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Archive for April, 2017

“Bandstand” Another Great New Musical Arrives on Bway!

Broadway is just bursting with musicals as the season is quickly drawing to a close and the Drama Desk nominations have been announced (See post before this one.) And a marvelous surprise was awaiting me when I saw “Bandstand” last night. It’s one of the best! And in the year of “Natasha, Pierre…and the Great Comet”,”Come From Away” and “Hello Dolly” that is really saying something. I had heard nothing about it. Didn’t know what I was in for. But trust me. It’s a Wow! I know I just said that about “Hello Dolly,” but this is a NEW musical. Brand new, with an entirely new score set at the end of World War II, as the boys come home to…Cleveland.

I know that doesn’t sound like a great premise for a musical, but believe me, it was tremendous. Tremendously rewarding in its’ own sweet way. And it heralds the arrival of a sparkling new bunch of musical talent. Composer Richard Oberacker, who co-wrote the lyrics with Rod Taylor, has written a marvelously melodic, but also dramatic score with one terrific tune after the other.Written in what I guess you could call Swing time.

The band is made up of overseas warriors coming home to find no jobs in Cleveland.(Think “Best Years of Our Lives”) and no work.

Laura Osnes is the only previously known quantity as the leading lady. Formerly “Cinderella” herself, and of course, “Hamilton”s great Tony-winning choreographer, Andy Blackenbuehler, who here makes his stunning directorial debut and well as keeping the dancing GIs and snappy home girls as peppy as a gin fizz.

But the real find is their incredible young leading man, the charismatic Corey Cott, who opens the show and brings down the house in a wife-beater! Wailing a solo tune that bears his name “Donny Novitski.” The hairy-chested but wiry and very, very angry Cott howls up a storm about his plight and the war (and his Polish last name).

Corey Cott turns out to be the man of the hour from “Gigi”! He was the Louis Jourdan role in the delightful musical  of the classic movie, which played all too briefly last season on Bway. Coery Cott in Gigi 1

Cott’s got it all, and is allowed to show his great musical as well as emotional range here, as he returns from the war, truly scarred and troubled, whose only solace is playing his music.He convincingly morphs into ambitious band-leader D0nny Nova, who falls madly in love, natch, with the adorable Ms. Osnes. She is a local girl and a Gold Star war widow, and Danny was her late husband’s best friend. Julia, who has the unfortunate last name of Trojan. So she is Julia Trojan for most of “Bandstand”, and Osnes does her best work ever in this challenging, dramatic role, where she has to go from shy Sunday school church singer to swinging big band belter. And she does. And she’s been awarded a Drama Desk nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. This is in a year when her co-nominees are none other than Bette Midler, Patti LuPone,and Christine Ebersole. She and Cott sing their hearts out. And win ours in the process.

But I’m up in arms about the criminal overlooking of Corey Cott come awards time, which is upon us. Donny Novitsky a.k.a. Donny Nova is as equally challenging and demanding a role as Osnes’ Gloria Trojan. He should’ve been recognized. His vocal range is amazing and his sense of humor right on target. He sees Frank Sinatra as his competitor.  “He’s over-rated and he sings flat.”

I also have to say, I found “Bandstand”s book, funny and sharp, and amazingly well-written. And again it’s Oberacker and Taylor, who wrote it along with all the orginal music in the show. “Bandstand” is certainly a winner on all fronts. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. And the fact that the main music is being played onstage by “Bandstand”s centraI characters, gives the 1940’s inflected  music extra-snappy pizzazz, and oomph is another charming, jazzy plus. I hope audiences find it and embrace it the way Danny and Laura so romantically embrace each other in this tuneful war-time( and post-war) romance.
It’s at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater on W.45th Street, right in the heart of Bway. And I hope Bway audiences take it to their hearts, too.

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“Hello, Dolly!” Bette Midler! Wow! Wow! WOW!!!!!

Hello Dolly 2Is “Hello, Dolly!” newly revived on Broadway with the legendary Bette Midler and selling like hot cakes, one of the greatest shows ever??? PRETTY Close! It’s an instant contact high, as they used to say in the ’60s. The minute you hear the first few notes of that famous score, Jerry Herman’s best by far, you’re instantly elated.

Like your lungs are filling up with helium! Hello Dolly 1

The orchestra got applause at the first notes. The conductor got applause! The scenery got applause, when the curtain went up. The chorus, when they first entered, got applause. And Bette Midler? Well, she stopped the show cold by just dropping the newspaper that she was hiding behind, to her lap. She got an ovation! And it just didn’t stop! And I mean, the crowd was just going wild from seeing her. In person. At age 72. And “back where she belonged” on Broadway, where she’d never been before.(Lest we forget her Sue Mengers’ one-woman show a few years back.)

Well, that’s not exactly true. When I was in college, I saw her in “Fiddler on the Roof” as Tzeitel, the oldest daughter of Teyve, who gets married as the cast sings “Sunrise, Sunset.” And I remember looking at my program and trying to find “that girl. “She’s going to be famous, ” I thought. The girl who had the most infectious smile…she still does. She was “Midler from Fiddler” for three years. But Supporting no longer.Hello Dolly 5

She’s the star of stars now of “Hello, Dolly!” and she is just flat out wonderful in it! The audience was going CRA-ZEE, as I’ve said. And the whole show is just miraculously infectious like Bette’s crinkly smile. Just what is it that makes it so fabulous? It’s like bottled joy! I’m not kidding. You just can’t be in a bad mood around Bette Midler’s role of a lifetime, Dolly Levy. A matchmaker, made in heaven.

Hello Dolly 10

Broadway veteran director Jerry Zaks is at the absolute zenith of his long career here and so is newcomer, choreographer Warren Carlyle. They have lovingly recreated  what must’ve been the sugary-up, rainbow feeling of the late, great Gower Champion’s two-dimensional, but fabulous dancing. And it gets better.

Another Broadway baby who has been around for quite some time, Gavin Creel completely owns the role of Chief Hay and Seed Clerk, Cornelius Hackl, who is just bursting to get a day off and go to Manhattan (“Hello, Dolly!” is set firmly in turn-of-the-last-century Yonkers.)  So he can “Put on His Sunday Clothes” and go dancing, and he “won’t come home until” he ‘”kisses a girl,” which of course, he does.

The six foot plus Creel has just been nominated for a Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. As has his co-star Kate Baldwin, and Bette, too, mais oui. AND David Hyde Pierce, “Hello, Dolly!“s resident Scrooge.

Creel has been nominated for a Tony twice for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Hair“, but never won. This may be his year. And he’s an Out Gay LGBT actor, and I’m very, very proud of him. He also WON an Olivier Award in London for his role as Elder Price in “The Book of Mormon.

It certainly is Bette’s year.She, who has NEVER been nominated for a Tony, but this year, I predict she will be dodging all the awards that are going to be hurled at her. Her powerhouse Dolly Levy lives up to her legendary alter ego The Divine Miss M, make no mistake.

Hello Dolly 12

Meaning that Sophie Tucker and the Mermaid-in-the-Wheelchair are never far from her Dolly, who, of course, has a wicked twinkle in her eye, 72-year-old widow though she may be.

Her conversations with her late husband Ephraim, which she delivers downstage center, are very moving indeed. She gets to exercise her dramatic chops here and grounds her Dolly in a great well of loneliness as she plaintively begs her late husband’s ghost “to let me go, Ephraim.” She wants to rejoin life “Before the Parade Passes By” and she does.Hello Dolly 11

Her irrepressible humor and warmth,  a lark and a flirtation and an active pursuing of “half-a-millionaire, Horace Vandergelder” keep her moving forward  even while she is trying to make matches for Cornelius and his fellow clerk Barnaby (a marvelously pint-sized bundle of joy, Taylor Trensch). David Hyde Pierce is masterful here. too, as Horace. Pierce mightily holds his comic own as the pinch-penny object of Dolly’s overly effusive affection.

Hello Dolly 13

Hello, Dolly!” is a much sturdier and more delightful vehicle than I ever imagined it to be. I saw it with Ginger Rogers of all people when I was a mere child, and I don’t remember being THIS excited about it.

In the hands of all these great Broadway pros and one certified legend, the divine Bette, I just never wanted it to end. And with the way the public is storming the box-office it may never end. Ever. And I don’t want it to.

This is Broadway at its’ absolute, level best,pure old-fashioned escapism superbly done. It is at its best, its absolute, level best.

 

#Hello, Dolly! # Bette Midler # Broadway, #Musical Comedy, #Gavin Creel # David Hyde Pierce

 

 

Drama Desk Nominations Announced! “Dolly” reigns with Ten!

This year’s Drama Desk nominations were just announced! “Hello Dolly!” which I just saw last night, and it’s a wow, got ten nominations. Productions that played last season and transferred to Broadway this year like “Dear Evan Hansen” etc. were not eligible again this year, like the Outer Critics Circle nominations.

The Drama Desk is considered the most prestigious of the Tony precursor awards because it is the only award where Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off Broadway are considered on all equal playing field.

I’m happy to report that Michael Aronov turned up here in Best Supporting Actor in a play like he did for the Outer Critics. For being the only bright spot in the otherwise extremely tedious 3 hour gabfest “Oslo.”

And once again Laura Linney was nominated for lead in “Little Foxes” for her alternating Regina. As you know, I saw her as Birdie, which is the role her switch-ee Cynthia Nixon was nominated for.

Bette Middler, bien sur, got nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for “Hello Dolly!” And her dazzling co-star Gavin Creel was nominated for Best Supporting Actor as the busting at the seams to get out of Yonkers, Cornelius Hackle. And Kate Baldwin was nominated for Best Supporting or Featured Actress as the OTHER widow in “Dolly” Irene Malloy.

2017 DRAMA DESK AWARD NOMINATIONS
 
Outstanding Play
If I Forget, by Steven Levenson, Roundabout Theatre Company
Indecent, by Paula Vogel, Vineyard Theatre
A Life, by Adam Bock, Playwrights Horizons
Oslo, by J. T. Rogers, Lincoln Center Theater
Sweat, by Lynn Nottage, The Public Theater
 
Outstanding Musical
Anastasia
The Band’s Visit, Atlantic Theater Company
Come From Away
Hadestown, New York Theatre Workshop
The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical
 
Outstanding Revival of a Play
The Front Page
The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
Jitney, Manhattan Theatre Club
The Little Foxes, Manhattan Theatre Club
 “Master Harold”… and the Boys, Signature Theatre Company
Picnic, Transport Group Theatre Company
 
Outstanding Revival of a Musical
Falsettos, Lincoln Center Theater
Hello, Dolly!
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sweet Charity, The New Group
Tick, Tick…BOOM!, Keen Company
 
Outstanding Actor in a Play
Bobby Cannavale, The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
Daniel Craig, Othello, New York Theatre Workshop
Kevin Kline, Present Laughter
David Hyde Pierce, A Life, Playwrights Horizons
John Douglas Thompson, Jitney, Manhattan Theatre Club
 
Outstanding Actress in a Play
Cate Blanchett, The Present
Laura Linney, The Little Foxes, Manhattan Theatre Club
Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Amy Ryan, Love, Love, Love, Roundabout Theatre Company
Harriet Walter, The Tempest, St. Ann’s Warehouse
 
Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Nick Blaemire, Tick, Tick…BOOM!, Keen Company
Jon Jon Briones, Miss Saigon
Nick Cordero, A Bronx Tale
Andy Karl, Groundhog Day
Jeremy Secomb, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
 
Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Christy Altomare, Anastasia
Christine Ebersole, War Paint
Sutton Foster, Sweet Charity, The New Group
Patti LuPone, War Paint
Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!
Laura Osnes, Bandstand
 
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
Michael Aronov, Oslo, Lincoln Center Theater
Danny DeVito, The Price, Roundabout Theatre Company
Nathan Lane, The Front Page
Jeremy Shamos, If I Forget, Roundabout Theatre Company
Justice Smith, Yen, MCC Theater
 
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Jayne Houdyshell, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Randy Graff, The Babylon Line, Lincoln Center Theater
Marie Mullen, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, BAM
Cynthia Nixon, The Little Foxes, Manhattan Theatre Club
Emily Skinner, Picnic
Kate Walsh, If I Forget, Roundabout Theatre Company
 
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!
Jeffry Denman, Kid Victory, Vineyard Theatre
George Salazar, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical
Ari’el Stachel, The Band’s Visit, Atlantic Theater Company

Brandon Uranowitz, Falsettos, Lincoln Center Theater

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
Kate Baldwin, Hello, Dolly!
Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos, Lincoln Center Theater
Jenn Colella, Come From Away
Mary Beth Peil, Anastasia
Nora Schell, Spamilton
 
Outstanding Director of a Play
Richard Jones, The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
Anne Kauffman, A Life, Playwrights Horizons
Richard Nelson, What Did You Expect?/Women  of a Certain Age, The Public Theater
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jitney, Manhattan Theatre Club
Daniel Sullivan, The Little Foxes, Manhattan Theatre Club
Daniel Sullivan, If I Forget, Roundabout Theatre Company
Outstanding Director of a Musical
Christopher Ashley, Come From Away
Bill Buckhurst, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
David Cromer, The Band’s Visit, Atlantic Theater Company
Jerry Zaks, Hello, Dolly!
 
Outstanding Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand
Warren Carlyle, Hello, Dolly!
Aletta Collins, The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
Kelly Devine, Come From Away
Denis Jones, Holiday Inn, Roundabout Theatre Company
 
Outstanding Music
Stephen Flaherty, Anastasia
Dave Malloy, Beardo, Pipeline Theatre Company
Richard Oberacker, Bandstand
Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away
David Yazbek, The Band’s Visit, Atlantic Theater Company
 
Outstanding Lyrics
Gerard Alessandrini, Spamilton
GQ and JQ, Othello: The Remix
Michael Korie, War Paint
Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away
David Yazbek, The Band’s Visit, Atlantic Theater Company
Outstanding Book of a Musical
Terrence McNally, Anastasia
Itamar Moses, The Band’s Visit, Atlantic Theater Company
Richard Oberacker, Bandstand
Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away
Joe Tracz, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical
 
Outstanding Orchestrations
Doug Besterman, Anastasia
Bruce Coughlin, War Paint
Benjamin Cox, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen, Bandstand
August Eriksmoen, Come From Away
Jamshied Sharifi, The Band’s Visit, Atlantic Theater Company
Outstanding Music in a Play
Daniel Ocanto, Graham Ulicny, and Sean Smith, Alligator, New Georges in collaboration with the Sol Project
Marcus Shelby, Notes from the Field, Second Stage
Bill Sims Jr., Jitney, Manhattan Theatre Club
Outstanding Revue
Hello Dillie!, 59E59
Life is for Living: Conversations with Coward, 59E59
 
Outstanding Set Design for a Play
David Gallo, Jitney, Manhattan Theatre Club
Nigel Hook, The Play That Goes Wrong
Laura Jellinek, A Life, Playwrights Horizons
Stewart Laing, The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
Douglas W. Schmidt, The Front Page
 
Outstanding Set Design for a Musical
Lez Brotherston, 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, St. Ann’s Warehouse
Simon Kenny, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Mimi Lien, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!
Jason Sherwood, The View UpStairs
 
Outstanding Costume Design for a Play
Jane Greenwood, The Little Foxes, Manhattan Theatre Club
Susan Hilferty, Present Laughter
Murell Horton, The Liar, CSC
Toni-Leslie James, Jitney, Manhattan Theatre Club
Stewart Laing, The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
Ann Roth, The Front Page
 
Outstanding Costume Design for a Musical
Linda Cho, Anastasia
Toni-Leslie James, Come From Away
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!
Anita Yavich, The View UpStairs
Paloma Young, Bandstand
Catherine Zuber, War Paint
 
Outstanding Lighting Design for a Play
Christopher Akerlind, Indecent, Vineyard Theatre
James Farncombe, The Tempest, St. Ann’s Warehouse
Rick Fisher, The Judas Kiss, Brooklyn Academy of Music
Mimi Jordan Sherin, The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
Stephen Strawbridge, “Master Harold”…and the Boys, Signature Theatre Company
Justin Townsend, The Little Foxes, Manhattan Theatre Club
 
Outstanding Lighting Design for a Musical
Jeff Croiter, Bandstand
Mark Henderson, Sunset Boulevard
Bradley King, Hadestown, New York Theatre Workshop
Bradley King, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Amy Mae, Sweeney Todd: The Barber of Fleet Street
Malcolm Rippeth, 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, St. Ann’s Warehouse
Outstanding Projection Design
Reid Farrington, CasablancaBox, HERE
Elaine McCarthy, Notes from the Field, Second Stage
Jared Mezzocchi, Vietgone, Manhattan Theatre Club*
John Narun, Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey, Life Jacket Theatre Company
Aaron Rhyne, Anastasia
Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
Mikhail Fiksel, A Life, Playwrights Horizons
Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin, The Encounter
Brian Quijada, Where Did We Sit on the Bus?, Ensemble Studio Theatre/Radio Drama Network
Leon Rothenberg, Notes from the Field, Second Stage
Jane Shaw, Men on Boats, Playwrights Horizons/Clubbed Thumb
Matt Stine, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
 
Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical
Simon Baker, 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, St. Ann’s Warehouse
Peter Hylenski, Anastasia
Scott Lehrer, Hello, Dolly!
Nicholas Pope, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Mick Potter, Cats
Brian Ronan, War Paint
 
Outstanding Wig and Hair
David Brian Brown, War Paint
Campbell Young Associates, Hello, Dolly!
John Jared Janas, Yours Unfaithfully, Mint Theatre Company
Jason Hayes, The View UpStairs
Josh Marquette, Present Laughter
Tom Watson, The Little Foxes, Manhattan Theatre Club
 
Outstanding Solo Performance
Nancy Anderson, The Pen (Inner Voices), Premieres
Ed Dixon, Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose
Marin Ireland, On the Exhale, Roundabout Underground
Sarah Jones, Sell/Buy/Date, Manhattan Theatre Club
Brian Quijada, Where Did We Sit on the Bus?, Ensemble Studio Theatre/Radio Drama Network
Anna Deavere Smith, Notes from the Field, Second Stage
 
Unique Theatrical Experience
CasablancaBox, HERE
The Paper Hat Game, The Tank/3-Legged Dog
The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, National Theatre of Scotland
The Ephemera Trilogy, The Tank/Flint & Tinder
Outstanding Fight Choreography
J. David Brimmer, Yen, MCC Theatre
Donal O’Farrell, Quietly, Irish Repertory Theatre
Michael Rossmy and Rick Sordelet, Troilus and Cressida, New York Shakespeare Festival
Thomas Schall, Othello, New York Theatre Workshop
Thomas Schall, The Hairy Ape, Park Avenue Armory
U. Jonathan Toppo, Sweat, The Public Theatre
Outstanding Adaptation
David Ives, The Liar, Classic Stage Company
Ellen McLaughlin, The Trojan Women, The Flea Theatre
Outstanding Puppet Design
Basil Twist, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Lyndie Wright, Sarah Wright, 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, St. Ann’s Warehouse
SPECIAL AWARDS:
Outstanding Ensemble
The Wolves, The Playwrights Realm: The superbly talented cast of Sarah DeLappe’s debut play -Mia Barron, Brenna Coates, Jenna Dioguardi, Samia Finnerty, Midori Francis, Lizzy Jutila, Sarah Mezzanotte, Tedra Millan, Lauren Patten, and Susannah Perkins-jelled as one, proving that team spirit is just a alive on the stage as it is on the soccer field.
Special Award to Phil LaDuca: Proving that character comes from the ground up, the designer’s innovative flexible dance shoe ensures that hoofers on any stage remain on point.
Sam Norkin Award: Lila Neugebauer:  During a season that saw her helm the original works The Antipodes, Everybody, Miles For Mary, and The Wolves, and resurrect the works of esteemed playwrights Edward Albee, Maria Irene Fornes, and Adrienne Kennedy in Signature Plays, director Lila Neugebauer has shown that her dauntless insight into the human condition knows no bounds.
Complete list below
TOTAL NOMINATIONS:
Hello, Dolly! – 10
Anastasia – 9
Come From Away – 9
The Hairy Ape – 8
Bandstand – 7
The Band’s Visit – 7
The Little Foxes – 7
War Paint – 7
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – 7
Jitney – 6
A Life – 5
946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips – 4
The Front Page – 4
If I Forget – 4
Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 – 4
Notes from the Field – 4
Falsettos – 3
Present Laughter – 3
The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical – 3
The View UpStairs – 3
CasablancaBox – 2
A Doll’s House, Part 2 – 2
Hadestown – 2
Indecent – 2
The Liar – 2
“Master Harold” …and the Boys – 2
Oslo – 2
Othello – 2
Picnic – 2
Spamilton – 2
Sweat – 2
Sweet Charity – 2
The Tempest – 2
Tick, Tick…BOOM! – 2
Where Did We Sit on the Bus? — 2
Yen – 2
Alligator – 1
The Babylon Line – 1
Beardo – 1
The Beauty Queen of Leenane – 1
A Bronx Tale – 1
Cats – 1
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – 1
The Encounter – 1
The Ephemera Trilogy – 1
Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose – 1
Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey – 1
Groundhog Day – 1
Hello Dillie – 1
Holiday Inn – 1
The Judas Kiss -1
Kid Victory – 1
Life is for Living: Conversations with Coward – 1
Love, Love, Love – 1
Men on Boats – 1
Miss Saigon – 1
On the Exhale – 1
Othello: The Remix – 1
The Paper Hat Game – 1
The Pen – 1
The Play that Goes Wrong – 1
The Present – 1
The Price – 1
Quietly – 1
Sell/Buy/Date – 1
The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart – 1
Sunset Boulevard – 1
Troilus and Cressida – 1
The Trojan Women – 1
Vietgone – 1
What Did You Expect?/Women of a Certain Age – 1
Yours, Unfaithfully – 1

“Charlie” 3 Hours of Chocolate! Gag Me!

It’s this time as the very tail end of a very vigourous theater season, like this one, draws to an end, that one begins to count the hours ~ of the plays one is forced to watch. Or endure would be a better verb. After three hours of yak-yak-yak at “Oslo”, and three hours of chocolate at “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, even though I’m diabetic, I think I’ll take the chocolate. But it’s bittersweet, because not until the last twenty minutes or so does “Charlie” really get sweet enough and funny enough and touching enough not to gag on.

All praise to the divine Jackie Hoffman as the most neurotic of the five sets of adults who have to watch their children die from overeating, over-bubble-gumming and over-greediness.

Jackie Hoffman scored such a big hit playing Mamasita, Joan Crawford’s tart-tounged house-keeper in “Feud” on TV is back on Bway, always a cause for rejoicing.
She, and the utterly delicious, stupendous and tireless Christian Borle as Willy Wonka, really do pull the ending together of this chocolate-coated mishmash. Accompanied by the delightfully woebegone child actor playing Charlie Bucket, Ryan Foust.

Together with Michael Wartella, playing Jackie Hoffman’s obnoxious gadget-obsessed son Mike TeeVee (Jackie is Mrs. TeeVee) they make the magic finally happen as the over-long and rather dreadfully unfunny “Charlie” suddenly comes at last(!) to life. The first act was like watching a dancing corpse that wasn’t dancing, and then we’re saved by Act II and in the final stretch by indefatigable Borle, and an animated video sequence that enthralls as Mrs. Tee Vee watches her son turn into a…well, I guess you’ll have to see it. If you can stand the other over two and a half hours.

This is quite the worst thing I’ve ever seen the brilliant director Jack O’Brien do. The same can be said for the usually excellent composer/lyricist duo of Mark Shaiman and Scott Wittman. It’s their weakest work ever. Only the over-familiar, but not written by them, “Candy Man” and “World of My Imagination” really work as music you want to listen to and remember. But they’re standards already. And the um-pa lum-pas(I almost forgot them) are adequte. They’re puppets.

Otherwise, these great talents are just doing it for the paycheck, I’m sorry to say. Which looks like it’s going to be substantial no matter what the critics say. It’s a pre-sold franchise. It might as well have been set in McDonald’s. The Outer Critics Circle nominated it for nothing. No surprise.

The nearly sweating-himself-to-death Christian Borle is just astonishing agile  as Willy Wonka and Jackie Hoffman lands every single(badly written) joke, and makes them seem funny. No mean feat, but the lady is a comic genius. And plucky, little Charlie Bucket does tug at your heart strings even though you know he’s doing so.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2As Charlie and Willy ascend into a candy-coated, one hopes, heaven in a transparent, plastic elevator, you are genuinely happy for them. Also it means this long schlog which nearly put me in a diabetic coma is coming to an end.

Outer Critics Circle Nominations Out

Indecent 3Ground Hog Day 2Littlr Foxes 7This season’s Outer Critics Circle Awards have just been announced today. These are critics who write for publications outside New York City proper. IOW, “the bridge and tunnel awards” as they are jocularly known. And there are some surprises and some notorious Left-outs. And they usually prefigure the Drama Desk Awards to some extent which are announcing on Thursday and to a lesser degree the Tonys.

You also have to take in to consideration that missing are some major players, who will figure greatly when the Tonys announce next week, because shows like “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812″,”Dear Evan Hansen” and “Significant Other” were done Off Broadway so were eligible and considered at that time, last year or the year before and are not eligible this year except for the elements and performances that are new.

I’ll note that “Anastasia” has gotten the most nominations 13, with “Hello, Dolly” coming in second with 10.

“Little Foxes” with its’ two alternating leading ladies, saw Laura Linney nominated in lead and Cynthia Nixon in Supporting.

I’d also like to give a tip of the hat to the terrific actor, Michael Aronov , who is nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Play, enlivening that three hour snooze fest of “Oslo” which also got nominated for Best Play. Go figure.

Completely MIA was “Amelie.” Sad, but no surprise there.Michael AronovThe complete list of nominees are at broadwayworld.com.

 

“Indecent” Glorious Lesbian/Jewish Musical Play


“Indecent” is Pulitzer Prize Winning Lesbian playwright Paula Vogel’s masterpiece. This great American playwright has finally found her voice at age 68 and her greatest triumph. “Indecent” is now at the Cort Theater on Broadway and long may it run. As long as “Fiddler on the Roof,” which it strangely resembles, though it is really a straight play with a lot, and I mean a lot, of  joyous songs and dances  in Yiddish . Perfectly, flawlessly executed under director/collaborator Rebecca Taichman’s masterful hand.Paula Vogel & Rebecca Taischman

At this point in my LONNNNG, career as also a gay playwright, actor, director and critic, I thought I knew every gay and lesbian play backwards and forwards and inside out, four ways to Sunday and back again. But “Indecent” shocked me, not by its’ touching, almost reticent depiction of Lesbian-Jewish love at the turn of the last century. (1907 to be exact), but by the fact that “Indecent” is a play-within-a-play-within-in play and that play was the first successful lesbian play just about ever.

And it was written by a newly married heterosexual Jewish playwright Sholem Asch and called “Got fun Nekome” or “God of Vengeance.” “Indecent” is a celebration and almost a complete re-staging of this incredibly important, seminal, nearly lost GLBT play. We see scenes from it acted out and re-acted endlessly.Indecent 3

It’s certainly one of the best plays of the year, and the most pertinent in this era of incipient terror that is upon us. “Indecent” couldn’t be more timely, or more beautiful. And it’s simple, so simple, and yet utterly complex. So complex, it has sub-titles or super-titles above the action telling us what, when and in what language, the present scene is taking place. It’s a very nifty device, and the shifting Yiddish/English text is glorious in its’ magnificent execution.

Imdecent 1It’s ensemble cast of seven, plus three on-stage actor/musicans,  is flawless. And the story and history of “God of Vengeance” is unbelievably dramatic and true.

Of course it was banned and the cast jailed when they LAST tried to do it on Broadway in 1923. By that time “God of Vengenance” had been a hit all over Europe and also in the Yiddish theater here in New York. But they hit the proverbial wall uptown when they were declared “Obscene, indecent, immoral and impure” and shut down immediately.

It’s ninety minutes and a harrowing delight. Let me add that the final song “Wiegala” heard near the play’s conclusion, was written by Ilse Klein, a nurse at the children’s hospital in Theresienstadt, one of the most notorious concentration camps. She sang this song as a lullaby for the children in the wards there before they were to be transported. It is said she sang this song in line to the gas chambers.Indecent 8Are you crying yet? I was. Yes, “Indecent” will move you to tears and to dance and sing and celebrate Paula Vogel’s breath-taking triumph of a life time.

Movies That Shouldn’t Be Made into Musicals “Ground Hog Day” & “Amelie”


If you think you’re seeing double, you’ll be seeing triple and quadruple in the current mish-mash that is passing as a hit musical from London, “Ground Hog Day.” I have to say that if you haven’t seen the 1993 Bill Murray movie set in Puxitawney, PA., you’re really out of luck. Because this musical doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.. But, so I’m told,  if you’ve seen the movie, it does. Otherwise, it’s a godawful mess. Or is it? Or is that EXACTLY what it’s supposed to be? Utterly and immensely confusing, like it’s central character, Phil, a TV weather person, played very engagingly by the swaggering Andy Karl.Ground Hog Day 3

But don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Andy Karl, having seen him long ago as one of the five “Altar Boyz” Off Broadway. He was the muscle- bound one and he continued in that vein with the tremendous performance he gave in “Rocky:The Musical” which I just loved. But audiences didn’t. I thought it was a real lollapalooza and Karl gave a knock-out performance as the iconic Rocky Balboa, made famous by Sylvester Stallone. Yes, he sang, danced AND boxed his heart out in “Rocky.”Andy Karl Rocky 1

Then he had the colossal bad luck of dislocating his ACL in previews for “Ground Hog Day,” and now has become something of a Broadway legend and also, believe it or not, a front-runner for the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical, because despite performing in a black knee brace, he went on!

They should re-label “Ground Hog  Day” as “Andy Karl MUST GO ON!”

In the great theatrical tradition, nothing could stop him from giving this powerhouse, but utterly confusing performance.” Obviously in pain, he went bravely forward, over and over and over again, as the repetitious “Ground Hog Day”, a science-fiction musical if ever there was one, repeats and repeats and repeats itself. With Karl leading the charge, injured though he is, and with his knee brace clearly showing (he’s in his underwear a lot, as usual. And thank god for those terrific thighs!).

And audiences are going wild.

“Ground Hog Day” will have to run on fans of the movie, and perhaps, garbled and senseless (to me, a non-believer) as it was, that’s what audiences are craving these dark days in our country’s history. A feel-good, only partially funny, gigantic musical that makes no sense whatsoever. The world has gone mad in Puxitawney, Pa, and that’s the plot, such as it is.  Puxitawney is where the famous Puxitawney Phil, the ground hog who if he doesn’t see his shadow when he peaks of his hole in the ground means we’re getting six more weeks of winter. As far as I could tell, he didn’t see it. Thank god, it’s really now spring in NYC!

So, it’s Feb. 2nd and time and Ground Hog Day itself, keep repeating, repeating and repeating  in our beleaguered hero’s brain, while those townsfolk around him make merry and march and re-march and re-march. There is no end to those parading Pennsylvanians!

The music itself is also not much of anything. Tim Minchin who debuted so powerfully a few seasons back with the wonderful “Matilda”, here goes backward in time to really forgettable music and lyrics that seemed to be in a time-warp of their’ own, as if the magical “Matilda” had never happened.

And since this show was generated out of Australia, the small town PA. people are REALLY cartoons of what Pennsylvanians are like. Whatever they are, Pennsylvanians are not singing Australians, with bad American accents. And so the nightmarish cartoon juggernaut that is “Ground Hog Day” continues to roll over and distort and distort and re-distort everything in its’ path.

The Bill Murray movie couldn’t be this non-funny or garish. Oh, yes, and there aren’t any jokes. But there are lots of flying sets, one of which injured Andy Karl and may have won him a Tony. He deserved it for “Rocky,” but not for this mess.

And no, I’m not going to find the movie of “Ground Gog Day” and now watch it just to make sense of this gob-bil-di-gook. It would be just too painful. And I’m sure not funny, after what I’ve just been through with “Ground Hog Day:The Musical.” It’s like a night-mare you want to forget.

And “Amelie”! I hate to say anything negative about “Amelie”. It’s like kicking a kitten. I saw this French language movie, and I didn’t like it ,and can’t remember anything about it, except that Audrey Tautou is endlessly cute, and became a French icon of the ages. And I never could understand why. But there, like the Eifel Tower, she stands. Starring in French films of wildly varying quality. But an American musical?

And not casting a French girl in the lead? New York is NOT Paris, and good as she was in the original Natasha in “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet” off-Broadway in the circus tent, and Tony-nominated for “Hamilton,” as his hapless wife, Eliza, Phillipa Soo never had to utter a single word of dialogue. Both these great early successes for the now 26-year-old Soo were wordless, sung-through pop-operas and boy, can she sing!

She possesses one of the great powerhouse voices, and it’s a pleasure to listen to her over and over and over again on the CDs of “Natasha, Pierre” and “Hamilton.” But here in “Amelie:The Musical” with REAMS of trite, banalities to make cute, piquant, quixotic and adorable, she’s utterly at sea. She’s at a loss with no script OR music to bolster her as she had both so memorably in “Natasha, Pierre” and “Hamilton.” I wonder if it will even last until the Awards are handed out in June? Somehow, I doubt it. And I’m a Francophile.

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