The Inheritance, by Matthew Lopez
Heroes of the Fourth Turning, by Will Arbery, Playwrights Horizons
Cambodian Rock Band, by Lauren Yee, Signature Theatre
Greater Clements, by Samuel D. Hunter, Lincoln Center Theater
Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven, by Stephen Adly Guirgis, Atlantic Theater Company/LAByrinth Theater Company
A Strange Loop, Playwrights Horizons/Page 73 Productions
Octet, Signature Theatre
The Secret Life of Bees, Atlantic Theater Company
Soft Power, The Public Theater
The Wrong Man, MCC Theater Continue reading “Nominations for the 2020 Drama Desk Awards”
Farinelli and the King
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Latin History for Morons
The Band’s Visit
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical
Best book of a musical
Itamar Moses for The Band’s Visit
Jennifer Lee for Frozen
Tina Fey for Mean Girls
Kyle Jarrow for SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical Continue reading “The complete 72nd Tony nominations”
Admissions, by Joshua Harmon, Lincoln Center Theater
Mary Jane, by Amy Herzog, New York Theatre Workshop
Miles for Mary, by The Mad Ones, Playwrights Horizons
People, Places & Things, by Duncan Macmillan, National Theatre/St. Ann’s Warehouse/Bryan Singer Productions/Headlong
School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, by Jocelyn Bioh, MCC Theater
Desperate Measures, The York Theatre Company
KPOP, Ars Nova/Ma-Yi Theatre Company/Woodshed Collective
Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, 2b Theatre Company/59E59
SpongeBob SquarePants Continue reading “Nominations for the 2018 Drama Desk Awards”
Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller, Tony nominee Joshua Henry, and Grammy-winning opera star Renée Fleming will headline a Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. The production, helmed by Tony winner and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory director Jack O’Brien, is scheduled to begin performances Friday, March 23, 2018 at a theatre to be announced.
Mueller, a Tony winner for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and recent star of Waitress, will take on the role of Julie Jordan, with Henry—currently playing Aaron Burr in the touring company of Hamilton—as Billy Bigelow. Fleming will play Nettie Fowler; the Grammy-winning soprano can be seen on the Metropolitan Opera stage this season in Der Rosenkavalier—a production that is said to mark her retirement from her traditional operatic repertoire.
The revival, produced by Scott Rudin and Roy Furman, will feature Amar Ramasar and Brittany Pollack—both of the New York City Ballet—as Jigger and Louise, respectively. New York City Ballet’s Justin Peck will choreograph the new staging on the 1945 musical. The resident choreographer promises “an even more dance-and-movement-focused production.”
Continue reading “Round-up of (international) news and treats and other interesting things”
“I have dreamed what a joy you’ll be”
Who knew that exploring the soul of Richard Rodgers would reveal a Lauryn Hill sample and a guest rap from upcoming Bronx rapper Zaire Park? And that’s just on ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’ alone. But that’s exactly what you find on Billy Porter Presents: The Soul of Richard Rodgers, a project co-produced and co-curated by Billy Porter, the Tony Award-winning Broadway actor and musician.
With lyricists Oscar Hammerstein II and Lorenz Hart, legendary composer Richard Rodgers redefined the American musical theatre with now-classic musicals like Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, and The King and I. And now Porter pays tribute to his legacy by reinterpreting his songbook with an entirely more contemporary soulful bent. In his own words, “I like to think of this as the Richard Rodgers version of the Hamilton Mixtapes.” Continue reading “Album Review: Billy Porter Presents: The Soul of Richard Rodgers”
“Old man sorrow’s
Come to keep me company”
In terms of advance publicity, you couldn’t really ask for more than Stephen Sondheim bringing your show to the world’s attention before it has even got near a stage. True, you might prefer him to be in favour of your work rather than ripping you a new one but it does raise interesting questions about how we expect musical theatre classics to be treated in the modern age – recreated faithfully time and time again, radically revised at directorial whim, or somewhere inbetween.
The vociferousness of Sondheim’s critique would lead you to believe it was the middle of these options but though Diane Paulus’ production does indeed have substantial differences from those that have done before, they’re not so wholesale as to be so easily dismissed. Suzan-Lori Parks’ reworked book feeds in much more backstory for the characters through dialogue in place of recitative and the operatic (in length as well as in nature) scale has been stripped back, a Broadway sized orchestra plays this abridged set just fine.
Yes there are changes. Right from the start, the iconic ‘Summertime’ has been reshaped into a striking duet, thrillingly sung by Nikki Renée Daniels and Joshua Henry and from then on, the leads soar into their roles. Audra McDonald’s Bess is predictably stunning as the pivotal Bess in all her wrenching beauty, Norm Lewis’ Porgy is perhaps a little in her shade but still honeyed charm personified and David Alan Grier’s Sporting Life is seductive and slick and more nuanced than usual as the charismatic villain of the piece. NaTasha Yvette Williams also stands out as Mariah.
Sondheim’s criticisms were clearly well-reasoned but it’s hard to feel that the intention behind them not so much. The notion that musicals shouldn’t be adapted coming from someone who has reshaped so many of his own works time and time again is frankly baffling, writing should never be considered inviolate and whilst the proviso should be added that adaptations won’t always successful, there always has to be room for artistic experimentation. Personally, I rather enjoyed this take on Porgy and Bess, it’s not the only version I will listen to in years to come but it certainly won’t be consigned to the scrapheap either.
“Sons and daughters of the long dark night
Our time has come to glow in the light”
Bit of a cheeky one this as this 8-track sampler of Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed was recorded live for Tony voters but hey, why should they get all the fun, especially now that the decision was made to close the show allegedly in the light of Audra McDonald’s pregnancy making it a less saleable prospect.
The show takes a little unpicking – a musical with a 1921 score by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle and a contemporary libretto by George C. Wolfe, based on the original book of the musical revue Shuffle Along, by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles. The story thus focuses on the challenges of mounting the original production of Shuffle Along and its effect on Broadway and race relations.
Not much of the story comes through on the sampler but what you do get is an undeniable sense of the joie de vivre at the heart of the show – full company numbers like ‘Broadway Blues’, the Brian Stokes Mitchell-led ‘Swing Along’ and ‘Struttin’’ explode with fun, Adrienne Warren’s ‘I’m Just Simply Full of Jazz’ is spunky, Billy Porter’s ‘Low Down Blues’ is simply astonishing and the incomparable Audra McDonald sounding like she’s having the time of her life in ‘Shuffle Along’.
McDonald’s duet with Brandon Victor Dixon on ‘You’re Lucky to Me’ is another delight in all its scatting glory and all the way through this collection, the sound of the many choreographed moments add to the showbiz sparkle that makes me very sad I won’t get to see the show. So I’m glad that I got to hear this morsel of it, no matter how illicit it may be.
“Reports of my fame
Are greatly exaggerated
Exacerbated by the fact that my syntax
Is highly complicated cuz I emigrated from the single greatest little place in the Caribbean”
The massive success of Hamilton
didn’t come as too much of a surprise to those of us who saw and loved In The Heights
, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s preceding show which took Broadway by storm in 2008 and lit up the Southwark Playhouse
in 2014 before transferring to the King’s Cross Theatre
in 2015 where it continues to delight audiences with its heady mixture of sensual heat and community spirit – and its ideal listening in the middle of a roasting summer.
Quiara Alegría Hudes’ book may not be the most dramatically exciting – the story is set over 3 days in a heatwave in the Dominican-American neighbourhood of Washington Heights in New York – but for me, that’s why it works so well. It’s a genuine ensemble piece and the beauty of the show is that we get a snapshot of so many peoples’ lives and how they all intersect during both everyday moments and more crucial ones.
If the story beats aren’t as strong as you might like, the hypnotically varied but Latin-accented beats of Miranda’s score are undeniable as a series of character studies, as portraits of developing relationships, as expressions of communal emotions, hell, as just seriously catchy pieces of music. The sinuous rhythms and singalong choruses of the title track and ‘Carnaval del Barrio’ just worm their way into your head with their easy musicality and hip-swaying charm that makes you seriously consider salsa lessons.
The two key romantic liaisons of the show also shine through on this recording – Miranda’s hugely likeable rapping Usnavi slots perfectly into the role of narrator while he negotiates his feelings for Karen Olivo’s spirited Vanessa, and Mandy Gonzalez’s Nina – the emotional route into the show for audiences as the one character who has left the ‘hood and is now coming back – and Christopher Jackson’s Benny have the more conventional love-against-the-odds story but it’s no less heartfelt.
And you get striking support from the excellent Andréa Burns as feisty hairdresser Daniela, Priscilla Lopez as Nina’s mother Camila whose ‘Enough’ is a standout moment, and Olga Merediz’s Abuela Claudia, the kindly matriarch of the community with such a vital role to play in everyone’s life. The cumulative effect of the score is hugely seductive and one which stands up magnificently even if you haven’t seen the show and of course, it is fascinating to see the way Miranda explores his musical identity and capabilities with Hamilton still to come on the horizon.
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”
Nell Benjamin, The Explorers Club
Steven Levenson, Core Values
Conor McPherson, The Night Alive
Richard Nelson, Regular Singing
Bruce Norris, Domesticated
Robert Schenkkan, All The Way
John Patrick Shanley, Outside Mullingar
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Love’s Labour’s Lost
The Bridges of Madison County Continue reading “Nominations for the 2014 Drama Desk Awards”