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New York City - Theatre

Wendy R. Williams'
Theatre Column

June 14, 2010

Scarlett Johansson
Photo Credit: Sylvain Gaboury / PR Photos
Catherine Zeta Jones
Photo Credit: Sylvain Gaboury / PR Photos

Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Douglas Hodge
Photo Credit: Sylvain Gaboury / PR Photos

The Tony Awards were held on June 13, 2010 at Radio City Music Hall. Scarlett Johansson won Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play for her performance in A View from the Bridge. Catherine Zeta Jones won Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance in A Little Night Music. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis won Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play respectively for their performances in Fences. Douglas Hodge won Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for his work in La Cage aux Folles.

Red won the Tony for Best Play. Memphis won for Best Musical. Fences won for Best Revivial of a Play and La Cage aux Folles won for Best Revival of a Musical.

Click here for a complete list of winners.

June 1, 2010

Last month I saw three really excellent plays: Behanding in Spokane, Chicago and Hair. All of these plays have been open for a while, some for quite a while, but all are definitely worth seeing.

Christopher Walken in Behanding in Spokane

First Behanding: I have loved all of Martin Mc Donough's plays. His The Pillowman (see review) and The Lieutenant of Inishmore (see review) were both extraordinary. Behanding, directed by John Crowley, is McDonough's first American based play and unfortunately it falls a little flat. McDonough's insanely bizarre sense of humor is still in place - a man is looking for his missing hand - but the flavors in this particular stew don't quite blend.

Christopher Walken, playing Captain Ahab with a missing hand, is extraordinary; his sense of comic timing is superb. Sam Rockwall does a good job of playing the nosy hotel clerk, but Anthony Mackie and Zoe Kazan's portrayals of the two hapless con artists are so irritating, I found it hard to sympathize with their plight (they most definitely picked the wrong "mark").

Having said that, the play is worth seeing simply to watch Walken take his acting chops out for a spin (sit close to the stage). And if you want to see it, move quickly. The show closes on June 6th.

Tickets $61.50-$116.50 212-239-6200 & 800-432-7250


Schoenfeld Theatre |236 West 45th Street

Second Chicago: Chicago has been playing on Broadway since 1996 when it opened as a revival (the original show opened in 1975). The shows still sparkles and the dancing is as "on the mark" as ever. The original 1975 show was choreographed by Bob Fosse and his influence is still evident in the choreography today. The dancing is the star of this show and the dancers were physically gorgeous and a joy to watch.

So how has Chicago aged? Very well indeed with one caveat. The roles of Roxie Hart (played by Ruthie Henshall) and Velma Kelly (played by Terra C. MacLeod) were played with skill and sass. Both of these women have great pipes and are incredible dancers. They are also veteran Broadway actresses and both have had years of experience playing roles in Chicago and it definitely show.

But Broadway shows live and die by group sales and group sales can be pumped up by adding a star name to the cast. Chicago has cast TV stars like Ashley Simpson to play Roxie Hart in past performances (yes, you read that right - Ashley Simpson!). And that must have been the reason they cast Matthew Settle as Billy Flynn. I had never heard of Matthew Settle before I saw the show, but according to his program bio, he has played roles in TV shows like Gossip Girl, Into the West and Band of Brothers. This is a fairly impressive resume (especially the last two Steven Spielberg projects), but Gossip Girl fame or not, Settle is a man who has no business starring in a Broadway musical. Henshall and MacLeod simply blew him off the stage. Settle came off as an actor who was "phoning it in" or "walking through his light cues." Settle also did not fare well when mentally compared to the excellent performance of Richard Gere in the film version of Chicago. But did he make the play unwatchable? Absolutely not. The charm is still there, baby.

Also of note was the excellent performance of Raymond Bokhour as Amos Hart. His execution of the song "Invisible Man" was both heart breaking and funny.

Tickets$58.75- $111.25 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250 telecharge.com


Ambassador Theatre | 219 West 49th Street

Third Hair: I saw the original version of Hair and also the 1977 Broadway revival. Hair is now advertised as Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical.

So how has Hair aged? Very well with a few caveats. The score is still wonderful and Diane Paulus' direction is spot on. The cast is very enthusiastic and in the performance I saw, they gave it all.

So what has changed? The world. In 1967 and still in 1977, Hair was a radical indictment of a closed society and the Vietnam war. With its themes of free love, drugs and interracial coupling, it was truly "out there." Well, not so much now. "Free love" is now called dating. Drugs get you thrown in rehab and no right thinking person considers race when choosing their friends or partners or if they do, they know better than to talk about it in public.

So the show is a bit of a museum piece, but a museum piece that is beloved by the audience who leapt to their feet with a standing ovation and then flooded the stage to sing and dance with the cast in a rousing edition of "Let The Sunshine In." The shock value may have faded, but the love is still alive.

Tickets $37.00 - $122.00; $252.00 Premium 212-239-6200 800-432-7250 telecharge.com

Al Hirschfeld Theatre|302 West 45th Street




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