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78 posts categorized "THEATRE REVIEW"

May 23 2016
Feeling The Burn: A One-Night Stand With Carol Burnett Comments (0)

IMG_0156(Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

Months ago, I bought my mom and I tickets to see Carol Burnett's latest show, a traveling Q&A about her life and career aimed at plugging her upcoming book, In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox (Crown Archetype, September 2016). It was as much a gift to myself as it was to her, and the event ensured I'd visit more than just at Christmas for a change.

Having parted with my original tickets (to my good buddy Shaun and his partner and a mutual friend) in favor of reasonably priced front-row (!) seats, we sat waiting for Carol to emerge, just like we had waited for her show to begin each week over 40 years ago. This time, we were side-by-side. Back then, I was usually at the end of my parents' bed, or even hidden at the foot of it (if I wasn't supposed to be up), where I would sometimes fall asleep and trip my dad in the middle of the night.

I once wrote Carol to tell her it was her fault I didn't have more brothers and sisters, because my parents were too engrossed in her show. I also wrote her to ask her to contribute a one-word description of Madonna for my Encyclopedia Madonnica 20, a request you might think someone of her generation would ignore or even find annoying. Instead, Carol was the very first star to reply—with a handwritten note, no less. Her word? TALENTED!, with the exclamation point.

Now, waiting for Carol to come on, the man we sat next to kept asking me, “Are you excited?” I think he was using me to talk to himself. He also wanted to compare ticket prices, as older men love to do.

What I paid was more than worth it.

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May 07 2016
Made It Happen: Gloria & Emilio Estefan's Life Story, ON YOUR FEET!—A Review Comments (0)

Unnamed(Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

I had a blast at On Your Feet!, exactly the kind of Broadway musical/revue I would normally find tedious.

Based on the life stories of Emilio and Gloria (in that order, it seemed at times) Estefan, the show is driven ably by Jerry Mitchell and features crowd-pleasing fancy footwork courtesy of choreographer Sergio Trujillo (nominated for a Tony for his work), but the main course is a litany of most of Gloria's hits with and without Miami Sound Machine.

On_your_feet_OG(Image via On Your Feet!)

The book, by Oscar-winning Birdman writer Alexander Dinelaris, is straightforward, following young Gloria (effervescent 15-year-old Alexandria Suarez—give this girl her own Nickelodeon or Disney Channel series!) as she matures into a sassy dynamo. Given life by a radiant, confident Ana Villafañe, pre-fame Gloria is musically fixed up with ambitious charmer Emilio (Josh Segarra). The two quickly make beautiful music together in both senses of the phrase, leading to a first act heavy on the excitement of watching a pair of young dreamers as they successfully figure out how to persuade U.S. radio that their fusion of Latin beats and American pop can't miss.

I never expected “Doctor Beat” to be so emotionally resonant.

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May 03 2016
The Tony Awards: Featuring HAMILTON Comments (0)

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 9.14.01 AM(Screen grab via HamiltonBroadway.com)

The list of Tony nominees is out, and to absolutely no one's great surprise, the superb Hamilton has knocked down a record-breaking 16 nominations. Congrats to all involved; it really is an inventive and intelligent and original show.

Read my original review of Hamilton here!

Sadly, the excellent American Psycho was not deemed worthy of any major love, not even for Benjamin Walker, who is really amazing and whose underwear is worth the price of admission.

Read my original review of American Psycho here!

Actually, the list of snubs is almost more interesting than the list of winners. I have heard mixed reviews of Shuffle Along, but it still nabbed 10 nominations without one for Tony-hogging star Audra McDonald.  Somewhat surprisingly, On Your Feet (the Estefans are no Carole King!) and Tuck Everlasting were also left out.

What was your favorite show this year?

 

 

 
Apr 22 2016
Bloody Good: AMERICAN PSYCHO's Giddy Post-Mortem On The Reagan Years Comments (0)

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 12.38.05 AM 1Benjamin Walker (Image via American Psycho: The Musical)

I thought Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho novel was utterly devoid of anything to say. Perhaps his point was so numbingly unsubtle it hardly came off as satirical to me. The movie, I loved. I felt director Mary Harron made the biting humor more evident and in the process intensified the impact of Ellis's original message about the utter viciousness of consumerism and American exceptionalism.

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Mar 26 2016
STRAIGHT To The Point: An Interview With Actor Thomas E. Sullivan Comments (0)

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 3.47.00 PMThomas E. Sullivan (Image by Matt Murphy)

An interesting new play (not a revival! not a revival!) called Straight is lighting up audiences at the Acorn  on Theatre Row in NYC. Written by Scott Elmegreen and Drew Fornarola and directed by Andy Sandberg, centers around a horny young banker named Ben (handsome Jake Epstein, who looks even better once he's down to his skivvies), his perky longtime GF (Jenna Gavigan) and the guileless college boy (Thomas E. Sullivan) who is slowly coming between them.

The girlfriend is always the last to know.

In spite of that summary, the play—with equal parts uncomfortable humor and drama—aggressively tackles the issue of sexual orientation vs. our choice of how we present that orientation to the world (and why).

Check out my Q&A with Sullivan below ...

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Feb 09 2016
You'll Have A Ball: New London Show Counts On Our Loving Lucy Comments (0)

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I feel like a lot of my gay friends—especially Michael and Greg—dig Lucille Ball. What's not to love? Beautiful, powerful, funny. But still, this is one of the first times I can recall a stage show based on Ball: Check out this review of I Loved Lucy, currently playing on the West End.

Sandra Dickinson as Ball gets this rave:

Sandra Dickinson is the neonest of lights on a dark, dank February evening. She cackles and she kvetches, she bullies and she comforts, she shouts and she whispers and, most of all, she completely convinces us that she is the most famous woman in America during the '50s and '60s. At one moment she stutters a little and I thought, Ha! It's not a perfect performance. But it we learn that it's one of Lucy's ticks —so it was a perfect performance after all! It's a masterclass and every acting student in London should see it, close up and be inspired.

Though the reviewer is skeptical of anyone under 50 (!) appreciating Ball:

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Dec 14 2015
Pea Shy: A Review Of ONCE UPON A MATTRESS Comments (0)

OnceUponaMattressPhotobyCarolRoseggSleep no more: Jackie Hoffman gives a rousing performance.

I feel like I need a passport whenever I head east—way east—to the Abrons Arts Center (466 Grand, NYC), but it's worth the trip when Jackie Hoffman and John “Lypsinka” Epperson are teaming up in a revival of the musical comedy Once Upon a Mattress, directed by Jack Cummings III.

In spite of being staged Off-Off-Broadway, every aspect of the production is on-point, from the committed performances by top-notch talents to the staging by Scott Rink and even whimsical drawings happening live via projection behind the action courtesy of illustrator Ken Fallin.

The piece itself is shticky, the kind of work that can be pulled off only if all involved are embracing the humor; all are, making this Once Upon a Mattress an absolute charmer.

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Nov 20 2015
Prose Before Hos: A Review Of TARTUFFE! Comments (0)

516116_9e8ad5b75e744173ad8414dbe62c07e7


516116_e6449b002afd47b38a80e8cea1cb830eMy cousin, Dustin (pictured, left), has lived in NYC for a dozen years ... and we've seen each other approximately three times. All throughout, he's been an actor and has occasionally suggested to me (via social media) shows in which he was appearing that I could attend, but I knew something was up when he implored me to attend his latest. I knew that any smart actor would want to show off a good performance or a good project ... and I was right on both counts.

Three Day Hangover's Tartuffe!—brilliantly updated from Molière's 17-century classic by Jake Brandman and just as brilliantly directed by Beth Gardiner—is a hysterically funny take that imagines the titular fraud (smarmtastic Tom Schwans) as a right-wing politician. The modernization is distressingly topical, retooling Tartuffe as a sort of secretly gay Donald Trump, a buffoon propped up by the money of his clueless benefactress, Olga (Carol Linnea Johnson, who nails her character with a dash of Julia Duffy and a tablespoon of Ana Gasteyer).

516116_dc215bbc36874084849979da00ebe474Mr. Schwans appears in his underwear in this production, which is definitely how Olivier got started.

Olga is so taken with Tartuffe (her mother, a gasbag portrayed in drag by Dillon Heape, is even more entranced) she would do anything to feed his ambitions, including offering up the hand of her pregnant airhead of a daughter (pitch-perfect Abbey Siegworth) in order to resolve the voter-unfriendliness of his devout bachelorhood.

516116_6d710a6740cd467b980b7fae6570417aWhite mischief

Aided and abetted by Dustin Charles's subversively heroic-turned-parodic portrayal of a 420-friendly, firebrand liberal reminiscent of Rob Reiner's Meathead and an out-of-this-world turn (more like a pirouette) by Dan Morrison as a coked-up would-be assassin, the production is funny enough to enjoy without getting wasted, and yet the troupe takes no chances: Throughout, the show stops for audience-participation moments of the drinking game Never Have I Ever.

And after you've experienced this show, there won't be many things you never haven't ever seen, done or laughed at.

Catch Tartuffe! closing night, tomorrow, Saturday, November 21, at McAlpin Hall at West Park Church/86th & Amsterdam.