Category Archives: Events

***** ‘CINDERELLA’ FROM ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER (REVIEW) – NOT SO MUCH A BALL AS A BLAST ·

(Chris Wiegan’s article appeared in the Guardian, 8/18;  Photo:  Rebecca Trehearn as the Queen, with Sam Robinson (Dorian), Vinny Coyle (Arthur) and Giovanni Spano (Gawain) in Cinderella. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian.)

Gillian Lynne theatre, London

Bewitching melodies abound as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s terrifically OTT but warm and inclusive musical finally arrives

Delayed by a year because of the pandemic, and with last month’s opening night postponed at the 11th hour, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical is finally up and running. It arrives late but in high fashion with outre gowns, bare-chested swordplay, brutal high heels and whip-smart humour. It’s worth the wait.

The original story and book by Emerald Fennell have heart and a torrent of barbed wit, exposing the faulty morals in traditional fairytales without scrimping on glittering trimmings. David Zippel’s crystalline lyrics are attuned to Fennell’s dialogue, cheekily satirical yet wistful and uplifting too. Lord Lloyd-Webber’s richly enjoyable orchestrations range from grand waltzes, courtly processionals and marches to deftly pastiched and deeply felt romanticism, power-balladry, a splash of chanson and rollicking guitar riffs. Bewitching melodies abound: some refrains are practically iridescent, revealing new tones from scene to scene.

Laurence Connor’s production starts with a salvo against fairytale bunkum: the shock news is that Prince Charming is dead. Moreover, someone has graffitied his memorial statue. Fennell is up to something similar as she defaces and rewrites myths about femininity, masculinity and heroism, with the keen eye for gender politics she showed in Promising Young Woman.

Our setting is the immaculately preened Belleville. “There’s no town that can compete – frankly if they could we’d cheat,” boast the well-honed citizens in an exuberant opener marked by fanfares and comically fussy staccato. Belleville is famed for sweet roses and creamy milk: a town buffed to perfection where hot buns are not solely the preserve of the bakery.

(Read more)

COALITION OF CHICAGO THEATERS, CSO AND LYRIC OPERA WILL REQUIRE VACCINATIONS AND OTHER COVID PRECAUTIONS THIS FALL ·

(Doug George’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 8/17; Photo: Seats sit empty at Broadway in Chicago’s dormant James M. Nederlander Theatre in June 2020 in Chicago. The theater will reopen with “Paradise Square” in November. (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)

A large number of Chicago-area theaters, dance and performing arts companies, led by the League of Chicago Theatres, announced Tuesday morning they will require COVID-19 precautions including proof of vaccination or negative tests, and masks for audience members, at least through the end of 2021.

According to a statement from the League, a coalition of more than 65 theaters and arts producers will require proof of vaccination or in some instances a negative COVID-19 test for entry, as well as face coverings, though protocols will vary by theater. According to the statement, “the unified COVID-19 protection protocol” will go into effect Sept. 1 for all indoor productions, and will include Loop theaters run by Broadway in Chicago.

The coalition includes 16th Street Theater, A Red Orchid Theatre, About Face Theatre, Aguijón Theatre, Albany Park Theatre Project, American Blues Theater, Apollo Theater Chicago, Artemesia Theatre, Artistic Home, Aston Rep Theatre Company, Athenaeum Theatre, Auditorium Theatre, Babes with Blades, Black Button Eyes Productions, Bluebird Arts, Brightside Theatre, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble, Chicago Humanities Festival, the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA), Chicago Magic Lounge, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, Chicago Youth Shakespeare, Court Theatre, First Floor Theatre, First Folio Theater, Goodman Theatre, Greenhouse Theatre Center, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Hell in a Handbag, Her Story Theatre, High Concept Labs, House Theatre of Chicago, International Voices Project, the Joffrey Ballet, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Marriott Theatre, Midsommer Flight, the Neo Futurists, the New Coordinates, Northlight Theatre, Oak Park Festival Theatre, Oil Lamp Theater, Old Town School of Folk Music, Paramount Theatre, Piven Theatre Workshop, Pivot Arts, Playmakers Laboratory, Porchlight Music Theatre, Pridearts, Promethean Theatre Ensemble, Raven Theatre, Red Tape Theatre, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Saint Sebastian Players, Saltbox Theatre Collective, Second City, Shattered Globe Theatre, Skokie Theatre, Stage Left Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Theatre Wit, Three Brothers Theatre, Timeline Theatre Company, UrbanTheater Company, Victory Gardens Theater, WildClaw Theatre, Williams Street Repertory Theatre and Writers Theatre.

Where negative tests are accepted, audience members must provide proof of a COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of the performance start time, or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within 6 hours of the performance start time. This includes accommodations for children under 12 and people with medical conditions or religious beliefs preventing them from being vaccinated.

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TO UNDERSTAND AFGHANISTAN TODAY, REMEMBER THE WAR ON TERROR THEN–IN ‘ACTS OF WAR’ ·

“Acts of War: Iraq and Afghanistan in Seven Plays”
A book edited by Karen Malpede, Michael Messina and Bob Shuman

The plays included in this collection are: Guantanamo: “Honor Bound to Defend Freedom” by Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo; American Tet by Lydia Stryk; The Vertical Hour by David Hare; Prophecy by Karen Malpede; 9 Circles by Bill Cain; No Such Cold Thing by Naomi Wallace; and A Canopy of Stars by Simon Stephens.

View ‘Acts of War: Iraq and Afghanistan in Seven Plays’ at Amazon

FALL THEATRE PREVIEW (FROM THE NEW YORKER) ·

(Michael Schulman’s article appeared in The New Yorker, 8/16; Illustration by Zhenya Oliinyk.)

Last spring’s doomed Broadway season is revived, along with plays by Lynn Nottage, Alice Childress, Lucas Hnath, Annie Baker, and more.

If all goes according to plan—begone, Delta variant!—Broadway will soon rematerialize like Brigadoon. Ahoy, Phantom! Long time no see, Alexander Hamilton! Star casting provides a (proverbial) shot in the arm. Jeff Daniels returns as Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” starting at the Shubert on Oct. 5. Sara Bareilles reties her apron in “Waitress” (Barrymore, Sept. 2). And David Byrne performs an encore run of his sui-generis concert show, “American Utopia” (St. James, Sept. 17). Then there’s last year’s doomed spring season, much of which is finally coming out of the plastic wrap. Sam Mendes’s staging of “The Lehman Trilogy,” Stefano Massini’s epic tale of the Lehman clan, from its immigrant origins to the financial collapse of 2008, starts previews at the Nederlander on Sept. 25. Other long-delayed productions include a musical version of “Mrs. Doubtfire” (Sondheim, Oct. 21); the Roundabout’s revival of “Caroline, or Change,” Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s complex musical about a maid in the civil-rights era (Studio 54, Oct. 8); “Diana,” a singing answer to “The Crown” (Longacre, Nov. 2); and Lincoln Center Theatre’s musical “Flying Over Sunset,” which imagines the mid-century LSD experimentation enjoyed by Cary Grant, Clare Boothe Luce, and Aldous Huxley (Vivian Beaumont, Nov. 11).

Broadway also has some new additions, including seven works by Black playwrights and a couple of Off Broadway transfers. Second Stage produces “Clyde’s,” by the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, featuring Uzo Aduba as the proprietor of a truck-stop sandwich shop staffed by ex-convicts (Hayes, Nov. 3). In Douglas Lyons’s comedy “Chicken & Biscuits,” starring Norm Lewis and Michael Urie, a family secret upends a funeral (Circle in the Square, Sept. 23). “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” by Keenan Scott II, follows the lives of seven men during a single day in Brooklyn (Golden, Oct. 1). Alice Childress’s beloved backstage drama “Trouble in Mind,” from 1955, gets a long-overdue Broadway première, in a Roundabout production starring LaChanze (American Airlines, Oct. 29). And the Vineyard Theatre presents a rotating double bill of “Is This a Room,” Tina Satter’s haunting re-creation of the day that Reality Winner was questioned at her home by the F.B.I., and Lucas Hnath’s “Dana H.,” about the five months that the playwright’s mother spent in captivity (Lyceum, Sept. 24).

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‘ANGELA’S ASHES: THE MUSICAL’ STREAMS THROUGH IRISH REP, 9/9-9/22 ·

Irish Rep, along with Pat Moylan Productions, is proud to present the North American premiere of

 

Angela’s Ashes: The Musical

A two week special streaming event

Music and Lyrics by Adam Howell

Book by Paul Hurt

Based on the book by Frank McCourt

Directed by Thom Southerland

Starring Jacinta Whyte and Eoin Cannon

On Demand from September 9 – September 22, 2021

 

Angela’s Ashes: The Musical is a remarkable story, told with rare lyricism and a warm inimitable sense of humor as we follow Frank McCourt’s escapades and experiences in a Dickensian landscape peopled by a drunken father, a helpless mother, pompous priests, and bullying schoolmasters; money-lenders, dancing-teachers, and charity workers, culminating in his escape from grinding poverty to the redemption of a new life in America.

 

Reserve a digital ticket for Opening Night, September 9, at 7pm ET for a live stream of the production, and then receive on demand access for 48-hours, all for $30.

 

Don’t miss this incredible North American premiere before it disappears!

Visit Irish Rep

Photos: Irish Rep

‘RESPECT’ FILM REVIEW: JENNIFER HUDSON BRINGS SOUL TO ARETHA FRANKLIN BIOPIC ·

(Elizabeth Weitzman’s article appeared in the Wrap 8/8. Photo:  Quantrell D. Colbert/MGM.)

It’s more effective as a jukebox musical than a character piece, but the central performance and those amazing songs pull it all

It has not been an easy year for theater lovers, who have mostly made do with well-filmed performances of shows like “Hamilton” and “David Byrne’s American Utopia.”

In contrast to those projects, Liesl Tommy’s Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect” was created as an original film, but it works best when envisioned as a Broadway-style jukebox musical.

Tommy and writer Tracey Scott Wilson are making their cinematic debuts with this sturdy retelling of Franklin’s early life and career. However, they come to the project with impressive stage backgrounds, which inform every aspect of their approach. Any stage, of course, needs a star who can command the space. That the story intermittently recedes into the background might be problematic, were it not for the fact that the spotlight remains resolutely focused on a captivating Jennifer Hudson, who was chosen for the role by Franklin herself, before she passed away in 2018.

“Respect” actually begins with a 9-year-old Aretha (Skye Dakota Turner) just starting to understand her own gifts. Re, as she’s called, lives with her father (Forest Whitaker), the celebrated minister and civil rights activist C.L. Franklin. Life is busy — Re is often enlisted to sing at his Saturday night parties and Sunday services — but troubling.

Wilson and Tommy make delicate but undeniable reference to a childhood rape, which is soon followed by the death of Re’s mostly absent mother (Audra McDonald, underused). This is where her “demons” take hold, and soon the script skips ahead to the years when Aretha (now played by Hudson) begins pushing back against her controlling father and her husband, Ted (Marlon Wayans). Hudson, an Oscar winner for “Dreamgirls,” calibrates her performance with a lovely subtlety, so there are scenes when Re realistically embodies a shy church singer, rebellious young woman and confident musician all within minutes.

Realism, though, is not the filmmakers’ artistic priority. There’s a notable theatricality to most of the movie’s elements, beginning with a script that takes us from Big Moment to Big Moment. If Ted is holding a bottle of liquor, we know he’s about to get mean. When the phone rings, bad news will almost certainly follow. If Aretha stops to talk to someone at a party, it’s likely to be Smokey Robinson (Lodric D. Collins), who will say, “We are trying to put Detroit on the map. You gotta be a part of it!”

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***** ‘ANYTHING GOES’ REVIEW – SUTTON FOSTER DAZZLES IN COLE PORTER’S FIZZING TONIC FOR OUR TIMES ·

(Lyndsey Winship’s article appeared in the Guarddian, 8/5;  Photo: Full-beam lustre … Sutton Foster, centre, with, from left, Robert Lindsay, Jack Wilcox, Haydn Oakley and Samuel Edwards in Anything Goes. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian.)

Barbican, London
Blissful songs and dance and spirited performances from a virtuoso cast make a preposterous plot into a delightful musical escape

Descriptions of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes seem to pour out in drink metaphors: it’s sparkling, bubbly, a tonic. It’s certainly got the giddy hopefulness of the night’s first champagne bottle popped, suspended in that state when the world is full of bright delight and possibility. The auditorium is fizzing, too, a buoyantly full house. This 1934 show is Depression-era escapism fit for post-Covid times. If you want to remove yourself from the world for a few hours, this is the place to do it.

The genius of Anything Goes lies in the combination of seriously good music with a plot so gloriously inconsequential that a state of blithe, uncomplicated bliss is reached. PG Wodehouse co-wrote the original book but this version, by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman was the basis for a triple-Tony-award-winning 2011 Broadway revival, led by choreographer and director Kathleen Marshall, who takes the reins again here.

The story has shifted a little over time – and new songs added, like It’s De-Lovely, originally from Red, Hot and Blue – but it matters little what happens. There’s an ocean liner heading to London from New York, a jaded nightclub singer, a mid-range gangster, a young debutante and her mismatched English fiance, a love triangle, misaken identity, bad disguises, farce and wordplay, bias-cut satin and resplendent deco designs (by Derek McLane, costumes by Jon Morrell).

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EDINBURGH FRINGE FLOP IS NO LAUGHING MATTER FOR SCOTLAND ·

(Tom Rees’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 7/31. Photo: A street entertainer performs on the Royal Mile during a previous Fringe Festival. Organisers are concerned another bad year for the event will take its toll on the city’s economy and the UK’s wider culture sector CREDIT: Getty.)

 

Edinburgh’s arts festival returns but will be a shadow of its former self as frustration builds in Scotland

 

The Edinburgh Fringe is usually months in the making, but organisers this year have had to throw the August festival together in a matter of weeks.

“We’ve pretty much only started putting this festival together three weeks ago, and normally everything would be finished at Easter time,” says William Burdett-Coutts, the artistic director of Assembly Festival, one of the Fringe’s biggest venue operators.

Burdett-Coutts is frantically preparing a slimmed down programme ahead of what Scots hope will be their own “freedom day” on Aug 9.

While the world’s largest arts festival may still be going ahead, it is set to suffer badly from the fallout of Covid for a second year running.

A Yellow Pages-sized programme of almost 4,000 shows in more than 300 venues before the pandemic has been stripped down to its bare bones and many comedians are doing far shorter runs.

“I normally run 23 venues and put on about 250 shows,” Burdett-Coutts says. “This year, I’ve got three stages, and I’m putting about 25 shows on. It’s a very small event compared to what we normally do but we felt it was important to try to keep the flag flying.”

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SHAKESPEARE AT THE DELACORTE: ‘MERRY WIVES’ ·

MERRY WIVES
By William Shakespeare
Adapted by Jocelyn Bioh
Directed by Saheem Ali
Featuring Abena, Shola Adewusi, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Pascale Armand, MaYaa Boateng, Phillip James Brannon, Brandon E. Burton, Joshua Echebiri, Branden Lindsay, Ebony Marshall-Oliver, Jarvis D. Matthews, Jacob Ming-Trent, Jennifer Mogbock, Julian Rozzell Jr., Kyle Scatliffe, David Ryan Smith, and Susan Kelechi Watson

By Bob Shuman

Shakespeare in the Park returns to the Delacorte with a new version of The Merry Wives of Windsor, called Merry Wives, which is suited less for the outdoors than for small screens, reflecting the cramped quarters of the last 16 months: the neighborhood and its regulars; the local laundromat and fading signs for Biden-Harris.  COVID goes unmentioned, despite the fact that one former cast member had tested positive (social distancing protocols are in place), amid street drumming, lip-syncing, helicopter propellers (not part of the show, although overhanging air-conditioners are), and hair-braiding salons.  The Public’s staff has never seemed as accommodating (many thanks) or probably given as thankless a job, in asking audiences to keep their masks on;  despite a rainy weather forecast, Oscar Eustis, the artistic director, is emphasizing how the theatre belongs to the audiences in his introductory speech—volunteers and employees at Shakespeare in the Park have, over time, displayed de rigueur meanness with the bourgeoisie–and taxpayer largesse. After a year in the dark, because of the pandemic, this summer’s production, still wants to cancel, in accordance with current societal trends, dealing those in attendance an adaptation, which ultimately asks the public, and artists, what it will take to pull beyond sit-comming the Bard and art, and envisioning work as something other than variations on the broken record of one-party New York political thinking.  

The performers are ebullient, however, playing West African immigrants in South Harlem—and, as a homecoming to the theatre, the vehicle, with a popular Shakespearean character, who receives his just desserts for premeditated womanizing, is a sunny, colorful, becoming segue back into live work, even if these creatives  seem to have been binging on “Roadrunner” cartoons, as artistic inspiration.  Were our times not so dangerous (speaking now beyond infectious diseases), a light review could be left, guiltlessly, but Merry Wives, is also “shrunk,” like clothes might be in Mistress Ford’s laundry, simplified with easy stereotyping, which can impose meanings and facilitate inaccurate appraisals of communities and original art (recall that one of Verdi’s outsized masterpieces, Falstaff, is based on the same play, more complex and psychologically examined). The issue of how adaptors and adaptations change meaning by becoming overly obvious, direct, and simplified—by changing words and calling it free speech–is worthy of examination, where even a play by Shakespeare might be misapprehended and erased, for our own good.

In Central Park, on July 14, the predicted rain never comes, although it is explained that a cast member had been injured the night before, reminding of the almost forgotten physical reality of theatre and the Herculean effort of putting up plays, especially after a postponed opening and at this time.

Merry Wives may be all it wants to be.  And, for the moment, after so long, maybe it is all it needs to be.

with AbenaShola AdewusiGbenga AkinnagbePascale ArmandMaYaa BoatengPhillip James BrannonBrandon E. BurtonJoshua Echebiri, Branden LindsayEbony Marshall-OliverJarvis D. MatthewsJacob Ming-TrentJennifer MogbockJulian Rozzell Jr.Kyle ScatliffeDavid Ryan Smith, and Susan Kelechi Watson

MERRY WIVES
By William Shakespeare
Adapted by Jocelyn Bioh
Directed by Saheem Ali

Tickets are reserved through the Public in online lotteries

Visit the Public 

© 2021 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

THE WOOSTER GROUP’S PRODUCTION OF BERTOLT BRECHT’S ‘THE MOTHER’ TO MAKE US DEBUT AT THE PERFORMING GARAGE, OCTOBER 2021 ·


(via Jim Byk/Kelly Guiod, The Press Room)

The Wooster Group’s production
of Bertolt Brecht’s

The Mother 
to make US debut
 
The Performing Garage
October 2021

 

Photo: The Wooster Group’s production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Mother in rehearsal.
Performers: Ari Fliakos, Kate Valk
Photographer: Michaela Murphy 

 
(July 29, 2021 – New York, NY) – Following its world premiere at Vienna’s prestigious Wiener Festwochen, The Wooster Group’s new production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Motherdirected by Elizabeth LeCompte, will open in New York at The Performing Garage (33 Wooster Street). Performances will run from October 12 – November 6 and an official opening on October 26, 2021. The Mother marks the first time The Wooster Group has staged a work by Brecht.
 
After a year’s delay due to the global pandemic, the piece premiered in June at Wiener Festwochen, the festival’s only theater piece from the United States. Brecht conceived of The Mother as a “learning play,” intended to both entertain with its clear, plainspoken language and musical numbers, and to incite social change. Brecht addressed the play mainly to working class women. It tells a story of a poor, uneducated Russian mother’s journey to revolutionary action. The play premiered in Berlin in 1932 and was the last of Brecht’s plays to open in Germany before the Nazis seized power.
 
The Group’s modern American interpretation of The Mother evokes parallels between contemporary political unrest and the socialist revolutions that inspired Brecht’s play. In embracing Brecht’s ideas for his “learning plays,” the Wooster Group takes a direct approach to the source text and incorporates new music by composer Amir ElSaffar.

The Wooster Group’s production of The Mother is composed by the Group, directed by Elizabeth LeCompte and features performances by Kate Valk in the titular role, Jim FletcherAri FliakosGareth Hobbs, and Erin Mullin. The sound is by Eric Sluyter, the video by Irfan Brkovic, and the lighting by David Sexton. Musician and composer Amir ElSaffar, who works across classical, jazz, and Arabic musical forms, has provided new music for the piece. (The play’s original music was written by Hanns Eisler). 

The full company for The Mother includes Hai-Ting Chinn (choral music director), Erin Mullin (stage manager), Michaela Murphy (assistant director), Joseph Silovsky (technical direction & set construction), David Glista (technical director at The Performing Garage), Bona Lee (production manager), and Cynthia Hedstrom (producer). 

The Mother is supported by co-production funds from Wiener Festwochen and piece by piece productions. 

Additional support is provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the New York State Council on the Arts; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation; Howard Gilman Foundation; Lucille Lortel Foundation; Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation; The Shubert Foundation; Harold & Mimi Steinberg Foundation; the Group’s Directors Circle; and generous individual donors. A special thank you to Rita Ackermann and Hauser & Wirth.

Music by Amir ElSaffar is commissioned by The Wooster Group with funds from New York State Council on the Arts and New Music USA (made possible by annual program support and/or endowment gifts from Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Helen F. Whitaker Fund, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc., Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Howard Gilman Foundation, Anonymous).  

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