SOLD OUT: David Byrne’s latest at Public Theater is already gone

Off the charts demand is a beautiful thing.  That’s the way it should be for theatre – not begging people to come support you, but rather battening down the hatches to control a wait list line that stretches around the block for a sold out show.

At the Public Theater, JOAN OF ARC: INTO THE FIRE, an exciting new show from David Byrne, opens next week.

But unless you have a ticket, it’s already gone, gone, GONE.

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MATILDA by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin at Shubert Theater

MATILDA by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin (via Ronald Dahl)

Shubert Theater on Broadway

Thru January 1, 2017

4-stars

#JoyAlert. Even while many ingredients are well known and commonly used, the combination here connects deeply.  That’s what arch types do.  Willow McCarthy mesmerizing as our little reader and revolutionary.  Bryce Ryness crucial as the iron-breasted Miss Trunchbull.  Though it must be said he simply channels the great David Thewlis.

CLINTON: THE MUSICAL by Paul Hodge and Michael Hodge at New World Stages

Uncontrollably funny review of fruitless Republican jihad against dual nature Clinton. Even after Presidential intern-al high jinx broke, still they couldn’t get him. You can’t make this stuff up – and luckily don’t have to. An excellent cast. Will Big Bill, like Monica before him, soon be “f-ing the f-ing President”?

Thru Sep 6

Yo Rizzo – get over here! | GREASE at Broadway Rose

An increasingly dated postcard from America’s apartheid past. Relentlessly aggressive red meat eating, tail chasing high school routine grows wearisome. Teen pregnancy issue interesting. Collin Carver steals the show as a hysterically funny bespectacled geek in plaid – and kills as an angel with a song. Kylie Clarke Johnson also impresses.

Thru May 24

Theater Review | GUYS AND DOLLS at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Forget a man on the moon – how about GUYS AND DOLLS on the stage?

High atop the list of America’s all time inter galactic achievements, right up there with space travel and skyscrapers and all that computer gadgetry, one somewhat less technical but ultimately longer lasting creation deserves a place: the musical play of the mid 20th century.

And what show could better embody the living large upswing of post war America (and especially New York) than GUYS AND DOLLS (1950), now setting fire to the Bowmer Theatre at Oregon Shakespeare Festival several times a week.

If you’re in need of some quality time with New York’s finest, take a tip from a wise guy and hop the next plane or train to Ashland, Ore-gone. Do it now before Big Jule gets mad. Or General Cartwright gets stern. Or the show sells out and there are no more seats left – which would make Big Jule happy. Or as happy as Big Jule gets…

It’s like this, see: Finding a version of Frank Loesser’s eternal hit better than Mary Zimmerman’s super saturated, pinstriped, technicolor, slicked back, dolled up and doubled down freight train of pure joy now on at OSF may prove harder than locating a free space for Nathan Detroit’s floating crap game.

The Greek’s in town, the gang’s all here (even if a few of the crew ain’t all there – if you know what I mean) and the music, lyrics and choreography are unforgettable.

Thru Nov 1

4-stars

Three reasons why resistance is futile: Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Daniel T. Parker), Nathan Detroit (Rodney Gardiner), Benny Southstreet (David Kelly).  Photo by Jenny Graham.
Three reasons the Bowmer is on fire: Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Daniel T. Parker), Nathan Detroit (Rodney Gardiner), Benny Southstreet (David Kelly). Photo by Jenny Graham.

Continue reading “Theater Review | GUYS AND DOLLS at Oregon Shakespeare Festival”

Theater Review | FAMILY ALBUM by Stew and Heidi Rodewald at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Running over three hours in length, this unfocused work contains many infectiously crafted pop songs but is unable to deploy them in service of a workable core narrative. The result is an intermittently entertaining experience memorable mainly for the songs and not story. The central debate around whether it is better to be a real artist and not make much money or to sell out and become financially successful – as if those are the only two possibilities – feels artificial and way past its shelf life. The show is redeemed by the presence of a radiant Miriam A. Laube.

FAMILY ALBUM by Stew and Heidi Rodewald at Oregon Shakespeare Festival Thru August 31

3-stars

Rocking out.  Clockwise: Heimvey (Luqman Brown), Gibbs (Christian Gibbs), Charles Andy (Vinnie Sperrazza), Paul (Lawrence Stallings) and Claudia (Casey Scott). Photo by Jenny Graham.
Rocking out. Clockwise: Heimvey (Luqman Brown), Gibbs (Christian Gibbs), Charles Andy (Vinnie Sperrazza), Paul (Lawrence Stallings) and Claudia (Casey Scott). Photo by Jenny Graham.

ASHLAND – The thing with musical shows about rock stars is that (surprise) they kind of depend on rock stars. There are no real rock stars in FAMILY ALBUM, the new musical by Stew and Heidi Rodewald now receiving a bright and colorful world premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, though its two creators wield justifiable rock star cred as a result of their stunning first success, PASSING STRANGE (watch it here if you missed it on Broadway). But this time around they’re not actually in the show. And part of the challenge for the audience as we witness this tale of middle age artistic regret and indecision is regarding several of the figures on stage as real rock stars – when they aren’t.

Not that any of the musicians here are lacking. As the stand in for Stew, Luqman Brown is a solid and captivating bandleader Heimvey. Casey Scott is a fiercely scowling Claudia (a stand in for Rodewald), the base player and hard-hearted current (or former?) romantic partner of Heimvey. Christian Gibbs is Gibbs, a thin second guitar player with frizzy hair and a 70’s Marlboro man moustache (which appears to be real). Vinnie Sperrazza holds down the drum kit as Charles Andy. And the incredibly dynamic Lawrence Stallings, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Daniel Breaker, who played the central youth character from PASSING STRANGE and keeps hilariously proclaiming “I can’t believe my life!”, is tambourine player Paul. All the players are fine. But at the end of the day they’re not rock stars. And no one is ever going to replace the presence of the real Stew on stage. This is an absence we will feel, particularly during some of the weaker moments between songs.

The story before us concerns a hard working road band that’s long since arrived at middle age, minus the commercial success they all hoped for. They’re still going through the motions, playing shows at bars in Hoboken, and living out of the van, when all of a sudden along comes a somewhat incongruous chance to be the opening act for the mega teenage band of the moment, The Vomit Puppies, at Madison Square Garden. We’re asked to believe that playing this show at a monster venue would actually mean anything for the fortunes of our fearless rockers – which seems unlikely.

But with this big possible moment a few days out, our band points the van for Brooklyn and comes to crash at the upscale Park Slope pad of Cleo (the ever wonderful Miriam A. Laube), who is a former member of the band and former romantic partner of Heimvey. Cleo got out of the supposed dead end life of being a real artist and married the rich art dealing Norman (Alex Emanuel). They also have a kid (no real name), who is portrayed by the adult actor Daniel T. Parker. Depending on your tolerance for wildly over the top exaggeration and the genius child syndrome – you will either love Parker’s performance or be driven close to insanity by it. With our marginal rock heroes installed in the glam digs of two artists who have supposedly sold out (and god forbid, procreated), the stage is set for all sorts of friction between past and present, dreams and ideals.

As the narrative arc comes off the rails (particularly in the second act), the enjoyment to be had here is really from the songs – whether they make any sense in reference to the larger story or not. There are some gorgeous, sparkling numbers. And as pop songs must, they will mercilessly infest your brain. Some that still ring are Mistress Melody, Sexy Brooklyn Mami, Black Men Ski, and especially the super-charged, hook-laden and beautiful Dysfunctional Family Song. Gorgeous.

Quite a large tonnage of hay is required to stuff the numerous straw men into which our characters repeatedly thrust their under-sharpened jousts. “You either stay pure and mean – or you sell out your art to the man!” “Park Slope is an evil yuppie lair!” “Cash in before you’re old!” “All suffering is caused by desire!” “Yeah!”

There are many cliches in the air, but you also want to stop the music and ask: “Wait – who among us actually believes any of this?” The problem that no amount of heaven sent song writing will fix is that the story offers little of consequence. There’s a general lack of seriousness to everything. Nothing much matters so – sure, go ahead and sing a song about how a Ken doll thinks he’s gay.

At one point, Heimvey takes a deadpan crack at a band whose name the world DOES know. “And you know, as REM says, ‘Everybody hurts sometime’,” he wails forlornly, mocking the hyper sensitivity of it all. It’s funny but would be a lot funnier if Michael Stipe weren’t a household name and musical genius – and if the reference didn’t remind at least one audience member that some of us are hurting NOW, and that we could be spending the afternoon watching an REM tribute band instead.

While the absence of (musical) rock stars has been noted, what saves the show is the presence of one very real theatre rock star. And that’s the entrancing Miriam A. Laube. A lot of the show becomes about watching Cleo and trying to figure out where she’s at. Laube has a gaze that could drown out a Marshall stack or hold a packed MSG (Madison Square Garden) rapt, and when she’s staring right at you in the small Thomas Theatre, the effect is electric. She delivers a starry performance given the material she has to work with, essentially transforming thin air into drama by sheer force of personality. And, as those star OSF-ers do, she’s on double duty at the moment, also starring in INTO THE WOODS simultaneously. Very impressive.

A final major stage presence to note – Lawrence Stallings. This guy, who is a background character here, is so so good. He really needs to be given more runway to come out front and center and really show what he has, because there’s clearly a huge amount of talent. And when that breakout moment happens, he is going to knock our socks all the way to Madison Square Garden.

Or even Brooklyn.

-Win Goodbody

Song list

QUE LASTIMA

MISTRESS MELODY

ADRENALINE LANE

ABOUT HOW YOU CAN’T BE RICH & GOOD

I JUST CAST A SPELL

SEXY BROOKLYN MAMI

SOMEBODY

20 MILLION UNITS SOLD

MY LIFE YOUR HOBBY

THE BOHOS

DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY SONG

UNIVERSAL

TOMORROW NIGHT

BLACK MEN SKI

SOMETHING LIKE RELIEF

INCORPORATED

MISTRESS MELODY REPRISE

“MILLION DOLLAR FEELING

UNFINISHED PAUL SONG ABOUT THE MEDIA’S FADING INTEREST IN CLEO

KEN

LOVE IS A CULT/SOMETIMES I WISH I HAD IT LIKE MY DAD

QUE LASTIMA

“THESE SONGS”

WATERING HOLE

Cleo (Miriam A. Laube) and Heimvey (Luqman Brown) get reacquainted as Clara (Dana Lyn) plays. Photo by Jenny Graham.
Cleo (Miriam A. Laube) and Heimvey (Luqman Brown) get reacquainted as Clara (Dana Lyn) plays. Photo by Jenny Graham.
Charles Andy (Lawrence Stallings) jokes with The Kid (Daniel T. Parker). Photo by Jenny Graham.
Charles Andy (Lawrence Stallings) jokes with The Kid (Daniel T. Parker). Photo by Jenny Graham.

In the absence of compelling narrative, a scattering of small, starry moments | FLY BY NIGHT by Will Connolly, Michael Mitnick and Kim Rosenstock at Playwrights Horizons

A serious miss, despite several good songs. Huge amount of polish applied to paper-thin concept, but nothing below the surface. Dozens of random 2 minute long twee mini moments, with winks. Narrative twists, turns and back flips – that serve no purpose and do not emerge from material. Industrial strength cuteness.

Thru June 29

6.5.2014 NYT Profile

Dance, baby… and mind the tear gas | HERE LIES LOVE by David Byrne at the Public Theater features Imelda Marcos, disco queen

An annihilating, bone-rattling beat. But strangely for a show with musical genius David Byrne’s name on the marquee, not much in the way of memorable melody. Visually, a saturated parade of color, video, and a troupe of smiling, hip dancers. Audience moves around space standing, dancing. Fun. Dictatorship as disco.

$140 / $40 (rush) | 90 mins with no intermission

Open run

All power to the Public.
All power to the Public.

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