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New York City - Theatre

Wendy R. Williams'
Theatre Column

December 6, 2010

There have been some quick opening/closings in New York City's theater world.

Andy Halliday and Everett Quinton in Devil Boys From Beyond

Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott's comedy Devil Boys From Beyond concluded its Off-Broadway run at New World Stages on Saturday, December 4, 2010. The play opened November 13th and was supposed to run until December 30th. Devil Boys was a breakout hit at the 2009 New York International Fringe Festival. I saw the play on the last weekend and it was a campy fun piece of drag queen shtick about some New York journalists who try to scoop each other with a story about space aliens in 1957 Florida. I know, I know, what's so amazing about space aliens in Florida? But the show was a hoot anyway.

Richard Easton, Denis O'Hare, Brendan Fraser,
Jennifer Coolidge and Jeremy Shamos
Elling" Broadway Opening Night - Curtain Call
The Ethel Barrymore Theater
November 21, 2010
Photo Credit: Christopher Smith / PR Photos

Elling opened on Broadway on November 21, 2010 and quickly closed on November 28, 2010 having run for only nine performances and twenty-two previews. It had been scheduled to run until March 20, 2010. It certainly is hard to launch a non-musical play, even one with the luck to have Denis O'Hare and Brenden Fraser onboard.

If you are in a theater-going mood, move quickly to see these shows which are closing in January:

Closing January 2, 2011:

Brief Encounter
The Pee-wee Herman Show
Promises, Promises
West Side Story

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson - January 2, 2010

Closing January 9, 2011:

Free Man of Color
The Merchant of Venice
In the Heights
A Little Night Music
La Bete
Rain - A Tribute to The Beatles

Closing January 16, 2011:

Next to Normal

Closing January 23, 2011:

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Closing January 29, 2011:

Driving Miss Daisy


August 9, 2010

I saw a really fun play last weekend, The Flying Karamazov Brothers in 4PLAY at the Minetta Lane Theatre. 4PLAY has a multi-talented cast: Paul Magid, Mark Ettinger, Rod Kimball and Stephen Bent. These master vaudevillians juggle, mime, mug, sing, dance (ballet) and juggle till the cows come home. The performers have great chemistry and play off each other with the joy and skill that comes when a cast has spent years together.

The play officially opens for an open run on Tuesday, August 20, 2010.

Here is a quote from their press release: "The audience is invited to bring objects to the theater for the Karamazovs to keep airborne in a real challenge that ends either with a pie in the face or a standing ovation, making each show a unique experience and sometimes a messy one. This exuberant and hilarious off-Broadway event is full of charming, fast-paced virtuosity and fun as the four brothers, master practitioners of cheap theatrics, juggle ‘til they drop. Their method combines skills of considerable breadth and depth in a work that is kaleidoscopic, passionate and not one bit silly (ok, maybe a little). The objects, the musical instruments (traditional and invented), and their own bodies combine to make a fresh and compelling evening. This show is made for everyone—kids, adults, students, tourists, theatre goers, the theatre wary, pseudo-intellectuals, dopes, geeks, the upper and lower crust, and even politicians."

Tickets are $20.00 - $65.00 - 800-982-2787 and http://www.fkb.com. The Menetta Lane Theatre is located at 18 Minetta Lane, between Sixth Avenue and MacDougal Street.

July 24, 2010

I saw one play this month, Montserrat Mendez's Billy Carver and the Children in Mind.

Here is a quote from the press release for the play: Billy Carver is about a woman who has written a series of successful books about a teenage werewolf named Billy Carver. A la JK Rowling and Harry Potter. After she receives a terrible review for the latest installment of the series, she debates killing off the character. This sends the people she loves, who are also sort of on her payroll, into crisis. Comedy, gunshots and a pile of cars in her backyard pool ensue."

Aimee Whelan, Armistead Johnson, Monroe Robertson, Jenny D Green, Nathan Willis,
Stuart Williams, Lauren Roth in Billy Carver and the Children in Mind

The play has an interesting background. Mendez had been slated to direct Alan Ayckbourn's A Woman in Mind, but at the last minute, the rights were taken away by Ayckbourn's agent. Mendez had a weekend to write the play and write the play he did. The play was developed during rehearsal with the help of his talented cast: Aimee Whelan, Armistead Johnson, Monroe Robertson, Jenny D Green, Nathan Willis, Stuart Williams and Lauren Roth. Necessity was the mother of an amazing creative invention.

The cast did a great job, both helping to develop and performing in the play. Armistead Johnson plays Christopher Barrett, a dim-witted star soccer player, who has taken up the playwright Joanie (played by Jenny D. Green). Armistead did a great job playing a jock's jock stirred-but-not-shaken with a twist of deviousness.

Jenny D. Green grounds the play with her performance as Joanie. She has two admirable foils in her character's naive sister Aimee (played by Aimee Nolan) and her boozy-friend-ex-sorta-lesbian-lover PMS (played by Lauren Roth), who does a great Liza-Minelli-in-Arthur interpretation of her character.

Maurice Robertson is memorable as Rick, a hapless fan. Nathan Willis play William Harris, Joanie' unfaithful and cuckolded husband. Rounding out the cast is Stuart Williams's boozy but sharp performance as Tristan, the personal assistant.

The play's first review was extremely positive. Martin Denton called it the "the most lavish and beautifully realized" production he had ever seen at Manhattan Theatre Source.

Mendez's play script is a witty ditty, filled with double entendres about British theater (the writer in the play is British): Virginia Wolf, Alan Ayckbourn, and J. K. Rowling are all taken out for a run. There are myriad plays on the word diaphanous. Also, and again according to the press release, the play has "one scene where one of the characters says, "Stop the presses", "You'll never work in this town again" and "follow that car" all in one monologue."

The writer/director and actors were obviously having a blast "birthing" this creation. Bravo to all marathoners!

Jenny D Green and Armistead Johnson in
Billy Carver and the Children in Mind

Mendez is currently working on the pilot for a sitcom, Polltakers. Early this summer, Polltakers had a backers audition and received an extremely positive response.

Lauren Rot and Aimee Whelan in
Billy Carver and the Children in Mind


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 McDonough'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 this production 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 production's 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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