• January 2018
    Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
     << <   > >>
      1 2 3 4 5 6
    7 8 9 10 11 12 13
    14 15 16 17 18 19 20
    21 22 23 24 25 26 27
    28 29 30 31      
  • 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 Review - Pal Joey - A Dark Song and Dance Enlivened by Its Women

The big question about the revival of Pal Joey, which opened last night at Roundabout Theatre Company's Studio 54, is, of course, has a 1930s Hollywood myth about Broadway and an understudy going on for an injured star come true in this twenty-first century incarnation of a musical set in 1930s Chicago? Sadly the answer isn't an emphatic "yes," but it's not a resounding "no" either. Matthew Risch, who stepped in at the last moment to play Joey Evans, is certainly well on his way to owning this starring role, but as of press performances, he seems a little unsteady on his feet in this production, which features Richard Greenberg's generally satisfying revision to John O'Hara's original book and Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's unbeatable score, and which emphasizes the unsavoriness of the world in which Joey works and lives.

Risch certainly is a terrific hoofer and he delivers Graciela Daniele's choreography with aplomb. When he takes to the stage (which in Scott Pask's black, white and gray scenic design is an expressionist's view of the Windy City – curved El tracks, and dingy street lamps) dancing by himself, he commands attention. He's also grand when he joins in with the nimble ensemble of chorus girl cuties with whom Joey works. Additionally, Risch boasts a pleasant crooner's voice, which suits many of Rodgers and Hart's songs well, but what he has yet to discover is that razor-thin line that makes Joey simultaneously loveable and despicable. Joey could very well borrow the classic line from Jessica Rabbit (of "Who Framed..") about folks not knowing whether to punch or kiss her.

As "Joey" continues its run, Risch's performance and his command of the role will most likely becomes stronger, particularly given the brilliance of the three leading ladies with whom he's working. One of them is a star in her own right: Stockard Channing, who's playing Vera Simpson, the unhappily wed socialite who goes slumming at the club where Joey's performing and finds herself "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" (a song which Channing delivers with uncompromising depth of feeling) by the man. Vera even goes so far as to finance a club for Joey to open himself. As Vera, Channing, looking stunning in the period gowns from costume designer William Ivey Long who also does some marvelous tacky showgirl ensembles, channels traits from two of her most famous performances: the bad-girl aloofness of Rizzo (from the movie Grease) and the cool urbanity that masks a much warmer, and fragile, interior of Ouisa Kitredge (from "Six Degrees…)

While theatergoers most likely would have expected Channing to dazzle as Vera, nothing could have prepared them for the two performances that are revelations in "Joey." Martha Plimpton, a mainstay of the New York stage in dramatic roles, makes her debut in a musical here and is simply captivating, visually and vocally. She plays Gladys Bumps, the showgirl with whom Joey shares a troubled past, and who ultimately, sets her sights on destroying him, after he's fired her from his club. Equally impressive is Jenny Fellner, who's been seen in smaller roles on Broadway, but here plays the sweet ingénue who's new to Chicago and who, like Vera, falls for Joey, hard. Fellner has a tremendously appealing grace and naturalness that's matched by a clarion singing voice. Normally, Linda shares in two duets during the course of "Joey." In Greenberg's revision, her role has been expanded and includes two additional numbers – "I Still Believe in You," which comes from Rodgers and Hart's score for Broadway's Simple Simon and "Are You My Love," which the team wrote for the movie Pirate Dancing.

The expansion of Linda's role in the show isn't the only alteration that Greenberg has made to the book for the show. He's streamlined some sections and brought other aspects of the story, only hinted at in O'Hara's original, to the fore. In general, his writing is solid, although it feels as if he may have too much of a contemporary spin to the gayness of Joey's sometimes boss/sometimes employee Mike (Robert Clohessy) and the homophobia this character endures.

Also feeling very modern is director Joe Mantello's heavy-handed take on the seediness of the milieu in which "Joey" lives. Theatergoers sense the dourness that pervades the show as soon as Pask's sets (which are brightened occasionally by a neon sign or two, or by splashes of color in Paul Gallo's lighting design) are revealed, and this gloom continues to be part of almost every moment of the show. Sometimes, for instance during the numbers at the clubs, Mantello's vision succeeds (both comically and dramatically), but at others, it can feel suffocating (a respite from the gloom isn't felt even when the action moves to the posh environs of Vera's Lakeshore Drive residence).

It may be this atmosphere which Risch making it difficult for Risch to find his footing so to speak. Discovering the inescapable charm of a character, who's simply out for number one, is a little rough when one exists in a cutthroat and sometimes airless world in which success, much less happiness, seems almost unattainable. For guidance, Risch should look to his trio of leading ladies. They've not only created characters who are living gracefully within the darkness of this "Joey," but they're also sparkling above it.

---- Andy Propst

Printer-friendly version

Pal Joey plays at Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street). Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 8pm with matinees on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $36.50 - $121.50 and can be purchased by calling 212-719-1300 or by visiting www.roundabouttheatre.org.

A Message/Request From Andy Propst

Happy holidays!

Wow, what a year 2008 has been. As any regular readers of the site know, this has been a wonky one through and through – starting with the hack of the site back in May that virtually destroyed everything I'd worked 10 years on. Had some personal upheaval in September, which brought about a second 'service interuption' on ATW, but all in all, I think it's been a pretty good year of providing news about the theater in this country and beyond – 3 to 5 times a day. And I've got to say that the increase of news sources in the daily clippings is something of which I'm really proud.

I'm hoping that, for better or worse, you agree with me about this and that you continue to find AmericanTheaterWeb a unique and valuable theater news resource online, and that you might even consider clicking the PayPal link below to make a contribution toward the upkeep of the site.

This request is probably coming at the worst time of year, maybe in the worst time in the site's history, given the state of the economy. But sort of like that moment when there's the run on the Bailey Building and Loan in "It's a Wonderful Life" and Ellen Corby (she went on to play Grandma Walton) asks for just what she needs from George, that you'll understand and do what you can. You can use the handy button below to send a contribution securely through PayPal.

With deep gratitude for your understanding of this request,

Andy Propst

CDs of 2008: A Retrospective - Part 6 (A Miscellany)

Throughout the year, I get a bunch of discs that are from labels that aren't necessarily dedicated to recording musical theater-related work, or that come from individual artists' own companies. There have been a bunch of notable releases like this, and working in alphabetical order, here are some of the highlights:

Karen Mason's Right Here, Right Now is a swell mix of pop and musical theater songs. Probably the most fascinating thing on the disc, for music lovers in general, is a medley of John Lennon and Paul McCartney's "Help" and Stephen Sondheim's "Being Alive." The arrangement – from Christopher Denny, Barry Kleinbort and Mason – begins with a subtle reference to the latter song before shifting seamlessly into the melody of the Lennon/McCartney tune. Then, just as the lyrics in this "I need somebody, not just anybody, you know I need someone…" the medley segues to back to the "Being Alive" piano vamp and "Someone to hold me…" It's a beautiful transition and combination that's immensely touching and enhances the emotional power of both of these well-known songs. (www.karenmason.com)

Whimsicality floats through all of Jessica Molaskey's A Kiss To Build a Dream On which finds the singer working with husband John Pizzarelli and father-in-law Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar. From the first track, when Molaskey offers up "Happy Habit" (from Dorothy Fields and Arthur Schwartz), listeners will find that her jaunty and effervescent tones are indeed habit-forming. After this, Molaskey delivers a grand mixture of standards and lesser known melodies. Such classics as "Tea for Two" and "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover" are included, as are original compositions from the Molaskey/Pizzarelli team: the teasingly romantic "Take Me To You" and the pair's merry duet, "Hiding in Plain Sight." (www.arborsrecords.com)

Pizzarelli, John that is, was busy during 2008, releasing a disc of his own as well, With a Song in My Heart. It's a delicious jazz toast to Richard Rodgers. Pizzarelli's selections – which include some terrific riffs and variations – span Rodgers' career almost in its entirety. From early years there's "I Like to Recognize the Tune" and from later ones "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught." In between the disc boasts such standards as "Mountain Greenery" and "Happy Talk." For the song "Easy to Remember," Pizzarelli is joined by father Bucky on guitar. It's a captivating affair all the way around. (www.telarc.com)

I've mentioned Teri Ralston's I Gotta Get Back To New York on the site before. It's well worth checking out – you can read more about this disc, and another one that's great for Sondheim fans, Kritzerland's release of the complete soundtrack recording of Evening Primrose, over at this link. Either of these would be perfect for the Sondheim maniacs in your life. (www.lmlmusic.com, www.kritzerland.com)

Another good disc for Sondheim aficionados is Tyran Parke's Sunday in the Parke. Australian Parke is no stranger to the works of Sondheim: among his credits in Sydney, Georges/George in "Sunday in the Park…." He opens the disc with the "Introduction" this musical, which leads into Steven Lutvak's charming, Latin-infused "I Just Wanted You To Know." This blend of musical theater and pop continues throughout the 14-track disc where Kurt Weill brushes up against Jim Morrison, and a new generation of composers like David Friedman and John Bucchino, who themselves combine Broadway traditions with popular musical vernacular, are handsomely represented. There are two other "Sunday" tracks on here as well as songs from "Threepenny" and "The Glorious Ones," and this one's definitely worth a listen. (www.cdbaby.com)

Story continues on page 2

Pages: 1· 2

Guerrero's 'Gaytino' Comes to Zipper in January

¡Gaytino!, written and performed by Dan Guerrero, will have its Off-Broadway premiere at the Zipper Factory Theater for two nights only: Saturday, January 10th (8pm) and Sunday, January 11th (7pm). Diane Rodriguez directs what the Washington Post called “a disarming twist on the triumph-of-the-human-spirit theme.”

¡Gaytino! was originally produced by the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, where it premiered in 2006. Since then, it has toured to more than a dozen cities around the country, including Santa Fe where his performance was introduced by Governor Bill Richardson. Mark Sendroff, Carl D. White and David Gersten present this NYC debut.

From Mariachi to Merman. Sondheim to César Chávez: Guerrero's play takes audiences from East LA in the 1950s to New York’s Great White Way in the ’60s & ’70s, and back to Hollywood. A father/son relationship and a treasured boyhood friendship drive this 75-minute, autobiographical solo play with music. through decades of Chicano history and the gay experience from a unique and personal perspective.

Originally from East LA, Guerrero moved to NYC at age twenty to perform in musicals, working Off-Broadway, in regional theater, summer stock, and countless cabaret revues including one that took him to the Nixon White House. He later became a successful Broadway talent agent representing Tony winners and future Hollywood stars including an eleven-year old Sarah Jessica Parker. Upon returning to Los Angeles, Guerrero became a ‘born-again Hispanic’ fiercely working for more positive Latino images on the screen as a casting director, writer and, for the past fifteen years, as a producer and director. Hispanic Magazine recognized him as “one of the 25 most powerful Latinos in Hollywood.”

Director Rodriguez is a nationally recognized Obie-winning actor, writer, and director. She is currently Associate Producer/Director of New Play Production at Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles.. She won an Obie for Performance in 2007 for playing multiply characters in Heather Woodbury’s Tale of Two Cities. She received the National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group Award for directing in 1998 and was nominated for the TCG Alan Schneider Director Award by David Emmes/Artistic Director of South Coast Repertory for her work on Octavio Solis’ Posada Majica. She has developed and directed the works of numerous writers including Nilo Cruz’s Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams and Lynn Nottage’s Fabulation at Sundance Theatre Lab.

Tickets can be purchased at www.thezipperfactory.com or at the box office 1 hour before each performance. For more information, visit http://www.gaytino.com.

ATW Digest - Shrek the Musical opens on Broadway - read the reviews


Review - Shrek the Musical - Filmdom's Big Green Ogre Takes Broadway

New York Times

The Belching Green Ogre Has a Song in His Heart
“Shrek” is not bad. But it does not avoid the watery fate that commonly befalls good cartoons that are dragged into the third dimension.

New York Daily News

Green giant hits B'way
Turning cartoons into Broadway shows ranks below root canal on my list of favorite things. Yet "Shrek the Musical" certainly has things to like, even if it's sometimes ungainly.

amNY New York City Theater

Theater Review of Shrek
It’s not easy being green. Take Brian d’Arcy James, the talented actor who plays the underdog ogre Shrek in a green fat suit and hamlet. He must also adopt the same Scottish accent used by Mike Myers.


"Shrek the Musical" short on inspiration, but lovable

New York Post

Hey, look me ogre
More green, less yellow. If the makers of "Shrek: The Musical" had been brave enough to give their imaginations - and their big green guy - free rein, the show that opened on Broadway last night could have been one of the standouts of the season. As it happens, it takes nearly all of Act 1 before "Shrek: The Musical"...


'Shrek' shows being green isn't as bad as Kermit claims

Bergen Record

Zingers come a line a minute in fairy tale parody

Associated Press

A Mean Green Ogre Named Shrek Moves to Broadway
As that old Kermit the Frog standard goes, it's not easy ''Bein' Green,'' but the folks at DreamWorks have done their darndest to make sure we are entertained at ''Shrek the Musical,'' the company's lavish stage adaptation of its hit animated movie.

Reuters / Hollywood Reporter

"Shrek" a family musical with gay-pride element
The trend of adapting animated movies to the stage continues with this first attempt by DreamWorks to cut in on the bounty that Disney has enjoyed on Broadway.

USA Today

On Broadway, 'Shrek the Musical' is a gas, gas, gas
If you don't think flatulence is funny, chances are you won't buy the theory that it also can be a means of seduction. ... Ah, well, your loss. Because when the stinky, cranky, altogether irresistible title character of Shrek the Musical (***½ out of four) falls in love, scatological humor inevitably is involved. And the romance is as poignant as the jokes are, well, pungent.


Lovable Shrek, Winsome Fiona Bring Cartoon Tale to Broadway: John Simon
As “Shrek the Musical” opens at the Broadway Theatre, starring Brian d’Arcy James, Sutton Foster and Daniel Breaker, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that it is done very well; the bad news is that it is done at all.


Review: Shrek the Musical
Countless films of recent decades have set out to spin a gently subversive fairy tale with a contemporary edge, but few have succeeded as wildly as "Shrek."

Back Stage

Shrek: The Musical reviewed by Adam R. Perlman
After a decade of somber snoozes, trinket factories, and Disney's family-friendly frauds, the mega-musical has been rescued by the most unlikely of heroes: an ogre in shining armor.

Chicago Tribune

Review: Shrek the Musical
Tough times for ogres

Washington Post

Theater Review: 'Shrek the Musical' on Broadway
...So, Shrekkie baby, how's it shakin'? Listen, kiddo, I caught the new Broadway show about you, what's it called? I got it in my notes here: Oh yeah. "Shrek the Musical." ...

Philadelphia Inquirer

A big green ogre goes to Broadway
Broadway is going green - and not with the lights producers are changing for newer environmental bulbs, but green for real, as in Shrek. You'd have to be the world's crankiest ogre to resist the witty, charming new musical that opened last night and gives Ugly the ultimate workover.


Review: Shrek the Musical
This live-action musical adaptation of the popular animated film is wrong in very many ways.

Talkin' Broadway

Review: Shrek the Musical
Shrek the Musical, the adaptation of the 2001 Dreamworks film that just opened at the Broadway, is the best animated-film-to-stage transfer since Beauty and the Beast. . . .


Review: Shrek The Musical
Everything about Shrek The Musical is in the grand old tradition— a splendid musical comedy (with a meaningful message) for the entire family .