bernstein's vibrant score - the extended dance sequences are aurally thrilling, and visually, too.  Joshua Bergasse's character-driven choreography is a breath-taking tribute to the brilliance of the Jerome Robbins original.  His "Miss Turnstiles Ballet" is a joyous celebration of everything theatre, music and dance can be.  It is 10 minutes of sheer bliss, followed by another 5 or 6 thrilling minutes at the end of act one, the "Times Square Ballet." The ensemble is the best Broadway has seen in some time. Had Mr. Rando trusted the material as much as his choreographer did, this show would have been thoroughly satisfying.

Tony Yazbeck

(Left) Clyde Alves and Elizabeth Stanley
(Right) Jay Armstrong Johnson and Alysha Umphress

It is the central six actors, though, that almost make up for all of the show's other short-comings.  While they all do as directed - shoot to the rafters and make it stick!! - and could all potentially get out of hand as they loosen up further in the run, right now they are in top form.  Let me begin by adding my voice to the acclaim heaped upon Broadway debutante Megan Fairchild, who is destined for at least a Tony nomination.  She's a ballerina with the New York City Ballet, so I'm not surprised that she is a brilliant dancer.  But her acting is just as strong, with sharp timing and a genuineness that is thoroughly winning.  She is amazing in her ability to hold her own against Ms. Hoffman.  The other two main ladies are also terrific.  I've been a career-long fan of both Alysha Umphress and Elizabeth Stanley.  How terrific to see Ms. Umphress graduate to a featured role, and she really makes the most of it.  Already an impressive stage presence, she is a riot and one hell of a singer.  Her "I Can Cook, Too" is a highlight of the whole evening.  Ms. Stanley is equally riotous in a role unlike any other I've seen her play, including a surprisingly wide ranging, operatic voice and a gift for physical comedy.

The three sailors on 24-hour leave at the heart of this story are played to perfection by three of Broadway's best.  All three are going places - see them now! I've been following Jay Armstrong Johnson's career since he was an understudy in the tour of A Chorus Line, and he is an utter joy here as guidebook-loving tourist sailor Chip.  His broad smile, his "aw, shucks" delivery, and obliviousness to his sexiness makes both character and actor compelling to watch.  Clyde Alves scores as fun-loving (and just as handsome/sexy) sailor Ozzie, and what a dancer!  Finally, Tony Yazbeck has found the role of a lifetime in Gabey, the lonely, lovelorn sailor on a quest for the girl of his dreams.  A natural song and dance man, he commands the stage.  All three are triple-threats to the third power.

Clearly, all around me the audience was crazy for this production.  They laughed extra loud, clapped extra loud and screamed out in delight at even the smallest things.  I'm glad that they loved it so much.  Broadway needs that kind of enthusiasm.  I wish I felt it that intensely.


JKTS GRADE GRID:
ON THE TOWN
WRITING
25 pts
Book (10)
7
Score: Music (5)
5
Score: Lyrics (5)
5
Orchestrations (5)
22
5
DIRECTION
25 pts
Staging (15)
7
Choreography (10)
17
10
ACTING               
20 pts
Leading Roles (7)
7
Supporting Roles (7)
4
Ensemble (6)
17
6
TECHNICAL ELEMENTS
20 pts
Scenery (5)
3
Costumes (5)
5
Lighting (5)
5
Sound (5)
18
5
ARTISTIC IMPRESSION
10 pts
Unity of Concept (5)
4
Entertainment Value (5)
7
3
FINAL GRADE
81
B-
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



(Photos by Joan Marcus)

Jeff
6.027

Friday, October 17, 2014

GUEST BLOGGER REVIEW: It's Only a Play

It is my pleasure to introduce a fellow theater-blogger, Krloz Ruben!  He had the good fortune to catch a preview of one of Broadway's hottest tickets, It's Only a Play.  Here's what he thought of the show:

Grade: A-

Forget about pathos and logos: ethos the word! 



After an unsuccessful 2014 Spring season, with his play Mothers and Sons, karma is once again kind to Mr. Terrence McNally. For those of us who witnessed the tragedy that Mothers and Sons was, I can't help but to feel happy for Mr. McNally's current hit, It's Only a Play, which is currently playing at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater to packed house every night. This is the man who penned such TONY winning hits as Love! Valour! Compassion!, Master Class', and Kiss of the Spider Woman among other successful plays. Although Mothers and Sons is a good choice for a Sunday afternoon reading, a staged production, like the one seen last season, just didn't do it for me.

Now that I got that off of my chest; let's talk about It's Only a Play

What was more awaited: the stage reunion of Mr. Lane and Mr. Broderick; or the Broadway debut of once wizard Rupert Grint? Stand outside the stage door and find out. The entire ensemble gave an astounding performance. Perhaps the thought of seeing Matthew Broderick (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying - TONY Award) and Nathan Lane (The Producers - TONY Award) in yet another show that has to do with Broadway and opening nights, brings a certain déjà vu feeling. Admittedly, [I was] in search of that déjà vu as my reason for seeing the show. [There was] no similarity between either production. Maybe we will see the similarities during the TONY Award season; then again, with British shows like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time currently playing on Broadway, we might not.


The show opens, and closes, in a luxurious bedroom of a Manhattan townhouse that belongs to wealthy Broadway producer Julia Budder. Every detail of the room, and the entire scenic design, are a masterpiece [from] Scott Pask (The Coast of Utopia - TONY Award). A fun and spontaneous lighting design and sound design - when you see the show you will get the meaning of this- are created by Philip S. Rosenberg (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder) and Fitz Patton (The Other Place), respectively. With an A-list opening night party going on downstairs, and chaos slowly unraveling upstairs (in the bedroom), Jack O'Brien (The Coast of Utopia - TONY Award) directs with perfection a starry cast of Broadway veterans and "muggles" alike. 

If you know much of Mr. McNally's plays, then you already know how he likes to involve current social issues and pop culture in his plays to bring in some strong comedy; perhaps this is what makes him so accurate and successful in his writing. [So it] was no surprise when he focused some of his strongest jokes on Ben Brantley from The New York Times, and threw a few at Harvey Fierstein, the latter with a sense of admiration. And what could be funnier than watching Mr. Lane in character as James Wicker, not Wacker!, refer to his real-life-self in a play: "Nathan Lane I'd understand; BUT HARVEY FIERSTEIN?" The jokes perhaps are a little too much of an inside joke for people who know little of show biz; but with its pop culture references that [range] from Lady Gaga to Barbra Streisand, the show is bound to be an exhilarating night at the theater for everyone. What ever happened to Barbra, the world will never know.

                             

One would think that with such a star-studded cast everyone on stage will be bouncing over each other to grab those scene-stealing moments; but the truth is, they don't. Harmoniously, figuratively speaking, each character has his/her scene-stealing moment. From a diva's lament, to a self-doubted British director, you can see how there's many scene-stealing moments to grab from. We all know Matthew Broderick as an actor who portrays roles of shy characters that towards the end of the show finds [their]true selves, well that's precisely what happens here. Nathan Lane is truly a comedic legend, and he puts everything he's got in his funny bag on that stage. He knows the trick of how to bring an audience to laughter over and over without feeling forced. Please teach that trick to Isabel Keating, who portrayed the role of Virginia Noyes (usually played by Stockard Channing) the night I went to see the play. I don't know if Ms. Keating (The Boy From Oz) was trying to summon the diva madness of the role, or if she was trying to reincarnate Ms. Channing. Critic, and frustrated writer, Mr. Ira Drew was played hilariously by F. Murray Abraham ('The Grand Budapest Hotel'). In the role of Broadway producer Julia Budder was Megan Mullally (Young Frankenstein). No resemblance what so ever to one Mrs. Karen Walker! Ms. Mullally is such a delightful to watch. Although she doesn't have the knock-out jokes of the night, she's so subtle and brings such elegance to her character. Rupert Grint (Harry Potter films), as previously mentioned, makes his Broadway debut in such a complicated, yet so perfectly executed, character. Mr. Grint gives an electrifying, energy-filled performance. In another Broadway debut, Mikah Stock (off-Broadway's And Away We Go) gives a charming and heartwarming performance as coat check boy Gus P. Head. If you're indecisive [about] whether seeing Wicked, or seeing It's Only a Play, see It's Only a Play. Micah Stock's rendition of 'Defying Gravity' brings it home every time. Look out Idina Menzel! There's a new Elphaba in town.
Truly this is Terrance McNally's year on Broadway. With constant uproarious laughter and a full house standing ovation, It's Only a Play exceeded all my expectations, which from the beginning were high. 


Have a review you'd like to share?  Email me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com.

Jeff
6.026

Thursday, October 16, 2014

TBT: Michael C. Hall

Tonight, Michael C. Hall begins his run as Hedwig in the Tony-winning revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  Seems Mr. Hall has a penchant for playing roles in Tony-winning revivals... he's appeared in both Chicago (as Billy Flynn) and Cabaret (as the Emcee).  Side question: Has anyone else been in all three?  I don't think so. (NPH has not been in Chicago...yet.)








Here he is...

...as The Emcee




...as Billy Flynn



Jeff
6.025

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

REVIEW: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

REVIEW of the Sunday, October 12, 2014 matinee performance at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York City.  Starring Taylor Trensch, Francesca Faridany, Ian Barford, and Enid Graham.  A new play by Simon Stephens, based upon the novel by Mark Haddon. Directed by Marianne Elliott. 2 hours 35 minutes, including one intermission.

 There is a moment of complete silence at the very end of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time that made me realize two things: that I had totally been swept up in the world of a very amazing young man named Christopher Boone, and that the realities of the world I know can be heartbreaking and unfair to a guy like him. My tears were of sadness and a touch of shame.  Sad that life has dealt him (and many others like him) a bad hand, and shame that I've known and dismissed people just like him.  Going forward, I hope I will never forget that bit of shame.  The stunning production I witnessed will make forgetting very difficult.

I am loathe to talk too much about the content of the play by Simon Stephens (based on the novel by Mark Haddon) because I would really hate to spoil a single second of this mind-blowing performance and physical production for any of you.  That said, I suppose I should warn you that there may be spoilers ahead.


The first thing that strikes you is the enormous cube of a set (designed by Bunny Christie, who also did the costume designs) that extends into the house.  Framed by an illuminated border large enough to sit on, the space is largely empty, with the walls and floor imprinted with what amounts to grid after grid of graph paper.  It feels both scientific and infinite, and, as the play progresses, the perfect metaphor for the mind of the main character: a rigidly ordered plane where the possibilities are limitless, but where order can become chaos in an instant.  As the play progresses, Christie's setting offers up many a surprise, just as the plot does, and ultimately, the design goes a long way toward bringing us as an audience to an easier understanding of the unique main character.  Considering Christopher's brilliant mathematical and scientific mind, it seems only appropriate that a large part of the experience is aided by some thrilling projections, lighting and sound (designed respectively by Finn Ross, Paule Constable and Ian Dickinson/Autograph).  Trying to describe the audio visual aspects of the production would somehow, I think, diminish their importance and impact.  But I will say that there are several moments of extreme sensory overload juxtaposed with abrupt moments of complete silence and darkness.  There is a relief and a scariness when those silent blackouts occur that brings into very sharp focus just how difficult it must be to be Christopher Boone.

Director Marianne Elliott has crafted a jaw-dropping performance from an amazing ensemble of actors who play neighbors, strangers, furniture, floor mats and even space.  These folks change characters rapidly, sometimes within the same scene, all while performing very intricate blocking and evocative, complicated choreography, created by Scott Graham, Steven Hoggett and the aptly named Frantic Assembly.  Ms. Elliott also very effectively uses the house, with actors going beyond the proscenium and delivering lines from the mezzanine.  In short, once the lights go down, we are concurrently observers and participants in this part mystery, part human drama.  It is total theatrical bliss - you'll never get this from a film.  And that makes this all the sweeter.




Every member of the 14 member company is superb.  The main cast of four is superb.  Enid Graham is remarkable as Christopher's estranged mother, a complicated mess of a woman tortured by guilt, seething with (justified) anger.  She makes you feel both disgust (how could she leave her son who needs her so much?) and compassionate understanding.  And there is the narrator/teacher who understands, nurtures and admires her student, played with a calm intensity by Francesca Faridany.  How she manages to be both detached from the action and so emotionally invested is truly a feat.  Ian Barford, as Christopher's father, biggest champion and protector, gives a Tony-worthy performance here.  This man's profound love, profound frustration and profound exhaustion permeate the entire theatre every time Barford is in a scene. It is masterful.


It is, however, my greatest pleasure to be writing this review having seen the utter joy that is Taylor Trensch.  Much has, and likely, will, be written about the other guy who plays Christopher Boone.  But there is nothing "alternate" about what this gifted young actor has accomplished here.  He must be exhausted by the end of the show - both physically and emotionally.   Somehow, miraculously, he manage to make this (literally) unapproachable, untouchable kid completely relate-able and accessible.  By turns utterly charming and infuriating, funny and deadly serious, Trensch is deeply invested in bringing out the complexities of a person that most of us would write off as an odd, "special" person.  He makes you feel for him in unexpected ways.  I found myself admiring Christopher, and only pitying that the world will probably never know how much better off we are with him, and people like him, in it.  There is nothing about this career-defining performance that feels less than natural or genuine.  Mr. Trensch is not second-string. Not in any way.

Next to Normal was called the "feel everything musical."  Curious Incident is the feel everything play.  I am a better person for having experienced it. Don't miss this.

JKTS GRADE GRID:
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT
OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME
WRITING
25 pts
Script (25)
25
25
DIRECTION
25 pts
Staging (15)
15
Choreography (10)
25
10
ACTING               
20 pts
Leading Roles (7)
7
Supporting Roles (7)
7
Ensemble (6)
20
6
TECHNICAL ELEMENTS
20 pts
Scenery (5)
5
Costumes (5)
4
Lighting (5)
5
Sound (5)
19
5
ARTISTIC IMPRESSION
10 pts
Unity of Concept (5)
5
Entertainment Value (5)
10
5
FINAL GRADE
99
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

(Photos by Joan Marcus, All but the last photo feature Alex Sharp, who was not in the performance I attended. This last photo is Mr. Trensch.)

Jeff
6.024
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...