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New York City - Theatre

Photo Credit Rachel Roberts

500 Clown Frankenstein
Tue-Sat @ 7:30PM
Sat-Sun @ 4:00PM
Dec 12-19th
No performance Dec 17th
P S 122

Time to Start Clowning Around?

Reviewed by John Janusz

Just in time for the holidays, go cheer yourself up with 500 Clown at PS 122 in the East Village. Even before the show begins the cast energizes the audience by announcing an on-stage, post-performance, pizza & beer party.

“In 500 Clown Frankenstein, three clowns embark on a madcap journey to construct Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory.” The trio’s quest is humorously plagued by mishap and mayhem due to poor lighting, a cumbersome table, illiteracy and the dysfunctional dynamics between the characters. The show grabs your attention from the onset and repeatedly does so every few minutes as the trio is constantly overcoming obstacles, all the while battling each other for the spotlight. All three characters run through the audience at one time or another in order to spice things up even more. At one point a spectator was even dragged onto stage to really show audience members the nature of the cast’s unpredictability. To stay true to Mary Shelley’s classic tale, from time to time the performance switches off the slapstick to insight a little terror amongst the spectators.

As promised, the performance was followed by an on-stage party with good music, hot pizza, and ice-cold Bass Ale. All in all, this definitely beats another over-commercialized movie at the local cinema that will be out on DVD next month.

Tickets from $20, $15 (students/seniors), $10 (members).

Upcoming: 500 Clown Christmas begins Dec 21.

PS 122|150 First Ave at 9th St.

Charles Busch's
Die, Mommie, Die!
Tuesday - Friday @8:00pm
Saturday 7:00pm & 10:00pm
Sunday 3:00pm & 7:00pm
October 18th - January 13, 2007
New York Stages

Reviewed by Allison Ford

When Charles Busch floats onto the stage in the first scene of Die, Mommie,
, he is met with a wide round of applause, both for the character he creates as an actor, and the world he creates as a playwright.

Besides being an extremely gifted comic actor and drag legend, Mr. Busch is a gifted playwright, who creates a world that is singularly decadent and bizarre, and lovingly received by his dedicated audiences. His quirky comedies are throwbacks to classic film genres, and Die, Mommie, Die! is one of the fullest realizations of Mr. Busch’s warped version of the past. Mommie takes place in the psychedelic 60’s in the life of a faded singing sensation, her dysfunctional family, and her surly domestic help.

Busch plays Angela Arden, a grande dame of yesterday, who wears ballgowns to do the gardening, and hides a dark secret. She was a singing sensation who married her producer, subsequently fading into the oblivion of former star, taking lovers and puttering in the garden. When her husband discovers her infidelity and threatens to divorce her, she exacts her revenge on him, forcing her disgruntled children to exact theirs on her. As Angela, Busch is superb – the perfect manifestation of self-indulgence and narcissism that would make even Gloria Swanson proud. The rest of the cast is equally spectacular. The characters of Angela’s daughter and son, based on Oedipus and Electra, are perfect sendups of sixties archetypes – she as the mod swinger, and he as the hippy gay college dropout.

Mr. Busch’s plays defy easy explanation or categorization. Psycho Beach Party, another standout among his works, parodies Beach Blanket Bingo¸ Vertigo, and classic B-movie thrillers. Die Mommie, Die! is no exception, taking inspiration from, as well as paying homage to, several films from the “wacko aging star” genre, including Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Sunset Boulevard, and Mommie Dearest. Angela Arden could be Norma Desmond on an acid trip. In fact, there’s one of those in the second half of the play.

Although the world of the play is the not-so-distant past, it never feels irrelevant or staid, and although the setting is distinctly American, it feels like more of a fantasy than reality; a perfectly idealized version of a specific place and time. The world of this play (and the movie based on it) is one of bouffant hairdos, housecoats, dream sequences, minidresses, skinny ties, and shag carpeting. It’s brightly-colored, completely ridiculous, and incredibly bizarre. In this world, the daughter has an Electra complex, a poisoned suppository is a murder weapon, and Mommie is played by a man. The character of Angela is so suited to Busch’s personal strengths and comic quirks, that it is difficult to imagine any real woman having the same success playing her.

Mr. Busch’s talent is to take his plays to a completely hyperdramatic place – he follows the crazy all the way to the top, and the end result is grounded in some version of reality, but obviously far, far removed from it. This is a world where the leading lady can utter lines like “I’ve banished all my yesterdays,” with all the conviction and melodrama of a Scarlett O’Hara. And it works. Not only is the play itself scathingly funny, the performances of the cast are pitch-perfect; stylish and energetic. The play is directed by Carl Andress, a veteran of Mr. Busch’s plays, having also directed Shanghai Moon, and The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife. Such a stylized and particular play would be disastrous without the proper energy and direction, but Mr. Andress understands the style that Mr. Busch is trying to achieve with his plays; the delicate balance between melodramatic camp and modernity. Despite living in the past, Mr. Busch’s plays all tend to deal with some of his favorite themes, homosexuality (both latent and manifest), Judaism, and pop psychology, so the ultimate feel is very modern and relevant.

The scope of the story and the characters is limited - Mr. Busch doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel, or produce epics of Shakespearean depth. His aim is to be funny. He is a natural successor to John Waters; purveying camp with a subversive and loving touch. The secret, perhaps, is that even though the world of the play is madcap and ridiculous, we never doubt Mr. Busch’s love for it. Only a great lover of camp and melodrama could make us care so much about these ridiculous characters and their ridiculous misadventures. We’re laughing with them, not at them.

He is one of the best humorists working in the theater today, and despite the fact that his plays are most thoroughly enjoyed by viewers who know the films he references, his work is never inaccessible. To Charles Busch, the over-the-top world of Angela Arden, Die, Mommie, Die!, and the rest of his work is a world that’s modern, and relevant, and funny. Audiences are so devoted to his plays and his characters because the tongue-in-cheek humor and the references to classic films feels like an inside joke. Luckily, he lets us all in on it.

Ticket Price Info: $35.00-$91.50
Order Tickets By Phone: 212-239-6200 & 800-432-7250

New World Stages |340 West 50th Street
New York, NY 10019


Photo Credit Fuerzabruta Press

Tuesday - Thursday @ 8PM
Friday 8PM & 10:30PM
Saturday 7PM & 10PM
Sunday 7PM
Closes February 17, 2008

Reviewed by Mindy Hyman

The Brute Force

Fuerzabruta is a fantastical, delectable dream transformed into performance art. It is the type of show that stays in your mind's eye for years to come. Fuerzabruta is an experience; it makes you feel as if you are a mermaid, a bird and an athlete all in one. This show will leave you feeling high on life and ready to fly.

The show starts off with a man running on a large moving treadmill to
portray the fast pace of urban life. He is constantly confronted with obstacles such as people and objects in his way, intense weather conditions and brick walls. He is determined to keep moving- a notion that hits close to home for many New Yorkers. The audience participates in the show by being directed to move by the stage hands in order to allow for the art to take place. Movement of the onlooker
becomes a beautiful metaphor in that we must be open to making space
for new happenings and new ways of viewing art.

The show uses light, color, fabric and other materials to create a sense of in-your-face explosions of interactive art. Harnesses are worn by the performers to create the action of flight. The actors do indeed fly throughout the show and communicate with each other in a non-language that instills a sense of playfulness and ease. Eye candy includes gorgeous women chasing each other and swimming at the audience through a suspended pool playground and a DJ up on a platform creates a set that you can't help but dance to.

Fuerzabruta will take you on such a beautiful fairytale journey that you will be surprised to find yourself in boring old Union Square once again. It is truly a show not to be missed.

Fuerzabruta was created by the same people who created De La Guardia. For more information about Fuerzabruta, log onto:

Tickets: $70.00; $35.00 previews; $25.00 rush. 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250

Daryl Roth Theatre | 20 Union Square East
New York, NY 10003



Legally Blonde - The Musical
Wednesday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Thursday 8:00PM
Friday 8:00PM
Saturday 2:00PM & 8:00PM
Sunday 2:00PM, 7:00PM & 8:00PM
The Palace Theatre

Reviewed by Katharine Heller

To compare Legally Blonde the Musical to great theater would be like putting a Twinkie up against the Miso Black Cod at Nobu. But goddamn it, sometimes, nothing beats a good Twinkie.

Based on the box office hit of the same title, Legally Blonde rarely strays from the original script. For the five of you who are not familiar with the premise of the story, I'll sum it up. Beautiful Delta Nu sorority sister Elle Woods is crushed when her beau Warner dumps her before leaving for Harvard Law. Elle applies and gets
accepted to Harvard (even though I would assume the application deadline had passed- I never quite got that part, although the rest of the story is perfectly plausible) in hopes to win back her man. Long story short she realizes she doesn't need Warner, makes some new friends and solves a murder case in court along the way.

The stage translation is exactly what you would expect, complete with spunky dance numbers, an energetic young cast and tunes so catchy I might consider quarantine for a good few hours after the show. I still cannot get the opening number, aptly called "Omigod, You Guys!" out of my head. No, seriously, it's pretty frustrating.

The fresh faced and immensely talented Laura Bell Bundy as Elle carries the show with grace and confidence. Right behind her are Richard H. Blake as the arrogantly hilarious Warner and Christian Borle as her sweet love interest, Emmett. The obvious cast standouts however are Chico as her faithful Chihuahua, Bruiser, and Chloe the Bulldog as Rufus. (Rufus is the dog of Elle's friend Paulette played
by the singly named human, Orfeh.)

The amusing book, written by Heather Hach with music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, includes other engaging numbers such as the infamous, "Bend and Snap!" and "Gay or European". With crisp direction and choreography by Jerry Mitchell, this family friendly show is a lot of fun. Just make sure those you see it with have a sweet tooth.

Tickets $40.00-$110.00 212-307-4747

Palace Theatre | 1554 Broadway


Minimum Wage
Thursday and Friday @ 8:00 PM
Saturday @ 8:00 and @ 10:30 PM
The Green Room at 45 Bleecker

Reviewed by Katherine Heller

There are as many unfortunate stigmas attached to fast food employees as there are with new Off-Broadway shows. Both can contribute to feelings of animosity, impatience and in rare cases, physically nausea. But luckily when the two merge in the new Off- Broadway musical Minimum Wage, the result is a night delicious and satisfying fun.

What immediately sets this show apart from most musicals is the fact that it's all acappella. The talented cast of five blend harmonies, tunes and yes, awesome beat boxing to perform such songs as "Shake Your Booty With Danger and Balls." Created and written by Charlie LaGreca, brother Jeff LaGreca and with the musical assistance of Sean Altman, Minimum Wage follows the lives of five fast food workers at the fictional and aptly titled "Happy Burger".

The show begins when the you enter the basement of the theater at 45 Bleecker, as the Happy Burger staff/cast welcomes you with gifts, paper hats and yes, a job application. We soon learn that we are actually there as part of a "new trainee" session about the wonder of Hamburgerology which includes multitudinous lessons about the grill, french fries, Connecticut (you'll see) and meat, to name a few. Due to a series of unexpected events, it is up to the Happy Burger employees to run the seminar which has ordinarily been done by their boss via satellite. If we, the audience, pass the rigorous test at the end, the eager group of workers can attend a local acappella competition. The rest of the hour and a half we are not only taught about All Things Fast Food, but we learn a little bit about what makes each character function, facilitate and fry.

This is quite possibly one of the funniest shows I have seen in a long time. The experience from beginning to end was reminiscent to that of a hilariously dysfunctional family dinner, one that you wish would never end. All of the characters were so well defined and complemented each other exquisitely. This is no doubt because this is not their first run. A two-time veteran of the New York Fringe Festival, the cast has also been working together for almost ten years as an award winning acappella troupe. It's not just their chemistry on stage that makes this show special but the heart that goes into it. And it's also pretty friggin' hilarious. My favorite moment of many was the introduction of Kooky The Happy Burger Clown, played to perfection by Tony Daussat, who answers audience questions with his own brand of therapy. Other knockout moments include the aforementioned "Shake Your Booty With Danger" performed by the incredibly talented, Elana Meulener, and the sweet homage to family, "Dreams," which actually made me cry. I know.

Jeff LaGreca gives a knockout performance as Hux, the steadfastly dedicated brother of Orewell (his real brother Charlie). Bill Caleo is a superb as Bradbury, the troubled yet adorable fry cook who really means well as long as he stays away from a grill (I'll let you figure that one out at the show). And Charlie LaGreca should not only be commended for his extraordinary performance as the eager and simpleminded Orwell, but for his stupendous beatboxing skillz. (Yeah, I used a "z". It's that good.) Guy Stroman's excellent direction is very present based on the notable ensemble work.

This is the kind of show I would everyone I know over the age of 14 to. While it is overall a comedy, it is clearly not just a bunch of sketches; the through-line of the plot is genuinely poignant- remembering the value of dreams. And while it may seem like leaving a fast food job for an hour to sing is a mediocre goal, this enthusiastic gang reminds you that it is the little joys that make life worth working for. And unlike my last fast food experience, I want to go back.

Minimum Wage opens Saturday, October 20th at 8:00 at 45 Bleecker. Showtimes are Thursday and Friday at 8:00 PM and Saturday at 8:00 and 10:30 PM. Tickets are $45 and can be purchased through or by calling 212-239-6200. For a limited time, $25 tickets are still available- check out

The Green Room at 45 Bleecker

Marisa Tomei and Brian Hutchinson in Oh, the Humanity

Will Eno's
Oh, The Humanity and other exclamations
Tuesday - Sunday at 7PM
Saturday Matinees at 3PM
November 3 - February 2, 2008
The Flea Theater

The Humanity in Oh, The Humanity

Reviewed by William S. Gooch

In Oh, The Humanity, playwright Will Eno attempts in five short plays to illuminate the longings of the human heart. Currently playing at the Flea Theatre, Eno is successful most of time in creating intimate insights into human frustrations and our ability to cope with tragedy.

In “Behold the Coach, in a Blazer, Uninsured,” a sports coach (Brian Hutchinson) reflects on a losing season. Told in the format of a press conference, Hutchinson, in a droll, detached manner, compares his team’s losing season to the losing seasons in everyone’s life. Starring blank-eyed at the audience, he asks, “Did anyone have a winning season?”

Trying to find something good about a futile year, Hutchinson blandly replies, “We sold a few hot dogs.” Hutchinson is superb in his interpretation of a man who must find something good about an otherwise fruitless endeavor.

Academy Award-winning actress Marisa Tomei is especially effective as a fish-out-of-water spokeswoman for an airline plane crash in “ Enter the Spokeswoman, Gently.” Totally unprepared for the interchange with family members of the victims, she attempts to inject a little humor by saying, “We hope they enjoyed the inflight movie.” Apologizing for her lack of empathy and decorum, she says, “My degree was in hospitality management, I fell into this field.”

Tomei successfully establishes this character by exposing the character’s discomfort and vulnerabilities. Employing guffaws and awkward body language, Tomei brings to light what it feels like to be out of your element.

“The Bully Composition” is perhaps Eno’s most challenging piece. Tomei and Hutchison have the task of creating characters that transport audiences from a historical event into real time. As two photographers who took pictures of American soldiers during the Spanish-American War, they comment on how photographs, if closely perused, can speak to the emotions people were feeling at the time the photograph was taken. “[Photos] show up the national dilemma in your face. The anxiety is so beautiful.”

Inviting the audience into this photographic world of war and suffering is a sobering request, but Tomei and Hutchinson are adept at manifesting imagery and motivation that makes the request palatable. “ War is not hell, it is not organized enough to be so,” says Hutchison. The stage effect of fog also gives the audience the feeling of looking through a glass darkly, peering between the world of what was and our current world of war and sacrifice.

Eno’s dialogue, though cumbersome and amorphous at times, does give actors the range of situation and character that thespians find so lacking in other arenas. He speaks to that secret place where we all live, where it is okay to be vulnerable, fallible, and oh so human.

Naomi Emmerson in Piaf: Love Conquers All

Roger Peace's
Piaf: Love Conquers All
Saturdays and Sundays 2pm and 8pm
December 8th - Jan 20th 2008
The SoHo Playhouse

Reviewed by Bryan Close

Edith Piaf is a great character. The celebrated French chanteuse was an iconic talent with a larger-than-life personality and a compelling biography – complete with a rags-to-riches prologue, infamous love affairs, tragic losses, heroic involvement in the French Resistance, and debilitating drug addiction. In theatrical terms, this is great stuff. It is easy to see why an enterprising performer such as Naomi Emmerson would be drawn to the role.

Emmerson is currently starring – and singing up a storm – in the one-woman show Piaf: Love Conquers All (at The Soho Playhouse through Jan 20). She is also the show’s producer, director and designer. That’s a pretty impressive bag of chores, and if it seems at times that Emmerson is wearing a hat or two too many, well, so was Piaf, right? Sometimes a little hubris is a good thing. After all, the show comes with the stamps of approval of awards in both Toronto and New York’s fringe festivals.

Sometimes, however, a little healthy hubris combined with too much praise can be dangerous. While Piaf’s high points are high indeed, its low points would be a lot less low if they were less invested in competing with the high points. In other words, this show would benefit from some tough love, including judicious cutting of the script. More of that anon. Meanwhile, there’s a lot here to love.

One might assume that the greatest difficulty in making theater out of Piaf’s life would be finding an actress with the pipes and the verve to do justice to those gloriously bittersweet songs. Good news on this score – Emmerson can sing. More importantly, she can sing like Edith Piaf, which is high praise indeed. Here she fills thirteen of Piaf’s best-known songs (in French) with bountiful, beautiful life. She is very funny singing the saucy “Milord” as a pert fourteen-year-old (never mind the anachronism – “Milord” was actually recorded in 1959, just four years before Piaf’s death – it works). And the amount of feeling and tragic grace she wrings from “Mon Dieu,” sung towards the close of the evening as Piaf is breaking down under the weight of morphine and disease, is amazing to behold. She follows this directly with “Non, Je ne Regrette Rien,” sung in such a pure, straightforward way that is both moving and life-affirming.

The simple, abstract set also strikes a perfect note – black and white with touches of red (a scarf, an umbrella, roses). The furniture is all skewed pen and ink drawings come to life at odd angles – Eloise meets Dr. Caligari – suggesting both whimsy and madness. Accompaniment is skillfully provided by Carmela Sinco, half-hidden upstage behind a draped scrim.

Unfortunately, however, this Vie is not all Rose. Roger Peace’s script never rises above the level of dreary and-then-this-happened narration. Also unfortunate is that the ferocious energy that so beautifully animates Emmerson’s singing (and the lovely choreography that goes with it), often leads her acting astray. There is far too much talking in the show to far too little purpose, and Emmerson the director has not done Emmerson the performer any favors by allowing her to over-emote so consistently and egregiously. The production so misunderstands its own strengths and weaknesses that at one point Emmerson-as-Piaf says, “But it is not my songs you want to hear about,” before launching into another over-long story, all-too-similar to the last over-long story.

She is wrong, of course. The songs are why we’re there. And they are beautiful.

Tickets: Regular $45, Seniors $35, Student $25.00 212-691-1555
For more information or advance &

The SoHo Playhouse | 15 Vandam St. NY NY 10013
(between 6th and Varick)
(C/E line to Spring Station-“1” to Houston)

Steve Sater & Duncan Sheik’s
Spring Awakening
Monday 8:00pm
Wednesday 8:00pm
Thursday 8:00pm
Friday 8:00pm
Saturday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday 2:00pm & 7:00pm
Eugene O'Neill Theatre

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

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, hormonally-bonkers characters.

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 the rafters!

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”).

Michele’s Wendla 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 well.

Beyond the masterful score, near-perfect performances and deft direction, I had
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 their fates.

Spring Awakening is a triumph that should be seen by anyone who cares about the future of musical theatre.

Tickets $66.25-$111.25 at

Eugene O'Neill Theatre | 230 West 49th Street | New York, NY 10036

Jonathan Marc Sherman’s
Things We Want
Directed by Ethan Hawke
Monday @ 8PM
Tuesday @ 7PM
Wednesday - Friday @ 8PM
Saturday @ 2PM & 8PM
Closes December 22, 2007
The New Group at Theatre Row

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

It’s been close to a decade since Jonathan Marc Sherman has written a new play. At age eighteen, he found instant success with a play called Women and Wallace. He is now thirty-nine. And he’s savvy enough to choose the perfect creative team to breathe life into Things We Want, an intense, well-written journey into the lives and minds of three brothers, marked by suicide, who themselves, at certain times in the work, appear nihilistic and on the verge of tossing themselves out the same window that both their parents did (at different times) so many years ago.

Josh Hamilton plays the elder brother, Teddy, a way-too positive (in act one, anyway) disciple of a self-help nut known as Dr. Miracle. Middle brother, Sty (perfectly named) is played by Peter Dinkage as a perpetually soused (in act one, anyway) mess of a human being. Finally, the baby brother, Charles (Paul Dano) is so annoyingly, cloyingly hooked on his ex-girlfriend that he becomes the personification of co-dependency.

Arguably, the most fascinating character onstage (if you can call an inanimate object a character) is the window. One cannot wonder, throughout the electrifying evening, whether one or more of the characters will end up hurling themselves to their doom.

Charles is the only character who isn’t forced to undergo, what feels like, a complete character change in the one year span between acts, so while his arc isn’t fully realized, he remains the most believable.

Paul Dano (an actor having a grand winter with the remarkable There Will Be Blood on his imdb resume’) is quite the promising young actor. His Charles is anxious and desperate for a companion…is a study in the effects of parental abandonment. He wears it like a vital body part.

Sty is the most underwritten part, but Dinklage makes the most of it with very refreshing and unpredictable line deliveries. His Sty is always fascinating to watch as well.

And while Hamilton’s metamorphosis is the least convincing, the actor isn’t to blame. Teddy is pretty forgettable in Act One but explodes onto the stage with a nasty and duplicitous vengeance in Act Two, relishing every bit of bitchy and sexy he gets to play.

Zoe Kazan wasn’t interesting enough for my taste as the vampish Stella. I like her as written, not as portrayed by Kazan.

The play is smoothly and fluidly directed by Ethan Hawke (having quite a creative season with this and his devastating performance in Sidney Lumet’s film masterpiece Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead). Hawke gives his actors the right amount of freedom to explore their characters—and knows when to reel them in. Hawke presents the audience with a sense of foreboding, a fear that a bad fate is about to find one or more of our brothers.

Ultimately, Sherman does not go far enough in his exploration. I felt the need for a third act…or a definite tragedy. Something. What I got was a good play, masterfully directed and terrifically acted. Not a bad night out, I would say.

Ticket are $56.25 at 212-279-4200 or

The New Group at Theatre Row | 410 W 42nd Street

Tuesday @ 8PM
Wednesday @ 2PM & 8PM
Thursday @ 8PM
Friday @ 8PM
Saturday @ 2PM & 8PM
Sunday @ 3PM
Opened July 10, 2007
Helen Hayes Theater

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Okay, how bloody tiresome has it become for the Broadway theatregoer to have to withstand yet another screen-to-stage translation? In recent years, we’ve had to suffer through the abysmally bad (Saturday Night Fever, Footloose) and the not-so-bad-but-why-the-frig-bother (The Wedding Singer, Legally Blonde). And then there’s Disney, in the ‘ you own the world so just stop it already’ category. All this appropriation has shown a complete lack of originality and proven producers have no faith in the audience.

Of course, no one has tackled the bad Hollywood movie musical adaptation yet. Then again, exactly how many bad Hollywood movie musicals can actually boast having a terrific score? Not that many. Certainly very few in the last thirty years. Actually one. A notorious debacle from 1980 known as Xanadu.

Now, I have to admit to having my own personal love/hate relationship with the screen mess known as Xanadu. Every time I watch it (and yes, I have watched it many times) I keep waiting for it to be different. I keep wanting the performances to improve and I keep praying someone will come along and actually DIRECT and CHOREOGRAPH those great songs (written by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar) in some way that isn’t catastrophically impossible to watch. Alas, I am always disappointed.

Yet I keep revisiting Xanadu. Why? I have never quite figured it out. It isn’t even a very campy film--the kind that’s so bad it’s good. But it does feature Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly...and a tiny spark of a good idea...and have I mentioned the fantastic score?

When I read about plans to bring it to Broadway, I thought: “well, it couldn’t possibly be as bad as the film.” Then I read that Douglas Carter Beane, thanks to the dogged persistence of producer Robert Ahrens, had been cajoled into writing the book. At that point, I knew it would have some merit. And I knew that if anyone could tap into the reason why so many folks are Xanadu-obsessed, it was Beane. After all he was responsible for the brilliantly biting and insightful play, The Little Dog Laughed, the funniest work to hit Broadway in the last few years. (and of course it closed prematurely!) My hopes were high.

Then casting problems followed as well as the leading male (James Carpinello, the only good thing in Saturday Night Fever) being injured while skating and having to be replaced. Was all this a sign?

I am elated to report that--Spring Awakening notwithstanding--Xanadu is the best musical currently running on Broadway! Actually, it’s the smartest and most entertaining musical to open in quite a long time!

How could this be, you ask?

It’s fairly simple. Assemble the best creative team possible. Cast actors who are working at the top of their game. Shake. Stir. Shimmy. Skate!

Part of the heavenly ‘magic’ on display at the Helen Hayes Theatre has everything to do with a keen awareness of the tongue-in-cheeky satire at play. But no one ever condescends to the audience. Quite the contrary, they invite the audience in on all the jokes (and they are legion).

Beane has written an intelligent, witty and clever script and manages to work several miracles in the process. Firsty, he remains faithful to the original film while drastically improving the story, making spendid script alterations and adding much-needed character dimensions. He creates a believable, old-fashioned love story where the audience roots for Kira and Sonny--even though she’s a Greek daughter-of-Zeus pretending to be an Australian and he’s a mere mortal AND struggling artist.

Beane also does justice to each and every one of his cast of characters, so rare in a musical, especially one that clocks in at ninety minutes! Finally, he has penned a ton of ovation-inspiring one-liners that will have you howling with laughter.

The tremendously talented director, Christopher Ashley (along with choreographer Dan Knechtges), ingeniously finds enormously entertaining ways to stage those wonderful ditties mentioned earlier (so poorly rendered onscreen). From the delightful opening number, “I’m Alive” to the sensational title tune at the end, Xanadu explodes with an exuberant and euphoric energy and life, most musicals would kill for.

A new Broadway star is born in Kerry Butler. She is absolutely remarkable as Kira/Clio. Having seen her shine in Hairspray, Little Shop of Horrors and the devilishly delightful Bat Boy, I was still wholly unprepared for her performance here. She has perfect comic-timing and displays so much verve and charisma, you will truly have a tough time taking your eyes off of her. She also happens to be quite stunning. Her Kira is a rich parody of Newton-John infused with some daffy Nicole Kidman, yet she creates a loveable, complicated and quite memorable character that is ultimately her own. She also happens to have a powerhouse voice and is particularly divine singing “Magic” and “Suspended in Time.” Butler fascinates right up until the curtain call.

When you are able to look away from Butler, Cheyenne Jackson (All Shook Up) provides delicious eye-candy, but so much more than that. From his very first bit of dialogue, he seduces the audience and endears himself as a loveable lump of a hunk, wide-eyed and earnest. It’s a fabulous performance, filled with comedic gem moments. Jackson is also an excellent songman, tearing the roof off with the showstopping “Don’t Walk Away.” And, boy, does he look good in those denim shorts. Yikes!

Tearing through the production like two hungry tigresses are stage vets Mary Testa (as Melpomene, muse of Tragedy) and Jackie Hoffman (as Calliope, muse of Epics). These two scenery-chewing vamps have a bloody blast with their parts. The duo’s rendition of “Evil Woman” is rousing and ‘nasty’, in the best sense of that word. Testa’s turn is particularly Tony-courting.

The rest of the ensemble seem to be having the time of their lives as well with Curtis Holbrook providing a killer tap dance during “Whenever You’re Away from Me”. Veteran stage actor, Tony Roberts has his own fun in the Gene Kelly role and really impresses as Zeus. One of the oh-so-may highlights involves both the song “Have You Never Been Mellow” and the Harryhausen film Clash of the Titans. I can’t say more, lest I spoil a classic musical theatre moment.

So, what is it that Beane and the Xanadu team are able to do what the original filmmakers couldn’t? Because...they have found the magic in Xanadu as well as the irony and the joy. They tell a simple love story in a complex and interesting way. They comment on art and the creative gifts that are given to us. And they show us a damn good time while doing it. What more could we ask for? Okay, maybe just ninety minutes more, because once you see this show, you will want to see it again...

Xanadu Tickets $51.25-$111.25 Buy tickets online - Phone 212-239-6200 & 800-432-7250

Helen Hayes |240 W. 44th Street




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