Nominations for the 2020 Drama Desk Awards

Outstanding Play
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

Outstanding Musical
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”

TV Review: The Good Fight Series 3

Michael Sheen does his best to destabilise Series 3 of The Good Fight but Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald just about pull it back

“Don’t get in the way of someone kicking ass”

For a season that contains the wonder that is Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald casually duetting on ‘Raspberry Beret’, Series 3 of The Good Fight ends up being something of a challenge. The presence of Michael Sheen’s Mephistophelian Roland Blum was clearly meant to shake things up but that chaotic energy ends up being destabilising.

Which is a shame, as so much of what makes The Good Fight click so well is present here. Topics ripped from up-to-the-minute headlines, including voter suppression, racial profiling, Karens calling the polices, troll farms, historic sexual harassment cases, Kim and Kanye… And they’re all treated sensitively but still daringly in some bold storytelling. Continue reading “TV Review: The Good Fight Series 3”

Album Review: Summer – The Donna Summer Musical (2018 Broadway Cast Recording)

Is there a market for cast recordings from uninspired jukebox musicals. On Summer – The Donna Summer Musical’s evidence, I find it hard to think so.

“Enough is enough is enough is enough”

Yeesh. Summer – The Donna Summer Musical may have wasted no time in releasing a cast album but it really does point up some of the problems with the market’s increasingly reliance on jukebox musicals. As good as the performances by the likes of LaChanze and Ariana DeBose are and make no mistake, they are two sensational singers who fully deserve their Tony nominations, who is a record like this really aimed at?

It’s no great leap to suggest that fans of Donna Summer will always turn to her albums. For there’s nothing here in the vocal arrangements or the instrumentation that actually elevates it above and beyond a conventional covers album. There’s no narrative through-thread that can be gleaned from the sequencing, no startling insight that makes you reconsider the music anew, it all feels – sadly – rather pointless. Continue reading “Album Review: Summer – The Donna Summer Musical (2018 Broadway Cast Recording)”

The complete 72nd Tony nominations

Best play
The Children
Farinelli and the King
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Junk
Latin History for Morons

Best musical
The Band’s Visit
Frozen
Mean Girls
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”

Nominations for the 2018 Drama Desk Awards

Outstanding Play
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

Outstanding Musical
Desperate Measures, The York Theatre Company
KPOP, Ars Nova/Ma-Yi Theatre Company/Woodshed Collective
Mean Girls
Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, 2b Theatre Company/59E59
SpongeBob SquarePants Continue reading “Nominations for the 2018 Drama Desk Awards”

CD Review: The Color Purple (2006 Original Broadway Cast Recording)

“Hey, sista, whatcha gon’ do?”


The Color Purple has become a bona fide hit after John Doyle’s revival took Broadway by storm but you might not realise the level of the pop credentials that its composers Brenda Russell (‘Piano in the Dark’, ‘Get Here’), Allee Willis (‘Boogie Wonderland’, ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This’, ‘I’ll Be There For You’) and Stephen Bray (classic Madonna hits like ‘Express Yourself’, ‘Into The Groove’ and ‘Causing A Commotion’) brought to the table.
And that Doyle revival being the first experience I had with the show when it originated at the Menier Chocolate Factory, it’s kinda hard to believe that the original Broadway run in 2006 wasn’t an equivalent critical success. The issues must have lay with Gary Griffin’s production as for me, this Original Broadway Cast recording is a superb rendering of the score and one which is at least the equal of the revival and in some places, its better.

Led by the versatile talents of LaChanze as the central Celie and supported by Elisabeth Withers-Mendes’ Shug, Felicia P Fields’ Sofia and Renée Elise Goldsberry’s Nettie, The Color Purple is a shining beacon for the African-American woman’s voice in all its vital and vibrant experience. The bursts of power that comes from tracks like ‘Hell No’, ‘Push Da Button’ and the scorching ‘I’m Here’ tell stories that resonate across the ages in all their different ways.
And musically, the score cherry-picks from those ages too. A hit of blues here especially for Shug’s numbers, solid Broadway balladry there, soulful spirituals singing over there, the lifeblood of gospel throughout, it’s an impressive musical patchwork that adds up to a striking quilt of a whole.

Album Review: If/Then (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

“I know all the odds and even so…” 

One of the temptations with cast recordings, and something that’s been facilitated by the dawning of the digital age, is to make a playlist of your favourite songs and then forget about the others. I am terrible for doing this – it’s why I’m word perfect on only half of Wicked – and yet I never seen to stop. If/Then is a good example of this – the edited highlights on my iPhone give the impression of a great show whereas the reality is more just good

Predictably, these excerpts mostly include Idina Menzel’s inimitable vocal, around which Tom Kitt’s score was crafted. The delicate duet of ‘Here I Go’ with the lovely James Snyder, the stirring ‘You Learn To Live Without’, the irresistible melodic force of ‘Always Starting Over’, she’s so at home in this world of emotionally swirling tunes that it is impossible not to get swept up with her, especially in the last song’s slow-building climax. Continue reading “Album Review: If/Then (Original Broadway Cast Recording)”

Review: If/Then, Richard Rodgers Theatre

“I’d lie to say I’m never sometimes always thinking of you”

I couldn’t do New York without taking the opportunity to see Idina Menzel and in lieu of battling the crowds at Times Square, tickets were booked for her starring role in Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s If/Then. Having had the soundtrack for a wee while now, and being a big fan thereof, I pretty much knew what I was letting myself in for, meaning there was none of the apparent confusion that blighted much of the initial critical response which found the show hard to follow.

Is it confusing? I don’t think so. It’s tricksy yes, as a twin set of narratives follow two different paths that newly-divorced Elizabeth could take as she moves to New York City to start her life anew. Pushing 40, she feels the clock ticking both personally and professionally and so as Liz it is the former that takes precedent and as Beth, the latter. The same friends and colleagues appear in each strand too, with different experiences so you do have to pay some attention but that’s no real hardship. Continue reading “Review: If/Then, Richard Rodgers Theatre”

Album Review: Nice Fighting You: A 30th Anniversary Celebration Live at 54 BELOW

“Years of dreams just can’t be wrong” 

Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty have enjoyed a prolific writing career stretching over three decades and in celebration of their 30 year working relationship, held a series of concerts at 54 Below which have now been immortalised on their double CD Nice Fighting You: A 30th Anniversary Celebration Live at 54 BELOW. The collection looks back at the past, to shows like Ragtime and Seussical but also keeps an eye on the present – their Rocky the Musical is currently playing on Broadway – and the future with forthcoming show Little Dancer being showcased.

With so much material to choose from both in terms of an extensive back catalogue and multiple concert performances thereof, it is perhaps unsurprising that Ahrens and Flaherty opted for the double CD format which allows them to feature well over 30 of their songs, sung by a great array of talented artists. But it also means that it becomes quite the hefty beast, am album aimed at fans rather than the casual listener, something emphasised by the inclusion of spoken interludes from the writers and singers introducing their songs.  Continue reading “Album Review: Nice Fighting You: A 30th Anniversary Celebration Live at 54 BELOW”