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Raven Snook

Raven Snook

Articles (15)

The best acting classes in NYC

The best acting classes in NYC

If you’re the kind of person who has always dreamed of seeing their name in lights, you’re in the right place. It’s time to follow your dreams and enroll in one of the best acting classes in NYC. And look, even if you can’t afford to quit your day job to attend one of New York's acting schools (would be nice though, right?) there are plenty of part-time acting classes with flexible schedules and affordable prices. There are quite a lot of different classes on offer, too. So if belting out the best Broadway songs of all time is your thing, or you just want to see whether being called a ‘character’ all your life means you have any actual talent, these workshops for beginners are the perfect place to start. And who knows? Maybe one day you’ll land your breakout role in one of the best Broadway shows on the Great White Way. Or how about a starring gig in the hottest new television show? Or maybe even Hollywood? All you need is a bit of ambition... and maybe an acting class or two. But you know that – that’s why you’re here! Smart. Very smart.  RECOMMENDED: Find more classes in NYC

The best Broadway songs of all time

The best Broadway songs of all time

There’s nothing quite like seeing a legendary show tune performed live in a great Broadway musical, but you can always satisfy your craving for emotion-filled performance by cranking up a cast recording or binge-watching clips on YouTube. But which are the very best Broadway songs—the ones that endure through the years because they not only stick in our heads but also capture some essense of the genre? It’s nearly impossible to create a list of something so subjective, but we’re here to try. With that in mind, we've come up with these 50 Broadway bangers: a mix of classic musical-theater numbers from 1927 through today. Many of these come from the best Broadway musicals the Great White Way has ever known; to narrow the field a bit, we've limited ourselves to a single song per show. (And sorry, jukebox musicals and movie adaptations: Only songs written for the stage are eigible.) You may not be familiar with all the entries on this list, but trust us: You’ll love them. Maybe they’ll introduce you to a new Broadway show to put on your list of must-sees. Maybe you’ll find one to add to your karaoke rotation. Either way, you’ll get an earful of tunes that are sure to stir your heart. RECOMMENDED: Full listing of Broadway musicals

Preview: Carrie

Preview: Carrie

"They're all going to laugh at you," cries Carrie's religious nut of a mother in Brian De Palma's intense 1976 film adaptation of Stephen King's novel Carrie. But if the creators of the musical get their way, no one will ever laugh at Carrie again—at least not in their revamped version for MCC Theater, which opens at the Lucille Lortel Theatre on March 1. A coming-of-rage story about a bullied teenager with an overbearing mother, who discovers she has telekinetic powers and wreaks havoc on her small town, Carrie probably seemed like strange source material for a Broadway tuner when it was originally produced in 1988. Indeed, the $8 million show was panned by most critics; audiences reportedly jeered and cackled; and it inspired Ken Mandelbaum's encyclopedia of flops, Not Since Carrie. But a quarter century later, when dark, gory flicks like The Silence of the Lambs and Evil Dead have been musicalized, Carrie seems ripe for revival. There's just one problem: Unlike those other shows, the creators refuse to go camp. For them, Carrie is deadly serious. A full-on camp production would have been the easier route, especially since the original was so (unintentionally) kitschy, what with leather-pants--clad bullies squealing like pigs and students in gym class wearing togas. But that's not what composer Michael Gore, lyricist Dean Pitchford and book writer Lawrence D. Cohen had in mind. "We got hundreds of requests a year to do [the original] Carrie in regional theaters, high school

David Hirson

David Hirson

Considering his vocation, it’s not surprising that David Hirson is a stickler for words. Yet even more than other playwrights, he expresses himself with painstaking care, correcting himself (and, politely, others) if he thinks the wrong verbiage has been used. Hirson’s love for language is evident in his farce La BĂȘte, which opened and quickly closed on the Main Stem in 1991 after being trounced by most major critics, in particular The New York Times’ Frank Rich, who glibly dismissed it as a show “for anyone who confuses high-mindedness with high art.” But unlike most flops, the play, which is set in 17th-century France and written entirely in rhyming couplets, enjoyed an auspicious afterlife: It won the 1992 Olivier Award in London for best comedy, and went on to become a staple of regional and college theaters. Earlier this year, Tony-winning director Matthew Warchus (God of Carnage) helmed a star-studded West End revival featuring Frasier’s David Hyde Pierce, Absolutely Fabulous’s Joanna Lumley and stage legend Mark Rylance. Now, that production is headed across the pond to give La Bte a much-deserved second shot at Broadway success. Fresh from England where he caught the show’s final bow at the Comedy Theater, Hirson admits that the play isn’t the usual commercial stage fare. “It’s never compared to other things,” he notes. “It doesn’t resemble other plays. People have very extreme reactions to it. It’s...weird.” That adjective could also be used to describe Hirson’s care

Hadestown's Amber Gray and Patrick Page: "We are like an arranged marriage"

Hadestown's Amber Gray and Patrick Page: "We are like an arranged marriage"

Patrick Page and Amber Gray have been on the road to Hadestown for years. Anaïs Mitchell's bluesy folk opera, inspired by the ancient myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, had its first professional theatrical iteration in 2016, when director Rachel Chavkin staged it at New York Theatre Workshop with Page and Gray as the tempestuous gods Hades and Persephone. Three years and four productions later, Hadestown's Broadway version has earned 14 Tony Award nominations, including nods for both actors. The only cast members who've been with the show throughout its journey, they play been-there, done-that, seen-it-all spouses—while he builds a soulless underworld empire, she indulges in spirits and springtime above ground—who rediscover their lost passion through the story of the ill-fated central lovers. We chatted with Page and Gray about what it's been like to incarnate these dueling deities. Amber, you've worked with Rachel Chavkin on several projects, notably Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. But Patrick, how did you get involved with the show? PAGE: To my shame, I had been working uptown mostly. I hadn't worked downtown in a long time. I was looking for jobs for my acting students when I saw this ad and it said they wanted a bass. I thought, Nobody ever wants a bass: What the hell is this? And then I saw that it was directed by Rachel Chavkin, one of the best directors working today—I hadn't seen a director like her since Julie Taymor. So I downloaded the two Hades songs from

Trans performers are finally making it to Broadway

Trans performers are finally making it to Broadway

The last week of Pride month offers something new for the LGBTQ community to celebrate: a milestone in transgender representation on Broadway. Starting this week, three trans-identified performers will be on the Main Stem: The jukebox musical Head Over Heels stars RuPaul’s Drag Race favorite Peppermint, and Young Jean Lee’s play Straight White Men features nonbinary pioneer Kate Bornstein and rising interdisciplinary artist Ty Defoe. “Broadway was a dream I thought was impossible,” says Bornstein, a prominent activist, author and performance artist. In Straight White Men, she and Defoe play the Persons in Charge, who interact with the audience and provide a striking counterpoint to the titular characters. “I’m impressed that Second Stage Theater is choosing to do a show that talks about all these intersections,” says Defoe, a Native American performer who identifies as two-spirit. “It’s a play that speaks truth to power, and entertains while opening the perspective of how gender is seen.”  “We’re being cast specifically for our trans-ness within shows that need it,” Bornstein says. “That says a lot about where we are.” Peppermint, who stars as the oracle Pythio in Head Over Heels, agrees. “This role would not have existed even 10 years ago,” she says. A quirky Elizabethan romantic romp written in rhyming verse and built around hit pop songs by the Go-Go’s, the musical allows Peppermint to show off the skills she acquired at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy: “I’m a tr

Macy's Santaland opens Friday, November 26

Macy's Santaland opens Friday, November 26

Even though Kris Kringle won't fly into town until tomorrow's Thanksgiving Day parade, the elves at Macy's are already getting Santaland ready for its seasonal debut on Friday. We caught a sneak peek last week, and the fantastical toy-, train- and fake snow-filled world is as magical as ever. And it's a good thing too, since families often wait up to 90 minutes to see the big guy in red. After your visit, be sure to check out the store's 30-minute Miracle on 34th Street puppet show, presented by Park Slope theater Puppetworks (admission is $5 per person). And of course, be sure to check out Macy's Yes, Virginia-themed windows . (Seeing them in person definitely beats watching them in a slide show !)

Circus classes for NYC kids

Circus classes for NYC kids

Circus Arts at Manhattan Movement and Arts Center248 W 60th St between Amsterdam and West End Aves (212-787-1178, manhattanmovement.com). $585 for 13 weeks (semester signup only).Got a kid who loves clowning around? Help her channel that energy with this introduction to the circus arts. Instructors guide tykes through warm-up stretches and cardio exercises before showing them big-top basics, like aerial silks, plate spinning, juggling and stilt walking. But the class teaches more than just showy acrobatics—it helps little ones build trust in each other and conquer their fears in a noncompetitive setting. Ages 5 to 12.CircusYogaKarma Kids Yoga, 104 W 14th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves (646-638-1444, circusyoga.com). $25, children under 13 $10.Kevin O'Keefe, the multitalented performer behind the one-man act Circus Minimus, and his wife, Erin Maile O'Keefe, founded this traveling education program, which uses the West Village Karma Kids studio as its NYC home base. In mixed-age sessions, students practice traditional yoga techniques as well as acrobatics, juggling, slapstick and tightrope walking. Ages 7 and up.Juggling ClassesSat 3--4pm, 4-5pm. Theaterlab Studio, 137 W 14th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves, third floor (347-987-1311, jugglingclasses.com).Tue 6--7pm. Big Sky Works, 29 Wythe Ave at North 14th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-987-1311, jugglingclasses.com). $20.Founded by Rod Kimball (a.k.a. the really cute Flying Karamazov Brother), these one-off sessions ar

Take a tour of Broadway’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Take a tour of Broadway’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

In the theater world, it’s rare to get a second crack at a show. But that’s exactly what happened to Mark Thompson. The set-and-costume designer for Broadway’s latest bet, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, won an Olivier Award (London’s equivalent of a Tony) for his work on the original West End production. Despite the staging of Roald Dahl’s classic 1964 children’s novel, about an impoverished boy and the eccentric chocolatier who befriends him, doing well enough to run for almost four years, the consensus was it couldn’t travel across the pond without some major reworking. Thompson, along with songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (of Hairspray and Smash fame) and book writer David Greig, stayed on. Everyone else—including Oscar- and Tony-winning director Sam Mendes—cycled off. A new cast, choreographer and director—three-time Tony winner Jack O’Brien—convened to take a fresh approach. On a recent Friday morning during rehearsal, Thompson chats in the back of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, as the cast—headlined by Christian Borle as Willy Wonka in that iconic purple tailcoat and black top hat—goes through a group number that’s set just outside the chocolate factory. “It’s playful and full of mischief,” says Thompson of the set in front of us. A red carpet is unfurled, welcoming the lucky golden-ticket winners who get to tour the candy mecca, and the eye-popping costumes brilliantly capture each kid’s personality: There’s Violet Beauregarde, in her plush purple sweat suit

Celebrate New Year's Eve 2010 with NYC kids

Celebrate New Year's Eve 2010 with NYC kids

Unlike Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, New Year's Eve is a tricky holiday for parents. Do you hire a sitter and head out for the night? (If so, be sure to read our tips for hiring a sitter on December 31!) Or do you change into your jammies and watch the ball drop on TV with the whole family? Fortunately, there's a third option: Ring in 2010 with the brood in tow at one of these kid-friendly New Year's Eve events. Nighttime celebrations The Big Apple Circus: Dance On!Fri Dec 31 at 9:30pm. Lincoln Center, Damrosch Park, Amsterdam Ave at 62nd St (212-962-5471, bigapplecircus.org). Subway: 1 to 66th St--Lincoln Ctr. $25--$175. We loved this year's dance-heavy edition of the Big Apple Circus and we know your kids will too. Catch the show on December 31 and get an extra bang for your buck at the postshow party, during which ringmaster Kevin Venardos invites guests into the ring to count down to midnight. All ages. Black, White and Pink New Year's Eve at the PlazaDec 31; dinner seating at 5:30 or 6:30pm. The Palm Court, Fifth Ave at Central Park South (212-546-5300, theplaza.com/dining/palmcourt). Subway: N, R to Fifth Ave. $120, children under 13 $85.Overnight packages are also offered for an additional fee. Plaza-dwelling kid-lit character Eloise may be the most pampered tyke in town, but tonight your kids can get a taste of her lavish lifestyle at this swanky family fete. Guests join Eloise, her pets and her nanny for a three-course dinner in the Palm Court, followed by f

Tap-dance star Michelle Dorrance tells us what makes her click

Tap-dance star Michelle Dorrance tells us what makes her click

After three decades as a high-profile choreographer and tapper in New York and America’s top dance festivals, Michelle Dorrance hoofed into the national spotlight this past fall with a charming and kinetic guest spot on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Not only did she show off her serious syncopation skills, but she taught her star pupil, the surprisingly nimble host, a few moves. “More people than you know are secretly obsessed with tap,” says the 36-year-old dancer and choreographer, who won a MacArthur “genius” grant last year. “That’s what I feel keeps tap marginalized. It will always be this bastard form unless we make a decision to value it in the public eye.” The daughter of a pro soccer coach and a ballerina turned teacher, Dorrance is one of tap’s most talented and vocal proselytizers. And right now she’s preaching about her encore Joyce Theater run of 2015’s sold-out The Blues Project, a heady collaboration between her eponymous dance company and blues musician Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely, Reagon’s band. “Jazz and tap dance are brother and sister,” says Dorrance. “But tap dance predates jazz, and so does the blues. They’re both born of the same roots. There are such unsung heroes of the blues and tap dance, folks who are not famous but who were truly the innovators of the forms. I think that in most of black vernacular history, the arts and anything of the people is appropriated and whitewashed. Not that we really cover anything like that in the show. I just mean

The 10 best Broadway shows for date night

The 10 best Broadway shows for date night

Dinner and a Broadway show may require a bigger commitment (and a lot more cash) than a night of Netflix and chill, but it's also much more memorable—assuming you pick the right production. Nothing tanks an evening faster than booking Misery instead of Les MisĂ©rables. Whether you're planning something after a Valentine's Day dinner, an anniversary celebration or just want to impress someone special, these 10 date night shows on Broadway (and Off Broadway) appeal to a wide range of romantic tastes. RECOMMENDED: Find more great date ideas in NYC

Listings and reviews (145)

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night

4 out of 5 stars

Theater review by Raven Snook [Note: This is a review of Classical Theatre of Harlem's 2022 summer production of Twelfth Night. The show returns for an indoor encore at Skirball Center from February 11 through 19, 2023, with most of the original cast.] Streamlined to a single song-and-dance-filled act, Classical Theatre of Harlem's raucous mounting of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night features wonderfully broad performances that embrace the play’s humor and elucidate its poetry. For fans of romantic comedy, this free outdoor production at Marcus Garvey Park is a midsummer night's dream.  Kara Young (Clyde’s) is the show's heart and soul as the shipwrecked and destitute Viola, who believes her twin Sebastian (J'Laney Allen) to be lost at sea. To secure a job with Duke Orsino (William DeMeritt), she poses as a man—but cross-dressed complications ensue when Orsino sends her to woo Olivia (Christina Sajous, fabulous in every way), who promptly falls for Viola herself. Everyone else is on the hunt for lust and laughs, especially the play's clowns: Olivia's souse of a cousin Sir Toby (Chivas Michael); his clueless, culture-appropriating pal Sir Andrew Aguecheek (the invaluable Carson Elrod, in beaded braids); Olivia's sassy maid Maria (Cassandra Lopez); and jester Feste (Israel Erron Ford), who croons autotuned ditties that set the Bard's words to Frederick Kennedy's groovy, funky melodies. Their plot against the pompous Malvolio (a hilarious Allen Gilmore), which can sometimes come acro

The Appointment

The Appointment

4 out of 5 stars

Theater review by Raven Snook [Note: This is a review of the 2019 production of The Appointment. The show now returns for an encore run, with nearly all the same cast.] At The Appointment, fetuses get in your face. With goo-goo eyes, cutesy voices and dangling umbilical cords, they sing to you, flirt with you and even demand your snacks. It's so ridiculous you can't help laughing, but there's a palpable unease underneath. Those expecting straightforward pro-choice messages may wrestle with intense feelings as they watch this satirical musical, a feverish explosion of the abortion debate that replaces rigid political views with a visceral exploration of the emotions that fuel both sides. Buoyantly directed by Eva Steinmetz, The Appointment is a devised theater piece from Lightning Rod Special, the Philadelphia outfit behind the incendiary Underground Railroad Game. Discomfort is their calling card, but in service of discovery, not only shock. A collection of scenes and songs that touch on reproductive rights, The Appointment uses absurdity as connective tissue: The all-male staff of a clinic serenades patients with abortion-regret stories, as required by law; a soothsaying turkey disrupts a family Thanksgiving dinner; the fetuses, who just want to entertain you, keep getting yanked offstage by a vaudevillian hook that looks unsettlingly like the top of a hanger. When they’re playing those fetuses, the seven performers are consummate clowns who know how to manage the crowd, eve

Becky Nurse of Salem

Becky Nurse of Salem

3 out of 5 stars

Theater review by Raven Snook The title character in Sarah Ruhl's bewitching but unruly new play, Becky Nurse of Salem, is a descendant of the real-life Rebecca Nurse, who was executed during the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. Her 2016 namesake is also having a devil of a time. Played by Deirdre O'Connell, who earned a Tony last year for Dana H., this Becky is a loquacious, f-bomb-dropping guide at the fictitious Salem Museum of Witchcraft. After getting fired by her haughty new boss (an underused Tina Benko), she turns to a modern-day witch (a delicious Candy Buckley, with an outrageous New England accent), who promises to lift her curse by conjuring up a new job, rekindling an old romance and springing her orphaned granddaughter from the mental ward. At first, it works like a charm: Becky starts an affair with her married, bar-owning ex (Bernard White, endearing) and welcomes her 16-year-old grandchild (Alicia Crowder) back home with her Wiccan goth boyfriend (Julian Sanchez) in tow. But when she decides to conduct her own tours of Salem, Becky runs afoul of the law and winds up in jail, sparking an unsettling fever dream in which she transforms into her infamous ancestor as Puritans surround her crying the familiar refrain, "Lock her up! Lock her up!" Ruhl seems to be interested in the ways in which historical hysteria gets echoed in today’s highly polarized America, but some of her parallels—such as those involving the denigration of women—are more convincing than others (as wh

My Broken Language

My Broken Language

4 out of 5 stars

Theater review by Raven Snook Quiara Alegría Hudes's impressionistic new play doesn’t try to adapt all 300 pages of My Broken Language, her 2021 book about growing up in an extended Philly Rican family. Instead, she picks a handful of pivotal moments from her coming-of-artist journey—learning how to cook her Abuela's rice, sharing fun- and fact-packed hangs with her older cousins, finding a lifeline in books and plays like for colored girls
 (a clear influence)—and then directs a vibrant ensemble to make her prose sing. Unfolding on the thrust stage of Arnulfo Maldonado's alluring blue-tile set, which teems with flora and centers on a much-used stoop, the show feels more like a party than a play: a family photo album come to vivid, joyous life.  Hudes is best known for her stage works (which include the Pulitzer Prize-winning Water by the Spoonful and the musical In the Heights), and My Broken Language marks her return to theater after a self-imposed four-year exile. Hudes retains the lyrical style of her memoir—several entire passages are lifted directly from it—and infuses it here with dance and live music played by pianist Ariacne Trujillo Duran. Five performers embody her and her kin at different ages, switching comfortably among characters and tongues as the author finds her own voice. Longtime Hudes collaborators Zabryna Guevara and Daphne Rubin-Vega are standouts, transforming the narration-heavy storytelling into emotional arias.  Although some of her cousins meet tra

F*ck7thGrade

F*ck7thGrade

4 out of 5 stars

Theater review by Raven Snook The queer coming-of-age memoir of a self-declared "two-hit wonder," F*ck7thGrade is a charmingly laid-back musical chronicle of Jill Sobule's divalution from middle school through middle age. Even if you don't recognize her name, you may have heard her snarky song "Supermodel" from the movie Clueless. Its absence from this theatrical concert demonstrates how the undersung singer-songwriter values storytelling above success.  Book writer Liza Birkenmeier supplies vivid details and poignant punchlines to connect the musical dots of Sobule's eclectic folk-rock catalog. Starting in seventh grade, Sobule realized she wasn't like the other girls. While they obsessed over horses, clothes and boys, she loved her chopper bike, her guitar and Suzi Quatro.  ("Everyone had secrets: Me, my mom, Nixon.") After growing up, landing a record deal and releasing the 1995 single "I Kissed a Girl," Sobule still felt like an outsider who wasn't even out; she recalls hearing music execs talking smack about Melissa Etheridge and Tracy Chapman and then saying, "Thank God Jill's not gay." Sporting an adorable pixie cut and an Orange Crush tee, and belting in fabulous voice, Sobule fronts a badass band of women—Kristen Ellis-Henderson on drums, Nini Camps on bass and the invaluable musical director Julie Wolf on keyboards—who also play small but pivotal roles in this journey of self-acceptance. With battered lockers behind her, Sobule plays guitar and even drums on "Bitter

I'm Revolting

I'm Revolting

4 out of 5 stars

Theater review by Raven Snook Set in the waiting room of a skin-cancer treatment facility in 2019, Gracie Gardner's high-risk dark comedy I'm Revolting examines a group of patients facing unsettling procedures with unhelpful caretakers in tow. For these nervous people, excising malignant growths may be easier than cutting toxic relatives out of their lives. Nineteen-year-old Reggie (a sympathetic Alicia Pilgrim), estranged from her parents because she's gay, tries to lean on big sis Anna (Gabby Beans, a whirlwind of narcissism), who's usually too busy brokering financial deals via Bluetooth. Hipster Toby (Patrick Vaill, a bundle of nerves) is saddled with New Age-y mother Paula (the bitch-perfect Laura Esterman) who thinks singing bowls and plenty of blame will help. Schoolteacher Liane (Emily Cass McDonnell, in an underwritten role) has a feckless husband (Glenn Fitzgerald) and a disfiguring diagnosis. Only septuagenarian Clyde (Peter Gerety), a clinic frequent flyer, is in good spirits, perhaps because he's on his own. Gardner, who works as an EMT in Brooklyn, has an uncanny ear for dialogue. She prizes people over plot as she fleshes out her characters, mining their flaws for punch lines and pathos. Through their uneasy conversations, she's also able to organically reveal the devastating personal impact of larger social issues: the dangers of for-profit medicine, unequal health care, science denial, overworked physicians and lack of informed consent. (The doctors, played b

As You Like It

As You Like It

4 out of 5 stars

Theater review by Raven Snook All are welcome to the enchanting Forest of Arden in Shakespeare in the Park’s inventive and exhilarating production of As You Like It. Shaina Taub and Laurie Woolery's musical adaptation takes lavish liberties with Shakespeare’s comedy, which may dismay some textual purists. But this version embraces the show’s reputation as a crowd-pleaser by not only catering to a crowd but including one, too: The professional central cast performs alongside dozens of community members from all five boroughs, ages 7 to 81, including firemen, domestic workers and the formerly incarcerated. A product of the Public Theater’s Public Works division, Taub and Woolery’s magical and communal As You Like It was originally presented for five performances in 2017. Now it's back for an extended run, with the swoon-worthy Rebecca Naomi Jones and Ato Blankson-Wood returning as would-be lovers Rosalind and Orlando, who are not the only missed-connection couple exiled to the woods by a dastardly nobleman. The mistaken-identity confusion of Shakespeare's woodsy romcom is intact, but the language is frequently rewritten into bewitching songs by Taub, who also plays the melancholy philosopher Jaques. She bookends the show with a wistful reinvention of the Seven Ages of Man speech, translating Shakespeare's observations into charming modern verse that highlights the evening’s inclusivity: "All the world's a stage, and everybody's in the show, nobody's a pro." There are many unfor

Between the Lines

Between the Lines

3 out of 5 stars

Theater review by Raven Snook Despite its title, the new musical Between the Lines wears its subtext on its sleeve. Based on the popular 2012 young adult novel by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer, the show centers on a lonely 17-year-old bookworm named Delilah (Arielle Jacobs, the hero of this uneven evening), who is struggling with multiple problems: a new school, an absent dad, an overwhelmed mom (the excellent Julia Murney). Looking for a break from the dreariness of her life, Delilah gets sucked into the world of a children's fantasy book; when she and the goofy Prince Oliver (an adorkable Jake David Smith) magically start chatting, they become obsessed with finding a way to get on the same page more literally. Every character in this story—even the dog (a tap-happy Will Burton)—is desperate for a different life, and if you don’t think about it too hard, the show is good-natured, escapist fun. Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson pop-infused songs are catchy (if derivative), and Timothy Allen McDonald’s book is peppered with literary laughs; Caite Hevner’s spellbinding projections and Gregg Barnes's spectacular costumes add to the pleasure.  But for a musical about finding a way to write your own unique narrative, Between the Lines is filled with a lot of clichĂ©s and stock characters: mean girls, dumb jocks, a frisky spinster librarian pining for Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy. And although it touches on dark subjects like depression and suicide, it is too lighthearted to e

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night

4 out of 5 stars

Theater review by Raven Snook Streamlined to a single song-and-dance-filled act, Classical Theatre of Harlem's raucous mounting of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night features wonderfully broad performances that embrace the play’s humor and elucidate its poetry. For fans of romantic comedy, this free outdoor production at Marcus Garvey Park is a midsummer night's dream.  Kara Young (Clyde’s) is the show's heart and soul as the shipwrecked and destitute Viola, who believes her twin Sebastian (J'Laney Allen) to be lost at sea. To secure a job with Duke Orsino (William DeMeritt), she poses as a man—but cross-dressed complications ensue when Orsino sends her to woo Olivia (Christina Sajous, fabulous in every way), who promptly falls for Viola herself. Everyone else is on the hunt for lust and laughs, especially the play's clowns: Olivia's souse of a cousin Sir Toby (Chivas Michael); his clueless, culture-appropriating pal Sir Andrew Aguecheek (the invaluable Carson Elrod, in beaded braids); Olivia's sassy maid Maria (Cassandra Lopez); and jester Feste (Israel Erron Ford), who croons autotuned ditties that set the Bard's words to Frederick Kennedy's groovy, funky melodies. Their plot against the pompous Malvolio (a hilarious Allen Gilmore), which can sometimes come across as cruel, is all fun and games in this version; in lieu of locking him in a dark room, they strap a VR headset on him. Carl Cofield directed this high-concept take on Twelfth Night at Yale Rep in 2019, and several cast m

Fat Ham

Fat Ham

5 out of 5 stars

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

Notes on Killing Seven Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Board Members

Notes on Killing Seven Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Board Members

4 out of 5 stars

Theater review by Raven Snook   The revolution is accessorized in Notes on Killing Seven Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Board Members, Mara VĂ©lez MelĂ©ndez's absurdist drag comedy about decolonization. Lolita (Christine Carmela, a dynamo) is a proud and passionate Boriqua trans woman whose radicalized nom de guerre is inspired by Lolita LebrĂłn, a Puerto Rican nationalist who carried out an armed attack on the U.S. House of Representatives in 1954. Like her idol, Lolita packs a pistol to disrupt politics as usual by infiltrating the Wall Street office of PROMESA—the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act of 2016—with the aim of assassinating those in charge of restructuring the island's unpayable debt. But when she faints on arrival, clearly unready to carry out her bloody plans, a queer Nuyorican receptionist (the persona-shifting, lip-syncing diva Samora La Perdida) offers to prep her for gory glory by serving up drag incarnations of each board member to castigate and kill. A work of adult edutainment that will send you down rabbit holes of research after the performance, Notes on Killing
 is engaging, enraging and enlightening. Coproduced by Soho Rep and the Sol Project, VĂ©lez MelĂ©ndez's play eviscerates norms of genre and gender with a piece that morphs, in the flick of a false eyelash, from agitprop to drag revue to horror show to moving portrait of self-acceptance. Director David MendizĂĄbal overindulges his fabulously broad actors at t

Oh God, A Show About Abortion

Oh God, A Show About Abortion

4 out of 5 stars

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

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Sara Bareilles talks about stepping into the lead role of Broadway's Waitress

Sara Bareilles talks about stepping into the lead role of Broadway's Waitress

Photograph: Josh Lehrer   Sara Bareilles spent more than a decade in the spotlight as a platinum-selling pop pioneer before getting a taste of backstage artistry as the songwriter for Waitress, which earned her a 2016 Tony nomination for Best Score. But when original lead Jessie Mueller gave notice, Bareilles realized it was the perfect opportunity to take her star turn—after all, she’d been dreaming of performing on Broadway since childhood. On March 31, Bareilles slips into the practical shoes of Jenna, a downtrodden but dream-filled waitress with an abusive husband, a baby on the way, a talent for baking pies, and a very complicated love life.  Why did you decide to go into the show now?  The perfect confluence of circumstance. I had thought that, maybe after I did my next record, I would join the show for a short period of time. But it just kind of dawned on me: I’m as close to the show as I’ll ever be right now. It’s been really exciting and fun over the rehearsal process to see the character emerge from myself. I had such a wonderful experience discovering her from the inside out as I was writing the songs; now to get to interpret it as the storyteller onstage feels like a nice full-circle moment.  Is your take on the role very different from Mueller’s?  There are sort of natural differences that are emerging. Jessie and I are two different humans so we just kind of move through the world a little differently. Also, my scene partners are different.  That’s right: Wil

Theater review: The View UpStairs discos back to gay New Orleans in the 1970s

Theater review: The View UpStairs discos back to gay New Orleans in the 1970s

★★★☆☆Wes (Jeremy Pope)—a self-obsessed millennial aspiring fashion designer—just wants to be loved. So does this heartfelt yet disappointingly maudlin musical about the good old, bad old days of being gay in the '70s. After fleeing NYC and buying a decrepit building in his hometown of New Orleans to turn into a store, Wes is magically transported back 40-plus years when the space served as a gay bar full of colorful queer folk. There's Henri (Frenchie Davis, the best singer of the bunch), the lesbian who runs the joint. Buddy (Randy Redd), the resident pianist who passes as straight out in the streets. Willie (Nathan Lee Graham, the audience favorite), a sass master seemingly channeling Lola from Kinky Boots. Puerto Rican drag queen Freddy (Michael Longoria) and his supportive mom/stylist Inez (Nancy Ticotin). Richard (Benjamin Howes) sporting a clerical collar though he's singing with the choir, not converting them. And a pair of hustlers: the stud Patrick (Taylor Frey, crush-worthy) and the dud, Dale (Ben Mayne, making a scary guy sympathetic). That's a lot of disparate characters to pack into a one-act musical, which may be why they're painted and (mostly) played in such broad strokes under Scott Ebersold's unsubtle direction. Each one gets a big, defining song in the spotlight, but it soon starts to feel like a pride parade of gay archetypes.The story, such as it is, involves Wes getting schooled in queer history, and realizing he has it pretty good compared to the genera

Theater review: Girls go wild in the New Group’s All the Fine Boys

Theater review: Girls go wild in the New Group’s All the Fine Boys

★★★☆☆A dual coming-of-age tale set in ’80s suburban South Carolina, writer-director Erica Schmidt's raw one-act drama at the New Group juxtaposes the first sexual encounters of a pair of 14-year-old BFFs as they pursue their respective crushes. While this is hardly virgin territory, there's a stinging authenticity to their awkward interactions that's alternately hilarious and horrifying.You can tell by her junk-food diet and how long she stays out at night that lifelong townie Jenny (Abigail Breslin, struggling a bit) lacks a stable home life. Meanwhile relative newcomer Emily (Isabelle Fuhrman, excellent) is keen to shake up her sheltered existence. Their wildly different backgrounds inform their choices of lovers: Jenny picks Smiths-crooning senior Adam (Alex Wolff, spot-on) while Jenny takes up with Joseph, a 28-year-old man from church (Joe Tippett, letting glimmers of humanity shine through the sleaze). Organized into a series of two-person scenes, All the Fine Boys falls into a predictable rhythm, though a few necessarily stomach-churning sequences jolt. You'll probably know where these ladies are headed long before they do, but that comes from experience—and that's exactly what they go in search of, with life-changing results.Pershing Square Signature Center (Off Broadway). Written and directed by Erica Schmidt. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 40mins. No intermission. Through Mar 26. Click here for full venue and ticket information.Keep up with the latest news an

Theater review: Enterprise finds absurd laughs in cutthroat office politics

Theater review: Enterprise finds absurd laughs in cutthroat office politics

      You think your job's a nightmare? Be thankful you're not one of the four desperate corporate drones trying to save their company (and hence, themselves) over one insane night in Brian Parks's zippy and loopy romp. This quartet is so stressed out, they pee themselves when chastised by the (unseen) Chairman. This must be how Trump's staffers feel.Like Parks's previous Gemini CollisionWorks show, last year's riotous The Golfer, Enterprise values linguistic acrobatics and absurd exchanges over narrative. The story, such as it is, unfurls in brisk, wordplay-packed scenes that end in brief blackouts as Sanders (Fred Backus), Landry (Adam Files), Weaver (Derrick Peterson) and Owens (Alyssa Simon) brainstorm cockamamie ways to save the day. As befits their sports-inspired surnames, they play a lot of games, suffer from infighting and form various alliances, though even before they get to the animal sacrifice you sense the keycards are stacked against them.The success of a surreal comedy like this is all in the timing. And the performers, though impressively committed, are still finding their rhythm under the directorial hand of Parks's frequent conspirator Ian W. Hill. The blustery Backus is most consistently entertaining, though the other three have moments. From a design standpoint, it's pretty bare-bones, but Kaitlyn Day's costumes are appropriately soulless and Hill's clever music choices often provide apt buttons to the vignettes. Like an entry-level job, Enterprise may no

Theater review: Mope reveals the dark side of a male porn actor

Theater review: Mope reveals the dark side of a male porn actor

      No one emerges unscathed from Paul Cameron Hardy’s insightful new play—including the audience. What starts as a raunchy comedy about a pair of low-level porn-industry pals escalates into something darker and poignant: a searing portrait of an alt-righter as a youngish man.Trevor (Eric T. Miller, painfully convincing) is the quintessential straight, clueless white dude, a no-name adult-film performer prone to casual racist and sexist behavior who pretends to be a party boy but deep down knows he’s tanking. His ambitious African-American roommate and coworker, Shawn (the charming RJ Brown), is constantly chilling with their new Asian neighbor, Alice (Jennifer Tsay, pitch-perfect). Trevor got Shawn into the biz, and they have a longtime codependent bromance, but as the latter moves up and on, his buddy unravels. Effectively staged by RJ Tolan and produced by EST’s emerging-writers collective Youngblood, Hardy’s sly one-act seduces with raucous laughs, then slowly shifts as tension builds within this sad, scary man. Politics are never mentioned, and yet, in the shadow of our catastrophic election, we know Trevor shouldn’t be dismissed as harmless. Mope’s sex talk and nudity aren’t what shock; the way it exposes our society’s just-below-the-surface fury is what truly jolts. Ensemble Studio Theatre (Off Broadway). By Paul Cameron Hardy. Directed by RJ Tolan. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 45mins. No intermission. Through Feb 19. Click here for full ticket and venue inf

Theater review: Tell Hector I Miss Him offers a misguided tour of Puerto Rico

Theater review: Tell Hector I Miss Him offers a misguided tour of Puerto Rico

Paola Lázaro has her heart in the right place: the slums of Old San Juan in her native Puerto Rico. This is a side of the island that tourists rarely see, and like many dramatists before her—August Wilson comes to mind—she knows that the everyday struggles of the underprivileged can be imbued with poetry and epic emotion. Unfortunately, the dozen downtrodden characters in Lázaro’s debut play, Tell Hector I Miss Him, are more likely to try your patience than inspire your empathy. This is no fault of the production’s capable actors, nearly all Latino, who bring authenticity to somewhat stereotypically written roles as addicts, abusers, adolescents and amantes. Some of their intertwined stories are engaging, such as one in which a sick schoolgirl (Yadira Guevara-Prip) crushes on the local sexpot (Orange is the New Black’s Dascha Polanco); others are tedious, like the one about a lost gringa (Talene Monahon) who spends most of the play meowing. Too many of Lázaro’s neofolktales fall into the second category, and although she has reportedly based some characters on her own family members, there’s a sameness to the way they express themselves. As a young Puerto Rican woman, Lázaro offers a voice and perspective too rarely seen onstage. Maybe next time she’ll have a hit instead of this Miss. Atlantic Stage 2 (Off Broadway). By Paola Lázaro. Directed by David Mendizábal. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 10mins. One intermission. Click here for full ticket and venue information.

Theater review: Shakespeare’s tragic Othello set to a hip-hop beat

Theater review: Shakespeare’s tragic Othello set to a hip-hop beat

      Who knew Othello could be so funny? The Q Brothers have transformed the bloody tragedy into a rip-roaring, rapped one-act rich with dizzying rhymes. Lest anyone think these B-boys are riding on Hamilton’s red coattails, writers-directors-stars-siblings GQ and JQ pioneered hip-hop theater back in 1999 with their uproarious The Bomb-itty of Errors, inspired by Shakespeare’s similarly titled romp. Othello: The Remix, commissioned by Shakespeare’s Globe, is their first stab at a non-comedy, yet you wouldn’t know it from all the laughs and jokey references to Jay Z, D&D and Game of Thrones.The narrative is reset in the music industry, with MC Othello (Postell Pringle) sparking jealousy and a murderous plan in his presumed pal Iago (GQ) by mentoring wannabe Cassio (a broad Jackson Doran) and marrying diva Desdemona (represented by a disembodied voice). Joined by JQ, the quartet plays all the characters, tackling quick changes as deftly as tongue-twisting text against DJ Supernova’s slick beats. Yet only Pringle attempts to find the gravitas in the tale and, bizarrely, racial strife is practically ignored. The show is clever and exhilarating, but also a missed opportunity—as if the creators were looking at the green-eyed monster through rose-colored glasses.Westside Theatre (Off Broadway). Written, composed and directed by GQ and JQ. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 20mins. No intermission. Click here for full ticket and venue information.Keep up with the latest news and

Theater review: Finian's Rainbow has the luck of the Irish

Theater review: Finian's Rainbow has the luck of the Irish

      It can't be a coincidence that the last time Irish Rep shared its scaled-down revival of this tuneful Burton Lane–Yip Harburg musical in 2004, it was also an election year. Though written in 1947, this fairy tale-romance-cum-social satire touches on still-relevant issues such as racism, income inequality, shady politicians and predatory lending.Not that you go to Finian's Rainbow for its narrative. After all, one generation's progressivism seems quaint (or, worse, backward) to its descendants. Plotwise, it's sentimental blarney about an old Irishman named Finian (spry sexagenarian Ken Jennings—the original Tobias in Sweeney Todd!) and his daughter, Sharon (Tony nominee Melissa Errico reprising her 2004 turn and still managing to pass as an ingĂ©nue) immigrating to the mythical Missitucky in the Jim Crow South with a stolen pot of gold—and its rightful Leprechaun owner, Og (Mark Evans), in hot pursuit. After misunderstandings, accusations of witchcraft and some magic, they find love and prosperity in their new homeland while teaching a racist Senator (Dewey Caddell) a thing or two about tolerance.Even if that description makes you gag, the glorious songs—which make up most of the two-hour run time thanks to director Charlotte Moore's judicious book cuts—should win you over. Backed by a four-piece, string-heavy band (piano, harp, cello, and fiddle), the 13 unamplified cast members are in superb voice throughout. It's hard to pick highlights, but Angela Grovey raises the ro

Theater review: Fit for a Queen walks like an Egyptian

Theater review: Fit for a Queen walks like an Egyptian

      With Americans on the cusp of (fingers crossed!) electing our first female President, Betty Shamieh's cheeky reimagining of how a woman named Hatshepsut became Pharaoh 3,500-plus years ago feels appropriately timely. Mercifully, Fit for a Queen is no staid historical drama. It's a transhistorical mash-up of sensibilities that dispenses with the facts in favor of a feminist farce, albeit one about serious subjects such as slavery, subjugation and sexism.The cast is draped in costume designer Rachel Dozier-Ezell's alluring, body-baring togas that look more Plato's Retreat than Ancient Egypt. The brief, butt-shaking dance interludes that facilitate scene changes are choreographed to percussion and funk. And the language and accents ping-pong between old-time poetical and modern-day street. This aesthetic fluidity is mirrored in the story, which seems like a lesbian variation on Macbeth as Queen Hatshepsut (April Yvette Thompson, campier than a RuPaul's Drag Race contestant) is encouraged to go for the throne by any means necessary by her favorite slave/lover, Senenmut (Sheria Irving, a standout). While Senenmut's machinations are in large part self-serving—she wants to move up in the world and keep her mistress busy so she can fool around with dudes—she also sees the bigger picture. Like her real-life namesake (who was male), she was of lowly birth but savvy enough to earn a spot at the royal court, and she thinks if the Queen becomes King, it will benefit all women. Sadly

Theater review: In Stuffed, Lisa Lampanelli weighs in on body image

Theater review: In Stuffed, Lisa Lampanelli weighs in on body image

      No-holds-barred roast diva and formerly fat (her word) stand-up comic, Lisa Lampanelli gives us a lot to chew on with her first play: a plotless meditation on the food and body-image issues that plague many women. Featuring four ladies of varying dysfunctions and sizes—including Lampanelli, who famously dropped more than 100 pounds thanks to gastric sleeve surgery a few years back—the show aims for real and raw but comes off as stilted and stale from the first course on.Stuffed begins with the quartet enthusing about their favorite foods directly to the audience before settling into an unstructured living room gabfest, complete with a fridge stocked with snacks. Bulimic Britney (Jessica Luck, struggling) survived abuse. Unwitting "skinny bitch" Katey (Eclipsed's Zainab Jah, woefully miscast) had a disapproving mother and absent father. Stacey (the always adorable Ann Harada, doing all she can) is happy being "big." (Maybe a size 12, she's the largest woman onstage and far from obese.) And Lisa (Lampanelli) chews the scenery as herself.Though each woman gets her own meaty, melodramatic monologue, none transcends her stereotype, save for Lampanelli. That's not surprising considering the neophyte playwright has decades of experience penning intoxicatingly profane, first-person material for her routines, plus a 2009 memoir. Stuffed was initially conceived as an autobiographical one-woman show until she decided to expand it. Yet the evening fares best when the so-called "Que

Theater review: Where Did We Sit on the Bus? Woke solo to a hip-hop beat

Theater review: Where Did We Sit on the Bus? Woke solo to a hip-hop beat

      In a volatile era when the ongoing battle against systemic racism is usually broken down into black and white, the title of Brian Quijada's new solo show seems poised to explode that binary misconception. And there are moments when this charismatic multi-hyphenate (performer-poet-playwright-rapper-live looper-musician) starts to go down that complicated road, where the potential to educate or offend loom about equal. Yet in the end, Quijada settles for an autobiographical, child-of-first-generation-immigrants tale, which is likeable and relatable, if not particularly revelatory.If he were an artist of lesser talents, it might not matter. But the Chicago run of this heartfelt confessional—which he's been developing for two years with director Chay Yew—earned him comparisons to Lin-Manuel Miranda and John Leguizamo. I don't think those are apt (moreover, they're possibly racist). However, it's clear that the young Quijada is something special. He's just playing it too safe.After proposing to his white girlfriend, Quijada—whose El Salvadoran parents originally entered the U.S. illegally—wonders what life will be like for their as-yet-unborn, mixed-heritage children. Using his ethnicity as connective tissue, he traces his entire life, from inside his mother's womb, to the Chicago suburbs, to college, to his move to NYC to be an actor. His impersonations of a not-always-supportive mom and dad are alternately amusing and affecting. He tells a wonderful tall tale about a made-

Leslye Headland talks about selling out, good directors and The Layover

Leslye Headland talks about selling out, good directors and The Layover

The way Leslye Headland talks about her collaboration with director Trip Cullman, you'd think they were a couple. They met on 2010's Bachelorette when Second Stage Theatre set them up on a "blind date," and their "lovefest" continued on 2012's Assistance at Playwrights Horizons. (Bachelorette is actually scheduled for a revival at Tribeca's Walkerspace September 8-17). Now they're back together for Second Stage's The Layover, and the so-called raunch-com queen (a title earned for the hilariously informative fingering tutorial in her 2015 indie flick Sleeping with Other People) doesn't hold back. "If I were to ever actually be with a male partner it would be Trip," she confides with a cackle. "He won't have me, but I would be 100% interested." No wonder Headland has romance on her mind since The Layover tracks the life-altering relationship that develops between Shellie (Annie Parisse) and Dex (Adam Rothenberg), two strangers on a plane. But, like the Hitchcock film and Patricia Highsmith novel of a similar name, this initially lighthearted pairing belies a sinister undertone. Even though The Layover goes in a wildly different direction from Sleeping with Other People, both couples reminded me of each other. This play is sort of like a companion piece to the movie—the more upsetting version! Dex and Shellie and [Sleeping's] Jake and Lainey are sides of a similar coin. They represent different meditations on the same themes of loneliness, how bonds end up popping up between us

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