BROADWAY REVIEWS

BROADWAY REVIEW: Latin History For Morons

November 15, 2017:

Like the best mimics, John Leguizamo administers large but precisely calibrated doses of exaggeration to make his impersonations pop. In “Latin History for Morons,” a panoptic survey of two millenniums of oppression in the Americas, he tosses off dozens of quick character sketches that feel exactly as true as they are likely inaccurate.

I rather doubt, for instance, that his prissy, nail-filing Moctezuma has any basis in fact. But who cares whether the Aztec emperor really lisped at Cortés, “You leave me no choice ’cause you’re so butch”? What matters is that the laughs are real, in this case suggesting familiarity with the accommodations that proud people make to an overwhelming force.

And so it is with almost every character brought to life in Mr. Leguizamo’s long and often hilarious parade of injustice, stretching from Peru under the Inca to Texas under Trump. At their best, his jokes get at something deep, whether he is serving up a Rat Pack Christopher Columbus, a French poodle de Tocqueville, a sassy, cross-dressing Cuban-American Civil War soldier or a deaf uncle with an idiosyncratic way of signing.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: M. Butterfly

October 26, 2017: Maybe they should call it “M. Moth.” Though it bent (and blew) the minds of rapt audiences with its elusive opalescence nearly three decades ago, David Henry Hwang’s “M. Butterfly” returns to Broadway on heavier, drabber wings. True, the revival that opened on Thursday night at the Cort Theater, directed by Julie Taymor, has basically the same anatomy as its predecessor.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: The Play That Goes Wrong

April 2, 2017: When your world — or, as it often seems these days, the world — is falling apart, there’s perverse comfort in watching things go smash in a safe, contained environment. (And no, the White House doesn’t qualify.) Such is the brutal allure of monster truck jams, videos of toddlers falling off trikes and steel-cage wrestling matches.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Miss Saigon

March 23, 2017: Even before the orchestra sighs its first purple notes from the swoony score of “Miss Saigon,” which opened in a time-warped revival on Thursday night, the audience at the Broadway Theater is treated to another noise — less mellifluous, perhaps, but more titillating, at least for the purposes of this show. Listen and thrill, O seekers of sensation, to the “pah-pah-pah” of rotor blades beating the air.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Come From Away

March 12, 2017: Try, if you must, to resist the gale of good will that blows out of “Come From Away,” the big bearhug of a musical that opened on Sunday night at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater. But even the most stalwart cynics may have trouble staying dry-eyed during this portrait of heroic hospitality under extraordinary pressure.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Dear Evan Hansen

December 4, 2016: As the title character in “Dear Evan Hansen,” a lonely teenager who inadvertently becomes a social media sensation and a symbol of the kindness that is often cruelly absent in high school hallways, the marvelous young actor Ben Platt is giving a performance that’s not likely to be bettered on Broadway this season. What’s more, this gorgeous heartbreaker of a musical, which opened at the Music Box Theater on Sunday, has grown in emotional potency during its journey to the big leagues, after first being produced in Washington and Off Broadway. Rarely – scratch that — never have I heard so many stifled sobs and sniffles in the theater.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Cats

July 31, 2016: If I soon end up in a psychiatric ward, could someone please send the bill to Andrew Lloyd Webber? It has been some four days since I saw the revival of Mr. Lloyd Webber’s nigh-legendary musical “Cats,” which opened on Sunday at the Neil Simon Theater. And it’s been four days of persistent earworms. The show’s electric opening song has been hounding me — no feline metaphor applying — when I wake in the morning, when I sit down at my computer, when I pick up a volume of Trollope, when I go to bed. Because jellicles can and jellicles do Jellicles do and jellicles can Jellicles can and jellicles do Jellicles do and jellicles can

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Waitress

April 24, 2016: “Sugar. Butter. Flour.” The words are crooned like a lullaby intermittently throughout the musical “Waitress,” bringing a warm blanket of comfort to the troubled central character, stuck in an unhappy marriage and essentially working two jobs, baking pies for the diner where she also puts on an apron to wait tables. In Jessie Mueller, who plays Jenna, that hard-working waitress, this agreeable if unexceptional musical, which opened on Sunday at the Brooks Atkinson Theater, has the kind of vital ingredient any show would benefit from. Ms. Mueller, who won a Tony for her performance in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” possesses a rich, soulful and emotionally translucent voice, and an ability to bring heaping cupfuls of subtext to her acting. But as with the unremarkable jukebox musical that brought her Broadway stardom, Ms. Mueller’s talent often outstrips the material she’s given here. So, incidentally, do the gifts of her supporting cast, who provide brightly colored, vibrantly sung performances. Much of the score, by the pop singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, is appealing, drawing on the sounds of country music reflecting the Southern setting, but also containing more traditional Broadway-pop balladry. But the book by Jessie Nelson, based on the movie written and directed by (and co-starring) Adrienne Shelly, tends to flatten most of the characters into comic cartoons. (To be fair, they do not have much more depth in the movie, from which some of the musical’s dialogue is borrowed.)

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BROADWAY REVIEW: School of Rock

December 6, 2015: Andrew Lloyd Webber has entered his second childhood, and it turns out to be a good career move. For his latest offering, “School of Rock the Musical,” which opened with a deafening electric twang at the Winter Garden Theater on Sunday night, this lordly British composer has been hanging out with fifth graders. Youth, it would seem, is rejuvenating. Adapted from the popular 2003 Richard Linklater movie, “School of Rock” is unlikely to restore Mr. Lloyd Webber to the throne from which he ruled Broadway four decades ago, when he led the conquering forces of the British poperetta with works like “Evita” and the unkillable “Phantom of the Opera.” But this show, starring a bouncing Super Ball of energy named Alex Brightman, is his friskiest in decades. O.K., so frisky is perhaps not a word you want to see anywhere near Mr. Lloyd Webber’s name, especially if you’re among those who were allergic to the felines who purred T. S. Eliot verses to swoony tunes in “Cats,” which occupied the Winter Garden for nearly 18 years. But unlike that megahit, “School of Rock” doesn’t strain to mix whimsy with grandeur.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Hamilton

August 6, 2015: Yes, it really is that good. At this point, it would be almost a relief to report that “Hamilton” — the musical that opened at the Richard Rodgers Theater on Thursday night — has shrunk beneath the bloat of its hype. Since it was first staged at the Public Theater this year, this brave new show about America’s founding fathers has been given the kind of worshipful press usually reserved for the appearances of once-in-a-lifetime comets or the births of little royal celebrities. During the past several months, while it was being pumped up and trimmed down for its move from the East Village to Broadway, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s rap-driven portrait of the rise and fall of Alexander Hamilton (this country’s first secretary of the Treasury) has been the stuff of encomiums in both fashion magazines and op-ed columns. A friend of mine recently said that there were three subjects she never wanted to see in a newspaper again: Caitlyn Jenner, the Harper Lee novel “Go Set a Watchman” and “Hamilton.”

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