Scene: September '12
What? A new play by Danielle Mohlman
From the show website: "The Crow is a reverse-gender take on J.M. Barrie's classic novel Peter Pan. This full-length play is set in 1967 Boston and imagines the story from a female Pan's perspective during the height of Vietnam-era counterculture. .”
When? September 1' 12
Where? Page to Stage Festival, Kennedy Center Washington, DC
Why? This free festival seemed like a great way to be introduced to new theatre. I looked through the schedule and this one caught my eye.
Well? So unique. I was impressed that, even with the ambient noise in the venue, this simple reading with no real physical interaction between the actors, still managed to make me feel as if I was on a rooftop in Boston in the late 60s. The writing in the play is really quite poetic, with a stream of consciousness feeling. Because the play is still so early in its development, there were definitely some gaps that made for an interesting audience discussion post-show. I thought that the echoing of the "Peter Pan" themes against the backdrop of the turbulent 60s and the Viet Nam war discord in society was brilliant. The small "family" of misfit young women, hiding rather unsuccessfully from the reality of the outside world were each well-drawn and well-portrayed.
What? A new musical by Scott Davenport Richards & Michele Lowe
From the show website: "a story of two old lovers who attempt to reunite after 20 years, but first they must first revisit the events surrounding the murder that separated them..”
When? September 2 '12
Where? Signature Theatre Arlington, VA
Why? Luckily, I paid attention to an email announcement a few days before the reading. I was particularly interested because it was a musical, and I think being "new and different" with a full-blown musical is a tough challenge.
Well? Wow. This was really good. It's hard to go wrong with me when human relationships are being explored, and this had parent & child, husband & wife, teenage lovers of past and present, rekindled love and more. The music was compelling and complex, like the story itself; and it was integral to the storytelling, with dialogue exchanged in song at some points. I loved the use of flashbacks to tell the story, and the unexpected twists in the action. There were multiple stories being told, and the flow was smooth. The cast was quite impressive, especially the actors playing the young versions of the main characters, and the wife who knows her marriage is over. The cast as a whole sounded lovely when singing together. I thought the "staging" of this reading was particularly effective; just the right amount of action and very smooth transitions as the actors moved to and from their chairs as scenes changed.
If There is I Haven't Found it Yet
What? From the show website: Fifteen-year-old Anna's weight makes her a target for bullies. When her mom Fiona (Michelle Gomez) transfers Anna (Annie Funke) to the school where she teaches in order to protect her daughter, it only makes things worse. If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet is an entertaining look at a regular family stuck somewhere between knowing what the problem is... and doing something about it. This insightful new play by Nick Payne features Tony Award–winning, Emmy-nominated actor Brían F. O'Byrne and Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal in his American stage debut.
When? September, '12
Where? The Laura Pels Theatre / Roundabout
Why? The cast: Brían O'Byrne (who I last saw in "Doubt" for which he won the Tony award) & Jake Gyllenhaal; & my experiences with Roundabout Theatre Co. productions have been consistently good.
Well? As I was sharing my experience with the show afterwards with some friends, it really hit me how utterly brilliant I think the staging of this show is. From the junkyard-style pile of props/furniture in the center of the stage that gets deconstructed as needed to create scenes, to the water that overtakes the stage, the symbolism is quite lovely. Another dysfunctional family (mum, dad, 15 year old daughter & drifter uncle) searching for each other and for a safe place, populates the play (we humans really do make for good stories), and the acting is compelling. Jake Gyllenhaal is wonderful as the catalyst uncle who turns up unexpectedly for a visit, and his chemistry with Annie Funke, who plays his niece with such fierceness of talent, and the fabulous Brían O'Byrne as his brother, is riveting. There are a lot of layers to dig through in this show, and I found it very satisfying theatre.
What? From the show website: Paul Rudd returns to Broadway with Academy Award® nominee Michael Shannon ("Boardwalk Empire," Revolutionary Road), seven-time Emmy® Award®-winner Ed Asner ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show", Up) and Steppenwolf's Kate Arrington in the acclaimed dark comedy by award-winning writer Craig Wright (Mistakes Were Made, "Six Feet Under"). Dexter Bullard (Tracy Letts' Bug) directs.
In alternating scenes of hilarity and poignancy, life turns surreal for an eclectic foursome whose destinies collide in the Sunshine State. A wide-eyed young couple (RUDD & ARRINGTON) head south with big plans to open a chain of Gospel-themed motels. When an agitated rocket scientist (SHANNON) and a prickly pest-control man (ASNER) enter the picture, the couple's ordered world is thrown into utter chaos.
GRACE examines those elusive paradoxes: Believing vs. Knowing, Love vs. Loyalty, Coincidence vs. Fate. Don't miss this intensely entertaining and provocative Broadway Premiere!
When? September, '12
Where? The Cort Theatre
Why? This is another cast-driven decision; i.e., Ed Asner and Paul Rudd, plus a very intriguing story. This season is musical-heavy and I'm pleased to have some good play options like this.
Well? Absolutely one of the best plays I've ever seen. The acting was flawless and heartbreaking; the story equally heartbreaking. From the shocking first scene, I was so emotionally pulled in and flung about that I could barely watch at times. But what was happening on that stage was so compelling that I didn't want to miss a moment. Paul Rudd is truly remarkable as the committed Christian entrepreneur with a wavering grasp on reality as is Kate Arrington who plays his supportive, but also wavering, wife. Ed Asner's devastatingly funny and devastatingly poignant portrayal of the pest control guy anchored the story and gave it so much heart, and Michael Shannon is note-perfect as the neighbor who is barely existing in his sinkhole of pain, both physical and psychological. I ached for each of these characters, and am so grateful to each of these actors and all involved with this show.
Last Dance /Workshop
What? From the show website: A Developmental Lab of The New Disco Musical
Produced in association with Robert D. Wachs. Those who missed the days of Studio 54, didn’t miss their Last Dance!! This exciting new show is a tale from the 70s when enough was never enough. A joyful celebration of disco dreams, glitter balls and dangerous delights. It’s a story about a time, not so long ago, when a man wrote songs for the woman he thought he’d never lose… “Disco Forever!”
Under the direction of Philip Wm. McKinley (Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, The Boy from Oz), music by Paul Jabara (Enough is Enough, Last Dance, It's Raining Men...), with book by
Shaun McKenna (The Lord of the Rings, The Musical), choreography by Carol Schuberg
(Meet Me in St. Louis) and musical direction by Wendy Cavett (Mamma Mia!).
The cast will include Emmy Award nominee Rob Morrow ("Northern Exposure," "Numb3rs"),
Jack Noseworthy (Jerome Robbins’ Broadway), and Jill Shackner (Les Miserables).
When? September, '12
Where? The York Theatre
Why? I'm actually shoe-horning this in between a Saturday matinee and Saturday evening show and will likely have to leave before the end, which will make me sad I'm sure, but I couldn't pass up the chance to see even a bit of this. As a former disco dance teacher, this would be close to my heart :).
Well? It's a compliment to this fledgling show that when I needed to leave at intermission, I sought out James Morgan, the producing artistic director at the York, to find out what happened to the characters in Act II! Rob Morrow was charming as the "disco ghost" taking a daughter through her parents' love story from the 70s with the disco soundtrack drawn from the songs of Paul Jabara. The actors, especially Rob, as Paul, the "MC," Jill Shackner as Suze the daughter who never met her father and Anastacia McCleskey as the diva singer and Suze's mother's friend and roomie, were the standouts for me. I enjoyed the weaving of the songs into the story (I was surprised that there were several I hadn't remembered), and I could imagine this production done on a large scale. That said, "Priscilla" did such a good job with beloved disco hits, that I think the show has a high bar to reach. I'll be interested to see what happens!
What? From the show website: From the slums of London to the heights of Hollywood, CHAPLIN is the showbiz Broadway musical about the silent film legend the world couldn’t stop talking about—Charlie Chaplin. The brand-new 22-person musical reveals the man behind the legend, the undeniable genius who forever changed the way America went to the movies.
Featuring a book by three-time Tony Award® winner Thomas Meehan (Hairspray, The Producers) and Christopher Curtis, music and lyrics by Christopher Curtis, directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle (Follies, Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway) and introducing Rob McClure as the legendary silent film star....
When? September '12
Where? The Barrymore Theatre
Why? I have so enjoyed the marketing for this show & I am excited to see the story done as a musical.
Well? Rob McClure is simply captivating in this role and his performance shouldn't be missed. Charlie Chaplin, the man, had many layers, some appealing, some not so. Yet even in the character's most unattractive moments, you can't help but root for him because McClure's charisma is so palpable. But he's not alone...this is a superb cast, young and older, filled with wonderful voices and committed acting. My favorites, along with Rob of course, were Christiane Noll as Chaplin's fragile, mentally unstable mother; Jen Colella as a ruthless Hedda Hopper; Wayne Alan Wilcox as Charlie's brother; and the enchanting Zachary Unger in the dual role of young Charlie and Jackie Coogan. I'm a big fan of creative, smooth scene transitions and this show had that in spades; it was elegant and lyrical, and the set and special effects were so organic that it just all is a delight. I really would love to see this one again...
Cyrano de Bergerac
What? From the show website: Tony Award® winner Douglas Hodge (La Cage aux Folles) is sure to dazzle Broadway audiences again in this delightful new production of the timeless classic Cyrano de Bergerac, directed by Jamie Lloyd (The Royal Court Theatre’s The Pride). Also starring Clémence Poésy (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) and Patrick Page (A Man for All Seasons).
Cyrano is a nobleman with a tremendous wit and an enormous nose. All of Paris adores him except for his true love Roxane, who can’t see past his all-too-prominent facial feature. Instead, she falls for a handsome young cadet named Christian. But when Christian admits he’s tongue-tied with Roxane, Cyrano gives him the romantic words guaranteed to win her heart. With Christian’s looks and Cyrano’s language, it’s a foolproof plan! Or is it?
An enduring masterwork with some of the most ingenious lines ever written for the stage, Cyrano de Bergerac is a clever and touching story about the power of love, the art of wordplay and the joy of finding what you’ve always wanted right under your nose.
When? September '12
Where? American Airlines Theatre / Roundabout
Why? I've never seen this on stage and the chance to see Patrick Page and Douglas Hodge couldn't be passed up.
Well? From the moment the lights go up on the sumptuous set, you are transported to another time and place, where players speak in rhyme, camaraderie is rich, laughter abundant, and love will out...and then there's the nose. The costumes and make up in this show are almost characters by themselves. Douglas Hodge's Cyrano is charming and valiant and foolhardy and sympathetic, without being pitiable. He, Patrick Page as Comte De Guiche, and Clemence Poesy as Roxane are a perfect trio to tell this well-loved story of unrequited love, self-doubt, heroism, friendship and lost opportunities. I am so glad that this was my first production of this famous play...it was fantastic! If you are also among those of us previously Cyrano-deficient theatre-goers, this is the version to see!!
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
What? From the show website: "This 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist is a drop-kicking, body-slamming, balls-out theatrical happening set in the larger-than-life world of professional wrestling. Macedonio “Mace” Guerra plays the fall-guy for mega-successful “THE” Wrestling League, losing again and again to the impossibly charismatic champ Chad Deity. When Mace discovers a young Indian-American Brooklyn kid whose charisma rivals that of Chad’s, Mace decides to get him a job in the company. Only problem is, the boss has a very specific plan for the duo: put them onscreen as terrorists. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity is a kick-ass comedy for the Obama-age. In wrestling, as in life, it’s tough to voice your own identity over the roar of the crowd.”
When? September '12
Where? Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington DC
Why? Professional wrestling is so not my thing; but exciting theatre is! This show has gotten some very good word of mouth and I am always intrigued to see a show about a topic/story that does not appear to interest me on paper, but has the potential to change the way I see things!
Well? Woolly Mammoth makes such good use of its intimate space. "...Chad Deity" is a story about the "larger than life" world of professional wrestling, and the use of the entire theatre (involving the audience in the action), a wrestling ring lowered from the rafters for the second act, wall-size screens for projected images, and a completely committed and passionate cast made the show work for me. The story is a personal one, and the main character/narrator is played winningly by Jose Joaquin Perez, as a perennial supporting, always-defeated player in the pro wrestling world. The stand outs for me though were Shawn Andrews as the annointed star of the league (representing the celebrity-obsessed, nationalistic, white-hat part of the culture) and title character; and Adi Hanash as the cocky, suave, womanizing "Indian from Brooklyn," who turns out to be surprisingly principled in the end. I thought the story itself was a bit muddled, but it was a unique and enjoyable evening; and as I left the theatre, one of the younger audience members was already on her phone to a friend saying "I loved every single minute of that!"