Broadway shows are practically synonymous with New York City, and the word Broadway is often used as shorthand for theater itself. Visiting the Great White Way means attending one of 41 large theaters concentrated near Times Square. Each year millions of tourists flock to the city to see the best Broadway shows, from long-running phenomenons such as The Lion King to more recent hits like Hamilton. Some are proud winners of Tony Awards, but you needn't limit yourself to shows with the greatest accolades. There’s a lot of variety out there, as our complete A-Z listing attests.
RECOMMENDED: Find the best Broadway musicals
Broadway shows A–Z
Theater review by Adam Feldman The Temptations are hard to resist. No matter how much you may chafe at the clunky machinery of Broadway’s latest jukebox biomusical, Ain’t Too Proud, the hits just keep coming, distracting your critical faculties with zaps of R&B greatness. And when the show is at full power—when its lavishly gifted stars are lined up for duty in natty matching suits, moving and singing in synch through songs like “My Girl,” “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”—the gleam of well-polished nostalgia is strong. Is that enough, though? The problem with telling the story of the Temptations is that there isn’t a clear central story to tell. Much of Ain’t Too Proud focuses on the so-called Classic Five period from 1964 through 1968, when the quintet’s main frontman is the bespectacled and charismatic David Ruffin, played by the sensational Ephraim Sykes with a riveting combination of showboating dance moves and rough-edged soul vocals. High tenor Eddie Kendricks (the expressive Jeremy Pope) occasionally takes the lead vocals, backed by baritones Otis Williams (Derrick Baskin) and Paul Williams (James Harkness) and bass Melvin Franklin (the impressively deep-throated Jawan M. Jackson). But since the group’s membership has been in continual flux since its Motown debut in 1961, Ain’t Too Proud entrusts its narration entirely to the last Temp standing: Otis, who has been with the group from the start and performs with it
Aladdin. New Amsterdam Theatre (see Broadway). Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin. Directed by Casey Nicholaw. With Adam Jacobs, James Monroe Iglehart, Courtney Reed. Running time: 2hrs 20mins. One intermission. Aladdin: In brief Disney unveils its latest cartoon-to-musical project: the tale of a boy, an uncorked spirit and an aerodynamic rug. Composer Alan Menken adds new tunes to the 1992 original soundtrack, and Chad Beguelin provides a fresh book. Reputed highlights include James Monroe Iglehart's bouncy Genie and the flying-carpet F/X. Aladdin: Theater review by Adam Feldman What do we wish for in a Disney musical? It is unrealistic to expect aesthetic triumph on par with The Lion King, but neither need we settle for blobs of empty action like Tarzan or The Little Mermaid. The latest in the toon-tuner line, Aladdin, falls between those poles; nearer in style (though inferior in stakes) to Disney’s first effort, Beauty and the Beast, the show is a tricked-out, tourist-family-friendly theme-park attraction, decorated this time in the billowing fabrics of orientalist Arabian fantasy. “It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home,” sings the genial Genie (a game, charismatic Iglehart) in the opening song, and that’s the tone of Aladdin as a whole: kid-Oriented. As in the 1992 film, the Genie steals the show from its eponymous “street rat” hero (Jacobs, white teeth and tan chest agleam). The musical’s high point i
Theater review by Adam Feldman Whatever else it may or may not be, Beetlejuice is spectacularly weird. The best creative work in this musical adaptation of Tim Burton’s 1988 film—about a pair of sweet ghosts trying to rid their house of its distasteful new inhabitants—has gone into its physical form: The designers come at it from all kinds of crazy angles. David Korins’s haunted-house set seems to buckle in the middle and stretch at the edges; William Ivey Long’s costumes are a batty vision of colors and patterns at war. There are magic tricks and giant worms and a starkly linear idea of the afterlife that contrasts well with the chaotic world of the living. If only so much of the rest of Beetlejuice were not a busy mess. The film’s protagonists, milquetoast “newlydeads” Adam (Rob McClure) and Barbara (Kerry Butler), no longer seek out the loathsome “bio-exorcist” demon Beetlejuice (Alex Brightman, working overtime); he targets them in a scheme to leave the netherworld, even though only a living person is capable of making him visible there. Much of Adam and Barbara’s function has been reassigned to Lydia (the gifted young Sophia Anne Caruso), the goth teenage daughter of the house’s new owner (Adam Dannheisser), a widower with an insecure New Age girlfriend (comic dynamo Leslie Kritzer). A little of the hyperactive, rattle-voiced, lecherous Beetlejuice goes a pretty long way, but the show makes him its central figure. Sometimes he’s a murderous pansexual scuzzball (he ref
Broadway review by Adam Feldman The 1978 drama Betrayal is mostly told backward, but, paradoxically, it may be Harold Pinter’s most straightforward work. The first scene depicts a meeting between Jerry (Charlie Cox) and Emma (Zawe Ashton), two years after the end of the long extramarital relationship they conducted behind the back—or at least to the side—of her husband, the slick Robert (Tom Hiddleston), who was Jerry’s close friend at the time; the final scene, set nine years earlier, shows the night their duplicity began. In between, Pinter traces the disintegration of each side of the play’s romantic triangle, sketching in details of events that have already been alluded to. (The back-to-front structure is not rigorous; three of the scenes follow the ones before them in chronological order.) But unlike, say, The Birthday Party or The Homecoming, Betrayal has no overarching sense of enigma. The solutions to its mysteries are handed to us in advance; since we already know what will happen, the play's interest largely involves our knowledge of who knows what when, and who knows that they know it, and what they aren’t saying. As is Pinter’s wont, the script is replete with moments when the characters don’t speak—a very slow cover of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” is heard between scenes—which invites us to fill in the play’s emotional blanks. These are pauses that send out tasteful announcements of their pregnancy. Pinter’s bone-dry, stiff-lipped tale of infidelity reli
If theater is your religion and the Broadway musical your sect, you've been woefully faith-challenged of late. Venturesome, boundary-pushing works such as Spring Awakening, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Next to Normal closed too soon. American Idiot was shamefully ignored at the Tonys and will be gone in three weeks. Meanwhile, that airborne infection Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark dominates headlines and rakes in millions, without even opening. Celebrities and corporate brands sell poor material, innovation gets shown the door, and crap floats to the top. It's enough to turn you heretic, to sing along with The Book of Mormon's Ugandan villagers: "Fuck you God in the ass, mouth and cunt-a, fuck you in the eye." Such deeply penetrating lyrics offer a smidgen of the manifold scato-theological joys to be had at this viciously hilarious treat crafted by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, of South Park fame, and composer-lyricist Robert Lopez, who cowrote Avenue Q. As you laugh your head off at perky Latter-day Saints tap-dancing while fiercely repressing gay tendencies deep in the African bush, you will be transported back ten years, when The Producers and Urinetown resurrected American musical comedy, imbuing time-tested conventions with metatheatrical irreverence and a healthy dose of bad-taste humor. Brimming with cheerful obscenity, sharp satire and catchy tunes, The Book of Mormon is a sick mystic revelation, the most exuberantly entertaining Broadway musical in years. The high
This John Kander–Fred Ebb–Bob Fosse favorite, revived by director Walter Bobbie and choreographer Ann Reinking, tells the saga of chorus girl Roxie Hart, who murders her lover and, with the help of a huckster lawyer, becomes a vaudeville sensation. The cast frequently features guest celebrities in short stints.
Campbell Scott plays Scrooge in the latest stage version of Charles Dickens's classic yuletide story about a miser forcibly unclenched by visions of his own grinchiness. Matthew Warchus directs this 2017 adaptation by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child); the lively production, which has been well-reviewed in two runs at London's Old Vic, includes several visually arresting sequences and a dozen Christmas carols. Andrea Martin and LaChanze play two of Scrooge's ghostly guests.
One of the more unlikely musicals on Broadway this season, Come from Away is the tense but humane story of an airport in Gander, Newfoundland, where 38 planes and more than 6,000 passengers were forced to land on September 11, 2001. The book, music and lyrics are by the Canadian team Irene Sankoff and David Hein. Read the full review.
The brain-expanding solo artist, musical magpie, erstwhile Talking Head and iconic oversize-suit wearer touches down on Broadway with a theatrical concert that includes songs from his best-selling 2018 album, American Utopia, as well as highlights from his older material. The production features choreography by Big Dance Theater's Annie-B Parson and has been created with input from Alex Timbers (who directed Byrne's 2013 Imelda Marcos musical Here Lies Love).
In this captivating original musical, actual teenager Andrew Barth Feldman now plays the title role of a high school student thrust into social relevance after a classmate's suicide. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's score combines well-crafted lyrics with an exciting pop sound, and Steven Levenson’s book gives all the characters shaded motives. Read the full review.
Broadway review by Adam Feldman The British mentalist Derren Brown is up to his old tricks in Secret, and very fine tricks they are. Not for nothing has Brown become a celebrity in his native England: He is a first-class stage magician, and in his Broadway debut he commands our fascination for nearly two and a half hours. Deploying a mixture of techniques (cold reading, subtle psychological manipulation, even mass mesmerism), he repeatedly gets members of the audience to seem to do his bidding. But although much of his act looks like mind reading, he renounces any claim to psychic ability—cannily disarming us of our skepticism, the better to catch us off guard. With help from directors Andy Nyman and Andrew O’Connor, he misdirects us in plain sight. The secret of Secret’s success lies not in the big-reveal tentpoles of the act (which are highly skillful variations on standard mentalist routines) but in the partly improvised patter that cloaks them in genuine risk and spontaneity. When things don’t go perfectly smoothly—when the good-natured and self-assured Brown bobbles a prediction or two—the hitches only add to the tension and impressiveness of what he is doing, as when a juggler’s dropped ball reminds you how many are still in the air. The show leaves you in a state of joyful bafflement. Can you believe it? You don’t have to, and that’s the fun. It’s a con game, and Brown is a consummate pro. Cort Theatre (Broadway). By Andy Nyman, Derren Brown and Andrew O’Connor. Di
Broadway review by Adam Feldman Freestyle Love Supreme is a dream of a show: the scheme of a team of thespians from Wesleyan who went with their flow, 16 years ago, to improvise a hip-hop musical. Their act is virtuoso. FLS is a phenomenon, uncommon and on-the-fly—a high wire where performers get by without a guide for the words that pour out from their lips and their lungs (as they try not to trip on the tips of their tongues). Their abilities, their skill and ease, are always impressive, but it’s less of a show-off than a love-in with a geek streak. There’s a reason FLS is so buzzy: It’s not just cool, it’s also warm and fuzzy. In the show’s new incarnation, at a venue on Shubert Alley, the emcee of emcees is Anthony “Two-Touch” Veneziale. He genially handles all the crowd participation, gleaning vital information that will fuel improvisation. The roster of performers varies, but a core group carries much of the weight: Utkarsh Ambudkar is a brash and quick star; beatboxer Chris Sullivan fulfills his mission with precision, as does pianist Arthur Lewis, while the group’s newest addition, Aneesa Folds, is a singer and a smarty who brings welcome fresh eggs to what had been a sausage party. Special guests each night keep it light and tight as they join Veneziale at the monster-track rally. When I was there, the spare chair was filled by FLS cofounding father Lin-Manuel Miranda—cuddly-cute as a panda, and just the man to land a toss-off joke and lend his hand to his band o
Theater review by Adam Feldman At the end of the first act of Frozen, there is a moment that zaps the audience to life like a blast of cold air. Elsa (Caissie Levy), the young queen of a Nordic realm, has witchy ice-creation powers that she has been forced to keep hidden; now, self-exiled to a Fortress of Solitude–like castle, she exults in reckless freedom and power. As she belts the show’s takeaway number, “Let It Go,” her heavy royal garments transform, in one thrilling instant, into a shimmery frost-blue party dress. It’s “Defying Gravity” on the rocks, and for the duration of this Wicked-cool number, Frozen breaks free from the forces that keep most of Disney’s latest musical earthbound. Otherwise, there is altogether too little magic in the kingdom of Arendelle, which Elsa’s impulsive younger sister, Anna (Patti Murin), must save from the eternal winter to which Elsa has unwittingly condemned it. In adapting their smash 2013 movie to the stage, Frozen’s creators—including screenwriter Jennifer Lee and songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez—faced a challenge: Many of the film’s key sequences are adventure scenes (a wolf attack, a giant snow monster, a climactic blizzard) that are hard to re-create onstage. Julie Taymor solved this problem in The Lion King by coming up with a comprehensive aesthetic vocabulary of her own, but Frozen director Michael Grandage’s reach is less ambitious. In lieu of the great outdoors, he moves much of the show to lofty and stu
Broadway review by Adam Feldman In All the Way, which ran on Broadway in 2014, Robert Schenkkan offered a largely sympathetic portrait of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s first year in office: his accession to the presidency after the assassination of John F. Kennedy and his canny machinations to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That play depicted the compromises that undergirded Johnson’s success; its informative sequel, The Great Society, shows the following four years, in which the compromises rise and overwhelm him. This is a very different Johnson indeed. Whereas Bryan Cranston brought a dogged vitality and wily command to the role, the version played by Brian Cox (Succession), though still spouting folksy Texas wisdoms and able to manipulate his foes, seems older, wearier and less secure in his power. This is appropriate to Johnson’s story during this period of upheaval: The great strong-armer and glad-hander is losing his grip. But in the absence of Cranston’s central charisma, the play—already spread thin by the longer time frame—seems even more like an illustrated lecture. As history classes go, this is a classy one. Director Bill Rauch has assembled a large and capable cast of pros for the supporting roles, which are sketched in quick strokes: Bryce Pinkham’s callow Bobby Kennedy, Gordon Clapp’s looming J. Edgar Hoover, Frank Wood’s droll Everett Dirksen, Matthew Rauch’s rueful Robert McNamara, Marc Kudisch’s galumphing Richard Daley, David Garrison’s juicily mean Georg
Theater review by Adam Feldman Here’s my advice: Go to hell. And by hell, of course, I mean Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell’s fizzy, moody, thrilling new Broadway musical. Ostensibly, at least, the show is a modern retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy goes to the land of the dead in hopes of retrieving girl, boy loses girl again. “It’s an old song,” sings our narrator, the messenger god Hermes (André De Shields, a master of arch razzle-dazzle). “And we’re gonna sing it again.” But it’s the newness of Mitchell’s musical account—and Rachel Chavkin’s gracefully dynamic staging—that bring this old story to quivering life. In a New Orleans–style bar, hardened waif Eurydice (Eva Noblezada) falls for Orpheus (Reeve Carney), a busboy with an otherworldly high-tenor voice who is working, like Roger in Rent, toward writing one perfect song. But dreams don’t pay the bills, so the desperate Eurydice—taunted by the Fates in three-part jazz harmony—opts to sell her soul to the underworld overlord Hades (Patrick Page, intoning jaded come-ons in his unique sub-sepulchral growl, like a malevolent Leonard Cohen). Soon she is forced, by contract, into the ranks of the leather-clad grunts of Hades’s filthy factory city; if not actually dead, she is “dead to the world anyway.” This Hades is a drawling capitalist patriarch who keeps his minions loyal by giving them the minimum they need to survive. (“The enemy is poverty,” he sings to them i
Hamilton: Theater review by David Cote What is left to say? After Founding Father Alexander Hamilton’s prodigious quill scratched out 12 volumes of nation-building fiscal and military policy; after Lin-Manuel Miranda turned that titanic achievement (via Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography) into the greatest American musical in decades; after every critic in town (including me) praised the Public Theater world premiere to high heaven; and after seeing this language-drunk, rhyme-crazy dynamo a second time, I can only marvel: We've used up all the damn words. Wait, here are three stragglers, straight from the heart: I love Hamilton. I love it like I love New York, or Broadway when it gets it right. And this is so right. A sublime conjunction of radio-ready hip-hop (as well as R&B, Britpop and trad showstoppers), under-dramatized American history and Miranda’s uniquely personal focus as a first-generation Puerto Rican and inexhaustible wordsmith, Hamilton hits multilevel culture buttons, hard. No wonder the show was anointed a sensation before even opening. Assuming you don’t know the basics, Hamilton is a (mostly) rapped-through biomusical about an orphan immigrant from the Caribbean who came to New York, served as secretary to General Washington, fought against the redcoats, authored most of the Federalist Papers defending the Constitution, founded the Treasury and the New York Post and even made time for an extramarital affair that he damage-controlled in a scandal-stanching pamp
Is there anything Harry Connick Jr.—singer, pianist, bandleader, Broadway star, American Idol judge, alien-fighting Air Force pilot (in Independence Day at least)—can't do? Now the hunky jazz crooner returns to the Great White Way for three weeks of concerts devoted to the sophisticated oeuvre of Broadway and Great American Songbook master Cole Porter (Anything Goes).
Theater review by Adam Feldman The world of Harry Potter has arrived on Broadway, Hogwarts and all, and it is a triumph of theatrical magic. Set two decades after the final chapters of J.K. Rowling’s world-shaking kid-lit heptalogy, the two-part epic Harry Potter and the Cursed Child combines grand storytelling with stagecraft on a scale heretofore unimagined. Richly elaborated by director John Tiffany, the show looks like a million bucks (or, in this case, a reported $68 million); the Lyric Theatre has been transfigured from top to bottom to immerse us in the narrative. It works: The experience is transporting. Jack Thorne’s play, based on a story he wrote with Rowling and Tiffany, extends the Potter narrative while remaining true to its core concerns. Love and friendship and kindness are its central values, but they don’t come easily: They are bound up in guilt, loneliness and fear. Harry (Jamie Parker) is weighted with trauma dating back to his childhood, which hinders his ability to communicate with his troubled middle son, Albus (Sam Clemmett); it doesn’t help that Albus’s only friend is the bookish outcast Scorpius Malfoy (the exceptional Anthony Boyle), son of Harry’s erstwhile enemy, Draco (Alex Price). Despite the best intentions of Harry’s solid wife, Ginny (Poppy Miller), and his friends Hermione (Noma Dumezweni) and Ron (Paul Thornley), things turn dark very fast. Set designer Christine Jones and lighting designer Neil Austin keep much of the stage shroude
Broadway review by Adam Feldman Even before the evidence piles up—before parts of scenes repeat themselves, and names and places start worming their way into stories where they don’t belong—audiences at The Height of the Storm may feel an eerie sense of déjà vu. Three years ago at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club presented Florian Zeller’s The Father: a play about a man named André who has daughters named Anne and Élise, and who is losing his mind to dementia. The Height of the Storm gives us a different André (Jonathan Pryce), also with daughters named Anne (Amanda Drew) and Élise (Lisa O’Hare). This André is a literary lion instead of an engineer, however, and he has a wife: Her name is Madeleine (Eileen Atkins), in a polite nod to Proust, and she might be dead—or perhaps she is not, or maybe André is the dead one. (As he says: “You think people are dead, but it’s not always the case.”) For at least half an hour, Zeller keeps us guessing; as in The Father, confusion is both his subject and his prime dramatic strategy. “Imagine a dream you never wake up from,” muses André. “It’d be a real nightmare!” The play is skillfully woven with dream logic. Details bleed from one narrative into another; two non-family figures, identified as the Woman (Lucy Cohu) and the Man (James Hillier), have unstable identities. It’s a deliberately frustrating experience, like a jigsaw puzzle in which the pieces fit together but yield no coherent picture. Translated from
The elaborate traveling magic show returns for its fifth edition in six years. This year's international lineup features American magician Kevin James (a veteran of the production's first Broadway incarnation) along with English mentalist Chris Cox, Korean sleight-of-hand man Hyun Joon Kim, French illusionist Enzo Weyne, British entertainer Paul Dabek, Russian quick-change wizards Sos and Victoria Petrosyan and the Ukrainian troupe Verba Shadow Theatre.
Matthew Lopez's two-part, seven-hour drama, directed by Stephen Daldry, reimagines E.M. Forster's novel Howards End for a group of gay men in modern-day New York. Kyle Soller, Andrew Burnap, John Benjamin Hickey, Paul Hilton and Samuel H. Levine reprise the roles they played in the West End last season, joined by new actors including the formidable Lois Smith. The play's length and content have earned it inevitable comparisons to Angels in America, which is a tough wingspan to fill, but its reception in London was rapturous.
The jukebox-musical train powers forward on the tracks of Alanis Morissette's megahit 1995 album, adapted by Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody. Diane Paulus (Pippin) directs the show, which traces the fault lines in a seemingly happy suburban family. Along with her greatest hits—such as "Ironic," "Hand in My Pocket," " You Oughta Know"—Morissette has fleshed out the score with new songs, arranged and orchestrated by the adept Tom Kitt.
A diminutive blond with a piercing, helium-tinged belt and a comic manner that harks back to great funny women of old, Chenoweth is the most distinctive musical-theater star to emerge in decades. She's also an Emmy-winning TV actor, an accomplished coloratura soprano and a first-rate concert performer. In this Broadway concert (and newest album), Chenoweth salutes some of the female artists who have inspired her, including Judy Garland, Dolly Parton, Barbra Streisand and Patsy Cline.
Broadway review by Helen Shaw In order to enjoy the The Lightning Thief, a myth-filled musicalization of Rick Riordan’s first Percy Jackson novel, you’ll need to read the book. Many of the show’s current attendees obviously have: Secondary characters get entrance applause. But while those young theatergoers can fill in any missing details from memory, the challenge of turning a YA bildungsroman full of epic battles and road trips and snake-haired monsters into a musical has overwhelmed the creative team. In staying faithful to the novel, they’ve wound up with a mess. Young Percy Jackson (Chris McCarrell) can’t figure out why he’s such a troubled kid or why demons are assaulting him on field trips—until he’s sent to Camp Half-Blood. There, he learns that he’s a demigod, the son of an Olympian, and destined for mighty works. He must sort himself into a cabin, where he meets a tough know-it-all girl, Annabeth (Kristin Stokes), whose clear heroic qualities play second fiddle to his own. Riordan’s debt to Harry Potter is, as you can see, extreme. Those old patterns work. In its original incarnation as a scrappy TheaterWorks/USA show, The Lightning Thief’s connection to Riordan’s book was its core strength: At a nonprofit aimed at young audiences, it was manifestly meant to trigger interest in the page. Now that the lightning’s supposed to strike on Broadway, however, this sweet, small project seems out of place. Much of Stephen Brackett’s production doesn’t work in the bigger r
Theater review by Adam Feldman Teenage girls rule in the tart but sweet new Broadway musical Mean Girls. But their system of high-school government is far from a democracy: It’s a reign of terror, angst and mall fashions, where popularity is arrogated and then ruthlessly enforced. Having spent her childhood being home-schooled in Kenya, nature and math enthusiast Cady (Erika Henningsen) is initially confused by the rigid caste system of her new school in Chicago. She tries to be nice, but the ruthlessness of American teenage culture brings out Cady’s predatory instincts. She reverts to the mean. A canny crossbreed of Heathers and Hairspray, the musical has been adapted by Tina Fey from her own 2004 cult movie, and updated to reflect the new realities of smartphones and social media. Fey is one of the sharpest comic writers in America, and the show remains, in some sense, her vehicle: an auto de Fey, burning with bookish anger at the limits young women place on each other and themselves. (Her film role as a pushy calculus teacher is amusingly evoked by Kerry Butler, who also plays the other adult women.) But this version of Mean Girls is not just a copy of the original. The most famous lines from the screenplay are here, but Casey Nicholaw’s energetic staging wisely breezes past them; the newer jokes get bigger laughs, while the score—by Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin—successfully builds on Fey’s knowingly corrective tone. (“This is modern feminism talkin’,” sings a high-
Theater review by Adam Feldman Red alert! Red alert! If you’re the kind of person who frets that jukebox musicals are taking over Broadway, prepare to tilt at the windmill that is the gorgeous, gaudy, spectacularly overstuffed Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Directed with opulent showmanship by Alex Timbers, this adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 movie may be costume jewelry, but its shine is dazzling. The place is the legendary Paris nightclub of the title, and the year is ostensibly 1899. Yet the songs—like Catherine Zuber’s eye-popping costumes—span some 150 years of styles. Moulin Rouge! begins with a generous slathering of “Lady Marmalade,” belted to the skies by four women in sexy black lingerie, long velvet gloves and feathered headdresses. Soon they yield the stage to the beautiful courtesan Satine (a sublimely troubled Karen Olivo), who makes her grand entrance descending from the ceiling on a swing, singing “Diamonds Are Forever.” She is the Moulin Rouge’s principal songbird, and Derek McLane’s sumptuous gold-and-red set looms around her like a gilded cage. After falling in with a bohemian crowd, Christian (the boyish Aaron Tveit), a budding songwriter from small-town Ohio, wanders into the Moulin Rouge like Orpheus in the demimonde, his cheeks as rosy with innocence as the showgirls’ are blushed with maquillage. As cruel fate would have it, he instantly falls in love with Satine, and she with him—but she has been promised, alas, to the wicked Duke of Monroth (Tam Mu
Theater review by Adam Feldman After a hit run at St. Ann's Warehouse last year, Daniel Fish’s fascinating and unsettling reimagination of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! has moved to Broadway, with its immediacy, strangeness and eerie sense of danger intact. (See original review below.) The show is now played in deep thrust, with the audience on three sides of the action. Nearly the entire cast of the Off Broadway version returns: Rebecca Naomi Jones and Damon Daunno are the main couple, Laurey and Curly, stained in this version by their unkind treatment of Jud (a rivetingly emotional Patrick Vaill); Ali Stroker and James Davis provide superb (and much-needed) comic relief as the sexed-up Ado Annie and her ardent wooer Will Parker, and Will Brill has assumed the part of the commitment-averse suitor Ali Hakim. Seeing the production a second time allows one to appreciate not only the striking darkness that Fish and company have teased out of the material, but also the light they shine on small details. (Mallory Portnoy and Mitch Tebo are marvelous in small roles.) It's thrilling to see a Broadway classic rise to the challenge of so modern a conception. Oklahoma! it remains, but there's nothing corny about it. RECOMMENDED: A guide to Broadway's shocking revival of Oklahoma! [Note: The following is a review of the 2018 production at St. Ann's Warehouse.] Director Daniel Fish’s bold, spare revival of Oklahoma! gives us the ranch but not the dressing. The musical’s ca
More than three decades into its Broadway run, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera continues to draw tourists to its candlelit lair. The plot, borrowed from a 1910 potboiler by Gaston Leroux, tells of Christine Daaé, a naïve young soprano whose secretive voice teacher turns out to be a deformed musical genius who lives beneath the Paris Opera House. (Although the Phantom is serial killer, extortionist, kidnapper and probable rapist, Christine and audiences are mysteriously drawn to him. Who doesn’t love a bad boy?) While the epic synth-rock chords of the title song may ground Phantom in the 1980s, the show’s Puccini-inflected airs are far grander than most of what one hears elsewhere on Broadway. And although there may not be much depth to the musical’s story (by Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe) or lyrics (mostly by Charles Hart), the production—directed by Hal Prince—has been carefully maintained and refurbished over the years, and remains a marvel of sumptuous surfaces. Majestic Theatre (Broadway). Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Charles Hart. Book by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Directed by Harold Prince. Running time: 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.
Broadway review by Adam Feldman “We are Sicilians!” announces Serafina Delle Rose (Marisa Tomei) to the young man who has come to court her teenage daughter. “We are not cold-blooded.” That’s putting it mildly. Tennessee Williams’s 1951 oddity The Rose Tattoo is set in a community of Italian immigrants on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, and their passion runneth over. A dressmaker of peasant stock, Serafina pours her soul into the worship of two idols: the Virgin Mary, to whom she maintains a candlelit household shrine, and her virile husband, Rosario, whose uncle was a baron in the old country but who now drives a truck for the local mob. Her lust is religious. “A woman must not have a heart that is too big to swallow!” warns her confidante, Assunta (Carolyn Mignini), the local fattucchiera—a benign sort of witch, in contrast to la Strega (the flavorful Constance Shulman), a grotesque crone who owns a goat and rails against immigrants (“More of them coming over on boats all the time”). What Assunta knows—what everyone knows except Serafina—is that Rosario has been stepping out with an icy blonde blackjack dealer. A brutal wreck and reckoning are just down the road. Serafina’s blissful naiveté is punished early: Within 20 minutes or so, she has suffered a miscarriage and joined the ranks of the black-clad widows who haunt the stage and emerge from time to time to sing in Italian. The mood is operatic, and so is Serafina’s mourning: She cuts herself off from the world, cherishi
Eleven years after the show's most recent New York engagement, world-renowned Russian clown Slava Polunin brings his frosty spectacle back to Broadway for a limited holiday run. Don't expect ha-ha merrymaking as Slava and his fellow performers roll in gigantic snowballs, frolic in the powder and endure apocalyptics blizzards. The comedy is subtle, leisurely and rather depressive, with moments of poignant visual poetry, especially in the exquisite final sequence.
Broadway review by Adam Feldman Jeremy O. Harris’s lacerating play, a sold-out succès de scandale Off Broadway last season, has now moved north to Broadway, and it feels wonderfully incongruous on the mostly staid Great White Way. Brash, smart and gleefully confrontational, this is the kind of show that starts arguments. It begins on a perverse antebellum plantation, but as it moves forward, in three very different acts that successively reframe what we have seen before them, it keeps you off balance; even afterward, you may feel staggered. As I wrote of its incarnation at New York Theatre Workshop, “Slave Play is funny, perceptive, probing and, at times, disturbingly sexy. It snaps like a whip, and its aim is often outward.” Whatever you think it is, it's almost certainly not what you think. (Click here to read the entire Off Broadway review.) Director Robert O’Hara has reassembled the play’s original cast, with one exception: Joaquina Kalukango now plays the pivotal role of Kaneisha. The Broadway production is, perforce, a bit broader than the one at NYTW—especially in the bravura comedic performances of Annie McNamara, whose molestation of a four-poster bed is horny physical comedy for the ages, and James Cusati-Moyer, whose character throws a spectacular diva tantrum when asked to confront his own whiteness. For most of the night, in the four interracial relationships that Harris depicts, the nonblack characters dominate: They really, really want to make sure they’re b
Broadway review by Adam Feldman “It feels as if I’m made of yarn,” says Bella (Mary-Louise Parker) in Adam Rapp’s unabashedly literary The Sound Inside, and in a way, she is. A professor of creative writing at Yale—and the author of two short-story collections “and an underappreciated novel”—she narrates herself directly to the audience, spinning herself into a story, pausing sometimes to jot down one of her own turns of phrase on a notepad. And as she speaks, in director David Cromer’s ravishingly spare production, the world she describes is summoned to spectral life; when she mentions a snowy winter in New Haven, a denuded tree slowly fades into view on the black wall behind her. Unmarried and friendless, she lives for books, and probably not for very much longer: She has recently been diagnosed with stomach cancer (”somewhat advanced,” she brags wryly), which killed her mother at roughly her age. Into this bleak picture intrudes, uninvited, a seemingly insufferable child: Christopher (Will Hochman, appropriately unsettling), a violently opinionated freshman who barges into her office, having refused to schedule an appointment with her on principle. (He rails, in audible all-caps, against “the encephalitic procedural gargoyles from the dean’s office.”) Unexpectedly, she finds him fascinating; both of them are weirdos. They discuss Dostoevsky, suicide and the novel he has been working on, which concerns a strange encounter between strangers on a train, one of whom is a y
Broadway review by Adam Feldman The test of any star is the ability to rise above adversity, and Tina Turner has had more than her share. Abandoned by her parents as a child in rural Tennessee, she ascended to R&B fame in the 1960s at the side of Ike Turner, who exploited her and beat her before she climbed to even greater heights as a solo artist in the 1980s. The hugely talented Adrienne Warren, who plays her in the jukebox biomusical Tina, has different obstacles to overcome. Mediocrity surrounds her at every turn: an overstretched narrative that, in trying to span more than three decades of personal and artistic history, feels both rushed and overlong; a time line that is often confusing; dialogue that is rarely more than functional when it doesn’t sink into corn (“You know, Carpenter, you always said I had a good ear, but, you know, I have a good nose, too… for bullshit”). Director Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!) has staged the show with minimal subtlety—whenever Ike (Daniel J. Watts, in the ultimate thankless role) does cocaine, which is often, he waves a big bag of white powder in the air—and several of the supporting actors pitch their performances to the second balcony. (The Lunt-Fontanne doesn’t have a second balcony.) These failings might not register as much in a lighthearted show, but they don’t serve the seriousness of Turner’s journey; this is a musical in which women and children are repeatedly brutalized onstage, and the heroine ends the first act with her fac
Theater review by Adam Feldman The defense never rests in Aaron Sorkin’s cagey adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. That the play exists at all is an act of boldness: Turning Harper Lee’s 1960 novel into a play in 2018 is no easy task. The hero of the story, as every schoolchild knows, is Atticus Finch (Jeff Daniels), a lawyer in rural Alabama in the early 1930s, who bravely defends a disabled black man, Tom Robinson (Gbenga Akinnagbe), against a false accusation of rape. Slow to anger and reluctant to judge—“You never really understand a person,” he says, “until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”—Atticus is a paragon of that most fabled of American values: decency. But while To Kill a Mockingbird has a special place in the literature of American civil rights, the book is also now a minefield. As seen through the eyes of his preteen tomboy daughter, Scout (Celia Keenan-Bolger), Atticus is very much a white-daddy savior, albeit one who can’t perform miracles, in a narrative that has little room for the perspectives of black people beyond the respect and gratitude they show him. At its center is a story about a young woman—Tom’s accuser, Mayella (Erin Wilhelmi)—whose allegations of sexual assault must not be believed. Even more problematic, to some modern ears, is the scope of Atticus’s magnanimity. It is not just the black skins that he urges his children to walk around in; it is also the skins of the white farmers who try to lynch Tom Robinson before his trial.
Theater review by Adam Feldman The most glorious words in the English language, the director of the show-within-a-show in 42nd Street once declared, are musical comedy. But few musicals on Broadway these days live up to the second part of that term: They evoke fond chuckles of appreciation, but they don’t suck the laughs from your belly. Enter Tootsie, all dolled up in a red sequined gown, to drag out the real comic goods. Let other shows mope or brood or inspire, as some of them do very well. This one is out to give you a good time, and that’s just what it does. Tootsie rocks. Tootsie rolls. Tootsie pops. Santino Fontana, in the performance of his career to date, stars as Michael Dorsey, a talented but difficult actor whose professional clock is ticking. Broke, unemployable and newly 40 years old, he feels increasingly desperate: “Caught in the gap between ‘What the hell just happened’ and ‘What the hell is gonna happen next.’” Through a neurotic ex-girlfriend, Sandy (the magically amusing Sarah Stiles, in Bernadette Peters curls), he learns of an open role in an ill-conceived musical sequel to Romeo and Juliet called Juliet’s Curse. Disguised in glasses, a blue dress, a teased-out wig and a clipped Southern accent, he reinvents himself as an actress named Dorothy Michaels, auditions for the show—and lands the part. Robert Horn’s crackerjack script, the funniest book of a Broadway musical since The Book of Mormon, evinces uncommon finesse in its approach to updating the
Waitress: Theater review by David Cote [Note: American Idol winner and recording artist Jordin Sparks plays the lead role of Jenna through November 24. Katharine McPhee takes over on November 25.]One’s sorely tempted to praise the delightful new musical Waitress using lots of bakery metaphors. After all, its hero is a pastry genius with relationship woes named Jenna (Jessie Mueller). She’s a perky Southern gal who can confect a mouthwatering Mermaid Marshmallow Pie but can’t measure the right ingredients for happiness. So, unable to resist, here I go: Fresh and delicious, Waitress has an excellent ratio of sweet to tart; supporting characters who provide crustiness (Dakin Matthews’s grumbly store owner) and flakiness (Christopher Fitzgerald’s loony admirer of another waitress); and cooked-to-perfection staging by Diane Paulus. The whole dish is—please forgive me—love at first bite.Based on the 2007 indie film by the late writer-director Adrienne Shelly, Waitress has been whipped (I’ll stop now) into an expertly constructed and emotionally satisfying tale of self-liberation in the face of limited options. Jessie Nelson’s broadly comic yet brooding book meshes wonderfully with a frisky, bright score by pop star Sara Bareilles, a seasoned songwriter who lets the Beatles and other Britpop influences shine through. Bareilles’s custom-built earworms address workplace pluck (“Opening Up”), first-date jitters (“When He Sees Me”), quirky, obsessive love (“Never Ever Getting Rid of Me
If you think Daniel Fish's revival of Oklahoma! is unconventional, fasten your seatbelts for Belgian expressionist bad boy Ivo van Hove's take on Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents's classic 1957 musical drama, a gang-war story inspired by Romeo and Juliet and most recently revived a decade ago. Instead of Jerome Robbins's original choreography, this production will feature movement by the contemporary Belgian dance maker Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, along with sets and lighting by Van Hove's partner, Jan Versweyveld. The multiethnic cast includes Isaac Powell as Tony, Shereen Pimentel and Maria, Yesenia Ayala as Anita, Ben Cook as Riff and Amar Ramasar as Bernardo.
This musical prequel to The Wizard of Oz addresses surprisingly complex themes, such as standards of beauty, morality and, believe it or not, fighting fascism. Thanks to Winnie Holzman’s witty book and Stephen Schwartz’s pop-inflected score, Wicked soars. The current cast includes Jackie Burns as Elphaba and Amanda Jane Cooper as Glinda.
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