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Hollywood Reporter – Theater Reviews Feed

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/theatre-reviews.xml Hollywood Reporter – News Feed http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/thr/reviews/theater/~3/7l7R_EEoX70/this-day-forward-949561 949561 at http://www.hollywoodreporter.com <div><img src=”http://cdn4.thr.com/sites/default/files/2016/11/this_day_forward_holley_fain_michael_crane_-_production_still_-_h_-_2016.jpg” class=”ff-og-image-inserted”/></div><div readability=”23.466666666667″> <p class=”article__meta”><span class=”js-publish-date” data-pubdate-value=”2016112118″>6:00 PM PST 11/21/2016</span> by <span class=”js-authors-list”><span class=”author”>Frank Scheck</span></span></p> </div><div readability=”106.73923639318″> <h2 class=”article__deck”>Grown children wrestle with their parents’ troubled legacy in this dark comedy by Nicky Silver, author of ‘The Lyons.'</h2> <p>Nicky Silver continues to work out his mother issues with this new play receiving its world premiere at off-Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre. Featuring many of the same themes and preoccupations exhibited in the playwright’s previous works, including <a href=”http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/the-lyons-theater-review-315077″ target=”_blank”><em>The Lyons</em></a> — which started at the same theater before moving to Broadway in 2012 — <em>This Day Forward</em> belies its title by going nowhere new.</p> <p>The play does start off surprisingly, with a first act that resembles the sort of strained farcical comedies that populated Broadway in the 1950s and ’60s. It’s set in 1958 in a room at New York City’s St. Regis Hotel, where the well-heeled Martin (Michael Crane) and Irene (Holley Fain) are about to spend the night after having just gotten married.</p> <p>It doesn’t look like things are going to go well for the couple, who are leaving the next day for their honeymoon in Acapulco, when the visibly agitated Irene resists her new husband’s entreaties to take off her wedding dress. And that indeed turns out to be case, as Irene tells Martin, “I don’t love you.” She reveals that she’s also involved with Emil (Joe Tippett), a gas station worker whom she rhapsodizes about as being “very manly, virile.”</p> <p>It isn’t long before Emil shows up, ready to claim Irene and scoffing at Martin’s complaints that she’s romanticized her uncouth lover as “some kind of Stanley Kowalski.” Fisticuffs eventually ensue, and the emotional fallout continues until the next morning, improbably involving a Polish maid (June Gable) and her bellhop son (Andrew Burnap) who ridicules his mother’s broken English.</p> <p>When Act 2 — set 46 years later in 2004 — begins, what happened to Martin and Irene becomes apparent as we’re introduced to Noah (Crane), their son, and his younger lover Leo (Burnap). Noah is a successful television director pondering a move to Los Angeles, much to Leo’s distress. The elderly Irene (Gable), who’s living with Noah’s aggrieved sister Sheila (Francesca Faridany) and suffering from dementia, has gone missing. She’s eventually found at the airport, where she was intending to board a plane to Acapulco, and is returned to her children.</p> <p>With the emotionally charged confrontations that ensue, the playwright shifts to his comfort zone of illustrating how parents pass their unhappiness down to their children, who more often than not turn out to be gay. But little about the proceedings feels fresh, and, with the exception of one hilarious line on that theme delivered by Irene that brings down the house, the brittle dialogue and thin characterizations aren’t very funny or interesting. Everything in the sluggishly paced play feels attenuated — the lengthy first act seems to go on forever — and drawn with overly broad strokes.</p> <p>Directed by Mark Brokaw, the production can’t be faulted, with Allen Moyer’s beautifully realistic and detailed settings particularly noteworthy. The performers try mightily but are largely unable to overcome the schematic nature of their characters, although Gable is a hoot in her two roles. One can easily imagine these being played by Linda Lavin, who appeared in Silver’s <em>The Lyons</em> and <em>Too Much Sun</em>. It’s another reminder that, for this prolific playwright, <em>This Day Forward</em> feels like two steps back.</p> <p><em>Venue: Vineyard Theatre, New York<br/>Cast: Michael Crane, Holley Fain, Andrew Burnap, June Gable, Joe Tippett, Francesca Faridany<br/>Playwright: Nicky Silver<br/>Director: Mark Brokaw<br/>Set designer: Allen Moyer<br/>Costume designer: Kaye Voyce<br/>Lighting designer: David Lander<br/>Music &amp; sound designer: David Van Tieghem<br/>Presented by the Vineyard Theatre</em></p> </div><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> Tue, 22 Nov 2016 02:00:00 +0000 ‘This Day Forward': Theater Review Grown children wrestle with their parents’ troubled legacy in this dark comedy by Nicky Silver, author of ‘The Lyons.’ http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/this-day-forward-949561 http://cdn4.thr.com/sites/default/files/2016/11/this_day_forward_holley_fain_michael_crane_-_production_still_-_h_-_2016.jpg article en text/html http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/this-day-forward-949561 Culture Culture USA THR Online Off Broadway Theater http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/thr/reviews/theater/~3/SxZh_SbBSyo/sweet-charity-review-949242 949242 at http://www.hollywoodreporter.com <div><img src=”http://cdn1.thr.com/sites/default/files/2016/11/sweet_charity_production_still.jpg” class=”ff-og-image-inserted”/></div><h2 class=”article__deck”>Sutton Foster returns to the stage between seasons of ‘Younger’ to play the unlucky-in-love dancehall hostess in this musical based on Federico Fellini’s ‘Nights of Cabiria.'</h2> <p>The 50-year-old musical <em>Sweet Charity</em> has always been a shiny bauble, elevated by some terrific songs by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, and exhilarating dance numbers, but weakened by the emphasis on laughs over pathos in Neil Simon’s superficial book, which fizzles out in a bittersweet ending. The matchless pairing of director-choreographer Bob Fosse and star Gwen Verdon by most accounts overshadowed the material’s weaknesses in the 1966 Broadway premiere. Directing his first movie with the 1969 screen version, Fosse hadn’t yet mastered the glittering hard edge that would serve him so well three years later in <em>Cabaret</em>. But the film remains enjoyable, with its kaleidoscope of ’60s kitsch and kinetic energy, plus a disarming characterization from Shirley MacLaine.</p> <p>The challenge for any revival of the show is finding a headliner who has the necessary song-and-dance skills and can channel the bruised vulnerability as well as the enduring innocence and eternal optimism of Charity Hope Valentine, the New York City dancehall hostess for whom love is a religion that yields few blessings. This stripped-down production from off-Broadway’s New Group meets the requirements, and then some, in one of our most gifted musical theater stars, two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster.</p> <p>Reteaming after their rewarding 2014 collaboration on <a href=”http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/sutton-foster-violet-theater-review-697787″ target=”_blank”><em>Violet</em></a>, in which emotional intimacy was the keynote, Foster and director Leigh Silverman bring comparable insight to <em>Sweet Charity</em>. They embrace the goofy, big-hearted openness of the title character, but also the bleakness of her reality, in many ways making her truer to her inspiration, the immortal Giulietta Masina’s sad-clown Roman hooker in Federico Fellini’s <em>Nights of Cabiria</em>. There’s grit and sleaze under the tacky sequined professional apparel of Charity and her colleagues at the Fandango Ballroom, where they ply their trade as what used to be called “taxi dancers.” “Who dances?” one of them quips. “We defend ourselves to music.” But beneath their sass and cynicism, these girls still yearn.</p> <p>Mounted on a short thrust stage, with a strong multitasking ensemble of just 12, and a six-piece all-female band up above performing Mary-Mitchell Campbell’s jazz-combo orchestrations, the small-scale production puts the action practically in the audience’s laps. That means we share directly in every dizzying moment of possibility that surfaces for Charity as well as every rude awakening that follows.</p> <p>If the approach falls short of revelatory, that’s perhaps because this flawed show can never seem complete without Fosse’s dance moves, so inextricably associated with numbers like “Big Spender” and “Rich Man’s Frug.” Choreographer Joshua Bergasse occasionally nods to the Fosse vernacular with a foot curl, a mincing strut or a frisky gallop. But his dances, especially in ensemble numbers like “The Rhythm of Life” and “I’m a Brass Band,” too often become chaotic. Foster, however, makes the choreography work for her; few if any musical-theater performers can touch her in terms of acting through her dancing.</p> <p>One of director Silverman’s cleverest ideas was to make the various men who drift through Charity’s life literally interchangeable. In an impressively versatile performance, Joel Perez (<em>Fun Home</em>) plays Charlie, the louse of a boyfriend who wins Charity’s trust and then shoves her into the lake in Central Park while stealing her savings; Herman, the tough-guy Fandango manager with the soft heart; Vittorio Vidal, the Italian movie star who gives her a taste of glamor before returning to his drama-queen girlfriend Ursula (Nikka Graff Lanzarone, priceless); and Daddy Brubeck, the hepcat alternative-religion guru who switches Charity on to “The Rhythm of Life.” Perez’s distinctive characterizations in each part extend also to his supple vocals.</p> <p>The one exception to Perez’s monopoly on the principal male roles is Oscar Lindquist, the neurotic accountant who appears to be the answer to love-starved Charity’s prayers, his search for “inner contentment” making him her ideal soul mate. Shuler Hensley plays him with such schlumpy warmth and sweetness that you really do long for it to work out for them, right from their beautifully played first meeting, when they get trapped together in an elevator at the 92nd Street Y. And when this genuine guy inevitably gives in to his milquetoast side and is unable to overlook Charity’s past, Hensley makes it as heartbreaking for Oscar as it is for her.</p> <p>Of course, the pulse of the show is the incandescent Foster, ably flanked by Asmeret Ghembremichael and Emily Padgett as her teasing but affectionate pals at the Fandango, Nickie and Helene. Those gals are pragmatists, but they’re not above daydreaming in “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” and “Baby, Dream Your Dream,” both of which are just lovely. Unlike her jaded colleagues, Charity wears her hopefulness on her sleeve, maintained with affecting determination that often veers into willful self-delusion, even in the face of cruel disappointment. What’s most remarkable about Foster’s performance is the way she constantly juggles resilience with defeat, dignity with humiliation, joy with sorrow.</p> <p>Foster is the rare star defined by her generosity as a performer. She draws her energy not from big solo moments but from her fully engaged interplay with the ensemble, connecting with everyone on the stage, as much as the audience. Her talent for physical comedy is peerless, notably as she tries to keep up with the dance steps of the poseurs at the Pompeii Club, pinching herself to be mingling with such sophisticates; that makes the scene a hoot, even without the sizzling Fosse dynamic. Or when she fixes a sandwich before retreating to Vittorio’s closet, where she hides out and observes as if she’s watching a torrid screen melodrama while he serenades Ursula in “Too Many Tomorrows.” Hurling herself at every guy who comes along in “You Should See Yourself,” Foster is like a silent-comedy slapstick artist.</p> <p>The infectious buoyancy of her performance crescendos in “If My Friends Could See Me Now,” armed with Vittorio’s gifts of a top hat, cane and tap shoes. Anybody who has seen Foster in shows like <em>Thoroughly Modern Millie</em> or <em>Anything Goes</em> knows her virtuoso dance credentials, but she’s too good an actor to bring out-of-character poise and precision to Charity. The gangly physicality and seemingly uncontrollable exuberance of her movement here are an intrinsic part of her take on the role. There’s also something wonderfully unladylike about the blissful disregard with which she flashes her lavender lace knickers.</p> <p>That breezy nonchalance makes it all the more devastating when her dreams crumble, a blow articulated in Silverman’s smart choice to close the show with Charity’s introspective question “Where Am I Going?” (normally placed midway through the second act), surrounding her with Fandango dancers and patrons all similarly left behind, like ghosts. With its notes of melancholy ambiguity, the conclusion might still seem tentative by conventional musical standards, but Foster sells it, with real tears conveying both despair and defiance.</p> <p>Derek McLane has designed the production with effective economy, allowing for brisk scene changes as a handful of items are brought on and off the bare stage to establish various locations. Jeff Croiter’s lighting also is sharp, capturing the dead-end squalor of the Fandango without obscuring the possibility of a fairy-tale exit. There are pluses and minuses with this kind of lean, modern treatment, but what’s lost in spectacle and theatrical magic is gained in closer access to a tender character study. If, as whispered, the hot-ticket production moves to Broadway next season when Foster’s commitment to TV Land’s <em>Younger</em> permits, it could use a bit more oomph in the choreography, which should be a prerequisite of upsizing to a larger stage. But the crucial component that requires zero improvements is Foster’s gorgeous performance. She’s perfection.</p> <p><em>Venue: Pershing Square Signature Center, New York<br/>Cast: Sutton Foster, Joel Perez, Asmeret Ghebremichael, Emily Padgett, Shuler Hensley, Yesenia Ayala, Darius Barnes, James Brown III, Sasha Hutchings, Donald Jones Jr., Nikka Graff Lanzarone, Cody Williams<br/>Director: Leigh Silverman<br/>Music: Cy Coleman<br/>Lyrics: Dorothy Fields<br/>Book: Neil Simon, based on the original screenplay</em> Nights of Cabiria <em>by Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Plaiano<br/>Set designer: Derek McLane<br/>Costume designer: Clint Ramos<br/>Lighting designer: Jeff Croiter<br/>Sound designer: Leon Rothernberg<br/>Music director: Georgia Stitt<br/>Orchestrations: Mary-Mitchell Campbell<br/>Choreographer: Joshua Bergasse<br/>Presented by The New Group, in association with Kevin McCollum</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> Sun, 20 Nov 2016 22:15:00 +0000 ‘Sweet Charity': Theater Review Sutton Foster returns to the stage between seasons of ‘Younger’ to play the unlucky-in-love dancehall hostess in this musical based on Federico Fellini’s ‘Nights of Cabiria.’ http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/sweet-charity-review-949242 http://cdn1.thr.com/sites/default/files/2016/11/sweet_charity_production_still.jpg article en text/html http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/sweet-charity-review-949242 Culture Culture USA THR Online Broadway Off Broadway Theater http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/thr/reviews/theater/~3/KYKnxyaQtlA/dead-poets-society-review-947612 947612 at http://www.hollywoodreporter.com <div><img src=”http://cdn5.thr.com/sites/default/files/2016/11/dead_poets_society_0063.__l_to_r_-_zane_pais_thomas_mann_bubba_weiler_william_hochman_yaron_lotan_jason_sudeikis-h_2016.jpg” class=”ff-og-image-inserted”/></div><h2 class=”article__deck”>Jason Sudeikis steps into one of Robin Williams’ most iconic roles in Tom Schulman’s stage adaptation of his Oscar-winning screenplay for the 1989 film, also featuring Thomas Mann.</h2> <p>Making a creditable dramatic theater debut in an underwhelming project, <a href=”http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/dead-poets-society-jason-sudeikis-playing-robin-williams-iconic-role-onstage-q-a-948015″ target=”_blank”>Jason Sudeikis puts his own gentle funnyman spin</a> on John Keating, the inspirational English teacher at the starchy all-boys preparatory school in <em>Dead Poets Society</em>. That role’s indelible association with Robin Williams, who played the character onscreen in Peter Weir’s 1989 film, turns out to be less of a snag than the material itself. Director John Doyle brings his customary stripped-down elegance to the production, and elicits sensitive performances from the young actors playing Keating’s students. But Tom Schulman’s thin adaptation of his Oscar-winning screenplay exposes its contrivances and sentimentality, failing to make a strong case for its stage translation.</p> <p>I’ll acknowledge I may not be this play’s ideal audience, having always felt somewhat ambivalent about the movie, aside from the strength of Williams’ performance and those of then-emerging actors Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke. Schulman sets up Keating as a free-spirited saint and then martyrs him in predictable fashion, after his impassioned lessons on seizing the day and sucking the marrow out of life cause unsurprising problems for the impressionable 16-year-old lads of tradition-bound Welton Academy in 1959 New England. But it’s difficult to discern the possible rewards even for admirers of the film in this absorbing but unnecessary reproduction.</p> <p>The project’s most persuasively theatrical element is its design. Scott Pask’s single set is a large rear-wall library with a blackboard at its center, and Doyle gives symbolic weight to books. Stacks of well-worn hardcover texts are lugged from the shelves by the young cast (crisply uniformed by costumer Ann Hould-Ward) to serve as seats in the classroom and elsewhere. And late in the play, when one of the boys has betrayed the group’s principles, the others hurl armloads of the heavy tomes at him in a powerful gesture of rebuke. Japhy Weideman’s lighting also is evocative, particularly in the cave off-campus where the secret club of the title meets.</p> <p>The Welton students hand out programs as the audience arrives, and both Sudeikis’ Keating and stern headmaster Paul Nolan (David Garrison) frequently address us directly, fostering our intimate involvement in classroom discussions and school assemblies. But despite those promising ideas, the writing struggles to give the drama a life of its own, independent of the movie. Aside from some minor plot modifications toward the end, Schulman has filleted rather than adapted his text, which rarely strays far from the film, lifting chunks of dialogue word for word. And having the boys hum snatches of the school anthem or Celtic-flavored tunes under the action at various points adds texture, but it also underlines the material’s inherently cinematic conception.</p> <p>The 100-year-old academy boasts of being the best prep school in the country and the boys are drilled with its four pillars: tradition, honor, discipline and excellence. Transfer student Todd Anderson (Zane Pais) is so painfully shy he plans to keep his head down and observe those rules. But outgoing Neil Perry (Thomas Mann) takes the new boy under his wing and makes him feel included, encouraging him to share in a healthy disrespect for the fusty institution. That instinctual rebellion finds an outlet in the exhortations of their new English teacher to shrug off the sheep mentality and embrace their individuality. “Make your lives extraordinary,” urges Keating, a Welton alumnus.</p> <p>Adopting Walt Whitman as their spirit guide and “Carpe diem” as their motto, the students (reduced to six for the purposes of stage economy) respond in different ways to Keating’s stimulating new influence. Todd stops stammering and finds a means of self-expression. Knox Overstreet (William Hochman) summons the courage to woo the girl of his dreams, Chris (Francesca Carpanini, in a role even more thankless than her screen counterpart). Charlie Dalton (Cody Kostro) liberates his inner beatnik. And Neil ignores the orders of his authoritarian father (Stephen Barker Turner, far too mild to be effective), who has mapped out his entire future; instead, Neil throws himself with gusto into acting in a production of <em>A Midsummer Night’s Dream</em>.</p> <p>Even audiences unfamiliar with the movie are likely to see exactly where the story is headed as dreams are crushed and tragedy ensues, prompting the school administration to seek a scapegoat. Schulman certainly writes with earnest feeling about the virtues of boldness, defiance and action in the face of stifling conformity, and the sad irony of boys being forced into just the kind of blind obeisance that Keating had been teaching them to question. But the drama nonetheless feels like a formulaic Hollywood gloss on very British films about influential teachers who leave a formative mark, like <em>Goodbye, Mr. Chips</em>, or especially, <em>The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie</em>, the latter based on a novel that became a play en route to the screen.</p> <p>The performances from the young cast are appealing and often quite affecting, notably Mann, making a confident New York stage debut, and Pais, whose Todd ultimately leads the boys in showing solidarity for the condemned Keating. Garrison also strikes the right tone as the by-the-book headmaster, without making him a caricature. Sudeikis, looking suitably tweedy and professorial, is impressive throughout, drawing on his sketch comedy and improv skills to inject spontaneity and looseness into Keating’s interactions with his students. Even if he can’t hide the shortsighted, romantic naiveté written into the character, he never undersells the dedicated educator’s sincerity.</p> <p>However, despite the classy production’s strengths, its insurmountable shortcoming is that this drama about forging an identity and being true to one’s self remains an imitation, stuck in the shadow of its source.</p> <p><em>Venue: Classic Stage Company, New York<br/>Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Zane Pais, Thomas Mann, Cody Kostro, Bubba Weiler, William Hochman, Yaron Lotan, David Garrison, Stephen Barker Turner, Francesca Carpanini<br/>Director: John Doyle<br/>Playwright: Tom Schulman, based on his screenplay for the Touchstone Pictures film<br/>Set designer: Scott Pask<br/>Costume designer: Ann Hould-Ward<br/>Lighting designer: Japhy Weideman<br/>Music: Jason Michael Webb<br/>Sound designer: Matt Stine<br/>Presented by Classic Stage Company, by special arrangement with Adam Zotovich</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, 18 Nov 2016 00:15:00 +0000 ‘Dead Poets Society': Theater Review Jason Sudeikis steps into one of Robin Williams’ most iconic roles in Tom Schulman’s stage adaptation of his Oscar-winning screenplay for the 1989 film, also featuring Thomas Mann. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/dead-poets-society-review-947612 http://cdn5.thr.com/sites/default/files/2016/11/dead_poets_society_0063.__l_to_r_-_zane_pais_thomas_mann_bubba_weiler_william_hochman_yaron_lotan_jason_sudeikis-h_2016.jpg article en text/html http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/dead-poets-society-review-947612 Culture Movies Culture USA THR Online Jason Sudeikis Robin Williams Thomas Mann Peter Weir Off Broadway Theater

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