The 2011-2012 Broadway season—a busy year of 40 new productions—ended last week, with the Tony Awards eligibility cutoff on Thursday, April 26. It went out with neither a bang nor a whimper but with an exhausting rush of last-minute, beat-the-deadline openings: Nine plays or musicals debuted in the last 10 days of elinatgibility. My colleague Rex Reed has reviewed two of them, the pleasant but lazily assembled Gershwin revue Nice Work If You Can Get It, and the also pleasant, even more anemic holy-roller movie adaptation Leap of Faith. Here, brief takes on the seven other shows that rounded out the season: Read More
Don’t worry too much about Peter Pan and his Lost Boys. They’ve found their way to Broadway, and they’re doing just fine.
Peter and the Starcatcher, the seriously silly prelude to J.M. Barrie’s boy-who-won’t-grow-up classic, opened Sunday night at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Based on a Disney-published 2004 young-adult novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (and, yes, it’s that Dave Barry), the Disney-developed play with music debuted a year ago off Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop. It’s a swashbuckling story of orphans, pirates, a treacherous sea voyage and the secret substance that gives Peter has magical abilities, set in an oddly cheerful Victorian England. Read More
Even though I was supposed to, I didn’t love [title of show] a few years back.
The sweet little musical, about people obsessed with musicals making a sweet little musical, was supposed to be catnip for musicals-obsessed people like me. But it wasn’t: I found it charming and endearing, but slight. It was a 90-minute show that seemed at least 30 minutes too long. Perhaps the problem was that I saw it too late, not at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, where it debuted, or at the off-Broadway Vineyard Theatre, where it became a hit, but on Broadway, where its will-we-make-it-to-Broadway storyline was a foregone conclusion (and where it ran for a mere three months). Read More
Religion goes down so much more easily when it’s accompanied by guitar.
Innumerable youth-group leaders and Reform rabbis know this truth, and so does Jesus Christ Superstar, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1970 rock-opera passion play. But the nascent mega-musicalers’ first Broadway outing—Superstar originated as a British concept album, and then debuted here in 1971 before returning to the West End the following year—offers no gentle acoustic strumming. (Neither, blissfully, does it indulge in the bland, feel-good soft rock of Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell, playing this season in a nursery-school-on-speed revival.) No, Mr. Lloyd Webber’s tuneful, hook-filled, guitar-driven score instead provides an account of Jesus Christ’s final week that’s accompanied by scorching riffs, soaring vocals, some funky bass lines, and more than a little rock-god sex appeal. Read More
Before reckoning with the new, exceedingly lovely, and disappointingly thin Broadway musical Once, which opened Sunday night at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, let us first discuss what might be called the War Horse Insufficiency.
The symptoms of this malady are stunning stagecraft and a lack of compelling story or emotional richness, a visual display so creative and impressive that the theatergoer wants to believe the play or musical he’s seeing to be great, but with a book insufficient to live up to the production. War Horse, the British story of a boy and his beloved horse at the Vivian Beaumont, is its most prominent current example: gorgeous design, breathtaking puppetry, insipid story. Read More
The Sound of Silence: Tribes Is Affecting, but Loses Its Rhythm, and The Lady From Dubuque Is Incomprehensible
Watching Tribes, a new drama about a deaf son falling in love and finding his independence amid a close-knit, hyper-articulate, constantly arguing family, a theatergoer might experience the proceedings much the way Billy, that deaf son, often views his relatives: It’s rambunctiously compelling and pleasantly intriguing, something you want to love—and yet it’s ultimately difficult to decipher. Read More
It’s an odd coincidence that the two excellent plays about contemporary African-American families to arrive so far this season—both by African-American female playwrights—both liken their characters to insects under inspection.
In Stick Fly, Lydia R. Diamond’s tough but warm examination of race and class among a wealthy black family at its summer house on Martha’s Vineyard, which came and went too quickly at Broadway’s Cort Theatre this winter, the metaphor was embodied by bugs that the grad-student girlfriend of one of the family’s sons glued to sticks to study. As an entomologist, and as a less-wealthy house guest, this character was trying to understand something she was not a part of. Read More
Shatnered Glass: Shatner the Man Is Delightful, but Shatner’s World, the Happy, Sappy Show, Can Be Dull
Latter-day William Shatner—Capt. James T. Kirk boldly gone into the Priceline era, with his self-parodying pitchman’s routines and so-bad-they’re-not-so-bad, spoken-word-meets-crooner albums—is a tough one to pin down. Is he a pretentious buffoon or a canny showman, an oblivious narcissist or an in-on-the-joke ironist?
Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It, the one-man show he brought to Broadway last week, presents a strong argument for a third possibility: He is all of the above. Read More
“Yesterday is done.”
Those are, appropriately enough, the first words you hear in the current version of Merrily We Roll Along, the long-troubled and oft-reworked musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by George Furth. Read More
There’s a problem with the Manhattan Theatre Club revival of Wit, Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer-winning play about a brilliant and demanding academic dying of cancer. This otherwise superb new production, starring Cynthia Nixon and directed by Lynne Meadow, MTC’s artistic director, opened last week at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre in the play’s Broadway premiere. The problem is its poster. Read More