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
- The Musical
2:00pm & 8:00pm
Saturday 2:00PM & 8:00PM
Sunday 2:00PM, 7:00PM & 8:00PM
The Palace Theatre
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.
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
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.
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.
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
by the singly named human, Orfeh.)
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.
$40.00-$110.00 212-307-4747 www.ticketmaster.com
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
My Inner Mark Berman
The Run is Over
of the Gay Absurd
Reviewed by W. S. Gooch
In a time before the politically
musical dominated the white lights of Broadway,
there existed a downtown scene where confrontational,
no-holes-barred musicals tackled subjects
that educated as well as entertained--Vampire
Lesbians of Sodom, The Fantastiks,
and Nunsense come immediately to
mind. My Inner Mark Berman, playing
at the Theater for the New City, May 3-20,
is just that type of downtown musical. My
Inner Mark Berman asks the question,
when juxtaposed against the real world,
is the surreal world more interesting and
glamorous. Or in the words of protagonist,
Cricket Santiago, “what if you move
from a dimension you don’t know to
another one you do know.” Told through
clever songs and sidesplitting dialogue,
My Inner Mark Berman pokes fun
at gender, psychotherapy, conformity, and
Consisting of a bare black
set and only five cast members, My Inner
Mark Berman accomplishes what few shoestring-budgeted
shows are able to do; create mood and evoke
time and place. With musical styles ranging
from glitter glamrock to hip-hop, composer
Evan Laurence intelligently weaves music
that illuminates each character and advances
The plot centers on Mark
Berman, a sensitive gay man who can’t
handle gay life and rejection, who recreates
himself as Cricket Santiago, a flamboyant,
tough-as-nails, gay diva. Berman some how
ends up in a psyche ward and as Cricket
Santiago—his alter ego—he is
able to get the hospital’s cast of
looney workers to free themselves from their
insecurities and inhibitions.
Evan Laurence as Cricket
Santiago (Mark Berman) carries off a pretty
good Spanish accent and also has the right
amount of sass and fire to make his character
believable. David Slone as Berman’s
rabbi/therapist completely captures the
angst of a Jewish man torn between two worlds—the
solid, respectable Orthodox world of his
father and a modern world of adventure and
questioning. With his deep, basso profundo,
Slone devours his musical numbers with a
panache one would expect to see on Broadway.
He is especially effective in the scene
where he attempts to bring Berman back to
reality by singing a Yiddish lullaby.
Christopher Noffke as
Nurse Terry Sass-Poo, a transsexual, has
the best one-liners in the show. After having
a sex change in which the surgeon removes
from her a humongous penis, Sass-Poo looks
at her complete transformation and says,
“These boobs were made for walking,
and I can go where I want to go.”
Do I hear Tina Sinatra? Noffke’s portrayal
of Nurse Sass-Poo is reminiscent of those
stock characters seen in Bob Fosse’s
Pippin and Chicago that
stand wide-eyed on the stage and react to
every bumble or guffaw with silent-screen
Danny Smith as the oversexed
Head of Hospital is effective as an administrator
who is too in touch with his sexuality and
everyone else’s. And Richard C. Lurie
brings just the right tone to Sgt. Misconception,
the superhero who is committed to ridding
the world of sexual untruths.
Although My Inner
Mark Berman is still in a workshop
stage, the musical shows great promise.
This show artistically brings sexy and raunchy
back to where it belongs: on stage, front
and center. And we are all the better for
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,