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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).


ATW News Digest - 'Show Boat' Concert at Carnegie Hall - read the reviews

New York Times

Fish Got to Swim, Birds Got to Fly, Genres Got to Meld
Imbalances between the singers and orchestra, and a sound system that sometimes produced obscuring echoes, were the only problems with the rewarding performance of “Show Boat.”

New York Sun

A Genuine Show in 'Show Boat'


Review: Show Boat in Concert
The dulcet tones of Jerome Kern's overture to "Show Boat" wafted through the halls of Carnegie on Tuesday night, with those golden melodies -- "Old Man River," "Why Do I Love You?" "Make Believe," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" -- pouring out over an appreciative audience. A streamlined rendition of the Kern-Hammerstein masterpiece followed, clocking in at slightly more than two hours and offering impressive moments from some fine performers in an evening
that seemed to evaporate in the second....

Back Stage

Show Boat (In Concert) reviewed by Marc Miller
One thing Show Boat must never, never be is two hours and fifteen minutes. But once one got used to this breakneck pacing, there was much to enjoy, most of it vocal.

ATW News Digest - 'Hired Man' opens off-Broadway - read the reviews (UPDATED 6/13/08)

New York Times

What Do the Simple Folk Do? They Toil and Sing
The virtues of this chamber musical [The Hired Man] are small-scale and traditional.

New York Daily News

'The Hired Man' is a capital musical
Hardships rise as steadily as the mist over the rough English countryside, the setting for "The Hired Man" at 59E59 Theaters. The impressive production is a stripped-back version of a 1984 British musical by Melvyn Bragg and Howard Goodall.


No fluff, no frills in British musical
Like your musicals brawny and packed with serious story? Meet "The Hired Man," a poignant British musical about the troubles of farmers and coal miners in the early decades of the 20th century.


Britain's Postwar Blues Shine Through `Vest-Pocket' Musical: John Simon
The Brits Off Broadway festival at 59E59 Theaters on the Upper East Side of Manhattan has imported its first musical, ``The Hired Man.'' A vest-pocket affair, it features a unit set, an omnipresent piano and occasional trumpet and violin. But its heart is big.


Peter Filichia's Diary: Hie Thee to "The Hired Man"


Review: The Hired Man


Review: The Hired Man

From 6/12/08

New York Post

'Hired' Gets big hand
There are just eight performers, a single piano and a largely barren stage, but few musicals have conjured up a bygone world as beautifully as "The Hired Man." This British musical, which had a short run on the West End nearly a quarter of a century ago before lapsing into obscurity, has been resurrected with a superb chamber production...


Review: The Hired Man
The bare-bones production of Melvin Bragg and Howard Goodall's "The Hired Man," playing for a fortnight at 59E59, can be viewed as a blueprint for what might be a remarkable musical. The advertisements call it "arguably the finest new British musical of the last 30 years." ...

Back Stage

The Hired Man reviewed by Harry Forbes
Flaws notwithstanding, Goodall's unique sound palette, the work's earnest integrity, and the show's place in West End theatre lore make this production worth investigating.


Review: The Hired Man
The magnificent score to this musical about a working class family in rural Cumbria still shines in this scaled-down production.

ATW News Digest: Edward Albee's 'Occupant' opens - read the reviews

'Occupant' - On Becoming an Artist (AmericanTheaterWeb)

Resurrecting an Artist’s Greatest Creation: Herself (New York Times)
Mercedes Ruehl performs with unimpeachable conviction in Edward Albee’s touchingly modest tribute to the sculptor Louise Nevelson.

In 'Albee's Occupant,' a sculptor's life takes shape (New York Daily News)
Imagine an episode of "Inside the Actors Studio" reworked as "Inside the Sculptor's Studio" and you've got a decent bead on "Edward Albee's Occupant."

Review: 'Occupant' (Newsday)

Should vacate now (New York Post)
Artistic timidity isn't a trait that springs to mind when thinking of Edward Albee, but it's hard to avoid pinning the label on his...

A portrait of an art-world legend shines (New York Journal-News)
"Occupant," at the Signature Theatre Company, is Edward Albee's riveting, must-see portrait of sculptress Louise Nevelson, who died in 1988.

Review: "Occupant" (NY1)

'Occupant' Portrays Louise Nevelson With Humor, Gusto (Hartford Courant)

Albee crafts portrait of sculptor (Star-Ledger)

Theater review: 'Occupant' (Bergen Record)

Edward Albee looks for the real Louise Nevelson in off-Broadway play (Associated Press)

Edward Albee's Occupant reviewed by David A. Rosenberg (Back Stage)
Judging from Occupant, Edward Albee is still angry and adamant, but this time he closes off the dramatic conflict.

Review: Occupant (Variety)
With any luck you turn into whoever you want to be, and with even better luck you turn into whoever you should be. No, you got somebody in you right from the start, and if you're lucky you figure out who it is and you become it." That contorted philosophy of identity, articulated by sculptor Louise Nevelson, is as good a summation as any of Edward Albee's enigmatic character study, "Occupant." Delving again into the vast blur between truth and illusion, the playwright investigates the complex process of self-invention, reflecting on the way artists create their work and themselves.

Mercedes Ruehl Gives Edward Albee's `Occupant' a Second Chance: John Simon (Bloomberg.com)
"Edward Albee's Occupant'' -- a play whose title advertises its author is already in trouble -- is revived by Midtown Manhattan's Signature Theatre Company, where its 2002 premiere may have been handicapped by Anne Bancroft's prolonged illness. This time round, with those troupers Mercedes Ruehl and Larry Bryggman, the only handicap is the play itself.

A 'Lion' Roars in Chicago (Wall Street Journal)
...In New York, Edward Albee's "Occupant," falls somewhat awkwardly -- if interestingly -- between balancing history and creativity.

Review: Edward Albee's Occupant (TheaterMania)
Mercedes Ruehl stars as sculptor Louise Nevelson in this unsatisfactory bio-play.

Review: Occupant (Talkin' Broadway)
....it’s also the neon-tinged theme statement of his witty and wonderful play Occupant, which is at last seeing its long-delayed Signature Theatre Company debut at Peter Norton Space....

Review: 'Occupant' (CurtainUp)

ATW Review: 'Occupant' - On Becoming an Artist

From start to finish, it's impossible to take your eyes of Mercedes Ruehl in Edward Albee's Occupant, which opened last night at Signature Theatre Company. Playing modern abstract sculptress Louise Nevelson, Ruehl enters wearing a battered fur coat, under which she sports a huge crazy quilt top that hangs to her knees. When she enters, Ruehl wears a huge black hat, which when removed, reveals her head is wrapped in a gray scarf. Around her neck, there's a sculpted necklace that resembles a small breast plate. Oh, and yes, she sports the false eyelashes – two pair – that Nevelson, who preferred sable lashes, wore.

After one warms to Ruehl's presence in Occupant , which is a two-hour interview with Nevelson from the afterlife conducted by Man (played with muted flair by Larry Bryggman), you focus less on her appearance and more on Ruehl's command of the stage. It begins with her hands, which seem to be powerful talons, which can clutch a pint-sized glass of water as if it were a weapon. She doesn't cross the stage, she strides across it, and as Nevelson, prompted and questioned by Man, relates biographical details of her life, Ruehl can quickly morph from a woman of remarkable strength who surmounted some pretty substantial obstacles to a woman seemingly devastated by guilt, remorse and confusion.

For pure biography on this woman, who was born in Russia and came to this country as a child, you might do better to pick up a copy of one of the many books that have been written about Nevelson. While details are rich in here, they are not the primary focus of Albee's play. Instead, the playwright, who, once in attempting to interview the artist for a catalog that would accompany a retrospective of her work at the Whitney, found she'd delivered a tape filled with 60 minutes of silence, investigates how Nevelson, and by extension, most people, reinvent themselves. As the interview proceeds, Man, sometimes jovially, sometimes pointedly, sometimes in sheer frustration, attempts to pry the "truth" from his subject. For instance, was her marriage to shipping magnate Charles Nevelson a financial arrangement designed to move Louise "up" the social ladder? What truth is there to a story she told about having seen, as a child, a black horse running wild in Maine? It's a image that she says convinced her that she must be "free." How could Nevelson, at 11, be thinking in metaphors Man questions.

Even as the play (and Man) attempts to find the answers these and other questions, you come to realize why Albee has chosen to focus a play on her. Events in her life echo many of the concerns and issues raised in his plays. She was a distant mother, who packed her son off to live with her family or in boarding schools. She was an outsider who felt that she was marginalized both personally and professionally by the mainstream. Even her alcoholism brings to mind specters of George and Martha in Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

It's a rich mix and it's impossible not to anticipate some sort of volcanic confrontation brewing during the first act of the piece, which has been directed with sure-handed grace by Pam McKinnon. There's enough friction between the two the one feels certain that there will come a moment when Nevelson and Man come to blows, even if they are of a verbal nature. (Early games of semantics in Occupant seem to presage this.) But, while Albee provides a certain climax (with the help of scenic designer Christine Jones) as Nevelson describes the moment in which she had her epiphany about the art she would create, it's a quiet, almost too subtle, one. It's almost as if the characters – who at times do feel like combatants – are too genteel to allow their behavior and interaction to match the flamboyance of Louise's outward appearance or her inner life. In point of fact, Albee, never one to compromise, has allowed his play to reach its natural, and honest, conclusion, resulting in a play that's for the mind and ear and one that leaves the flash, primarily, to Louise Nevelson's appearance.


Occupant plays at Signature Theatre (555 West 42nd Street). Performances through June 29 are Tuesday at 7pm; Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm; with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. During the week July 1 – 6, performances are Tuesday at 7pm; Wednesday at 2 and 8pm; Thursday at 8pm; Saturday at 2 and 8pm and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets can be purchased by calling 212-244-PLAY (7529) or online at www.signaturetheatre.org.

ATW Review: 'Jollyship The Whiz-Bang' - Don't Miss This Pirate Boat

Daniel Kutcher in Jollyship The Whiz-Bang. Photo: Carol Rosegg

Don't let the environment that scenic designer Donyale Werle has created for Nick Jones and Raja Azar'sJollyship The Whiz-Bang fool you. When you walk into the Ars Nova, where "Jollyship" opened last night, you might think you've stumbled into some cheese-y suburban seafood restaurant where you could take the whole family. But don't be fooled by Werle's set. This is no wholesome family entertainment. It's a riotously funny and ribald adult musical.

Werle's set does set the tone nicely though for this rock 'n' roll pirate puppet adventure that's led by Captain Clamp – a wondrous rod and stick puppet that uses a bright green Chinese opera mask for a head. Clamp's searching not for treasure, but adventure. Specifically, the alcohol chugging and pill-popping seaman wants to lead his band of men to Party Island. Unfortunately, he's haunted by the death of his cabin boy Tom (represented here by a circus clown puppet that seems to have been taken from a child's nursery). Clamp – and his penchant for underage youths while at sea - might have had something to do with Tom's disappearance.

When the ship and crew – which includes lookout Francois Beaujolais and the cat-o-nine tails toting boatswain Dennis (two more marvelously conceived puppets from puppet designer Paul Burn) – encounter a storm, Clamp, haunted and inebriated, is unable to navigate the ship or save some of his crew from death. When the Whiz-Bang finally reaches shore – not at Party Island, but Port Maria, Clamp, with power-hungry deck hand Jumping Jack McGillihan, who's actually a crab, has become born again, and hopes to convert the sinners of this hard-scrabble port to Christianity. A near-death experience ("I hear singing. Do you hear singing, crab? A choir of children; keep me away from them.") returns Clamp to his more worldly ways, and as the curtain falls on "Jollyship," Clamp and his remaining crew are once again off for Party Island.

Jones and Azar's script has an almost naughty school-boy improvisational feel to it. Moments feel almost as if they are being ad libbed and it's a tribute to Sam Gold's freewheeling, yet very controlled production, that so much of "Jollyship" feels as if it is a show that's just being slapped together. It's a quality that makes the action and the writing all the more hilarious.

Nick Jones in Jollyship The Whiz-Bang. Photo: Carol Rosegg

Jones has not only written the piece, he's also the show's lead singer and provides the gruff, irreverent and sometimes downright nasty voice and characterization for Clamp. Azar's on hand as a performer too – playing Mr. Skeevy, Clamp's first mate and – no pun intended – straight man. These two, with band-mates Keith Fredrickson, Daniel Kutcher and Jesse Wallace, deliver the show's hard-hitting rock score with near volcanic energy and flair. Their work is ably matched by Julie Lake and Steve Boyer, who perform as puppeteers for multiple roles in the show. Boyer, in particular, delights as the snooty deck hand, bringing to mind a crustacean incarnation of David Hyde Pierce in his role of Niles on television's "Frasier."

It's a grand crew to set sail with and a perfect dark confection for early summertime theatergoing.


Jollyship The Whiz-Bang plays at Ars Nova (511 West 54th Street). Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm. Tickets are $25.00 and can be purchased by calling 212-868-4444 or by visiting http://www.smarttix.com/. Further information is available online at http://www.arsnovanyc.com/