Broadways Best
 
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Adam Chanler-Berat as Boy and Celia Keenan-Bolger as Molly.
      For anyone who doesn’t believe in magic and fairies, and that not only can cat’s fly but so can boys. For anyone who doubts that childhood dreams and imagination can be real, there is a wakeup call for you now playing at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre under the title of Peter and The Starcatcher. Not only does this magical show reach out to the imagination in every child, but the child in every adult. The show, which opened on April 15, has since garnered up 5 Tony Awards, including several more nominations, and an assortment of other awards. When I saw the show this past August, not only was the acting phenomenal, but the direction was the most spectacularly creative, inventive, and intriguing piece of work I have ever seen. The show is told by 12 actors, one women and eleven men, who play over 100 different characters between them, including one man who even plays many female roles. The show is performed in that the actors use only a few basic props, like a rope, a light, and a glove among others, to create many places and things throughout the story while also asking for our imaginations to help along in the journey. This creative idea is not only interesting, original, and an experience in itself, it is also beautifully interspersed within the story, and also makes for a beautifully different experience for each audience member. This mind-blowing direction surely makes for a great show that, contradictory to the amazing direction, although it has some great moments and a very nice story line, is sometimes very troubled.
            The book, written by Rick Elice, is the biggest of these problems. It is told in a fun, quick-paced, often witty, and very helpful way, but its jokes are the type that you would laugh at if only to make someone feel good about a joke that, although funny, was more tongue in cheek than laugh-out-loud, tell-it-again humor. It also falls weakness to a problem that many Broadway shows have in that fact that it is very cheesy and corny. It is meant to be like that and that adds a lot of childlike fun, but sometimes it becomes too much. The book also falls dependent more to the fantastically exquisite direction, but this does not hide the fact that, without the creative direction, the show would be doomed. The staging does, however, makeup for this by blowing you away. Also the second act of the book gets better by exploring the life of the boy, who will soon become Peter Pan, even more and sending off shout-outs to the shows that come after it in chronological order. The actors in the show are fantastic, character actors, who bring something different to each character- most of them play several- that they become, and seamlessly transform from part to part. The shows nature of having almost every actor, other than the two leads, play several parts each, is an easily lovable trait that the show holds. Not to mention that each actor is lovably brilliant and joyful. The shows lead, Adam Chanler-Berat, who plays the role of Boy, soon to become the famous Peter Pan, not only captures the essence of a young child who just wants to escape his sad life and live, is one of an inventive and beautiful kind, as his chance to be free excites the audience, and it makes us wish to cheer him on in his attempt to do so. Peter and The Starcatchers villain, and the enemy to Chanler-Berat’s intriguing boy, is the equally intriguing Matthew Saldivar, who replaced Christian Borle in the role of Black Stache on July 2, the role that won Borle a Tony Award just the month before. Black Stache is the character who will soon become Captain Hook. By the end of this play he still is Black Stache, but he has lost his hand, and we can tell he will soon become the infamous Captain Hook that J.M. Barrie has written to be the main villain in the plays that serve as sequels to this one, although written long before. Saldivar’s Stache is, to use a good word, a jokester. He constantly is making witty comments with which Saldivar carefully tosses toward the audience in a pleasant, yet cheesy manner, the kind of opportunities and jokes that the book is chop full of. However, the part of Stache is meant to be this way, and Saldivar does not miss an opportunity to make the audience laugh. Then we have the only girl in the play, a playful and more than joyfully silly Celia Keenan-Bolger, playing the role of Molly. She is the only female in the show, although not the only female role, and her character is always looking to be one of the boys, and is very adventurous and heroic. She will become the mother of Wendy, J.M. Barrie’s main heroin, in the later plays, something mentioned only briefly towards the end of this show. Ms. Keenan-Bolger captures the essence of carefree and wonder that you might see in a child of about 10, although she plays 13. This, however, makes no difference, as she reaches her joyfulness into our hearts and makes us laugh with her intelligent yet witty lines. She presents before us a girl who seems to have no worries and is extremely likable, and who we all wish to be like. This show is an ensemble show of 12, and the rest of the cast is also fantastic, rounded off by, just to name a few, Arnie Burton, David Rossmer, Kevin Del Aguila, among others. This joyous cast puts forward the imagination and love of a child into this story, as well as the wonder and heart that we all wish for in our everyday lives, and that every child experiences when they are young. The show also features music, which is fantastically interspersed through this “play with music”. There are only a few songs, but each one is joyful, silly, and as exciting as the next. This music not only helps the show to set sail throughout the theatre, but also helps the show set sail into out hearts. So go check out Peter and The Starcatcher, now playing at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre until January 20, and experience the joys of your imagination once more and the sensation of what it is like to fly.


 
 
Into The Woods stars Denis O'Hare, Amy Adams, and Donna Murphy.
Into The Woods stars Denis O'Hare, Amy Adams, and Donna Murphy.
           The Tony Award winning musical Into The Woods is soon ending its run in Cenral Park's outdoor Delacorte Theatre, where the show was finally able to be seen in the closest NYC can offer to woods, where the show is set. But don't be fooled by the name, Into The Woods is, although serious, nothing scary at all. It is a fun, enjoyable, well written musical. Here the show may not be close to as good as the original, but it still is quite enjoyable. There are some issues with the show though, starting with the lead. Denis O'Hare plays the lead male, The Baker. He cannot sing well, in fact he was mostly flat and his voice sounded rough the whole show. Not only that but every line he says seems as if the show is a waste of his time. It seems as if he doesn't care the entire show. Not at any moment did I care if he got his child or not, and never was a scene as interesting as it should and could have been when he was onstage. He was sloppy, annoying, and overall, un-talented. I would rather see the horrific acting of Nick Jonas anyday, and that is not a good thing. Luckily he has a pretty good cast with him, with a few stand outs. To start, I surprisingly liked Amy Adams when I had low expectations for her. She is the type of person who already has the motherly feel that her part called for. Sure a lot of people would have been better choices, but I don't cast these shows. She was a little weak on her acting and singing skills but she was enjoyable to watch anyway beacuse no matter if anything she did was bad she went with it anyway and it showed energy, especially a thousand times more than her co-star Denis O'Hare's performance. The standout performances came from Jessie Mueller as Cinderella, Sarah Stiles as Little Red Ridinghood, and the two princes. Gideon Glick as Jack was also very good, although he could have been better, but it's such a great, fun, well written part there's no way you can't like his performance in the role. Donna Murphy as the witch was also a stand out although upstaged by far by the two previously mentioned actresses. Then again, with her part there was no way to upstage the other two. The show is oddly staged, and I can't say I agree with everything in the show though. To begin with, the action is staged more toward the left leaving the right side of the audience (where I was sitting) a little farther from the action. Not only that, but the theatre is partially in the round, and this wasn't very well accommodating for that situation. The second act staging is a lot better than the firsts, and if the first act could be any more like the second act in staging, the show would be better. The second act just has that fearsome, innovative, creative, spookiness that Into The Woods already has in its script in both acts a lot more than the first act. The lighting of the show was definitely a stand out thing for me. There were shadows of trees across the floor of the stage, which, for anyone who has ever been in a forest or the woods or a tree populated area, gives the feel of a real forest where there are shadows everywhere and it's always sort of spooky and mysterious. The set, a many tiered set with exits and entrances on every tier, is fantastic. It is innovative, useful, original, and helps the story move along as the story weaves through the many tiers in seamless transition as we never wait for entrances, the people are already there ready in a different spot on the stage. Never does the show stop and never does the set change other than moving a few things like a branch and flowers and putting umbrellas up for the beanstalk. The stage is also covered in wood chips to give it the feel of the forest, a perfect effect, achieving exactly its goal. There is also a swing (or are there two I can't remember) where certain things happen in the play. The swing has nothing to do with any of the show, but it fits perfectly in, and it works in an odd way. Then we have the giant. Unlike in past productions, we see the giant, who is created by actors holding up face pieces and two other actors holding up separate hands, all jumbo sized. Although the effect is cool, the giant look they designed just seems too nice to me. For a giant that kills people, it looks as if it would never hurt a fly, but the effect is still very cool. The show is original in the fact that it modernizes what the show was written as by making the narrator a young boy running away from home and camping in the woods, and by making all the characters look different. For example, in this production Little Red looks like a skater-chic, the Baker and his wife look like Victorian era people, and the witch looks like a tree, just to name a few examples. Then again it has many normal looking characters like the princes, Rapunzel, and many others. The show is a great show in the script and music already and this production really adds some of the woods feel by putting it in a forest like area. So, it could be better, but outdoors really puts a few limits but also a few things you can't do indoors. If you can, catch this show before it closes next week. The show was, truly, an interesting journey into the woods.

 
 
I wrote this article a while ago but forgot to publish it. Here it is.

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      They may look amazing and talented on their television performances, but don't be fooled, these Newsies not only lack energy, but they lack heart, soul, and good material. The book of Newsies, now playing at the Nederlander Theatre, is by Harvey Fierstein, who tries, unsuccessfully, to write a standard Broadway musical out of the 1992 movie that gained a cult-following after flopping at the box office. He even goes with the "finally-have-the-lead-stand-up-for-their-cause-at-the-end-of-the-first-act" method. He fails most completely at this, as well as at putting heart and soul into the characters. There is no point in the show where we ever care about the newsboys cause. Not only do we never care about their cause, but we never care about any of the characters or their hopes and dreams. You would think that a solo for the lead male character Jack Kelly, played by Jeremy Jordan, about his dreams of running away to Santa Fe, properly titled "Santa Fe", would make us care and feel for this family-less, poor, hard-working boy, but instead I was reminded of how good Jeremy Jordan was in the challenging well written role of Clyde in "Bonnie and Clyde", and how he is given nothing of substantialness and nothing that shows anything interesting about this character and nothing we even care about in this character. He tries to do something with his character, but what can he do with a characterless, heartless book. And I, unlike many people, enjoyed the movie, which made you care for the characters and their cause, feel the scared, excited, and hopeful mixed feelings of the newsboys as they fight for what they believe in. The movie also had a fun, childish sort of feel to it, where you realized these were only kids having to face adult problems what seemed to be too early in their young lives. Instead in the musical we feel that these newsboys are all glamour and no heart. They do what they are told, but what they are told just doesn't work.
       Then there comes the issue of the dancing. Christopher Gatelli obviously has talent, but when it comes to this show, there are many set pieces that are moved by the actors themselves who literally stop dancing and pull on set pieces as others continue to dance. It looks, overall, sloppy, messy, and just mediocre. His dance numbers also make the rag-tag newsboys look like they are background players in a Marilyn Monroe movie, full of glamour and style. In the movie, these numbers were done with a raggy yet fun feel, whereas the actors in the musical play it with the sophistication of trained dancers, a boring, too serious, non-lower class feeling ideal that draws the already troubled show from bad to worse. If any of these big dance numbers were removed, the show might even be better, despite nothing that pops for the eye, instead it might pop for the heart. And the score has its moments, but because of the choreography and script, it loses everything that made the music fun and enjoyable in the movie. Then again many of the songs fail to achieve their goal and just end up ensuing into big dance numbers that do exactly the opposite of making us care for their cause. The songs also have weird melodies, and each song feels as if it is either too short or too long, but by the end of each number I thought, "That was it?" And none of the songs even help make us care anymore, if anything they make us care even less. Every song also had me thinking, "Gee, I wonder why Once didn't win Best Score with their amazing score over this boring, nonsense, too "glamoury", non important score." If anything, this show would have just been better as a play with a different book writer. At least then it might have explored the seriousness, yet hard-working, pain, yet hopeful, scary, worried, optimistic-ness the newsboys went through. The actors, just like Mr. Jordan, all try to do the show justice, but the show is, utterly, and truly, hopeless. If anything, I recommend you save your money and go spend it on something that you can care about and feel for, not something that was pulled out of a perfectly good movie and glamorized by the creators into what tries to be an over-the-top, flashy, Wicked-esque musical.


 
 
Dancing newsboys, singing Irish people, lots of gospels from Christian's, and flappers wooing guys are only some of the items that this years nominated musicals brought to the table. Once won best musical and best stage direction as well as a few others. Newsies won a few awards including best choreography and best score. Many other musicals won awards as well as many other plays. Host Neil Patrick Harris brought his sense of humor and box of jokes to the table. The humor, sadly, had been mostly used up, but there were some hilarious moments, and everything he did was fun no matter if it failed to be all funny. His three songs of the night had me rewinding so many times you wouldn't believe, and an appearance by the cast of The Book of Mormon had me wondering how the new cast is compared to the original cast that was there when I saw the show. Overall the Tony's brought their usual funniness, entertainment (in fact even more this year with more performances than ever), happiness, surprises, long but heart-warming and tear-jerking speeches, nerve-racking guessing who would win, lots of praying for favorite contenders for many, and a long-long-long show that Neil Patrick Harris even joked about its length with his entire finale number. Well now I must go because I'm completely out of....
 
 
On May 1st the Tony Nominations will be announced. Who and what do you think should and will get nominated? Tell me by commenting on this entry.
 
 
Yesterday I saw Fat Camp, the witty, fun, and inventive new show, now playing at the American Theatre of Actors. When you first walk into the tiny theatre, now housing this marvelous production, it is like stepping into a camp. There are posters all around the theatre relating to the fat camp, and also the funny signs on the stage-which bares no curtain. They are all hilarious and before the show even starts you are laughing just reading them. The show is more of your rock musical type of show, and I had no clue of that when the show started, so the rock music overture sort of made me jump a little. The premise of the show is that all these kids are sent to Camp Overton, a fat camp in who knows where. The two main characters are Robert and Taylor. Robert was sent to fat camp but doesn't want to waste his summer at fat camp and is proud of being "fat". Taylor isn't that fat but is there because she sent herself wanting to lose some weight. Through a series of romance and heartbreak, rule following and rule breaking, and many other things, the campers find themselves in a dilemma that they must solve. The show has got wits, humor, and talent, not to mention a great score. One of my favorite things about the show was the intricate set, and the brilliant staging. Both of those elements worked so well together, and I found myself in awe at some of the set tricks, like a built in candy case in one of the walls. Everything and everyone worked so well together, and their choreography was great! The only thing I didn't like was that a few of the songs and dance numbers sounded and looked too much alike, but other than that they were all great. One of my favorite scenes in the show is a nod to Glee when the cast does an a cappella number in the shows' style. Also, you should know it was just a preview, but if this was just a preview, it can only get better. This show really captures the camp feel of fun and a bit sketchy and that's what camp is. So go see this great new musical, now in a limited engagement.
 
 
Yesterday I saw Once the Musical the ravely reviewed new show at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. To be honest, it wasn't as great as it was reviewed to be. Also, I went in with really high expectations. The show should have been shorter considering that it stretched its material into two acts. Also it sort of just ended whereas I didn't feel it established much of an ending. Okay let's back up. When you walk in you are invited on the stage (set as a bar for the entire show) for drinks. At one point most of the actors (not the leads) come out and play 4 songs for everyone. During the third song people are started to be ushered off the stage. The first song starts after the 4 songs end and the song starts before the lights even go down, very confusing to whether the show started or not. In the middle of the first song the lights went out, and the theatre was darker than any other theatre I've ever been in, because the light was purposely not so bright. It reassured me that the lights would not be on the whole time when they finally went off, and I was glad to soon find that the lights weren't so dim the whole show. Anyway, I liked that way of starting the show because it sort of connected the audience into the show and instead of just starting the show it sort of made it seem to fade in to the show which I very much liked. One of the highlights of the show, surprisingly, was the lighting. It helped show changes in mood. The actors (Ben Hope was understudying for Steve Kazee) were mostly good, and their accents all spot on. To be honest, the show was kind of confusing and didn't live up to the expectation of pain that the New York Times said there was. Also the show had many chances to give a little punch or surprise to the audience, but didn't take them. At one point one of the characters didn't get the job promotion he had been long awaiting and I thought, "When do the tears come?," just to find that they didn't as that it wasn't made monumental enough. Sure the show as a whole was sweet and cute, and I admit I had the songs stuck in my head, well most of them anyway. They were almost all catchy and great, and they were sung well. It was definitely creative and original, I'll give them that, but it needed more for a two act show and a more substantial ending. Yes, you will probably enjoy it, and their are certain people who would enjoy it more than others, but it still lacks somewhere, and is not your best bet. Frankly, the second act was better just so you know if you actually hate it enough to want to leave, but not THAT much better, but I doubt you'll think of leaving considering everyone likes the show and, well, if I were you I wouldn't waste money by not seeing all I paid for. I wish the show were more cutesy and didn't have the accents, because it could have been more romantic and touching. So, it may not be the greatest show ever, but you'll like this cute, interesting, creative show. Beware, don't sit partial view like I did because you will miss some important things and will have to stretch your neck (the set blocks some things). So check this inventive show out, and definitely get the soundtrack, now playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.
 
 
Last night I saw Anything Goes, a revival of Cole Porter's show-stopping numbers musical. This show, I am delighted to say, is the best show I have ever seen. Forget The Book of Mormon because Anything Goes had me laughing even harder and smiling even more than it did in its whole show together. This new production is a magical, revision of the 1934, Ethel Merman starring, fun, delightful tale. It is fall out of your seats funny, and not just the new jokes (and some old ones too) that were rewritten into the script, but also because of each performers original and fun take on their characters (aside from Erin Mackey as Hope Harcourt). This show really has wonderful talent, and the actors all have great chemistry. Joel Grey and Sutton Foster pull off the funniest, most heart-warming, delightful rendition of a song I have ever heard, in their friendly, little crusade "Friendship." Joel Grey had me laughing every second every time he was onstage, as did Sutton Foster, Colin Donnel, and Robert Petkoff. This show was so fun, delightful, happy, exciting, and catchy, and exactly what every show should be, enjoyable. So head on down to the Stephen Sondheim Theatre for this Tony Award Winning Revival of Anything Goes, now through September 9, 2012.
 
 
Irresistible, Charming, Pleasant. What are these? These are reviews on the Marquis of the 2nd ever Broadway revival of the Tony and even Pulitzer Prize winning musical How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, all completely wrong. I saw this show today and was surprised to find it was the only show I've ever hated. This show is only making it because of commercially successful actors, who frankly can't act, at least not the replacements for Daniel Radcliffe, John Laroquette, and many other actors who have since moved on from this overly (and not in a good way) charismatic revival of a beloved show. As Ben Brantley says in his review, the script left room that the actors had to fill, and I agree because this show surely felt like a rushed show, with practically terrible acting. Let's start with Nick Jonas, he was beyond terrible. His lines were rushed, his emotion and voicing of the character and his lines were all too forced just like Beau Bridges, and Michael Urie, who play his boss J.B. Biggley and Biggley's nephew Bud Frump. Especially Michael Urie, who had mostly lines that were mocking other people so he repeated what they said, but he repeated it in a forced tone that was supposed to be sarcastic but was really too forced. I know this show is supposed to be somewhat sketchy, but the sketchiness is played with a too charismaticness (I know it's a made up word) and an overly sarcastic tone. Some actors didn't have enough charisma while others had too much. This show however had great sets, costumes, and dancing, although frankly a big, awesome, dance during "The Company Way" a song in the mailroom, was overworked. A simple song like it should have been let to be simple instead of being forced into a big mess. The female leads were mostly fantastic with Rose Hemingway as Rosemary, a terrific delight, and Mary Faber and Ellen Harvey were charming and delightful especially Ms. Harvey, who played her part with the perfect amount of comedy, truth, charisma, and sarcasm. Ms. Harvey played Ms. Jones and Ms. Faber played Smitty, Rosemary's best friend. And, perhaps the only talented actor was Rob Bartlett, who played a double role as both Mailroom Head Mr. Twimble, and Chairman Head Wolly Womper. His charm. and truth mixed in with talent and was really a treat to see and hear on stage. This show needs to be played with the truth he showed in his part and sadly it was not. Beau Bridges was a real disappointment as he was unrealistic and nothing special. The sound also had to be louder, of course my ears adjusted to the sound after about 5-10 minutes but it still was quite low. The only really great part of this show were some of the dances but mostly "Brotherhood Of Man" which is an inspirational, witty, fun tune in which the lights on stage were finally turned brighter and the whole cast was finally being fun and smiling and having a good time, which still failed to show through even after this number in any other parts of this show. Overall, go waste your money on a show that isn't a waste in itself. This was my third choice to see after Anything Goes, and Phantom of The Opera, which were both sold out. People were saying that they loved the show when I was walking out and I couldn't help thinking none of them had ever seen a Broadway or even West End show in their life, and this being my (I'm not sure the exact number but it's about) 16th Broadway show ever, I think I can say that. Skip Nick Jonas and his little talent to hold up this show (although of course the songs are amazing) and Beau Bridges and Michael Urie's unrealism and annoyingness (another made up word), unless you wish to see some great actresses (although sadly without good leading men they don't matter) and go see a better show. This revival of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying now playing at the Al Hirschfeld Theater should really be retitled How To Put A Flop On Broadway, Stick A Bunch of Celebrities Into The Leading Roles And Let Your Show Run Completely Because Of Celebrity Power, So Basically Even We Don't Like Our Show Which Looks Like We Put It On Broadway And It Looks Like We Didn't Even Try. Hope someone who has actually seen a show in their life knows How To Succeed In Not Seeing This Show Without Really Trying Or If You Must, Try All You Can.