Monday, December 31, 2007

SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #1: Deanna Dunagan

SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #1: Deanna Dunagan

Introduction: While others use the end of the year to provide their lists of the top shows of the past year, here at Steve On Broadway (SOB), I wait until the conclusion of the entire Theatrical Season to provide my official tally.

Instead, I'm once again devoting the waning days of the calendar year to celebrate SOB's Singular Sensations -- those magical live performances that have stayed with me throughout the year. During 2007, I have enjoyed, been wowed and ultimately inspired by a dazzling display of excellent performances from some of the theatre world's best actors, singers and dancers of our time.


Once in a lifetime, a stage turn comes along that is so important, so real, so vital and so intoxicating that you want to urge every last person you know to catch it. In August: Osage County -- by far, the best stage production I've seen all year -- Deanna Dunagan has seemingly come out of far left field to offer up one of those rarest of performances and then some. Really.

While Broadway is absolutely agog (and rightly so) over this new "discovery," the truth is, Dunagan has long been considered one of Chicago's finest actresses. In fact, she has even been been recognized with two Joseph Jefferson Awards (the Jeffs are to Chicago theatre what the Tony is to Broadway) -- one of those two honors came this past October for her excellent work on the Steppenwolf stage as Violet Weston in August: Osage County.

My first opportunity to see Dunagan came in 2003. The actress was part of the ensemble for the Stephen Sondheim/John Weidman musical Bounce when it premiered at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. Talk about versatility.

In my August review of her extraordinary current play, I noted that:



August: Osage County centers on a heavy-drinking poet Beverly Weston (Dennis Letts, the playwright's father, in a subtle poignant portrayal who haunts the play long after his lone appearance) and his venomous drug-addled wife Violet (a breathtakingly potent Deanna Dunagan...in the single most important performance I've seen yet this year).

Despite Violet's often delusory state, she manages to retain an iron grip on the roost, lording over her three daughters.
...
Violet's tentacles also suck in her own seemingly clueless sister Mattie Fay (
Rondi Reed in a delectable departure from portraying Madame Morrible in Chicago's Wicked) and her husband Charlie (a wonderfully obtuse Francis Guinan).

My first twinge in realizing just how excellent this production would be was in the opening scene. Beverly is not so much interviewing Johnna (
Kimberly Guerrerro), a mysterious young native American woman, for a housekeeping position as much as he's preparing her for the tumult she's about to face in the wake of his departure. He's long-since resigned to losing his battle with the bottle and his wife's addictions to the many drugs she takes, yet he wants to leave Violet in caring hands. During their conversation, Violet makes her first incoherent drug-hazed entrance, and it becomes clear that Johnna will have her hands full.
What an entrance that was. Once Dunagan was on the stage, I couldn't take my eyes off her.

When August: Osage County was about to open, I wrote:

Deanna Dunagan in particular offers perhaps the single most important Broadway debut in recent memory. Her performance will surely be recalled as one of the best on the boards in years.
Not surprising, the critics were equally enamored with her breakthrough performance. Even though Dunagan is an intrinsic part of one of the most amazing ensembles on Broadway in years, like castmate Amy Morton, she is one singular sensation I've been truly fortunate to see.

Here's toasting you, Deanna Dunagan!

Happy New Year!

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
SOB's Singular Sensations Of '07 - Honorable Mentions (December 31, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #2: Christine Ebersole (December 30, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #3: Amy Morton (December 29, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #4: Elena Roger (December 28, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #5: Raúl Esparza (December 28, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #6: John Gallagher, Jr. (December 28, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #7: Jennifer Holliday (December 27, 2007)
August: Osage County (The SOB Review) (August 19, 2007)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #1: Patti LuPone (December 30, 2006)
Honorable Mentions: SOB's Singular Sensations Of '06 (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #2: Cate Blanchett (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #3: Chita Rivera (December 29, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #4: Barry Humphries (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #5: Kitty Carlisle Hart (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #6: Meryl Streep (December 26, 2006)

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ウィキッド - The Broadway Musical Wicked (The SOB Revisit)

ウィキッド - The Broadway Musical Wicked (The SOB Revisit) - Shiki Theatre, Tokyo, Japan 東京

*** (out of ****)

Some couples have their song. For the love of my life and me... well, let's just say we have our musical.

If you're a regular Steve On Broadway reader, you've probably already guessed that it happens to be Wicked. It was one of the very first tuners we saw as a couple -- our first time taking it in was just two days after the theatrical phenomenon opened on Broadway back in October 2003.

Whether it's our affinity for its ingenious inside-out twisting of "The Wizard Of Oz" fable we grew up on, or our hope from its message that different can be a virtue, or our love of its clever and often soaring tunes, Wicked has truly become "our musical."

So in that spirit, we traveled last week to our third international city this year -- London and Stuttgart came earlier -- to see the production in a third language.

On Christmas Eve, we saw ウィキッド - The Broadway Musical Wicked at Tokyo's Shiki Theatre. As in London and Stuttgart, I was amazed at how faithful to the original this incarnation is in staging, orchestrations, choreography and design. And while I don't speak a lick of Japanese (except to say "good afternoon," "good evening" and "thank you"), I was captivated by Miyuki Numao and Megumi Hamada, the duo originating the Japanese version's roles of Glinda and Elphaba, respectively.

Unlike in Germany, where I couldn't help but rethink the political allegories and how they were evocative of the Third Reich, I sat back and soaked in Tokyo's Wicked (although it wasn't lost on me that within one month's time, I was seeing this musical in the two primary nations that we fought in World War II).

As one of the most homogeneous societies on earth, the modern Japanese culture remains steeped in ancient tradition. With that in mind, I couldn't help but wonder whether the themes of ウィキッド - The Broadway Musical Wicked might well be viewed as a clarion call to be more accepting of other peoples and other cultures. Ironically, in this tightly knit society, an outlandish individual like Glinda with her platinum blonde coiffure would be nearly as unique in Japan as the green girl Elphaba would be everywhere.

Since Wicked is ultimately about looking at things -- especially other members of the human race -- another way, I was interested in measuring the extremely polite audience's response. With laughter and applause kept to a minimum level that would surely have had Stephanie Zimbalist seeing an oil painting, I was surprised to see more curtain calls for this staging of Wicked than any other I've ever seen before -- six curtain calls, plus an "encore" of "White Christmas" that finally brought the entire audience to its feet. Sharing this communal experience with a Japanese audience was certainly half the fun.

If you've never before seen one of your favorite Broadway shows in another language, you just might want to give it a try -- you'll likely come away thinking as I did about how they went about translating an entire show into another language and whether they were able to retain the same spirit, if not altogether the same trademark humor. Needless to say, in this Wicked, it appeared that many key laughlines were likely lost in translation, yet I couldn't help but be impressed at the arduous task this show's creators had before them to replicate as best they could a uniquely American show for a much wider audience.

In the end, that audience half a world away from home ultimately seemed equally impressed, further demonstrating the transcendent appeal of Wicked's tale.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for ウィキッド - The Broadway Musical Wicked Tokyo ticket information.
Related Stories:
Wicked - Die Hexen Von Oz (The SOB Revisit) (December 2, 2007)
Wicked To Finally Land In Oz During 2008 (May 16, 2007)
Wicked (The SOB Revisit) - London (April 17, 2007)
Wicked World (March 19, 2007)
Jaaku or Neikan? Wicked Set for Japanese Translation (July 24, 2007)

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SOB's Singular Sensations Of '07 - Honorable Mentions

SOB's Singular Sensations Of '07 - Honorable Mentions

During the course of 2007, I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to have been in the audience for 82 stage productions ranging from the very small-scale play to the most elaborate of spectacles.

In my quest to see great theatre, my year began in Sydney Australia and took me to such far-flung destinations as London, Beijing, Stuttgart, Tokyo and Winnipeg. I've traversed the United States, crisscrossing from California to Massachusetts, Washington State to Georgia, Nevada to Connecticut, Colorado to Wisconsin. Then there were the three American communities that really know how to do live theatre: Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul and of course, New York.

Throughout my travels, several outstanding plays and musicals captured my heart, thanks in no small part to the enormously talented array of actors who found a way to strike a nerve and tap into a vein like few others. They've mesmerized, wowed and inspired me with a unique turn of a phrase, fluidity of movement or sublime singing voice or a combination of all three -- all provided that rare spinetingling sensation that can only be found through a live performance.

While I’ve been singling out SOB’s 7 Singular Sensations of ’07, please allow me to add my special honor roll of outstanding performances from the past year that simply took my breath away. Although they narrowly missed making my top seven for 2007, I won't soon forget how captivating each of these singular sensations was:

Harriet Harris - The Glass Menagerie (Guthrie, Minneapolis, MN) and Old Acquaintance (American Airlines Theatre, New York, NY)

Saycon Sengbloh - The Color Purple (Broadway Theatre, New York, NY)

Bebe NeuwirthChicago (Ambassador Theatre, New York, NY)

Chazz PalminteriA Bronx Tale (Walter Kerr Theatre, New York, NY)

Vanessa RedgraveThe Year of Magical Thinking (Booth Theatre, New York, NY)

Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon (Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, New York, NY)

Martha PlimptonCymbeline (Lincoln Center at the Vivian Beaumont, New York, NY)

Kevin KlineCyrano de Bergerac (Richard Rodgers Theatre, New York, NY)

Andrea MartinYoung Frankenstein (Hilton Theatre, New York, NY)

Christopher Fitzgerald Young Frankenstein (Hilton Theatre, New York, NY)

Kerry ButlerXanadu (Helen Hayes Theatre, New York, NY)

David PittuIs He Dead? (Lyceum Theatre, New York, NY)

Yasen PeyenkovThe Diary Of Anne Frank (Steppenwolf, Chicago, IL)


With the addition of these thirteen, I’ve singled out twenty consummate performances that were singularly sensational. Each of these performers has my utmost respect and appreciation, and I look forward to the opportunity to see them perform another day.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #2: Christine Ebersole (December 30, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #3: Amy Morton (December 29, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #4: Elena Roger (December 28, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #5: Raúl Esparza (December 28, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #6: John Gallagher, Jr. (December 28, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #7: Jennifer Holliday (December 27, 2007)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #1: Patti LuPone (December 30, 2006)
Honorable Mentions: SOB's Singular Sensations Of '06 (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #2: Cate Blanchett (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #3: Chita Rivera (December 29, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #4: Barry Humphries (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #5: Kitty Carlisle Hart (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #6: Meryl Streep (December 26, 2006)

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #2: Christine Ebersole

SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #2: Christine Ebersole

Introduction: While others use the end of the year to provide their lists of the top shows of the past year, here at Steve On Broadway (SOB), I wait until the conclusion of the entire Theatrical Season to provide my official tally.

Instead, I'm once again devoting the waning days of the calendar year to celebrate SOB's Singular Sensations -- those magical live performances that have stayed with me throughout the year. During 2007, I have enjoyed, been wowed and ultimately inspired by a dazzling display of excellent performances from some of the theatre world's best actors, singers and dancers of our time.


Like Spring Awakening, the quirky musical Grey Gardens began its life Off-Broadway in 2006 before transferring to the Great White Way later in the same year. In the case of Grey Gardens, it was a completely transformed show.

But my first opportunity to see this superb little gem of a show finally came in February. Talk about worth the wait -- I was so transfixed by this musical that it ranked as my favorite show during the entire 2006-07 Theatrical Season.

The primary reason I loved this show so much was due to the two excellent performances that would ultimately be rewarded with a richly deserved Tony Award (make that three when you count the marvelous Mary Louise Wilson). Both were offered by the astonishing Christine Ebersole as she portrayed both Edith and Little Edie Bouvier Beale -- the real-life relatives of former First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis -- whose fall from grace to utter squalor made for the most unlikeliest of Broadway musicals.

Here's what I had to say last February about Ebersole's nuanced performances:
Grey Gardens can hardly be called a “feel good” show. So why did I find myself feeling better than "good" after (finally) taking in a performance of this sublime show?

Two words: Christine Ebersole.

The incredibly talented Ebersole has proven she's at the height of her career. Her virtuoso performance in Grey Gardens is one that I'll never forget.

Mind you, I’m not one to voluntarily stand up and cheer reflexively. Personally, I find that the standing O is grossly overused and should be strictly reserved for only the best of the best. Not only did I leap to my feet upon Ebersole’s curtain call, but I found the extremely rare “bravo” freely coming from my heart and passing through my lips.

In Grey Gardens, Ebersole more than masterfully channels both Edith and Little Edie Bouvier Beales of the funny-if-it-weren’t-so-tragic seventies documentary of the same name. She luminously inhabits mother Edith in act one and then incredibly suspends any disbelief that you are watching anyone but the real Little Edie in the second act. Right before your eyes, a radiant and breathtaking Ebersole becomes Little Edie.
I've now had several opportunities to see Ebersole show her stuff on Broadway -- although I may be one of the few who actually remember her, and quite fondly at that, from her brief stint on "Saturday Night Live" back during the 1981-82 season).

The first time I saw her on stage came in her terrific performance in the superb 2000 revival of Gore Vidal's The Best Man, as well as in her Tony-winning turn as Dorothy Brock in the 2001 revival of 42nd Street. She imbues every role with such style, wit and panache, but Grey Gardens proves she truly is at the height of her distinguished career.

Here's a toast to the Tony-winning singular sensation, Christine Ebersole! May you enjoy every bit as much success and more when your show completes its transfer to London.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #3: Amy Morton (December 29, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #4: Elena Roger (December 28, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #5: Raúl Esparza (December 28, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #6: John Gallagher, Jr. (December 28, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #7: Jennifer Holliday (December 27, 2007)
SOB's Best Of 2006-07: Top Ten Of The Year (June 4, 2007)
SOB's Best Of 2006-07: Best New Musicals (May 22, 2007)
Grey Gardens (The SOB Review) (February 25, 2007)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #1: Patti LuPone (December 30, 2006)
Honorable Mentions: SOB's Singular Sensations Of '06 (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #2: Cate Blanchett (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #3: Chita Rivera (December 29, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #4: Barry Humphries (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #5: Kitty Carlisle Hart (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #6: Meryl Streep (December 26, 2006)

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #3: Amy Morton

SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #3: Amy Morton

Introduction: While others use the end of the year to provide their lists of the top shows of the past year, here at Steve On Broadway (SOB), I wait until the conclusion of the entire Theatrical Season to provide my official tally.

Instead, I'm once again devoting the waning days of the calendar year to celebrate SOB's Singular Sensations -- those magical live performances that have stayed with me throughout the year. During 2007, I have enjoyed, been wowed and ultimately inspired by a dazzling display of excellent performances from some of the theatre world's best actors, singers and dancers of our time.


Ever since first seeing Steppenwolf ensemble member Amy Morton in the Chicago theatre company's last Broadway transfer -- as a most diabolical Nurse Ratched in the 2001 Tony-winning revival of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest -- I realized I was watching an incredible talent, one of those rare actors I'd actively seek out in the future.

While it's taken Broadway audiences six more years to truly appreciate Chicago’s best-kept secret, I've now been enjoying Morton regularly during each memorable turn she delivers in the Windy City. In fact, she earned an "Honorable Mention" on my 2006 list of Singular Sensations for two of her wonderfully versatile characterizations.

This year, Amy Morton has turned in two stellar performances. There’s nothing this woman can’t do. Her range is simply astounding.

In my well-timed August review of August: Osage County, I cheered:

Amy Morton at her most deliciously high-strung.
But as my February review of Steppenwolf's Betrayal more adequately demonstrates, Morton has a real ear for providing the appropriate voice to every role she takes on:


Morton, of course, is once again about as close to genuine perfection as one can hope to see on the stage. Without missing a beat, she effortlessly slides from the despondent to the giddy....and all with an impressive English accent.
Here's toasting that Toddlin' Town's Amy Morton!

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #4: Elena Roger (December 28, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #5: Raúl Esparza (December 28, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #6: John Gallagher, Jr. (December 28, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #7: Jennifer Holliday (December 27, 2007)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #1: Patti LuPone (December 30, 2006)
Honorable Mentions: SOB's Singular Sensations Of '06 (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #2: Cate Blanchett (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #3: Chita Rivera (December 29, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #4: Barry Humphries (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #5: Kitty Carlisle Hart (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #6: Meryl Streep (December 26, 2006)

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Friday, December 28, 2007

SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #4: Elena Roger

SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #4: Elena Roger

Introduction: While others use the end of the year to provide their lists of the top shows of the past year, here at Steve On Broadway (SOB), I wait until the conclusion of the entire Theatrical Season to provide my official tally.

Instead, I'm once again devoting the waning days of the calendar year to celebrate SOB's Singular Sensations -- those magical live performances that have stayed with me throughout the year. During 2007, I have enjoyed, been wowed and ultimately inspired by a dazzling display of excellent performances from some of the theatre world's best actors, singers and dancers of our time.


Talk about more than just a little touch of star quality.

After appearing in countless Argentinean musical productions, including a variety of Spanish-language versions of Broadway and West End hits like Nine, Beauty And The Beast and Les Misérables, the diminutive spitfire known as Elena Roger took London by storm in her glorious portrayal of Evita.

To put it simply, I adored Roger's high-flying performance. In my SOB Review from April, I had nothing but praise:
Making her spectacular West End debut is an astonishing Argentine talent, Elena Roger, who offers an exceptionally nuanced performance as Eva Peron. The compact Roger evolves right before your eyes from the flirtatious young girl seeking her ticket to Buenos Aires stardom to her role alongside Juan Peron to a physically and emotionally impaired invalid. And what a powerful, beautiful voice!
I've seen memorable performances of Evita before (witness my history with SOB's Singular Sensation #5), but Elena Roger made her Eva Peron so intoxicating that it's easy to understand why her fellow countrymen fell under her spell. While Evita closed shortly after I caught it, London audiences have until January 5 to see Roger in the acclaimed revival of Boeing-Boeing.

Here's toasting the South American singular sensation, Elena Roger!

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #5: Raúl Esparza (December 28, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #6: John Gallagher, Jr. (December 28, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #7: Jennifer Holliday (December 27, 2007)
SOB's Best Of 2006-07: Best Revivals Of Musicals (May 18, 2007)
Evita (The SOB Review) (April 19, 2007)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #1: Patti LuPone (December 30, 2006)
Honorable Mentions: SOB's Singular Sensations Of '06 (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #2: Cate Blanchett (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #3: Chita Rivera (December 29, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #4: Barry Humphries (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #5: Kitty Carlisle Hart (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #6: Meryl Streep (December 26, 2006)

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SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #5: Raúl Esparza

SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #5: Raúl Esparza

Introduction: While others use the end of the year to provide their lists of the top shows of the past year, here at Steve On Broadway (SOB), I wait until the conclusion of the entire Theatrical Season to provide my official tally.

Instead, I'm once again devoting the waning days of the calendar year to celebrate SOB's Singular Sensations -- those magical live performances that have stayed with me throughout the year. During 2007, I have enjoyed, been wowed and ultimately inspired by a dazzling display of excellent performances from some of the theatre world's best actors, singers and dancers of our time.


With all due and considerable respect to the talented David Hyde Pierce (recognized with an "Honorable Mention" among my SOB Singular Sensations of 2006), Raúl Esparza’s breathtaking performance of “Being Alive” alone should have been enough for him to win the Tony for making Company's audiences hyperventilate.

In my SOB Review last March, I noted:

I was struck by the inventive and symbolic ways (director John Doyle) isolates Bobby, played by a breathtakingly real Raúl Esparza, who sings angelically.

In my "Best of 2007" round-up of the Best Musical Revivals, in which his talents helped the show capture the fourth spot, I said:

In Company, Esparza soars to spine-tingling new musical heights. In the climax when finally taking a seat at the piano, his Bobby is ready to join the human race in a way he's never before experienced. Ultimately, Esparza's finely calibrated performance melted his way into my heart. I can't think of any actor I've seen on the Broadway stage this past year who is more deserving of a Tony Award than he -- this is one performance no serious musical theatre lover can afford to miss.
The first time I ever caught Esparza was in 1999. He was absolutely magnificent portraying Che in a wonderful touring revival of Evita. And while I have not yet had the opportunity to see the revival of The Homecoming that feaures Esparza's dramatic debut, I take heart from Ben Brantley's review that his truly is a "benchmark performance."

Perhaps Raúl Esparza will be a repeat in next year's round-up. In the meantime, here's toasting this superb singing singular sensation.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #6: John Gallagher, Jr. (December 28, 2007)
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #7: Jennifer Holliday (December 27, 2007)
SOB's Best Of 2006-07: Best Revivals Of Musicals (May 18, 2007)
Company (The SOB Review) (March 2, 2007)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #1: Patti LuPone (December 30, 2006)
Honorable Mentions: SOB's Singular Sensations Of '06 (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #2: Cate Blanchett (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #3: Chita Rivera (December 29, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #4: Barry Humphries (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #5: Kitty Carlisle Hart (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #6: Meryl Streep (December 26, 2006)

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ModFab: The Jury Is In

ModFab: The Jury Is In

Gabriel at Modern Fabulousity tallies up the top ten theatrical productions of the past year, along with television and heroes, with more to come.

For the top theatrical picks of 2007, Gabriel assembled a jury comprised of Aaron Riccio (That Sounds Cool/Show Showdown), David Bell (Show Showdown), Ludlow Lad (Off-Off Blogway), Patrick Lee (Just Shows To Go You/Show Showdown), himself and yours truly. Even though I usually wait until the end of the theatrical season to provide my top ten lists, I was honored to be asked to share my favorites for this calendar year.

You'll note that my personal top pick, August: Osage County comes in at number two overall, but even Gabriel singles it out as his own number one show.

Thanks Gabriel. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the ModFab Best!

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #6: John Gallagher, Jr.

SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #6: John Gallagher, Jr.

Introduction: While others use the end of the year to provide their lists of the top shows of the past year, here at Steve On Broadway (SOB), I wait until the conclusion of the entire Theatrical Season to provide my official tally.

Instead, I'm once again devoting the waning days of the calendar year to celebrate SOB's Singular Sensations -- those magical live performances that have stayed with me throughout the year. During 2007, I have enjoyed, been wowed and ultimately inspired by a dazzling display of excellent performances from some of the theatre world's best actors, singers and dancers of our time.


One of the single most electrifying theatrical moments of the past year was spent in the company of the cast of Spring Awakening. While it actually opened last year Off-Broadway before transferring to the Great White Way, it wasn't until this past February when I finally had the opportunity to see the year's Tony Award-winning Best Musical.

Of all the performances from that show, none has taken hold of me quite like the portrayal of the troubled young Moritz by John Gallagher, Jr. Upon each additional -- and fairly frequent -- listening of the original cast album, it's always Gallagher's dark tracks that strike a chord within me, and I'm sure they resonate with any youth who has ever felt dissaffected or dismissed.

In my SOB Review last March, I may have given simple notice of:
...a breathtaking John Gallagher, Jr. in a sharp, stunning departure from his role in last year’s Rabbit Hole.
But there was nothing simple about Gallagher's brilliant and haunting performance, which was recognized with a well-earned Tony Award. Fortunately for Gallagher, his future is infinitely brighter than that of his character's, and I'll be looking forward to more great things from this gifted actor.

He may no longer be with the show (Blake Bashoff replaced him on December 18), but the lingering memories he's created makes him a singular sensation to be reckoned with. Here's toasting John Gallagher, Jr.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #7: Jennifer Holliday (December 27, 2007)
Spring Awakening (The SOB Review) (March 3, 2007)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #1: Patti LuPone (December 30, 2006)
Honorable Mentions: SOB's Singular Sensations Of '06 (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #2: Cate Blanchett (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #3: Chita Rivera (December 29, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #4: Barry Humphries (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #5: Kitty Carlisle Hart (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #6: Meryl Streep (December 26, 2006)

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #7: Jennifer Holliday

SOB's 7 Singular Sensations Of '07 - #7: Jennifer Holliday

Introduction: While others use the end of the year to provide their lists of the top shows of the past year, here at Steve On Broadway (SOB), I wait until the conclusion of the entire Theatrical Season to provide my official tally.

Instead, I'm once again devoting the waning days of the calendar year to celebrate SOB's Singular Sensations -- those magical live performances that have stayed with me throughout the year. During 2007, I have enjoyed, been wowed and ultimately inspired by a dazzling display of excellent performances from some of the theatre world's best actors, singers and dancers of our time.

Without any further ado, I give you SOB's 7 Singular Sensations of '07:


And I’m telling you Miss Jennifer Holliday is one of those rare performers who commands the stage like no other. Making you all but forget Jennifer Hudson as Effie Melody White in a stunning summer revival of Dreamgirls in Atlanta, Holliday triumphantly and effortlessly reclaimed the role she created over a quarter century ago.

Here's what I had to say about Holliday's performance last July:
As if to prove that she and Effie are not going to take a backseat to anyone, Jennifer Holliday returned one more time to role that for more than a quarter century was hers and hers alone. In a glorious and absolutely thrilling performance, not only does Jennifer Holliday triumphantly reclaim the mantle of Effie Melody White, but she reigns supreme. Holliday maintains the undisputed claim on Effie.

(In “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going”) Holliday pulls this incredible outpouring of heartbroken anguish from the deepest, innermost recesses of her very being and spews it forth in an as chilling a show-stopping performance as I have ever seen. The angst of Holliday’s Effie is not only that of a dream lost, but more importantly, of a love lost.

One of my friends who joined me for both this and Holliday’s last outing as Effie at the very same theatre five years ago observed that watching this Dreamgirls on the heels of
silver screen version was like filling the blanks. For me, seeing this Dreamgirls was a chance to once again witness one of the greatest live theatrical performances of all time and savor it.

Here's toasting that singular sensation, Jennifer Holliday -- my Effie for the ages!

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).


Related Stories:
Dreamgirls (The SOB Review) (July 30, 2007)
Living The Dreams (January 6, 2007)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #1: Patti LuPone (December 30, 2006)
Honorable Mentions: SOB's Singular Sensations Of '06 (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #2: Cate Blanchett (December 30, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #3: Chita Rivera (December 29, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #4: Barry Humphries (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #5: Kitty Carlisle Hart (December 28, 2006)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #6: Meryl Streep (December 26, 2006)
Flashback: Best of 2002-03 (May 25, 2006)

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tuning In To Live Broadway

Tuning In To Live Broadway

When I flew to Tokyo, the ride on Continental Airlines went by relatively fast thanks to the Boeing 777's excellent on-demand entertainment system. With over 300 movie selections from which to choose, there was not a dull moment to be had.

Unfortunately, the carrier didn’t offer the same level of entertainment (or, regrettably, the same level of service) for my return flight -- there were only a dozen or so flicks. But on the plus side, they did offer their “Live Broadway” station for Great White Way listening (Continental is the “official airline” for Broadway). So I whiled the hours enjoying an eclectic mix from the following playlist:

“As We Stumble Along” – The Drowsy Chaperone
“Hell No!” – The Color Purple
“All I Ask of You” – The Phantom Of The Opera
“Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” – Monty Python’s Spamalot
“Medley” – Jersey Boys
“Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind” – Spring Awakening
“Someday” – The Wedding Singer
“There Once Was a Man” – The Pajama Game
“Statues and Stories” – The Light In The Piazza
“For Good” – Wicked
“Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now” – Hairspray
“So Much Better” – Legally Blonde
“Sue Me” – Guys And Dolls
“’Til Him” – The Producers
“Forget About the Boy” – Thoroughly Modern Millie
“Run, Freedom, Run” – Urinetown
“Love, Look Away” – Flower Drum Song
“Javert’s Suicide” – Les Misérables
“The Music and the Mirror” – A Chorus Line
“Way Back to Paradise” – Marie Christine
“What You Own” – Rent
“Around the World” – Grey Gardens
“Show People” – Curtains
“Guido’s Song” – Nine
“Not the Boy Next Door” – The Boy From Oz
“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” – Mary Poppins
“Pandemonium” – The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
“The More You Ruv Someone” – Avenue Q
“Happy Holiday/Let Yourself Go” – Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
“You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” – Annie

Seems apropos that the last tune was from the very first Broadway show I ever saw. It certainly made me smile on the long journey home.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas From Tokyo

Merry Christmas From Tokyo

Greetings from the incredibly vibrant, yet surprisingly quiet city of Tokyo, where I'm spending this Christmas holiday catching a little theatre, but also getting acquainted with this magnificent city.

In seeing our show, it appeared we were the only westerners in the audience. I'll write more about the actual performance of the Japanese language version for this Broadway hit later, but I was struck by how incredibly polite the audience was. They hardly laughed or applauded during the performance (and you could hear a pin drop whenever the stage was quiet). But they clearly loved the show considering the six curtain calls.

After the fourth call, the orchestra started to play familiar strains. But it wasn't anything from the show itself. Instead, they played "White Christmas" with orchestrations lifted right from the show's familiar score. The two lead actors began singing -- in English -- and were soon joined by the entire cast. It made for a very moving experience. It was beautiful.

The rest of my Christmas Eve (it is Christmas Day here thanks to the 14 hour time difference) navigating the complex subway system before walking around (and walking and walking and walking). After toasting Chrismas with a glass of champagne in the bar of the city's renowned Imperial Hotel -- the Old Imperial Bar is the only remaining room with Frank Lloyd Wright's original design -- we took in the 50 year old Tokyo Tower (pictured), which purposely resembles Paris' Eiffel Tower and affords some of the best views of this immense city. And strangely enough, with one Christmas hymn after another being piped out of the tower's sound system, it was easy to remember which holiday was upon us.

Please accept my personal best wishes for a very Merry Christmas. Here's wishing you and yours nothing but peace and love.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Worth Paying DC A Visit In 2008

Worth Paying DC A Visit In 2008

Longtime readers will recall that I've been charting the progress of The Visit, a musical that features a score by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb, along with a book by Terrence McNally.

Based on Friedrich Duerrenmatt's Tony-nominated 1958 play that also earned Tony nods for Broadway royalty Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt, the tuner first premiered at Chicago's Goodman Theatre less than a month after the horrific events of 9/11.

Despite its magnificent star wattage in both Chita Rivera and John McMartin, the show never went anywhere after it closed on November 1, 2001. Sure, it was scheduled at New York's Public Theater for early 2004, and there were rumors that Roundabout Theatre Company might bring the musical to Studio 54 at about the same time, but The Visit never called again.

Until now.

Or should I say, it won't until May of 2008?

As I reported a year ago last summer, the The Visit will begin anew directly across the Potomac River from the city that gave birth to the incomparable Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero nearly 75 years ago. As part of its Kander & Ebb Celebration, the Washington DC-area's respected Signature Theatre (Shirlington, Virginia) will produce the tuner with Chita Rivera recreating her role as Claire Zachanassian, the world's wealthiest woman with a score to settle. George Hearn will assume the role of her lover Anton Schell.

The Visit will be directed by Frank Galati and choreographed by Ann Reinking. The production is slated to run May 13 - June 22, 2008.

You can bet I'll be paying our nation's capital a visit come spring.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
Amazing Candor From Amazing Kander (March 28, 2007)
Chita Rivera to Make Return "Visit" in DC (August 25, 2006)

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Winners - The SOB Contest!

Winners - The SOB Contest!

At long last, I'm pleased to announce the six winners in my first-ever SOB Contest!

On behalf of Steve On Broadway and Liberation Entertainment, I'm pleased to announce that the following individuals have either won a DVD of the acclaimed documentary film "ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway," or they have won the movie's poster:

  • Lindsey Tosch (Mesquite, TX) - winner of DVD

  • Judy Davidson (Hopewell Junction, NY) - winner of DVD

  • Sarah B. Roberts (New York, NY) - winner of DVD

  • Rich Blumberg (New York, NY) - winner of film poster

  • Diana Herzog (Chicago, IL) - winner of film poster

  • Chi Shannon (Cedar Rapids, IA) - winner of film poster

Congratulations to each of the six.

Dori Berinstein's fascinating "ShowBusiness: The Road To Broadway" follows the backstage drama of four of the most talked about shows from the 2003-04 Theatrical Season -- Avenue Q, Caroline, Or Change, Taboo and Wicked -- from inception to openings and ensuing critical reactions to Tony night. As you'll see from my review, it's a must-have for any Broadway fan.

Thanks to everyone for entering the contest!

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
ShowBusiness - The SOB Contest! Enter To Win (November 11, 2007)
Dori Berinstein - The SOB Interview (November 7, 2007)
ShowBusiness: Year In The Life Of Broadway (October 16, 2007)

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'm A Little Blue...

I'm A Little Blue...

The Drowsy Chaperone will be put to rest December 30. That is the official word today from Playbill.

Winner of five Tony Awards, the show had already seen wildly fluctuating box office totals throughout the fall, ranging anywhere from 50 to 70% capacity prior to last month's stagehands strike.

But it never managed to attract more than 50% once Broadway was back in business.

Even attempts at stunt casting proved fruitless with capacity falling to a yawn-inducing 39.3%. Bob Saget, best known as Danny Tanner on the 80s/90s sitcom "Full House," came on board October 19, while poor Cindy Williams -- Shirley Feeney from 70s sitcom "Laverne & Shirley" -- joined the cast just a week ago Tuesday.

When The Drowsy Chaperone closes at the Marquis Theatre, it will have enjoyed 674 regular performances. While the short-lived London mounting closed earlier this year after treading the West End boards less than two months, the North American tour continues. It just departed Cincinnati on Sunday and will resume January 1 in Fort Lauderdale.

While this wasn't the greatest show I ever saw, it certainly entertained. The closing notice has me feeling a little like the lonely Man In Chair -- a little blue.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Will Drowsy Chaperone Be Put To Sleep? (October 24, 2007)
Putting London's Drowsy Chaperone To Bed (July 26, 2007)
Go East, Young Musical, Go East (July 27, 2007)
Did Chaperone Keep London's Aging Critics Awake? (June 19, 2007)
West End Drowsy Chaperone: Another Great Paige Turner (January 19, 2007)
The Drowsy Chaperone (The SOB Review) (October 3, 2006)
Mixed Reviews Tire The Drowsy Chaperone (May 2, 2006)

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Hatshepsut City Limits

Hatshepsut City Limits

Michael Riedel reports in this morning's New York Post that Tina Turner may soon receive her Four Seasons treatment.

No, I'm not talking about the gorgeous 68 years young überdiva relaxing in the renowned hotel chain's spa closest to her Swiss home.

No, I'm talking about a possible jukebox musical (a la Jersey Boys) replay of her 1993 life-inspired Oscar-winning film "What's Love Got To Do With It" that chronicles her early rise to fame, her tempestuous relationship with the very recently deceased Ike Turner, and her victorious 80s comeback without and in spite of him. The show is tentatively titled Simply The Best, after her 1989 hit song, "The Best."

Oh, and there's apparently an additional layer of storyline that a stage incarnation might include.

Tina believes she's the reincarnation of ancient Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, who tried to prevent her nephew and stepson Thutmose III -- considered the "Napoleon of Ancient Egypt" -- from claiming the throne upon her death, although he did anyway. According to Riedel, that would be Ike. In the London reading held last year, Riedel reports that Hatshepsut helps prevent Tina from becoming the most tragic kind of domestic abuse statistic.

As a huge Tina Turner fan -- I've seen her perform more than once in concert, including one stellar performance around 2000 in which she was hoisted out over the audience and directly above me in my 10th row center seat -- I think her amazing life story could make for a very compelling stage show.

With the added ancient Egyptian elements, it will be interesting to say the least how this musical develops.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Laurents' Turn: First Gypsy, Then West Side Story

Laurents' Turn: First Gypsy, Then West Side Story

Brimming with more stamina and enthusiasm than some men half his age, Broadway legend Arthur Laurents (age 90) is set to helm not one, but two Rialto revivals next year. According to Playbill, he'll direct both Gypsy and West Side Story in 2008.

The prolific Laurents, of course, wrote the books for both of these classic shows. In the process, this genius collaborated with some of the biggest names ever on the Great White Way including Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins on 1957's paradigm-shifting West Side Story, and then with Sondheim and Jule Styne on 1959's Gypsy. If that weren't enough he's also worked with renowned producers like Hal Prince and David Merrick. And let's not forget the incomparable Ethel Merman.

Now he's apparently fully prepared to take his turn at the helm to show a new generation of theatregoers how these shows should really be done. The maestro's quoted in the Playbill for this year's sold-out Gypsy of the Year Competition concluding this afternoon:
I'm sorry I can't be with you all today. Unfortunately, I have a meeting and it's too late to change. I think everyone will be the winner and if you want a message from me, it's this: I will be directing a production of West Side Story for Broadway next year that will be radically different from any production ever done and contemporary to boot. How? Come see the show.

There -- that's a tease that should sell a few tickets. Meantime, see Gypsy at the St. James beginning in March. Shameless but why not?
Why not indeed. With Laurents and Patti LuPone together, I'll certainly be there.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
LuPone's Mama Rose, Part 3? (October 3, 2007)
At 90, Laurents Has Still "Got It" (July 27, 2007)
Everything's Coming Up Patti! (July 9, 2007)
SOB's Best Of 2006-07: Top Ten Of The Year (June 4, 2007)
SOB's Best Of 2006-07: Best Revivals Of Musicals (May 18, 2007)
It's Official: LuPone's Triumph Earns Encores! (March 19, 2007)
Will Encores Mount All-Star Gypsy? (March 2, 2007)
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #1: Patti LuPone (December 30, 2006)
Gypsy (The SOB Review) (August 14, 2006)

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Did Critics Crown This Year's Homecoming King?

Did Critics Crown This Year's Homecoming King?

Yesterday, the second Broadway revival of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming made a mostly triumphant return at the Cort Theatre.

Daniel Sullivan helms the 40th anniversary incarnation, which stars Raúl Esparza, Michael McKean, Ian McShane, Eve Best, James Frain and Gareth Saxe. Critics largely praised the production, reserving some of their most favorable accolades for Best; however, they were across the board on Esparza's first non-musical Rialto performance.

Commencing his review simply by stating "First of all, it really is that good," The New York Times' Ben Brantley positively raves: "[T]he first-rate revival that opened Sunday night at the Cort Theater makes electrifyingly clear, The Homecoming is every bit as big as its reputation....It insists that some shadowy part of you is part of it. It burrows under you skin and festers....And the fine cast assembled for Daniel Sullivan's new production -- including Eve Best and Raúl Esparza in benchmark performances -- grasps the power of holding back in making a fathoms-deep impression."

Proclaiming this a "diamond-edged revival," David Rooney of Variety similarly marvels: "The director's lucid, unblinking work is matched by a riveting ensemble, their vileness inching under the skin in ways as psychologically disturbing as they are theatrically bracing....[E]ven while withholding a full understanding of what drives the characters' actions, the play confronts its audience with the uncomfortable truth that there's a little of their base, animalistic cunning in all of us."

Labeling the revival an "admirable production," Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press says the show "...reconfirms its status as a contemporary classic....Eve Best was a sensational Josie Hogan last season in a revival of Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten. As Ruth, she's a different kind of earth mother, more erotically charged, yet distant and forbidding. In this battle of the sexes, she definitely has the upper hand. And gets to display a great pair of legs. James Frain turns in a fine, deceptively understated performance as her acquiescent husband, and Gareth Saxe personifies dumb brute strength as the would-be prize fighter."

Deeming this a "lucid production," Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News also offers his welcome to this Homecoming: "There's plenty to chew on about power, sex, morality, misogyny and family, which Pinter, a 2005 Nobel Prize winner, serves up with signature intelligence, mystery and ambiguity. Daniel Sullivan's astute direction captures the distinct rhythms of Pinter's dialogue, as the production casts a strange spell that grips you tight. McKean gives Sam poignancy, while Frain's reserve feels right for the intellectual Teddy. The robust Saxe is well cast as the tongue-tied Joey, an amateur boxer who, unlike his dad, never mastered 'how to defend and to attack.' Best follows her Broadway debut in A Moon for the Misbegotten with more fine work. In a beat, Ruth's cool detachment turns icy; you sense she is always acutely aware of the physical power she possesses."

Concluding that you "follow (Pinter) at your own risk," John Simon of Bloomberg neatly summarizes his thoughts in the first paragraph of his review: "The Homecoming has been lovingly revived on Broadway with good direction, a fine cast and convincing production design. Though every prospect pleases, only the play is vile. It is widely considered the Nobel laureate's masterpiece; rather than as a drawback, its making no sense is perceived as a challenge."

Calling it a "fascinating and entertaining piece," New York Post's Clive Barnes uses his three-star review to lament: "[T]he play, 40 years on, has not worn as well as I would have expected. Once Pinter was generally regarded as a possible successor to Samuel Beckett in nihilistic existentialism. Now he seems a markedly lesser talent. Yet it's difficult to imagine an all-over better cast or a more persuasive reading; led by McShane's ugly and embittered patriarch, Esparza's smoothly confident Lenny, Frain's shiftily ambivalent Teddy and the wonderful Best, whose smugly conspiratorial smile, caps the play's ending."

Eric Grode of the New York Sun also offers a primarily solid endorsement: "This shabby all-male North London home may reek of sweat and cigar smoke, but Mr. Sullivan's forceful mounting, led by Ian McShane and Eve Best as the two primary combatants, breathes vivifying air into several of the play's mustier corners.Somewhat surprisingly, Mr. Sullivan's reputation as an exacting but empathic actors' director...is burnished, not offset, by Mr. Pinter's deterministic worldview....Ms. Best's mastery of Ruth's icy allure is as complete as her command of romantic anxiety and impulsiveness was in last season's A Moon for the Misbegotten....In contrast to Mr. McShane's two-packs-a-day croak, Mr. Esparza employs a wheedling, almost adolescent speaking voice — very similar to one he used to campy effect in Taboo. In fact, he grabs quick laughs on several occasions, severely limiting the potency of his later scenes."

Chalk up yet another solid December opening. This limited run is slated to perform through April 13, 2008.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Opening: Pinter's Homecoming Returns To Broadway (December 17, 2007)
Esparza's Homecoming Finds Him In Good Company (July 24, 2007)

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Opening: Pinter's Homecoming Returns To Broadway

Opening: Pinter's Homecoming Returns To Broadway

Forty years after The Homecoming won four major Tony Awards, including for Best Play of 1967, Harold Pinter's acclaimed play about lust, seduction and deception is set for yet another opening night on the Great White Way.

This is the second Broadway revival -- the first only played a total of 49 performances back in 1991. The limited run is slated to perform through April 13, 2008 at the Cort Theatre.

Directed by Daniel Sullivan, The Homecoming features a starry cast including Raúl Esparza (Company), Michael McKean (The Pajama Game), Ian McShane (last seen on Broadway in 1967's The Promise) and Eve Best (A Moon For the Misbegotten), as well as James Frain and Gareth Saxe.

Will critics welcome this work home? Find out tomorrow as I provide my critics' capsule.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Esparza's Homecoming Finds Him In Good Company (July 24, 2007)

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

August: Best Time Of The Year

August: Best Time Of The Year

The more appropriate title for this story really would be August: Osage County is Time's "Best of the Year," but no matter.

The point is that the theatre critic for the venerable news magazine has selected my personal favorite show of the past year as his top choice for theatre. I couldn't agree more.

But the list itself is a bit suspect to be honest. I know everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, including Richard Zoglin, but c'mon.

I'll give Zoglin a pass on The Farnsworth Invention and I may even agree with him on Pygmalion, but how could the Broadway revival of Grease possibly make any discerning critic's list? Zoglin says, "Even with reality-TV stars, a stylish, happy, underappreciated revival."

Still, it's in his top ten?

Do Grease and best go together like rama lama lama ke ding a de dinga a dong?

Zoglin's full top ten list for 2007 includes:

#1 - August: Osage County

#2 - Journey's End

#3 - Fuerzabruta

#4 - The Overwhelming

#5 - Wooster Group's Hamlet

#6 - Pygmalion

#7 - Grease

#8 - The Farnsworth Invention

#9 - Eurydice

#10 - Intimate Exchanges

Of these shows, only the Broadway shows, Fuerzabruta and The Overwhelming remain open (Pygmalion's limited run closes tomorrow).

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Queens Boulevard (The SOB Review)

Queens Boulevard (The SOB Review) - Signature Theatre Company at the Peter Norton Space

**1/2 (out of ****)

In the Signature Theater Company bio for Charles Mee, the revered playwright is quoted as saying:

I like plays that are not too neat, too finished, too presentable. My plays are broken, jagged, filled with sharp edges, filled with things that take sudden turns, careen into each other, smash up, veer off in sickening turns. That feels good to me. It feels like my life. It feels like the world.

If you're looking for Mee's trademark "broken, jagged and filled with sharp edges," look no further that this mystical and surreal new musical Queens Boulevard. In it, that world collides together in that microcosmic melting pot known as Queens, New York, where nearly half of the borough's 2.25 million inhabitants were born outside the United States.

Before the show even begins, the audience enters on a spirited, spiritual wedding reception already in progress. Director Davis McCallum succeeds in making you feel as though you're part of this celebration. It's a varitable feast for the senses -- including tastebuds, if you're among the fortunate audience members to receive a pre-performance jello shooter -- making the first twenty minutes alone so beguiling that it's more than worth the $20 ticket price.

The bride Shizuko (Michi Barall) and groom Vijay (Amir Arison) are first generation Americans of Japanese and Indian descent, respectively. With a nod to each of their cultures, their banquet is visually and rhythmically steeped in rich colors and pulsating beats. Thanks in part to Christal Weatherly's exquisite costume design and Peter Pucci's stunning choreography, it's like taking in a Bollywood film with a Japanese accent.

Presiding over the proceedings -- with the emphasis on "over" -- is the requisite DJ (Satya Bhabha). After spinning together a rich amalgam of world tunes from his lonely perch high above the wedding dance floor, the DJ metaphorically spins around the story of Shizuko and Vijay's first evening as a married couple.

While he rarely speaks, his presence looms large in practically every scene. He's always there -- not unlike the way in which Kimberly Guerrero's Johnna quietly hovers over the chaos in August: Osage County -- as if he's offering some centrifugal force to ensure these two lovers never spin completely out of orbit from one another.

But they come very close.

In the aftermath of the reception when Shizuko and Vijay share their first real quiet moment together alone (save the fluttering DJ), she divulges to her husband that a mysterious stranger had earlier presented a beautiful, mythical Flower of Heaven to her. After sharing her story, she excuses herself to briefly prepare for her wedding night. Vijay inexplicably becomes obsessed with finding her a matching flower and heads out into the bustling streets of Queen in his quest.

Along the way, he crosses paths with his friend Abdi (Arian Moayed), a Muslim who has just lost his mother and is carrying her wooden casket en route to her burial. He implores Vijay to be a good comrade and provide comfort by staying through the interment. In turn, Abdi promises to help find the elusive flower.

True to Mee's use of "sudden turns" that "careen into each other," Vijay and Abdi's focus -- and that of Mee, too -- becomes lost when one distraction (such as a chance bar room meeting with one of Vijay's former loves) after another (like their eleventh hour decision to see another acquaintance before she gives birth) after another borders on the ridiculously monotonous.

If that weren't tedious enough, each friend and acquaintance they meet along the way feels the need to pontificate, resulting in the story losing its way every bit as much as Vijay has. Each usurps the groom's time away from his bride to the point where you just want to stand up and say, "go home already." Even poor Shizuko soon finds herself out with her friends vainly in search of Vijay, although the two narrowly miss each other in a dance club.

Queens Boulevard isn't so much east meets west as much as where high-minded meets heavy-handed. As a musical, Queens Boulevard operates more like a quirkier New Age "Moulin Rouge" than a show with an original score. What you get is an eclectic fusion of tunes spanning the globe, ranging from the identifiable ABBA tune ("Dancing Queen") to the more obscure, including "traditional Okinawan, Iranian and Irish folks songs" outlined in the program notes. But the result is far from cohesive.

The roundly talented cast delivers as many as four different personnas each, evoking the myriad ethnicities that abound in Queens. Most effective is Bhabha, who as the DJ ultimately reels Vijay -- as well as the slightly off-kilter production -- back to some semblence of reality with fresh flower in hand as he's finally reunited with Shizuko.

Mee certainly ties up the loose ends in his (ironically enough) distinctly American fairy tale -- with the multitude of characters he's stuffed into his work, it really couldn't happen anywhere else -- but true to his intent, it's far from being too neat or too presentable.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.

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