Tuesday, December 5, 2017

You've NEVER Seen The Holidays Quite Like This!

The award-winning Paper Mill Playhouse Broadway Show Choir shares holiday cheer with this amazing rendition of Sleigh Ride.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Nothing Will Happen; You'll Be Enthralled!

Can you imagine a Broadway musical where it appears as if not much of anything happens?
Can you imagine s show with the bare minimum of scenery, hardly any costumes, virtually no choreography and no special effects of any sort?
Can you imagine a musical where the music at times seems merely incidental, to the point where you're tempted to call it a play with music?
If you can, then you've imagined The Band's Visit, Broadway's latest sensation.
This musical is based on a rather obscure 2007 Israeli film rejected as a candidate for a best Foreign Language Film Oscar because it contained more than 50 percent English dialogue.
Here's the story: The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, consisting of eight men, arrive in Israel from Egypt. They have been booked by an Arab cultural center in Petah Tikva, but through a miscommunication (Arabic has no "p" sound, and regularly replaces it with "b"), the band takes a bus to Beit Hatikva, a fictional town in the middle of the Negev Desert. It is literally a sort of no man's land. The Egyptians encounter a few Israeli townspeople, who respond with curiosity about the band, are variously friendly and wary, and provide them with shelter, food, music and companionship during their overnight visit. There is no transportation out of the town that day, and there are no hotels for them to spend the night in. The band members dine at a small restaurant where the owner, Dina (Katrina Lenk) invites them to stay the night at her apartment, at her friends' apartment, and in the restaurant. No one quite falls in love, but a sense of unspoken longing and loneliness is expressed.
This show runs about ninety minutes without an intermission.
With music and lyrics by David Yazbek and a book by Itamar Moses (adapted from the screenplay) The Band's Visit is one, continuous, unbroken thread. It's also a sustained, plaintive and anguished cry for love. And the show manages to be methodical without appearing to be in the least bit manipulative. The music, such as it is, is mostly haunting and mixes both eastern and western genres.
While waiting for Something Really Big to happen, you watch this extraordinarily precise production and you wonder how and why it's holding your attention. Well, one of the reasons is the restrained acting of the two leads, the cafe owner (Lenk) and the band's leader (Tony Shalhoub). There is so much sexual tension between these two that the space around them literally crackles without making a sound. The show's cast of 14 displaced and/or mismatched characters create a sort of lugubrious lullaby of longing. It's so obvious that these people have much more in common than we or they might have thought and yet it's also apparent that they will barely acknowledge it let alone act upon it. And yet, there is nonetheless a sense of sharing and understanding here.
Part of the appeal of The Band's Visit is that it does not preach, and we can all be thankful for that. This is a zen musical. It simply is. You are free to observe it in it's purest form, (much as you would real life) and make your own judgements -- or not make any judgements at all.
The secret of the show is that it holds back. It's as if the director, David Cromer instructed the actors to abridge every word, every sentence, every movement and every action to the point where the audience is consumed with anticipation. In this sense, it's the polar opposite of a traditional Broadway musical where exaggeration is the norm.
Of course, all of this restraint has to be released, yes? Well, maybe -- or maybe not.
There is a sort of rousing epilogue but it's not really part of the story. And that only adds to the allure of the most unique musical Broadway has seen in many years.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

An All-Too-Brief And Wondrous Journey!

As long as Broadway has been making musicals, displaced persons have been at the forefront of some of the Great White Way's most beloved tuneful tales.
In Show Boat, the granddaddy of all musicals, displaced persons comprise the entire cast as Cap'n Andy's traveling entertainment venue churns up and down the Mississippi River, taking on a variety of passengers and troubadours.
In The King and I, a widowed British schoolteacher Anna begins a new life in a strange and authoritarian Asian kingdom.  In The Music Man, the always-on-the-move and ever-cunning Harold Hill creates nothing short of upheaval in small town Indiana. In The Most Happy Fella, a mail-order bride gets less than she bargained for when she's thrust into the rough-hewn world of early California wine country. Even more recently, Hamilton tells the story of a displaced orphan who becomes one of America's founders while Come From Away examines the lives of 9/11 airline travelers who are suddenly diverted to an unprepared Canadian hamlet.
But perhaps nowhere in the lexicon of American musicals are there two more bewildered characters than Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, two New York buddies who, while hiking the Scottish highlands, stumble into a strange and enchanted locale called Brigadoon.
Brigadoon is a mysterious place that you won't find on any map. That's because it only appears once every hundred years. How could this be? Well, in the world of this lustrous and lyrical Lerner and Loewe musical it's all neatly explained: To protect Brigadoon from being changed by the outside world, 200 years ago the local minister prayed to God to have Brigadoon disappear, only to reappear for one day every 100 years.

All citizens of Brigadoon are forbidden to leave the town, or it will disappear forever. In the show, Tommy, who becomes smitten with a Brigadoon lass named Fiona MacLaren, asks hypothetically if an outsider could be permitted to stay in Brigadoon. The local schoolmaster replies: "A stranger can stay if he loves someone here – not jus' Brigadoon, mind ye, but someone in Brigadoon – enough to want to give up everythin' an' stay with that one person. Which is how it should be. 'Cause after all, lad, if ye love someone deeply, anythin' is possible."
For Tommy, who's always been commitment shy, Fiona and Brigadoon seem to change everything. But the more cynical Jeff refuses to believe the magic of Brigadoon and seems to find the place a bit creepy, if not downright scary. "How can you believe all this?" he challenges Tommy. "How can you just accept it?" And therein lies just one of the conflicts that fuel the story of Brigadoon.
It's hard to believe that this classic musical is 70 years old.
And it was still harder for us to believe it when we were fortunate enough to see its all-too-brief and ravishing revival over the weekend as part of New York City Center's Encore series with the magnificent Kelli O'Hara as Fiona and the full-voiced Patrick Wilson as Jeff. When Kelli O'Hara sings its as if the angels are calling us from on high. And Patrick Wilson is not only able to send his voice into the far reaches of the balcony but he does it while injecting a credible emotional tug into nearly every note. Together, these two are Broadway musical heaven as they sing The Heather on the Hill, Almost Like Being in Love and From This Day On. And Wilson is poignant and compelling as he delivers the haunting There But For You Go I.
With a cast of 39, an orchestra of 30, original choreography by Agnes de Mille (re-choreographed and superbly directed by Christopher Wheeldon) and the dancing of Robert Fairchild, formerly of the New York City Ballet and An American in Paris, this "new" Brigadoon proved enthralling. In fact, the entire cast deserves lavish praise, with shoutouts to Asasif Mandvi as Jeff, Ross Lekites as Charlie, Rich Herbert as Andrew and Dakin Matthews as Mr. Lundie.
Brigadoon is sheer Broadway magic in that it dares us to dream and dream gallantly and it challenges us to believe more with our hearts than our minds.
When it opened in 1947 Broadway knew a hit when it saw one. As one critic raved: "[This is] a stunning show. It has whimsy, beguiling music, exciting dancing – and it has a book.... Brigadoon is by far the best musical play the season has produced, and it is certainly one of the best within my entire play-going experience."
Seventy years later. we wholeheartedly agree!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

No Pale Tale: Vivid Legend Comes To Life

It's been called a combination of West Side Story and Jersey Boys.
But it's more like Saturday Night Fever with a bit of Hairspray and a dash of Memphis thrown in.
It's a coming of age morality tale with a strong narrative set to music.
And on December 1, A Bronx Tale, The Musical will likely defy the odds and celebrate its first anniversary on Broadway.
Here's a show that received virtually no award nominations and only mixed reviews from the critics and yet it has survived more-nominated and more-heralded shows that opened around the same time. How and why did this happen?
Well, this is a strong, story-driven show that draws you in with a compelling central character whose drive and yearning and hardscrabble natural instincts keep you watching and cheering him on even when he makes the wrong decisions.
We never saw the movie, A Bronx Tale or the one man show performed by the tale's author Chazz Palminteri. So we knew nothing about the show going in.
And in the middle of the first act we began to wonder if the tale itself would be done in by too many wise-guy stereotypes and a bunch of caricatures instead of fully-formed personalities.
But as the story unfolded, piece by piece, complete with unexpected twists and turns, we found ourselves not just fully involved but downright seduced. A Bronx Tale really is that kind of show. Taken from the streets, it becomes real enough to be credible and aspirational enough to get you rooting for it.
Bobby Conte Thornton as Calogero, the central character.  is full of fury, anguish and raw ambition in an absolutely standout performance. As the young Calogero, Will Coombs makes a stunning Broadway debut. And Nick Cordero (as Calogero's adopted and questionable mentor) is so full of testosterone and swagger that he'll surprise you when he offers his one-time protegĂ© his final words of wisdom. Cudos also to Richard L. Blake for his poignant performance as Lorenzo; to Lucia Gianetta for her sensitive turn as Rosina and to Christianna Pitts in her memorable Broadway debut as Jane.
The songs in the show (by the prodigious Alan Menken with Glenn Slater) are alternately witty, instructive and thoughtful. These include the opening number, Belmont Avenue, the clever Nicky Machiavelli, the tender Look to Your Heart and the finale, The Choices We Make.
The three-part revolving set by Beuwulf Boritt is perfect and the costumes by the great William Ivey Long are spot on, as is the choreography by Sergio Trujillo.
The whole thing is lovingly directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zacks who have been more than faithful to this autobiographical journey created by their pal, Chazz.
A Bronx Tale is all in the family and that family includes not just the row home, the stoop, the street, the neighborhood and all of the Bronx but the yearning heart inside each and every one of us.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Yes, It's Official: Broadway Has A NEW Dolly!


Peters' costar in the role of Horace Vandergelder will be Broadway veteran Victor Garber.
Peters begins her run in “Hello, Dolly!” Jan. 20 prior to an opening night set for Feb. 22. 
Midler plays her final performance in “Dolly!” Jan. 14; there will be no performances between then and Peters’ start date.
This is an EXCELLENT choice!
Bravo to the show and its producers.

Friday, August 25, 2017

It'll Be Here Before You Know It!

See the Frozen cast together in costume for the first time!

Frozen will play its out-of-town tryout at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts August 17 – October 1, 2017. Tickets for performances in Denver are on sale now. For information on the Denver engagement visit DenverCenter.org. Tickets for Broadway performances will go on sale later this year.

Visit http://frozenthemusical.com/ for more information.