Broadway  Reviews


GOLDEN   BOY

Golden Boy is without doubt an important play because in material and method it marks the fresh swift advance of dramatist Clifford Odets who not only thinks and feels deeply but whose writing talents are essentially and in terms of its most dramatic elements: to observe and define character, to write active dialogue, and to conquer attention.

Director, Bartlett Sher, whose gut-wrenching 2006 Broadway revival of Clifford Odets’s “Awake and Sing!” reminde how forceful a director and playwright’s could work together. 


Odets’ Golden Boy return to Broadway at the Belasco Theatre with a genuinely wonderful cast of twenty makes the three hours with two intermissions fly as fast as a sixty-minute production. “Golden Boy” is from the 1937 drama about a young gifted violinist  (Joe Bonaparte) torn between a big-money career in the boxing ring or the more esoteric rewards of a life devoted to music. 

Joe persuades the near-bankrupt manager Tom Moody to give him a chance to get in the ring.  As he fights and wins he quickly rises in this his new profession. When he has second thoughts about his choice, Moody's girlfriend Lorna uses her feminine wiles to keep him interested in boxing and the money he can earn. When tough gangster Eddie Fuseli wants to "buy a piece" of Joe, Lorna herself begins to have second thoughts. But is it too late?  A fast car, a beautiful girl and lots of money are the determinant factor. Odets called the play "'symbolic, pitting spiritual ideals against lust for fame and money in what can only be termed an implausible setup” 

Directed by Bartlett Sher. Cast (alphabetical order): Michael Aronov (Siggie), Danny Burstein (Tokio), Demosthenes Chrysan (Lewis), Anthony Crivello (Eddie Fuseli), Sean Cullen (Drake), Dagmara Dominczyk (Anna), Ned Eisenberg (Roxy Gottlieb), Brad Fleischer (Pepper White), Karl Glusman (Call Boy), Jonathan Hadary (Mr. Carp), Daniel Jenkins (Barker), Danny Mastrogiorgio (Tom Moody), Dion Mucciacito (Sam), Seth Numrich (Joe Bonaparte), Vayu O’Donnell (Driscoll), Lucas Caleb Rooney (Frank Bonaparte), Tony Shalhoub (Mr. Bonaparte), Yvonne Strahovski (Lorna Moon) and David Wohl (Mickey). Sets: Michael Yeargan 

At the Belasco Theater Lincoln Center Theater presents Golden Boy by Clifford Odets. A worthwhile production for thinking audiences. 

By Joyce Hauser


WAR  HORSE


Tchnology takes command at the Roundabout at Lincoln Center where  a War Horse is the central figure. This is not an ordinary horse but one that is made from wicker and wire and leather frames like a design net and with moving joints from withers to fetlock.  War Horse is perfect in every aspect. What could be a better choice than the  relationship between a boy and his horse. Albert, (Andrew Durand ) tries to entice Joey the young horse to feed from a bucket. Joey, is a chestnut hunter, a cross between a strong, and racing thoroughbred. Andrian Sutton and John Tam's folk music adds to the atmosphere as the young horse is patiently trained to plough to win an impossible bet suggested by Albert's father Ted Narracott (Andy Murray ). Although Albert's father finally agrees he can keep the horse, the father breaks his word and Joey is sold to the army and the horse becomes the responsibility of an officer. Time passé and Joey goes to France and Albert is given an unwelcome consolation Christmas present of a bicycle. 

In France Joey serves in a battle, sees his rider killed, meets Topthorn a thoroughbred horse, and is later taken by the Germans where he learns to pull an ambulance. Joey's ploughing experience saves his life. David Lansbury  plays Hauptmann Friedrich Müller, a German officer and equestrian who rescues both Joey and Topthorn from warfare. Later Joey and Topthorn are made to pull a heavy gun and Topthorn tragically dies of exhaustion. Joey gets entangled in the barbed wire during the battle but miraculously he is released and reunited with Albert.

Nick Stafford has adapted the play into an ensemble piece with many of the actors playing several different parts. Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler for the Handspring Puppet Company has achieved wonders with the horses, 

The First World War battlefields are realistic and can be frightening for a youngster but my ten year old Grandson Wesley thought the whole production was “fantastic”. Rae Smith's design brings believable scenes from the war through her pencil and charcoal drawings of clouds across the landscape and scenes from the war. Lit from behind, this backdrop is a very effective way to adapt to different scenarios and the huge stage which never feels too large.

The good news is that WAR HORSE is a magnificent drama. The realistic beathing, galloping, charging of the horses on the stage - their flanks, hides and sinews built of steel, leather and aircraft cables feel real. They are life-size puppets strong enough for men to ride. And that's just one element of this imaginative epic.  The bad news is that on January 6th 2013 War Horse will be galloping away. War Horse is playing  at the Lincoln Center Theater at the Vivian Beaumont and should not be missed.

Reviewed by Joyce Hauser


THE   HEIRESS

PHOTO: Judith Ivey, Dan Stevens, David Strathairn, Jessica Chastain

The Heiress written originally by Henry James was based on the 1880 novel Washington Square and adapted in 1947 for the stage by Ruth and Augustus Goetz. In the age of stilted manners and rigid attitudes The Heiress has returned to Broadway. It crackles with allusive life and fire in this tender and agonized story of Catherine the plain and timid daughter and her emotionally distant father over her handsome and charming suitor.


We learn that Catherine's mother was beautiful and graceful but Catherine never knew her since she died while in childbirth. Her father though constantly reminds her of all the things her mother was and that she is not. Catherine inherited a great deal of money after her mother passed and will inherit twice as much more at the passing of her father. So, when Morris Townsend (Dan Stevens) a poor but handsome and well-bred man, begins to court Catherine, her father becomes suspicious that he must be after her money. After all, what could she possibly offer this young man - other than her money? When she refuses to give up her new beau her father threatens to disinherit her. Will her father eventually convince her to give him up and wait for a suitable husband? Will Catherine and Morris elope and live on the money left to her by her mother? Or could it be that Catherine finally finds all the grace and charm of her mother only to use it against this man? 

Judith Ivey, delivers a delightful performance as the girl’s impulsive dowdy, widowed aunt who is foolishly fond of young Townsend, and who knows a thing or two about living one's declining years alone. One often forgets the wry humor in James's novels, but Ivey manages to get a laugh at every opportunity and her closing scene with Catherine is poignant. All the performers are believable and more than adequate. On the whole Jessica Chastain portrayal of The Heiress has dignity and strength. This dramatic and suspenseful play features one of the great female roles written for the stage.   

Cast 
Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain as Catherine Sloper, Academy Award nominee and Emmy Award winner David Strathairn as Dr. Austin Sloper, the leading man of “Downton Abbey” Dan Stevens as Morris Townsend and Tony Award winner Judith Ivey as Lavinia Penniman. Written by Ruth & Augustus Goetz, The Heiress is directed by Tony Award nominated playwright and director Moisés Kaufman.

Reviewed by Joyce Hauser
 



DEAD   ACCOUNTS
Two-time Tony Award® winner Norbert Leo Butz and Katie Holmes returns to Broadway in DEAD ACCOUNTS, the new comedy from Pulitzer Prize finalist Theresa Rebeck (Seminar), and directed by three-time Tony® winner Jack O’Brien. 
DEAD ACCOUNTS is the story of a brother, and sister, and a surprise reunion that turns the family into instant millionaires. A $27 million dollar secret proves that the truth can be more unbelievable than fiction. 

Norbert Leo Butz easily steals the show in "Dead Accounts," a dark comedy that follows him in his sudden return from NYC to the Midwest — enigmatic with wads of cash and wearing a rumpled Armani suit he has secrets that are worth the ticket to find out what it is. 

Katie Holmes as Lorna returns to Broadway this time though she is mostly at ease on the Broadway stage. She is unlike her brother Jack whose activity causes him to look like he’s mostly bouncing off the wall. Lorna is a mousy younger sister who still lives with their parents and espouses old-fashioned values that Jack has abandoned. Jack’s wife Jenny is played with aplomb by Judy Greer. Jack O'Brien, does a good job of directing this absurd and funny production. Playwright Theresa Rebeck creates entertaining and quick-paced dialogue. The production before the big secret is exposed is worth the wait. A series of twists and turns follows in Act II, and that is when we learn all about the family and the big secret. 




ANNIE 

The new Broadway revival of Annie had me on the first  note from the orchestra. The orchestra hidden under the stage was particularly brilliant and I sing accolades to the conductor for the orchestrations and the symphony of Annie. Together with each of the outstanding stars this production, even though I’ve seen Annie at least three times, is perfect. With a magnificent score by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charmin Choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, and Directed by James Lapine, the energy and talent that comes off that stage is  not to be missed.  

The story is based on the Comic Strip by Harold Gray “Little Ophan Annie, a spunky Depression-era orphan determined to find her parents, who abandoned her on the doorstep of a New York City Orphanage run by the cruel, Miss Hannigan. In this fun-filled adventure, Annie foils Miss Hannigan's evil inclinations, while she befriends President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and finds a new family and home in billionaire Oliver Warbucks, his personal secretary Grace Farrell and a lovable mutt named Sandy.

Although Anthony Warlow as Daddy Warbucks  is making his Broadway debut in Annie it certainly won’t be his last. His voice, and presence with Lilla Crawford as Annie, a little girl with a loud, wonderful voice, will certainly bring in a couple of awards for each of them. 

 And the wonderful orphans screech after a mouse,  run up and down a staircase and perform a mix of leaps and stomps and each of the seven girls are delightful and talented. I’d adopt any one of them. 

ANNIE features a book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin, with all three authors receiving 1977 Tony Awards® for their work.  ANNIE is directed by Pulitzer Prize and three-time Tony Award®-winner James Lapine and choreographed by Tony Award®-winner Andy Blankenbuehler.  
ANNIE stars two-time Tony Award® winner Katie Finneran as Miss Hannigan, Australian star Anthony Warlow making his Broadway debut as Daddy Warbucks and 11-year-old Lilla Crawford as Annie, with Brynn O’Malley as Grace Farrell, Clarke Thorell as Rooster Hannigan and J. Elaine Marcos as Lily St. Regis.  The Orphans are Madi Rae DiPietro as July, Georgi James as Pepper, Junah Jang as Tessie, Tyrah Skye Odoms as Kate, Taylor Richardson as Duffy, Emily Rosenfeld as Molly and Jaidyn Young as standby for the roles of Annie, Pepper, Duffy and July.  The production also features Ashley Blanchet, Jane Blass, Jeremy Davis, Fred Inkley, Merwin Foard, Joel Hatch, Amanda Lea LaVergne, Gavin Lodge, Liz McCartney, Desi Oakley, Keven Quillon, David Rossetti, Sarah Solie, Dennis Stowe and Ryan VanDenBoom.
ANNIE will be produced on Broadway by Arielle Tepper Madover, Roger Horchow, Sally Horchow, Roger Berlind, Roy Furman, Debbie Bisno, Stacey Mindich, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Jane Bergère/Daryl Roth and Eva Price/Christina Papagjika.

At the Palace Theatre on Broadway Annie is wonderrful. 

Reviewed  by  Joyce  Hauser

  

GLENGARRY   GLEN  ROSS

Now on Broadway David Mamet's award winning play Glengarry Glen Ross about a group of desperate real estate agents who are given a strong incentive to succeed in a sales contest. The prizes? First prize a Cadillac El Dorado, second prize is a set of steak knives, third prize is the sack! There is no room for losers in this dramatically masculine world; only "closers" can win and get the good sales leads. The pressure leads to a robbery of the good leads that are locked up in the bosses office which has unforeseen consequences for all the characters.
Al Pacino and Bobby Cannaval

David Mamet is the master when it comes to pacing and sharp dialogue. He truly has a style like no other. There are a million lines in this play that are not too quotable, many of which are in most of the salesmen dialogue. ." Mamet's dialogue is delivered in a lightning-fast pace, which is fascinating.

Starring Al Pacino as a hungry salesman is determined to make a sale and loudly informs the group of how to close on a deal. The agents work their same tired leads, until one hatches a scheme to burglarize the office, steal the leads, and sell them to a rival. 

Every character is multi-dimensional, and I was able to feel either a deep sympathy or a deep hatred towards each of them. Some have criticized this play for being visually unimpressive, since it takes place mainly on one location. When you have actors this engaging, setting is definitely not the issue. Outstanding is Bobby Cannavale, John C. McGinley, Jeremy Shamos and Murphy Guyr and direction by Daniel Sullivan, it is definitely a Production to see. 



WHO’S  AFRAID   OF  VIRGINIA  WOOLF?

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the critically acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre Company production of  Edward Albee’s  WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? opened on Broadway exactly 50 years to the day after the play’s original Broadway opening.  This new production features the original Steppenwolf cast, led by Tracy Letts and Amy Morton, the playwright and the star of the Pulitzer and Tony Award®-winning smash hit August: Osage County.

Tracy Letts, Amy Morton, 
 Madison Dirks and Carrie Coon 
       (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

The shocking messiness of love, which is the subtext of so much great literature rises to the surface in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia’Woolf? The revelations and emotional convulsions are so dramatically structured for three hours it feels like a short story.  Although nothing makes sense in love, in Virginia Woolf  the evaporation of love is never explainable or predictable. 


Essentially it deals with the wife’s (Amy Morton) fierce determination to hold onto her husband by any means and vice-versa. Martha is a willfully spoiled woman living on her rapacious impulses about her naughtiness. George plays a more sophisticated role but he ultimately serves in the corruption of love, knowing no honor, and is treated not as a sloppy fact but as a triumphal statement – a battle cry in the war of the sexes.

Tracy Letts’s performance as George is brilliant. More so since other productions put George on the back burner to Martha.  Elizabeth Taylor won an Oscar for her Martha in the movie,  Richard Burton did not.   

The two  sweet young actors Carrie Coon and Madison Dirks  arrive at Martha and George’s home  at 2:30, in the early morning,  and join in the unrestrained drinking brawl and add their lives to the mix. 

Together with the fine cast and direction under Pam MacKinnon “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”is  not to be missed.  On Broadway at the Booth Theatre “Virginia Woolf”  is one of the greatest American  plays of the 20th century.  If you’ve seen it before it is worth seeing again. And  if you’ve  never seen the production it is time. 


Reviewed by  Joyce Hauser


GRACE
Paul Rudd returns to Broadway with Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon ("Boardwalk Empire," Revolutionary Road), seven-time Award-winner Ed Asner ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show", Up) and Steppenwolf's Kate Arrington in the dark comedy by award-winning writer Craig Wright (Mistakes Were Made, "Six Feet Under"). and Director Dexter Bullard (Tracy Lett’s Bug. The acting is wonderful especially  Michael Shannon. 
Paul Rudd and Kate Arrington  Photo  by Joan Marcus
The play follows the wide-eyed young couple (Rudd and Arrington) as they start a new life from minnesota to sunny Florida, to pursue big plans to open a chain of Gospel-themed motels. There, they cross paths with a reclusive  neighbor (Shannon) and a condo exterminator (Asner), creating an eclectic foursome in a play that ponders a big question: Can you be a devout evangelical believer and a capitalist at the same time.  ‘Grace’ may present a problem for religious people who don’t think of stories like this as “Metaphorical”.  
Never mind that they're flat broke, and their mysterious sole investor hasn't paid them a cent in nearly a month. And so Steve tries to get the money from his next door neighbor Sam (Michael Shannen), a depressed and cynical atheist with half a face that he lost in an auto accident in which his wife died. His only love until he meets Kate.  Sam  gives Steve  a check but after much banter from Steve about why he gave the money, Amen,  Sam takes his check back.

While the three characters  move back and forth between the two  houses sometimes not seeing each other an exterminator enters (Ed Asner) a Polish-born cynic whose family hid Jews during the Holocaust.  He comes to his cynicism honestly after you learn more about him. 

Although “Grace” starts with the murder of the two people and one suicide it is brought back to the beginning so it won’t take away from the plot.  At the Cort Theatre 138 West 48th Street “Grace is 90 minutes without intermission. It will keep you interested and entertained.

Reviewed by Joyce Hauser   




Cyrano De Bergerac 


Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes, Artistic Director) is pleased to present Tony® Award winner Douglas Hodge as “Cyrano” in a new Broadway production of Cyrano de Bergerac.  Douglas. Hodge as Cyrano de Bergerac seems able to do anything his mind wants it to and with the speed of thought. But he has an anomaly: a nose so long and ugly that it stands out. Although the script is the translation and adaptation by Anthony Burgess of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 romantic classic I’ve never enjoyed it as much. Mr. Hodge tosses his sword about and juggling it in the duel-of-wits scene; he uses his physical dexterity much as dancer. His lightness is a form of purity. It cuts down on the mawkish appeal of Cyrano – that it’s shaped as an actor’s masochistic fantasy. He can wallow in the feeling of being unloved because of fate. Yet he remains a romantic.  


Cyrano de Bergerac is, of course (as just about everybody will remember from high school, or earlier), is about nose-consciousness.  It’s a measure of the success of this adaptation that when Roxanne impetuously takes a fancy to young Chris, the strapping and handsome dumb soldier. who inveigles Cyrano into carrying on his courtship rites for him – reciting speeches to Roxanne, and writing impassioned letters – and Roxanne falls in love with Cyrano’s words, thinking they are Chris’s. Although it could end up drippy and insipid the deception never gets a chance to be sickly.

Jamie Lloyd is a fluid yet right-on-the-button director, starting with the first scene, in which the dapper, angular, unattractive Cyrano jumps out and greets the day with a twist of humor. Mr. Lloyd’s control probably helps to account for the quality of surprise in the scenes between Chris and Cyrano and the love scenes between the two lightweights Chris and Roxanne. Cyrano is a true story, a classic tale of romance and tragedy.

Cyrano de Bergerac is playing at the American Airlines Theatre Company at 227 West 42nd Street.  

Reiewed by Joyce Hauser



CHAPLIN

Chaplin, now playing on Broadway is a winner, especially with Ron McClure playing this genius of silent films. Mr. McClure is a major star in this the first of the Broadway productions for the new season. I loved it. 

Charlie Chaplin was a comedic British actor who became one of the biggest stars of the early 20th century's silent film era. Born on April 16, 1889 in London England, Charlie Chaplin worked with a children's dance troupe before making a huge mark on the big screen. His character Charlie the Tramp relied on pantomime and quirky movements to became an iconic figure of the silent film era. Chaplin went on to become a director and co-founded United Artists Corporation, making films like City Lights and Modern Times.

Chaplin's rise was a true rags-to-riches story. His father, a notorious drinker, abandoned Chaplin, his mother, and his older half-brother, Sydney, not long after his Charlie's birth. That left Chaplin and his brother in the hands of their mother, a vaudevillian and music hall singer who went by the stage name of Lily Harley.

Chaplin lit up the audience, wowing them with his natural presence and comedic angle (at one point he imitated his mother's cracking voice). But the episode meant the end for Hannah. Her singing voice never returned and she eventually ran out of money. For a time Charlie and Sydney had to make a new temporary home for themselves in London's tough workhouses.
Armed with his mother's love of the stage, Chaplin was determined to make it in show business himself and in 1897 using his mother's contacts landed with a clog dancing troupe named the Eight Lancashire Lads. It was a short stint, and not a terribly profitable one, forcing the go-getter Chaplin to make ends meet anyway he could.

In 1914 Chaplin made his film debut in a somewhat forgettable one-reeler called Make a Living. To differentiate himself from the clad of other actors in Sennett films, Chaplin decided to play a single identifiable character. The Little Tramp was born, with audiences getting their first taste of him in Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914). Over the next year, Chaplin appeared in 35 movies, a lineup that included Tillie's Punctured Romance, film's first full-length comedy. In 1915 Chaplin left Sennett to join the Essanay Company, which agreed to pay him $1,250 a week. It's with Essanay that Chaplin, who by this time had hired his brother Sydney to be his business manager, rose to stardom.

But while Chaplin's life on-screen life was filled with successes, what was happening off-screen proved to be trickier to navigate. His affairs with actresses who had roles in his movies were numerous. Some, however, ended better than others.
Chaplin spoke even louder in The Great Dictator (1940), which pointedly ridiculed the governments of Hitler and Mussolini. "I want to see the return of decency and kindness," Chaplin said around the time of the film's release. "I'm just a human being who wants to see this country a real democracy . . ."
Because of McCarthy like tactics Chaplin was accused of anti patriotic dialogue and had to leave Britain. He spent many years in Switzerland which ended when he was honored for his work in Britain.  
With a talented cast of 22 together with music and Lyrics by Christopher Curtis and Director and Choreographer Warren Carlyle “Chaplin” is a Must See. oOn Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theater on 47th Street.
Reviewed by Joyce Hauser 

THE   ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE 

Today the world is a theatre: we see men in politics as personalities engaging in a  great drama in which we are at once spectators and participants. Politicians rant, they cry, they storm the very Heavens, they perform before vast multitudes. Only the realistic theatre is still anxious about the problems of the little man.

And then is it a case of propaganda for democracy and for freedom of speech, press, religion and assembly. While the actors on the stage of “Enemy of the People” serve to make people fierce in their love of liberty, and tolerant of all except those who preach intolerance are aware of the fateful participation of every one of us in world affairs. 

Enemy of the People by Henrik Ipsen with a new version by Rebecca Lenkiewicz will definitely be the recipient of many awards. Dr. Thomas Stockman (Boyd Gaines) discovers a toxic secret that threatens the health of his entire community. The doctor expects to be hailed as a hero, but his brother, Mayor Peter Stockmann 
(Richard Thomas), believes the information will destroy the town, forcing the men into a passionate confrontation of political will and personal ethics.

Enemy of the People is definitely for thinking audiences who will leave the theatre reviewing and discussing the truth of politicians against the scientists. This brilliant production with a first-class assembly of  actors is not to be missed. 

Enemy of the People  is at the Manhattan Theatre Club at The Samuel J Friedman Theatre on Broadway.

Reviewed by Joyce Hauser


FELA

The revival of “Fela” now playing at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre together with a fairly good plot, and hand clapping and feet tapping music and dance you know this is a Winner.   The rich luminous characters all share one outstanding commonality in “Fela!” they each stand mightily strong – for something. We feel and relate to the story of the emotional crosses that black political thinkers went through. 

Through these bright, entertaining and impassioned dancers, who scream individuality, we see that time goes by: styles change, our children grow up, our loved ones die, the world changes and new generations crop up with their own ideals, vigor and fervent beliefs of the world.  But all the while, we hold true to who we are and the feelings and convictions that sprouted within us along the way-- none of which go down easy.   It is here that the play is especially successful. “Fela” is for thinking audiences , regardless of their political leanings.    

Fela and dancers. 
Pulling it off says much for the music and lyrics of writer Fela Anikulapo-Kuti  .Through music he has touched the human condition-- for we are drawn to the embodiment of the characters’ make-up, which ties heavily to the play’s overall message.  Featuring this score and an extremely talented cast the production is true and inspired by the real life of Fela Kuti.  

The story starts in a black underground club called The Shrine in Lagos, Nigeria.  It follows the rise of “Fela” the Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer, and  political activist.  At his  Shrine, Fela, along with his assemblage of singers and dancers, have gathered for the funeral services of his mother. "We are going to party tonight," Fela shouts. For him, the funeral will be a celebration of Funmilayo’s life. ( Melanie Marshall) Her spirit returns at different times to serve as inspiration and to support to her son, whose political leanings have been hugely influenced by Sandra Isidore (Paulette Ivory),  a beautiful woman he meets while in America. She is the one who introduces him to the writings of Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver and who ignites in him the spark of political and social rebellion. There are a number of moments that are disturbing especially when video projections show the brutality of the military government.  His mother died from injuries sustained after being thrown from a second story window by the police during a raid. 

Adesola Osakalumi as Fela is wonderful,  versatile and talented.  He takes center stage every moment of the production but it is never too much.  He tells us of his past, his father, a Christian schoolmaster, minister and master pianist; and his mother; and his brother who became president of the Nigerian Medical Association in 1958. The family had hopes that Fela would also go into the medical profession. But he dropped out of his studies and enrolled at Trinity College’s School of Music. Influenced by James Brown and Frank Sinatra and others, he returned to Nigeria, where he began to find his own authenticity by incorporating elements of traditional Yoruba, high life and jazz  into his “Afrobeat” music. 

“Fela and ensemble of stunningly beautiful dancers. are exotically costumed by designer Marina Draghini (who also designed the two-level setting that evokes the shrine). The show contains songs; which serve as the thematic theme throughout the performance, including the international hit “Zombie”.. The production  is a collaborative effort by Jim Lewis (who also contributed some lyrics) and Bill T. Jones. 

One million people attended Fela’s  funeral in 1997.  His albums’ numbering almost 70 is available all over the world. You will want to pick up an album after you’ve seen “Fela” playing at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre at 302 West 45th  Street. “Fela” is definitely  a  must 
see.

Reviewed   by  Joyce  Hauser


BRING  IT  ON 

I knew that “Bring It On” now playing on Broadway had to be a hit with Andy Blankenbuehler, the Director and Choreographer, who won the 2008 Tony Award-winning  Musical “In the Heights” for choreography; together with the other gems of  the theater who put the production together : Jeff Whitty,  Librettist won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Book for the  Musical “Avenue Q”, which ran on Broadway for six years; Tom Kitt, Co-Composer/Co-Arranger/Orchestrator received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as two Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Orchestrations for “Next to Normal”;  Lin-Manuel Miranda, Co-Composer, Co-Lyricist who won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Original Score for “In the Heights”; Amanda Green, Co-Lyricist wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the music for “Hands on a Hardbody”. 

It was a casting stroke of genius to take a the film “Bring It On” and do it on stage which has turned it into an eternal and external good-versus-evil in striking visual terms. The musical doesn’t follow the movie exactly but this Broadway musical and its simple clarification is probably good for the younger set.  It’s about rival cheerleading squads – black versus white competing against each other. Its creative sets, good effects, and a wondrous sense of production make for good theater. Everyone in “Bring It On” is excellent, and meticulously chosen for type, down to the marvelous and energetic transvestite (Gregory Haney) and to the least of the acrobatic and talented dancers. More than two dozen performers are in the show. There was a  nationwide search and  1,600 people showed up. Included in the cast are eight professional cheerleaders.

Bring It On  tells the story of Campbell, (Taylor Louderman) the cheer captain and most popular girl at the affluent Truman High School. Before she can lead her award-winning squad to another win at a National Cheerleading Event--politics strike: School redistricting forces Campbell to transfer to the multi-ethnic Jackson High School. which leaves Campbell completely in a new environment. Campbell tries to make sense of her life as a new student in a completely new school with completely new students of different color.  Soon she discovers that Eva, (Elle McLemore) from Truman, a rather weid and artificially conceited  sophomore is responsible for Campbell changing schools and subsequently starting over in the cheerleading pyramid. Meeting Danielle (Adrienne Warren) at Jackson High School is the best thing that could have happened to Campbell and so begins her growth in this dynamic acrobatic rivalry and the bonding between the races. 

“Bring It On” at the St. James Theatre on Broadway is a WOW.

Reviewed by Joyce Hauser


HARVEY

Jim Parsons as the archetypal Middle-American man with solid small-town values will delight you  -- his role in Harvey show off Parson’s versatility as an actor.

Parsons plays Elwood P. “May-I-give-you-my-card” Dowd, a benevolent loony whose drinking buddy,  happens to be a 6’3”  invisible white rabbit. Dowd lives with his sister, Veta, and her family. They’ve had enough of Dowd and Harvey, whom Elwood P. very politely introduces to all guests, who unfortunately include his niece’s well-to-do suitors. The logical step is to put Dowd in a sanitarium, but this is not a logical play, and Veta winds up committed instead. Elwood leaves the sanatorium grounds unbothered, turning the town upside down as everyone goes on the lookout for this mind-mannered hero and his invisible rabbit.

Joining Jim Parsons in the cast is Jessica Hecht, who co-starred with Scarlett Johansson and Liev Schrieber in the 2010 Broadway production of "A View From The Bridge," and Charles Kimbrough, the stage and film veteran best known for his Emmy-nominated performance as anchorman Jim Dial on "Murphy Brown."

Tony Award nominee Scott Ellis is the Associate Artistic Director of the Roundabout Theatre Company. For Roundabout Theatre Company he has directed Twelve Angry Men, The Man Who Had All the Luck, The Boys From Syracuse, The Rainmaker, 1776, She Loves Me, Picnic, Company and A Month in the Country.

Harvey was first brought to the Broadway stage in 1944 and was directed by Antoinette Perry. The play won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1944, and its initial run lasted for four years—1,775 performances. James Stewart assumed the role of “Elwood” from Frank Fay in the 1944 production and originated the role in the 1970 production as well as the film adaptation in 1950. Helen Hayes played “Veta” opposite Mr. Stewart in the 1970 production.

Roundabout Theatre Company is a not-for-profit theatre dedicated to providing a nurturing artistic home for theatre artists at all stages of their careers where the widest possible audience can experience their work at affordable prices. Roundabout fulfills its mission each season through the revival of classic plays and musicals; development and production of new works by established playwrights and emerging writers; educational initiatives that enrich the lives of children and adults; and a subscription model and audience outreach programs that cultivate loyal audiences.

www.roundabouttheatre.org

Reviewed  by   Joyce  Hauser


ONE  MAN,  TWO  GUVNORS

I spent two fantastic hours laughing and clapping while watching One Man, Two Guvnors at The Music Box Theatre on Broadway. This English transport with its original cast takes to the stage with a controlled maniacal peak.. On approaching my seat there on the stage were four lads playing and singing  with talent that could hold the whole show.  But no the four leave the stage, and the madness begins;  they return at different times during the production though.  


Suzie Toase, Oliver Chris, James Corden and Jemima Rooper
Francis Henshall  (James Corden)  plays the title role in this zizzy –farce-parody where  he is broke, hungry and hysterical, which is his dazzling specialty. As an hysteric he takes out his comic arsenal which between source and technique is as funny as my favorite English actor/comedian, the late, Peter Sellers. 
The plot: Francis offers his services to (Jemima Rooper) Rachel Crabbe (who is posing as her dead twin brother, Roscoe and also sadistic (Ben Livingston) Stanley Stubbers (Rachel's boyfriend and Roscoe's killer). Don’t try to figure it out since it’s what we used to call crazy comedy and it’s a play you go to when your brain is slowed down and you’re too tired to think and you want to have good time.
The timing is perfect with the help of the innocent audience. Staying with the bizarre story the director Nicholas Hytner and the physical  comedy director Cal McCrystal make sure that the production doesn’t collapse at any point.  One Man, Two Guvnors  is  not a dialogue  comedy; it’s visceral and enticing and a must-see.
Written by Grant Bean. Cast: Martyn Ellys (Harry Dangle), Suzie Toase (Dolly), Trevor Laird (Lloyd Boateng), Fred Ridgeway (Charlie "the Duck" Clench), Claire Lams (Pauline Clench), Daniel Rigby (Alan Dangle), James Corden (Francis Henshall), Jemima Rooper (Rachel Crabbe), Oliver Chris (Stanley Stubbers), Ben Linvingston (Gareth) Tom Edden (Elfie) 
The Craze Band: Jason Rabinowitz (Lead Vocals), Austin Moorhead (Lead Guitar), Charlie Rosen (Bass), Jacob Colin Cohen (Drums/Percussion) 





PORGY AND BESS at the  Richard Rodgers Theatre (226 West 46th Street.)


In its essentials the story of Porgy and Bess is simple enough. The crippled Porgy is hopelessly in love with Bess, mistress of the uncouth Crown. When Crown is forced to flee after killing a man in a brawl, Porgy and Bess are thrown together and when Crown returns to reclaim Bess, Porgy murders him. Finally released from prison, Porgy returns to discover that Bess has gone to New York with the drug peddler Sporting Life. The work ends with Porgy hopelessly setting out to find her. 


Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis


Porgy and Bess is far more than a simple story, however, for it depictes black characters and dramatic situations in a way totally foreign to the Broadway musical. In its concept and structure, and the scale of its vocal and orchestral writing, Porgy and Bess is unequivocally an opera, though it containes songs in this Broadway Production and performers from the musical theater such as Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis, David Alan Grier and the cast to make this a remarkable and serious Operatic piece. It is much more than an adequate commercial success.

From the operatic standpoint, Porgy and Bess contains as many favorites as the best opera, among them is Bess’s delicately spun “Summertime,” Porgy’s satisfied “I got Plenty of’ Nothing,” the soaring duet “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” and Porgy’s determined “I’m on My Way.” As an opera Porgy and Bess is there by right. 

Porgy and Bess at the Richard Rodgers Theatre is not to be missed. Your feet will be stepping and your hands clapping in time with the rhythmic Gershwin masterpieces. The performance of Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis is destined for a number of awards plus I predict the whole revival of Porgy and Bess, with the Gershwin music, will be numbered among the hits for the big prize. Accolades for the acting, singing, scenic design and direction. Bravo  

Reviewedy  Joyce  Hauser
 




THE BOOK OF MORMON

Trey Parker and Matt Stone of  the TV series “South Park’s” fame have now come up with a new Broadway musical “The Book   of Mormon , a tough, funny satirical tale of two young Mormons’ religious journey to Uganda. It is an erratic episodic play full of pleasures of the unexpected.  It moves so fast it is over before you have time to think about what else compares with it. The play has so much spirit that you keep laughing—and without discomfort, because all the targets should be laughed at. The Book of Mormon stands alone for being the funniest, talented, and irreverent play that hit Broadway. 

Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad 
(Photo: Joan Marcus)

After fulfilling their studies to become missionaries the chorus of 19- year old boys are given assignments on where they will practice. Each Latter-Day Saint boy is paired with another to travel for their two-year mission. Elder Price (Andrew Rannells ) dreamed of being sent to Orlando and certainly not with his misfit partner Elder Cunningham (Josh Gad).  Cunningham is an insecure, overweight, irritating liar, while Elder Price is a devout, enthusiastic, handsome, pompous, over-confident fellow. But alas, they are sent  to Uganda charged with saving souls of murderous warlords, Aids, Poverty and natives certainly not interested in being saved. It’s not Orlando as Price soon finds out. The pair are terrific and destined for all the theater awards. 

Together, Robert Lopez , Matt Stone and Trey Parker make me wonder where such talent and creativity comes from. That is for further discussion. I gurantee you will leave the Eugene O’Neil Theatre  saying WOW. 

Terrific performances are also given by Brian Tyree Henry as the war lord  Michael Potts as Mafala Hatimbi, and the vivacious Nikki M. James as his daughter. James delights us with her solo and again with Gad, as they give a whole new meaning to being baptized. 

It’s not so much about religion unless that means God said you must laugh. It is too funny for anyone to feel offended. Leave the children home unless you consider 18 a child and put a laugh in your life and see “The Book of Mormon”. 

Reviewed by Joyce Hauser



A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

Year ago when I saw the movie version of A Streetcar Named Desire I was
surprised how the audience responded to Stanley Kowalski, they laughed at his coarseness and sexual assertiveness, and shared in his contempt for social values.
I was shocked and dismayed at those in the audience who expressed their delight when Marlon Brando as Stanley jeered at Blanche. At the time, I didn’t understand it when they laughed their agreement as Stanley exploded in rage and smashed things. It was only later and the new production on Broadway, away from the spell of Vivien Leigh’s performance, that I could reflect that Stanley was clinging to his brute’s bit of truth, his sense that Blanche’s gentility and coquetry was intolerably Fake. And it seems to me that this was one of the reasons why Streetcar was a Great play – that Blanche and Stanley upset us and complicated our responses. The conflict was genuine and dramatic. 


BLAIR UNDERWOOD AND DAPHNE RUBIN-VEGA As Stella 

Marlon Brando owned the part of Stanley and no one has come close to competing until now. The torch has been handed to Blair Underwood and it is his as long as he 
continues in the role in A Streetcar Named Desire. 

The play opens in a two-room dwelling where Stanley and Stella live. Stella’s sister Blanche enters unexpectedly and immediately vocalizes her feelings about Stella’s living conditions and lifestyle. With all the negative banter from Blanche, who didn’t’ leave home because she wanted to but was pushed out, with no other place to stay. Its no wonder Stanley dislikes her right from the beginning.  Mr. Underwood makes it easy to see how Blanche and the destructive author Tennessee Williams for whom she is a surrogate could find the forces to destroy Stanley and Stella. 

In this multiracial production of A Streetcar Named Desire, a meticulous and well-directed play by Emily Mann still remains one of the greatest plays written by an American playwright.    This translucent web of ingenuity and the lies and fantasies that belong to Blanche still remain. And while the rape scene is often played with uncertainty and several possible meanings are doubtful of its violence as is Stanley’s absence of remorse when Blanche is carted off to the psych ward it will be you the audience to decide. 

At the Broadcast Theatre Tennessee Williams’ A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE with the talented and sexy Blair Underwood is  a wonderful production.

Reviewed by Joyce Hauser



GORE VIDAL’S  BEST MAN

For more political banter Broadway is recognizing the presidential election 2012 with a revival of Gore Vidal's 1960 play "The Best Man," a political comedy about two candidates going for the prize the presidency. 
What a cast! "The Best Man" features perhaps the best of stars  currently on Broadway, including James Earl Jones, John Larroquette, Eric McCormack, Candice Bergen, Michael McKean and Angela Lansbury.

John Larroquette and Angela Lansbury

Gore Vidal's play debuted on Broadway in 1960 -- Melvyn Douglas won a Tony Award for his performance -- and then the play was revived in 2000. The current production, at the Gerard Schoenfeld Theatre, features Larroquette and McCormack as the two presidential candidates who go head to head during a nominating convention in Philadelphia.

Director Michael Wilson and his cast create an adventurous -charged pace about the backstage maneuvering of a presidential convention. On-and off-the-record conversations unfold quickly and meaningfully as candidate (John Larroquette) seeks to win his party's nomination without surrendering his self-respect. The play, even after 44 years, is a smart little saga of political maneuvering. The performances are effective and capture the underlying threat to each of the participants past. 
This script is just as timely today during the current election as it was when Gore Vidal first penned it back in the 60s. As with most revivals some material is a bit dated (especially the references to women before the women's right movement of the 70s) 

Gore Vidal’s The Best Man still has plenty to offer even in our more jaded age, when chronic moral affront has so polluted the national political landscape that it’s seemingly beyond clean-up. An ideally timed antidote to our presidential primary race. 


Reviewed by Joyce Hauser


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