New reviews of long-running Broadway musicals

Broadway_signThinking about catching a Broadway show that’s been around awhile and the original, sometimes award-winning cast, has left?

The New York Times Checking Back series has been revisiting hits such as “Pippin,” “Matilda,” “Mama Mia,” “Phantom,” and “Wicked.” The writers, all of whom saw the original production, note how some cast changes make for a better or more nuanced experience.

For instance, Laura Collins Hughes says that “square-jawed Kyle Dean Massey” as Pippin” is “looking a bit chiseled and mature to be so wide-eyed and, at least to start with, virginal.” On the other hand when Pippin catches the interest of the much older Catherine who considers the lad as possible husband material, she notes, it “no longer (has) that slightly creepy, cradle-robbing feel.”

The Diane Paulus directed musical “has become a warmer, giddier show in its 16 months at the Music Box Theater, and that’s really not a bad thing.” I’m sure the producers breathed a sigh of relief over that comment.

So if you’re thinking about plopping down a hundred dollars for a ducat to a long-running musical, check out the series. No clue if the Times is doing all Broadway musicals (I would think so), but it’s an assignment I sure would love to have.

Here’s what’s been published so far:

“Pippin,” “Matilda,” Mama Mia,” “Phantom,” and “Wicked.”


Quick video fix for ‘Sherlock’ TV fans

"Sherlock" startting Benedict Cumberbatch (left) and Martin Freeman returns to Masterpiece on Jan. 19.
“Sherlock” starring Benedict Cumberbatch (left) and Martin Freeman returns to Masterpiece on Jan. 19.

Jan. 19 seems a long way off. That’s when “Sherlock” returns to American TV as part of the Masterpiece franchise. And before you know it, it will be gone again after three episodes (if past history is future) with another interminable wait for more episodes featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

Meanwhile, satisfy your Sherlockian self with this Season Three repeat of a Behind the Scenes peak from PBS.

(So why is his TV show in a theater blog. Because Cumberbatch is a regular on the English stage and is scheduled to play Shakespeare’s Hamlet at London’s Barbican Theatre. The production will be directed by Lyndsey Turner and will be produced by Sonia Friedman. It will start its 12-week run in August 2015. Freeman has also tread the boards as well, as seen here.)

Dan Lauria prefers living playwrights, and now he is one

I can’t remember if it was when Dan Lauria was starring in ” “A Stone Carver” by William Mastrosimone at The Passage Theatre in Trenton or when “The Wonder Years” TV Dad was in “Inspecting Carol” by Dan Sullivan at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, that he told me in an interview he was only interested in doing plays by living playwrights.

And he’s been doing that for all of his 40 years in show biz. Even while he was working mostly on TV and in film. Lauria loves being on stage and seems to like doing so in New Jersey. He also did “The Winning Streak” by Lee Blessing and “The Value of Names” by Jeffrey Sweet at George Street. Now he’s at New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, in Long Branch starring in a four-character play he wrote.

The world premiere of Dan Lauria's "Dinner With the Boys" runs Sept. 11 through Oct. 5 at the New Jersey Repertory Theatre in Long Branch, NJ
The world premiere of Dan Lauria’s “Dinner With the Boys” runs Sept. 11 through Oct. 5 at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, NJ

“Dinner with the Boys,”  according to the theater’s website, is “A killer comedy … about a couple of old-time wise-guys who like to cook great Italian food, complain about everything under the sun, and kill anyone who gets in their way.”

Hopefully that doesn’t include theater critics.

Continue reading Dan Lauria prefers living playwrights, and now he is one

Dinklage, Schilling visit off-Broadway reporting “Game of Thrones'” Peter Dinklage and “Orange is the New Black’s” Taylor Schilling will headline Classic Stage Company’s revival of Ivan Turgenev’s classic play “A Month in the Country.” 

Let’s hope this TV star combo gets people who aren’t regular theatergoers into the off-Broadway house. Plenty of comic and erotic turmoil to go around.

Read more.

‘Paper Mill” reveals Broadway-bound ‘Can-Can’ cast

Paper Mill Playhouse has announced the cast for the first Broadway revival of “Can-Can” in 30 years. It will be the first revival in 50 years for the well-known musical theater playhouse that is within 20 miles of NYC.

Maybe that’s why are some high-profile folks involved in the show running in NJ from Oct. 1-26. I’m expecting great things.

First, the cast: it stars  Kate Baldwin as Pistache and Broadway veteran Jason Danieley as Aristide.

David Lee (“Frasier,” “Cheers”) will direct. Choreography is by Patti Colombo (Paper Mill’s “Peter Pan,” “On the Town,” “Seven Brides” for “Seven Brothers”). The show features a book by Abe Burrows (“Guys and Dolls,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”) and a re-crafted script by Joel Fields (“Ugly Betty,” “The Americans”) and  Lee.

“Joel and I started collaborating on “Can-Can” at the Pasadena Playhouse over seven years ago,”  Lee explained in a PMP press release. “­With full permission of the Burrows and Porter estates the book has been updated without being modernized“Can-Can is still set in 1893—and although 90 percent rewritten it retains all of Abe Burrows’ original characters and intent.”
Continue reading ‘Paper Mill” reveals Broadway-bound ‘Can-Can’ cast

Broadway Bits and Pieces

National Theatre Live

Can’t make it to London — and not many of us can — there’s the National Theatre Live which broadcasts “live” well-film productions

Benedick Cumberbatch (left) and Johnny Lee Miller in the National Theatre Live production of "Frankenstein."/Courtesy National Theatre
Benedick Cumberbatch (left) and Johnny Lee Miller in the National Theatre Live production of “Frankenstein.”/Courtesy National Theatre

aired in locations around the world.  It might be better than a front row seat at the Cottesloe Theatre as cameras film from all angles on stage with close-ups. You could see the sweat on Benedict Cumberbatch’s brow and the pores on Johnny Lee Miller’s face during “Frankenstein.” Performances also include interviews and backstage tours of the costume or make-up rooms. Coming up: “Medea,” starting Sept. 4, “A Streetcar Named Desire” starting Sept. 16, David Hare’s “Skylight” in October. Find a theater near you, I hope. Visit the National’s website.

‘The Audience’ coming to Broadway

Speaking of the National Theatre Live, I caught its broadcast of Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth in the title role of  “The Audience”

Helen Mirren zs Queen Elizabeth in the National Theatre production of "The Audience."/Courtesy National Theatre
Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth in the National Theatre production of “The Audience.”/Courtesy National Theatre

at the Monmouth University venue in West Long Branch, NJ. Surprised to see it coming to Broadway as it’s about the various prime ministers Queen Elizabeth has dealt with during her more than 60+ year reign. I’d think most American audiences would be hard pressed to name half of the 12 PMs with whom she has audiences during the play.  And some knowledge of 20th century British history  would be helpful. But, heck, Mirren on stage in America is always a good thing. It’s not my money producing it. Scheduled from Feb. 17 through June 28.


Emma Stone may join ‘Cabaret’

Continue reading Broadway Bits and Pieces

‘Lion King’ on the subway

Poster from "The Lion King" musical./Courtesy Wikipedia
Poster from “The Lion King” musical./Courtesy Wikipedia

Riding the NYC subway system doesn’t have to be boring.

In this video from shot June 28, 2014,  some subway riders were treated to a rendition of the opening number from “The Lion King” by members of the cast.

Looked like everyone on board was smiling. And being New Yorkers, took it all in stride as just another day of getting around underground.

Watch it here.

‘Alchemist’ opens at Shakespeare Theatre of NJ

“The Alchemist,” considered Ben Jonson’s best work, began performances last night here in New Jersey. It’s a “rowdy, bawdy, lunatic comedy about con men in 1610 (that) shows how little has changed about greed or gullibility in the affairs of mankind,” according to the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison.

Ben Jonson's 1610 satire "The Alchemist" now is playing at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey through Aug. 31 on the Drew University campus in Madison. Call 973-408-5600 for details.
Ben Jonson’s 1610 satire “The Alchemist” is  at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey through Aug. 31 at Drew University, Madison. Call 973-408-5600 for details.

Directed by Bonnie Monte, the company’s excellent artistic director, the satire continues through Aug. 31. The Renaissance work has been performed almost continuously since it’s debut. Not like Shakespeare, but often enough. But as we know,  greed and a corrupting influence has never gone out of style. Ask Gordon Gekko. The show apparently remains popular today as many of these performances already have limited seating, according to its buy tickets here web page. Easy train out from NYC, too. Bucolic setting. Nice eateries. Short walk to theater through campus. Sound tempting yet?

Can’t wait to take my two kids, who are 21 and 23. They love this venue.

Paper Mill Playhouse single tickets on sale for 2014-15 season

Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ, is well known for its lush, classy, reverent productions of mostly classic Broadway musicals. Has been for years, which is one of its problems. How many times does — even a theater lover — want to see a traditional revival of “South Pacific” “Fiddler” or “Dolly” ? A new interpretation, yes, maybe, but will it fill the 1200-seat space. When the Playhouse took a chance on an innovative  production, I saw audiences walking out at intermission.

But things have changed in the past decade since Mark Hoebee, now producing artistic director, started working there, and Michael Gennaro, from Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, became Paper Mill’s president and CEO.

They produced “Happy Days, the Musical,” “Little House on the Continue reading Paper Mill Playhouse single tickets on sale for 2014-15 season

Another great cast for a show about a show

What a cast, Part 2!!

Matthew Broderick.

Matthew  Broderick (left) and Nathan Lane star in the new comedy about producing a Broadway show "It's Only a Play."
Matthew Broderick (left) and Nathan Lane star in the new comedy about producing a Broadway show “It’s Only a Play.”/Courtesy TV Guide

Nathan Lane.

Rupert Grint.

F. Murray Abraham.

Stockard Channing.

Megan Mullally.

“It’s Only a Play,” written by Terrence McNally, directed by Jack O’Brien, is another limited run — performances Sept. 4 through Jan. 4.

According to the play’s website:

“It’s opening night of Peter Austin’s (Matthew Broderick) new play as he anxiously awaits to see if his show is a hit. With his career on the line, he shares his big First Night with his best friend, a television star (Nathan Lane),his fledgling producer (Megan Mullally), his erratic leading lady (Stockard Channing), his wunderkind director (Rupert Grint), an infamous drama critic (F. Murray Abraham), and a fresh-off-the-bus coat check attendant (Micah Stock) on his first night in Manhattan.”

Sounds hysterical. Actually, it sounds a little bit like the Marx Brothers’ movie “Room Service.”



News and views of New Jersey's regional theaters, and bits about Broadway.

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