Sunday, April 26, 2015


AGATHA CHRISTIE’S UNEXPECTED GUEST at the Harold Clurman Theatre, produced by TBTB (Theatre Breaking Through Barriers).  I wasn’t planning to see this show until a friend told me he was in it. The production company is made up of many handicapped actors… but their acting ability is certainly not handicapped. Although I found the first act a little slow paced, my surprise was that the quality of the production was exceptional. For anyone who adores ‘whodunits’, this show will not disappoint.

CLINTON, THE MUSICAL, book by Paul Hodge & Michael Hodge, with music & lyrics by Paul Hodge.  With a cast of 9, this delightful send-up stars Kerry Butler, Tom Galantich and Duke Lafoon, playing Hillary, and 2 Bills: a ‘good’ William, and an ‘evil’ Billy. It is funny, clever, but not  particularly favorable to the Clintons or the Democratic party.  But hilarious it is, and it is cleverlydirected and choreographed by Dan Knechtges.  It plays at the New World Stages on West 50th Street.

LIVING ON LOVE by Joe Pipietro, based on the play Peccadillo by Garson Kanin. This play is quite funny using the talents of Douglas Sills, Jerry O’Connell, Renee Fleming, Anna Chlumsky, and 2 wonderful performances by Blake Hammond and Scott Robertson as the ‘butlers’… and of course the dog played by Rocco. Even though this is not a musical, there certainly are musical highlights including some of the butlers’ bits.  And Douglas Sills does not sing a note in this… he carries an Italian accent throughout, and is absolutely great in his interpretation of Renee’s egotistical conductor husband.  Although Ms. Fleming may not be the best actress in NYC, she more than makes up for it with her natural talent, playing an egotistical (aren’t they all?) opera Diva.  Her voice is nothing less than glorious, and she seems perfect for her role. This was directed wonderfully by Kathleen Marshall. Along with the audience, I enjoyed this show immensely. It plays at the Longacre Theatre.

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, the musical,  book by Michael Weller, lyrics by Michael Korie & Amy Powers, and music by Lucy Simon.  It is so difficult to mount a true classic, while adding songs, staging (more staging than choreography), and still maintaining the epic story.  What I felt this lacks is a little humor. There should be a couple of humorous numbers. Remember Les Miz had the Innkeepers number which was a delight, as well as West Side Story’s ‘Officer Krupke’, both wonderfully humorous. Just because this is a serious classic, it does not mean there is no room for comedy.  That being said, the sets by Michael Scott Mitchell, the costumes by Paul Tazewell, and the music direction by Ron Melrose are all ten out of ten.  Des McAnuff directed a talented cast including Tam Mutu as Zhivago and Kelli Barrett as Lara.  Of course the period is during the Bolshevik Revolution (in which my own grandfather fought), so there are many battle scenes.  The lighting by Steve Rankin is also very good, keeping the various elements of the story alive. Overall, perhaps not the best musical, but certainly a good interpretation, all things considered. It plays in the Broadway Theatre.

RADIO CITY NEW YORK SPRING SPECTACULAR featuring the fabulous Rockettes.  Not having seen the Rockettes in decades, I wanted to see this show as I heard it truly was wonderful. The stars performing in this show are Derek Hough (Dancing With The Stars fame) and Laura Benanti, with great supporting players like Lenny Wolpe, Jared Grimes, Emily Rosenfeld, Colin Critchley, Paige Brady and Grayson Tayloe.  The show I saw had Elizabeth Burton filling in for Ms. Benanti, and she was quite good, as was Mr. Hough.  The show had a simple ‘storyline’, and I must admit the stage, lighting, costumes, and video effects are all outstanding, along with the brilliant choreography.  The opening number was choreographed by Mia Michaels of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ fame, while the rest of the show was directed and cfhoreographed by Warren Carlyle.  This should certainly be on your ‘not to miss while in NYC itinerary’. 

IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU, a new musical with book & lyrics by Brian Hargrove with music and concept by Barbara Anselmi.  This show stars Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris, Lisa Howard, and Sierra Boggess, along with a talented supporting cast.  Although I heard this show did not receive favorable reviews, I must say that the audience could not have been more responsive with their approval.  I found it very enjoyable and some of the songs are lovely and fun. Special attention must be paid to Sierra Boggess… her “A Little Bit Less Than” rips out your heart.  I don’t want to give away any secrets, but Tyne plays a Jewish Mother preparing for her daughter’s wedding to a non-Jew. Enough said?  The rapid pace is just wonderful, directed by David Hyde Pierce with fun choreography by Josh Rhodes.  Never read critics’ reviews (including this one)… judge for yourselves!

IT’S ONLY A PLAY by Terrence McNally.  With great direction by Jack O’Brien, this show stars F. Murray Abraham, Mathew Broderick, Stockard Channing, Katie Finneran, T.R. Knight, Nathan Lane, and introducing Micah Stock.  I found this play to be absolutely wonderful… but I’m not sure if it was because of the play, or the performances.  I must say the person who did the most with his role has to be T.R. Knight, playing an eccentric English director, never letting his character down, and constantly moving everywhere, and rightfully so.  Of course no one has comic timing like Nathan Lane.  But in all honesty I enjoyed EVERYONE in this play.  Albeit slightly dated, they incorporated many of today’s famous performers as well as a bit of today’s slang. Still, with a cast this great, how can anyone not enjoy this play?!!!

BROADWAY CARES EASTER BONNET COMPETITION.  I try to see this show if it coincides with my trip… it is not to be missed.  This is a show in which all the Broadway Shows who choose to create an Easter Bonnet and give a presentation during this show.  Some of the presentations are huge dance numbers, and some are so simple… you will laugh hysterically one minute and cry the next.  It is often a version of Forbidden Broadway, as they poke fun of the shows on Broadway… but it is all in fun, and the monies collected prior and during the shows go to Broadway Cares Equity Fights Aids, and other organizations in need. The show is performed on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, and the show I saw was on Monday. They only announce the totals collected and the winner of the competition on Tuesday.  But the total collected was a remarkable $4,711,386, a new fundraising record. The Jersey Boys took top design honors for its shimmering crystal-and LED-covered bonnet, created by Ricky Yates. Winning the best presentation award was the company of Avenue Q, which lamented The Lion King’s perennial status as the previous winners.  In “Bonnet of Life”, the Avenue Q cast delivered a sidesplitting parody of the long-running Disney signature number “Circle of Life”. Besides contributing to a most worthy cause, the show is fantastic!

THE VISIT book by Terrance McNally, music by John Kander, with lyrics by Fred Ebb, and based on a Friedrich Durrenmatt play. This dark play stars my dear friend Chita Rivera, and Roger Rees. It is directed by John Doyle while choreographed by Graciela Daniele. Anytime you have the opportunity to see Chita Rivera onstage, RUN!!!  The standing ovation she received upon her entrance in the show was astounding.  She carries an elegance and professionalism found in few of Broadways ‘divas’, yet she has never been considered a diva. The cast is wonderful, and I usually love Kander and Ebb Songs. Since this is such a dark show, I must say I was slightly disappointed in the music. Their songs are usually so ‘Broadway’ oriented, but the only song that truly stuck out for me in this fashion was “Yellow Shoes”… although every song Chita sings (“Winter”, “A Confession”, and “Love and Love Alone”, among others) she makes so special and beautiful… as only she can.  It has a great set design by Scott Pask, interesting costume design by Ann Hould-Ward, and good lighting design by Japhy Weideman.  With a great supporting cast, this takes an historically fictitious event and turns it into a special theatrical one…  not for all tastes, but certainly for this one.

ON THE TOWN, music by Leonard Bernstein, book & lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and based on an idea by Jerome Robbins.  Brilliantly choreographed by Joshua Bergasse with great direction by John Rando, this piece is a compliment to all the wonderful shows of the 40s and 50s. Starring Tony Yazbeck, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Clyde Alves, and Megan Fairchild, with great support by Alysha Umphress, Elizabeth Stanley, Jackie Hoffman, Michael Rupert, Allison Guinn, Phillip Boykin, and Stephen De Rosa, this play, although a little long, is such a delight on the eyes and ears. Joshua Bergasse should absolutely be placed on Broadway’s ‘always use’ list, having proven himself in Smash, the TV show based on developing Broadway dance numbers in the television medium.  Without him, On the Town would not be what it is… a true delight!

SOMETHING ROTTEN! book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, with music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick.  What an absolute surprise!!!  What an absolute delite!!!  What a creative piece of theatre with more humor than ever expected!!!  Starring Brian d’Arcy James (Shrek, the Musical… oh, so that is what he looks like without the green paint), Christian Borle (TV’s Smash), John Cariani,Heidi Blickenstaff, Brad Oscar, with great humorous support by Brooks Ashmanskas, Peter Barlett, Gerry Vichi, and Michael James Scott, this new musical is cleverly and beautifully directed as well as choreographed by Casey Nicholaw.  I cannot tell you how funny this show is.  Nor will I give you any advance warnings as to how humorous the musical references are, of which there are plenty.  Anyone who doesn’t enjoy this show has no sense of humor.  I can’t wait to see it again, and hopefully they will have a road company soon.  All I will say is that it is about the creation of the ‘first musical’ during Shakespearean times.  It is so delicious, I don’t want to give anything away.  The cast is brilliant!  The numbers are brilliant!  AND THE SHOW IS BRILLIANT!
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, A NEW MUSICAL, music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, with book by Craig Lucas. I have saved the best for last. This musical is absolutely an homage to the 1951 film of the same name.  Stunningly choreographed and directed by Christopher Wheeldon, this musical never stops dancing, from the first moment to the last… I think the best dancing musical I have ever seen, including West Side Story (in which I was Bernardo a thousand years ago along with Chris Walken who played Riff).  Having come from that kind of  background, it is no surprise that I fell in love with this piece. The two leads are magnificent! They are Robert Fairchild (the brother of Miss Turnstiles in On The Town) and Leanne Cope (of the Royal Ballet) who make this musical work.  If you don’t enjoy ‘dancing’, don’t go… but if you do, treat yourself to one of the best musicals you will have ever seen on Broadway.  If you didn’t know before, the score includes “I Got Rhythm”, “I’ve Got Beginners Luck”, “The Man I Love”, “S’ Wonderful”, “Shall We Dance” (not the one from King and I), “Fidgety Feet”, “Who Cares”, “But Not For Me”, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, and the fabulous “An American in Paris” ballet, among others. Have I said too much… No!  I can’t say enough!  Christopher Wheeldon is the Artistic Associate for the Royal Ballet, and he has created a theatre piece that will live on for many years.  I am a happy camper!!!

New York is still the theatrical mecca of the world!!!

Stan Mazin


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August 24, 2015 at 3:42 AM  

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