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New York City - Theatre

Crossing Brooklyn
Wednesday - Saturday @ 8PM
Monday @ 8 PM
Saturday @ 2 PM
Sunday @ 3 PM
Through Nov. 18th
The Connelly Theater

Reviewed by Katharine Heller

It wasn't too long after the terrorist attacks on September 11th that the art community began to respond. From amateur photo exhibitions that sprouted up within weeks to Hollywood blockbusters years later, it has recently come to a point when the country is able to reflect on that difficult time with a bit more ease and receptivity. And save for country singer Toby Keith's anthem of the narrow minded, "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue", most of the artistic medium has handled September 11th with grace and dignity.

The same can be said of the newest arrival at the Connelly Theater, Crossing Brooklyn. To call it a musical would be doing it a disservice as that term has come to mean huge, flashy numbers, power ballads and intermittent breaks for applause. Not that there is anything wrong with that, mind you. But Crossing Brooklyn manages to utilize the power of song to effectively enhance an emotionally provocative and significant story.

The show follows the story of a young married couple, Des and A.J., whose relationship has become strained a year since the attacks, mostly because Des is having a very difficult time recovering from the emotional distress she faced that day as a teacher in downtown Manhattan. A.J is able to return to work whereas Des cannot even leave the borough of Brooklyn, causing A.J. to become continually exhausted with his attempts to make her feel safe again. Over the course of the show we are introduced to various characters that propel them on their separate journeys. The smart writing of these scenes with the auxiliary characters allows for light-hearted breaks from the heavy storyline, along with a chance to fully explore the cracks in A.J. and Des's relationship.

I'm not going to lie- this story is heartbreaking. It is emotionally riveting and sometimes difficult to watch. Yet it never pulls too hard or goes too far; the performances are subtle and the drama isn't forced. One particularly moving scene between A.J. and one of his students, Kevin, in any other circumstance could have been mistaken for an after school special. Thanks to extraordinary direction by Jack Cummings III, the talented cast pulls off these scenes with honesty rarely found in dramatic theater.

The hard working cast is does an exceptional job of propelling the show forward with caring and meticulous performances. Bryce Ryness (A.J.) and Jenny Fellner (Des), besides being extraordinary vocally, bring empathy to performances that toe the sensitive subject matter beautifully. Blythe Gruda is wonderful as Madeline, a book store clerk who has a precarious relationship with A.J. Clayton Dean Smith shines as a homeless man who Des befriends, and the boisterously talented Ken Triwush and Jason F. Williams add a bit of comic relief as owners of the Brooklyn café. A heartwarming scene between Des and elderly birdwatchers played by Kate Welman and Susan Lehman is yet another gem of this piece, and the wonderful J. Bradley Bowers as young Kevin actually made me not hate child actors.

What really makes this show stand out, besides its subject matter and talent, is the overall production value. The beautiful score by Jenny Giering is exquisitely haunting and Laura Harrington's lyrics seamlessly complement the piece. As I previously mentioned, the music isn't in the style of most traditional musicals, rather, the songs are a delicate balancing act between waves of underscore into song, and back again. Sandra Goldmark's set design is a simple gem that Cummings utilizes wholly. And I haven't seen such incredible lighting design in any production in years, thanks to R. Lee Kennedy.

If you haven't already figured it out, I loved this show. It was emotionally gripping and spiritually satisfying. I couldn't help but wonder, however, if it was because the subject matter invariably strikes a raw nerve, that is to say, anyone who was in New York during the attack doesn't have to be pushed too far to remember the heartbreak and fear of that day. My friend and I pondered this after the show, walking down the streets of Manhattan on a beautiful balmy October night. Who knows? I'd like to believe that this show will have the capacity to affect everyone, as it is also about love, relationships and loss in general. I'm just happy that such a relevant piece of theater has come to the city.

Tickets are $38. Go to or Call (212) 352-3101.

The Connelly Theater|220 E. 4th Street

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

Sandra Reeves-Phillips
The Late Great Ladies of Blues & Jazz
Schomburg Center
October 22, 2007

For One Night Only

Reviewed by William S. Gooch

Sassy, soulful, and sick and tired of being sick and tired describes the songstresses of blues and jazz conjured up by Sandra Reeves-Phillips at the Schomburg Center in New York City on October 22. Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Ethel Ward, Mahalia Jackson, and Dinah Washington all suffered from bad relationships and the debilitating effects of racism. And Sandra Reeves-Phillips expertly infuses their joy and pain into her interpretations.

Best known for her supporting role in the 1989 biopic Lean On Me, Reeves-Phillips uses elaborate headdresses, sequined gowns and the wonderful stylings of the All-Star Trio to bring The Late Great Ladies of Blues & Jazz front and center. As hard living/hard drinking Ma Rainey, Reeves-Phillips sings a brassy rendition of “Strut Miss Lizzy Brown.” “I got a weakness for young men, makes my arthritis feel good,” says Ma Rainey. Never one to give up on life, Reeves-Phillips portrays Ma Rainey as a woman who can laugh in the face of adversity and laugh at herself.

As sad, abandoned Bessie Smith, Reeves-Phillips captures the heartache and pain of a woman who can’t get beyond the limitations of her race and her bad life choices. “Nobody Knows You When You Are Down And Out” is infused with all the pathos of a woman broken by life.

Reeves-Phillips interprets Ethel Ward as a woman with largesse. Though refined and business-savvy, Reeves- Phillips’ Ward knows how to get down to the ‘nitty gritty,’ evidenced in her rendering of “Shake That Thang.”

Reeves-Phillips gives an uncanny portrayal of Billie Holiday notable for its phasing and styling. Reeves-Phillips puts her own personal stamp on “Solitude” and “Them There Eyes” while still invoking the melancholy sadness of Lady Day.

Although this performance piece is only about an hour in length, Sandra Reeves-Phillips is successful in the way true artist of the stage always are. She educates, entertains, and takes the audience back to the days when the blues moved you to tears, and jazz was hot. Bad jobs, bad relationships, and bad times were all forgotten, even, if only for one night.


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

Charles Busch's
Die, Mommie, Die!
Tuesday - Friday @8:00pm
Saturday 7:00pm & 10:00pm
Sunday 3:00pm & 7:00pm
October 18th - February 21, 2008
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


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



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

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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