Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reasons To Be Happy @ The Lucille Lortel Theatre

“Reasons To Be Happy” closed at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher St) this afternoon after extending its run, which began on May 16, 2013. The MCC world premier, which was written and directed by MCC playwright-in-residence Neil LaBute comes as a sort of sequel, companion piece to LaBute’s 2009 Tony Award Nominee for Best Play, “Reasons To Be Pretty”. If you know the story of “Reasons To Be Pretty”, you’ll find bursts of similarities and references to the show during “Reasons To Be Happy”, however, thankfully to many you don’t need to know the first to understand the second; you would just view them as two completely different entities.

“Reasons To Be Happy” is set in ‘the outlying suburbs, not too long ago’. It’s the story of four friends, turned lovers, turned enemies, who are just trying to live their lives right. It’s a classic telling of the love triangle, and how these young adults futures didn’t unfold as they had planned because of it. The show opens with Greg, played by Josh Hamilton (Dead Accounts, Dark Skies) running into his ex-girlfriend Steph, played by Jenna Fisher (The Office, Blades of Glory) in the parking lot of a Trader Joe’s. Steph is now married to someone else, but clearly hasn’t moved on enough. Who can blame her though, when Greg is now dating Steph’s ex-best friend, Carly, played by Leslie Bibb (Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Talladega Nights). Carly has a three-year-old daughter Jennifer (who’s never seen in the show) with friend of the group Kent, played by Fred Weller (Glengarry Glen Ross, The Shape of Things). Kent is not around a lot in Jennifer’s life and some would even argue that Greg is becoming more of a father figure to her than her own dad. Carly works as a security guard and Kent often works stocking her rather bland break room (one of the two sets in the show), causing them to frequently and awkwardly run into each other. To make matters worse, Greg often drops Carly off as well as picks her up from work, forcing him to run into Kent too. After the run in at Trader Joe’s, Steph reaches out to Greg with an apology, and the two begin to reconcile. Steph suggests they give their relationship one last try, complete with the willingness to leave her current husband. Greg agrees there is something still there and starts seeing both girls simultaneously. He agreed to break up with Carly until she reveals she’s pregnant with his baby. Now Greg has to decide which of the two ex-best friends he would rather be with in this terribly sticky situation, all while tolerating a jealous Kent whom he still sort of connects with just to increase the testosterone in his dramatic life.

It’s no surprise “Reasons To Be Happy” opened to rave reviews; Neil LaBute is known for other successful ‘modern’ plays such as “Fat Pig” and “The Shape of Things”, so given his immense talent for writing and directing as well as his all-star cast and the success of “Reasons To Be Pretty”, “Reasons To Be Happy” was everything audiences had hoped it would be. It runs roughly 2 hours 15 minutes with an intermission and it’s got a great, chill vibe with modern lighting and scene changes accompanied by alternative rock hits such as “Come As You Are” by Nirvana. When the scenes aren’t taking place in Carly’s break room, a lot of ambiance is created simply with lighting, props such as benches or flowers, and sound cues like children running on a soccer field. You don’t need to be a theatre junkie to appreciate that so much is done with so little. Complete with a lot of profanity, “Reasons To Be Happy” sure gave audiences a good laugh.

What is comes down to be that “Reasons To Be Happy” is relatable to virtually anyone who saw it. Everyone at one point in their life has to make vital decisions, and ultimately everyone is going to chase what makes them happy. “Reasons To Be Happy” is worth seeing at any future chance, and definitely worth reading in the mean time!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Buyer & Cellar @ The Barrow Street Theater

         Buyer & Cellar transfers back off Broadway after its sold out run at Rattlesnake Playwrights Theater. Starring in this one man show is Michael Urie who plays Alex More, the mall attendant of Barbara Streisand basement. Michael Urie and Buyer & Cellar were the recipient of the 2013 Drama Desk, Clarence Derwent, and Off-Broadway Alliance awards. After its run at Rattlesnake, producers decided this critically acclaimed story was not done being told and it transferred to Barrow Street Theater for an extra long extended run.

         Buyer & Cellar is an outrageous comedy about the price of fame, the cost of things, and the oddest of odd jobs. Alex More has a story to tell. A struggling actor in L.A., Alex takes a job working in the Malibu basement of a beloved megastar. One day, the Lady Herself comes downstairs to play. It feels like real bonding in the basement, but will their relationship ever make it upstairs?

         Michael Urie (How to Succeed..) portrays Alex Moore who tells the story of his employment with big well known Barbara Streisand. Urie is outrageously funny, extremely charismatic and an impressive story teller. He has the ability to draw the audience in, have them close to tears and then have them laughing hysterically in a matter of seconds. Truly a genius performance and the best one man show to hit NYC in years.  

         Buyers & Cellar is playing at the Barrow Street Theater Through August 28, 2013. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Potted Potter @ The Little Shubert Theater

Potted Potter is a re-telling of all seven Harry Potter books in only 70 minutes.  The two actors, Dan and Jeff, quickly perform each book, summarizing the major points of each novel, getting sillier as they go along.  They used awful wigs, “cheap” set pieces, and make-shift props all because Jeff apparently spent the budget, which was supposed to go to getting 20 actors, on an amazing fire-breathing dragon for the fourth novel.  Of course, that turns out to be a tiny dragon puppet, infuriating Dan. The telling of the first 3 books was a bit slow, but still quite amusing.

The performance picked up when a game of Quidditch was started with the audience. The game helped get the audience into the silly spirit of the show.  The audience was split in to two sides: Slytherin and Gryffindor.  One kid from each side was picked to the Seeker and would have to catch the “Golden Snitch”, who turned out to be Dan, one of the performers dressed in a ridiculous golden outfit.  The little girl from Slytherin really got into her role and grabbed Dan by his costume, refusing to let go, somehow spinning him around, and eventually tackling him to the ground! It was by the far the best moment of the whole show. It certainly caught the performers off guard and they lost it.   The rest of the show flew by with some really funny moments.

After they finally make it through five books they realize they only have about ten minutes left to tell the audience about the last two books of the series. So the two of them break out into the song "I Will Survive", quickly spiting out the important battles explains who dies and who survives in the end out the series, quite hilarious.

Potted Potter was charming and fun: a must see for anyone with children or anyone who is a fan of the books.  Don’t expect anything serious; it is light-hearted and relatively informal, a very silly but amusing performance. Potted Potter is playing at the Little Shubert Theater through the summer until September 1, 2013. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

2013 Tony Awards

Best Musical
Bring It On: The Musical
A Christmas Story, The Musical
*Kinky Boots
Matilda The Musical

Best Revival of a Musical
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Stephanie J. Block, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Carolee Carmello, Scandalous
Valisia LeKae, Motown The Musical
*Patina Miller, Pippin
Laura Osnes, Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Laurie Metcalf, The Other Place
Amy Morton, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Kristine Nielsen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Holland Taylor, Ann
*Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Tom Hanks, Lucky Guy
Nathan Lane, The Nance
*Tracy Letts, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
David Hyde Pierce, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Tom Sturridge, Orphans

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Bertie Carvel, Matilda The Musical
Santino Fontana, Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella
Rob McClure, Chaplin
*Billy Porter, Kinky Boots
Stark Sands, Kinky Boots

Best Lighting Design of a Play
*Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, Lucky Guy
Donald Holder, Golden Boy
Jennifer Tipton, The Testament of Mary
Japhy Weideman, The Nance

Best Revival of a Play
Golden Boy
The Trip to Bountiful
*Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kenneth Posner, Kinky Boots
Kenneth Posner, Pippin
Kenneth Posner, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella
*Hugh Vanstone, Matilda The Musical

Best Play
The Assembled Parties
Author: Richard Greenberg
Lucky Guy
Author: Nora Ephron
The Testament of Mary
Author: Colm Toíbín
*Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Author: Christopher Durang

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Annaleigh Ashford, Kinky Boots
Victoria Clark, Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella
*Andrea Martin, Pippin
Keala Settle, Hands on a HardbodyLauren Ward, Matilda The Musical

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
*Rob Howell, Matilda The Musical
Anna Louizos, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Scott Pask, Pippin
David Rockwell, Kinky Boots

Best Scenic Design of a Play
*John Lee Beatty, The Nance
Santo Loquasto, The Assembled Parties
David Rockwell, Lucky Guy
Michael Yeargan, Golden Boy

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
A Christmas Story, The Musical
Music and Lyrics: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Hands on a Hardbody
Music: Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green
Lyrics: Amanda Green
*Kinky Boots
Music & Lyrics: Cyndi Lauper
Matilda The Musical
Music & Lyrics: Tim Minchin

Best Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bring It On: The Musical
Peter Darling, Matilda The Musical
*Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots
Chet Walker, Pippin

Best Direction of a Play
*Pam MacKinnon, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Nicholas Martin, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Bartlett Sher, Golden Boy
George C. Wolfe, Lucky Guy

Best Direction of a Musical
Scott Ellis, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots
*Diane Paulus, Pippin
Matthew Warchus, Matilda The Musical

Best Book of a Musical
A Christmas Story, The Musical, Joseph Robinette
Kinky Boots, Harvey Fierstein
*Matilda The Musical, Dennis Kelly
Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella, Douglas Carter Beane

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Charl Brown, Motown The Musical
Keith Carradine, Hands on a Hardbody
Will Chase, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
*Gabriel Ebert, Matilda The Musical
Terrence Mann, Pippin

Best Sound Design of a Play
John Gromada, The Trip to Bountiful
Mel Mercier, The Testament of Mary
*Leon Rothenberg, The Nance
Peter John Still and Marc Salzberg, Golden Boy

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Carrie Coon, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Shalita Grant, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Judith Ivey, The Heiress
*Judith Light, The Assembled Parties
Condola Rashad, The Trip to Bountiful

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Jonathan Deans and Garth Helm, Pippin
Peter Hylenski, Motown The Musical
*John Shivers, Kinky Boots
Nevin Steinberg, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella

Best Orchestrations
Chris Nightingale, Matilda The Musical
*Stephen Oremus, Kinky Boots
Ethan Popp and Bryan Crook, Motown The Musical
Danny Troob, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Kinky Boots
Rob Howell, Matilda The Musical
Dominique Lemieux, Pippin
*William Ivey Long, Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella

Best Costume Design of a Play
Soutra Gilmour, Cyrano de Bergerac
*Ann Roth, The Nance
Albert Wolsky, The Heiress
Catherine Zuber, Golden Boy

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Danny Burstein, Golden Boy
Richard Kind, The Big Knife
Billy Magnussen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Tony Shalhoub, Golden Boy
*Courtney B. Vance, Lucky Guy

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Annie @ The Palace Theatre

A spunky orphan girl finds a home with a New York millionaire during the Depression, but must dodge the clutches of her evil orphanage mistress, in Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin and Thomas Meehan's musical based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip.

Tonight the audience had the pleasure of seeing miss Crawford's understudy, Taylor Richardson. Richardson usually plays Duffy, one of Annie's fellow orphans, but tonight she step front and center. This girl must be fearless, getting up in front of an audience and preforming songs she usually watches every night and pulling them off with promise and poise. Jane Lynch (“Glee”) finally shines on Broadway in a part that has just been screaming waiting for her to step into it. Lynch is evil, cunning and truly scary knock out as she towers over orphan stand out, the adorable Emily Rosenfeld, Molly. Anthony Warlow is making his Broadway debut as Daddy Warbucks, and he preforms with an elegance and charm that makes the audience fall that much more with the Warbucks and Annie couple. Unfortunately this cast isn’t all great seeing as the most fun number, Easy Street is hardly any fun when Clarke Thorell as Rooster Hannigan and J. Elaine Marcos as Lily St. Regis are preforming it; its barely heard and they dancing is all over the place.
Not to worry though, Marcos and Thorell arent the only thing that is a damper on this show. The lack luster set design by
David Korins brings a new meaning to a story book, as he turns everything into an actual book. But thank god for Donald Holders lighting who makes Korins sets and the actors look stunning.

This Annie revival directed by the famous James Lapine runs at the Palace Theater in Time Square. Jane Lynch as Miss Hannigan isn't something you are are gonna want to miss.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Around the World in 80 Days @ The New Theater at 45th Street

The French classic by Jules Verne has been warped and transformed many a time, and yet Mark Brown‘s comedic play takes this well-known story on a new journey. Advertised as “a fun frolic & fantastic update of the visionary classic”, the New Theater at 45th Street offers a production that is packed with astral wonders and prime laughs.

The ensemble cast of 5 acquires the task of portraying 39 different characters from this legendary book. Shirine Babb, Jimmy Ray Bennet, John Gregario, and Stephen Guarino, with Bryce Ryness as Phileas Fogg force one to admire the art of characterization. Lead by director Rachel Klein, the vibe was sharp, tight, and exact with a commedia dell arte sense. Comic timing was precise and thank god for that. Klein is quoted saying, “This production seeks to uphold Verne’s ability to awaken childlike wonder, to spark our imaginations, and peek into our futures -”. As it was, the production did in fact hold up the imagination of its audience to incredibly high levels.

With such a performance on stage, one would expect the set to live up to the world that Jules Verne’s imagination has set us in. Robert Andrew Kovach’s design brings this Nineteenth Century “around the world” experience to life. Featuring a panoramic mural spreading throughout the walls of the theatre and a giant projection screen shaped as a clock that is used in a most creative manner throughout the show, Kovach gives the audience just enough to look at without overwhelming them. With surprising secret compartments and the trick of pulling an elephant out of thin air, this set is as much a character as the actors themselves. Kate Freer’s projection design created magical transitions that left audience members transfixed, Ben Kato’s accent with lighting was sublime, and associate costume designer Kae Burke, with director Rachel Klein doubling as costume designer, gave a new meaning to the phrase “It’s all in the details,” creating pieces that were divine.

The combination of this crazy, comedic cast and the creatively talented production team behind them make for a night of good theatre. Go see it and get swept away in a production that will have you laughing for hours afterward.

In one word: Charming.