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Photo: Jan Versweyveld

BROADWAY REVIEW: West Side Story

February 20, 2020: No one should be surprised to hear that Ivo van Hove has blown up “West Side Story.” This industrious, experimental director is celebrated, after all, for taking an artistic detonator to sacred classics — by authors like Shakespeare, Molière, Miller and O’Neill — and letting the pieces fly. But the blowing up I’m talking about in this curiously unaffecting reimagining of a watershed musical, which opened on Thursday night at the Broadway Theater, is the kind associated with photography, the process by which a picture is enlarged to outsize proportions. This means that most of the performers onstage here have video doppelgängers, projected on the wall behind them, who are many, many times their natural size. As such, those fatally rivalrous street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, have probably never loomed larger. Yet these disembodied Goliaths wind up upstaging their flesh-and-blood selves. As real, human-scale people, those crazy, mixed-up kids from New York’s mean streets have seldom seemed smaller, blurrier or less sure of their purpose — as characters or as performers.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Grand Horizons

January 23, 2020: Like them, “Grand Horizons” is perfectly structured, mimicking the classic works of stage comedy with a stupendous Act I curtain, a neat Act II surprise and a final beat that would be haunting if the road leading to it were not so littered with extorted laughs. Nor can the production, including that alarming lighting by Jen Schriever, be faulted; Silverman seems to have staged the play exactly as Wohl intended, stopping shy only of a laugh track to get the audience coughing up yuks. But what is it Wohl really intends? She’s too serious a playwright to be trying to game the market — though “Grand Horizons,” with its pace, pedigree and cast of six, is likely to be performed in regional and amateur theaters for years. Nor do I think it is purely a botch, a mess that got that way by itself. The constraints of its genre are too bizarre not to have been chosen deliberately, just as Wohl deliberately constrained “Small Mouth Sounds” by setting it at a wordless spiritual retreat, and “Make Believe” by using the playacting of children as a medium for dramatizing mistreatment.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: A Soldier’s Play

January 21, 2020: But the themes and the structure can sometimes seem at odds. Not, apparently, as originally produced by the Negro Ensemble Company, when Frank Rich, writing for The New York Times, called it “a mature and accomplished work.” Nor in the excellent 1984 movie, retitled “A Soldier’s Story,” which uses plenty of close-ups to keep the focus on the characters instead of the plot machinery. Onstage, though, the loud ticktock of the investigation too often drowns out the emotion — an effect perhaps enhanced by the flattening of the genre brought on by endless “Law & Order” spinoffs and reruns. In any case, whether “A Soldier’s Play” is a great stage drama regardless of its flaws is something its bumpy but worthy Broadway debut, directed by Kenny Leon for the Roundabout Theater Company, cannot answer. Despite some powerful acting, it is too distracted to make the case.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: My Name is Lucy Barton

January 15, 2020: The title character of “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” Rona Munro’s crystalline stage adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s 2016 novel, is hardly a woman of mystery. On the contrary, as embodied with middle-American forthrightness by a perfectly cast Laura Linney, in the production that opened Wednesday at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, Lucy may be the most translucent figure now on a New York stage.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Harry Connick Jr. — A Celebration of Cole Porter

December 15, 2019: Harry Connick Jr. has got Cole Porter under his skin. And he wants the world to know it. Not only did he recently release an album of Porter songs called “True Love,” but he’s also written and directed a show dedicated to the iconic composer. Titled “Harry Connick, Jr.: A Celebration of Cole Porter,” the show, running at the Nederlander Theater, delivers on the promise Connick wrote in the program notes, “fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a wild ride.” Alluding to Bette Davis’s famous line from “All About Eve” is appropriate, given the show is a combination of cocktail hour chitchat, swoon-worthy music, over the top theatrical displays, and delicious camp.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Jagged Little Pill

December 5, 2019: The great news for “Jagged Little Pill,” and for us, is that its creative team, led by the director Diane Paulus, did more than just fiddle with a show that, though blurry, was already entertaining. The overhauled version that opened on Thursday at the Broadhurst Theater is fully in focus: clear in its priorities, rich in character, sincere without syrup, rousing and real. It easily clears the low bar of jukebox success to stand alongside the dark original musicals that have been sustaining the best hopes of Broadway in recent years.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: A Christmas Carol

November 20, 2019: Have any of the progressive presidential hopefuls still duking it out thought about working “A Christmas Carol” into their campaigns? If so, they would surely benefit from visiting the new, charmingly instructive adaptation of Charles Dickens’s evergreen of Yuletide redemption, which opened Wednesday at the Lyceum Theater. As reconceived by the playwright Jack Thorne and the director Matthew Warchus, this sprightly version of Dickens’s deathless portrait of a miser makes a pointed case for the personal benefits of redistributing wealth. God rest ye merry, fat cats: Shedding some of that cumbersome, excess cash is a surefire route to feeling good about yourself.

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