BROADWAY REVIEWS

BROADWAY REVIEW: Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune

May 30, 2019: Everyone wants to hear Audra McDonald sing. So it’s a clever touch that Arin Arbus’s production of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” — which despite the Debussy in its title is not a musical — gives Ms. McDonald a huge aria right off the bat. More of a duet, really, though her co-star, Michael Shannon, isn’t so much singing as grunting. That’s because “Frankie and Johnny,” which opened on Thursday at the Broadhurst Theater, begins with the sounds of Frankie (Ms. McDonald) and Johnny (Mr. Shannon) making love: “noisy, ecstatic and familiar,” as the script, by Terrence McNally, puts it. Familiar, that is, if you’re used to Puccini orgasms. It could have been a stumbling block for this touching revival of the 1987 play that Ms. McDonald (a six-time Tony Award winner) and Mr. Shannon (twice nominated for an Oscar) are hardly the dowdy, downtrodden types Mr. McNally calls for. Unlike Kathy Bates and F. Murray Abraham, who starred in the first production (Kenneth Welsh soon took over as Johnny), they arrive onstage with fabulous, shiny auras.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Beetlejuice

April 25, 2019: The dead lead lives of noisy desperation in “Beetlejuice,” the absolutely exhausting new musical that opened on Thursday at the Winter Garden Theater. This frantic adaptation of Tim Burton’s much-loved 1988 film is sure to dishearten those who like to think of the afterlife as one unending, undisturbed sleep. Because as directed by a feverishly inventive Alex Timbers, and starring Alex Brightman as the manic ghoul of the title, this production proposes that not being alive just means that you have to try harder — a whole lot harder — than you ever did before. Otherwise, you’ll wind up invisible, with nary a soul to acknowledge your starry self. And in today’s world of chronic self-advertising, this may be the true fate worse than death.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Ink

April 24, 2019: Did you hear the one about the guy who sells his soul to the devil? How about the story in which an entire country does the same thing? These cautionary tales intersect to highly invigorating effect in James Graham’s “Ink,” which opened on Wednesday night at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater. And don’t worry, uneasy Americans, it’s not about you. Except that it is. Directed with vaudevillian flair and firecracker snap by Rupert Goold, “Ink” is set in London, in the gory glory days of a quaint phenomenon: print journalism.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Tootsie

April 23, 2019: Comedy rarely flows as smoothly as it does here. The secret is more than the book; it’s the songs. Mr. Yazbek is one of the few composer-lyricists working today who can set jokes to music and make them pay. The most obvious instance in “Tootsie” is “What’s Gonna Happen,” a showstopping patter number for Michael’s ex-girlfriend, the neurotic Sandy (Sarah Stiles). In a tumble of words reminiscent of “Model Behavior” from Mr. Yazbek’s underrated score for “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” she goes well past that verge.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: All My Sons

April 22, 2019: Plays with a large moral vision are so last century. Our taste now is for the miniature and metaphoric — works too exquisite to live outside the living room. Or maybe our capacity for shame has shrunk. But in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” originally produced in 1947, domesticity is just a backdrop. The drama takes place outdoors, amid trees and sky in an Ohio backyard soon after World War II. Its anger and ambition are likewise elemental. Too bad, then, that the Roundabout Theater Company revival that opened on Monday at the American Airlines Theater reaches the play’s level only intermittently, like a poorly tuned radio. Jack O’Brien’s literal-minded production, starring Tracy Letts and Annette Bening, does not make a resonant case for the drama today.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

April 21, 2019: Taylor Mac’s new play, which opened on Sunday at the Booth Theater in a production starring Nathan Lane, is the unlikeliest bird to land on Broadway in many a year. Much like Mr. Mac himself at the end of “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music,” his epic revision of American culture, it is fabulous and bedraggled: a defiant and beautiful mess.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Hillary and Clinton

April 18, 2019: Instead — and this is what makes this play something more than a receptacle for recycled observations about its famous subjects — “Hillary and Clinton” strips its protagonist down to her most ordinary self. And it invites us to look at her with the easy familiarity with which we might regard someone living next door, or in our own family. Or even our very selves, as we could be in an alternative universe, such as the one this play presents.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Hadestown

April 17, 2019: All your favorite Greeks are heading somewhere in “Hadestown,” the sumptuous, hypnotic and somewhat hyperactive musical that opened on Wednesday night after its own twisty 13-year road to Broadway. Eurydice descends to the underworld; Orpheus follows to retrieve her. Persephone spends six months aboveground living the good life of summer and song before returning for six months below with Hades. (He’s her husband.) Hermes, of course, has wings on his feet. And the Fates (at least in this version) are always darting about, minding everyone’s business. But watching “Hadestown” unfold so gorgeously at the Walter Kerr Theater, I found myself thinking of other Greek characters: those lucky few saved from heartbreak by radical metamorphoses.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Burn This

April 16, 2019: But this “Burn This,” which is steeped in the rich compassion for the lonely and lost that is the hallmark of works by Mr. Wilson (1937-2011), only rarely stirs the heart. In the ideal production, it creates the sense of fire meeting fire in a folie à deux between two ill-matched yet inexorably bound lovers. What we have in this case is a one-man conflagration.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Oklahoma!

April 7, 2019: How is it that the coolest new show on Broadway in 2019 is a 1943 musical usually regarded as a very square slice of American pie? The answer arrives before the first song is over in Daniel Fish’s wide-awake, jolting and altogether wonderful production of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!,” which opened on Sunday night at the Circle in the Square Theater. “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” is the title and the opening line of this familiar number, a paean to a land of promisingly blue skies and open spaces. But Curly, the cowboy who sings it, isn’t cushioned by the expected lush orchestrations. Nor is the actor playing him your usual solid slab of beefcake with a strapping tenor. As embodied by the excellent Damon Daunno, this lad of the prairies is wiry and wired, so full of unchanneled sexual energy you expect him to implode. There’s the hint of a wobble in his cocky strut and voice.

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