Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category
Judith: A Parting from the Body by Howard Barker, is based loosely on the Biblical tale of this woman’s heroism as depicted by artists through the ages including Artemesia Gentileschi, Botticelli, Lucas Cranach the Elder and Gustav Klimt. In Barker’s rendition, Judith, played by Pamela J. Gray, comes to the tent of Holofernes, wiry Alex Draper, accompanied by The Servant, brought to life by the excellent Patricia Buckley and garbed somewhat like a modern Orthodox Jewish woman in black hat and pearls. In this version, the fatal encounter is a complex duel of seduction and deception that requires the audience to stay alert as the narrative is challenging. We know how the story ends but, at times, aren’t sure it will move along the traditional directions as the actors lie to one another often leaving truth in doubt.
Is a puzzlement – why Barlett Sher and Michael Yeargan, the Tony award winning director and set designer of South Pacific, respectively, would create such a sparse scenic design for The King and I. The stage of the Vivian Beaumont Theatre is over 3,500 square feet – and much of the time (in the palace and in the forest) all we see on the large portion that thrusts out into the audience is a black floor with a lonely actor or two singing upon it.
Even if the performances of the Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama Group were half as good as they are, we’d have to be grateful to them for even attempting to perfom ancient theater in the original language as something more than an academic exercise. For quite a few years now, the Matthew Alan Kramer Fund has enabled Barnard and Columbia students to offer these productions with some resources for costumes, sets, etc., but the essential ingredient in their success (Tthey usually sell out) is the passionate dedication and hard work of all involved—above all the student actors, who often rise to a level far beyond what we normally expect from even the most serious efforts of colleges and universities. Beyond youthful energy and enthusiasm, an impressive concentration of solid Greek, close, intelligent study of Euripides and his text, and, above all, theatrical talent brought this rarely performed—rarely even read—masterpiece to life.
It’s not what you would expect of a Broadway musical. No dancing-singing chorus. No chorus, actually, and barely any real dancing. But singing? Oh yes. Wonderful singing that projects Alison Bechdel’s story with moving honesty, deep-felt emotion and palpable joy. We alternate among three stages of Alison’s life, her pre-teen years, her college years and her adulthood looking back on her childhood and family.
How much Peter Pan is too much Peter Pan? We’ve been inundated for decades. The Mary Martin Peter Pan was later followed by Cathy Rigby in the same show. Then came Peter and The Starcatcher, “a grown-up’s prequel to Peter Pan.” This past holiday season Peter Pan was performed live on television. Somewhere in there was the movie of Finding Neverland and now —the Broadway musical based on that movie.
It begins with a funeral. It ends with a funeral. In between are jarring gun shots, explosions, fire, war, revolution, murder, suicide, blood, death—and everywhere passion, passion for a loved one, passion for a cause, passion for a home. The story of Doctor Zhivago, adapted from the movie based on the novel by Boris Pasternak, is huge, sweeping in scope. Even with a few lovely musical moments and some fine performances, this is a heavy, heavy evening in the theater.
You’ll get a kick out of Something Rotten if you brush up your Shakespeare once you decide whether you want to be or not to be in attendance. If you get what’s going on in the previous sentences, then Something Rotten may be a show for you. It is packed with inside jokes — Shakespearean jokes, musical theatre jokes, gay jokes, feminist jokes, Jewish jokes, Puritan jokes, rock star jokes, star-crossed lover jokes and some just plain jokes. More than any show in recent memory your enjoyment of Something Rotten depends on where you’re coming from.
It could have been created during the Golden Age of Broadway, so seamlessly integrated is the extraordinary, ballet-driven musical An American in Paris. The George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin score would have been enough by itself. Add to that the dancing, singing, acting, lighting, costumes and scenery (which seems to dance as well) all built on the vision of the newest brilliant choreographer-director, and the effect is overwhelmingly thrilling.
Welcome to the age of Christopher Wheeldon on Broadway.