Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson @ Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

Move over traditional musical, indie rock is here to stay on Broadway. What RENT did for the village, Spring Awakening did for raging hormones, and Next to Normal did for a reversed Oedipus complex; Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson takes the typical history lesson by the collar, and gives a big F.U. to political correctness, stuffy explanations, and pompous “just-the-facts” attitude. It is set ablaze with a powerful score, an electrifying cast, and a production that captures the ferocity and complexity that was our seventh president – Andrew Jackson.

Even with an unusually quiet audience for such a powerhouse of a musical, the energy of the entire company – band included – creamed the scene with power and passion with not just the book, but the sheer subject matter. Touchy subjects – such as mass genocide and the infamous Trail of Tears – were approached with pristine wit and tenderness, creating an unsettling and yet spot on discourse within the audience members. The cast and crew nailed the feel good and thoughtful musical with a balance of ease that made it appear effortless.

Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman have created, what one audience member jokingly remarked, “The No-fear-Shakespeare for the history books, but done right!” Their work was refreshing among the other dime a dozen revivals and movie-made-musicals that seem to be creeping into the Big White Way. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is the little patch of underground utopia that restores faith for the modern musical.

Benjamin Walker is a riot as Jackson, with his keen sense to capture the unruliness and internal struggle of a brilliantly mad man, he does not fall short of kicking ass and taking numbers as well as making you weep. On a scale of one to ten, he blazed through at a constant fifty, light up the stage with his voice, timing, and clarity of his role. Also, Maria Elena Ramirez’s role as Rachael (Jackson’s wife), was stunning. In her most poignant number “The Great Compromise,” the little woman gives her character a sharp turn from the comedy into tragedy with such grace and precision, giving further definition to her character. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’s stellar cast is rounded out by the brilliant ensemble. Each member does a great job of portraying many different characters and even picking up an instrument or two to play with the band!

With the Bernard B. Jacob Theatre looking more like the interior of a bar – with the décor landing somewhere between an old fashioned tavern and an AC/DC concert – the generation gap of both era and genre made for a phenomenal combination. As stunning as the costumes were, continuing to stick to a westernized feel of today’s multi-layered look, there were several unnecessary costume changes among the chorus members; which did nothing to enhance the plot or scene, but more so to inflate the ego of the fashion gods. The lighting aspect was a stunning visual orgasm, as color changing neon tubes protruded from the stage, rippling on and off between numbers for the hard rock effect; while hundreds upon thousands of strings of lights glowed overhead – and over every space available for that matter – to create that old time feel of Southern comforts for the more somber numbers. Justin Townsend, lighting designer for this production, better take one hell of a bow for pulling off one magnanimous spectacle.

With the tired, but true saying, “history always repeats itself,” the message in this production is clear, keeping its audience members interested in more ways than one. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is a must see, if not for the reasons above, then for at least a really crazy guy, in some really tight jeans.

Review By: James Russo & Sarah Hogan-DePaul


Saturday, December 4, 2010

La Bete @ Music Box Theatre

What do a classical actor, an idiot “savant,” and a princess all have in common? Well, they all star in David Hirson’s hilarious play La Bête which gives us a behind the curtain look at an acting troupe in France in the year 1654. With rhythmic dialogue, a hilarious cast, and stunning technical elements, La Bête is one play that should not be missed!

La Bête tells the story of a weakening royal acting troupe in France led by master playwright and performer Elomire (played by David Hyde Pierce). Elomire, completely unaware of the troupe’s recent down fall, is about to be thrown for a loop when The Princess (played by Joanna Lumley) orders Valere (played by Mark Rylance), a street performer, to join Elomire’s troupe. The chaos flies as a true battle of the brain ensues, as the professional and the clown go head to head.

La Bête is brought to life on stage by a cast of ten brilliant performers. All work well with together, playing of each other’s spot on comedic timing and high energy. The star and ultimate scene stealer of the show is Mark Rylance (of Broadway’s Boeing–Boeing) and the idiot “savant” street performer. There are not enough words to describe Rylance’s brilliantly hilarious extraordinary performance. An actor’s worst fear, nine times out of ten, is having to memorize long monologues. To call the close to twenty minute uninterrupted monologue that Rylance delivers towards the beginning of the play “long” would be the understatement of the year. For most actors, the task of delivering this epic speech eight nights a week for months would be close to impossible; however, Rylance does it with ease and style. He had the entire audience on his side throughout the entire delivery and never had them bored once. There is no doubt that a Tony nomination will be coming his way this year. It was just an all around brilliant and comedic acting gem. Rylance is the main reason for people to run to the Music Box Theatre and go see La Bête. Working alongside Rylance are two other big stars. David Hyde Pierce (of television’s Frasier and Broadway’s Curtains) delivers a wobbly performance as the high class troupe leader that absolutely despises the presence of Valere. While Pierce has some great moments on stage, his overall performance fell slightly flat. When interacting with others on stage Pierce would come to life and deliver some great one liners and moments of thought; however, during the wonderful monologue delivered by Rylance, Pierce often appeared to lose focus and presence on the stage. This caused the audience to not want to support his character as much towards the end of the play, which is a slight flaw. The other big star is Joanna Lumley (of television’s Sapphire & Steel and Absolutely Fabulous) who plays the theatre loving and spoiled Princess. Lumley gave a ravishing and hilarious performance. She was able to beautifully show both sides of typical royalty, the elegant and the childish. Lumley was even given a toy doll, dressed like herself, to use every time that she began to act childish. This was a really nice touch that brought her character to a higher level which, in return, made the audience fall in love with her. La Bête also has a wonderful supporting cast headed by Stephen Ouimette (of film’s Heater and television’s Slings and Arrows) and Greta Lee (of Broadway’s … Spelling Bee). Ouimette played humped back actor Bejart, and was a marvel to watch on stage. His high energy and focus made the audience want to watch him even when he was not speaking. Lee played Dorine, the housemaid who will only say words that rhyme with the word “do.” Being forced to reduce to pantomime to communicate, Lee did a beautiful job with her physical movements and was hilarious to watch. La Bête’s cast was all around brilliant.

La Bête featured some brilliant work behind the scenes with a brilliant book, a stunning set, great lighting, a wonderful score, lavishing costumes, and simple – yet effective – special effects. The script for La Bête, written by David Hirson, was absolutely wonderful. Not written in standard English, La Bête has beautiful poetry and rhyme too it; however, it does have its moments where it breaks this theme and does something off the wall. These mini moments fit in well with the rest of the script and were and interesting touch to a beautifully written show. With scenic and costume design by Mark Thompson, La Bête really popped off of the pages of the script. The set was simple but beautiful. The floor to ceiling book cases (that opened at the top and close of the show to add a special kick to the show) were stunning to look at and really helped set the tone of the play; all around stunning. The costumes were elegant and really helped show the different personalities of the characters by having the joyful characters (The Princess and Valere) in bright colors while the rest of the cast was in simple black and white. This touch was enhanced even further with the stunning lighting design done by Hugh Vanstone. He chose to keep those same joyful characters and have them followed with consistent bright light. This creative touch really added that special something to the show. Working alongside the set, lighting, and costumes were really simple, yet effective, special effects. The highlight of this came during The Princess’s entrance when what appeared to be a storm of gold glitter attacked the stage. This simple touch really set introduced the character perfectly and was a great addition to the show. La Bête was really aided by the work of Claire Van Kampen whose original score really brought France to life. Used throughout the play at different pivotal times, the score was used perfectly to really help advance the story. La Bête’s technical crew did a wonderful job of bringing 1600s France to life.

La Bête is a must see show that is great for not only adults but college students as well. With tons of crude jokes and slapstick comedy, everyone is sure to love La Bête. Make sure to get to the Music Box Theatre on Broadway before La Bête ends its limited run on January 9, 2010. Run – do not walk – to go see La Bête!

Review By: James Russo & Ryan Oliveti


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Elf the Musical @ Al Hirschfeld Theatre

In an age where Will Ferrell films dominate the comedy scene, it seemed only natural to see this modern Christmas Classic be brought to stage. The stage adaptation of the film, naturally, removed some of the elements seen in the film version; however, none of these items are missed because the stage setting and added effects only enhanced the show for the better. Elf is a great new Christmas musical!

The first act was a little long and seemed to speed through some of the key plot points; however, this did not distract from the overall quality of the show. The second act was non-stop fun and action and really brought a great end to an entertaining holiday show. All of the musical numbers fit perfectly with the story and brought the tale of Buddy the Elf to a whole new level of fun and amusement.

The acting in Elf was exceptional. Sebastian Arcelus (Jersey Boys, Wicked), playing the main character Buddy the Elf, did an exceptional job at making the character all his own. He kept the child-like sense of wonder that makes Buddy’s antics not only hilarious but also heartwarming and loveable. Blowing the audience away, as usual, was Amy Spanger (The Wedding Singer, Rock of Ages) playing Jovie, the skeptical and sarcastic love interest of Buddy. Her acting and singing was spot on. One could only wish that they had used this talented lady a little more. The way the story is written, the character of Jovie falls slightly to the shadows but Spanger’s talents shine through in every scene. Beth Leavel (The Drowsy Chaperone) and Matthew Gumley (The Addams Family), playing mother and son duo Emily and Michael Hobbs, work well together and the chemistry they had while on stage was incredible. Their scene work together showcased a close relationship and cynical connection to Christmas. Leavel was one of the most interesting characters in a role that differs greatly from the film. She broke the standard cookie cutter wife image of a modern day mother who loves her son, and instead treats him like an adult and is not afraid to stand up to her Scrooge of a husband. That husband, Walter Hobbs, was played by Mark Jacoby (Ragtime), and was the only character that did not dazzle upon the stage. The “bah-humbug” personality was standard and did not bring anything new to a classic Christmas antagonist. As the heartless businessman Jacoby did have a rather entertaining song “In the Way,” but it was nothing memorable given the vocals and characterization. Santa, played by George Wendt (known for his work of television’s Cheers), was an absolute delight. He chose to veer slightly from the “jolly old Saint Nick” image to depict a blue-collar working class guy who busts his buns during the holiday season. Santa, just like any man, wants to kick off his shoes after a hard day of work and watch the football game; however, he is persuaded to tell the audience one of his most beloved Christmas stories, acting as narrator of the show and setting the scene and style for everyone (even breaking the forth wall). In all, the character of Santa was perfectly brought to life by Wendt and is one of the best performances of the show.

The technical elements of Elf were stunning, for the most part. The choreography, done by director Casey Nicholaw, was simple and worked well with the show. One of the most creative dance numbers of the show was a full cast tap number at the end that that featured the entire cast in elf-styled tap shoes. Another fun number was “Sparklejollytwinklejingley.” It was a sparkly, jolly, twinkley, jingley visual pleasure as a store is decked in tinsel and Christmas attire. The dance number was fun to watch and the enthusiasm of the cast members really made it memorable. The scenic design of Elf, done by David Rockwell, was visually stunning. Every set piece felt like a book was popping up out of the stage to tell the incredible story. The use of lights throughout the show not only kept the spirit of the holiday season alive it also gave depth and personality to the set. The projections for Elf, designed by Zachary Borovay, were brilliant. This show was projection heavy and every single projection that was used was great. They moved the story along and it kept it interesting without taking away from the action on stage. Unfortunately, sound, designed by Peter Hylenski, is where the show hit its low point. Although the orchestrations were great, it overpowered the actors to the point where the audience could not hear at times. Back to the brilliant, the costumes, designed by Gregg Barnes, were incredible. Barnes really paid attention to detail and stole the show from the technical aspect. Simple touches, like the unique differences in each Santa suit and the strict similarity in the elves costumes, made the costumes fun and exciting to look at. The costumes stayed true to the styles of the film and also gave it that Broadway touch with Buddy’s outfit and all the elves costumes.

Although Elf is filled with family entertainment, validated by the numerous little ones occupying seats in the theater, there were still many adult themes and jokes. These “grown-up jokes” would of course go over the young ones heads and act as an added level for us mature minded folk. Elf is definitely recommended for all trying to get into the holiday spirit.

Review By: James Russo & Amanda Arena


A Life in the Theatre @ Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

A Life in the Theatre, written by famed play write David Mamet, tells the story of two actors from completely different generations. We watch as they struggle to work together both on and off stage. A Life in the Theatre is a very interesting piece of theatre; however, it does not exactly work.

A Life in the Theatre stars two extremely talented actors that appear to be very restricted on stage by the script, scene changes, costume changes, and all around choppiness of the play as a whole. The first of these two actors is Patrick Stewart, known by most from his work on "Star Trek" and "X-Men." Steward plays Robert, an older actor that is on his way out. While Steward has several beautiful serious moments throughout the play, his comedic lines and timing felt forced and over the top. The second actor was T.R. Knight, known for his work on the hit television series "Grey’s Anatomy." Knight plays John, a younger actor who is just beginning his long career in the theatre. Knight fell way short of where he needed to be. He was often dull and unresponsive to the action going on around him. Also, the chemistry between these two actors was very awkward; at times it was uncomfortable to watch. It was upsetting that after sitting through a 90 minute play, one never forgot that it was Steward and Knight up on that stage. It was never for one second believed that they were actually Robert and John. This is a perfect case of how two great actors do not always equal one great play.

A Life in the Theatre had some problems in the technical side as well. While Mamet is arguably one of the best play writes of this generation, this play will not go down as one of his bests. The play was extremely choppy and had no major conflict. The audience never had a chance to connect to a scene because the lack of problems and shortness of the scenes made it close to impossible. Under the direction of Neil Pepe, the many scene changes were wonderfully choreographed using stage hands to move all of the set pieces. While this was a neat concept, after a while it began to become overbearing and took away from the story that was trying to be told. With a scenic design by Santo Loquasto, lighting design by Kenneth Posner, and costume design by Laura Bauer, A Life in the Theatre was a beautiful sight to watch, but fell short in many areas. The scenic design, while over all stunning, could have been more realistic. More could have been done to represent a backstage space other than a few stairs, a sink, and a ghost light. The lighting design that covered the back wall to represent what an actor sees when looking into an audience was stunning; however, it fell short for the rest of the play. Basic “lights up and lights down” lighting is nice, but after a while becomes boring. The many costumes were wonderful; however, with no fault to Bauer, there were simply too many costume changes, therefore, making the audience tired of seeing the costumes instead of excited to see her wonderful work.

Over all, A Life in the Theatre fell short of many expectations. If you are looking for a modern comedy and you love Stuart and/or Knight, then this play may be worth it; however, for everyone else, I would not recommend A Life in the Theatre. If you really want to know what the life of an actor is like, simply ask one of the stars at the stage door. They will probably put it in better terms that Mamet ever could.

Review By: James Russo & Ryan Oliveti

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Phantom of the Opera @ Majestic Theatre

For the past twenty-two years, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera has been dazzling audiences at the Majestic Theatre on a nightly basis, and it is not hard to understand why. With its lavish costumes, extravagant set, and breathtaking score, The Phantom of the Opera has become the longest running show in Broadway history and shows no signs of stopping. It truly is one of the best shows of all time.

A story of love and passion, The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of the Paris Opéra House which as recently come under new management by Monsieur André (performed, at this performance, by Richard Poole) and Monsieur Firmin (performed by David Cryer). After only a few minutes, the two new owners are introduced to the mysterious Opéra Ghost when he drops a backdrop on the leading lady Carlotta Giudicelli (played, at this performance, by Michele McConnell) causing her to storm out and have to be replaced. Madame Giry (performed by Cristin J. Hubbard), who personally knows the Opéra Ghost, recommends Christine Daaé (performed, at this performance, by Marni Raab), a ballet dancer who has recently been visited several times by the Opéra Ghost. Christine’s stunning voice wins her the part, which is exactly what the Opéra Ghost had wanted all along. At her opening night performance, an old childhood sweetheart, Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny (performed by Ryan Silverman), recognizes Christine and instantly falls in love with her. Feeling threatened by Raoul, the Opéra Ghost finally reveals himself to Christine as the Phantom (performed by John Cudia). From here, the audience is taken on a journey as Christine is forced to choose between the man who gave her a voice and the man she loves.

The Phantom of the Opera was beautifully acted and sung with every single performer giving a top notch performance. John Cudia and Marni Raab worked wonders together at The Phantom and Christine. Both had amazing voices the completely filled the theatre and quite literally gave the entire audience goose bumps. Starring opposite of those two, Ryan Silverman held his own as Raoul. He delivered a powerful performance and brought the house down along with Raab when they belted the famous song “All I Ask of You.” Comedic relief was sent in the form of two managers and two diva opera singers. Richard Poole and David Cryer were absolutely perfect together as the two new owners of the Opéra House who soon realize that they are in way over their heads. Both had spot on comedic timing and both worked wonderfully together. At this performance, the understudy for Carlotta, Michele McConnell was seen. McConnell gave a wonderful performance and, in my opinion, stole the show. McConnell has a wonderfully powerful voice that commands attention just as any Prima Donna should. Her comedic timing was perfectly in line with Evan Harrington who portrayed the leading man Ubaldo Piangi. Harrington (a vet of Avenue Q) was absolutely perfect. His strong voice and brilliant comedic chops made him the perfect character actor to play Ubaldo.

Even though the show opened twenty-two years ago, it still holds its own in terms of scenic design, special effects, chorography, and direction. Of course, all of this is brought to life by the brilliant score penned by Andrew Lloyd Webber and haunting lyrics written by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe). The only down fall of The Phantom of the Opera comes with the lighting design by Andrew Bridge. While there are many different elements to the lighting (for example the use of six spot lights), the show overall is very dark. There are several scenes in which the actors can barley be seen. While the overall effect is of dark and creepy is pulled off, it starts to get annoying not always being able to know exactly who you are looking at.

The Phantom of the Opera is a brilliant play that can be enjoyed by young and old. So, to all of my fellow college students, do not think that this is simply an old time show with nothing to offer. The Phantom of the Opera is a stunning work of art with a great story, a wonderful score, and brilliant special effects. Where else can you go to see a chandelier crash and a Phantom disappear in under 30 seconds? And, as far as what happens to the Phantom at the end of the play, well, something tells me that he might just go to Coney Island where love never dies.

Review By: James Russo & Ryan Oliveti


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Million Dollar Quartet @ Nederlander Theatre

What happens when four music legends come together for a night of memories, loyalty, and rock n’ roll? Well, the new Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet happens. Filled with old time classic hits like “Hound Dog” and “Great Balls of Fire,” this show is a fun look back at the birth of rock n’ roll.

Currently playing too sold out audiences at the Nederlander Theatre, Million Dollar Quartet tells the true story of what happens on December 4, 1956, when Sam Phillips brings together Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley for one night only at the legendary Sun Records studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Throughout the course of the night we see Sam Phillips (Hunter Foster) desperately try to hold his studio together by bringing in four singers who would eventually go on to great stardom. First, we met Jerry Lee Lewis (Levi Kreis), a young piano player who has recently recorded his first album with Sun Records. There is no doubt in Lewis’s mind that he is going to be the next big rock n’ roll star. Soon after, Carl Perkins (Robert Britton Lyons) enters desperate to find another hit after losing “Blue Suede Shoes” to none other than Elvis Presley. Johnny Cash (Lance Guest) enters third with a huge secret that will endanger the future of Sun Records. Lastly, Elvis Presley (Eddie Clendening) joins the group and brings along his girlfriend Dyanne (Elizabeth Stanley). Throughout the course of the night, we watch as friendships are tested and great rock n’ roll is recorded. All of which concludes with an after-show concert featuring hits from all four super stars.

Million Dollar Quartet is an all around entertaining show with some minor flaws. These said flaws have absolutely nothing to do with Levi Kreis’s wonderful interpretation of Jerry Lee Lewis. Kreis delivers one of the best performances to hit Broadway in a long time (hence why he won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical). Kreis commanded the stage with his wonderful acting chops, spot on comedic timing, and thrilling piano skills (including playing it backwards). He had perfect chemistry with the other five performers on stage. Kreis’s performance is one that is not to be missed by anyone! While Kreis is a hard act to follow, Hunter Foster does a fantastic job portraying studio owner Sam Phillips. While true Broadway fans know Foster for his great singing chops, Foster delivers a completely song-less performance that relies completely on his strong acting skills. Foster does an outstanding job from start to finish delivering a performance that is worth a Tony Award. Robert Britton Lyons and Lance Guest, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash respectively, hold their own on stage with Kreis and Foster. Lyons delivers a non-stop high energy performance that concludes with him rocking out on top of a bass. Guest delivers a perfect laid back performance that resembles Johnny Cash perfectly. Both Lyons and Guest bring down the house during their after-show performances. The weak link, however, eventually came with Eddie Clendening’s portrayal of Elvis Presley. Clendening failed to deliver the proper energy that was needed when playing “The King of Rock n’ Roll.” Most of his lines were muffled and un-understandable with his songs falling flat and lacking any energy. This is one case where I would have preferred to see the understudy Erik Hayden (who is a seasoned actor who has appeared in many Broadway touring productions). Elizabeth Stanley, who portrays the fictional character of Dyanne, has a lot working against her. She is the only fictional character in Million Dollar Quartet, has a weak leading man, and has a painfully boring introduction song; however, through it all, Stanley delivers a truly beautiful performance. She is heartwarming and fierce at the same time. With a wonderful voice, she commands attention every time she is at a microphone (and, the audience gladly gives her their attention). With a cast of six, five are stunning and absolutely perfect for the roles that they are playing.

Most of the flaws came in the technical aspects of the show. A great story, memorable songs, and wonderful acting cannot be the only highlights of a show. In order for a show to be all around wonderful, it requires spot on design and direction, and, unfortunately, Million Dollar Quartet failed in this area. The scenic design by Derek McLane was visually stunning and extremely impressive (especially when an entire set gets lifted into the air). However, Sun Records was made to look way too modern. With red leather paneled walls, McLane lost sight that this play takes place in 1956 (not 2010). Throughout the play, the characters go back and forth between inside to studio and outside the studio requiring a change in lighting. Unfortunately, lighting designer Howell Binkley took the idea of night to far leaving the actors in a mist of blue light every time they were supposed to be outside (leaving the scenes extremely dark). At some points in the show, the character Sam Phillips has to talk into a microphone from inside the studio recording booth, leaving it up to sound designer Kai Harada to insure that the audience can still hear him. However, almost every time this occurred, the line was completely lost in static or simply not heard at all. While I hold these professionals responsible, it is also the fault of director Eric Schaeffer for not correcting these problems (along with the many staging problems that he had). As a whole, Million Dollar Quartet failed in the technical side of theatre.

Overall, Million Dollar Quartet is a very entertaining show that will surly delight fans of the 50s and 60s rock n’ roll generation. And, for all of the Broadway and theatre fans listening, Million Dollar Quartet is a show to see for one very big reason, Levi Kreis’s absolutely stunning performance.

Review By: Ryan Oliveti & James Russo


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lend Me a Tenor @ Music Box Theatre

The new Broadway revival of Lend Me a Tenor, written by Ken Ludwig, is the perfect example of what happens when eight comedic geniuses, led by an all star director, get together to put on a show. Lend Me a Tenor is comedic dynamite that delivers laughs from start to finish. It is a must see production!

Lend Me a Tenor tells the story what happens when the great Italian opera singer Tito Merelli (Anthony LaPaglia) comes to Cleveland for a one night only performance of “Otello.” Through a series of door slamming events, Tito is mistaken for dead leaving Saunders (Tony Shalhoub), the Opera’s General Manager, with no other option other than to put his assistant, Max (Justin Bartha), in as the understudy. What happens next is a series of mistaken identities that is nothing short of hilarious. Who said what to whom? Who slept with whom? Who know what? Julia (Brooke Adams), the Chairman of the Board, claims to have convinced Tito come to the after party. Saunders daughter, Maggie (Mary Catherine Garrison), and the leading lady, Diana (Jennifer Laura Thompson), both claim that they slept with Tito at the same time. The bellhop (Jay Klaitz) claims to have received an order from Tito. On top of all of this confusion, Tito’s crazy tempered wife, Maria (Jan Maxwell), comes back into the picture after having left him in the beginning of the show. So, who was talking to the real Tito and who was actually talking to Max in disguise? Well, you will simply have to go see the show for yourself.

While all eight actors give truly hilarious performances, Lend Me a Tenor is powered by its three leading men. Anthony LaPaglia, known for his run on the CBS series “Without a Trace,” delivers a beautifully funny performance. LaPaglia had a way of commanding attention on the stage that made you constantly want to pay attention to every little thing that he did. Known for being a more dramatic actor, LaPaglia definitely proved that he has a funny side as well; his comedic timing was spot on. There is no better fit for the part of Tito, the hot headed and womanizing Italian, than LaPaglia. Tony Shalhoub, known for his wonderful run on the USA series “Monk,” delivers a non-stop high energy performance. With pitch perfect comedic timing, Shalhoub has the audience eating right out of his hands (with the audience receiving the random bits of plastic food that he spits out into the audience). Shalhoub is a comedic genius that fit the part of the easily angered manager perfectly. Justin Bartha, known for his portrayal of Doug in the hit comedy “The Hangover,” makes his Broadway debut in Lend Me a Tenor. Bartha was absolutely brilliant and held his own amongst the slew of seasoned Broadway greats. His portrayal of the over worked assistant Max was absolutely stunning. Barely ever leaving the stage, Bartha was able to anchor the entire show without missing a beat. With not only great comedic timing but a great singing voice as well, Bartha made his debut with a bang. While it is a man’s show, one woman steals the spotlight every time that she is on stage. This is of course the wonderful Jan Maxwell, a Broadway great who was nominated for a Tony Award for this performance. While Maxwell is only in two scenes, she is so fantastic that she received the loudest round of applause during the curtain call. She is the perfect fit to play the crazy, loud, and jealous Italian wife of Tito. In three words, Maxwell is brilliant.

The technical elements of Lend Me a Tenor were very good, but did have some weak spots. The scenic design, however, was not one of those spots. Designed by John Lee Beatty, the set was absolutely stunning. Designed with stunning detail and precision, it is definitely one of the best sets to hit Broadway this season. Another high point came in the costume design. Designed by Martin Pakledinaz, the costumes held true to the 1930s time period that the play is set in. Together, the set and costumes allowed the audience to travel back to the 1930s and fully enter the world of Lend Me a Tenor. One weak spot came in the lighting design. Designed by Kenneth Posner, the lighting has several dark spots in which the actors would sometimes not be lit. Also, the scenic design featured a huge window, but the lighting designed worked against it by never changing the brightness of the outside city (there was no difference in light weather it was 10:00 A.M. or 11:00 P.M.). However, the audience was willing to look past that because of the beautiful direction of Stanley Tucci, known for his outstanding career in movies and television. Tucci made his stage directorial debut with this production and did a fantastic job. While there were some flaws in his direction (like allowing the actors to sometime talk into walls and break fourth walls that had been established), Tucci did an overall wonderful job with his debut.

Lend Me a Tenor is a wickedly funny show that is a must see for everyone. While it may not sound like the typical show that a college student would go see, I promise that you will not regret it. The humor is extremely current with plenty of sexual innuendos to go around. And, if worse comes to worse, you can at least say that you saw one of the stars of the mega college hit “The Hangover.” Have no fear, Lend Me a Tenor is one of the shows that provide the cheaper rush tickets for students. Run, don’t walk, to see the hit Broadway revival of Lend Me a Tenor (playing at the Music Box Theatre through August 15, 2010).

Review By: James Russo & Ryan Oliveti