Tag Archives: musicals

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s me on The Original Cast!

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Funny thing: Patrick Flynn lives in Bethesda, Maryland, a short public-transit trip across the northwest border of Washington, DC, where I live. We know many of the same people because we’re both involved in theatre; him as a playwright, me as a critic. And yet our paths never crossed until he heard me on James Bonding last fall, which Matt Gourley and Matt Mira record weekly at Gourley’s beautiful home in Pasadena, all the way on the other side of country.
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Bad Times, Good Times: Studio’s Cloud 9 and Constellation’s Urinetown, reviewed.

Studio Theatre's "Cloud 9" (Teresa Wood)Constellation Theatre Company's "Urinetown."

For various critic-related, theater company-related, and publication-related reasons, my reviews of Studio Theatre’s production of Caryl Churchill’s anticolonial sex romp Cloud 9 and Constellation Theatre Company’s new production of the Y2K-era Greg Kotis-Mark Hollman musical Urinetown have taken a long time to see print. But they’re in this week’s Washington City Paper, and online, too.

All that (Inventor of) Jazz: Jelly’s Last Jam and The Lonesome West, reviewed.

My reviews of Signature Theatre’s new production of George C. Wolfe and Susan Brikenhead’s early-90s Jelly Roll Morton bio-musical Jelly’s Last Jam, and Keegan Theatre’s production of Martin McDonagh’s late-90s black comedy The Lonesome West, are in today’s Washington City Paper.  Notice is served.

A Silver Spoonful of Sugar: The Lion, reviewed.

hires_thelion_02I struggled with my Washington City Paper review of The Lion, a strong, brief one-man musical play by the singer-songwriter Benjamin Scheuer. This was a case where learning about the circumstances of the show’s creation—as one is wont to do when writing about art—made me like it less in hindsight than I did the moment the performance ended. Is that fair? I’m still not sure. You can observe my attempt to work through my consternation while still giving the artist his due here.

Pop Culture Happy Hour No. 283: Hail, Caesar! and Backstage Stories

No Dames!

I’m very happy to be on the panel for this week’s Hail, Caesar!-inspired Pop Culture Happy Hour, my first with my Washington City Paper pal Bob Mondello. In it, Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon tells Bob he “beat [him] to the Hamlet punch,” which is a funny phrase, if you think about it.  Continue reading

When You’re a Jet Something Something: West Side Story, reviewed.

west-side-story2-1780x1254I brought my folks to Signature Theatre’s reverent, rapturous production of the Broadway classic West Side Story the week before Christmas, but due to vagaries related to two issues falling on holidays between then and now, my Washington City Paper review is only now surfacing. I filed on time, dammit. At least I think I did. Who can remember anything from before Christmas now? Holiday-time usually brings a conventional but deeply satisfying revival of a proven crowd favorite, and this winter, West Side Story is the one to beat.

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Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps): Girlstar and Avenue Q, reviewed.

In this week’s Washington City Paper, I size up a pair of musicals: Signature Theatre’s Girlstar is a confused mess borne aloft by a strong cast, and Constellation Theatre’s revival of the hit Sesame Street parody Avenue Q is funnier and more soulful than The Muppets. (The dour 2015 version, not The Muppet Show.) More words, if not necessarily more insight, on these subjects here and here.

I’ve Got You Under My Skin: Silence! The Musical, reviewed.

Tally Sessions and Laura Jordan in the musical parody "The Silence of the Lambs" demanded.

Tally Sessions and Laura Jordan Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter and Clarice Starling, in the musical parody “The Silence of the Lambs” demanded.

Studio Theatre served fava beans as snacks on press night of Silence! The Musical. Tasteful! fuhfuhfuhfuhfuhfuhfuh.

I review the show in today’s Washington City Paper.

Judgment Days: Signature Theatre’s Soon, reviewed.

Alex Brightman and Jessica Hershberg in "Soon." (Teresa Wood)My review of all-rounder Nick Blaemire’s world premiere apocalypse musical Soon is in today’s Washington City Paper. Or you can save an already-killed tree and read it here.

 

The Good Books: Sex with Strangers and Elmer Gantry, reviewed.

This is my last pair of Washington City Paper theatre reviews to be edited by departing managing editor Jonathan L. Fischer, who as I mentioned last week is moving on to become a senior editor at Slate. I’ll miss having him edit me every week but I know he’ll do great things there. Godspeed, Jon.

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Julie Taymor Probably Hates Pink Even More Now

Panel from The Amazing Spider-Man #21, by Stan Lee 7 Steve Ditko.“Julie hated pink. It also seemed as if she could discern gradations of red on the electromagnetic spectrum that no one else could. Humans are ‘trichromats,’ meaning we have three different types of cone cells in our eyes. However, it has been surmised that because of the XX chromosome, some women may possess a fourth variant cone cell, situated between the standard red and green cones. This would make them — like birds — ‘tetrachromats.’ These hypothetical tetrachromats would have the ability to distinguish between two colors a trichchromat would call identical. Continue reading

Hard (Nineteen Twenty-)Eight: The Threepenny Opera and Failure: A Love Story, reviewed.

And now, two plays with music, one from 1928 and one set in 1928. My reviews of Signature Theatre’s new production of The Threepenny Opera as well as the hub theatre’s local premiere of Philip Dawkins’ Failure: A Love Story, are in today’s Washington City Paper. Continue reading

Slow Growth: If/Then, reviewed for Architect

If _ Then

In 2009 I attended a lecture by Jack Viertel, a theatre-critic-turned-producer, elucidating the structure of Broadway musicals. Actually, “lecture” doesn’t really reflect what an intimate affair this was. It was more like a musical-appreciation lesson, held in the home of Sasha Anawalt as part of the NEA Institute fellowship for arts journalists writing about theatre that she oversaw. Anyway, Viertel broke down the way these shows work the way screenwriting guru Robert McKee deconstructs commercial movies. He even had musical theatre performers on hand to sing samples of each type of song he described as he detailed its emotional and/or narrative function within the show.

I’d seen only a handful of musicals at that time. I was fascinated to learn what a complicated and tradition-encumbered form it is, and how many different moving parts must to cohere just so to make something that, done right, looks and sounds effortless.

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Decadence, Inc.: Arena’s You, Nero and Signature’s Hairspray, considered.

Danny Scheie as Nero and Susannah Schulman as Poppaea. (SCOTT SUCHMAN/Arena Stage)

Amy Freed’s You, Nero, is, as I opine in today’s City Paper, a clever play about the limits of art as a humanizing influence. Or maybe the limits of mediocre art as a humanizing influence.

Or maybe it’s about how a bad upbringing can damage you beyond the reach of art’s rehabilitative prowess.

Or mediocre art’s rehabilitative . . . I’m still thinking about this, is the point. Which suggests Freed was successful, even if the ending is kind of a mess. Continue reading

Young Frankenstein, Getting Older by the Minute

It’s aliiiiiiive!

Well, sort of. In places. For a while.

But not really.

The stage-musical adaptation of Mel Brooks’s beloved 1974 horror film spoof Young Frankenstein will haunt the Kennedy Center Opera House through the holidays, and it’s an utterly explicable choice for this season of multi-generational out-of-town guests: bland and familiar even if you’ve never seen the movie, offering neither challenge nor much reward.

Sporting a brow even lower than that of the stitched-from-corpses creature at its center, and with about as much to say, the show — which began its 14-month Broadway run two years ago — represents Brooks’s attempt to repeat the success of The Producers. As with that 1968 film-cum-2001 Broadway smash, Brooks once again joined new music and lyrics to a story he brought to the screen more than three decades earlier. Continue reading

Evita’s Exquisite Corpse

Eva Peron
Remember Evita, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 70s bio-musical about the beloved Argentine political icon Eva Perón? Cinema-tized with Madonna in the 90s? No? Well, it did tend to linger on the relatively dull early section of Perón’s story: the part where she’s alive.

It turns out that when Perón traded cancer for immortality at the martyrdom-enabling age of 33, her role in steering her country’s future was just beginning.
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Bow Down Before The Lion King!

No, it’s good. Really. Are you at all surprised? I wasn’t. Which is why my review is less than a rave, even though the choreography and especially the sets and costumes are all topnotch.