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.
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.
Comden and Green’s On The 20th Century Revived by the Roundabout, with Kristen Chenoweth, Peter Gallagher, and Andy Karl
A main curtain that challenges the Chrysler Building in Art Deco beauty. Four luggage-tossing, red-capped porters who tap dance and sing their way across the stage. Then the big reveal of the huge 20th Century Limited train itself—blue-gray metallic, slanted out toward the audience under the black iron and glass ceiling. Surely this set, which appears only once in the show, is the most magnificent Broadway has seen in years.
The original Side Show was an anomaly on Broadway. Although it opened to rave reviews in 1997, it was a mega-flop. Hardly anyone wanted to see a show about “Siamese” twins, freaks, and it closed after only 122 performances and a $6.8 million loss.
Now Side Show has been totally reimagined with a new director, a new choreographer, and several new songs. The show has evolved. And so has its audience. We’re a more diverse, open, and tolerant society with a much broader definition of “normal.” The headline of the original review in The New York Times said “Illuminating the Freak in Everyone.” The perspective of that headline today would surely change the words to “Illuminating the Humanity in …”