CD Review: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (2011 Original Broadway Cast Recording)

“I’m feeling kinda woozy. I’ve been crying for an hour,
And my boyfriend has an ooze and he doesn’t clean the shower”
David Yazbek’s musical take on Pedro Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown hasn’t had the best time of it really, managing four months on Broadway in the winter of 2010 and then repeating a run of a similar length in the West End in 2015 in a retooled version that evidently did little to help. The Spanish director’s work is so richly musical that one might have thought musical theatre would gel easily with it but the reality is far more complex and difficult.
And so the result is something really quite challenging, often on the cusp of making the breakthrough to become the musical it ought to be but all too rarely making it. The main problem lies in a distinct lack of purpose to both Yazbek’s score and Jeffrey Lane’s book, even as it cleaves closely to the original film with its web of Madrid women with intricately connected love-lives circling around the same feckless men over the course of a tumultuous 48 hours.

Yazbek and Lane flit endlessly between the considerable number of characters to disastrous effect, never letting us settle on major characters to any level of satisfactory depth – Sherie Rene Scott’s Pepa is the main victim here, well sung but under-nourished by the material that ought to forefront her. The presence of bona fide Broadway stars Patti LuPone and Brian Stokes Mitchell in the company and with a good handful of musical numbers to themselves might have something to do with this.
LuPone’s Lucia, the ex-mental patient and current wife to the man Pepa is sleeping with at least gets a proper hit in the second act’s ‘Invisible’ which bemoans the lot of an older woman with an almost 60s swing but it does come at the cost of narrative progression here. Mitchell’s Ivan, the man Pepa and Lucia both love (and hate) feels much more shoehorned in – his character is scarcely there in the show and yet he repeatedly gets key musical moments (possibly befitting Mitchell’s status rather than Ivan’s….).
Danny Burstein’s cab driver gets a decent tune or two, especially in ‘Madrid’ but it’s Laura Benanti’s poseur Candela who gets the stand-out moment in the frantic ‘Model Behavior’ which comes closest to capturing Almodóvar’s zany spirit but that that is the only time you can really say that about the whole show is pretty much unforgivable – ay dios mio..

Album Review: Allegro (2009 First Complete Recording)

“He’s just a lug
You’d like to hug
And hold against your heart.”

It remains a source of constant fascination that we continue to find scarcely-known works by some of our most famous writers – Tennessee Williams had plays coming out of his ears but we’ve recently been treated to things like Arthur Miller’s rediscovered first play and in the world of musicals, the Southwark Playhouse will be bringing us the European premiere of a Rodgers and Hammerstein show of all things.

Allegro was written in-between Carousel and South Pacific and though the theatre is leading with the fact that it took the highest advance in Broadway history on its 1947 debut, it is less forthcoming about the decidedly mixed critical and commercial success it received. As such, it remains relatively unperformed and it took until 2009 for a first complete recording to be made of the score. Continue reading “Album Review: Allegro (2009 First Complete Recording)”

70th Tony nominations

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Frank Langella, The Father 
Gabriel Byrne, Long Day’s Journey into Night 
Jeff Daniels, Blackbird 
Tim Pigott-Smith, King Charles III 
Mark Strong, A View from the Bridge

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Jessica Lange, Long Day’s Journey into Night 
Laurie Metcalf, Misery 
Lupita Nyong’o, Eclipsed 
Sophie Okonedo, The Crucible
Michelle Williams, Blackbird

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Leslie Odom, Jr, Hamilton
Alex Brightman, School of Rock
Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof 
Zachary Levi, She Loves Me
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple
Laura Benanti, She Loves Me
Carmen Cusack, Bright Star 
Jessie Mueller, Waitress
Phillipa Soo, Hamilton

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Reed Birney, The Humans 
Bill Camp, The Crucible 
David Furr, Noises Off 
Richard Goulding, King Charles III 
Michael Shannon, Long Day’s Journey into Night

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans 
Pascale Armand, Eclipsed 
Megan Hilty, Noises Off 
Andrea Martin, Dotty Otley
Saycon Sengbloh, Eclipsed

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
Brandon Victor Dixon, Shuffle Along 
Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress
Jonathan Groff, Hamilton
Christopher Jackson, Hamilton

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple 
Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me
Jennifer Simard, Disaster! 
Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along

Album Review: Follies (2011 New Broadway Cast Recording)

“I wanted something when I came here 30 years ago but I forgot to write it down”

Is Follies a show you can really just listen to? Many clearly agree but having got through this double-disc cast recording of Eric Schaeffer’s production of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s show from 2011, I’m not sure enough of it really translates on record. This is quite possibly coloured by the fact that I saw it for the first time earlier this year in a most fun semi-staged concert version at the Royal Albert Hall and memories are that are still strong.

So the interplay of past and present, the ghostly presence of the showgirls and the younger selves of the central foursome, doesn’t really come across. This recording tries to address that by including lengthy passages of scene-setting dialogue but without that initial familiarity with the material, it’s hard to see how much it would really help – plus there’s something moving in the sight of a group of veteran actors given such agency on a stage, it should definitely be produced more, difficult or no. Continue reading “Album Review: Follies (2011 New Broadway Cast Recording)”

Review: Cabaret, Studio 54

“Outside it is winter. But in here it’s so hot.”

It is 22 years since Sam Mendes debuted his iconic revival of Kander and Ebb’s musical Cabaret with Alan Cumming (re)creating the role of the Emcee and in the hallowed grounds of Studio 54, he is back in that part overseeing a succession of bright young things taking on the equally iconic character of Sally Bowles. Michelle Williams (Dawson’s not Destiny’s) opened up this run and Sienna Miller will step into the shoes next month but it is recent Academy Award nominee Emma Stone was the original choice for this particular revival.

fascinatingly honest interview reveals the reason why she couldn’t open the show but circumstance prevailed to allow her to join the company and ever so pleasingly, right at the moment that I was in town. And she is brilliant in the role, it’s no mean feat putting her own spin on a character that has been so effectively previously immortalised but Stone manages it, finding a real sense of a new, fresh, personality for Sally that is more emotional, fragile even, laying bare all the vulnerability of a young woman aching for a place to belong in a world that is turning its back on her, and so many others. Continue reading “Review: Cabaret, Studio 54”

68th Tony Award nominations

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play 
Samuel Barnett – Twelfth Night as Viola
Bryan Cranston – All the Way as President Lyndon B. Johnson
Chris O’Dowd – Of Mice and Men as Lennie Small
Mark Rylance – Richard III as Richard III
Tony Shalhoub – Act One as Older Moss Hart / Barnett Hart / George S. Kaufman

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Tyne Daly – Mothers and Sons as Katherine Gerard
Audra McDonald – Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill as Billie Holiday
LaTanya Richardson Jackson – A Raisin in the Sun as Lena Younger
Cherry Jones – The Glass Menagerie as Amanda Wingfield
Estelle Parsons – The Velocity of Autumn as Alexandra

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical 
Neil Patrick Harris – Hedwig and the Angry Inch as Hedwig
Ramin Karimloo – Les Misérables as Jean Valjean
Andy Karl – Rocky the Musical as Rocky Balboa
Jefferson Mays – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder as the D’Ysquith family
Bryce Pinkham – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder as Monty Navarro Continue reading “68th Tony Award nominations”

67th Tony Award nominations

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play 
Tom Hanks – Lucky Guy as Mike McAlary
Nathan Lane – The Nance as Chauncey
Tracy Letts – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as George
David Hyde Pierce – Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike as Vanya
Tom Sturridge – Orphans as Phillip

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Laurie Metcalf – The Other Place as Juliana Smithton
Amy Morton – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as Martha
Kristine Nielsen – Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike as Sonia
Holland Taylor – Ann as Ann Richards
Cicely Tyson – The Trip to Bountiful as Miss Carrie Watts

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical 
Bertie Carvel – Matilda the Musical as Miss Trunchbull
Santino Fontana – Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella as Prince Topher
Rob McClure – Chaplin as Charlie Chaplin
Billy Porter – Kinky Boots as Lola
Stark Sands – Kinky Boots as Charlie Price Continue reading “67th Tony Award nominations”

66th Tony Award nominations

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play 
James Corden – One Man, Two Guvnors as Francis Henshall
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Death of a Salesman as Willy Loman
James Earl Jones – The Best Man as Art Hockstader
Frank Langella – Man and Boy as Gregor Antonescu
John Lithgow – The Columnist as Joseph Alsop

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Nina Arianda – Venus in Fur as Vanda
Tracie Bennett – End of the Rainbow as Judy Garland
Stockard Channing – Other Desert Cities as Polly Wyeth
Linda Lavin – The Lyons as Rita Lyons
Cynthia Nixon – Wit as Vivian Bearing

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical 
Danny Burstein – Follies as Buddy Plummer
Jeremy Jordan – Newsies as Jack Kelly
Steve Kazee – Once as Guy
Norm Lewis – Porgy and Bess as Porgy
Ron Raines – Follies as Ben Stone Continue reading “66th Tony Award nominations”