At any given moment there's a dizzying array of musicals, plays and experimental works for theater lovers in New York City to choose from. But the sheer volume of choices can make it hard to decide what to see. Let us give you a hand with that! Here is an alphabetical short list of our critics' picks: all the shows that Time Out New York's critics have seen, reviewed and liked, plus a few that we feel confident recommending in advance. For a wider view of what's playing in NYC, check out our complete list of current Broadway shows and our extensive Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway listings.
RECOMMENDED: Best Broadway shows
Critics’ picks for theater in New York
Tom and Betsy Salamon’s unique adventure—part interactive theater, part scavenger hunt, part walking tour—draws participants into an amusing web of puzzles and intrigue. You can choose between the three-hour New York tour, which takes participants through various neighborhoods of lower Manhattan, or the two-hour Village tour, which travels through quirky Greenwich Village. Groups of as many as 11 are booked every half hour.
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
Theater review by Adam Feldman Anatomy of a Suicide is a fugue play. For most of Alice Birch’s gorgeously incisive, elegantly devastating look at the legacy of severe depression across generations, there are three stories unfolding at once; their themes, words and characters overlap and strike off one another in counterpoint. On stage right of Mariana Sanchez’s spacious, minimalist set is Carol (Carla Gugino), a housewife in what seems like the late 1960s; when we meet her, she has just slit her wrists. Anna (Celeste Arias), in the middle, lives about 30 years years later, and is introduced to us as a willowy heroin addict in the hospital after sustaining a hand injury she can barely feel; a parallel begins to emerge. Meanwhile, on stage left and a few more decades down the line, a fisherwoman named Jo (Jo Mei) is getting stitched up by a doctor after stabbing her palm. But it is her doctor, Bonnie (Gabby Beans), who turns out to be the main character in this third of the narrative—just one of many small twists that Birch introduces in this difficult and rewarding drama. The structure of the play is disorienting, at times even overwhelming. But Lileana Blain-Cruz’s direction provides clarity amid the cloud of pain. The production is exquisitely timed and calibrated, from the precision of the actors’ coordinated dialogue to the brief thaws of Jiyou Chang’s glacial lighting and the eeriness of Rucyl Frison’s sound. Superbly portrayed by Gugino, Arias and Beans, the three ma
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
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.
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.
Theater review by Adam Feldman The kind of camp that Charles Busch has practiced for more than 35 years, with great affection and without modern peer, is rooted in nostalgia for the black-and-white magic of the silver screen of yore. He cut his teeth on tough cookies like Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell, and he has their style in his bones. When he takes the stage as the leading ladies in his own plays—arms akimbo, lips aquiver, accent confidently straddling the Atlantic—he performs an act of cultural resuscitation, breathing new life into an iconography of female power (tinged with vulnerability) to which generations of gay men, among others, once clung as though for sheer life. For audiences today, increasingly removed from the cinematic source, Busch’s sensibility is now itself an object of nostalgia, and it is showcased to humbly glorious effect in his latest scrappy melocomedy, The Confession of Lily Dare. The narrative begins in the cemetery where our heroine is buried. “How do you figure our girl nabbed herself such a fancy plot?“ wonders a friend at her grave. The next two hours answer that question. It’s a fancy plot indeed, full of hairpin reversals of fortune. We meet Lily as an orphaned 16-year-old convent girl whose fresh face is soon smudged by life with a bordello-keeping aunt in earthquake-era San Francisco. In later decades, she becomes a cabaret chanteuse, a convicted criminal and then a cathouse madam herself—watching from afar as the dau
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. (Jordan Fisher takes over the role on January 28.) 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.
Theater review by Raven Snook Dracula: ⭐⭐⭐⭐Frankenstein: ⭐⭐⭐ Two radical reimaginings of 19th-century horror tales, running in rep at Classic Stage Company, offer fresh perspectives on monster myths. Kate Hamill's Dracula, a self-described "feminist revenge fantasy" slant on Bram Stoker's vampire novel, is the more successful of the pair. An unabashed crowd-pleaser, it plays like a buddy adventure, with brainy British mom-to-be Mina (a winning Kelley Curran) teaming up with American cowboy and domestic-abuse survivor Dr. Van Helsing (Jessica Frances Dukes, fantastic) to slay the title character (Matthew Amendt). Both Van Helsing and Dracula's thrall, Renfield (Hamill), have been reconceived as women, and the remaining male characters are problematic at best: easily compromised (Michael Crane as Mina's husband) or sexist (Matthew Saldivar as Doctor Seward, a perfect pompous prick) when not downright murderous (the wicked Count himself). Sarna Lapine, who also directed Hamill's Little Women, expertly navigates the script's wild tonal shifts as the production bounces between humor and horror, boosted by clever low-tech effects. (Strings of red beads unspool against Robert Perdziola's all-white costumes whenever blood needs to flow). All of the actors gamely sink their teeth into their parts, but this is the Van Helsing and Mina show, with Seward as their comic foil. Every time he shushes them or calls them hysterical or refuses to address Van Helsing as a doctor, their exas
Theater review by Raven Snook Inspired by the real-life stories of undocumented immigrants, the heartfelt and sometimes exquisite Fandango for Butterflies (and Coyotes) stokes empathy, understanding and righteous ire. En Garde Arts spent two and a half years developing this docutheater piece through interviews and research; playwright Andrea Thome and director José Zayas have woven lightly fictionalized versions of the subjects into a play set at a music-filled party at a New York City community center, where émigrés from Mexico and Latin American countries commiserate and celebrate. On a no-frills set with occasional projections enhancing the message, the maternal Mariposa (a radiant Jen Anaya) oversees the festivities. Her would-be boyfriend, Rogelio (a sympathetic Carlo Albán), and his cousin Elvin (Andrés Quintero) are anxiously waiting for Johan (Roberto Tolentino), who may have been picked up by ICE. Meanwhile, Pili (Frances Ines Rodriguez, a veteran stage manager making a remarkable performing debut) and Rafaela (Silvia Dionicio) are hoping to run into an art teacher who changed their lives. It's refreshing that Fandango for Butterflies (and Coyotes), which is scheduled to play in venues throughout the five boroughs, is not just a sob story. Beautifully embodied by a winning ensemble of actor-vocalist-musicians, the characters have dreams and desires that go beyond the difficulties they face. And when they launch into Sinuhé Padilla's gorgeous Spanish-language folk
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 TIME OUT DISCOUNT TICKET OFFER:THE GAZILLION BUBBLE SHOW It will blow you away!!!Tickets as low as $49 (regular price $79) Promotional description: After twenty years as a Master of Bubbles, Fan Yang brought his unique brand of artistry to the Big Apple in 2007 and has since wowed bubble lovers of all ages. The Gazillion Bubble Show truly is a family affair for Fan: His wife Ana, son Deni, daughter Melody and brother Jano all can be found on stage in New York and around the world performing their bubble magic. Audiences are delighted with an unbubblievable experience and washed with a bubble tide; some even find themselves inside a bubble. Mind-blowing bubble magic, spectacular laser lighting effects and momentary soapy masterpieces will make you smile, laugh and feel like a kid again.THREE WAYS TO BUY TICKETS:1. Online: Click here to buy tickets through Telecharge2. By phone: Call 212-947-8844 and mention code: GBTONYF453. In person: Print this offer and bring it to the New World Stages box officePerformance schedule: Friday at 7pm; Saturday at 11am, 2pm and 4:30pm; Sunday at 12pm and 3pm Running time: 1h
Broadway review by Adam Feldman In the dining area of their house in an independent-living community for seniors, a house that looks like every other house in the neighborhood, Nancy (a splendid Jane Alexander) and Bill (James Cromwell) enact a dinner routine that seems almost like a ritual. It’s familiar and formal—the napkins have rings—and it’s utterly quiet, as though after 50 years of marriage these two had nothing left to tell one another. It is Nancy who breaks the tacit bond of silence. “I think I would like a divorce,” she says politely. “All right,” he replies, and goes on eating. It’s all very civil, but from this point forward, nothing in Bess Wohl’s entertainingly broad comedy Grand Horizons will be so quiet again. The couple’s adult children—gay schoolteacher Brian (Michael Urie) and harried lawyer Ben (Ben McKenzie), plus Ben’s very pregnant wife, Jess (Ashley Park)—try to put a stop to what seems to them an act of foolishness if not outright dementia. (“Adults cannot do what they want,” says Brian. “The defining feature of adulthood is that you never get to do what you want.”) But Nancy is determined to follow through on her plan, and the dour Bill seems fine with it—even if, as he says, “I would have just slogged it out.” The humor rises from tense to outrageous, peaking in a first-act finale that is dramatically off-the-wall. Once a staple of Broadway, original comedies are scarce these days. The crowd-pleasure they once provided now tends to be fulfille
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
Theater review by Naveen Kumar Plumes of funerary incense give way to the aftermath of Hamlet’s original sin: Prince Hamlet’s father has been murdered, and the dead monarch’s specter drives his son to seek revenge. Director Yaël Farber’s breathtaking and uncanny reinvention of Shakespeare’s ghost story, anchored by Ruth Negga in a dynamic and luminous take on the monumental title role, raises goosebumps as it crawls under your skin. Prepare to ponder existential woe even as the hair on the back of your neck pricks up. The casting of Negga, a woman of Ethiopian and Irish descent, is not blind to race or gender. Hamlet begins the play mourning his black father (Steve Hartland); as the court gathers around him, their uniform whiteness adds to our sense of his isolation. And Hamlet’s androgynous breadth of emotion is a feast for an actor of Negga’s tremendous range. She brings a delicate cadence and revelatory transparency to the depths of the Hamlet’s vulnerability, the antics of his madness and the ferocity of his resolve. It’s an indelible performance supported by strong principal players, including a particularly haunting Aoife Duffin as Ophelia. Farber’s Hamlet, which originated at Gate Theatre Dublin, seems to unfurl in a translucent antechamber between this world and the next, surrounded on three sides by black doors and dark passageways (the set and modern costumes are by Susan Hilferty), awash in vapors and shadows (the lighting is by John Torres) and underscored in g
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
[Note: The review below is for a 2014 version of this show, which was then titled The Imbible. A revised version now plays at New World Stages. A different, brunch-theater edition, titled Day Drinking, plays on weekend matinees.] Remember Bill Nye the Science Guy? Great! Now imagine him as a bartender who is deeply interested in the history of ethanol alcohol, really likes wigs and costumes, and just joined a coed barbershop quartet. That description of Anthony Caporale’s The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking may sound far-out, but the show is both educational and entertaining. (It's also a fine showcase for a cappella classics arranged by Josh Ehrlich and performed by a gifted ensemble that includes the show's director, soprano Nicole DiMattei.) Mixing whimsy and information, Caporale makes the story of our relationship with alcohol remarkably compelling. And the show's lessons—on subjects like the drinks served at Prohibition-era speakeasies, the origin of the gin and tonic, and the difference between a cocktail and a mixed drink—can be washed down with complimentary, thematically appropriate beverages. As Caporale says, “Trust me, I get funnier with every sip.” That makes the show a must-see for anyone who enjoys free booze, which is probably nearly everyone.—Amelia Bienstock
Broadway review by Adam Feldman The Inheritance is in many ways a ghost story: It is set among a group of gay men in present-day New York City, but it is animated by spirits of the past. Foremost among them is the English novelist E.M. Forster (the marvelous Paul Hilton), whom Matthew Lopez’s script—like Forster’s friends—calls Morgan. In the prologue, when the play’s characters are fishing for a way to tell their story, Forster appears to them as a plummy, chummy guide. So begins Lopez’s intimate Broadway epic: a searching, expansive and sometimes very moving exploration of love, money, community and memory. The play is presented in two parts, each more than three hours long. But as directed by Stephen Daldry, who helmed its premiere in London last year, the production mostly goes by fast: With two intermissions in each half, it's not unlike binge-watching six episodes of a Netflix series. Lopez borrows heavily from Forster’s Edwardian novel Howards End for his characters and plot, but shuffles them to suit his purposes. The Schlegel sisters of the novel are recast, grosso modo, as kindhearted otter Eric Glass (a gentle Kyle Soller), soon to be evicted from his rent-controlled apartment, and his extroverted and impetuous boyfriend, Toby Darling (the blazing Andrew Burnap, tossing his hair to fine effect). Toby is adapting his young-adult book, the aspirationally titled Loved Boy, into a play that might star their new friend Adam (Samuel H. Levine, who doubles as a hard-u
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. 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.
Theater review by Adam Feldman [Note: The role of Seymour is currently played by Gideon Glick. Jeremy Jordan steps into the part for two months on March 17.] 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; Ashm
Thrice a week, after closing time, 20 people crowd into 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.
Dan White is something of a local sensation and a regular guest on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show, and it's not hard to see why. His NoMad Hotel show, which sells out weeks in advance, is an ideal fancy-date night. Handsome and smooth, White offers modern variations on classic routines, blending multiple kinds of magic (mentalism, card tricks, illusionism) into an admirably variegated evening of entertainment. If a few of the effects don't fit the intimacy of the room—when I saw the show, a transformation illusion didn't quite come off—most of the tricks leave you happily agape, especially when performed in such cosy quarters. You'll probably never see a levitation act at such close range, and you may leave feeling a few feet off the ground yourself.
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-
For more than two decades, this proudly old-school series has offered a different lineup of professional magicians every week: a host, opening acts and a headliner, plus two or three close-up magicians to wow the audience at intermission. Housed since 2011 at the unprepossessing Players Theatre, it is an heir to the vaudeville tradition. Many of the acts incorporate comedic elements, and audience participation is common. (If you have children, bring them; they make especially adorable assistants.) Shows cost just $42.50 in advance and typically last well over two hours, so you get a lot of value and variety for your magic dollar. In contrast to some fancier magic shows, this one feels like comfort food: an all-you-can-eat buffet to which you’re encouraged to return until you’re as stuffed as a hat full of rabbits. For a full schedule, visit the MNM website.
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 Helen Shaw When you walk into Say Something Bunny!, you enter another time. You might not notice that at first, because the brick office space where it takes place is so determinedly ordinary-looking. The small audience sits around a doughnut-shaped conference table, and as Alison S.M. Kobayashi begins her multimedia docuplay, some spectators are already paging through the scripts that have been placed in front of each chair. The text turns out to be the full transcript of a real, unlabeled 65-year-old recording that Kobayashi found hidden in an antique wire recorder: the audio relic of a teenage boy in Woodmere, Queens, enthusiastically taping two dozen family members and neighbors. Kobayashi has listened to the recording hundreds of times and has a seemingly boundless interest in the people whose voices it preserves, including amateur recordist David, mother Juliette and neighbor Bunny. She conducts us through a pair of after-dinner conversations, the first in 1952—she deduced the date from song lyrics mentioned on the wire—and the second in 1954. Aided by coauthor Christopher Allen, she pursues hints and half-heard jokes to determine who these people were and what befell them; she shows us the census records she used to find their old houses. The play unspools unhurriedly, leaving space for Kobayashi to make jokes, play short films and highlight points of historical interest. It takes a while for it to sink in that—of course—many of these vibrant people
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
Broadway review by Adam Feldman A Soldier’s Play probably shouldn’t work as well as it does. Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize–winning 1981 drama begins with a shooting and follows what looks like a conventional murder-mystery track. African-American officer Captain Richard Davenport (Blair Underwood) meets, one by one, with black soldiers at a segregated Louisiana Army base in 1944, hoping to find out who killed Sergeant Vernon C. Waters (David Alan Grier). The dialogue is functional but rarely lyrical. Much of the plot is revealed in flashbacks; at one point, there is a flashback within a flashback. As directed by Kenny Leon in its first Broadway production, however, the play is sturdy instead of creaky: Like the bare wood of Derek McLane’s set, it gets the job done, and it provides a platform for powerful moments and performances. The steel-jawed Underwood, sympathetic yet commanding, provides a stoic axis for the production; Davenport, often wearing sunglasses, keeps his cool, even when his rank unsettles his white colleagues and subordinates. (Jerry O’Connell, playing a conflicted white captain, looks like he’s about to burst a blood vessel throughout.) Grier is Underwood’s equal and opposite: He brings rage and pathos to the role of the cruel Waters, “split by the madness of race in America,” who is twisted with contempt for other black men—especially Southern ones—whom he considers an embarrassment to the race. (He dismisses them as “geechies” and worse.) The play is in
Review by Adam Feldman The low-key dazzling Speakeasy Magick has been nestled in the atmospheric McKittrick Hotel for more than a year, and now it has moved up to the Lodge: a small wood-framed room at Gallow Green, which functions as a rooftop bar in the summer. The show’s dark and noisy new digs suit it well. Hosted by Todd Robbins (Play Dead), who specializes in mild carnival-sideshow shocks, Speakeasy Magick is a moveable feast of legerdemain; audience members, seated at seven tables, are visited by a series of performers in turn. Robbins describes this as “magic speed dating.” One might also think of it as tricking: an illusion of intimacy, a satisfying climax, and off they go into the night. The evening is punctuated with brief performances on a makeshift stage. When I attended, the hearty Matthew Holtzclaw kicked things off with sleight of hand involving cigarettes and booze; later, the delicate-featured Alex Boyce pulled doves from thin air. But it’s the highly skilled close-up magic that really leaves you gasping with wonder. Holtzclaw’s table act comes to fruition with a highly effective variation on the classic cups-and-balls routine; the elegant, Singapore-born Prakash and the dauntingly tattooed Mark Calabrese—a razor of a card sharp—both find clever ways to integrate cell phones into their acts. Each performer has a tight 10-minute act, and most of them are excellent, but that’s the nice thing about the way the show is structured: If one of them happens to fall
Theater review by Naveen Kumar A gunshot rings out in the first moments of Stew, Zora Howard’s subtly haunting new domestic drama. Mama Tucker (a fierce and tremendous Portia) insists it was just a blown tire as generations of other Tucker women, startled awake by the sound, scramble into her weathered but well-ordered kitchen. There’s too much riding on the day’s cooking to get bogged down with distractions. It’s a good thing everyone’s up early to chip in. Chores and everyday squabbles occupy the women, their hair wrapped in satin scarves, as they trim, chop, wash and assemble ingredients for a meal meant to serve Mama’s whole congregation. Her younger daughter (Toni Lachelle Pollitt) is 17 and enamored of a guy she insists on calling her “man” (because boyfriends are temporary, and this one is forever). The eldest (Nikkole Salter), born when Mama was a teenager, is visiting with a daughter of her own, whom they call Lil’ Mama (Kristin Dodson). The absence of men in the Tucker family kitchen—the fly-on-the-wall scenic design is by Lawrence E. Moten III—seems incidental at first, but grows to feel ominous. Lil’ Mama has a brother who’s out at a friend’s; no one’s quite sure whether her dad will join them at church later that day. But she wishes he were there to help prepare her audition for a comically age-inappropriate school production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. The scene, which Mama coaches her to deliver to a sweet potato, finds Queens Elizabeth and Margaret mourn
At first blush, Then She Fell seems to be a small-scale cribbing of Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More. Yes, you wander solo through intricately dressed rooms in a creepy building; yes, that man in a cravat is crawling up the wall in front of you. But you begin to realize that Third Rail Projects’ interactive riff on Lewis Carroll’s Alice books is using a similar language to give you a different experience: When you peer into the looking glass, it stares right back at you. Performed in the former Greenpoint Hospital, the show only permits 15 audience members a pop—making for a distinctly intimate experience. You’re given a shot of mulled wine and a set of keys before nurses, Carroll characters and even the psychotropic author himself usher you through a combination Wonderland–psych ward. As in Sleep No More, no two individuals will have the same evening. You may find yourself taking dictation for the Hatter (the mesmerizing Elizabeth Carena), painting cream-colored roses red with the White Rabbit (Tom Pearson) or sitting down to the infamous tea party with the whole gang. The experiences that director-designer-mastermind Zach Morris and his company offer are stunningly personal. You don’t have a mask to hide behind here—when you peep in on the Red Queen (Rebekah Morin) having a private breakdown, she catches you watching through the two-way mirror. And then—well, I don’t want to give away the game. And it is a game; as you’re pulled from place to place, you begin to realize that M
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.
Broadway review by Adam Feldman There’s a rumble at the start of the new revival of West Side Story—not a fight, but a vibration: the low, faint, ominous sound of something coming. As in the musical’s most recent Broadway production in 2009, actors playing gang members file onstage and stare out at the audience, daring us to ignore them. This time, however, the menace is magnified; they are dressed in the clothes of modern street gangs, and close-ups of their hard faces and neck tattoos (“JET FOR LIFE”) tower behind them on a 30-feet-tall LED screen at the back of the otherwise empty stage. Like much of Ivo van Hove’s bold, often thrilling production, this opening sequence is big and small at once. Throughout the show, live scenes coexist or alternate with filmed ones, including many that occur offstage entirely; detail is blown up into spectacle, and spectacle is subsumed into detail. Van Hove’s West Side Story functions very differently from any we have seen before. If the result is sometimes murky, it is also frequently revelatory—a major accomplishment in a show whose status as a classic threatens to freeze it in time and relevance. Indeed, this revival of West Side Story tacitly assumes you know the story already—much as Arthur Laurents, who wrote it in 1957, probably assumed his audience was familiar with its source material, Romeo and Juliet. Tony (Isaac Powell) is an emeritus member of the Jets, a New York gang led by his best friend, Riff (Dharon E. Jones). Though
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.