BROADWAY REVIEWS

BROADWAY REVIEW: Farinelli and the King

December 17, 2017:

His Majesty is not himself today. His most unserene highness, the King of Spain, does not know who or what he is, except that he’s not where he belongs. Approach him with caution: He bites. And allow me, if you will, to advise you never to take your eyes off him.

Not that you’ll want to.

As was observed of another stark raving royal (named Hamlet), “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.” This is especially true when a great one is portrayed by one of the greatest actors on the planet.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: The Children

December 12, 2017:

First the earthquake. Then the tsunami. Then the nuclear reactor shuts down when the tidal wave reaches its seaside dome. But not to worry. That’s why they have emergency generators.

In the basement.

Putting emergency generators where floodwaters can quickly render them useless sounds like a design mistake only a polemical (or satirical) playwright would invent. But part of the horror of “The Children,” which opened on Tuesday at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, is that the author, Lucy Kirkwood, did not dream up that part of the plot. Pretty much the same chain of events caused the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: SpongeBob SquarePants

December 4, 2017:

For what it’s worth — and we’re talking millions of dollars here — you are never going to see as convincing an impersonation of a two-dimensional cartoon by a three-dimensional human as that provided by Ethan Slater at the Palace Theater. Mr. Slater plays the title role in “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical,” the ginormous giggle of a show that opened on Monday night.

This may sound like dubious praise. But think about it. How many of those legions of figures who gambol through stage adaptations of animated movies — teapots, lions, fake Russian princesses, ad infinitum — seem to have been transliterated from the screen without any dilution of their inked-in essence?

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Once On This Island

December 3, 2017:

I wasn’t expecting the goat in diapers.

Nor did I arrive at Circle in the Square the other night anticipating the panorama of village folk barbecuing on the beach, fishing in the lagoon and going about their daily business in a joyful preshow panorama on the theater’s lozenge-shaped stage.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: The Parisian Woman

November 30, 2017: Difficult as it may be, let us put Uma Thurman aside for a moment, though she is obviously the main reason that “The Parisian Woman” opened on Thursday at the Hudson Theater on Broadway. Instead, let’s begin with Derek McLane’s sumptuous set: the sitting room of a Capitol Hill townhouse with a sofa as long as a limo and breathtakingly tasteful Air Force blue walls. It’s the kind of place you’d move into instantly, if you wanted to live in a play. But I’m afraid you’d get bored in this one.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Meteor Shower

November 29, 2017:

Comic plays on Broadway these days are generally either knockabout farces like “The Play That Goes Wrong” or repurposed stand-up routines like “Latin History for Morons.” Comedy of the type that sustained the commercial theater for decades — verbal and domestic, often involving Jews — has petered out as a genre. Not even Neil Simon can get a decent revival.

So it’s a pleasure to have Steve Martin’s “Meteor Shower” at the Booth Theater, where it opened Wednesday night in a slick production directed by Jerry Zaks and starring Amy Schumer. It’s definitely funny.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Home For the Holidays

November 21, 2017:

Bring back Donny & Marie!

As clean-cut as their 2010 “Broadway Christmas” may have been, it also displayed a ravenous need to entertain, not to mention unexpected senses of humor and kitsch. Sadly, those qualities are absent from “Home for the Holidays,” a limp revue of carols and Yule-themed pop songs that makes the Osmond siblings’ spectacle look as debauched as a Mötley Crüe concert.

We live in a culture that loves winners, or at least claims it does, so this holiday offering is headlined by three singers who have triumphed in reality-TV competitions. Candice Glover won “American Idol” in 2013, while Josh Kaufman claimed the title on “The Voice” for Team Usher in 2014. At only 23, Bianca Ryan is the most seasoned performer of the trio, having won “America’s Got Talent” in 2006, when she was 11.

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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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