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  • AmericanTheaterWeb Original News & Reviews

  • Use the calendar above to find ATW News & Reviews for a specific day, or use the list to the right to go to a specific review or article. The site's updated 3-4 times a day generally. For you convenience, links below will take you to ATWTopNews (a quick listing of links to some of the day's top stories) and to ATWClips (the complete digest of the day's news from ATW).

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Guitar Hero Event July 14 Benefits NYMF

The New York Musical Theatre Festival will present a Guitar Hero benefit tournament featuring Broadway celebrities on Monday, July 14th, from 7pm to 10pm at Stitch Bar and Lounge (247 West 37th Street).

The New York Musical Theatre Festival’s Guitar Hero benefit tournament will include a celebrity mini-tournament in which Broadway celebrities will play for the title of Supreme NYMF Guitar Hero. Fans will be able to play for $5 per turn.

A Grand Prize will be awarded to the Top Scorer of the evening. CDs, DVDs, NYMF memberships, and other merchandise will also be raffled off throughout the evening.

Tony Award-winning star of In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda, is among the Broadway participants. Additional celebrity players will be announced shortly. Jess McLeod, Director of Programming, will emcee the event.

General admission spectator tickets are $15, and include a free drink if bought in advance. Individual game plays are $5. Apprentice Player tickets, which include general admission, a free drink and two game plays are $30. Rock God Player tickets will include reserved seating in the VIP section, open bar access, access to a private VIP game system, and 1 star game with a participating celebrity, and are $150 (limited availability). Tickets can be purchased at www.nymf.org, or bought at the door. Additional rules and details can be found at www.nymf.org

The event will take place on Monday, July 14th, from 7pm to 10pm at Stitch Bar and Lounge, 247 West 37th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenue). All proceeds from the event will benefit the New York Musical Theatre Festival, the largest musical theatre event in America. Hailed as “the Sundance of musical theatre,” NYMF will present 24 new musicals, in addition to dance, concert and cabaret performances at various venues in Manhattan, as part the 5th annual season from September 15 through October 5, 2008. For more information, visit www.nymf.org.

ATW News Digest - Letts' Superior Donuts opens in Chicago - read the reviews

UPDATED - EARLY AM - July 1

Time Out Chicago Blog

Superior? Nah, but still pretty great.
It isn’t really fair to call Steppenwolf’s 2008 Tracy Letts season-closer, Superior Donuts, a follow-up to the company’s 2007 Tracy Letts season-closer August: Osage County; Donuts was announced as part of Steppenwolf’s lineup months before August opened...

UPDATED - LATE DAY - June 30

Variety

Review: Superior Donuts
While the process of artistic creation certainly doesn't function this way, it's tempting to believe Tracy Letts sets the tone for a play by selecting the drugs his principal characters choose to ingest.

UPDATED - MID-DAY June 30

Bloomberg.com

Pulitzer Winner Letts Toasts Chicago With `Superior Donuts': Jeremy Gerard
The counter stools at the run-down coffee shop are red leatherette and the sign listing the varieties of donuts looks as if it's been there for decades. The walls are smudged with age and tagged with an obscenity on the morning after a break-in.


New York Times

So, How Would You Like Your Culture Clash? Joke-Filled or Sugar-Glazed?
Tracy Letts’s “August: Osage County” is a full theatrical meal. His new play, “Superior Donuts,” is a much less ambitious repast.

Chicago Tribune Theater Loop Blog

It ain't another 'August,' but Tracy Letts' 'Superior Donuts' is a tasty bite of Chicago
I'm just going to get it out of the way, right at the top. Tracy Letts' "August: Osage County" won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for best new play. Numerous Chicagoans have been lashing themselves daily...

Chicago Sun-Times

'Donuts' a familiar recipe
Letts' followup to 'August' is zesty and ambitious but half-baked

ATW Review - Gay Rap Opera, Bash'd, Moving, Thrilling

It was bound to happen, and I must admit that it has – much to my delight, both as a gay man and an avid theatergoer. Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow have harnessed the anger and power of rap and spun it round to champion gay civil liberties while decrying homophobic prejudice. What's even more impressive is the fact that they use their homo-hip-hop (to use the pair's title from their blog) to tell a remarkably human story that's sometimes hilarious in Bash'd, a gay rap opera that opened last week at the Zipper, after an outing last year at the New York International Fringe Festival and a run prior to that in Canada, from whence Craddock and Cuckow hail.

The story of Bash'd is pretty simple. It's about Dillon (Cuckow), a guy from the provinces, who after a disastrous coming-out to his folks, moves to a big city. There he meets Jack (Craddock), a young man who's been raised by two gay men, and who has spent his teen years immersed in gay culture. Dillon and Jack fall in love instantly one night at a bar, and within a year, they're married. Violence destroys their domestic tranquility one night, though, when Jack's attacked on the streets and brutally fag-bashed by a group of straights, presumably angry over Canada's newly enacted law allowing gay marriage. This gang's violence, and the fear it engenders in both Jack and Dillon, only spawns further aggression, and ultimately, Bash'd ends tragically, but it's told an important story, although, tucked into the art-y confines of the Zipper, it's not necessarily being heard by those who need to hear it most.

In addition to playing Jack and Dillon, Cuckow and Craddock play a host of other characters during this brisk 65-minute show. Initially, they're simply playing their rap counterparts, T-Bag and Feminem, but as the story begins to unfold, they're also playing Jack's fey dads, Dillon's well-meaning mom and his überly-macho dad. During one hysterical sequence, they also adopt the personae of the various types that one finds in a gay bar – from a flamboyant drag queen to a gruff but loveable bear to a sylph-like crystal meth addicted twink. As they transform into these characters, whom they play with gentle satiric flair and obvious affection, they never miss a beat of their beautifully crafted rap lyrics, which are accompanied by some terrific sampling of gay-centric pop music that's been sampled ingeniously by composer Aaron Macri.

Elsewhere in the show, which has been directed with care by Ron Jenkins, Cuckow and Craddock's creation is supremely touching. Jack and Dillon's first meeting is charmingly delicate and their wedding, which Dillon's parents unexpectedly attend, may induce tears in some theatergoers.

It’s the depth and universality of the emotions evoked during these moments, that makes the show's deliberate anger all the more powerful. During its opening moments, the pair's lyrics delineate their agenda: "Straight people say there's no need for us/But gay folk are sick of sittin' at the back of the bus…Yeah, we don't like 'faggot' when it's said by them/But when we say it, it's like a word that starts with 'n'." Later lyrics cut equally deep into deep-rooted homophobia which all gay men have experienced and still do experience.

The anger and humanity of Bash'd spins out onto a stage that's kept nearly bare and that's backed by light towers, which, as utilized by designer Bradley Clements, give the show the feel of a high-adrenaline concert. Rarely though, do rock events contain so much emotion – this is exciting theater, pure and simple.

---- Andy Propst

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Bash'd plays at the Zipper Factory Theater (336 West 37th Street). Performances are Monday at 8pm; Thursday at 8pm; Friday at 7:30 and 10pm Saturday at 8pm. Tickets may be purchased online at www.thezipperfactory.com or by calling 212-352-3101.

ATW Review - A Circus Jungle Fantasy on Broadway for the Summer

With the arrival of summer, one can always count on Hollywood to provide a plethora of light and breezy movies, designed to beguile audiences without straining their minds too much. Broadway got into the act last week with the opening of Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, a glitzy, often appealing, but ultimately hollow, new age spectacular created by Neil Goldberg.

Divided into two parts, "Fantasy" follows Adventurer (a winning Marcello Ballestracci) as he maneuvers through an enchanted forest where the creatures are ruled, or perhaps charmed, by Mother Nature (played with almost plasticene hauteur by Jill Diane). Each "act" in this represents an animal or group of animals that Adventurer meets. There's a quartet of lizards that are brought to life by contortionists (Uranmandakh Amarsanaa, Buyankhishig Ganbaatar, Erdenesuvd Ganbaatar and Odgerel Oyunbaatar) from Mongolia. The four women are superlatively lithe, graceful and rather amazing as they bend their bodies in heretofore unimaginable ways, often balancing on top of one another.

As the Adventurer makes his way through the jungle (from day to night when black light from designer Kate Johnston transforms scenic designer Jon Craine's Hanna-Barbera-ish forest of loopy vines, rounded trees and mushrooms into something vaguely spooky), other creatures like spiders, frogs, giraffes, and eventually lions, appear on the scene. Each performs an act that feels familiar from previous visits to new age circus events, but each has a specialty within his, her or their sequence that manages to surprise. The giraffes (Vladimir Dovgan and Anatoliy Yeniy from Ukraine and Moldova respectively) balance on rolling tubes in ways I'd never witnessed. Surprisingly, one of the most fascinating comes early on – it's a jump-rope extravaganza that dazzles.

As these acts – which include several aerial acts, including one by a Stefka Iordanova from Bulgaria who's suspended by her hair – unfurl, we watch in amazement, but then, in between, Diane (who's dressed in something that brings to mind some of Cher's most outlandish getups – designed by Cirque Productions, Lenora Taylor and Santiago Rojo) comes onto the scene to sing something. These tunes all have insipid lyrics (from Jill Winters) that theoretically are meant to inspire, but all one can do is cringe as Diane, accompanied by Jared Burnett who plays the Soultree Violinist, a sort of cross between the elves and ents of Tolkien's Middle Earth, sings them and hope that she'll quickly move on to make way for the next set of performers (generally the wait isn't too long).

Actually, time, like the performers, seems to fly during much of "Fantasy," and that's not a bad thing, but somehow, one can't help but wish there were something more substantial, even during the dog days of summer, to be found here.

--- Andy Propst

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Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy plays at the Broadway Theatre (1681 Broadway). Performances are Monday at 8pm; Tuesday at 7pm; Thursday and Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 2 and 8pm and Sunday at 2 and 7pm. Tickets are $25 to $95 and can be purchased by calling 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250. Online ticketing is available at www.telecharge.com. Further information is available online at: www.cirquedreamsbroadway.com.

ATW News - DC's Capital Fringe Runs July 10 - 27

As we bear down on July, Washington D.C.'s Capital Fringe Festival looms. From July 10 through July 27, the Festival will feature 600 individual performances involving over 200 companies in 30 venues, located all around the District. Having looked through the Festival's listings, here are some that are particularly noteworthy:

• The DC premiere of Busted Jesus Comix - "At nineteen, Marco's been convicted of obscenity . . . for publishing his homemade comic book. Starting fresh in New York, a chance meeting will expose his past and change his life. A comedy about art, sex, the drive to create and the power of friendship. Based on real events."

I Like Nuts! (The Musical) - "Horatio likes nuts. He really, really likes nuts. Join Horatio and a cast including a Robot, a Pirate, a Vampire, and two Squirrels on a musical quest for nuts, knowledge and Norwegian fish balls. Including the musical numbers "Girls Don't Like Adventure," "Everyone I Know is a Moron," and many others!"

• Mike Daisey delivering his new monologues If You See Something, Say Somethingakes aim at the history of the Department of Homeland Security. Combining eye-opening research and witty autobiography, he bores into the dark heart of America to discover the meaning of security and the price we are willing to pay for it."

• The DC premiere of Jerry Springer – The Operaepic storytelling of opera meets the hijinks and hilarity of daytime television on stage this summer. When an ordinary broadcast ends in violence, this musical extravaganza follows the trashy talk show host to purgatory and hell. Don't miss the spectacle!"

• Israel Horowitz's Lebensraum - "Using a cast of three to play 40 characters, this work is based on the explosive idea that a German Chancellor might, as an act of redemption, invite six million Jews to Germany. The logical progression of this artfully drawn script raises the terrifying possibility that history may repeat."

A Nervous Smile by John Belluso in its DC premiere – "A successful couple, each searching for a new life with a chance for happiness, take an extreme course of action. With the ever constant weight of caring for their young daughter disabled by Cerebral Palsy, their struggle for happiness leads to horrifying consequences. When is love enough?"

• A work-in-progress presentation of The Passion of Persephone -- A Rock Opera - "Hades has captured the Goddess Persephone and tied her up to keep her from leaving the Underworld. When her mother Demeter discovers why Zeus won't rescue Persephone, Demeter wreaks a terrible vengeance . . . Greek myth updated to modern times"

Signor Deluso and The Womenhort operas about the woes of love and marriage.

• The drama, Thousands of Years – Rome - which takes a Roman Legionnaire and a Senator's daughter from their 1st Century parting in the Roman Forum to their 21st Century reunion there. They participate in the Roman conquests of Britain and Spain, the Renaissance, Unification of Italy, Nazi occupation of Rome, and the Iraq war.

For more information about the Capital Fringe Festival, visit http://www.capfringe.org/