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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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Musical Miscellany - Original Cast Records, Menzel Single

Doing some random surfing over the weekend and dropped by the Original Cast Records site (www.originalcastrecords.com). They (meaning Bruce Yeko) are taking up where Footlight Records left off with regard to the U.K. label Stage Door Records. OCR is now the exclusive U.S. distributor for the label.

The site is saying that there will be four new titles available in 2009, but until then, are offering up the following:

Ruggles Of Red Gap – Jule Styne's 1957 TV Musical …the disc also has 9 Jane Powell pop songs from 1957 Verve
Hermione Gingold 1953 Live @ Cafe De Paris - which also includes 10 songs from Gingold's career of revue songs
Shirley Jones Then & Now - featuring songs from soundtracks including 4 from April Love and 13 newly recorded from her hit movies plus "Beauty & Beast," "Memory" and "You'll Never Walk Alone"
New Faces of 1956 - Broadway Cast With Inga Swenson & Maggie Smith; the disc also includes bonus tracks of the Broadway cast of Mrs. Paterson starring Eartha Kitt
Wish You Were Here - the Broadway Cast, plus 4 bonus tracks 2 sung by Rome and 1 hit sung by Eddie Fisher
On Your Toes - 1950s Columbia studio cast with Jack Cassidy, plus the 1957 studio Pal Joey sung by Big Band Stars Martha Tilton & June Hutton
Boulevard (Sunset), sung by Gloria Swanson and written by Dickson Hughes in a studio demo; the two disc set also includes 6 songs from Swanson 30s film musicals

I have a couple of these ("Ruggles," & "New Faces") and look forward to checking them out.

Also want to mention that Idina Menzel's newest single – "Hope" – has been recorded to raise funds for Stand Up 2 Cancer (www.standup2cancer.org). Proceeds from digital downloads of the song (which is terrific) help support Stand Up's terrific work. You can stream the song by visiting:

http://streamos.wbr.com/wmedia/wbr/idinamenzel/audio/idinamenzel_001_hope_128.wax

To purchase, visit: http://www.standup2cancer.org/store

--- Andy Propst

ATW Review - 'Coward at Christmas' - Reimagined Tunes...A Great Gift

Sir Noel Coward was born just days before Christmas in 1899, and it's for this reason that he was named Noel by his mother. He may never have penned a Christmas tune during his prolific career at songwriter (not to mention his other work as playwright, director and actor), but his tunes are turning into a wonderful Christmas gift for New York theatergoers thanks to Simon Green Sings Coward at Christmas, currently playing at 59E59 Theaters. During the course of this delightful one-hour songfest, Green, along with his pianist, musical director and arranger David Shrubsole, serves up some of Noel Coward’s most memorable songs, a number of them intelligently recreated for twenty-first century listeners.

Greene, who in dark jacket and thin tie actually looks as though he might have walked out of the 1960s movie To Sir With Love, deftly delivers some 20 Coward pieces with impeccable phrasing and an astute blend of sparkling wit and heartfelt emotion (Coward was after all a great believer in genuine sentiment). At moments during the show, Green's interpretations do bring to mind "the master," notably during the hysterical "Three Theatrical Dames," a tune about what the great ladies of the English stage did before achieving success. Greene seems to channel all of Coward's wickedness and naughtiness in this one, which incidentally was written for a benefit concert in the 1950s, and originally performed by John Mills, Kenneth More and Peter Ustinov. "Dames" is just one of the rarities unearthed by Green and Shrubsole. Another is the "Couldn't We Keep on Dancing" which the pair discovered after combing through the British Archive.

At other times during "Sings," Green's enormously affecting and effective, no more so than during his recitation of Coward's poem, "On Leaving England for the First Time." This sequence leads into a beautifully arranged medley of "London Pride," "I Travel Alone," and "Sail Away." In this triptych of songs, some theatergoers might find themselves thinking that they are hearing these songs for the first time, as Shrubsole's arrangements are so unique. During the second song, for instance, it almost sounds as if Coward, Green and Shrubsole were channeling Kurt Weill and this composer's "Lonely House" in particular. In "Pride," Shrubsole's arrangement loses some of the "oldness" and almost homespun quality that is usually visited upon the tune. Purists may bristle, but even they may have to soften once they hear Big Ben seemingly chime in the distance (it's a feat accomplished on the piano alone).

Shrubsole's arrangements also reference (or at least seem to) composers as far ranging as Burt Bachrach and Stephen Sondheim, which brings them terrifically into the present, but can at times mean that theatergoers strain to hear the melodies (at least as they remember them). Throughout Green is a delight, often consulting a set of Coward's diaries to pull out pithy quotes and anecdotes, and his light baritone is beautifully suited to Coward's songs, which seem to be crafted anew, which may make this show one of the grandest holiday presents on stage right now.

---- Andy Propst


Simon Green Sings Coward at Christmas plays through January 4 at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street). Performances are Tuesday through Friday at 8:30pm; Saturday at 5:30 and 9:30pm and Sunday at 3:30 and 7:30pm. Tickets are $25.00 and can be purchased by calling 212-279-4200 or by visiting www.TicketCentral.com. Further information is available online at www.59e59.org

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ATW Review - The Cripple of Inishmaan - Dark Irish Comedy Assails Heart

Few contemporary playwrights portray violence as well as Martin McDonagh. In recent Broadway outings, the brutality has been overt – torture and dismemberments in The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The Pillowman. This prolific Irish writer can once again be found onstage in New York with Garry Hynes' gently affecting, often icily hilarious, revival of The Cripple of Inishmaan, playing at off-Broadway's the Atlantic Theater Company, where "Inishmore" began, and while the sort of overt savagery that theatergoers have come to expect from McDonagh never materializes in this play, its presence can always be felt just below the surface.

First seen in New York in 1998, "Cripple," set in the early 1934, takes place on a remote Irish isle, just like "Inishmaan." The title character, Billy (played with heartbreaking physicality and emotional nuance by Aaron Monaghan) has grown up an orphan – his parents having died in a mysterious boating accident when he was just an infant. He's been raised by Kate (Marie Mullen) and Eileen (Dearbhla Molloy), the women who run the island's under-stocked general store. Now well into their twilight years, they fret about Billy endlessly, and wait, like many women their age do, for the latest gossip, which is delivered by local "newsman" JohnnyPateenMike (a supremely oily David Pearse). As the play opens, he arrives in the women's store (the cornerstone to Francis O'Connor's marvelously rustic and flexible scenic design) with three pieces of news, including word of a brewing feud between two locals (one man's goose bit another man's cat) and of an American film crew having descended on the neighboring island of Inishmore.

The second item sets the people of Inishmaan buzzing. Helen (simultaneously a terrifically dangerous creature and alluring coquette in Kerry Condon's performance) and her dim younger brother Bartley (Laurence Kinlan) convince BobbyBobby (a grand mercurial turn from Andrew Connolly) to take them to the neighboring island in hopes of getting a job on the film, and possibly getting away from Ireland altogether. Billy also finagles a ride with BobbyBobby, a move that proves to be a double-edged sword for the young man.

As "Cripple" unfolds, McDonagh reveals, in exquisite detail, the eccentricities of each of these characters, as well as their strange combination of fierce national pride and equally intense distaste for their homeland. During the course of the play, each of the characters actually attempts to rationalize Ireland's importance in the world, musing how the country must not be that bad of a place if Americans, French, "colored people," etc. want to visit.

Hynes' production, which she's staged as a co-production between the Atlantic and her own Druid Theatre Company in Dublin, and the performances deftly navigate the duality of McDonagh's script, which, on one level, is something of a simple slice of life play about this tight-knit community and its idiosyncratic inhabitants' predictable day-to-day existence. What sparks "Cripple" to a level beyond being just a humor infused charmer is McDonagh's ability to combine the ordinariness of Inishmaan with a hefty level of danger. As the offstage goose-cat feud intensifies, theatergoers can't help but think of the bloodshed that results in "Inishmore" over a dead cat. Similarly, as lies are revealed onstage, it seems inevitable, at least for McDonagh, that death, dismemberment, or worse, must follow. Such events never come to pass, although one character does receive a hefty beating – not entirely unwarranted, and Helen, who earns a living delivering eggs, has a field day with using them as weapons.

The real assault that ultimately arrives as Billy's story unfolds and audiences come to care about him and his neighbors is on theatergoers' hearts. As "Cripple" reaches its conclusion, the play's emotional toll is not only quite high, it's also enormously satisfying.

---- Andy Propst


The Cripple of Inishmaan plays at the Atlantic Theater Company (336 West 20th Street). Performances are Tuesday through Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 2 and 8pm; and Sunday at 2 and 7pm. Tickets are $65.00 and can be purchased by calling TicketCentral at 212-279-4200 or by visiting www.TicketCentral.com. Further information – including revised holidaytime schedule – is available online at www.AtlanticTheater.org.

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ATW Digest - Gurney's 'Light Lunch' Premieres - read the reviews

New York Times

President’s on the Menu: Let the Deal-Making Begin
A. R. Gurney casually tosses his own metaphorical shoe in the direction of our departing president in his latest play, “A Light Lunch,” which opened on Friday at the Flea Theater

Variety

Review: A Light Lunch
Less of a potshot at George W. Bush than a backhanded benediction for him, A. R. Gurney's jokey new play, "A Light Lunch," is refreshingly unlike most contempo American political theater.

Back Stage

A Light Lunch reviewed by David Sheward
Just as George W. Bush is leaving office, A.R. Gurney doesn't quite perform the theatrical equivalent of hurling his shoes at the departing president, but he does toss a few bread rolls his way.

CurtainUp

Review: A Light Lunch
A. R. Gurney's willingness to poke fun at himself provides his play written for the Flea Theater's young acting company with its best laugh lines

ATW Digest - Pal Joey Revival Opens on B'way - read the reviews

AmericanTheaterWeb

Review - Pal Joey - A Dark Song and Dance Enlivened by Its Women

New York Times

The Cad! (Dames Could Write a Book)
Joe Mantello’s joyless Broadway revival of “Pal Joey” has no detectable pulse.

New York Daily News

Broadway's 'Pal Joey' revival not so inspiring
'Pal Joey' star Matthew Risch, who's never had a lead role, gets an A for effort. He's a capable singer and deft dancer and gives just the kind of performance you'd expect - solid and professional. Pe...

amNY New York City Theater

Theater Review of Pal Joey
For the past month, Broadway has experienced much craziness with the Roundabout’s ill-fated revisal of the 1940 landmark Rodgers & Hart musical “Pal Joey,” one of the first truly dark, sexualized musicals with an antihero at its center.

Newsday

Review: 'Pal Joey' at Studio 54
Broadway has been waiting a long time for a major revival of "Pal Joey," the most sophisticated musical to ever get lost in mid-century Americana. But despite a smart creative team and game performances

New York Post

Not bewitched by 'Joey'
I'm pleased to report that a musical-comedy star is born in the newly revived "Pal Joey." Unfortunately for the Roundabout, it's Martha Plimpton ...

ny1

Time Out Theater Review: "Pal Joey"

Hartford Courant

Plimpton Shines In 'Pal Joey,' But Understudy Weak

Star-Ledger

'Pal Joey' women make revival hum

Bergen Record

Few highlights in musical revival of "Pal Joey"

Associated Press

The cad is back: 'Pal Joey' returns to Broadway

Reuters

Stockard Channing stunning in Pal Joey revival

Bloomberg.com

Channing, Plimpton Bewitch in Jazzed-Up `Pal Joey' Revival: John Simon
“Pal Joey,” snazzily revived by the Roundabout Theatre Company, pumps much-needed fresh blood into a Broadway grown anemic.

Wall Street Journal

We're Stuck With 'Shrek'
"Shrek" is for kids, and no one else. If yours liked the movie, they'll like the musical, which has been cunningly calculated to rope in the present-day pre-teen crowd. [also reviewed: Pal Joey]

Entertainment Weekly

Stage Review Pal Joey

Variety

Review: Pal Joey
The Rodgers and Hart songs in “Pal Joey” are certainly easy on the ear, but what makes the Roundabout revival of their 1940 show so compelling is Richard Greenberg’s trenchant adaptation of the original book by John O’Hara.

Back Stage

Pal Joey reviewed by David A. Rosenberg
The action starts at once, during the overture, as the eponymous anti-hero is smashed to the ground by vengeful gangsters.

TheaterMania

Review: Pal Joey
Stockard Channing, Matthew Risch, and Martha Plimpton sparkle in the Roundabout's highly entertaining revival of the classic Rodgers & Hart musical.

Talkin' Broadway

Review: Pal Joey
Sheathe your daggers, haters of the rewritten musical libretto. You’ll derive no gleeful satisfaction from watching Pal Joey, which the Roundabout Theatre Company is reviving at Studio 54, self-destruct: Richard Greenberg’s new book is a mostly faithful adaptation of John O’Hara’s original (based on his stories from The New Yorker). The responsibility for torpedoing this evening rests wholly on others’ shoulders. . . .

CurtainUp

Review: Pal Joey
Richard Greenberg has done a splendid job of making the libretto (originally by John O'Hara who invented Joey Evans not just a hook on which to hang a bunch of bewitching show tunes