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Wendy R. Williams'
Theatre Column


January 13, 2013

I had the pleasure of entertaining a eight-year-old relative in early January and bought tickets for two theater classics - The Lion King and Stomp.

The Lion King opened on Broadway in 1997 and Stomp opened Off-Broadway in 1994. So how have they fared? Have they lost their luster, become irrelevant? Are there worn threads in the costumes? (Well, yes in the case of Stomp, but then there are supposed to be).

So here is the answer and it is "very well indeed." Lion King has fared so well that it is impossible to get discounted tickets and although you can score half-priced tickets for Stomp at the TKTS booths, Stomp is still 'stompin."

You absolutely to not have to be a kid to enjoy these shows. I was enchanted with the music, the colors, the dancing and the puppets of Lion King and Stomp was every bit as invigorating and funny as when I saw it four years ago.

So check them out:


Disney's
The Lion King

Sunday 1:00pm & 6:30pm
Monday N/A
Tuesday @ 7:00pm
Wednesday @ 7:00pm
Thursdayv@ 8:00pm
Friday @ 8:00pm
Saturday @ 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Open Run
Opened Nov 13, 1997
Minskoff Theatre

The Lioin King is based on the 1994 Disney animated film. Elton John wrote the score, lyrics are by Tim Rice and the show was directed by Julie Taymor. The shows features gorgeous colorful customes, intricately carved masks and soaring puppets which bring the African savanna to life on Broadway. The show is charming, heart-warming and funny.

Tickets $87 -182
ticketmaster.com

Minskoff Theatre | 200 W 45th St
New York, NY 10036



Stomp
Sunday @ 2:00pm & 5:30pm
Monday N/A
Tuesday @ 8:00pm
Wednesday @ 8:00pm
Thursday @ 8:00pm
Friday @8:00pm
Saturday @ 3:00pm & 8:00pm
Open Run
Opened Feb 27, 1994
Orpheum Theatre

It is hard to describe Stomp. It is a drumming show but the "musicians" rarely use drums and when they do, their instrument are unrecognizable as standard musical instruments. The actors create rhythm from brooms, match boxes, newspapers, paper bags, sand drums, etc. etc. The show is performed in mime. There is an occasional gutteral sounds out of the actors mouth's, but the story is told with their bodies alone.

Stomp won two Emmy Awards for the HBO special Stomp Out Loud.

P. S. This show is very funny.

Tickets $78.00; $48.00 Sunday at 5:30
ticketmaster.com

Orpheum Theatre | 126 2nd Ave | New York, NY10003


 

September 20, 2012


Maltby and Shire's
Closer Than Ever
Tuesday at 7
Wednesday - Friday at 8
Saturday at 2:30 & 8
Sundays at 2:30
(Talkbacks follow all
Saturday matinee performances)
Through November 25, 2012
York Theatre

Starring: Jacquelyn Piro Donovan, George Dvorsky,
Anika Larsen, Sal Viviano

I saw one play last month, York Theatre's presentation of the vintage musical, Closer Than Ever. I say musical, but the show is actually a medley of songs, telling stories of life and longing about what it is like to be a New Yorker who is "half the way there."

The songs are both clever and poignant. Malby and Shire wrote the songs using their lives and the lives of their friends as a pattern. The lives that inspired the songs may have been lived in a New York of a quarter of a century ago, but they still ring true with only an occasional dollop of quaintness.

The performers have great voices and the skill and understanding to deliver the songs. All the performers have incredible timing.

Bravo to the York Theatre for creating yet another evening of song and charm.

Closer was originally produced off-Broadway by Janet Brenner, Michael Gill and Daryl Roth. It was developed at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

The York Theatre is located at The Theatre At Saint Peter's, 619 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10022.

Box Office: (212) 935-5820
Buy Tickets Here.

Website: www.yorktheatre.org


 

April 29, 2012


The City Club
Tuesdays at 7:00pm
Wednesdays through Fridays at 8:00pm
Saturdays at 3:00pm & 8:00pm
Sundays at 3:00pm & 7:00pm
Opens April 23
Minetta Lane Theatre | 18 Minetta Lane
The Village, New York City

Last week I saw The City Club at The Minetta Lane theater.

Here is a description of the show from the press release: "The City Club is a twisting noir morality tale of intrigue, murder, corruption and sex supported by one of the most seductive blues and jazz scores written for the stage in decades. It is the story of CHARLES “CHAZ” DAVENPORT, a young privileged scion of a spectacularly corrupt family whose vice-like grip on their city is as tight as it is inescapable. The sins of the father have conferred unimaginable wealth on the son. Obsessed with music and the people who write it, play it, sing it and worship it; Chaz has opened The City Club, an Oasis of pure and unbridled musical genius, opportunity and escape. The club’s instant success attracts his father’s enemies who are bent on an extremely creative and effective revenge. The universe inside the club spirals as low as the city outside. Absinthe becomes the drink of choice, heroin the desired high and women the most valuable form of currency. What we have here are the forces of good and evil battling it out to a great score. The city’s name has been withheld to protect the indicted."

The musical is a glitzy, glamorous, noirish trip to the dark side of jazz. The sets are beautiful and the cast equally so. The play is blessed with a great score and a very talented choreographer plus a cast who have both the pipes and and the dancing skill to bring the music and dance numbers to life.

Artistically, however, The City Club is a mixed bag. There are elements that really work and others that don't. But the show has enough heart to make this reviewer root for it and wish for a magic spell to pull this show together.


 

What really worked:

The actors - Kristen Martin (a dead ringer for Ashley Judd) has a beautiful voice and she played her part with the aura of sadness of a woman who has been forced to come to terms with her downturn life. Anna Hoffman, who was outstanding as Dina in the Apollo Theater's production of Dream Girls, struts her considerable talents as Maddy, the wide-eyed-ingenue-with-an-agenda who auctions to be a singer at the City Club (this girl has one set up pipes). Andrew Pandaleon has an incredible voice and does a credible job portraying the innocence and basic decency of his character, Chaz Devenport, the proprietor of The City Club. And Peter Bradbury is wonderfully menacing as the Lieutenant. And the piano player, Parker Brown, played by Kenny Browner, stole the show. I could have watched him play and sing all night.

What also really worked - the hot sensual choreography by Lorin Latarro. She beautifully channeled the glitz and sorrow of The Cotton Club. The score was also outstanding and kudos to the creative team of composer/lyricists James, Compton, Tony Demeur and Tim Brown.

What did not work:

So you might ask, what was the problem with a musical blessed with a very talented cast, a great score and smashing choreography? What could possibly go wrong?

Well - the book. The show features a kitchen sink of plot devices with drug abuse, incest, corruption, race and a love story all tossed together with a splash of Cain and Abel. All of these smidgens of story line are simply used as filler between the musical and dancers numbers. The plot needs to be tightened and the character's motivations need to become organic, eliminating the script's "deux ex machina" elements. The script needs a Pilate's class to straighten its spine so it can tell the audience a story it will remember. Hey, all noirish musicals can't be Cabaret, but they can try.

After the preview performance I attended, the director, producer, creative team and cast took to the stage for a Q & A. The producer talked about how he wants to take this show to Broadway. Well, I want them to take this show to Broadway too; it is too close to be not quite. It is all there and could easily be saved by a few weeks with a dramaturg like Mike Nichols.

But is The City Club worth seeing right now in its present state? Yes! The elements that do work are show stoppers and make the show fun evening of noirish musical and dance numbers (and remember what I said about the piano player).

TICKETS $55 - $90
$25 RUSH: (Day Of - Box Office Only Sales – With Valid Student ID)

www.TicketMaster.com 1-877-250-2929 www.TheCityClubBroadway.com

MINETTA LANE THEATRE | 18 Minetta Lane, The Village, New York City


 

 

April 6, 2012


Andrè Bishop, Meiyin Wang, Paul Rudnick, Ethan Hawke,
Anna Strasberg and Manny Azenberg

Theater Communications Group hosted their third salon evening at New York City's The Players in Gramercy Park on March 21, 2012. The evening begin with a panel discussion about the state of the theater in America. Guest panelist were Manny Azenberg, Andrè Bishop, Ethan Hawke, Paul Rudnick and Anna Strasberg. The the evening’s moderator was Associate Artistic Producer of The Public Theater’s Under The Radar Festival Meiyin Wang.

Cocktails followed the discussion, during the party guests were able to mingle with the panelists. After the cocktail hour a small group of guests were invite upstairs for a private sit down dinner.

Evening’s guests included: Krie Alden, G. Chris Andersen, Loreen Arbus, HIH Grand Duchess Arianna, Manny Azenberg, Lani Azenberg, Edgar Batista, Melissa Berkelhammer, Andre Bishop, Ralph and Gail Bryan, Mario Buatta, Gail Buckland, Sharon Bush and her daughter Ashley, Emilya Cachapero, Cora Cahan and Bernard Gersten, Joan Copeland, Katherine Crockett, Jamie deRoy, Loris Diran, Jean Doumanian, Gerladine Fabrikant, Margo Feiden, Jamie Figg, Katie Ford, Jeremy Gerard and Carla Wittes, Ethan Hawke, Kathleen B. Hearst, David Ilku, Willa Kim, William Ivey Long, Heather Matarazzo, Sylvia Martins- Niarchos, Steffani Maxwell, Ruth Mayleas, Joe Mezyk, Laura Mignott, Enid Nemy, Stuart Oken, Laura Pels, Alexandra Penney, Heather Randall, Len Rubin, Marcie and Joel Rudell, Paul Rudnick, Mark Russell, Stephen Sorokoff, Anna Strasberg, Elizabeth Swados, Melvin van Peebles, Brandon Michael Vayda, Sora Vernikoff, Dan Wackerman, Loudon Wainwright, and Meiyin Wang.

Theater Communications Group is gearing up for their annual gala which will be held on April 23rd at Espace.

See This Listing for Details of The Gala:

Theatre Communications Group 50th Anniversary Gala
MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2012
Cocktails @ 6PM
Dinner @ 7PM
ESPACE - NEW YORK CITY

HONORING: KENNY LEON, JUDITH O. RUBIN and THE SHUBERT FOUNDATION

The Evening will feature two performances:

HANDS ON A HARDBODY with a book by Doug Wright, lyrics by Amanda Green and music by Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green. Based on the acclaimed documentary, this La Jolla Playhouse commissioned musical follows ten strangers who enter an endurance contest to win a brand new truck—the key to their own individual American dream.

GIANT is a sprawling, epic love story with larger-than-life characters and Texas-size musical numbers. Co-produced by Dallas Theater Center and The Public Theater with a 2009 World Premiere at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, this classic tale of ambition and romance comes to the stage with song after memorable song by Michael John LaChiusa.

CHAIRS: Ralph Bryan & Heather Randall

HONORARY GALA CHAIRS: Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance, Louise Kerz Hirschfeld

HONORARY GALA COMMITTEE: F. Murray Abraham, Douglas Carter Beane, Beau Bridges, James Bundy, Kate Burton, Charles Busch, Michael Cerveris, Rick Elice, Philip Himberg, Rachel Kraft, Patti LuPone, David Hyde Pierce, Phylicia Rashad, Roger Rees, Tim Robbins, Olga Sanchez, Roche Schulfer, Stephen Sondheim, Ben Vereen, Doug Wright

Theatre Communications Group is the national service organization for the American theatre. Founded in 1961 with a grant from the Ford Foundation, it has grown to include more than 500 member theatres and over 12,000 affiliate organizations and individual members nationwide. In all of its endeavors, TCG seeks to increase the organizational efficiency of its member theatres, cultivate and celebrate the artistic talent and achievements of the field and promote a larger public understanding of, and appreciation for, the theatre. In addition, TCG is the nation's largest independent publisher of dramatic literature, with 10 Pulitzer Prizes for Best Play on their booklist; it also publishes the award-winning AMERICAN THEATRE magazine and ARTSEARCH, the essential source for a career in the arts.

For more information please contact:¨TCG 50th Anniversary Gala c/o JKS Events 212.725.2960 or TCG@Jksevents.com

Festive Atire

Espace | 635 West 42nd Street


January 29, 2012

I saw two great shows this month: Silence! The Musical at PS122 and Anne Bogart's SITI Company's sureal Bob.


Silence! The Musical
Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 8 PM
Friday and Saturday at 7:30 PM
Sunday at 5 PM
Through March 1, 2012
Performance Space 122

The Laughs Are In

Silence! The Musical has joined Urinetown and Matt & Ben in the ranks of stellar shows that have originated at The New York Fringe Festival.

Silence! The Musical is an unauthorized parody of the cult classic film, The Silence of the Lambs. If you have never seen The Silence of the Lambs (starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins), you need to spend more time with Netflix so you will know what people mean when they reference chianti and flava beans.

Silence! The Musical is a kitschy, campy, filthy adaptation of the film. The cast is amazing: kudos go out to David Garrison's performance ad Hannibal Lector and Jenn Harris's depiction of Agent Starling (the roles played by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster in the film).

Garrison and Harris have great chemistry, both with each other and the rest of the cast, all of whom have great comic timing. One of the main reasons the show is so much fun is because the actors are obviously having a blast on stage. They embrace the insanity and simply "go for it."

Put his one down for a fun night with friends. (They sell wine by the bottle in the lobby.)

The original cast recording of Silence! The Musical has been released by Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records online at iTunes, Amazon.com for digital download, and is available at www.sh-k-boom.com. Finally, musical comedy fans outside of New York are now able to enjoy the critically acclaimed score, including such song selections as “If I Could Smell Her C---” and “Put the F--king Lotion in the Basket.”

Silence! The Musical runs through March 1, 2011 at PS122. Tickets are $25 - $79 and are available by calling 212-352-3101 or through www.SilenceTheMusical.com.

Performance Space 122 | 150 First Avenue (at 9th St.)


 


Anne Bogart and SITI Company
Bob
Jan 19 - 21, 24 - 28 @ 7:30 pm
Jan 22, 28, 29 @ 2:30 pm
January 19-29, 2012
New York Live Arts

Robert Wilson is a larger than life talent, known for his productions of huge theatrical spectacles. I had the privilege of interviewing Robert Wilson in 2006 at the time of the release of the documentary about his life, Katharina Otto-Bernstein's Absolute Wilson. Then, when speaking about how he designs his productions, Wilson said, "I start with silence. An actor stands on the stage. You move your hand - will that hold and audience? A good actor is like a bear, he will never strike first; he will wait you out."

Wilson see the entirety of the stage and has started productions with the actor moving from lower stage left to upper stage right, walking on a diagonal away from the audience. His work is surreal, filled with strangeness and wonder. (Quote from my review of Absolute Wilson) "Wilson's lens on the world is from another dimension of time and space. He sees vivid colors, huge spaces filled with nothing, eloquence in silence and power in stillness."

The Martha Graham Dance Company staged Wilson's Snow on the Mesa last year and viewing the productions was like viewing a diorama created by Dali.

Anne Bogart's Siti Company's production of Bob, was staged in the whimsical world of Wilson. Here is a quote from their press release, "The 90-minute play is conceived and directed by Bogart, created and performed by Will Bond (a founding company member of SITI who has worked with Wilson), and based on hundreds of interviews Bogart collected and recorded over several decades, which were then adapted to the stage by Irish writer and dramaturg, Jocelyn Clarke."

Will Bond is a delightful actor who can simply by standing on a stage define "witty." The audience was filled with Wilson lovers who "got" all the insider bits and pieces from Wilson's life: his desire to not be an expat, his popularity in Europe, his relationship with The Met, how every performer actually has a back - the space behind. Bond took the audience on a trip through Wilson's head and it was a world well worth visiting.

TICKETS: $15 Previews (Jan 19 & 20) Through January 29, 2012
$40 Reg Price at door/ $32 in advance online
Call (212) 924-0077, or online at www.newyorklivearts.org

New York Live Arts | 219 West 19th Street, NYC
(btw. 7th and 8th Avenues)


December 5, 2011

In the last two weeks I have had the privilege to see two oldies-but-goodies - A Tuna Christmas and Godspell.

Thanksgiving week in Austin, Texas I saw A Tuna Christmas. New Yorkers won't be able to see the show anytime soon, the next stop for the Tuna Tour will be Galveston, Texas. But the Tuna boys have been to the big city before and I guarantee you, they shall return.

The Tuna shows are written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard. They are performed by Williams and Sears under the direction of Howard. Williams and Sears play around twenty bizarre characters, the residents of the mythical Tuna, Texas - the third smallest town in the state. Male, female, young, old, fat or tall - they play them all.

If you ever get a chance to see any of the shows - Greater Tuna, A Tuna Christmas, Red White and Tuna and Tuna Does Vegas - drop everything and run to the show. And those boys are as blisteringly funny today as they were the first time I saw a Tuna show. And if I told you how long ago that was, I would have to kill you because you would then know my expiration date. Williams and Sears are living breathing Ever Ready batteries.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Tuna_Christmas
http://greatertuna.com/

Then on to Godspell. Godspell has been around for a long time; it opened on Broadway in 1971 and there have been hundreds of regional and community productions. It would be hard to not be familiar with the music, which is quite wonderful. This music is sprinkled through the spoken words of the show - the "acted out" parables of Jesus Christ.

So how does the Circle in the Square theater revival measure up? It is quite good but even with the superb energy of the cast, it seemed dated to this reviewer. But that is only how it seemed to me because by now I have so many musical memories of the show, it would be hard for any production to compete with the musical-in-my-mind. I had a similar problem with the revival of Hair - another show that I had seen many times in the past.

But thank goodness, jaded old theater lovers like me are not the entire possible audience. So if you have never seen the show, listened to the sound track hundreds of times etc. etc, you should run to the Circle inthe Square. The show is very well done and the actors are simply amazing - wonderful voices and timing.

Godspell runs Tuesday - Saturday nights at 8PM, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 and Sunday night at 7:30. Ticket Price: $125.00; $135.00 Saturdays Tickets by Phone: 212-239-6200
800-432-7250 http://www.Godspell.com
telecharge.com

Circle in the Square Theatre | W. 50th St. Between Broadway and 8th Ave
New York, NY 10019



 

 

 


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