Monthly Archives: January 2024

SHAKESPEARE’S SWAN SONG: A BARD’S FAREWELL (A DAY IN THEATRE) ·

On January 31, 1606, the renowned Globe Theatre in London witnessed the final performance of William Shakespeare’s King Henry VIII. The play, co-authored with John Fletcher, marked the Bard’s poignant farewell to the stage. Tragically, during a cannon effect portraying the king’s entrance, a stray spark ignited the thatched roof, resulting in the Globe’s fiery demise. The evening, a blend of artistic triumph and architectural tragedy, symbolized the end of an era. Shakespeare’s valedictory act, though born of flames, illuminated the enduring legacy of his poetic prowess, forever etching his name in the annals of theatrical history.

Credits: ChatGPT (2); Photo: Britannica

 

CHITA RIVERA, ILLUSTRIOUS BROADWAY STAR, DIES AGED 91 ·

The actor, dancer and singer starred in musicals including West Side Story and Chicago

(Chris Wiegan’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/30; Photo: Chita Rivera arrives at the 72nd annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York, 2018. Photograph: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP.)

Chita Rivera, one of Broadway’s most illustrious stars, has died at the age of 91.

A consummate “triple-threat” entertainer, Rivera was celebrated for her singing, acting and dancing in classic musicals including West Side Story and Chicago. She won Tony awards for best actress in a musical for Kiss of the Spider Woman and The Rink and was given a lifetime Tony award in 2018.

Rivera emerged as a New York theatre sensation in the 1950s and was still centre-stage six decades later, in the 2015 Broadway production The Visit, which reunited her with composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb. She performed their songs over decades, not just in musicals but also in her own cabaret revues.

Rivera’s father was born in Puerto Rico and her mother had Scottish and Irish heritage. Rivera grew up in Washington DC with four siblings and her father died when she was seven. She briefly considered becoming a nun and said her first encounter with theatre was attending mass, as she was dazzled by the text, the incense and the colourful costumes.

Rivera was an energetic child, later describing herself as the neighbourhood’s “cheetah” as she was always running around and cycling fast. At the age of nine, after breaking a table when causing a rumpus at home, she was sent by her mother to learn ballet in the hope that it would instil some discipline and let her burn off some energy. Rivera recalled how her father’s saxophone and clarinet were sold by her mother to pay for the dance lessons and how she felt a sense of repaying her family’s investment in her throughout her career.

After attending George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet, she set her sights on musical theatre. Having started out performing as Conchita del Rivero she shortened her name after being told it was too long for theatre posters. In 1956, she starred in Mr Wonderful with Sammy Davis Jr, with whom she had a relationship.

The following year brought her the role of Anita, one of the Puerto Rican Sharks gang who performs Jerome Robbins’ rousing choreography for America in West Side Story and also shares a duet, A Boy Like That, with Maria in the musical. With music by Leonard Bernstein, book by Arthur Laurents and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story’s spin on Romeo and Juliet was a phenomenon first on Broadway and then in the West End, via Manchester (“I’d never seen so much fog,” remembered Rivera). By the time it reached London, Rivera had married Tony Mordente – who played a member of the Sharks’ rival gang, the Jets – with whom she had a daughter, Lisa. Rivera and Mordente’s relationship had begun in secret as the actors playing the Sharks and the Jets had been told they shouldn’t socialise, in order to heighten the tension between their characters.

(Read more)

LEN CARIOU IN SEA DOG’S POIGNANT “TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE” (March 1-23) ·

(via DARR Publicity; Photo: Jeremy Varner)

Broadway legend Len Cariou, Sweeney Todd himself, joins Sea Dog Theater‘s Artistic Director Chris Domig (their friendship echoes Morrie & Mitch!) for a poignant journey in “Tuesdays with Morrie.” Mitch Albom‘s bestseller comes alive onstage, March 1-23, as a journalist reconnects with his ailing professor, finding life’s wisdom in their weekly talks.  Domig, touched by the pandemic’s impact on the elderly, discovered this timeless tale and knew just who to play Morrie: his good friend Cariou. Don’t miss this heartwarming production at St. George’s Church! (March 1-23, 209 E. 16th St., $35+

Visit: More info at https://www.seadogtheater.org

(Blurb written with Chat GPT and Bard)

‘DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES’ REVIEW – 60s MARITAL DRAMA BECOMES BROADWAY MUSICAL WINNER ·

(Lauren Mechling’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/29; Photo:  Brian d’Arcy James  and Kelli O’Hara/Photograph: Joan Marcus.)

Studio 54, New York

Song-heavy adaptation of the bruising 1962 Blake Edwards drama about a couple grappling with addiction makes for a surprising success

It’s probably a good thing there’s no intermission in Days of Wine and Roses, the musical adaptation of Blake Edwards’s 1962 film. The harrowing and hugely captivating Broadway production wastes no time diving into the toll that alcoholism takes on married couple Kirsten and Joe Clay, and it’s doubtful any audience member would be inclined to pony up for a mid-show sippy cup of Chardonnay. Director Michael Greif’s production is shot through with heartache and hangovers, and worth all the squirming in your seat.

Twenty-one years in the making, this version of the classic starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick incorporates music that manages to underscore the mood without watering down the story’s intensity. The songbook (music and lyrics by Adam Guettel) is full of minor keys and suffused with a darkness that is rare for a star-studded Broadway extravaganza (Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James carry the show). No matter how gorgeous the voice of O’Hara – who sings the majority of the tunes – nobody bursts into a larger-than-life medley. (Though a bouffant and bombed Kirsten’s manic and musical vacuum cleaning session comes pretty close.)

The script and songs bleed into one another, with plenty of opera-like sing-talking that strikes a smart and serious tone. For all their sophistication, these numbers are low-slung and moody, and likely won’t appear on your favorite Peloton instructor’s upcoming Showtunes-themed playlist.

Korean war vet turned PR dynamo Joe (played by James, who inhabits his role with mid-century machismo) meets spritely and initially Sprite-sipping Kirsten at a work event. When we first lay eyes on Joe, he is aboard a booze cruise filled with the smorgasbord of comely women he has arranged for his bosses’ pleasure. He homes in on the innocent and beautiful executive assistant.

(Read more)

THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, ON STAGE VOICES: 1/21/2024 – 1/28/2024 ·

The past week’s international stage highlights, brought to you via the world’s foremost journalism.  Bard, the large language model from Google AI, provided information, insights, and materials for this article (facilitated by Bob Shuman).

  1. LONDON CALLING: THE TRIUMPHANT RETURN OF “THE KING AND I”
  • Source:Dominic Cavendish, The Times (London), January 15, 2024
  • The Story:London’s West End witnessed a majestic revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved “The King and I,” captivating audiences with its opulent sets, soaring vocals, and Tony Leung Chiu-wai’s commanding performance as the King. Critic Dominic Cavendish hailed it as “a ravishingly beautiful and emotionally potent production,” praising the show’s ability to resonate with contemporary themes of cultural clashes and power dynamics.
  • Playing at:Dominion Theatre, until March 2nd, 2024
  1. BROADWAY BATTLES: A PHYLLIDA LLOYD DOUBLE BILL ROCKS NEW YORK (“NO MAN’S LAND,” “JULIUS CAESAR”)
  • Source: Jesse Green, The New York Times, January 22, 2024
  • The Story:Renowned director Phyllida Lloyd is shaking things up on Broadway with two contrasting productions: a witty revival of Harold Pinter’s “No Man’s Land” starring Ethan Hawke and John Malkovich, and a bold, gender-bent take on Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” featuring Okieriete Onaodowan as a female Brutus. Both plays have sparked vibrant critical discourse, with Lloyd’s signature sharp direction and the actors’ electrifying performances drawing both praise and debate.
  • Playing at:
    • No Man’s Land: Cort Theatre, open ended
    • Julius Caesar: Public Theater, April 16th – June 29th, 2024
  1. PARIS IN PUTSCH: CONTROVERSY ERUPTS OVER NEW PLAY ABOUT NAZI GERMANY “REICHSTAG”
  • Source: Fabrice Dupont, Le Monde, January 20, 2024
  • The Story:Parisian audiences are abuzz with the provocative new play “Reichstag,” which explores the rise of Nazism through the lens of an ordinary German family. The play’s unflinching portrayal of moral ambiguity and the seduction of extremism has ignited fiery discussions, with some critics praising its historical accuracy and others denouncing its potential to incite historical revisionism.
  • Playing at: Théâtre du Rond-Point, until March 1st, 2024
  1. BERLIN BECKONS: GLOBAL COLLABORATIONS TAKE CENTER STAGE (“LINGUA FRANCA”)
  • Source:Barbara Behrend, Der Tagesspiegel, January 24, 2024
  • The Story:Berlin’s Schaubühne theatre continues its tradition of pushing artistic boundaries with “Lingua Franca,” a multilingual experiment featuring actors from across the globe. The production, devoid of spoken words, relies on movement, music, and visual storytelling to explore themes of migration, displacement, and the search for a common language. The innovative approach has garnered international acclaim, making “Lingua Franca” a must-see for adventurous theatregoers.
  • Playing at:Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, January 21st – February 25th, 2024

  1. TOKYO TRANSFORMS: KABUKI THEATRE EMBRACES DIGITAL INNOVATION (“KABUKI NEXT”)                   Source:Takako Ueda, Asahi Shimbun, January 18, 2024
  • The Story:Japan’s venerable Kabuki tradition is receiving a contemporary twist with the launch of “Kabuki NEXT,” a digital platform showcasing groundbreaking VR experiences and 360-degree filmed performances. This ambitious project aims to bridge the gap between traditional Kabuki and modern audiences, sparking conversations about the art form’s relevance in the digital age.
  • Playing on: Kabuki NEXT platform, ongoing
  1. FROM CAIRO TO COPENHAGEN: THE POWER OF THEATRE TO BRIDGING DIVIDES
  • Source:Michael Billington, The Guardian, January 23, 2024 
  • The Story:Across the globe, theatre is proving its power to connect communities and foster understanding. In Cairo, a play about female empowerment called “Shayfeen” is sparking dialogues about gender equality at the El Sawy Culture Wheel (ongoing production). Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, a project titled “The Boys of Bethlehem” brings together young Palestinian and Israeli actors to challenge stereotypes and build bridges through shared artistic expression. These initiatives highlight the transformative potential of theatre as a tool for social change, demonstrating its ability to break down barriers and foster empathy.
  1. THE BARD BEYOND BARDS: SHAKESPEARE IN UNEXPECTED PLACES
  • Source:Alastair Sooke, BBC World News, January 25, 2024
  • The Story:From a pop-up performance of “Hamlet” in a Syrian refugee camp to a reimagining of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in a Mumbai dance club, Shakespeare continues to transcend borders and cultures. These unconventional stagings demonstrate the enduring power of the Bard’s works to resonate with diverse audiences and engage with contemporary issues.
  • Examples:
    • “Hamlet” – Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan (January 2024)
    • “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” – The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Mumbai (February 2024)
  1. THE SHOW MUST GO ON: THEATRE RESPONDS TO A CHANGING WORLD
  • Source: Charles McNulty, Variety, January 21, 2024
  • The Story:As the theatre industry grapples with the ongoing pandemic and rising costs, theatres are finding innovative ways to adapt and survive. Online streaming platforms, interactive audience experiences, and community outreach initiatives are just some of the strategies being employed to keep the curtain rising. This resilience and adaptability offer a glimpse into the future of theatre, one that is both dynamic and determined.
  • Examples:
    • National Theatre (UK) – streaming productions online
    • The Public Theater (NYC) – interactive “Mobile Unit” program
    • Berliner Ensemble (Germany) – community outreach workshops
  1. THE FUTURE IS FEMALE: WOMEN LEAD THE WAY ON AND OFF STAGE
  • Source:Sarah Hemming, The New York Times, January 27, 2024 
  • The Story:From playwrights and directors to actors and producers, women are making their voices heard and shaping the future of theatre. Initiatives like the Kilroy Prize for Playwrights and the Athena Festival are fostering gender equality and providing platforms for female artists to tell their stories. This shift in power dynamics promises a more diverse and vibrant theatrical landscape.
  • Examples:
    • Kilroy Prize for Playwrights – established in 2014 to honor the work of emerging female American playwrights
    • Athena Festival – founded in 2012, a biennial festival celebrating women in theatre
  1. LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: FILMMAKERS FALL FOR THE STAGE
  • Source: Wendy Ide, The Guardian, January 26, 2024 
  • The Story:The allure of the stage isn’t limited to live audiences. Filmmakers are increasingly turning to theatre for inspiration, adapting beloved plays and musicals into captivating cinematic experiences. From Joel Coen’s “Macbeth” to Stephen Frears’ “The Ferryman,” these adaptations offer fresh perspectives on classic stories and showcase the talent of both stage and screen actors.
  • Recent examples:
    • “Macbeth” (2021) – directed by Joel Coen, starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand
  • “The Ferryman” (2019) – directed by Stephen Frears, starring Stephen Rea and Ciarán Hinds

Thank you for visiting Stage Voices.  Please return.

NOW ON BROADWAY: SUNDAY, JANUARY 22 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 27 (NEW SHOWS ROUNDUP) ·

(Bard, the large language model from Google AI, provided information, insights, and materials for this article.)

ON BROADWAY:

Days of Wine and Roses

About: The new musical explores alcoholism’s grip on a married couple, based on the Oscar-winning film.

Opened at: The show is playing at Studio 54 and opened on January 28, 2024.

Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James (photo by Joan Marcus)

White Rose: The Musical:

  • About: An inspiring true story of teenage resistance against Nazi Germany, sung with uplifting melodies and powerful messages.
  • Opened at: Tony Kiser Theatre (334 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036) on Thursday, January 25, 2024.
  • Reviews:
    • Positive: Marilyn Stasio (Variety) highlighted the catchy music, uplifting message, and strong performances. Frank Rizzo (New York Theatre Guide) appreciated the historical accuracy and emotional impact of the musical.

White Rose: The Musical production shot

OFF-BROADWAY:

Jonah:

  • About: A suspenseful mystery unfolds at a prestigious boarding school as a student encounters a classmate shrouded in secrets.
  • Opened at: Playwrights Horizons Peter Jay Sharp Theatre (416 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036) on Wednesday, January 24, 2024.
  • Reviews:
    • Positive: Naveen Kumar (TheaterMania) commended the suspenseful plot, engaging performances, and exploration of teenage self-discovery. Roma Torre (New York Post) praised the play’s intelligence, sharp dialogue, and captivating mystery.

Jonah production shot

Noteworthy upcoming openings:

  • Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy: This satirical comedy about Russian trolls working in a disinformation factory opens on February 3 at the Vineyard Theatre.
  • The White Chip: This dark comedy about an alcoholic theatre director’s journey to recovery opens on February 1 at the MCC Theater.
  • Jonah: This intriguing play about teenage desire and deception opens on February 1 at the Roundabout Theatre Company.

 

KRAPP’S LAST TAPE REVIEW – STEPHEN REA IS HAUNTINGLY GOOD IN BECKETT’S MASTERPIECE ·

(Helen Meany’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/19; Photo: ‘Minute flickers of emotion’ … Stephen Rea in Krapp’s Last Tape, directed by Vicky Featherstone, at Project Arts Centre, Dublin. Photograph: Patricio Cassinoni.)

PROJECT ARTS CENTRE, DUBLIN

There isn’t a hint of sentimentality in Vicky Featherstone’s delicately calibrated production of Samuel Beckett’s monologue about mortality

Making his annual tape recording on the eve of his birthday, Krapp (Stephen Rea) lingers over words, as if English is not his first language. “Spool. Spooooool,” he pronounces, as he searches for reels of tape recorded in years past. Reminding us that Samuel Beckett wrote many of his works in French, it is one of a number of tiny, clever touches in Vicky Featherstone’s production.

Beckett’s celebrated play from 1958 is so precisely composed in its interplay of language, movement and silence that any new variations tend to be all in the detail. As the 69-year-old Krapp listens to tape recordings of his younger self, he pauses and interjects. Rea’s eyes register minute flickers of emotion, his years of performing to camera adding a subtlety that seems effortless.

Bemused by the confident delivery of the 39-year-old on tape, Krapp mocks his younger self’s artistic ambition. As he berates himself for his lack of achievement in the intervening years, Rea brings a harsh, almost sarcastic tone to his self-criticism, deepening its pathos. Not only does Krapp feel like a failure but he has to kick himself about it as well.

(Read more)

MoMA SUED BY ARTIST WHO PERFORMED NUDE IN MARINA ABRAMOVIC WORK ·

(from The New York Times, 1/24; via The Drudge Report; Photo: The New York Times.)

A performance artist has sued the Museum of Modern Art, saying that officials neglected to take corrective action after several visitors groped him during a nude performance for the 2010 retrospective “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present.”

The allegations were submitted this week in New York Supreme Court, with the artist, John Bonafede, seeking compensation for emotional distress, career disruption, humiliation and other damages.

Mr. Bonafede had participated in one of Ms. Abramovic’s most famous works from the 1970s, “Imponderabilia,” which requires two nude performers to stand opposite each other in a slim doorway that visitors are encouraged to squeeze through to enter an adjoining gallery.

According to his lawsuit, Mr. Bonafede was sexually assaulted seven times by five museum visitors. He reported four of the individuals to MoMA security, which ejected them from the galleries, the lawsuit said; the fifth assault was directly observed by security.

Mr. Bonafede said in legal filings, however, that MoMA officials “turned a blind eye” to the assaults and created a hostile work environment where performers were expected to submit to the actions of unruly audience members. His lawsuit comes nearly 14 years after the exhibition; New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which gave people an additional window to file sexual misconduct claims, expired in November, but there was an agreement to extend this case.

“John believes that there should be edgy performance art like this in major institutions,” said his lawyer, Jordan Fletcher. “But his goal here is to make sure that performers are properly taken care of and that their safety is ensured.”

(Read more)

CURTAIN RISES ON A CHEKHOV MASTERPIECE (A DAY IN THEATRE) ·

On January 24, 1901, the Moscow Art Theatre unfurled its curtains to an enraptured audience, unveiling Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” in a theatrical crescendo. Directed by the maestro Konstantin Stanislavski, the play’s premiere orchestrated an emotional symphony, delving into the intricate harmonies of the Prozorov sisters’ lives. The ensemble cast, like virtuoso musicians, brought Chekhov’s characters to life with a nuanced performance that resonated with the soulful echoes of human yearning.

In this luminous moment, Chekhov’s exploration of the human condition reverberated through the hallowed halls of the Moscow Art Theatre, forever etching its place in the annals of dramatic brilliance.

Credits: ChatGPT