BROADWAY REVIEWS

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: 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: The Inheritance

November 17, 2019: Ambition and achievement are not entirely commensurate in “The Inheritance.” Its breadth doesn’t always translate into depth. As fine as the acting is throughout — and quietly brilliant when the extraordinary veteran Lois Smith takes the stage, toward the very end, as the show’s sole female character — none of the characters here have the textured completeness of those created by Forster and Kushner. Ultimately, the play twists itself into ungainly pretzels as it tries to join all the thematic dots on its immense canvas. Yet even by the end of the overwrought second half of “The Inheritance,” you’re likely to feel the abiding, welcome buzz of energy that comes from an unflagging will to question, to create, to contextualize, to — oh, why not? — only connect.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: TINA, The Tina Turner Musical

November 7, 2019: Tina Turner gets the bio-jukebox treatment, with all its lows (emaciated storytelling) and one of its peaks (a star-making performance from Adrienne Warren). It’s a good tale, in theory, cut to the pattern of classic drama. Two elemental forces — hurricane-voiced Anna Mae Bullock and typhoon-tempered Ike Turner — are pitted in a struggle that nearly destroys both. But while Ike, for his sins, winds up a pariah and eventually dies of an overdose, Anna, rechristened Tina by her Svengali-like husband, rises from the depths, to greater glory solo than she ever achieved under his boot. More important, as far as pure entertainment is concerned, this story comes with songs that can thrill an audience when rendered as Turner sang them; at this, the musical “Tina,” directed by Phyllida Lloyd, happily succeeds. In a performance that is part possession, part workout and part wig, Adrienne Warren rocks the rafters and dissolves your doubts about anyone daring to step into the diva’s high heels. But what I’ve just described is a rock concert — which is what “Tina” essentially turns into. It’s a blast if that’s what you came for. If you meant to see a true union of song and story, though, you won’t get it here.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Moulin Rouge! The Musical

July 25, 2019: This one’s for the hedonists. All you party people should know that the Al Hirschfeld Theater has been refurbished as an opulent pleasure palace, wherein decadence comes without hangovers. That’s where the euphoric “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” opened on Thursday night in a shower of fireworks, confetti and glittering fragments of what feels like every pop hit ever written. Inspired by the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film and directed with wicked savvy by Alex Timbers, this “Moulin Rouge” is a cloud-surfing, natural high of a production. It has side effects, for sure, including the vertigo that comes from having your remembrance of songs past tickled silly and the temporary blockage of any allergies to jukebox musicals. But for its plump, sleek two-and-a-half hours of stage time, “Moulin Rouge” — which stars a knockout Karen Olivo, with Aaron Tveit and Danny Burstein doing their best Broadway work to date — has the febrile energy you may associate with the wilder parties of your youth, when gaudy nights seemed to stretch into infinity.

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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: 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: Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations

March 21, 2019: While honoring all the expected biomusical clichés, which include rolling out its subjects’ greatest hits in brisk and sometimes too fragmented succession, this production refreshingly emphasizes the improbable triumph of rough, combustible parts assembled into glistening smoothness.

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