BROADWAY REVIEWS

BROADWAY REVIEW: Cabaret

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April 24, 2014: Hot diggity dachshund, it’s old home week on the campus at Weimar Berlin, otherwise known as the Kit Kat Klub. And if we take off our glasses and squint, we can pretend that life is just as divinely, dangerously decadent as it was when we were all 16 years younger. Why, here’s that adorably creepy M.C., a little softer around the jaw, maybe (aren’t we all?), but still such a cutup. Look at him pretending to have sex with the school slut. (Or one of them; there were so many.) And isn’t that Sally Bowles over there in the pink boa? Looking good, Sal; love the platinum bob. But why so uptight? Don’t forget what you always said: “Life is ... .” Uh, what was it you said again? A little more than 16 years after it first opened, and only a decade after it closed, it feels as if the popular Roundabout Theater Company production of Cabaret never left Studio 54, where it reopened on Thursday night.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Hedwig & the Angry Inch

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April 22, 2014: Do not be alarmed by recent reports that Neil Patrick Harris, an irresistibly wholesome television presence, has fallen deeply and helplessly into the gap that separates men from women, East from West, and celebrity from notoriety. There’s no need to fear for his safety, much less his identity. Quite the contrary. Playing an “internationally ignored song stylist” of undefinable gender in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Mr. Harris is in full command of who he is and, most excitingly, what he has become with this performance. That’s a bona fide Broadway star, the kind who can rule an audience with the blink of a sequined eyelid.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill

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April 13, 2014: When Billie Holiday sang, history attests, her audiences tended to clam up. Even in the bustling nightclubs where she mostly performed, Holiday often insisted on total quiet before she would open her mouth. The quiet usually held, as one of the great singers of the last century turned jazz songs and standards into searching, and searing, portraits of life and love gone wrong that cast a shimmering spell. When Audra McDonald takes to the stage and pours her heart into her voice in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, a similar sustained hush settles over the Circle in the Square, where the show opened on Broadway on Sunday night for a limited run. With her plush, classically trained soprano scaled down to jazz-soloist size, Ms. McDonald sings selections from Holiday’s repertoire with sensitive musicianship and rich seams of feeling that command rapt admiration.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: If/Then

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March 30, 2014: New York City has never looked cleaner than it does in If/Then, the gleaming drawing board of a musical that opened on Sunday night at the Richard Rodgers Theater, starring the shiny-voiced Idina Menzel. Actually, to find any urban environment that is this spick and span, you’d need to look back to the 1970s, when Mary Tyler Moore conquered Minneapolis on television. The nearest contemporary equivalents are those commercials in which peppy young things go dancing in the streets to trumpet the virtues of cars and colas. But even they — and If/Then does bear a passing resemblance to such ads — lack the antiseptic sheen of this production, written by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, with direction by Michael Greif, the team that gave us the four-handkerchief triumph Next to Normal several years ago. Every surface here appears to have been so thoroughly polished that you could not just eat off the sidewalks but see your own reflection in them, if you so chose.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Les Miserables

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March 23, 2014: While I was watching the new revival of Les Misérables, it occurred to me that this beloved stage adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel may have helped pave the way for the pop singing contests that have proliferated across the globe in this century. Much like those televised competitions — American Idol and The Voice being the national brand leaders — Les Misérables presents audiences with a stage full of singers who, one by one, have a chance to step into the spotlight (in this case a very smoke-suffused one) and astonish us with the mighty heft and range of their voices.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Aladdin

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March 20, 2014: If a genie had sprung from my teakettle last week and offered to grant me three wishes, I might impulsively have asked to be spared any more children’s musicals. Since a certain blockbuster feline arrived well over a decade ago, Broadway has been lapped by wave after wave of big, often gloppy songfests adapted from animated movies, mostly from the mother ship, Disney. So the prospect of Aladdin, promising another weary night in the presence of a spunky youngster and wisecracking animals, didn’t exactly set my heart racing. But this latest musical adapted from one of Disney’s popular movies, which opened on Thursday night at the New Amsterdam Theater, defied my dour expectations. As directed and choreographed (and choreographed, and choreographed) by Casey Nicholaw, and adapted by the book writer Chad Beguelin, Aladdin has an infectious and only mildly syrupy spirit. Not to mention enough baubles, bangles and beading to keep a whole season of RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants in runway attire.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

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January 12, 2014: For purposes of transparency in advertising, “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” should probably be titled “Brooklyn Girl.” This renaming would allow theatergoers to know exactly what to expect of the friendly, formulaic bio-musical that opened on Sunday night at the Stephen Sondheim Theater, starring an immensely likable Jessie Mueller.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

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November 17, 2013: Serial killers may be all the rage on bookshelves and television screens — so ubiquitous, you’d think they made up a major demographic of the world population — but they are comparatively rare in the peppier precincts of musical theater. Now, after a long dry spell, Broadway has a deadly sociopath to call its own. Please give a hearty welcome to Monty Navarro, the conniving killer who helps turn murder most foul into entertainment most merry in the new musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Pippin

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April 25, 2013: What do I have to do to make you love me? This plea throbs as a subtext in every musical that’s made it to Broadway. That is, after all, the impulse that gets actors out of bed in the morning. But the question has seldom been posed as nakedly and aggressively as it is in Diane Paulus’s revival of “Pippin,” which opened on Thursday night at the Music Box Theater.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Motown The Musical

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April 14, 2013: For all the richness of its gold-and-platinum-plated soundtrack, “Motown” would be a much more satisfying nostalgia trip if Mr. Gordy and his collaborators were more effective curators of both story and song, rather than trying to encompass the whole of the label’s fabled history in two and a half hours. Irresistible as much of the music is, I often had the frustrating impression that I was being forced to listen to an LP being played at the dizzying, distorting speed of a 45."

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