Photo Credit - Carol
Monday - Friday @ 8:00PM
Saturday 2:00PM & 8:00PM
Sunday 3:00PM & 7:00PM
New World Stages
by Frank J. Avella
slightly-subversive, silly-at-times, too-often-safe…yet
damned entertaining, Altar Boyz
has been running to packed houses for
over a year and it's pretty obvious why.
It's the type of show that makes you instantly
want to revisit it, with new friends,
so you can gage their reaction AND so
you can have some mindless fun all over
is not groundbreaking or daring and it
doesn't pretend to be. You can enjoy yourself
whether you're a practicing Catholic or
an atheist. But along the merriment way
there are a few important messages that
seep through about acceptance, tolerance
and not selling out to the “evils”
of the world and remaining true to yourself.
and five cute boys who sing their pants
off (okay, not literally…this is
NOT Naked Altar Boyz Singing..hmmm…maybe
it should be-perhaps in the Amsterdam
is flimsy: Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and
Abraham (yes, Abraham!) are on a "Raise
the Praise Tour" and their goal is
to save every soul in the audience. That's
pretty much it.
itself isn't the most memorable. Except
for the exciting opening “We Are
the Altar Boyz” and the moving finale,
“I Believe”, most of the songs
are generic pop. It's the way the boyz
perform them that make it a joy to experience.
gleefully ironic, “I'm a Catholic,”
sung to gay perfection by newcomer Zach
Hanna, to the stamina-challenging “Body,
Mind & Soul” which Ryan Duncan
sings the crap out of, the boyz prove
their stage prowess over and over.
Jason Celaya holds the show together and
is the key standout performance. With
more energy and sly sex appeal than all
the Boy Bands, Celaya sends sparks whenever
he's onstage (and that's the entire show,
kick-ass entertainment, seek worship with
the inspirational and cute-as-the-devil
Book by Kevin Del Aguila; Music and Lyrics
by Gary Adler & Michael Patrick Walker;
Conceived by Marc Kessler & Ken Davenport;
Choreographed by Christopher Gattelli;
Directed by Stafford Arima. Starring:
Jason Celaya (Matthew); Zach Hanna (Mark);
Andrew C. Call (Luke); Ryan Duncan (Juan);
and Dennis Moench (Abraham).
$25.00-$75.00 at www.telecharge.com
and 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250
West 50th Street
Photo Credit Mary
Ballets Grandiva at Symphony Space
Apr 16 & 17, 2007
The Run is Over
by William S. Gooch, III
a ballerina great or memorable? Is it
her pristine technique, her lyricism,
or her onstage allure? Rarely in the dance
world do you get all these attributes
embodied in one dancer, the exceptions
are perhaps, Margot Fonteyn, Suzanne Farrell,
Virginia Johnson or Sylvie Guillem, to
name a few. During its April engagement
at New York City’s Symphony Space,
Les Ballets Grandiva comes close to showcasing
ballerinas that are memorable, if not
quite yet great.
their predecessors, Grandiva has gone
far beyond the joke of hairy-chested men
in tutus and pointe shoes. With quality
productions, good choreography, and male
dancers that can rival female ballerinas,
Grandiva has made the phenomenon of all-male
ballet comedy into an artform.
April 17th performance, Les Ballets Grandiva
presented a very diverse repertoire, opening
with all-time favorite, Pas de Quatre.
This 18th century classic centers on four
rival ballerinas of that era—Marie
Taglioni, Fanny Cerrito, Lucile Grahn
and Carlotta Grisi—who dance together,
and exhibit their individual talents in
four distinct solos. Traditionally, at
the end of each ballerina’s variation,
rival ballerinas cordially bow to each
other and give the spotlight to the next
dancer with just a hint of condescension.
However, in Grandiva’s rendering,
the backstage jealousies and cattiness
are brought on stage, front and center.
Ballerinas trip each other, roll their
eyes, and mug for applause. Natalia Macabre
(Brian Norris) as prima ballerina assoluta,
Marie Taglioni, is the celebre of the
group. Even though she is aging and runs
of out of steam during the more technically
challenging sections, Taglioni is still
the HBIC (head ballerina in charge).
New York premiere, They Who Wore White
Flowers, a ballet in the style of
Anthony Tudor’s Lilac Garden,
tells a story of misplaced Victorian love
and abandonment. Unlike Lilac Garden,
the misplaced affection in They Who
Wore White Flowers is sometimes same-gendered.
Choreographer Brian Reeder borrows heavily
from the Tudor lexicon of dance emotions:
swooning couples with hands draped dramatically
over the forehead and the all too familiar
Tudor apoplectic stillness. And in Grandiva’s
tradition, supported lifts have hands
ending up in naughty places. This is a
ballet that could fit easily into the
repertoire of more mainstream companies.
choreographed by Grandiva’s artistic
director, Victor Trevino, is a parody
of Yuri Grigorivich’s Spartacus.
Nina Minimaximova (Victor Trevino) portrays
Phrygia, Spartacus’s (George Callahan)
love interest. The extrapolated adagio
is an acrobatic and kitschy send-up of
the style that the Bolshoi Ballet brought
to America in the 60s. And of course,
the performance would not be complete
without excessive, deep bows and the batting
of fake eyelashes.
Tarantelle, the company has the opportunity
to show off its technical virtuosity.
To music by Louis Gottschalk, the dancers
show that they are equally adept at men’s
technique, such as double tours en
l’air and double sauts
de basque, as well as multiple fouette
pirouettes on pointe. Flashing megawatt
smiles and banging tambourines, the dancers
jump and spin through the difficult choreography
as though it were just another night at
the ballet. The real standout in this
Balanchine knockoff is Pearl Lee Gates
(Ari Mayzick). Gates has the most luscious
legs in the troupe and executes the exacting
steps with saucy aplomb.
(Allen Dennis) has been dancing The
Dying Swan for over two decades and
yet manages to keep the interpretation
fresh and interesting. Karina’s
portrayal is hauntingly beautiful, despite
the double-jointed antics and Mommie
Dearest-like facial distortions.
Using her pointe shoes like steel daggers,
Karina picks the over the stage as though
she is avoiding landmines. This is not
the passive, wilting swan of Anna Pavlova,
but one on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
than ten years of history under its belt,
Les Ballets Grandiva has proven that all-male
comedy ballet can be more than slapstick,
bad wigs and big calves. Good dancing
is good dancing, and with Grandiva that
is what really matters.
her for the Victor Trevino Interview
here for the Ballet Grandiva Feature
Sondheim and George Furth’s
Wednesday 2:00PM & 8:00PM
Saturday 2:00PM & 8:00PM
Reviewed by Frank
On April 26, 1970, one
of the most significant and groundbreaking
musicals of the modern era opened to rather
divisive notices. A year later, Follies
would receive similarly polarizing
reviews. Yet these two musicals and the
creative artists involved in them, would
go on to dominate and define the decade.
Thirty-seven years later,
Company proves to be as timely
as ever and the new production, brilliantly
directed by John Doyle, at the Ethel Barrymore
Theatre is, by far, the most intelligent
and thought-provoking musical now running
on Broadway. (A decade ago a rather disappointing
revival had a brief Broadway run.)
In a career that boasts
some of the greatest stage musicals of all
time including, Follies, A
Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd,
Into the Woods and Sunday in
the Park With George (my choice for
the best of the best), there is no question
that Stephen Sondheim is one of the few
true geniuses of the musical theatre. What
is remarkable is just how strong and lasting
his work truly is. One would think that
Company, so grounded in the late
sixties/early seventies milieu, would prove
impossibly dated today. And even a great
revival would be nothing more than a fun
evening of nostalgia. But Company
is as vital and relevant today as it was
back in 1970, it actually feels even more
urgent in 2007.
Raul Esparza plays Bobby,
the seemingly happy bachelor surrounded
by a slew of married couples who appear,
on the surface, to be content. But deeper
therein lies the rub.
As Bobby embarks on a
searing psychological journey of self-discovery,
spearheaded by his 35th birthday celebration,
the audience become privy to the exploration
of the complex lives of his friends. And
that is part of what makes Company
so unique. It actually delves into the characters
thoughts and hopes and wishes and failures
with such honesty, that the viewer sometimes
feel like voyeurs.
The deft and dramatic
book by George Furth is complimented by
Sondheim’s demanding and dynamic score.
Raul Esparza is the key
to the show’s success. Here is a Bobby
who is able to convey the pain and confusion
of being single, married with the delirious
freedom and excitement that is also par
for the bachelor course. Esparza has an
adorability and sexual-ness that makes one
want to rush up onstage and hug and/or lick
him! He never overplays the part and is
always fascinating to watch.
Bobby’s Act One
tour de force, “Marry Me a Little”
(amazingly cut from the original production)
is a heartbreaking moment for him.
Doyle used the ‘gimmick’
of having all the actors play musical instruments
last year in his much celebrated production
of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.
It is repeated here to greater effect, especially
since Bobby is the only performer who does
not take part. The metaphor is not lost
on the audience and once he does finally
take to the piano on the spectacular, “Being
Alive,” we have been anticipating
the moment with great desire. It is our
needed climactic catharsis.
Doyle expertly stages
the couples (book) scenes, never allowing
the bickering to get on our nerves. And
the musical numbers are handled with equal
Early in Act One, three
of Bobby’s girlfriends group together
to sweetly attack him in the song, "You
Could Drive a Person Crazy." All three
gals sing as they play sax, making the instruments
a part of the commentary. It’s a fantastic
In the hilarious number
“Getting Married Today,” Heather
Laws plays a neurotic bride who needs to
decide whether to take the plunge or not.
What ensues is giddy and inspired madness.
Barbara Walsh kicks musical
ass performing the classic (Elaine Stritch
signature) “The Ladies Who Lunch”.
Walsh is one of Broadway’s hidden
treasures and her Joanne is destined to
be Tony nominated.
The exquisite “Barcelona”
feels like a short film and is one of the
best songs ever about a fleeting sexual
encounter. Elizabeth Stanley is the delightfully
ditzy flight attendant April and the end
of the song hits way too close to home for
anyone who has ever been in that...predicament.
Arguably the best number
in the show and a song that masterfully
personifies the New York experience is “Another
Hundred People” It is given a rousing
and just rendition by Angel Desai.
David Gallo’s symmetrical
set impresses and Thomas C. Hase’s
lighting is also to be commended.
The entire production
is an astounding success and the irony is
that the show satirizes the precise group
of people that often patronize the theatre:
bored, upper class Manhattanites who are
looking for meaning in their mundane lives.
If only they had Sondheim around each morning
to poke a little fun at them, perhaps they
would like themselves more...
is about the anxiety, ambivalence and angst
that comes with being 35, living in New
York and not being coupled...the entire
cast and crew should be congratulated for
a perfect production. And Raul Esparza should
now easily enter the pantheon of Broadway
Tickets $36.25-$111.25 www.telecharge.com
243 W. 47th Street
Five in the Morning
April 5 – 8
The Run is Over
Reviewed by Corey
Ann Haydu on April 7, 2007
Performance Space 122 is always an excellent
destination for experimental theatre and
physical performance. This month they have
invited British troupe, Rotozza, to do two
pieces both exploring live theatre through
unrehearsed action. Five in the Morning
is one of these two pieces and it features
two women and one man, dressed in bathing
suits, following orders spoken through a
loudspeaker. The orders are at first simple—where
to stand, who to touch, what to do with
their towels. As the evening progresses,
however, the instructions grow stranger
and stranger—the actors must create
a “human tower” with the heaviest
actor on top, and so on. These challenging
are interesting to watch, and the two women
and one man are comfortable and easy on
stage, but it remains unclear, even after
reading the program, whether or not they
know what is coming, or if this is a completely
unrehearsed production. The premise would
suggest that these three actors are hearing
their instructions for the first time, but
some of the moments in the play would suggest
otherwise as the end is distinctly performative.
Rotozza delivers a unique theatrical experience
that for most of the short show is both
entertaining and odd. The show is at its
best as a kind of comedy, the actors are
charmingly confused and the voices are the
“straight men”, always giving
robotic commands that often create delightful
behavior on stage. These light moments are
an excellent study in human behavior and
the show is a compelling exploration of
these three actors in an unknown circumstance.
Where the performance struggles is in its
deeper themes. Though the show appears to
be saying something, it is hard to hear
what it is. In the description of the material,
there is a suggestion that what was once
funny will turn dark and disturbing. This,
however, never really happens and what is
meant to be “dark” is in fact
just confusing and misplaced. The stage
becomes chaotic and the disorder is difficult
to watch or comprehend.
The piece, though somewhat misguided, is
a new kind of performance, and one that
is certainly intriguing. It is compelling
to watch confusion and freshness on stage,
and you get both in Five in the Morning.
Performance Space 122 is always exceptional
in its willingness to try new things and
take on new challenges, new strategies in
performance. Five in the Morning
is a solid example of what is possible in
experimental theatre, and the many doors
that can be opened when traditional form
is abandoned to make way for unique perspectives.
For more on Five
in the Morning: ps122.org
Sater & Duncan Sheik’s
Saturday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday 2:00pm & 7:00pm
Eugene O'Neill Theatre
Reviewed by Frank J.
When I first heard that
Spring Awakening was moving to
Broadway, I was a bit concerned. Would such
an intimate show lose all potency and urgency
in a big Broadway house?
Well the answer, thank
the theatre gods, is a resounding no!
I am elated to report
that this exciting, enthralling and oddly-enchanting
production thrives at the Eugene O’Neill
Theatre. And it’s improved greatly
from the version I saw this past summer.
It’s still audacious
and ambitious but it now has a wonderful
sense of humor as well. The original production
took itself a wee too seriously. But the
gifted director Michael Mayer has found
the perfect blend of comedy and pathos here.
And it doesn’t hurt to have the extraordinary
Christine Estabrook on board.
Based on Frank Wedekind’s
highly controversial 1891 play The Awakening
of Spring (not produced until 1906),
and adapted by Steven Sater (book &
lyrics) and rock star Duncan Sheik (music),
the ‘play with songs’ (quoted
by Sheik) focuses on adolescent schoolboys
and girls at the age of sexual and spiritual
awakening. The central figures being the
good looking, wave-making Melchior (Jonathan
Groff), his sweet, naive girlfriend Wendla
(Lea Michele) and his troubled, oddball
friend Moritz (John Gallagher, Jr.) as well
as a slew of other angst-ridden, sexually-stirred,
Spring Awakening is
mesmerizing to the eye--and ears. It’s
a deliberately hard-edged visual and aural
cacophony of the evils of repression--religious
and societal (usually one begets the other).
The richly-rewarding anachronistic
nature of the work adds to its originality
and freshness. Although the piece is set
at the turn of the last century, the actors
whip out mikes and perform raw, intensely-modern
rock songs. The device achieves a Brechtian
break in the ‘period’ action.
It’s as if the audience has warp-sped
a century to a modern day rock concert.
But the songs are the inner monologues and
emotional mind states of Everykid. And that
is why it works so well.
Sheik’s music is
extraordinary, whether it be a heart-wrenching
ballad (”The Song of Purple Summer”)
or an angry rant (the fantastically fun
“Totally Fucked”) and are matched
by Sater’s intelligent lyrics and
by the extraordinary ensemble’s vitality
and conviction in song as well as performance.
These guys were great last summer. They’re
even better and seem more assured now.
“The Bitch of Living”,
in particular, raises the levels through
Melchior is that perfect
blend of youth: a walking sack of sexual
energy mixed with smarts and savvy and Jonathan
Groff brilliantly brings him to life...and
to despair as is necessary. Groff has a
command now that is dazzling to behold.
Moritz is a tad more difficult
since, as written he goes from frustration
and confusion to doom very quickly, yet
Gallagher, Jr. transcends the trappings
and let’s us inside the loopy/scared
mind of this tragic hero (especially in
Act Two’s Don’t Do Sadness”).
still feels too tentative as Wendla but
she conveys naiveté much better and
has an amazing voice. Lauren Pritchard’s
Ilse still brims with sex appeal and evoked
the perfect combo of tumult and rebellion.
And king of smarm and charm, Jonathan B.
Wright nails his role down perfectly as
the gay survivor about to feast on his prey.
His self-pleasure moment is a riotous combo
of delight and embarrassment. Special mention
to Gideon Glick as the adorable Ernst.
Newly added cast members
Stephen Spinella, and especially, Christine
Estabrook give the show a great lift as
Beyond the masterful score,
near-perfect performances and deft direction,
a problem last time with feeling emotionally
caught up in the lives of the characters.
This, too, has changed. I DID feel passionately
drawn into their worlds and I did care about
is a triumph that should be seen by anyone
who cares about the future of musical theatre.
Theatre | 230 West 49th Street | New York,
Much like an unfamiliar
dish to the palate, Richard Foreman's work
can be an acquired taste. And sometimes you
never quite know what you ingested.
It is safe to say that Foreman
has proven himself to be one of the foremost
avant-garde playwrights to date. Having completed
over fifty productions since 1968, when he
founded the Ontological-Hysteric Theater,
he is notorious for his stylized use of disassociated
scenery and staging that take on the feel
of a playground atop a minefield.
That is to say, anything can happen. Foreman
doesn't utilize the common idea of plot, character
or narrative; rather, he evokes emotions and
feelings through visuals, lights and sound.
He has been known to use obstacles as set
pieces, deliberately placed strings or even
plexiglass in front of the action so you can
also observe the audience watching the show.
This particular production
is different than most of his others as it
is the second time he has incorporated film
into his work. When you are ushered into the
intimate theater, there are two screens above
the stage, and the space is littered with
various set pieces such as flowers, chairs
and mannequins. Directly above hangs a small
airplane piloted by a hoard of baby dolls.
The hour long show that follows is a delicate
balancing act between five live actors onstage,
interacting with and reacting to the pre-recorded
film of another set of actors. (The film portion
was shot in a functioning mental hospital
in Lisbon, Portugal under the direction of
Mr. Foreman and his collaborator, Sophie Haviland.)
The performances from the
onstage ensemble are strong and consistent
throughout the show. The "characters"
are eerily similar to each other yet each
have a chance to break free and often suffer
consequences for their curiosity. At first
I found it difficult to absorb the film and
the live show as a unified event, but once
I did (thanks to the talented cast) the effect
One of the main themes of
this show is the theory of the unconscious
mind. According to Freud, unconscious, as
opposed to subconscious, is a state that is
nearly impossible to access and yet responsible
for much of our neurosis. Over the course
of the show, it is insinuated that the invention
of the airplane and other such superficial
creations are responsible for a "mortal
blow" to the unconscious. The stage then
becomes a delirious battleground where the
frenetic actors fight for a chance to renew
what has been lost.
Now if you are like the
mother of the NYU student I was sitting next
to, you'd want to know what the play really
meant. At least that's what she asked me in
the restroom after the show. At the risk of
sounding pretentious, I might just say that
the meaning is meaningless. Foreman's style
of presentation is akin to the remnants of
a particularly vivid dream. You don't quite
know what is going on, but react strongly
to it so much that when you wake up, you cannot
stop thinking about it. It's a different kind
of theater, and very well executed at that.
If you are looking for a
more traditional show, this might not be for
you. But if you choose to stray from the conventional
menu, I think you'll find it's pretty tasty.
Tickets are $23 (Tues. Thurs.
Fri. & Sun.) and $28 (Saturday). Running
time: 1 hour and 5 minutes. Tickets through
The Ontological Theater
at St. Mark's Church
| 131 East 10th Street
At Second Ave.