Musical Theater

HAMILTON: An American Musical — at the Richard Rodgers Theatre following its premiere at the Public Theater

Leslie Odom, Jr as Aaron Burr in Hamilton. Photo Joan Marcus.

It is daunting to attend Hamilton. The expectations are overwhelming: Raves in all the papers including two in the New York Times – and rap!  All the songs and dialogue are in rap, that popular and often angry form of music, where every other word rhymes with truck, and the melodies are few and far between. What is a classical music lover to do? If one loves Hamilton, will it be true love or is one just going along with the crowd? If one doesn’t love it, is one incapable of expanding one’s horizons?

The King and I in Revival at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, Lincoln Center

Ken Watanabe and Kelli O’Hara in The King and I

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.

Fun Home at Circle in the Square Following a Long Run at The Public Theatre

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.

Finding Neverland —a New Musical at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre

Finding Neverland, (L-R) Sawyer Nunes, Alex Dreier, Laura Michelle Kelly, Aidan Gemme, Matthew Morrison, Christopher Paul Richards. Photo © Carol Rosegg.

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.

A Musical Version of Doctor Zhivago at the Broadway Theatre

Kelli Barrett and Tam Mutu. Photo Matthew Murphy.

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.

Something Rotten at the St. James Theatre

Bryan d'Arcy James and Christian Borie in Something Rotten. Photo © 2015 Joan Marcus.

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.

A new Golden Age Broadway musical — An American in Paris at the Palace Theatre

Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope in aAn American in Paris. Photo © 2015 Matthew Murphy.

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

Kristen Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher in On the 20th Century. Photo 2015 Joan Marcus.

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.