Monday, July 4, 2016

Spring 2016: NYC.

The Crucible on Broadway

Ivo van Hove hit one out of the park with his production of Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge that started at the Young Vic in London and was also on Broadway this season. While this production was not a radical reinterpretation like A View... was, it was still electrifying, mostly due to the outstanding cast, including Ben Whishaw, Sophie Okonedo, and Saoirse Ronan. Tavi Gevinson, whose acting has not impressed me in the past, was absolute perfection in the important role of Mary. Staged in modernish dress with a large classroom for a set, this Crucible felt as relevant today as ever. The second act cameo by a large wolf-like dog was chilling, but probably missed by many still in the bathroom. Great work by all involved!

Disaster! on Broadway

This show was a lot more fun than I expected. Starting Off Off-Broadway, where it probably should have stayed, it opened on the Great White Way with a talented cast of Broadway regulars, including Faith Prince, Roger Bart, Adam Pascal, Rachel York, Kerry Butler, and Kevin Chamberlain. A parody of disaster movies from the 1970s and incorporating disco tunes from the same period, the first act was fast and funny, but the hilarity could not be sustained past the intermission. The second act was stretched thinned and quickly grew tiresome, some bits (Faith Prince's tics) more than others (anything with Jennifer Simard's hilarious nun character). Enjoyable enough, but not at Broadway prices.

American Psycho on Broadway

Nothing could have prepared me for how brilliant this musical adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's shocking novel dissecting the Reagan 80s was. This telling of Wall Street-by-day, serial killer-by night Patrick Bateman is now my favorite incarnation of the story, a spot-on and funny sendup of the 80s while being a serious look at the age of consumerism that we still live in. It doesn't hurt that the trim Benjamin Walker (so great as Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) runs around in nothing but a pair of tighty whities (often covered in blood) for about a third of the show. While the rest of the cast is excellent in much less interesting roles (poor Alice Ripley has hardly anything to do), this is Walker's show and boy does he deliver. Bravo!

Charles Busch's Cleopatra, far off-Broadway

While I had read or seen performed (but never fully appreciated) Charles Busch's scripts in the past (including movie incarnations), I always knew that any understanding of all-things-Busch would require me to actual see him on stage in one of his own campy roles. That opportunity finally presented itself and I am now in-the-know. The man is a genius at delivering a line and probably every single line of his as Cleopatra had some quirky reading that clearly isn't written down on the page. That said, a little of this type of silly theatre still goes a long way for me. Tummy Tune, someone I will always appreciate, was in the house (thank God I didn't sit behind him!).

Hamilton on Broadway

I'm sure I'm not the only person who was severely disappointed in this musical telling of Alexander Hamilton's life that most consider the second coming of Christ, but boy was this show over-hyped! The story isn't always interesting (okay, so he had an affair) and sometimes quite confusing (oh, I think we just won the American Revolution), but it's done with so much panache that most in the audience are dazzled anyway. Seriously, you could write a rap musical about Hilter and if you performed it with the same amount of bravado, frenetic dance, and expensive lights, and had all of the Nazis walk around like pimps, everyone would think it was just as good. I also don't get the overemphasis on Hamilton being an immigrant. It's quite a leap to relate the one-percenter problems of the wealthy Hamilton to the immigrant struggle of today (Lin-Manuel Miranda's outstanding In The Heights portrayed that much better). And the fact that the only Caucasian actor in a principal role is that of The Evil King George isn't color-blind casting, it's racist. Dropping the mic.

The Robber Bridegroom, off-Broadway

The Roundabout continues to score with musicals both on and off-Broadway. This revival is a delight from start to finish, thanks to the charismatic cast (especially Leslie Kritzer and Steven Pasquale) and sharp direction from Alex Timbers (Here Lies Love and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson). The story, involving mistaken identities and set in backwoods Mississippi, is easily forgettable, but it still entertains as does the folksy score. Loved it!

Shuffle Along on Broadway

Instead of being a revival of the original 1920s musical Shuffle Along, this new show (full title Shuffle Along: Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed) is a peculiar musical documentary about the original show using the original show's score. I assume that the result is more entertaining than the actual original musical (presumably too old-fashioned to revive itself), but the show and its starry principal cast can't match the amazing new tap choreography by Savion Glover. Wow...just wow! The principals (including Audra McDonald) also tap, but they mostly just get in the way of the blazing hot ensemble, who have to be seen to be believed!

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