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BROADWAY REVIEW: Pretty Woman

August 16, 2018: No one should have had to step into that red dress again. I’m talking about the long, strapless number that Julia Roberts wore in the 1990 film “Pretty Woman,” in a moment of pure, movie-magic apotheosis. Let me refresh your memory of that occasion before I proceed to the less pleasant topic of “Pretty Woman: The Musical,” which opened on Thursday night at the Nederlander Theater without Ms. Roberts in the title role. In the movie, Ms. Roberts’s character, a prostitute named Vivian Ward, is going to her first opera (all too appropriately, “La Traviata”) with her date and client, Edward Lewis, a very rich and emotionally frozen businessman played by Richard Gere. She materializes with coltish grace and freshness in said dress, and the smitten Mr. Gere presents her with a small box, containing an obscenely expensive necklace. He playfully snaps it open and closed, and Ms. Roberts erupts into a spontaneous shout of laughter that totally and improbably dispels the creepy transactional haze of the scene.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Gettin’ The Band Back Together

August 13, 2018: When a Broadway show needs a preshow warm-up, what follows is likely half-baked. At least that’s the case with “Gettin’ the Band Back Together,” the empty-headed entertainment that opened on Monday at the Belasco Theater. In a scripted welcome before the curtain, Ken Davenport, the lead producer and a co-author of the book, delivers a supercharged spiel that bodes ill — and begins with a whopper. “What you’re about to see is one of those rare things on Broadway these days,” he says. “A totally original musical.” To the extent that “Gettin’ the Band Back Together” is not based on a specific pre-existing property, he’s technically right. But originality isn’t novelty, and the show is such a calculated rehash of a million tired tropes that it can best be described with Broadway math: “School of Rock” plus “The Full Monty” divided by “The Wedding Singer” — and multiplied by zero. Like “The Full Monty,” it concerns a bunch of middle-aged men trying to revive their flagging spirits by putting on a show. In this case, the men are former members of a garage band called Juggernaut, whose high school dreams of rock superstardom have dissolved into careerism and slackerdom.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Head Over Heels

July 26, 2018: You would think that a sexually polymorphous musical that combines a Renaissance pastoral romance with the songs of the 1980s California rock group the Go-Go’s would at the very least be a hoot, a show that could get sloppy drunk on its own outrageousness. Yet “Head Over Heels,” which opened on Thursday night at the Hudson Theater, feels as timid and awkward as the new kid on the first day of school. Make that the new kid who longs to run with the wild crowd but can’t quite commit to being as bad as coolness demands. Directed by Michael Mayer, who has been more than competent at the helm of Broadway rock musicals like “American Idiot” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Head Over Heels” lacks the courage of its contradictions. It mutters deferentially when what you want is a rebel yell.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Straight White Men (2018)

July 23, 2018: You’ll have plenty to talk about after seeing “Straight White Men,” the smart and thorny Broadway anomaly that opened at the Helen Hayes Theater on Monday. But don’t plan on talking much beforehand. That’s because the preshow music is deliberately deafening. In the script, the playwright Young Jean Lee specifies “loud hip-hop with sexually explicit lyrics by female rappers.” Worth noting is the slight change from the play’s debut at the Public Theater in 2014, when the lyrics she specified were all that plus “nasty.” Nastiness of any sort is not part of this Broadway outing, a Second Stage production directed by Anna D. Shapiro. The confrontational tone of the opening, as of the rest of the play, has been softened significantly. As soon as the lights dim, two charming “persons in charge” — Kate Bornstein, a gender theorist who defines herself as nonbinary, and Ty Defoe, a two-spirit member of the Oneida and Ojibwe nations — take the stage to apologize for any discomfort the music might have caused.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: The Boys in the Band (2018)

May 31, 2018:

Holy social anthropology! What is this strange and barbaric tribal ceremony that our unsuspecting traveler has stumbled upon? Men are actually dancing with — gasp — other men, in a wrist-flicking, hip-wriggling, keister-twitching chorus line.

Perhaps they’re enacting some unspeakable mating ritual, the kind an adventurous American couple of the mid-1960s might have seen (and recoiled from) while watching a lurid documentary like “Mondo Cane.” But this is definitely not the sort of activity Joe Average expects to encounter in the apartment of his best friend from college.

That, more or less, is the point of view of a lone, presumably heterosexual man when he arrives as an uninvited guest at the all-gay party of hedonism and hatred that is Mart Crowley’s epochal 1968 drama “The Boys in the Band,” which opened on Thursday night in a starry but disconnected revival at the Booth Theater. And theatergoers, too, may feel an awakening shock at this moment.

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