Hollywood Reporter – Theater Reviews Feed

Hollywood Reporter – Theater Reviews Feed

http://ftr.fivefilters.org/makefulltextfeed.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Ffeeds.feedburner.com%2Fthr%2Freviews%2Ftheater&max=5 Hollywood Reporter – News Feed http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/thr/reviews/theater/~3/weQ_qHKuabY/king-and-i-tour-957142 957142 at http://www.hollywoodreporter.com <div><img src=”http://cdn1.thr.com/sites/default/files/2016/12/the_king_and_i_publicity_-_h_2016.jpg” class=”ff-og-image-inserted”/></div><h2 class=”article__deck”>Laura Michelle Kelly and Jose Llana star in the touring production of Bartlett Sher’s sumptuous Tony-winning revival of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, playing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre.</h2> <p>Rodgers and Hammerstein’s <em>The King and I</em> has been revived four times on Broadway since its 1951 debut, most recently last year by director Bartlett Sher, whose <a href=”http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/king-i-theater-review-789315″ target=”_blank”>Lincoln Center Theater production</a> won four Tony Awards including one for its acclaimed star Kelli O’Hara. That sublime production — now with Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna — is beginning to make its way around the country on tour, arriving in Los Angeles this week at the Pantages Theatre for a six-week run.</p> <p>So daring in its day 65 years ago, as it tackled slavery, tyranny, sexism, racism, feminism and anti-intellectualism, <em>The King and I</em> feels all too fresh returning to us now just as the world seems to be regressing.</p> <p>The story of Anna Leonowens, the widowed British schoolteacher who arrives in 1860s Bangkok to tutor the King of Siam’s children in English and Western culture, is familiar to generations of theatergoers and movie fans. Bestowing her subtle lessons of girl-power on the wives and humility upon the men, Kelly’s brave Anna brims with grace and grit. Alone in a new country, she calms herself and her young son by “whistling a happy tune” during the show’s timeless opening number, setting the stage for her fearless adventure.</p> <p>Assembling an uncommonly strong cast for a touring production, Sher has kept his 2015 stage vision intact, right down to one of its kings, Jose Llana, who portrayed the title role for two stretches during the recent Broadway run. Llana’s ties to the show run deep (and his love for this material shows). He made his Broadway debut in the 1996 revival, appearing as the young lover Lun Tha in a production that starred Donna Murphy and Lou Diamond Phillips. While that revival had its moments, Sher’s take is one long rapturous moment — a work of art that stirs, then lingers like a watercolor.</p> <p>In one of the greatest scores in Broadway history, this spot-on cast is gifted with classics such as “I Have Dreamed,” “Hello Young Lovers,” “Shall We Dance” and “Getting To Know You” — music so pure it doesn’t need much more than a light operatic touch. It’s refreshing just to sit back and enjoy a musical in which the performers aren’t jockeying for notes as if they were contestants on <em>American Idol</em>.</p> <p>If a show so rich can even have a best song, it is probably the intoxicating “Something Wonderful” — a plea for understanding from the King’s elder wife, the wise Lady Thiang, portrayed so earnestly by Joan Almedilla. “I Have Dreamed” also stands out in the hands of Kavin Panmeechao and Manna Nichols, as the doomed lovers Lun Tha and Tuptim.</p> <p>Catherine Zuber’s costumes dazzle, and Michael Yeargan’s sets (both grand and minimalist) provide the brilliant backdrop, particularly during the orchestral “March of the Siamese Children,” when the King is revealed as human after all.</p> <p>However, the real magic in this show has always been the way it conveys an entire love story in a single physical gesture. And it is that pivotal moment midway through “Shall We Dance” when the King takes hold of Anna, that this particular production also sets itself apart.</p> <p>Because the late Yul Brynner inhabited this role so completely on stage and screen for more than 30 years, it became something close to folly for an actor even to try to do his own thing in the part. But Llana is a force, and his tormented, relatable King is another reason this evening is so dreamy.</p> <p>But back to reality. There were some uncomfortable titters in the opening-night audience when the King asks how Abraham Lincoln became president of America and Anna answers with, “I believe he studied very hard.” When he muses that he might build a fence around Siam and when his son searches for signs of intelligent life in the Universe, these topics also seemed sadly close to home. Seductive performances, timeless music and timely themes make Sher’s production of <em>The King and I</em> as compelling and important today as it ever was.</p> <p><em>Cast: Laura Michelle Kelly, Jose Llana, Joan Almedilla, Manna Nichols, Kavin Panmeechao, Anthony Chan, Graham Montgomery, Brian Rivera, Baylen Thomas<br/>Director: Bartlett Sher<br/>Music: Richard Rodgers<br/>Book &amp; lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II, based on the novel</em> Anna and the King of Siam<em>, by Margaret Landon<br/>Set designer: Michael Yeargan<br/>Costume designer: Catherine Zuber<br/>Lighting designer: Donald Holder<br/>Sound designer: Scott Lehrer<br/>Music direction: Ted Sperling<br/>Orchestrations: Robert Russell Bennett<br/>Dance &amp; incidental music arranger: Trude Rittmann<br/>Choreographer: Christopher Gattelli, based on original choreography by Jerome Robbins<br/>Production: Lincoln Center Theater<br/>Presented by Ambassador Theatre Group, NETworks Presentations</em></p> <p><strong><a href=”https://blockads.fivefilters.org”>Let’s block ads!</a></strong> <a href=”https://github.com/fivefilters/block-ads/wiki/There-are-no-acceptable-ads”>(Why?)</a></p> Fri, 16 Dec 2016 23:56:19 +0000 ‘The King and I': Theater Review Laura Michelle Kelly and Jose Llana star in the touring production of Bartlett Sher’s sumptuous Tony-winning revival of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, playing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/king-and-i-tour-957142 http://cdn1.thr.com/sites/default/files/2016/12/the_king_and_i_publicity_-_h_2016.jpg article en text/html http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/king-and-i-tour-957142 Culture USA THR Online Broadway Theater http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/thr/reviews/theater/~3/rhqN-PCrk3I/dreamgirls-review-956090 956090 at http://www.hollywoodreporter.com <div><img src=”http://cdn1.thr.com/sites/default/files/2016/12/amber_riley_in_dreamgirls_at_the_savoy_theatre._credit_brinkhoff-mogenburg-h_2016.jpg” class=”ff-og-image-inserted”/></div><h2 class=”article__deck”>’Glee’ discovery Amber Riley raises the roof as Effie White, the backup singer with dreams, as director Casey Nicholaw brings the legendary Broadway musical to London for the first time.</h2> <p><em>Dreamgirls</em> has been a long time coming to the West End. But 35 years after its Broadway premiere and a decade after Bill Condon’s Oscar-winning movie whetted Brit appetites, the show proves that in the right hands it really is worth waiting for. Director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw’s zestful, spectacularly entertaining and at times overwhelmingly stirring production is irresistible.</p> <p>It’s easy to imagine that Broadway will get to share in the results. With <em>The Book of Mormon</em>’s Nicholaw at the helm and a solid cast led by <em>Glee</em> discovery Amber Riley — the latest performer to become electrifying in the blessing of a role that is Effie White — a transfer seems extremely likely. After all, aside from a brief return New York engagement in 1987, it’s been more than three decades since Michael Bennett’s legendary original production closed.</p> <p>In conveying the topsy-turvy rise of three Chicago friends, from backup singers to headliners in the 1960s and ’70s, Nicholaw and his skilled production team perform a couple of key sleights of hand: they maximize the Savoy Theatre’s narrow, seemingly restrictive stage with such ingenuity and precision that it sometimes feels as if the cast’s energy is being harnessed and literally poured outward into the auditorium; and they marshal that fine-voiced trans-Atlantic company into a near-seamless ensemble that has the audience eating out of its hands.</p> <p>That’s not to say the production has shaken off the material’s flaws. There’s an interesting coincidence in the show’s timing in London, hot on the heels of the Donmar production of Kemp Powers’ <em>One Night in Miami</em>. In form, these are very different animals of course — one a tight-knit drama, the other a rollicking musical. The common ground is interest in those tensions that arose when black American performers tried to cross over into the so-called mainstream of the white-dominated pop charts.</p> <p>In Powers’ play, Malcolm X chides soul singer Sam Cooke for pandering to white tastes; in <em>Dreamgirls</em>, car salesman-turned-music promoter Curtis Taylor Jr (Joe Aaron Reid) cynically transforms R&amp;B singer Jimmy “Thunder” Early (Adam J. Bernard) into a black Perry Como, stripping his music of its soul and the man of his mojo, before setting his sights with the same intent on Early’s backing singers, the Dreamettes.</p> <p>The correspondence between the two pieces is a reminder of <em>Dreamgirls</em>’ weak spot, namely Tom Eyen’s book, which doesn’t eke out nearly as much nuance or drama from its theme as it might. Nor is it any more satisfying when dealing with the personal conflicts of the piece, as Curtis’ manipulations turn Effie, Deena Jones (Liisi LaFontaine) and Lorrell Robinson (Ibinabo Jack) against one other.</p> <p>The thin plotting leaves us to wonder about Effie’s missing years of career ostracism and single motherhood, the social impact of the upgraded Dreams without her and how such an evident heel as Curtis can keep so many people under his spell. Can it be a coincidence that the main driver of the book, Curtis, frequently appears to be accompanied by a weak performance? Reid here rarely registers as more than a two-dimensional shark in a suit.</p> <p>While Nicholaw doesn’t overcome these deficiencies, he does understand that the show’s effect — all of its drama and emotion, as well as its entertainment value — lies in the scintillating songs by Henry Krieger and Eyen. And it’s here that this effervescent production thrives.</p> <p>The musical hardly ever keeps still, crackling with energy and momentum from one song and dance number to the next. Tim Hatley’s set design appears to borrow from the Bennett model, with four mobile towers of lights, which organize the space as well as providing onstage lighting effects; and while this at first seems a one-note approach, as the show progresses the design reveals more layers and versatility. And with it, Nicholaw orchestrates a series of jaw-dropping transitions — with set, lighting, costumes, hair, the whole shebang changing in a flash before our eyes.</p> <p>The best example from the first act is a terrific rendering of “Steppin’ to the Bad Side,” which opens with a <em>West Side Story</em> vibe, the strutting Curtis leading male dancers in a dynamic, macho-posturing routine in an edgy urban setting, before — bang — down comes a glittering scarlet backdrop and the girls appear in beautiful blue dresses, taking over the number. In the second act, there’s an even more dazzling moment as Effie’s performance of “I Am Changing” segues from audition to packed club performance, complete with a miraculous costume change from drab day clothes to a shimmering gown (Gregg Barnes’ wardrobe design is consistently eye-catching).</p> <p>Yet for all the theatrical gymnastics, when a song needs to dig deep, every ounce of focus turns onto the performer. And there’s no more obvious instance than the musical’s signature song, Effie’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” which closes the first act. Up to this point, Riley has been impressing with her voice but struggling to impose her character. That all changes as Effie realizes that having already lost her lead spot and her man to Deena, she’s also lost her place in the group. The song, addressed to Curtis, is a final, angry yet futile show of defiance.</p> <p>To say that Riley knocks it out of the park would be an understatement; she rips the roof off the building and tears into the sinew of every person in the auditorium. While Reid is on stage with her, he seems to absorb some of the singer’s power as she directs Effie’s rage and vulnerability toward him. But when he exits, Riley turns all that emotion and her full vocal voltage outward. The standard physical response to high drama — the hairs on the back of your neck, welling tears, the tingle in the spine — all seem to happen at once, along with some new ones, bringing the audience to its feet before the first act is quite done. It’s an extraordinary experience.</p> <p>Until that moment, the first act has been dominated by high jinks, largely centered on the rambunctious Jimmy — James Brown, Chuck Berry and Little Richard rolled into one — before his fall from grace. He’s very appealingly played by Bernard, who is a real find, with a good voice and some serious moves; his lead on “Fake Your Way to the Top” is one of the show’s highlights; though he’s also victim to one of Nicholaw’s few missteps, in failing to convey either the comedy or embarrassment of Jimmy’s first, botched attempt at crossover, “I Want You Baby,” in which the singer can’t quite restrain his howling ebullience. The director also exerts too little pathos in Jimmy’s exit from the story.</p> <p>But Nicholaw and his female performers do succeed wonderfully in keeping the adrenaline running into the second act. Riley’s performance of “I Am Changing” is gorgeous, and her duet with LaFontaine of “Listen” (interpolated from the movie) creates so much girl-power frisson that the audience is again on its feet.</p> <p><em>Venue: Savoy Theater, London<br/>Cast: Amber Riley, Liisi LaFontaine, Ibinabo Jack, Joe Aaron Reid, Adam J. Bernard, Tyrone Huntley, Nicholas Bailey, Lily Frazer<br/>Director-choreographer: Casey Nicholaw<br/>Book and lyrics: Tom Eyen<br/>Music: Henry Krieger<br/>Additional material: Willie Reale<br/>Set designer: Tim Hatley<br/>Costume designer: Gregg Barnes<br/>Lighting designer: Hugh Vanstone<br/>Sound designer: Richard Brooker</em><br/><em><em>Musical supervisor and director: Nick Finlow<br/>Orchestrations: Harold Wheeler</em><br/>Presented by: Sonia Friedman Productions, Tulchin Bartner Productions, Colin Callender, Catherine Schreiber, Bruno Wang Productions, Greenleaf Productions, Richard Winkler, 1001 Nights Productions, Scott M. Delman, We Aren’t Leaving Productions, Brian Zeilinger, Just for Laughs Theatricals</em></p> <p><strong><a href=”https://blockads.fivefilters.org”>Let’s block ads!</a></strong> <a href=”https://github.com/fivefilters/block-ads/wiki/There-are-no-acceptable-ads”>(Why?)</a></p> Wed, 14 Dec 2016 23:00:00 +0000 ‘Dreamgirls': Theater Review ‘Glee’ discovery Amber Riley raises the roof as Effie White, the backup singer with dreams, as director Casey Nicholaw brings the legendary Broadway musical to London for the first time. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/dreamgirls-review-956090 http://cdn1.thr.com/sites/default/files/2016/12/amber_riley_in_dreamgirls_at_the_savoy_theatre._credit_brinkhoff-mogenburg-h_2016.jpg article en text/html http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/dreamgirls-review-956090 Culture USA International United Kingdon THR Online Amber Riley Bill Condon Broadway London Theater Theater http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/thr/reviews/theater/~3/it6OoqVkzJ8/hedda-gabler-theater-956031 956031 at http://www.hollywoodreporter.com <div><img src=”http://cdn5.thr.com/sites/default/files/2016/12/jpeg_3-h_2016.jpg” class=”ff-og-image-inserted”/></div><h2 class=”article__deck”>Ruth Wilson plays the ultimate bored housewife in this production at the National Theatre in London, directed by Ivo van Hove, who created the recent Tony-winning revival of ‘A View From the Bridge.'</h2> <p>Sort of a transfer and sort of a whole new thing, white-hot Belgian director Ivo van Hove’s take on <em>Hedda Gabler</em> at London’s National Theatre seems to be a redo of his New York Theater Workshop show from 2004, right down to the blasts of Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” and the sadistic use of tomato juice. Obviously, the cast is new, led by an incandescent Ruth Wilson (from Showtime’s <em>The Affair</em>) in the title role, while the other major change is the text: Out goes Christopher Hampton’s translation, and in comes a succinct new adaptation by longtime National playwright Patrick Marber (<em>Closer</em>). The lucky souls who saw the original, highly acclaimed production starring Elizabeth Marvel can debate the pros and cons of this new incarnation, but everyone else can join the chorus of approval for this bold, austere and uncomfortably sensuous reimagining of Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama.</p> <p>Eschewing the period trappings and bourgie-Victorian diction and postures that historically kit out interpretations of this work, first performed in 1891, this is a 21st-century <em>Hedda</em> through and through. The set is dressed by van Hove’s longtime design partner Jan Versweyveld as a cavernous, bare apartment with unpainted drywall partitions that start to look like giant Rothko paintings over the long haul. Inset into one wall is a large picture window with vertical blinds, which Hedda toys with like a bored cat at one point.</p> <p>Elsewhere, a video intercom reveals who’s calling at the door, and other glazed holes in the plaster function as a fridge or cupboard, a fire extinguisher’s cubby hole and a display cabinet for those notorious, fateful pistols that once belonged to Hedda’s father. There’s also a handy hole in the floor, flush to the stage like a pit barbeque at the beach, in which to burn manuscripts. The furniture is all downtown junk-shop chic — a shabby sofa in a shade of blush that nearly matches the heroines bias-cut slip; an Arne Jacobsen chair for Berte the maid (Eva Magyar) to sit on patiently throughout, silent witness to Hedda’s shenanigans; and an upright piano, its guts exposed. On this, Hedda plonks the same mournful minimal notes over and over again as the audience files into the auditorium before the house lights dim.</p> <p>Slinky, blowsy and clearly broken inside, Wilson’s Hedda is a vampy slattern, in bare feet and a bathrobe for most of her day until it’s time to don metallic stilettos to play hostess. Capricious to her core, she’s disingenuous about nearly everything, even and especially to herself — from her feelings about the various men in her life to her opinions on real estate. (The details of how she and husband Tesman randomly ended up in their new home could only sound more contemporary if Ibsen had included a discussion of fixed-rate mortgages).</p> <p>Van Hove and Wilson posit a Hedda who is part spoiled little rich girl, and part frustrated performance artist. In a fit of pique, she thrashes the flowers that have been lying in florist’s buckets around the room, scattering the stems wide and then stapling them to the walls. She whirls and cavorts to Mitchell’s “Blue” like a contemporary dancer, high on the song’s supply of melancholy. “Hell’s the hippest way to go,” indeed. That said, even the most ardent Joni fan might wonder whether the song needed to be played four times throughout the play, although the repetition does evoke the obsessiveness of emo teens in bedrooms.  </p> <p>So Hedda may be a frustrated artist, but as her withering dismissal of Tesman’s academic research suggests, she has little interest in traditional handicraft. As other critics and scholars have often remarked, she is actually, like her creator himself, something of a dramatist, trying to puppeteer the people around her. Her medium of choice is power and manipulation, all to create the aesthetic perfection she so prizes — the main thing she wants from Lovborg’s suicide is that it should be beautiful. The downfall comes once she finds she can’t compete when she meets an even more powerful and skillful manipulator in Judge Brack (Rafe Spall, ferociously sexy). He’s forever grabbing and groping her, and she responds with vague alarm at first and then abandon and flirtation, as if she’s decided to own the sexual harassment and make it a game.</p> <p>The charged scenes shared by Wilson and Spall are the night’s big draw, and the electric chemistry powers the show, but there’s combustible energy also in the other pairings. Wilson’s Hedda alternately indulges her whiny, narcissistic American husband Tesman (Kyle Soller) and treats him to withering bursts of sarcasm that he barely notices. She’s insincerely girlish and fake-friendly with Thea Elvsted (Sinead Matthews, who has a marvelously expressive rasp of a voice), whom she both patronizes and envies for her assumed parity with men. With Lovborg (Chukwudi Iwuji, charismatic), however, she’s at her most vulnerable. Her tremulousness with him and repeated emphasis on how young she was when they first met suggests, very subtly, that he sexually abused her when she was still a girl. Her subsequent actions can therefore be read as revenge.</p> <p>I don’t know if this subtext came through so clearly in the 2004 production in New York, but in 2016 it feels very palpable and very timely, particularly in a U.K. that’s been rocked so deeply of late by child-abuse scandals, especially ones involving the rich and powerful. In 1891, <em>Hedda Gabler</em> must have felt very clearly like a commentary on modern womanhood, especially as it was evolving in the light of a growing feminist movement. This production, in its singular and smart, sly way, appears to be saying something equally relevant about feminism, victimhood and female identity today.</p> <p><em>Venue: National Theatre, London</em><br/><em>Cast: Ruth Wilson, Kyle Soller, Kate Duchene, Eva Magyar, Rafe Spall, Chukwudi Iwuji, Sinead Matthews</em><br/><em>Playwright: Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Patrick Marber</em><br/><em>Director: Ivo van Hove</em><br/><em>Set and lighting designer: Jan Versweyveld</em><br/><em>Costume designer: An D’Huys</em><br/><em>Sound designer: Tom Gibbons</em><br/><em>Presented by National Theatre</em></p> <p><strong><a href=”https://blockads.fivefilters.org”>Let’s block ads!</a></strong> <a href=”https://github.com/fivefilters/block-ads/wiki/There-are-no-acceptable-ads”>(Why?)</a></p> Wed, 14 Dec 2016 12:41:53 +0000 ‘Hedda Gabler': Theater Review Ruth Wilson plays the ultimate bored housewife in this production at the National Theatre in London, directed by Ivo van Hove, who created the recent Tony-winning revival of ‘A View From the Bridge.’ http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/hedda-gabler-theater-956031 http://cdn5.thr.com/sites/default/files/2016/12/jpeg_3-h_2016.jpg article en text/html http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/hedda-gabler-theater-956031 Culture USA International United Kingdon THR Online Rafe Spall Ruth Wilson London Theater Theater

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