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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Photograph: Courtesy Matthew MurphyHarry Potter and the Cursed Child

New York theater and Broadway reviews

From the best of the best to the absolute worst of Broadway and beyond, we give you an inside look at what's on stage

Adam Feldman
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Adam Feldman
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If you're looking to find the best Broadway shows, or are curious about what's happening Off Broadway or Off-Off Broadway, we can help. Time Out New York's theater critics are constantly on the lookout to guide you to the most exciting, original and moving shows in the city—and to steer you away from the ones that might not be worth your time. Here is a complete list of our reviews of productions that are currently playing in New York City.

Aladdin
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

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 is the

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Drama
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

Broadway review by Adam Feldman The would-be predators of the urban jungle in David Mamet’s 1975 American Buffalo are far from apex-level. Donny (Laurence Fishburne) runs a cluttered junk shop, with an eye out for possible scams on the side; young Bobby (Darren Criss), a dim bulb verging on burnout, acts as his gofer; and Teach (a terrific Sam Rockwell) is the kind of wanna-be hustler who fakes it till he takes it on the chin. (When he loses at poker, he assumes that everyone else must have cheated.) In Mamet’s engaging look at the bluffs and insecurities of American masculinity, these three men are meant to be collaborating on a coin heist, but none of them knows what he’s doing, much less what anyone else is doing. That leaves a lot of vacuum to be filled with bluster, paranoia, phony acumen and the playwright’s trademark rat-a-tat rhythms.  Directed by Neil Pepe with the expert eye for appraisal that the characters lack, this production is vastly superior to American Buffalo’s last Broadway incarnation, which ran briefly back in 2008. The play itself, which marked Mamet’s breakthrough, is as thin as a dime, but it’s got great atmospherics. Scott Pask’s set and Dede Ayite’s costumes plunge us into the shabby world of the action; seated around the thrust stage at Circle in the Square, the audience can almost smell the mix of dirt and desperation. Although not much happens in the play, which is less a thriller than a loiterer, it somehow seems fast-paced, thanks in large part

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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  • Musicals
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

Theater review by Adam Feldman Note: After closing at the Winter Garden Theatre in 2020, Beetlejuice returns to Broadway for an open-ended run at the Marquis Theatre starting in April 2021. 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, r

Blue Man Group
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Comedy
  • price 4 of 4
  • Noho

Three deadpan blue-skinned men with extraterrestrial imaginations carry this tourist fave, a show as smart as it is ridiculous. They drum on open tubs of paint, creating splashes of color; they consume Twinkies and Cap'n Crunch; they engulf the audience in a roiling sea of toilet paper. For sheer weird, exuberant fun, it's hard to top this long-running treat. (Note: The playing schedule varies from week to week, with as many as four performances on some days and none on others.)

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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  • Musicals
  • price 4 of 4
  • Midtown West

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 q

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Circuses & magic
  • price 4 of 4
  • Midtown East

After more than 15 years at the Waldorf Astoria, Steve Cohen, billed as the Millionaires’ Magician, now conjures his high-class parlor magic in the marble-columned Madison Room at the swank Lotte New York Palace. Audiences must dress to be impressed (cocktail attire is required); tickets start at $100, with an option to pay more for meet-and-greet time and extra tricks with Cohen after the show. But if you've come to see a classic-style magic act, you get what you pay for. Sporting a tuxedo and bright rust hair, the magician delivers routines that he has buffed to a patent-leather gleam: In addition to his signature act—"Think-a-Drink," involving a kettle that pours liquids by request—highlights include a lulu of levitation trick and a card-trick finale that leaves you feeling like, well, a million bucks.

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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  • Musicals
  • price 4 of 4
  • Midtown West

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. RECOMMENDED: Guide to Chicago on Broadway

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Musicals
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

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.

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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  • Musicals
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

Broadway review by Adam Feldman Before we get to the specifics of the spectacular new Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s 1970 musical Company, consider for a moment what is packed in its singular title. Company, in the first place, is what we call a guest at someone else’s home, as the show’s main character—the bachelor Bobby, reconceived here as the bachelorette Bobbie (Katrina Lenk)—so often is among her married friends. Welcome though she is there, she is extraneous to their deepest happiness: Two’s company, three’s a crowd, as the saying goes. But as the other saying goes, company is what misery loves: In cajoling her to settle down, Bobbie’s friends, who sometimes envy her freedom, may be trying to trap her into the kind of commitment they feel stuck in. “You're sorry-grateful, regretful-happy” sing three of the show’s married men, and this hyphenated state of mind is characteristic of Company’s richly ambivalent portrait of marital life in New York City. A company is also, of course, a cast of actors, and Company is very much an ensemble show. Furth’s nonlinear book offers vignettes of Bobbie’s interactions with five couples and three single men she has dated; Sondheim’s coruscating, quick-witted songs weave in and out of these scenes, expanding or illustrating their themes. It's a psychological revue—a theatricalization of Bobbie’s conflicted feelings about commitment on the occasion of her 35th birthday—and that’s hard to pull off: The show requir

  • 5 out of 5 stars
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  • Musicals
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

Broadway review by Adam Feldman  [Note: The title role in Dear Evan Hansen is currently played by Zachary Noah Piser.] What does it look like when a star is born? In the case of Ben Platt, the astonishing young actor who plays the title role in Dear Evan Hansen, it’s a bit like an actual birth: beautiful but strange and wet, tinged with confusion and danger. Evan is painfully introverted; he has no friends in high school, and even the thought of talking to a girl he likes, Zoe (the poignantly unaffected Laura Dreyfuss), makes his palms perspire. Platt’s performance extends that to his whole body; when he sings, his face often gleams with sweat. Yet the effect is not off-putting; Evan is immensely lovable, even when he makes terrible mistakes. He speaks in rushes of instant regret, as though frantically digging a hole to bury himself in, and his intense awkwardness is filtered through first-rate comic timing, high-wire dramatic acting and a gorgeously expressive tenor voice. Simply put: Platt is giving one of the greatest leading male performances I’ve ever seen in a musical, and the thrillingly modern and moving Dear Evan Hansen is worthy of it. Like its closest musical-theater relative, Next to Normal, the show takes on challenging subjects—death, grief, class, mental illness, social media, social anxiety—with unapologetic trust in the power of contemporary pop music to tell complex stories onstage. As in its Off Broadway run at Second Stage earlier this year, the musical b

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Shakespeare
  • price 3 of 4
  • Noho

Theater review by Raven Snook  Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but in Fat Ham redemption is what's on the menu. The outlines of James Ijames's delicious riff on Hamlet are Shakespearean, but the point and the punch lines—and most of the poetry—are the playwright’s own. Morose online college student Juicy (an endearing Marcel Spears) is upset that his newly widowed mom Tedra (Nikki Crawford) has already remarried his scheming uncle Rev (Billy Eugene Jones). His father was an abusive killer who got shanked in prison, but when Pap returns as a ghost (also played by Jones) to reveal that Rev was to blame for his death—and to demand that his son avenge his murder—the queer and clever Juicy is torn over whether to continue the family traditions of toxic masculinity and violence. But can he choose pleasure over pain?  Juicy’s spiritual journey takes place at a boisterous Southern backyard barbecue that is funny and fabulous, terrifying and touching, as seven souls—each as messy as the meat they're devouring—clash, connect and push against their expected roles. In addition to the kin that's less than kind, there are Juicy's motor-mouthed cousin Tio (Chris Herbie Holland, hilarious), whose porn obsession inspires a dreamy philosophy; church lady Rabby (Benja Kay Thomas, perfect); and Rabby’s unhappy kids, Opal (Adrianna Mitchell) and U.S. Marine Larry (Calvin Leon Smith, heartbreaking), all of whom have secrets. Over ribs and ribbing, cracked karaoke and a game of charades int

  • 2 out of 5 stars
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  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

Broadway review by Adam Feldman The rain clouds gather early over the misplaced-pride parade that is the Broadway revival of Funny Girl. The audience is primed for a boffo old-fashioned musical comedy, which this production promises. Even before the curtain—which itself depicts a curtain!—goes up, the audience claps at the overture’s most famous songs; when Beanie Feldstein makes her first appearance as Ziegfeld Follies comedian Fanny Brice, stares into an invisible mirror and delivers her famous opening self-affirmation (”Hello, gorgeous!”), the crowd goes wild. But then she starts to sing. It is unfair, but unavoidable, to compare Feldstein to Funny Girl’s original leading lady, Barbra Streisand, who was not only a fresh comic talent at the time but also one of the greatest vocalists in Broadway history. But there’s a reason Funny Girl hasn’t been revived since its original run in the early 1960s: Despite several memorable songs (with first-rate tunes by Jule Styne and second-rate lyrics by Bob Merrill), there’s not much to the story, which follows Brice’s meteoric rise in show business and her unlucky romance with a handsome but feckless gambler, Nick Arnstein (Ramin Karimloo). Isobel Lennart’s book has been rewritten for this production by Harvey Fierstein, but it still feels episodic and superficial. To cover its holes, this musical requires a star who really has the goods. What Feldstein has is the okays.  I’ve been a fan of Feldstein’s for years, and was hoping for the

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • price 2 of 4
  • Hell's Kitchen

Note: Gazillion Bubble Show is on hiatus through April 1, 2022. Self-described “bubble scientist” Fan Yang's blissfully disarming act (now performed in New York by his son Deni, daughter Melody and wife Ana) consists mainly of generating a dazzling succession of bubbles in mind-blowing configurations, filling them with smoke or linking them into long chains. Lasers and flashing colored lights add to the trippy visuals.—David Cote

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

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 in

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Hamilton
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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  • Musicals
  • price 4 of 4
  • Midtown West

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 pamphle

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Drama
  • price 4 of 4
  • Midtown West

Broadway review by Adam Feldman  Reducio! After 18 months, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has returned to Broadway in a dramatically new form. As though it had cast a Shrinking Charm on itself, the formerly two-part epic is now a single show, albeit a long one: Almost three and a half hours of stage wizardry, set 20 years after the end of J.K. Rowling’s seven-part book series and tied to a complicated time-travel plot about the sons of Harry Potter and his childhood foe Draco Malfoy. (See below for a full review of the 2018 production.) Audiences who were put off by the previous version’s tricky schedule and double price should catch the magic now.  Despite its shrinking, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has kept most of its charm. The spectacular set pieces of John Tiffany’s production remain—the staircase ballet, the underwater swimming scene, the gorgeous flying wraiths—but about a third of the former text has been excised. Some of the changes are surgical trims, and others are more substantial. The older characters take the brunt of the cuts (Harry’s flashback nightmares, for example, are completely gone); there is less texture to the conflicts between the fathers and sons, and the plotting sometimes feels more rushed than before. But the changes have the salutary effect of focusing the story on its most interesting new creations: the resentful Albus Potter (James Romney) and the unpopular Scorpius Malfoy (Brady Dalton Richards), whose bond has been reconceived in a s

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • price 4 of 4
  • Midtown West

Director-designer Julie Taymor takes a reactionary Disney cartoon about the natural right of kings—in which the circle of life is putted against a queeny villain and his jive-talking ghetto pals—and transforms it into a gorgeous celebration of color and movement. The movie’s Elton John–Tim Rice score is expanded with African rhythm and music, and through elegant puppetry, Taymor populates the stage with an amazing menagerie of beasts; her audacious staging expands a simple cub into the pride of Broadway, not merely a fable of heredity but a celebration of heritage. RECOMMENDED: Guide to The Lion King on Broadway  Minskoff Theatre (Broadway). Music by Elton John. Lyrics by Tim Rice. Book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi. Directed by Julie Taymor. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 40mins. One intermission.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Musicals
  • price 3 of 4
  • Hell's Kitchen

Theater review by Adam Feldman  Note: Jeremy Jordan currently plays the role of Seymour. Conrad Ricamora takes over on January 11, 2022. Little Shop of Horrors is a weird and adorable show with teeth. Based on Roger Corman’s shlocky 1960 film, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s 1982 musical tells the Faustian story of a dirt-poor schlub named Seymour (Jonathan Groff), a lowly petal pusher at a Skid Row flower shop, who cultivates a relationship with a most unusual plant. What seems at first a blessing—a way for the lonely Seymour to earn money and to get closer to his boss, Mushnik (Tom Alan Robbins), and his used and bruised coworker, Audrey (Tammy Blanchard)—soon turns sinister. The plant, whom he names Audrey II (designed by Nicholas Mahon and voiced by Kingsley Leggs), requires human blood to grow, and Seymour doesn’t have enough of his own to spare. He doesn’t want to feed the beast, but he can’t resist the lure of the green. Arguably the best musical ever adapted from a movie, Little Shop does for B flicks what Sweeney Todd does for Grand Guignol. Librettist Ashman and composer Menken—who, between this show and their Disney animated films, did more than anyone to return musical theater from its mass-culture exile in the late 20th century—brilliantly wrap a sordid tale of capitalist temptation and moral decay in layers of sweetness, humor, wit and camp. Their extraordinary score bursts with colorful rock & roll, doo-wop, girl-group pop and R&B; Ashman’s lyrics blend masterf

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Shakespeare
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

Broadway review by Adam Feldman Broadway’s 2021-22 comeback season goes out with a shrug in Sam Gold’s production of Macbeth, the kind of passive-aggressive theater party that invites two big stars to attend—Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga as the regicidal title couple—and then makes a point of ignoring them. Short, eloquent, violent and packed with sensational business (murder! witches! madness! ghosts! a decapitated head!), Macbeth is usually one of Shakespeare’s most exciting plays. Not so here: Deliberately murky, this anemic modern-dress production creeps at a petty pace from scene to scene, to the last syllable of the tragedy’s verse and beyond into a wistful folk-song coda. The show begins with an annotative curtain speech by cast member Michael Patrick Thornton, who provides wry background on the vilification of witches in the early 17th century and then naughtily urges audience members to violate the taboo against saying the play’s name offstage in a theater. If you’re superstitious by nature, the two and a half hours that follow might thus be chalked up to bad luck. But it’s clear that Gold has done everything on purpose, however vague that purpose sometimes seems. As in the director's disappointing 2019 King Lear, dramaturgy usurps pride of place over staging; even if you know Macbeth quite well, the plot is strangely hard to track, and you may find yourself confused by the skeletal mise-en-scène and the doubling and tripling of roles. In keeping with its introduction,

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Circuses & magic
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

Once a week, after closing time, 10 people convene at the city’s oldest magic shop, Tannen’s, for a cozy evening of prestidigitation by the young and engaging Noah Levine. The shelves are crammed with quirky devices; there's a file cabinet behind the counter, a mock elephant in the corner and bins of individual trick instructions in plastic covers, like comic books or sheet music. The charm of Levine's show is in how well it fits the environment of this magic-geek chamber of secrets. As he maneuvers cards, eggs, cups and balls with aplomb, he talks shop, larding his patter with tributes to routines like the Stencel Aces and the Vernon Boat Trick—heirlooms of his trade that he gently polishes and displays for our amazement.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Musicals
  • price 4 of 4
  • Midtown West

Broadway review by Adam Feldman Billy Crystal talks loudly and carries a big shtick in Mr. Saturday Night, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. In this musical adaptation of his 1992 film, Crystal stars as a dried-up nightclub comic named Buddy Young Jr.—an ironic name, since he’s far from young, and he’s never been anybody's buddy. He’s a tough cut of brisket, and decades after a career-ending tirade on live TV in the 1950s, he’s been reduced to grouchy gigs on the Jewish retirement-home circuit. (“Don’t get me started!” is his starting line.) But when his face mistakenly pops up in an awards-show In Memoriam sequence, Young gets a chance to revive his career from the dead. Can he seize it? Or will he be his own schlemiel yet again? Thirty years ago, Crystal wore aging makeup to play this role on film. He doesn’t need it anymore, but he never really did: He has Buddy in his bones. Crystal has been playing this alter kocker alter ego since at least Saturday Night Live in 1985, and Buddy's type of Catskills-and-Friars-Club cut-up is embedded in his comic style: He has deep affection and respect for the generation of comedians that Buddy represents, and he keeps their spirit alive in his timing, his rhythms, his soulful aggression. (“Happy anniversary. Forty-five years!” Buddy tells his wife. “Eleven of the best years of my life.”) In Mr. Saturday Night he honors their history with a sweet, slight, nostalgic musical comedy. Mr. Saturday Night | Photograph: Courtesy Matthew M

  • 3 out of 5 stars
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  • Musicals
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

Broadway review by Adam Feldman The authorized biomusical MJ wants very much to freeze Michael Jackson in 1992: It’s a King of Pop-sical. The show begins on a note of truculent evasion. Jackson, played by the gifted Broadway newcomer Myles Frost, is in rehearsal for his Dangerous tour—a year before the superstar was first publicly accused of sexually abusing a minor—and the number they run is “Beat It,” a song about the importance of avoiding conflict. “Showin’ how funky strong is your fight,” sings Michael, prefiguring the musical’s approach to his life. “It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right.”  When the song is done, Michael speaks with an MTV reporter (Whitney Bashor) who has landed a rare interview with him. “With respect, I wanna keep this about my music,” he says. “Is it really possible to separate your life from your music?” she asks, preempting a question on many minds, and his reply is a slice of “Tabloid Junkie”: “Just because you read it in a magazine / Or see it on a TV screen, don’t make it factual.” And that, more or less, is that. Expertly directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, MJ does about as well as possible within its careful brief. In and of itself, it is a deftly crafted jukebox nostalgia trip. Lynn Nottage’s script weaves together three dozen songs, mostly from the Jackson catalog. The music and the dancing are sensational. And isn’t that, the show suggests, really the point in the end? Doesn’t that beat all? MJ is manifestly aimed at peopl

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Musicals
  • price 4 of 4
  • Hell's Kitchen

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 Mutu)

  • 3 out of 5 stars
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  • Musicals
  • price 4 of 4
  • Midtown West

Broadway review by Adam Feldman For a revival of musical theater’s most famous portrait of a con artist, the new Broadway production of The Music Man seems oddly lacking in confidence. Meredith Willson’s 1957 classic should sweep you up in a happy spell of suspended disbelief—much as its reformable-rascal hero, the fast-talking traveling mountebank who calls himself Professor Harold Hill, does to the easily misled citizens of a small town in 1912 Iowa. And who better to cast such magic, one might think, than Hugh Jackman, a bonafide movie star with real musical-theater chops, who has already played a charming charlatan on film as the sucker-seer P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman?  Yet while this Music Man is a solid and professional piece of work, and includes many incidental pleasures, the hoped-for enchantment never arrives. The production has reassembled much of the top-shelf creative team behind the thrilling 2017 Bette Midler revival of Hello, Dolly!, including director Jerry Zaks, choreographer Warren Carlyle and designer Santo Loquasto. And as in Dolly, it has surrounded its star with well-proved talents: Broadway darling Sutton Foster as his local foil, the wary librarian Marian Paroo; Marie Mullen as her excitable Irish mother; Jefferson Mays and Jayne Houdyshell as River City’s malaprop-prone mayor and his fussy wife; a loosey-goosey Shuler Hensley as Hill’s old friend and accomplice. The vehicle is polished; what it lacks is drive.  The production starts strong a

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Theater review by Raven Snook In comedy, timing is everything—and the timing of Alison Leiby's Oh God, A Show About Abortion is so perfect, you may wonder whether she facilitated the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade leak as the ultimate marketing ploy. But the current judicial chaos is just another illustration of why this politically savvy stand-up has spent three years incubating a solo show about reproductive rights. Her goal is to discuss and destigmatize abortion, and her penetrating comic treatise seriously slays.  The show is powerfully personal. But for Leiby, who knew that she didn't want children and was able to access and afford an abortion at age 35, the actual procedure she underwent was not really that big a deal, and it only takes up about 10 minutes of her tale. Her real subjects are the lack of meaningful discourse on the subject of abortion, the patriarchy's policing of women's bodies and society's compulsion to categorize everyone with a uterus as a mother or not a mother. That may sound more like a lecture than a laugh riot, but Leiby—a co-producer of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and a joke doctor for Broad City's Ilana Glazer, who's presenting this show—knows how to pack a punchline. With endearing offhandedness, she goofs on ignorant male doctors, sketchy one-night stands and her mother; pokes fun at her own flaws (like spending way too much on shoes and plants); imagines candid conversations about menstruation and honest commercials for birth control; and lamba

  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Broadway review by Adam Feldman Paradise Square is a square peg of a Broadway musical, and it spends much of its time in different round holes. On one hand, this ambitious but amorphous show is a wide-ranging historical period piece  about life and strife in Lower Manhattan’s violent Five Points district during the Civil War, as experienced by clashing groups of New Yorkers: white people, Black people, immigrants from places like Ireland and Germany. On another hand, it is a melodrama about couples and families torn apart by slavery, war and mustache-twirling villains. On yet another hand, or perhaps a foot, it is a Mickey-and-Judy story about a struggling local business that tries to keep its creditors at bay by mounting…a dance-off! As Paradise Square tries to juggle its weighty subject matter on these various appendages, you can sense it straining to keep its balance.  The show on which Paradise Square is based, Larry Kirwan’s Hard Times, focused on the life and music of the 19th-century songwriter Stephen Foster; elements of that version remain in vestigial form, but the new book—credited to Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas and Kirwan—shifts the focus toward a group of fictional characters. At its core is Nelly O’Brien (Joaquina Kalukango), the Black owner of a good-time joint called Paradise Square, which caters to a racially mixed crowd. Her husband (Matt Bogart) and his sister, Annie (a vivid Chilina Kennedy), are Irish immigrants, soon to be joined in America by their

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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NOTE: A 25th-anniversary concert production of The Phantom of the Opera, recorded at the Royal Albert Hall, streams live on YouTube on April 17 and 18 and can also currently be found on BroadwayHD.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.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
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  • Hell's Kitchen

Theater review by Adam Feldman [Note: This is a review of the 2017 Broadway production, which moves Off Broadway to New World Stages in 2019 with a new cast.] Ah, the joy of watching theater fail. The looming possibility of malfunction is part of what makes live performance exciting, and disasters remind us of that; the rite requires sacrifice. There is more than schadenfreude involved when we giggle at, say, a YouTube video of a high-school Peter Pan crashing haplessly into the scenery. There is also sympathy—there but for the grace of deus ex machina go we all—and, often, a respect for the efforts of the actors to somehow muddle through. Mischief Theatre’s The Play That Goes Wrong takes this experience to farcical extremes, as six amateur British actors (and two crew members who get pressed into service onstage) try to perform a hackneyed whodunnit amid challenges that escalate from minor mishaps (stuck doors, missed cues) to bona fide medical emergencies and massive structural calamities.  Depending on your tolerance for ceaseless slapstick, The Play That Goes Wrong will either have you rolling in the aisles or rolling your eyes. It is certainly a marvel of coordination: The imported British cast deftly navigates the pitfalls of Nigel Hook’s ingeniously tumbledown set, and overacts with relish. (I especially enjoyed the muggings of Dave Hearn, Charlie Russell and coauthor Henry Lewis.) Directed by Mark Bell, the mayhem goes like cuckoo clockwork.  If you want to have a goo

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Broadway review by Adam Feldman Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite is back on Broadway, and the title character looks great. When the curtain goes up, the set gets entrance applause; designed by John Lee Beatty, that master of envy-inducing decor, it has a golden glow of classic luxury. Simon’s hit 1968 trilogy of short comedies, about three different couples in Room 719 of a ritzy Manhattan hotel, is perhaps less timeless in its appeal. Its main characters are mostly middle-aged, and so is the writing; it is now over 50, and its comic cheek is showing some laugh lines. But the vestiges of laughs are nice wrinkles, as wrinkles go, and while this production doesn’t leave you rolling in the aisles, it is likely to at least leave you smiling.  The three central couples are played by Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, which in theory should let both of them show off their ranges. In practice, Parker does just that; she’s active and specific and very appealing, and she does most of the driving where the humor is concerned. Broderick, by contrast, stays mainly in the safe lane of the clammy, low-energy deadpan shtick he has been plying onstage for 20 years. The contrast between their styles—it sometimes feels like Plaza Sweet and Sour—can be frustrating. She checks in, and he checks out. That’s especially true of the evening’s first chapter, “Visitor from Mamaroneck,” the longest and least comedic segment of the triptych. Parker plays a supposedly dowdy Westchester wife who has book

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Broadway review by Adam Feldman POTUS begins with a four-letter c-word, and that word isn’t can’t. The running joke of Selina Fillinger’s lightly feminist political farce—which bears the annotational subtitle Or, Behind Every Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive—is that the women who populate it are all highly capable in different ways, yet they’re stuck in the orbit of an incompetent and morally bankrupt oaf who is the world’s most powerful man. Why aren’t they in charge instead? Well: “That’s the eternal question, isn’t it?” as two characters ruefully ask. (Maybe Hillary Clinton has an answer.) Mostly, the jokes in POTUS are less pointed. The White House setting is an excuse for a broad, zany, old-school comedy, which is a rarity on Broadway nowadays—especially in the form of a world premiere by a twentysomething woman. You can feel how hungry the spectators are to laugh together, and they get to do it often in this silly, fast-paced lark. It helps enormously that the production, directed by Susan Stroman (The Producers), is so well-cast. This ensemble makes an implicit argument of its own for female accomplishment: Even when their characters are floundering hopelessly, these ladies are pros. POTUS | Photograph: Courtesy Paul Kolnik The great Julie White, stage queen of the slow build, plays the Chief of Staff, a pressure cooker with her release valve rattling. Vanessa Williams—in the best performance I’ve seen her give onstage—is the poised, overqualified, und

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Broadway review by Adam Feldman Who doesn’t enjoy a royal wedding? The zingy Broadway musical Six celebrates, in boisterous fashion, the union of English dynastic history and modern pop music. On a mock concert stage, backed by an all-female band, the six wives of the 16th-century monarch Henry VIII air their grievances in song, and most of them have plenty to complain about: two were beheaded, two were divorced, one died soon after childbirth. In this self-described “histo-remix,” members of the long-suffering sextet spin their pain into bops; the queens sing their heads off and the audience loses its mind.  That may be for the best, because Six is not a show that bears too much thinking about. Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss wrote it when they were still students at Cambridge University, and it has the feel of a very entertaining senior showcase. Its 80 minutes are stuffed with clever turns of rhyme and catchy pastiche melodies that let mega-voiced singers toss off impressive “riffs to ruffle your ruffs.” The show's own riffs on history are educational, too, like a cheeky new British edition of Schoolhouse Rock. If all these hors d’oeuvres don’t quite add up to a meal, they are undeniably tasty. Aside from the opening number and finale and one detour into Sprockets–style German club dancing, Six is devoted to giving each of the queens—let’s call them the Slice Girls—one moment apiece in the spotlight, decked out in glittering jewel-encrusted outfits by Gabriella Slade that are Tu

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Chelsea

To untimely rip and paraphrase a line from Macbeth: Our eyes are made the fools of the other senses, or else worth all the rest. A multitude of searing sights crowd the spectator's gaze at the bedazzling and uncanny theater installation Sleep No More. Your sense of space and depth—already compromised by the half mask that audience members must don—is further blurred as you wend through more than 90 discrete spaces, ranging from a cloistral chapel to a vast ballroom floor. Directors Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle, of the U.K. troupe Punchdrunk, have orchestrated a true astonishment, turning six warehouse floors and approximately 100,000 square feet into a purgatorial maze that blends images from the Scottish play with ones derived from Hitchcock movies—all liberally doused in a distinctly Stanley Kubrick eau de dislocated menace. An experiential, Choose Your Own Adventure project such as this depends on the pluck and instincts of the spectator. You can follow the mute dancers from one floor to the next, or wander aimlessly through empty spaces. I chose the latter, discovering a room lined with empty hospital beds; a leafless wood in which a nurse inside a thatched cottage nervously checks her pocket watch; an office full of apothecary vials and powders; and the ballroom, forested with pine trees screwed to rolling platforms (that would be Birnam Wood). A Shakespearean can walk about checking off visual allusions to the classic tragedy; the less lettered can just revel in the f

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Broadway review by Adam Feldman A Strange Loop is a wild ride. In a Broadway landscape dominated by shows that often seem designed by corporations for audiences of focus groups, Michael R. Jackson’s musical is the defiant product of a single and singular authorial vision. This wide-ranging intravaganza takes a deep dive, often barely coming up for breath, into a whirlpool of ambition and frustration as Jackson's seeming alter ego—a queer, Black writer-composer named Usher (Jaquel Spivey)—struggles to define himself amid traps of sex, race, family, body image, religion and entertainment. It’s screamingly funny and howlingly hurt, and it’s unmissable.   Smartly directed by Stephen Brackett, the show caused a sensation in 2019 when it premiered at Playwrights Horizons; now, after multiple top-ten lists and an armful of honors (including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award), it has reached Broadway without compromising its conflicted, challenging, sometimes actively family-unfriendly content. The songs are welcomingly tuneful and clever, but as Usher warns us in the opening number: “A Strange Loop will have Black shit! And white shit! It’ll give you uptown and downtown! With truth-telling and butt-fucking!”  All of that is true—including, graphically, the last part—but it barely begins to describe the show’s discombobulating melange of anger, joy, neurosis and honesty. In this very meta musical, Usher is the only real character: the unstable “I

  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Broadway review by Adam Feldman  [Note: Nkeki Obi-Melekwe now plays the role of Tina Turner.] 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 brutaliz

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Theater review by Adam Feldman  [Note: To Kill a Mockingbird will close at the Shubert Theatre on January 16, 2022, and reopen on June 1 at the Belasco Theatre, with Greg Kinnear in the role of Atticus Finch.]  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 ma

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • price 4 of 4
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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 Lindsay Pearce as Elphaba and Ginna Claire Mason as Glinda.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Theater review by Raven Snook  I don't typically consult preschoolers when I’m writing reviews, but I did take note of my 3-year-old theater companion’s reactions throughout the new stage adaptation of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh franchise. (Full disclosure: She is my grandniece.) I was consistently enchanted by the show's low-tech magic—eye-popping puppets, blooming fake flowers, hills covered in literal blankets of snow—and by its gentle lessons about friendship, teamwork and the importance of fun. But what about Winnie the Pooh’s target demo? To judge from the rapt expressions of my date and her slightly older peers, they were as delighted as little bears in honey pots. Puppet mastermind Jonathan Rockefeller, who wrote and directed the show as well as designed the plush protagonists, is a whiz at translating kiddie classics into sumptuous stage fare; his previous projects include The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show and Paddington Gets in a Jam. The House of Mouse’s paw prints are visible: This is not the Pooh of A.A. Milne's original 1920s storybooks, but of the animated films that the entertainment conglomerate has been releasing for decades. Pooh and his pals in the colorful Hundred Acre Wood look like they’ve just been sprung from a Disney cel, and they sound like that, too, with puppeteer Jake Bazel doing an especially impressive job of aping Pooh's distinctive soothing, perpetually befuddled voice. Like most of Pooh's Disney adventures, the show is structured as a series of

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