Saturday, June 25, 2016

They're In Love But Don't Know It - Or Do They?

It's hard for a musical to survive on Broadway these days Very hard.
Huge costs and the public's appetite for surefire, blockbuster hits with [sometimes] big stars has pushed musicals into a formulaic near-death cycle that demands bigger, flashier, louder productions gushing with special effects and over-the-top moments.
Have you noticed? It can all become very Disneyesque.
So, many of the musicals that we've already reviewed here have closed, including quite a few that we've loved.
Now, we hear that both Bright Star and Shuffle Along (a real shocker, here) will be closing soon. Of course, American Psycho has already closed. Something Rotten has been around for more than a year and continues a healthy run. And, though it also had a nice run, Finding Neverland has closed.
Well, at least She Loves Me will be with us through July 10 and that's an extended run (and good news!) from the venerable Roundabout Theater Company, now celebrating its 50th anniversary.
She Loves Me boasts a book by Joe Masteroff, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and music by Jerry Bock.
The musical is the third adaptation of the play Parfumerie by Hungarian playwright Miklós László, following the 1940 James Stewart-Margaret Sullavan film The Shop Around the Corner and the 1949 Judy Garland-Van Johnson musical version In the Good Old Summertime. It would surface yet again in 1998 as the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan feature You've Got Mail. 
The plot revolves around Budapest shop employees Georg Nowack and Amalia Balash who, despite being consistently at odds with each other at work, are unaware that each is the other's secret pen pal met through lonely-hearts ads.
The show premiered on Broadway in 1963, and subsequently had productions in the West End in 1964 and award-winning revivals on each side of the Atlantic in the 1990s, as well as regional productions.
So, yes you may be familiar with the story of She Loves Me but here's the deal: This is that rarity of rarities -- an honest-to-goodness strong, book-driven musical. There are no special effects, no wildly theatrical elements, no chorus lines and mega moments in She Loves Me. Instead, we're treated to delightfully romantic narrative, three-dimensional characters and a genuine Broadway score performed by totally top-notch cast including Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski, Gavin Creel, Byron Jennings, Tom McGowan, Peter Bartlett and Nicholas Barasch. There is real character development in this musical story that moves along with all the smoothness and panache of its gorgeous, evocative set which garnered a Tony award for designer David Rockwell. 
No doubt you're familiar with Jane Krakowski and she gives a milestone performance here in a comedic featured role that will long be remembered. And her take on a vivid character is matched by Gavin Kreel who plays the part of the ultimate cad, milking every drop out of his performance and then some. 
But the leads (Benanti and Levi) are nothing less than irrepressibly engaging as opposites who alternately attract and repel -- until they fall hopelessly in love. Levi is one minute exasperating and the next positively charming as the tightly-wound store clerk who's underappreciated at every turn. And, his delivery of the title song is a tour de force. For her part, Benanti is irresistible in a role that calls for the full range of her talents -- both as a song stylist and an actress. When she sings Vanilla Ice Cream, you'll want to shout with delight at the joy of something so simple. 
Benanti is introduced in a scene that involves a music box which is meant to double as a candy container. But the rather ordinary box with its melodic attraction is really a jewel box and it's somewhat of a metaphor for the musical itself. It's a seemingly ordinary boy-meets-girl show that, with its novel approach and unexpected developments actually turns out to be an intricate jewel box.
Ultimately, the real secret of She Loves Me is that it holds back -- building, and building and building as expectations increase and tensions tingle until all its delicious delights burst forth.
In a word, this show is exquisite!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Dan On Broadway Predicted ALL Major Tony Winners; 77% Overall!

Dan On Broadway correctly predicted all of this year's major Tony winners: Best Musical, Play, Actor in a Musical, Actor in a Play, Actress in a Musical, Actress in a Play, Featured Actor in a Musical, Featured Actor in a Play, Play Revival and Musical Revival. That's 10 for 10! Dan knows Broadway!
Following are our predictions, with the correct ones so marked:

Best Musical - Hamilton CORRECT!

Featured Actor, Play - Reed Birney, The Humans CORRECT!

Actor, Play - Frank Langella, The Father CORRECT!

Director, Musical - Thomas Kall, Hamilton CORRECT!

Musical Revival - The Color Purple CORRECT!

Score - Spring Awakening (Winner, Hamilton)

Book, Musical - Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton CORRECT!

Costumes, Musical - Paul Tazewell, Hamilton CORRECT!

Orchestrations, Alex Lacamoire - Hamilton CORRECT!

Director, Play - Joe Mantello, The Humans (Winner, A View From The Bridge)

Scenic Design - David Rockwell, She Loves Me CORRECT!

Lighting, Musical - Justin Townsend, American Pyscho (Winner, Hamilton)

Play Revival - A View From The Bridge CORRECT!

Featured Actor, Musical - Daveed Diggs, Hamilton CORRECT!

Choreography - Savion Glover, Shuffle Along (Winner, Hamilton)

Featured Actress, Play - Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans CORRECT!

Costume Design, Play - Jane Grenwood, Long Day's Journey Into Night

Actress, Musical - Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple CORRECT!

Scenic Design, Play - David Zinn, The Humans CORRECT!

Featured Actress, Musical - Renee Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton CORRECT!

Actor, Musical - Leslie Odom, Hamilton CORRECT!

Best Play - The Humans CORRECT!

Lighting Design, Play - Justin Townsend, The Humans (Winner, Long Day's Journey . . . )

Musical Revival - The Color Purple CORRECT!

Actress, Play - Jessica Lange, Long Day's Journey . . .  CORRECT!

Direction, Musical - Thomas Kail, Hamilton CORRECT!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Tony Awards - Here's Who Will Win!

Here are our predictions for the winners of Sunday night's Tony Awards:

Best Musical - Hamilton

Featured Actor, Play - Reed Birney, The Humans

Actor, Play - Frank Langella, The Father

Director, Musical - Thomas Kall, Hamilton

Musical Revival - The Color Purple

Score - Spring Awakening

Book, Musical - Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Costumes, Musical - Paul Tazewell, Hamilton

Orchestrations, Alex Lacamoire - Hamilton

Director, Play - Joe Mantello, The Humans

Scenic Design - David Rockwell, She Loves Me

Lighting, Musical - Justin Townsend, American Pyscho

Play Revival - A View From The Bridge

Featured Actor, Musical - Daveed Diggs, Hamilton

Choreography - Savion Glover, Shuffle Along

Featured Actress, Play - Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans

Costume Design, Play - Jane Grenwood, Long Day's Journey Into Night

Actress, Musical - Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple

Scenic Design, Play - David Zinn, The Humans

Featured Actress, Musical - Renee Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton

Actor, Musical - Leslie Odom, Hamilton

Best Play - The Humans

Lighting Design, Play - Justin Townsend, The Humans

Musical Revival - The Color Purple

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Regional NJ Theater Gets Its TONY Sunday!

Paper Mill Playhouse (Mark S. Hoebee-Producing Artistic Director, Todd Schmidt-Managing Director) is proud to announce that it will be the recipient of the 2016 Regional Theater Tony Award. The Tony Awards® Administration Committee announced this year’s recipient for the Regional Theatre Tony Award on its website.

The Regional Theatre Tony Award will be presented at the 2016 Tony Awards on Sunday, June 12. The Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

“Throughout its rich history, Paper Mill Playhouse has established itself as a foundational pre-Broadway venue for new productions and a welcoming home for world-class theatrical revivals. We are ecstatic to recognize their dynamic role in the tri-state area theatre community and unwavering commitment to fostering future Broadway audiences,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League, and Heather Hitchens, President of the American Theatre Wing, in a statement.

“This is an incredible honor that belongs to everyone at Paper Mill Playhouse who has worked so hard to redefine our beloved theater in these recent years,”stated Mark S. Hoebee, Producing Artistic Director, and Todd Schmidt, Managing Director.

“For 78 seasons, Paper Mill Playhouse has been producing world-class theater that has been recognized throughout the country. We are thrilled to be acknowledged in this way by the Tony Awards® Administration Committee and to bring this honor back to the people of New Jersey.”

About Paper Mill Playhouse

Under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Mark S. Hoebee and Managing Director Todd Schmidt, Paper Mill Playhouse is where American musical theater is celebrated, cherished, and pushed in exciting new directions. A beloved New Jersey arts institution since 1938 and a nationally renowned not-for-profit regional theatre, Paper Mill has been consistently recognized for the high-quality artistry of its re-imagined classic musicals as well as its commitment to supporting the development of new works and the careers of Broadway’s best talent and emerging artists both onstage and behind the scenes. Paper Mill Playhouse boasts award-winning access services and outreach initiatives as well as performer training programs that impact nearly 40,000 students each year.

Paper Mill Playhouse productions have launched national tours and gone on to Broadway—including Honeymoon in Vegas, Les Misérables, Disney’s Newsies, and The Bandstand (upcoming)—as well as television broadcasts on Showtime and PBS and original cast recordings. Most recently Paper Mill Playhouse produced the world premiere musical A Bronx Tale under the direction of Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks with an original score by Alan Menken. This November, Paper Mill Playhouse will launch the national tour of the UK hit musical The Bodyguard in its US premiere starring Deborah Cox.

The education and outreach programs of Paper Mill Playhouse serve nearly 40,000 young people and educators annually in all regions of the state through in-school residencies, training and arts recognition programs, as well as the Children's Theatre Series. For nearly 30 years, Paper Mill Playhouse has been helping students of all ages and skill levels develop their passion for performance and communication—qualities that are invaluable in every career, from Broadway to the boardroom. Education programs include Paper Mill Theatre School, Adopt-a-School Project, Rising Star Awards, Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory, August Musical Theatre Intensive, Paper Mill Playhouse Broadway Show Choir, guest artist master classes, professional development seminars, and Theatre For Everyone classes.

The 2016 Tony Awards

The American Theatre Wing’s 70th Annual Tony Awards, hosted by Tony Award winner James Corden, will air on the CBS Television Network on Sunday, June 12, 2016 (8:00–11:00PM, ET/delayed PT) live from the Beacon Theatre in New York City. You can stream the Tony Awards live across platforms with the CBS All Access subscription service. (Live stream is available in select markets. Visit for details.

The Tony Awards, which honors theatre professionals for distinguished achievement on Broadway, has been broadcast on CBS since 1978. The Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

The Nominations for the 2016 Tony Awards will be announced live on Tuesday, May 3, 2016, from the Diamond Horseshoe at The Paramount Hotel in New York City.

See the official announcement by clicking here.

PAPER MILL PLAYHOUSE, a not-for-profit arts organization, is one of the country's leading regional theaters. Paper Mill Playhouse programs are made possible, in part, by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Paper Mill Playhouse is a member of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, the Council of Stock Theatres, and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Rollicking, Propulsive Entertainment That Never, Ever Quits!

When director George C. Wolfe accepted the Drama Desk best musical award last night for Shuffle Along he noted that he was accepting the award on behalf of Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake, F. E. Miller and Aubrey Lyles, the four men who created the original book, music and lyrics for this groundbreaking 1921 musical. Wolfe explained that this talented quartet "had the very dumb, stupid, brave and heroic idea that they had a story to tell and they could do it on Broadway and that they actually might succeed."
"In honor of their bravery and their ability to change rhythm on Broadway and to change the complexion of Broadway, we are very proud to honor them," Wolfe concluded. Indeed they were brave. And, with Shuffle Along, they gave Broadway a jazzy score with sizzling syncopation, pulsating rhythm and its first ever love scene between two African-American characters built around the haunting melody Love Will Find A Way.
But don't misunderstand. As historic as this sepia-toned musical was, you won't find the original Shuffle Along at Broadway's Music Box Theater. Instead you will find a reimagined version titled Shuffle Along or The Making of The Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. With a new book crafted by Wolfe and choreography by Savion Glover, that's am ambitious agenda no matter how one approaches it. But with a stellar cast headlined by Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Brandon Victor Dixon, Joshua Henry and Brooks Ashmanskas, it turns out to be an agenda not only worth pursuing but also largely fulfilled.
Even before the curtain goes up on this big, splashy musical you can hear the stomping and tapping taking place backstage as the company warms up and the excitement builds. And right from the start, the stars appear and are united with a superb company of players in the rousing Broadway Blues. Lest you wonder if a show that starts at this level can maintain its momentum, wonder not.
For Shuffle Along is no mere toe-tapping, hip-slapping, joke-cracking derivative of vaudeville. No way! This is a poignant backstage tale fueled by vivid characters, meaningful melodies, pent-up racial tensions, and moments of bluer-than-blue blues. Amidst it all there's a joyous energy that defies the struggle that uber talented black performers faced just to survive in the America of the 1920s, '30s and beyond.
While Shuffle Along tackles history, it's not an historical musical in the same manner as Hamilton. Unlike Hamilton, Shuffle Along is not built around the story of one person. And unlike Hamilton, it doesn't impose a new musical genre on an old tale.
Instead, it tackles the plight of five people -- Sissle (Joshua Henry), Blake (Brandon Victor Dixon), Miller, (Brian Stokes Mitchell), Lyles (Billy Porter), and performer Lottie Gee (Audra McDonald). Some have termed the show a musical documentary for the way in which it takes us across several decades of black (and to some extent, white) entertainment while remaining true to its origins. So, Shuffle Along is best termed a capacious musical journey -- one that pulls and tugs and ultimately teaches without being preachy or maudlin. But it does share with Hamilton significant chunks of narration to save time and keep the epic story moving along.
To be sure, without a central character to hold it together (the closest to that is Stokes Mitchell's Miller) the show can seem like a needle looking to be threaded. And, with so much ground to cover all at once and a second act focused on stark realities, the show's two sides can also appear disparate. Still, the entire creative team behind Shuffle Along has a way of reanimating the production to bring it into focus, especially with a conclusion that proves to be hauntingly (and refreshingly) thoughtful, ending not with a bang but with a nonetheless resonate whimper.
Among the memorable highlights of this stellar production: Dixon and Henry's evocative Affectionate Dan; McDonald and Dixon's Honeysuckle Time; Stoke Mitchell's soaring, acapella Swing Along with the entire company; the dancers' throbbing, thumping, super-charged Pennsylvania Graveyard Shuffle; McDonald's sexy, sensual Daddy Won't You Please Come Home; McDonald and the company's I'm Just Wild About Harry; the title song with McDonald and the dancing waiters; McDonald and Dixon's You're Lucky To Me; the reinterpreted Memories of You rendered powerfully by McDonald and finally, Billy Porters' astonishing 11 o'clock show-stopper, Low Down Blues.
Savion Glover gives us anguish, hope, frustration and joy in movement -- the best choreography on Broadway. Santo Loquasto gives us a pentimento of imaginative scenic design. Ann Roth provides evocative costumes that flatter both the performer and the moment. And George C. Wolfe's direction shows his usual deft touch in handling Broadway's biggest stars, giving them their due without forgetting the ensemble.
One final note: When Shuffle Along finally got to New York, it never actually opened on Broadway (aka The Great White Way). Instead, it had to settle for the shopworn 63rd Street Music Hall, uptown between 63rd St. and Central Park West. Such was the plight of black performers and black-themed shows. In fact, most black shows never even got this close to Broadway. If you haven't already done so, you owe it to yourself to learn about the plight of early African-America ("negro") performers who plied their trade in some of the dingiest spots imaginable, traveling from town to town under arduous and often dangerous conditions and forced to overnight with outcasts and vagrants in rodent-infested quarters. These were the true trailblazers who opened the door for all the entertainers of color who followed. This is their story!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Drama Desk 2016 Award Winners!

Outstanding Musical
WINNER: Shuffle Along
Outstanding Revival of a Musical
WINNER: She Loves Me, Roundabout Theatre Company
Outstanding Play
WINNER: The Humans, Roundabout Theatre Company
Outstanding Revival of a Play
WINNER: A View from the Bridge
Outstanding Book of a Musical:
WINNER: John Caird, Daddy Long Legs
Outstanding Lyrics
WINNER: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Dear Evan Hansen
Outstanding Music
WINNER: Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Bright Star
Outstanding Actress in a Musical
WINNER: Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple
Outstanding Actress in a Play
WINNER: Jessica Lange, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Outstanding Actor in a Play
WINNER: Frank Langella, The Father, Manhattan Theatre Club
Outstanding Solo Performance
WINNER: Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Fully Committed
Outstanding Director of a Musical
WINNER, TIE: Bartlett Sher, Fiddler on the Roof and John Doyle, The Color Purple
Outstanding Director of a Play
WINNER: Ivo van Hove, A View from the Bridge
Outstanding Choreography
WINNER: Savion Glover, Shuffle Along
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
WINNER: Saycon Sengbloh, Eclipsed, Public Theater
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
WINNER: Michael Shannon, Long’s Day Journey Into Night
Outstanding Music in a Play
WINNER: Philip Glass, The Crucible
Outstanding Orchestrations
WINNER: Larry Hochman, She Loves Me, Roundabout Theatre Company
Outstanding Set Design for a Musical
WINNER: David Rockwell, She Loves Me
Outstanding Set Design for a Play
WINNER: Christopher Oram, Hughie
Outstanding Projection Design 
WINNER: Finn Ross, American Psycho
Outstanding Lighting Design for a Musical
WINNER: Justin Townsend, American Psycho
Outstanding Lighting Design for a Play
WINNER: Justin Townsend, The Humans
Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical
WINNER: Dan Moses Schreier, American Psycho
Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
WINNER: Fitz Patton, The Humans
Outstanding Wig and Hair
WINNER: Mia M. Neal, Shuffle Along
Outstanding Costume Design for a Musical
WINNER: Ann Roth, Shuffle Along
Outstanding Costume Design for a Play
WINNER: Anita Yavich, The Legend of Georgia McBride 
Unique Theatrical Experience
WINNER: That Physics Show 
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
WINNER: Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
WINNER: Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress

Friday, June 3, 2016

This Is One 'Story' Worth Retelling!

Paper Mill Playhouse is proud to announce complete casting for Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's classic musical West Side Story, directed by Paper Mill Playhouse's Producing Artistic Director Mark S. Hoebee and Jerome Robbins’ original choreography recreated by Alex Sanchez. West Side Story is based on a conception by Jerome Robbins and features a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Leading the company are Matt Doyle as Tony, Belinda Allyn as Maria, Natalie Cortez as Anita, German Alexander as Bernardo and Mikey Winslow as Riff. West Side Story will run at the Millburn, New Jersey, theater from June 1 through June 26, 2016. The official press opening night is Sunday, June 5, 2016, at 7:00 pm. West Side Story's major sponsor is J.P. Morgan and the production is co-sponsored by The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. Paper Mill Playhouse's 2015-2016 Season is proudly sponsored by Investors Bank.

West Side Story is the stunning, groundbreaking and legendary musical that set the bar for all musical theater. Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is transported to 1950s New York City as two young idealistic lovers find themselves caught between warring street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. Their struggle to survive in a world of hate, violence and prejudice is one of the most innovative, heart-wrenching and relevant musical dramas of our time.

West Side Story will be performed at Paper Mill Playhouse eight times a week, Wednesday through Sunday. Performance schedule: Wednesday at 7:30pm, Thursday at 1:30pm and 7:30pm, Friday at 8:00pm, Saturday at 1:30pm and 8:00pm and Sunday at 1:30pm and 7:00pm. Tickets are on sale now starting at $32. Tickets may be purchased by calling 973.376.4343, at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online at Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Groups of 10 or more can receive up to a 40% discount on tickets and should call 973.315.1680. Students may order $20 rush tickets over the phone or in person at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office on the day of the performance.