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Around Broadway Profile

Around Broadway

English, Musicals, 1 season, 154 episodes, 8 hours, 12 minutes
Every Wednesday morning, Jeff Spurgeon finds out what's new on Broadway and beyond from Charles Isherwood, theater critic for the New York Times.
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'Shuffle Along,' an Unusual Revival Finds Its Way Back to Broadway

One of the most interesting musicals to appear on Broadway this season brings a new look to an almost century-old story. Ninety-five years ago, Shuffle Along was an unprecedented sight on the Great White Way: a show written, produced, directed and performed by an African-American cast of characters. The not-quite-a-revival carries the unwieldy full title: Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, which New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood calls "truth in advertising."  The current production, starring Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell with choreography by Savion Glover and direction by George C. Wolf (who also wrote the book), has earned 10 Tony Award nominations. Isherwood explains why the show is deserving of those accolades.
5/11/20162 minutes, 34 seconds
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'Hamilton' Receives Record 16 Tony Nominations

The 2016 Tony nominees were announced on Tuesday, and Charles Isherwood, theater critic of The New York Times, joins WQXR morning host, Jeff Spurgeon, to gab about the big news. Most notably, the juggernaut known as Hamilton met lofty expectations with a record 16 nominations.  The musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton headlines a diverse list of potential winners, in contrast to the pool of Academy Award nominees that begat the #OscarsSoWhite social-media movement. In addition to trying to predict how many statuettes Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda will take home, Isherwood mentions who was snubbed and which of the year's races are the most competitive. Listen to the discussion in the audio above.
5/4/20163 minutes, 18 seconds
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'Waitress' Serves Up a New Recipe for Movie-to-Musical Adaptations

Broadway is home to another a new musical based on a movie. Waitress springs from the 2007 film of the same name and tells the story of a small-town girl, who dreams of an escape from her small-town existence. It stars Jessie Mueller, who makes an even stronger impression than in her Tony Award-winning portrayal of the songwriter Carole King in Beautiful, the Carole King Musical. Pop artist Sara Bareilles wrote the songs for the show with care toward the characters and attention to language. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood joins WQXR morning host Jeff Spurgeon to offer more about what this Waitress is serving to theater audiences at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
4/27/20162 minutes, 17 seconds
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In 'Mary Page Marlowe' a Role so Big It Requires 6 Actresses

Tracy Letts, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (August: Osage County) and Tony Award-winning actor (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf), has a new play running at his home company, Chicago-based Steppenwolf Theatre. The play, Mary Page Marlowe, tells the story of one woman at various points throughout her life. And to accomplish this, she is played by six talented actresses with a supporting cast of equal caliber. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood visited the Windy City to see the production and offers his impressions of the play, Anna D. Shapiro’s direction, reasons behind dividing the title role into a half dozen parts and whether it may land in New York in the near future.
4/20/20162 minutes, 54 seconds
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'Exit Strategy': The Final Days of a Failing School

Set at an urban public school on the brink of closure for the usual reasons — poor test scores and low graduation rates — playwright Ike Holter's Exit Strategy is an indictment of the state of public education but not a polemic. Much of the play takes place in a teacher's lounge, where faculty discuss their previous stints failing schools. When one enterprising student hacks into school's website, creating a Kickstarter campaign for last-ditch fund-raising, several teachers are inspired to act. Despite the serious subject matter, "the play is quite funny," says New York Times theater critic, Charles Isherwood. "The characters are wisecracking their way through this crisis in their careers."
4/13/20161 minute, 59 seconds
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3 Kings, 4 Plays, 12 Hours, a Shakespeare Cycle at BAM

This spring, England’s Royal Shakespeare Company has taken up residence at the Harvey Theater at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It's presenting four of Shakespeare’s plays — Richard II; Henry IV, Parts I and II; and Henry V — in a package called King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings. Our intrepid critic, Charles Isherwood of The New York Times, has traveled far from Broadway to take in approximately 12 hours of the Bard's prose and verse over three days. During that period, he experienced David Tennant as Richard II, Antony Scher as Falstaff and Alex Hassell as Prince Hal, who becomes King Henry V, and reports that the company is in good hands. Click on the audio above to hear more of his impressions. Performances of the productions continue through May 1.
4/6/20164 minutes, 8 seconds
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'Bright Star' by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell Shines on Broadway

With a book by comedian/actor/author Steve Martin, lyrics by singer/songwriter Edie Brickell and a bluegrass-inflected score by both, Bright Star comes to Broadway music with its creators as the most recognizable names on the marquee. Set in North Carolina, the story jumps back and forth between moments in the life of Alice Murphy; it shows her both as a young rebellious girl in the 1920s and later as a sophisticated woman who runs a literary journal in the 1940s. As Alice, Carmen Cusack impresses in her Broadway debut, playing the main character at both stages.  New York Times theater critic CharlesIsherwood describes the show as more gentle alternative to the usual Broadway spectacle. Hear more of his thoughts in the audio above. 
3/30/20163 minutes, 7 seconds
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'Dry Powder': a Comedy to Ignite Economic Debate

Dry Powder, a new play that just debuted at The Public Theater, is bringing the same discussions about the world of finance to the stage as the film The Big Short brought to the movies. The title refers to cash reserves or highly liquid assets, which are central to playwright Sarah Burgess's plot about an executive facing a PR nightmare after throwing himself a lavish party at the same time his firm is forcing layoffs. The play comes to The Public with a big endorsement as co-recipient of this year’s Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award, given to an unproduced full-length play by an emerging playwright. The award comes with a $25,000 prize for the playwright and $50,000 for the company first mounting it. It also boasts a star-studded cast, featuring Claire Danes, Hank Azaria and John Krasinski, in his stage debut. Meanwhile, its director, Thomas Kail, has another show running now in New York — perhaps you've heard of it: Hamilton. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us know his investment in the production. 
3/23/20163 minutes
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Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick Bring 'Disaster!' to Broadway

With its suggestive exclamation point, the title of the new Broadway musical Disaster! hints at the campy, over-the-top qualities it brings to the Nederlander Theatre. Set on a cruise ship precariously moored along the Hudson River, the show spoofs disaster movies such as The Poseidon Adventure and Earthquake that were popular in the 1970s. It also features a number of disco hits and pop songs of the era. Written by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick, the production has assembled a cast of well-known Broadway names: Faith Prince, Roger Bart, Adam Pascal and Kerry Butler, among them. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood has experienced this Disaster! first-hand and weighs in on its less-than calamitous results.
3/16/20162 minutes, 59 seconds
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Danai Gurira Delivers On and Off Broadway

Zimbabwean-American playwright Dania Gurira is having a moment. Her play Eclipsed has just transferred to Broadway in a production starting Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o at the Golden Theatre, and her work, Familiar, is now running at Playwrights Horizons. New York Times theater crick Charles Isherwood joins us to talk about this notable feat.  "For dead white men it's not that unusual," to have two plays simultaneously on stage in New York City, he says, adding, "but for a black women it's quite remarkable. And in fact Eclipsed has made history in the sense that it's the first Broadway play that is directed by written by and entirely acted by black women." Eclipsed is the darker of the two works, exploring of the brutal treatment of women during the Liberian civil war. Familiar provides a little more levity, as it follows the drama set in motion when a Zimbabwean aunt visits her family in Minnesota.
3/9/20163 minutes, 49 seconds
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'Smart People' Presents Thesis on Race at Second Stage Theatre

As the Obama era is about to begin, four brilliant, accomplished people — Harvard types, all of them — consider racism in America in “Smart People” by playwright Lydia R. Diamond. While the hot-button issue is difficult for these intellectuals to articulate, it manifests concretely through the characters' relationships with each other. Kenny Leon directs the production by Second Stage Theatre, featuring a strong cast comprised of Mahershala Ali, Joshua Jackson, Anne Son and Tessa Thompson.  New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood checks it out to see if the play is as smart as the characters in it.
2/17/20162 minutes, 22 seconds
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Len Cariou Mixes Showstoppers with Shakespeare

Actor Len Cariou has enjoyed a long and distinguished career. Among his many appearances, he created the role Sweeney Todd in the eponymous Stephen Sondheim musical. Perhaps less well-known is Cariou’s long résumé of Shakespearean roles. Early in his career, he performed in several of Shakespeare's plays at both the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, and the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Now, in his new one-man show, Broadway and the Bard, Cariou presents Shakespeare's soliloquies alongside apt show tunes. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood shares his impressions.
2/10/20162 minutes, 31 seconds
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Linda Lavin Stars in 'Our Mother's Brief Affair'

While on the latest of her many supposed deathbeds, a "tart-tongued" mother, played by Tony-winner Linda Lavin, reveals to her children the details of a tryst from decades past that may resonate in the present in Richard Greenberg's "Our Mother's Brief Affair." The play, directed by Lynne Meadow, also features Kate Arrington, Greg Keller and John Procaccino. Lavin is "an occasion unto herself," says New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood, as he weighs in on the merits of this 11th collaboration between Greenberg and the Manhattan Theatre Club, which is currently running on Broadway at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.
2/3/20162 minutes, 26 seconds
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An Unusal Birthday Party for Thomas Merton

To mark last year's centennial of the birth of the writer and theologian Thomas Merton, the Actors Theater of Louisville has produced a play about him called "The Glory of the World." Merton spent much of his life in a Trappist monastery near Louisville. The play, written by Charles Mee and directed by Les Waters, has now blown its way into the Harvey Theater at BAM. The play is by no means a straightforward biographical drama and, in fact, it's unusual enough that we’ll just let New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood explain. "The Glory of the World" can be seen at the Harvey Theater through Feb. 6.
1/27/20162 minutes, 32 seconds
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'Noises Off' Is Back On Broadway With Starry, Funny Cast

Michael Frayn's frantic 1982 sex farce-within-a-farce "Noises Off" returns to Broadway for a third run this season under the auspices of the Roundabout Theatre Company. This time around the director is Jeremy Herrin, who staged the two-part Tudor drama "Wolf Hall" last season. The starry cast features Andrea Martin and Megan Hilty, among others. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood tells us whether or not it’s worth running to see at the American Airlines Theatre, where it's running through March 6.
1/20/20163 minutes, 21 seconds
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Red Bull Theater Brings Jacobean Drama to Off-Broadway

Jacobean era dramas are rarely seen on major New York stages, but the enterprising Red Bull Theater company, under the artistic directorship of Jesse Berger, has made a specialty of them. Its latest foray into the period — the time during the reign of James VI of Scotland from 1567–1625 — is a production of "The Changeling," a play from 1622 written by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Rowley. Jacobean dramas are generally noted for their sensational stories of lust and violence and revenge. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwook lets us know if "The Changeling" satisfies on these fronts and what it has to offer a contemporary audience. "The Changeling" can be seen at the Lucille Lortel Theatre through Jan. 24.
1/13/20164 minutes, 6 seconds
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'Fiddler on the Roof' Back on Broadway

The beloved 1964 musical "Fiddler on the Roof," with its book by Joseph Stein and score by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, is back on Broadway this season. Based on writer Sholem Aleichem's Yiddish tales of Tevye the milkman, this new production of "Fiddler" is the show's fifth return to the Great White Way. The role of Tevye was originated by Zero Mostel, played on stage and film by Chaim Topol, and on Broadway by Herschel Bernardi, Theodore Bikel, Leonard Nimoy and Harvey Fierstein, among others. In this production, five-time Tony Award nominee Danny Burstein has the role, and the director is Bartlett Sher, acclaimed for his Rodgers and Hammerstein revivals on Broadway. But do we really need yet another "Fiddler on the Roof?" New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood explains why we just might. "Fiddler on the Roof" runs through July 3 at the Broadway Theatre.
1/6/20162 minutes, 29 seconds
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A New 'View From the Bridge' on Broadway

Arthur Miller’s "A View from the Bridge" hasn’t exactly been a stranger to Broadway. It has already been revived three times, most recently in 2010 in a production starring Liev Schreiber. But it’s back once more this season in an innovative production from the Dutch director Ivo van Hove. The staging was originally seen at London’s Young Vic Theater and later in the West End. Ivo van Hove is known for his radically stylized productions of classic plays by authors ranging from Ibsen to Moliere to Lillian Hellman. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us in on how the director approaches this particular American classic. "A View from the Bridge" runs through Feb. 21 at the Lyceum Theatre.
12/23/20153 minutes, 1 second
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Shakespeare Takes a Jolly Romp Through 1960s London

The new musical "These Paper Bullets!" at the Atlantic Theater Company bills itself as a "modish ripoff" of Shakespeare’s comedy "Much Ado About Nothing." The new adaptation is by Rolin Jones, who has updated the setting to London during the swinging sixties. The production, directed by Jackson Gay, also features new songs written by Billie Joe Armstrong, the front man for the band Green Day who wrote the Tony Award-winning musical "American Idiot." We are used to seeing Shakespeare plays set in any number of times and places, and we ask New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood if this production sounds like something more radical.
12/16/20153 minutes, 4 seconds
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The Rock and Roll Return of Andrew Lloyd Webber

One of the world’s most successful musicians returns to his musical roots in his latest Broadway show. Andrew Lloyd Webber, best-known for "Phantom of the Opera," "Evita" and other shows that feature pop music in an operatic vein, has made a musical out of the movie "School of Rock." The 2003 film starred Jack Black as a slacker dude who gets a job as an elementary school teacher.  It’s a throwback for Lloyd Webber, whose first successes, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Jesus Christ Superstar," were musically cast in a more pop-rock idiom. The new show also features a book written by Julian Fellowes, creator of "Downton Abbey." New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood checked it out to see if Lloyd Webber still has his magic touch. "School of Rock" can be seen at the Winter Garden Theater.
12/9/20152 minutes, 36 seconds
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Taylor Mac's Bold Comedy 'Hir' Brings Many Issues To Broadway

A downtown theater playwright, a sensational Broadway actress and a most unusual family are all part of the show called "Hir" (pronounced "here"). Playwright Taylor Mac is probably best known — to those who follow downtown theater, at least — as an androgynous singer and actor who appears in his own shows. But with "Hir," in which he does not appear, he’s advancing his career in a new direction. The family-in-crisis story involves a returning war veteran, an angry spouse and more than a little gender-bending. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood looks at this twice-extended bold comedy, which has been extended yet a third time to run through Jan. 3 at Playwrights Horizons.
12/2/20153 minutes, 4 seconds
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George Takai Takes to Broadway in 'Allegiance'

Actor George Takai is best known as Sulu from "Star Trek," as well as for his LGBT activism and funny posts on Facebook. He and Lea Salonga, the original Kim in “Miss Saigon,” are the headliners in the new Broadway musical "Allegiance," which tackles a tough historical subject. Like many thousands of Japanese-Americans, Takai was interned by the U.S. government in camps during World War II after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers his review of "Allegiance," which features a score by Jay Kuo and book by Kuo, Marc Acito and Lorenzo Thione, in a production directed by Stafford Arima. It runs through September 2016, at the Longacre Theatre.
11/25/20153 minutes, 28 seconds
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Rhythm Is Gonna Get You To Broadway

A Broadway season just wouldn’t be complete without a jukebox musical it sometimes seems. This year’s model comes courtesy of the 1980s pop star Gloria Estefan. “On Your Feet!” charts the story of her rise, alongside her husband and collaborator Emilio Estefan. Sprinkled throughout this bio-musical are familiar hits like “Conga” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You.” New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us know what he’s seen and heard in this new production directed by Jerry Mitchell at the Marquis Theatre.
11/18/20153 minutes, 9 seconds
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A.R. Gurney's 'Sylvia' Comes to Broadway

In his 1995 play “Sylvia,” A.R. Gurney threw a couple of curve balls at the theme of a man dealing with a mid-life crisis. Instead of the man threatening his marriage by falling in love with a younger woman, he falls in love with (curve ball No. 1) a dog, who is (curve ball No. 2) played onstage by a woman. The play gets its first Broadway production at the Cort Theatre with a cast that stars Matthew Broderick, Julie White and Annaleigh Ashford.  New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood shares his impressions of the production and of where “Sylvia” stands in A.R. Gurney’s substantial body of work.
11/11/20152 minutes, 31 seconds
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'Dames at Sea' Sails On To Broadway

A show most famous for putting Bernadette Peters in the spotlight is getting a bigger spotlight of its own. The musical "Dames at Sea" started in a tiny café Off-Off-Broadway in 1966 and helped launch the career of a show business legend. Now the show itself is most definitely on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theatre in a production choreographed and directed by Randy Skinner. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood takes a look at this new production of an old hit that pays tribute to an even older kind of entertainment — movie musicals of the 1930s.
11/4/20152 minutes, 55 seconds
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Hardships and Humanity at the Holidays

The holiday season is approaching ... or looming, you might say, depending on how you feel about holidays and family get-togethers. A middle-class family Thanksgiving in lower Manhattan is the setting for Stephen Karam’s “The Humans,” another play in a long line that finds its springboard in domestic tensions tightened to the breaking point at ritual gatherings. But New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood says Karam’s work has several, mostly good, surprises in store in this "flawless" production. “The Humans,” directed by Joe Mantello in a Roundabout Theatre Company production, runs through Dec. 27 at the Laura Pels Theatre.
10/28/20153 minutes, 32 seconds
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Ugly Lies the Bone

A new play on a tough topic is part of this season’s Underground season at Roundabout Theatre Company. The play is “Ugly Lies the Bone,” written by Lindsey Ferrentino. The topic is the struggle of U.S. military veterans to return to civilian life while healing from the wounds of their overseas experiences. The play has a perhaps surprising element: Jess, the veteran at the center of the play, is a woman. New York Times critic Charles Isherwood offers a review of this latest production from Roundabout Underground, now in its ninth season of nurturing and presenting new artists to New York audiences.
10/14/20152 minutes, 41 seconds
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Returning the 'Razzle Dazzle' to Broadway

Razzle Dazzle is the jazzy title of a new book about the history of Broadway by Michael Riedel, the New York Post theater columnist and co-host of the show "Theater Talk." The book, which was published this past Monday by Simon and Schuster, concentrates on the near death of Broadway in the 1960s and its gradual recovery. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood joins us to talk about what Riedel suggests were the prime factors in the sagging fortunes of the commercial theater during the '60s. And he asks, how did it begin to recover?
10/7/20152 minutes, 53 seconds
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'Spring Awakening' Returns to Broadway With Deaf and Hearing Cast

The Tony-winning musical "Spring Awakening," a coming-of-age musical about teenagers and sex, has returned to Broadway. The original production of the musical by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik closed only in 2009, and thus might seem to be making an unusually quick return. However, the new production on stage at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre takes a very novel approach. It’s from the Los Angeles-based company Deaf West Theatre and the cast features a mixture of hearing and deaf actors. Casting deaf actors in a musical may seem like a challenging prospect. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood explains the mechanics of the production and whether or not the show merits its quick return to Broadway.
9/30/20153 minutes, 56 seconds
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Keeping Faith in America

Playwrights Horizons kicks off its fall season with "The Christians," a play by Lucas Hnath about a schism in an evangelical church. In the production, directed by Les Waters, Andrew Garman portrays a pastor who causes an uproar among his flock when he decides that church policy will no longer recognize the existence of a literal hell. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers his review.  “The Christians” can be seen through Oct. 11 at Playwrights Horizons.
9/23/20152 minutes, 34 seconds
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Funny Off Broadway Show Shakes Off the Summer

The new Off Broadway show "The Legend of Georgia McBride" by Matthew Lopez is a comedy about a young Elvis impersonator named Casey who’s barely making a living performing in a Florida Panhandle bar. With an empty bank account and pregnant wife, during the course of the play Casey makes a rather surprising career switch from struggling Elvis impersonator to successful drag queen. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us know if "The Legend of Georgia McBride" is something to get all shook up about. The MCC Theater production directed by Mike Donahue with choreography by Paul McGill runs through Oct. 11 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre.
9/16/20152 minutes, 42 seconds
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A Fall Theater Preview

Labor Day, the semi-official end to the summer, is now in the rearview mirror. Which means that theater-watchers will be eagerly getting ready for the fall season. Broadway already has seen one smash musical open, the hotter-than-hot ticket “Hamilton,” but there’s much more to come, both on Broadway and Off. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood takes a look at the new fall crop of shows and suggests some highlights.
9/9/20153 minutes, 26 seconds
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A Bond Formed Behind Bars

A new Off Broadway play by Sherie Rene Scott and Dick Scanlan tells the semi-autobiographical account of their experiences working with prison inmates. The play's unusual title — "Whorl Inside a Loop" — refers to a particular fingerprint pattern. Scott also stars in the play as a well-regarded actress who agrees to teach six inmates how to tell their stories behind the bars of a men's maximum security prison. Sharing intimate and sometimes hilarious details of their former lives, this unlikely group forms a bond. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers his review.
9/2/20153 minutes, 23 seconds
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It’s Not That Easy to Give It All Away

The latest play from the prolific A.R. Gurney comes with a forthright title, "Love & Money." The Signature Theater Company production features Maureen Anderman as the wealthy, elderly Cornelia Cunningham, who has decided to give away her entire fortune to charity, at least until an unexpected visitor arrives. As the work of divesting herself of the money continues —with good intentions — complications arrive in the form of a young man who is — or at least, claims to be — the woman’s grandson. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers his thoughts on "Love & Money," directed by Mark Lamos. The Signature Theater Company production runs through Oct. 4 at the Pershing Square Signature Center.
8/26/20152 minutes, 36 seconds
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The Haunting Intimacy of 'John'

Annie Baker won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014 for her play "The Flick," which has been restaged this summer at the Barrow Street Theatre. But Baker also has a new play concurrently on the boards called simply "John," and presented by the Signature Theatre Company. The drama tells the story of a young couple with relationship problems who the week after Thanksgiving pay a visit to a rather odd bed and breakfast in Gettysburg, Penn. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us know if "John" is worth the trip to the theater. The production plays through Sept. 6 at the Pershing Square Signature Center.
8/19/20152 minutes, 40 seconds
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Shakespeare's 'Cymbeline' Comes to Central Park

The Public Theater’s second free Shakespeare in the Park presentation this summer is the late romance “Cymbeline,” a twisty tale of duplicity and betrayal directed by Daniel Sullivan. The cast features Shakespeare in the Park regulars Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater as young newlyweds separated by the titular king and his conniving queen. The convoluted "Cymbeline" plot involves, among other things, a headless corpse, a beautiful heroine who fools everyone into thinking she’s a boy simply by putting on a boy’s clothes and Jupiter flying in and out of the action on an eagle’s back. The play has been in and out of fashion over the years, with many detractors over the last century or so. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood has seen several productions, so he has a sense of perspective to offer as he evaluates Shakespeare in the Park’s "Cymbeline" at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.
8/12/20152 minutes, 35 seconds
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The Historical Irony of 'Amazing Grace'

The story behind one of the best-known hymns in the English language is the subject of the new Broadway musical "Amazing Grace." The show tells the story of the man who wrote, “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.” John Newton worked in the English slave trade before changing his ways and becoming a spokesman for abolition in Great Britain — and a hymn writer. The production at the Nederlander Theatre features a score by Christopher Smith, a newcomer to musical theater, and a book by Smith and Arthur Giron.  New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood reviews it in this conversation.
8/5/20152 minutes, 51 seconds
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Looking For Love In All the Wrong Places

The young playwright Joshua Harmon made a splash with his comedy “Bad Jews” in 2012, which was initially presented at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s black-box theater and was later produced at its larger Laura Pels Theatre. The play not only got great reviews, it also received productions at numerous regional theaters around the country. Now Roundabout is mounting another Harmon play, “Significant Other,” a romantic comedy about a gay man in his 20s watching his female friends pair up around him as he remains single and a little lonely. It stars Gideon Glick and is directed by Trip Cullman. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood explains why Harmon’s new work is good summer entertainment.
6/24/20152 minutes, 37 seconds
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A Midsummer Night’s No-Sex Comedy

Even when everybody knows what’s planned, you can never be sure of what will actually happen when friends get together. In Bruce Norris's new play “The Qualms,” what’s supposed to be a quiet evening of dinner, drinks and what used to be called “swinging” doesn’t go as expected. It’s a barbecue with a side of sexual dallying among four couples. Norris’s comedy, directed by Pam MacKinnon, is running at Playwrights Horizons through July 12. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us in on the story and the performances.
6/17/20152 minutes, 43 seconds
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The Tonys Report 2015

The 2015 Tony Awards ceremony was Sunday night at Radio City Music Hall. The new musical "Fun Home" had the most fun, winning awards for Best Musical, Book, Score, Leading Actor and Director. "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" was named Best New Play. As the statuettes were being handed out, New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood was keeping track — not only of the winners, but also of the nominees who he thought should have won. Isherwood shares his list, as well as a few thoughts on the telecast itself.
6/10/20153 minutes, 45 seconds
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The Almighty Jim Parsons

An awkward sweetness and a laconic wit are qualities the actor Jim Parsons wields with Emmy Award-winning skill in his role as Sheldon Cooper on the television series “The Big Bang Theory.” Those are not, however, characteristics we usually associate with the Creator of the Universe. And yet, there on the Broadway stage is Parsons in the title role of “An Act of God,” a new show written by David Javerbaum and directed by Joe Mantello. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us in on the idea behind this act and even a couple of new commandments being issued to audiences at Studio 54.
6/3/20153 minutes, 20 seconds
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'The Flick' Shines Again

A quiet play about a group of people working in a run-down Massachusetts movie theater is getting its second New York City production. Annie Baker’s “The Flick” might be quiet onstage, but it has made noise in the theater world, winning the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It was first produced at Playwrights Horizons in 2013. Now the play has been remounted in a Off Broadway production at the Barrow Street Theatre, with the original cast intact and the same director, Sam Gold, at the helm.  How has the mix of old and new elements altered New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood’s impression? He tells us.
5/27/20153 minutes, 56 seconds
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Competition for The Bard and The Tony

A show that can take on both Shakespeare and a group of Tony nominees sounds like a wonder and “Something Rotten” appears to be just that. The new musical has racked up an impressive 10 Tony Award nominations recently, including one for best musical. Set in the theater world of Elizabethan England and directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, it’s the story of two brothers, Nick and Nigel Bottom, whose company is in desperate need of a hit to counter the overwhelming success of their chief rival, William Shakespeare. They concoct a crazy plan to sing and dance at the same time on stage — in other words, they’ve dreamed up the idea of the Broadway musical. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us know if the show deserves the accolades it’s already received.
5/6/20153 minutes, 31 seconds
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A Beautiful Gershwin Broadway Ballet

Broadway has been going to the movies for so long now that it’s almost surprising that the beloved 1951 movie-musical “An American in Paris” has only now been turned into a stage show. The man who finally undertook the challenge of brining the Gene Kelly-Leslie Caron romance to the stage is the internationally acclaimed ballet choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. He created the dances and directs the new production, which this week earned 12 Tony Award nominations, including best new musical. The film "An American in Paris" celebrated the City of Light, but even more so the music of George Gershwin. His songs were integrated into Alan Jay Lerner’s story about an American ex-patriate, played by Kelly, and his romance with a Parisian woman, played by Caron. The climactic dance scene was scored to the Gershwin concert work for which the picture was named. The film won seven Oscars, including an honorary one for Kelly. Now, given Wheeldon’s presence, one might assume that this stage version is a dance-driven production. Is it a ballet on Broadway, a Broadway musical, or something in between? Wheeldon is a former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and most of the dancers come from the ballet world, too, including the leads, Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope, who get to do something rarely required of ballet artists — they sing. The playwright Craig Lucas has adapted the original screenplay by Lerner.   New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood visits this week to say if the stage version swings — and sings.
4/29/20153 minutes, 43 seconds
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'Gigi' Takes Broadway, Again

The 1958 movie musical “Gigi,” about a young woman being groomed for a life as a courtesan, won an impressive nine Oscars, including Best Picture. But a 1973 theatrical production did not enjoy similar success. Now a new lavish stage version has opened on Broadway. Directed by Eric Schaeffer, it stars Vanessa Hudgens, best known for the “High School Musical” franchise. This production features a newly adapted book by Heidi Thomas, which has been revised since its first, brief, appearance on Broadway. Along with it come all the Lerner & Lowe songs made famous in the movie, including “The Night They Invented Champagne,” “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” and “I Remember It Well.” New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood assesses the latest “Gigi," playing at the Neil Simon Theatre.
4/22/20152 minutes, 43 seconds
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'Buzzer' Confronts Neighborhood Dynamics in Brooklyn

Social scientists tell us that relocating and setting up a new home is one of life’s big stresses. So the pressure is really on when a young, upwardly mobile black man moves back to his old Brooklyn neighborhood, bringing his white girlfriend with him. Add a little more tension when the man’s former schoolmate, fresh out of rehab, arrives to crash on the couch for a while. It can push a relationship to the breaking point. Love, fear and privilege are topics explored in playwright Tracey Scott Wilson’s new Off Broadway play “Buzzer,” directed by Anne Kauffman and now running at the Public Theater. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood shares his review.
4/15/20152 minutes, 32 seconds
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The Not-For-Tourists Dark Comedy 'Hand to God' Opens on Broadway

Robert Askins’s dark comedy Hand to God has already had two productions Off Broadway, at Ensemble Studio Theatre and MCC Theater. Now it’s making the leap to the big time, opening on Broadway’s Booth Theatre in the thick of the spring season. The show stars Steven Boyer as a troubled, but good-hearted teenage boy whose alter ego, an evil hand puppet named Tyrone, gradually wreaks havoc on his life. It’s pretty unusual for a play to have three separate New York runs. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us in on what makes Hand to God so special — and so funny.
4/8/20152 minutes, 50 seconds
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Off Broadway, Silence Is Golden

The spring theater season is traditionally dominated by Broadway openings, as the deadline for Tony awards considerations arrives at the end of April. But Off Broadway doesn’t go into hibernation. Ars Nova, a small theater dedicated to new writing, has a hit on its hands with its latest show, Small Mouth Sounds, written by Bess Wohl and directed by Rachel Chavkin. The play is set at a weeklong silent spiritual retreat — which would seem to pose a dialogue challenge. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood answer the question: Do the characters break their vow of silence or is this an unusually quiet play?
4/1/20153 minutes, 35 seconds
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Still <em>Heidi</em> After All These Years

The late Wendy Wasserstein hit the playwright’s jackpot in 1989, when The Heidi Chronicles took home the Tony Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Drama Desk and New York Critic’s Circle Awards for best new play. Wasserstein’s tale of a New York City woman looking for love, but ultimately making her life — and even having a child — without a male partner, resonated with many women struggling over their life and career choices at the time. But that was more than a quarter-century ago. Now the play is being given its first Broadway revival in a new production starring Elisabeth Moss of “Mad Men” fame. The new production at the at the Music Box Theatre is directed by Pam MacKinnon and also features Bryce Pinkham and Jason Biggs as the men in and out of the heroine’s life. So, is the story relevant to a new generation and are the jokes still funny? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood answers those questions and explains how Moss puts a new spin on the title role.
3/25/20152 minutes, 54 seconds
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Larry David on Broadway

Larry David was one of the masterminds behind the megahit sitcom “Seinfield,” but since then he’s become better known for playing a version of himself in the HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Now he’s on Broadway in Fish in the Dark, which he wrote and stars in, alongside a cast that includes Rita Wilson, Ben Schenkman and Rosie Perez. You might be wondering if the Larry David you know from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is the guy you’re going to see on Broadway. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood answers that question, and a few others.  Directed by Anna D. Shapiro, Fish in the Dark continues through June 7 at the Cort Theatre.
3/18/20153 minutes, 20 seconds
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Queen Elizabeth Comes to Broadway

Helen Mirren won an Oscar for portraying Queen Elizabeth II in the 2006 movie “The Queen.” Now she picks up the famous handbag again in the play The Audience, written by Peter Morgan, who also wrote “The Queen,” and directed by Stephen Daldry. The play, originally seen in London's West End, depicts the Queen in her weekly meetings with various prime ministers, including Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Harold Wilson and David Cameron. The Audience is on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre through June 28.
3/11/20153 minutes, 26 seconds
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A Radiant Darkness in Brooklyn

If you’ve been in a dive bar in New York, or anywhere else, just those simple words are enough to conjure the bleak decor, the smell of stale drink and something more. Eugene O’Neill’s 1939 play, The Iceman Cometh, takes place in a dive bar filled with broken people, and their broken dreams, who are the unseen props that fill the stage. The play makes only rare appearances on stage, this is in-part because of its extensive length. The four acts stretch across more than four hours. But the Brooklyn Academy of Music is currently hosting a production from Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. The play stars Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy. Dennehy is an old hand at playing O’Neill characters, but Lane, one of New York’s great comic actors, might be a surprising casting choice. New York Times theater critc Charles Isherwood has visited this bleak O’Neill world and he shares his view of the production and also suggests why spending time in O’Neill’s world is worthwhile. The Iceman Cometh is at BAM's Harvey Theater through March 15.
2/18/20153 minutes, 43 seconds
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A Musical About the Other Hollywood

A new production from The Civilians, a journalistic theater company, is called Pretty Filthy and is an exploration of the pornography industry centered in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. The Civilians use words of ordinary people — in this case, people who work in porn — so the story is told with less concern for poetry than for verity. And, oh yes, it’s a musical, too. The show, directed by Steve Cosson, features songs by the Civilians’ in-house composer Michael Friedman, and a book by Bess Wohl. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us know if Pretty Filthy is worth seeing in, shall we say, the flesh.
2/11/20153 minutes, 20 seconds
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A Real Housewife of Russia, Ivan Turgenev Edition

Decades before Anton Chekhov’s plays about the struggles of existence among ostensibly successful and wealthy Russians, Ivan Turgenev wrote A Month in the Country, a play that contains many elements of Chekhov’s more famous works. There’s a bored, young wife on a country estate and men who orbit her in varying degrees of attraction and repulsion. The play has been given a rare revival this season by the Classic Stage Company. The production features two stars currently appearing in popular television shows: Taylor Schilling from “Orange Is the New Black” and Peter Dinklage from “Game of Thrones.” New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood shares his thoughts on this classic 19th century play as produced with actors of 21st century fame.
2/4/20153 minutes, 24 seconds
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Bloody Terrific

"Boy meets girl” is a fine start for so many stories, including Let the Right One In, a play adapted by Jack Thorne and based on the Swedish novel and film of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist. But when the boy is an adolescent misfit and the girl is a vampire, the consequences of their encounter are likely to be farther-reaching than those in a human-to-human hookup. No less than three other Broadway musicals have been vampire-based, although all three of them proved to be somewhat less than immortal. This one is directed by John Tiffany, known for the musical Once. How does this "boy meets girl" relationship begin, how does this vampire make her way in the world of mortals? And — more important for us theatergoers — is this vampire tale going to leave us bewitched or simply benumbed? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood clues us in. The National Theatre of Scotland production of Let the Right One In runs through Feb. 15 at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn.
1/28/20153 minutes, 2 seconds
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Boy Meets Girl, to Infinity and Beyond

What can happen when two people meet? The possibilities are endless, but every relationship winds up following a single path, better known as “what actually happened.” But what about all of those alternative possibilities, the relationship roads not taken, the places the relationship might have gone? We see some of those alternative realities in Nick Payne’s 2012 play, Constellations, now in its Broadway debut at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Relativity, quantum mechanics and string theory are involved in this story — both in the play’s underpinnings and in the words spoken onstage by actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson. So there are stars of several kinds in Constellations; New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood tells us if they shine brightly enough for Broadway.
1/21/20153 minutes, 25 seconds
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Songs Trace a Path Through the Past

Courtney Love, a famous rock widow and an actor and rock star in her own right, is making a low-key return to performing in the new musical theater piece Kansas City Choir Boy at HERE Arts Center, as part of the Prototype Festival of new opera and musical theater works. The music and lyrics performed in the show are written by Todd Almond, who plays the other leading role in a story that looks back on a relationship, which is permanently ended. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood gives his review. Hear a song from the musical:
1/14/20153 minutes, 15 seconds
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A Very Important List

Every Brilliant Thing is a one-man show that features a large supporting cast. The show's other big self-contradictory element is its exploration of the impenetrable sadness of depression through things that uplift us, specifically, a list of things that make life worth living. This mildly immersive show is written by Duncan Macmillan, directed by George Perrin and features a sole performer, Jonny Donahoe. But Donahoe conscripts numerous members of the audience to play minor or sometimes major roles in the play. Every Brilliant Thing was a hit at the Edinburgh Festival and now North American audiences are getting their first chance to see it in an Off-Broadway production at the Barrow Street Theater. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood looks for the brilliance in Every Brilliant Thing and shares what he finds.
1/7/20153 minutes, 34 seconds
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A Look at the London Theater Scene

The New York Times recently sent theater critic Charles Isherwood on a trip to London, where he saw Shakespeare, quasi-Shakespeare and Kristin Scott Thomas onstage. While there, Isherwood took note of the theatrical import-export balance between Broadway and the West End. • Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins at the Menier Chocolate Factory. • Shakespeare's Henry IV at the Donmar Warehouse. • Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III at the Wyndham's Theatre. • David Hare's Behind the Beautiful Forevers at the National Theatre. • Sophocles's Electra at the Old Vic Theatre.
12/24/20143 minutes, 47 seconds
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<em>The Illusionists</em> Make Broadway Magic

Theatrical magic acts have a long, long tradition in the world of entertainment. With a name that pays homage to earlier forms of stage trickery, The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible is a slickly packaged production of seven professional prestidigitators, all of whom appear – and perhaps occasionally disappear – on the stage of the Marriott Marquis Theater. Without giving away any secrets of this family oriented presentation, New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us know if you should or should not make an appearance at the box office for The Illusionists.
12/17/20142 minutes, 57 seconds
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Life on an Alien World That's Ours

In 2003, Mark Haddon wrote a well-received novel about a 15-year-old boy solving a mystery that's become a literary staple. But “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is atypical of the boy-detective form because the boy in Haddon’s novel is atypical. He has autism and experiences the world in a markedly different way from most of us, possessing, among other qualities, a keen visual sense and an aversion to being touched, in addition to the usual challenges of adolescence. Haddon’s novel is now a stage show of the same name adapted by Simon Stephens and imported from London’s National Theater. It's running on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theater and directed by Marianne Elliott. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers his thoughts on how effectively the story has been translated to the stage and on Alex Sharpe, the young actor straight out of Juilliard who is making his Broadway debut in this production.
12/10/20143 minutes, 32 seconds
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A Rodgers and Hammerstein Experiment is Revived

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were riding high in 1947 on the successes of Oklahoma! and Carousel. For their next show they tried something with a Greek chorus and a stage with no sets and few props. The subject matter was unusual, too, a man whose story ends with him in a state of existential confusion. The show, Allegro, was not a hit. But now, director John Doyle has revived Allegro in a production for Classic Stage Company. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood considers why Allegro didn’t work then, how well it works now and what its contributions are to the evolution of American musical theater.
12/3/20143 minutes, 57 seconds
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Albee's <em>A Delicate Balance</em> Returns to Broadway

Edward Albee’s 1966 play A Delicate Balance won him the first of his three Pulitzer Prizes. It has become one of his most highly regarded and frequently produced works, and returns for its third run on Broadway with one of the season’s starriest casts.  Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy were the stars of the original production. George Grizzard and Rosemary Harris played the lead couple in the well-regarded revival in 1996. Now, as the play nears its 50th anniversary, John Lithgow and Glenn Close are the couple whose well-appointed suburban home takes in an alcoholic sister (Lindsay Duncan), a wounded daughter (Martha Plimpton) and friends (Clare Higgins and Bob Balaban), who bring with them an unknown fear. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood — without fear — considers the play and its new cast. The production, directed by Pam MacKinnon, runs through February at the John Golden Theatre.
11/26/20142 minutes, 41 seconds
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<em>Side Show</em> Out in Front, Again

A musical that spent just a few months on Broadway in 1997 has been re-tooled and returned to the Great White Way. Side Show is based on the lives of Daisy and Violet Hilton, conjoined twins born in Britain in 1908, who became famous on the vaudeville and sideshow circuit there and in the United States in the 1930s. The new production is directed by film veteran Bill Condon (“Gods &amp; Monsters” and “Dreamgirls”). Erin Davie and Emily Padgett star as Violet and Daisy, respectively. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood had a front row seat at the St. James Theatre for Side Show, and lets us in on the musical’s new angles.
11/19/20143 minutes, 8 seconds
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<em>The Last Ship</em> Sails Onto Broadway

On Broadway right now at the Neil Simon Theatre is The Last Ship, which might as well be called The Sting Musical, since the pop superstar has contributed not only music and lyrics, but most of the pre-launch publicity. The story is based on the world Sting knew growing up in an English seaside town where life revolved around the local shipyard. The book is by John Logan, author of the Tony-winning play Red, and Brian Yorkey, co-author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal. Joe Mantello, the veteran director whose Wicked has run for more than a decade on Broadway, is at the helm. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers his impressions of The Last Ship and its prospects for smooth sailing on Broadway.
11/12/20142 minutes, 54 seconds
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Broadway Graced by <em>Disgraced</em>

A short Off-Broadway run in 2012 was New York’s introduction to Disgraced. Novelist and screenwriter Ayad Akhtar’s drama is about the stresses placed on an American Muslim man struggling to resolve conflicting world views within himself and among his family and friends. The play now returns to New York, this time on Broadway and with bigger credentials, too, as a 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner. Director Kimberly Senior, who oversaw the play’s original Chicago production and the first New York presentation, is still at the helm, but there are changes in the cast. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood, who saw Disgraced Off-Broadway, reflects on the play’s move to the Lyceum Theatre, the differences made by changes in the cast and the tendency of very topical shows such as this to lose their edge as time passes.
11/5/20143 minutes, 2 seconds
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All-Star Cast Makes <em>It's Only a Play</em> a Hot Ticket

The hottest-selling show on Broadway this fall is, surprisingly, not a musical. Instead, it’s the revival of Terrence McNally’s 1982 comedy It’s Only a Play, set in a theater producer’s lavish New York apartment where a group of onstage and offstage principals anticipate the reviews after opening night. The reason for It's Only a Play's current ticket craze is the virtually all-star cast: Matthew Broderick is the playwright; Nathan Lane is his best friend; Rupert Grint is the genius director; Megan Mullally is the novice producer; Stockard Channing is the addled leading lady; and F. Murray Abraham is the dreaded newspaper critic. In-real-life New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers his review of how these stars fare in this revival and if updating the script with contemporary pop culture references changes the humor . Directed by Jack O’Brien, It's Only a Play runs through Jan. 4, 2015, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater.
10/15/20143 minutes, 32 seconds
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Real Life Political Theater Put on Stage

To say that Tail! Spin! is true to life might be a bit of an understatement. Mario Correa’s play uses words taken from the public record to tell the sex-scandal stories of four politicians: Anthony Weiner, Mark Sanford, Larry Craig and Mark Foley. The four men are played by different actors, but all the women — “wives, tails, beards and Barbara Walters,” as the show’s website puts it — are played by former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Rachel Dratch. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood reviews the performances and reflects on what we might learn from seeing political scandal put on stage. Directed by Dan Knechtges, Tail! Spin! runs through Nov. 30 at the Lynn Redgrave Theater at Culture Project. Also, Isherwood offers a few thoughts on one of the most distinctive and distinguished women of the theater, Marian Seldes, who died Monday at age 86.
10/8/20143 minutes, 58 seconds
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An Over-Stuffed Steve Martin Musical

Steve Martin has quite a resume: comic, actor, writer, art collector, banjo player and now, musical book writer and musical theater co-creator. Martin and his collaborator, singer-songwriter Edie Brickell, have written the new show Bright Star, in which we see the lives of two people from the perspective of a couple of different decades in their lives. Martin wrote the book, Brickell the lyrics, and they worked together on the songs. The music is flavored by the bluegrass sound that has been one of Martin’s passions for years and is appropriate to the show’s setting, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. What’s bright about Bright Star and what are its chances of moving to Broadway from its debut home, the Globe Theater in San Diego? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood traveled to the West Coast to find out.
10/1/20143 minutes, 26 seconds
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<em>Love Letters</em>, It’s All in the Words

In the late 1980s, A.R. Gurney created an unusual play consisting only of a long correspondence between two people. But that play, Love Letters, has endured and has been seen in innumerable regional and amateur theater productions. Perhaps that’s because it’s easy to produce: no chorus lines, no costumes, no need for a balcony or a staircase on the stage set. The text is the lifelong correspondence between a man and woman of the East Coast upper crust and it is read by the actors on a bare stage rather than performed. But perhaps, slight as the work is by some measures, its words are enough to compensate for what it otherwise does not have. Now this durable play has come to Broadway in a production directed by Gregory Mosher and featuring a rotating cast of stars. Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow are the first two performers to kick off the run at the Brooks Atkinson Theater. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers his review.
9/24/20143 minutes, 16 seconds
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New Surreal Comedy Explores Being Black and Gay in America

Playwrights Horizons, a New York theater company with a mission devoted to supporting works by American writers, has opened its new season with a bold new play. Bootycandy, written and directed by Robert O’Hara, is a surreal and sexually explicit comedy about growing up black and gay in America. Philip James Brandon stars as Sutter, who grows from boy to man to budding playwright in the course of the play. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers a review of the play, its cast (who play multiple roles), and the risks of a play being directed by its author. Performances of Bootycandy continue through Oct. 12 in the Mainstage Theater at Playwrights Horizons. Because of the explicit language and situations in the play, the company recommends the production be seen by people 17 and older.
9/17/20143 minutes, 21 seconds
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If These Walls Could Talk

The prolific A.R. Gurney is among the playwrights in residence at the Signature Theatre Company this year. The first of three Gurney plays to be presented is a revival of his 1977 play The Wayside Motor Inn, in which 10 characters dealing with various life crises all check in to the same motel outside Boston. The production is directed by Lila Neugebauer. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers his impressions on this slice-of-life play and on the characters whose paths intersect in it.
9/10/20143 minutes, 4 seconds
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Fall Theater Previews and Picks

New York City’s new theater season is a great way to cure those end-of-summer blues. There are plenty of revivals and a few choice new offerings. There are musicals and straight plays. There are star-filled casts and productions in which the play’s the thing. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood suggests a few — well, more than a few — shows that are likely to pique the interests of Broadway and Off-Broadway patrons. Charles Isherwood's Top Fall Theater Picks: • A Delicate Balance • Disgraced • Side Show
9/3/20143 minutes, 49 seconds
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<em>The Great Society</em> Continues the Examination of LBJ's Presidency

Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way, this year’s Tony winner for best play and for its leading actor, Bryan Cranston, was a hefty drama about Lyndon Johnson and the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. But, in fact, it was only half the story: The Great Society is the name of Schenkkan’s sequel. The new play made its world premiere this summer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and will be seen this fall, alongside All the Way, at the Seattle Repertory Theater. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood traveled to Ashland, Ore., to see the new production that focuses on LBJ's administration from 1965-1968.
8/27/20143 minutes, 19 seconds
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Midsummer Theater Doesn't Slow Down at Canada's Stratford Festival

Summer is the slow season for Broadway, with few shows opening between the Tony Awards in June and the fall season kickoff in September. But it’s high season for theater festivals. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood made a trip to the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, one of the largest festivals in North America. The Stratford Festival runs from May until October and features revivals of classic musicals and other fare, plus several Shakespeare productions, including this year two very different productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
8/20/20143 minutes, 16 seconds
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Sex With Strangers In the Digital Age

The nature of intimacy is one of the themes of Laura Eason’s new play Sex With Strangers, in which two writers first get busy and then get to know each other. Olivia is played by Anna Gunn, best-known for her portrayal of Skyler White on the AMC series “Breaking Bad.” Ethan is played by Billy Magnussen, a Tony Award nominee for his portrayal of the last of the four title characters in Vanya, Sonya, Masha, and Spike. There’s also a notable name behind the scene — the director is David Schwimmer, most recognizable from the TV show "Friends." What are the post-passion revelations these two share with each other and with the audience? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood takes a look. Sex With Strangers runs through Aug. 24 at Second Stage Theatre.
8/13/20142 minutes, 47 seconds
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This Beauty Contest is a Drag

Your usual beauty contest features a lot of the same elements as this Off-Broadway musical making its return — lots of makeup, form-fitting costumes, noble speeches of rehearsed sincerity, and musical performances. The significant difference in Pageant is what lies beneath; the hyper-feminine contestants are all men. They're vying for the title of Miss Glamouresse and members of the audience help select the winner. Pageant, directed by Matt Lenz with book and lyrics by Bill Russell and Frank Kelly and music by Albert Evans, is a beauty contest send-up in drag. It was first seen Off-Broadway in 1991, and nearly a quarter-century later, it’s back with a few updates. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood has seen the new production from and lets us know if Pageant is showing any signs of aging. The show runs through Sept. 21 at the Davenport Theatre.
8/6/20142 minutes, 23 seconds
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Trophy Wife Trouble in Texas

Lili is young, beautiful and married to South Texas magnate Alberto, who never appears on stage in the new Off-Broadway play Mala Herbia by Tanya Saracho, who writes for the HBO series “Looking” and “Girls.” Those who are on stage in this story of a troubled Mexican-American trophy wife include Lili’s housekeeper, stepdaughter by one of Alberto’s earlier marriages and Lili's former lover, Mari. In spite of her name, Lili is the ostensible weed referred to in the play’s Spanish title, but she may not be the most noxious among those planted on stage. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers his thoughts on Mala Hierba, presented as part of Second Stage Theatre’s Uptown summer season. The play is directed by Jerry Ruiz.
7/30/20142 minutes, 41 seconds
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A Mother's Life Told by Her Daughter in Music

Classical pianist Mona Golabek is a winner of the Young Concert Artists International Auditions and a recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant. She is also now a stage performer, telling the story of her mother’s life in the one-woman show The Pianist of Willesden Lane, now playing at 59E59 Theaters. Golabek’s mother, Lisa Jura, was one of the children sent from Nazi-occupied Europe to England on what is known as the Kindertransport. Although Golabek is the only person on stage, she has an ally to help tell her mother’s story: a grand piano, which Golabek plays throughout the show. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers a review of The Pianist of Willesden Lane, adapted and directed by Hershey Felder.
7/23/20142 minutes, 55 seconds
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<em>Brigadoon</em>, Awakened Once Again

The title of Brigadoon, the 1947 musical by Lerner and Lowe, refers to a mythical Scottish town that appears for only a single day every 100 years. Though not quite as seldom seen as the town, Brigadoon the musical — the first hit by the team that later created the legendary shows My Fair Lady and Camelot — hasn’t had a Broadway revival in more than three decades. But it has been given a big new production, now extended through Aug. 17, at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. The show is directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell with a revised book by Brian Hill. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood went to see it and lets us know whether Brigadoon — the show — deserves to be so elusive.
7/16/20143 minutes, 18 seconds
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A Look Back at Burgeoning Feminism

Cherry Jones, who won acclaim for her portrayal of Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie on Broadway this past fall, has made a quick return to the New York stage. She’s starring in a new play, When We Were Young and Unafraid, by Sarah Treem, a writer for the Netflix series "House Of Cards." When We Were Young and Unafraid explores feminist themes, forcing the audience’s perspective by setting the story in 1972, the year before the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade. Jones plays a woman who runs a bed-and-breakfast as the cover for an ad-hoc shelter for battered women. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood considers the converging characters and plotlines in this Manhattan Theatre Club production, directed by Pam McKinnon. Performances continue through Aug. 10 at New York City Center Stage 1.
7/9/20143 minutes, 21 seconds
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A Singer-Songwriter's Coming-of-Age Story in Song

Benjamin Scheuer is a New York City singer-songwriter and the star — in fact, the only performer — in a new Manhattan Theater Company production called The Lion directed by Sean Daniels. In this autobiographical show, Scheuer, who’s just 32, reflects on the ups and downs of a fairly turbulent life as told through story and song. Has Scheuer already accumulated an evening’s worth of life experiences to share with an audience and has he got enough stage presence to keep us engaged? And who is this Lion, anyway? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood visited New York City Center Stage II to find out. 
7/2/20142 minutes, 30 seconds
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The '90s Jukebox Sounds Different

Broadway's latest jukebox musical — a show built around pre-existing songs — is a new twist on this now-familiar theatrical form. Holler If Ya Hear Me is inspired by music of the late rap star Tupac Shakur. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood discusses the show, its source material, the fictional story created to support the music and the challenges of turning a highly theatrical music form into actual theater. Holler If Ya Hear Me, which features more than a dozen of Shakur's songs and some of his poetry, was written Todd Kreidler and is directed by Kenny Leon, who just won a Tony for the revival of A Raisin in the Sun. It's now playing at the Palace Theater.
6/25/20143 minutes, 23 seconds
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<em>The Who &amp; the What</em> Examines Family and Faith

The playwright Ayad Akhtar won the Pulitzer Prize last year for his breakthrough play Disgraced, about the clash between traditional Islamic beliefs and contemporary American culture. He returns to similar themes in his new play The Who &amp; the What, which is being presented by Lincoln Center Theater as part of its LCT3 series at the Claire Tow Theater. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers up his review of the play, which follows the conflicts that erupt in a Pakistani-American family living in Atlanta.
6/18/20143 minutes, 13 seconds
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Kenneth Branagh Makes New York Stage Debut in <em>Macbeth</em>

If the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth need a lot of space to cook up their double helping of toil and trouble, they've got it at the Park Avenue Armory. That’s where the latest New York staging of Macbeth is being presented. The lavish and action-packed production is a joint effort between the Armory and the Manchester International Festival. It is also the New York stage debut of acclaimed actor and director Kenneth Branagh, who takes the title role (he is co-director here, with Rob Ashford). So, with plenty of room for not only prophesying witches but battles, murder and intrigue, how does this Shakespeare production come off? We have a report from New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood.
6/11/20143 minutes, 33 seconds
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Jim Dale's Showbiz Story

The versatile actor Jim Dale takes the stage solo in his new show, aptly and modestly entitled Just Jim Dale. Accompanied by the pianist Mark York, the show, directed by Richard Maltby Jr., is an autobiography in song, story and even a little dance. It plays at the Roundabout Theatre Company's Laura Pels Theater. Many Broadway watchers know Dale from his starring roles in the 1980s in the musicals Barnum and Me and My Girl, among others. But his career stretches a lot farther back than that. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood talks about when the showbiz bug bit for Dale, as well as his modest success in the 1960s as a pop songwriter and if those songs make it into the show.
6/4/20142 minutes, 56 seconds
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<em>The Cripple of Inishmaan</em> Comes to Broadway

Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan isn’t even 20-years-old, but the play is already getting its third New York production. The latest does have a couple of special characteristics. The play is being presented for the first time in a Broadway house at the Court Theatre and leading the cast — and, presumably, the tourist-ticket trade — is Daniel Radcliffe, best known as the big screen Harry Potter. So, besides that, what does this production have going for it? Well, a couple of good things, says New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood.
5/28/20142 minutes, 47 seconds
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Woody Allen's <em>Bullets</em> Comes to Broadway

The latest silver-screener to migrate to the Great White Way is Bullets Over Broadway, Woody Allen’s 1994 film about a playwright who becomes entangled with mobsters. The musical-comedy, set in the 1920s, employs hits of the era such as "Let’s Misbehave," and lesser known Tin Pan Alley tunes, and includes a cast of seasoned Broadway performers, as well as TV star Zach Braff. The production is directed and choreographed by the award-winning Susan Stroman. The show has garnered half a dozen Tony Award nominations. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers his analysis of the show’s strengths and weaknesses.
5/7/20143 minutes, 10 seconds
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Talking Tony Nominations

Nominations for the 68th annual Tony Awards were announced Tuesday, with tough competition in several categories. For instance, Tyne Daly, Cherry Jones and Audra McDonald are among the nominees for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play; Sutton Foster, Idina Menzel and Kelly O'Hara are all nominated for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical.  Leading the nominations list is the musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, which earned 10 Tony nods. Hedwig and the Angry Inch staring Neil Patrick Harris, is next with eight nominations. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood suggests some likely winners, considers who got snubbed and takes note of the Broadway season as reflected in the nominees list. The Tony Awards will be given out on June 8 at Radio City Music Hall in a ceremony hosted by Hugh Jackman and broadcast on CBS. More from WQXR and WNYC about the nominated productions: A Gentleman's Guide to Love &amp; Murder on Around Broadway and The Leonard Lopate Show. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (preview) on Souncheck. After Midnight on Around Broadway. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Around Broadway and The Leonard Lopate Show. The Glass Menagerie on The Leonard Lopate Show. Twelfth Night on The Leonard Lopate Show Bullets Over Broadway an Inside Look in The Greene Space. The Cripple of Inishmaan on NPR. Aladdin on Around Broadway. A Raisin in the Sun an Inside Look in The Greene Space. Casa Valentina an Inside Look in The Greene Space. Machinal on The Leonard Lopate Show. Rocky on Around Broadway. Violet on Around Broadway. Les Misérables on Around Broadway. All The Way on Around Broadway. If/Then on The Leonard Lopate Show and an Inside Look in The Greene Space. Lady Day at Emerson's Bar &amp; Grill on Around Broadway. Mothers and Sons on The Leonard Lopate Show. Of Mice and Men on NPR. A Night with Janis Joplin on Around Broadway. Outside Mullingar on Around Broadway and The Leonard Lopate Show. Richard III on The Leonard Lopate Show.
4/30/20143 minutes, 15 seconds
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<em>Violet</em> Blooms on Broadway

The Off-Broadway musical Violet has found new life on Broadway in a revival by the Roundabout Theater Company. Directed by Leigh Silverman, the production features Broadway star Sutton Foster. The Tony-winning Foster is best known for bringing verve and sparkle to Thoroughly Modern Millie and Anything Goes. Based on a short story by Doris Betts called "The Ugliest Pilgrim," Jeanine Tesori wrote the music and book and lyrics are by Brian Crawley. So what makes this the right time to replant Violet on Broadway? And how has the show changed from its first production and recent City Center Encores revival? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood gives his assessment.
4/23/20143 minutes, 2 seconds
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Audra McDonald is Broadway’s <em>Lady Day</em>

One of the most celebrated voices of our era meets one of the most distinctive voices of an earlier era. Audra McDonald, the five-time Tony-winning singer and actress, becomes the latest performer to channel Billie Holiday in the Broadway revival of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill at Circle in the Square Theater. Written by Lanie Robertson and directed by Lonny Price, we see Holiday performing at a Philadelphia nightclub just a few months before her death in 1959. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood considers the strength of the play, the songs sung within it, and the possibility of McDonald's performance winning her a sixth Tony Award.
4/16/20143 minutes, 35 seconds
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Playwright Will Eno Debuts on Broadway

A star-packed cast — Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts and Marisa Tomei — is assembled for the Broadway debut of a playwright known for “experimental theater.” Will Eno’s previous plays have found audiences Off-Broadway, but his new play, The Realistic Joneses, is his first outing on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre. Directed by Sam Gold, the play is about two couples who meet and confront questions of relationships, life, death and deeper meaning. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood assesses the play, the cast and the prospects of Eno’s distinctive voice finding a Broadway audience willing to listen.
4/9/20143 minutes, 34 seconds
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<em>Les Miserables</em> Returns to Broadway

Les Miz s back. (Did you know it had ever gone away?) The original Cameron Mackintosh theatrical colossus ran for more than 15 years before closing in 2003, then came back for a brief encore in 2006.  Les Miserables returns again with the same producer (Mackintosh), same score (Alain Boublil and Jean-Michel Schönberg) and even the same theater (the Imperial on West 45th Street), but in what is described as a “new production” directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell. After two runs on Broadway, countless school and community theater productions and the Oscar-winning 2012 movie, what, exactly, is new in this production? And who is it for? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood reports.
4/2/20143 minutes, 22 seconds
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Disney's <em>Aladdin</em> Comes to Broadway

The people at Disney Theatrical Group, who produce the company’s live shows, have certainly had a genie in a bottle for the past 20 years, coming up with hit stage musicals based on the films "Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King," "Mary Poppins," "The Little Mermaid" and others. But now they’re letting that genie out: "Aladdin," the 1992 film that featured Robin Williams as the voice of the genie, has joined the ranks of Disney’s screen-to-stage properties. With songs by Alan Mencken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin, a new book by Beguilin and direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin is playing at the New Amsterdam Theater stage, where New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood saw it. Here’s his report.
3/26/20143 minutes, 33 seconds
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Broadway Takes on Stallone's <em>Rocky</em>

Yo, Adrian! I’m on Broadway! It might not be the last movie you ever expected to see turned into a Broadway musical, but it’s probably not one of the first either. Nevertheless, here it is: “Rocky,” the Oscar-winning 1976 movie written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, has now been set to song and dance. The show, with a score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, and a book by Stallone and Thomas Meehan, has been directed by Alex Timbers and stars Andy Karl in the title role. Charles Isherwood had a ringside seat at a recent performance, and tells us if a tune-filled Rocky wins by a knockout or should be sent to the showers.
3/19/20143 minutes, 8 seconds
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Bryan Cranston debuts on Broadway in <em>All the Way</em>

Actor Bryan Cranston’s roles keep getting bigger. He gained fame for his work on the TV sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle,” then went on to even greater acclaim — and three Emmy awards — for his work on the drama “Breaking Bad.” Now he’s making his Broadway debut playing a bigger character than either Malcolm’s father Hal Wilkerson, or the “Breaking Bad” high-school-teacher-cum-meth-dealer, Walter White. In the new play All the Way, Cranston is Lyndon Baines Johnson, president of the United States. It’s the first year of Johnson’s administration, immediately after the assassination of JFK, and he’s working with every political fiber in his being to pass the Civil Rights Act. Written by Robert Schenkkan, All the Way is directed by Bill Rauch and can be seen at the Neil Simon Theatre. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood asks if Cranston measures up to the Johnson Act — that is, playing a real-life character with a well-known exterior and a complicated inner life.
3/12/20143 minutes, 42 seconds
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A Romance Rekindled in <em>Stage Kiss</em>

Sarah Ruhl's new play Stage Kiss follows the antics of two actors who renew an old romance when they appear together in an antique drama from the 1930s. Jessica Hecht and Dominic Fumusa star in the production, which is directed by Rebecca Taichman for Playwrights Horizons. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood tells us the consequences of what happens when actors fall back in love — and life begins to imitate art.
3/5/20143 minutes, 6 seconds
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Bombers on Broadway

A lineup of famous Yankees from several eras past and present are on the same stage in Bronx Bombers, a new play now running at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter are the roster bookends in Robert Simonson's play, which centers on famed catcher Yogi Berra, played by Peter Scolari. The play’s first act is set in 1977, when Berra was a coach with the Yankees. In the second act, the dimension of time is set aside, allowing a meeting of legendary Yankee team members. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us know whether Simonson has hit a theatrical home run or a strikeout with Bronx Bombers.
2/12/20142 minutes, 40 seconds
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<em>Sleep No More</em> Meets Mozart in New Immersive Production

Theater that knocks down the wall between performers and spectators has become a fashionable trend in recent years. Sleep No More, an interactive riff on Macbeth, has been a runaway hit, playing for more than two years in Chelsea. Now the producers of that show have returned with a lavish new immersive spectacle, Queen of the Night, loosely inspired by Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and performed at the newly reconstituted Diamond Horseshoe nightclub beneath the Paramount Hotel. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood considers the production's brand of Mozartian theater.
2/5/20143 minutes, 37 seconds
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The Irish Romance of 'Outside Mullingar'

Two Irish farmers, Anthony and Rosemary, are deeply tied to the land. Because they grew up as neighbors, they also have deep ties to one another, but their personal connections are not all positive. Brian F. O’Byrne and Debra Messing are the two farmers in John Patrick Shanley’s play “Outside Mullingar.” Family events put the two on a collision course – and since this is a romantic comedy written by the author of the film “Moonstruck,” the outcome isn’t much in question. But is that resolution of romantic tension worth the journey? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood tells us more about the play – and answers that question.
1/29/20143 minutes, 24 seconds
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Carole King Comes to Broadway

Carole King is one of the great pop songwriters of the 1960s and '70s. Now, her songs — from early novelties such as “Who Put the Bomp” to intimate, soulful compositions such as “So Far Away” and “A Natural Woman” — are on Broadway in the biographical show Beautiful: the Carole King Musical. The show, at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, stars Jessie Mueller as King, and features a book by Doug McGrath. The director is Marc Bruni. King’s personal story — she started out as Carole Klein from Brooklyn — is told with her songs as signposts along the journey. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us know whether that journey is worth an evening in the theater.
1/22/20142 minutes, 30 seconds
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The Month of Theatrical Experimentation

January is traditionally a lean month for the commercial theater, with tourists leaving and Broadway offering discounts. If you need help climbing out of the winter theater doldrums, New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood suggests you consider some newly minted — as well as more experimental — works being presented in two festivals in New York. Two separate festivals this month bring more than a dozen shows of avant-garde work to the city. The largest is the Public Theater's Under the Radar Festival, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Meanwhile, PS 122 sponsors the COIL festival, which this year is focusing on work from New York City artists.
1/15/20143 minutes, 15 seconds
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Art Imitates Scandal in <em>The Commons of Pensacola</em>

A playwright’s art imitates a financier’s life in a work about the reverberations of corruption and public scandal in The Commons of Pensacola by actress Amanda Peet, who embarked on a new career as a playwright this past fall. Loosely inspired by the Bernie Madoff saga, Blythe Danner plays a woman exiled, more or less, to Florida after her financier husband is jailed for spending his clients’ money instead of investing it. Her daughter, played by Sarah-Jessica Parker, comes to comfort her and finds that she, too, is a victim in the aftermath of her father’s crime. Directed by Lynne Meadow, the play is presented Off Broadway by Manhattan Theater Club at its City Center home. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood gives his thoughts on the play, the performers and the actress-playwright who chose not to portray the character she created.
1/8/20143 minutes, 14 seconds
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Curtain Up on Broadway 2014

The turn of the year marks the halfway point in the New York theater season. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood runs down a partial list of some 20 new shows opening between now and the Tony Awards in June. There are some new plays, some new musicals, a revival or two and headliners ranging from Alan Cumming to Denzel Washington, Toni Collette and Marisa Tomei.
1/1/20143 minutes, 44 seconds
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The Life and Death of Marina Abramović

The distinctive performance artist Marina Abramović is telling her life story — and attending her own funeral — at the Park Avenue Armory. Be assured, Abramović is very much alive, but she, with the help of the singular director Robert Wilson, is looking backward from the future in The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, a theatrical event made distinct by the sensibilities of these two artists. Theater, opera and visual art intersect in a striking presentation with a cast that includes Abramović, the pop singer Antony, and actor Willem Dafoe. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood orients us to the world of this unusual 3-D biography.
12/18/20133 minutes, 13 seconds
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A Distinctive Pop Voice, Refreshed Off-Broadway

When it comes to the songs of Burt Bacharach, you know more than you think you do. Bacharach, best known for his collaborations with lyricist Hal David, has written in a style that is very much a hybrid of pop, jazz and his own unique touch. His songs have surprising chord progressions and even more surprising rhythmic changes and yet they’re real pop tunes — catchy and sing-along-able. For the movies, Bacharach and David wrote the theme from “Alfie” and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” For Broadway, they wrote the score of Promises, Promises, which includes “I Say a Little Prayer for You” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” two songs that were big hits for singer Dionne Warwick. In all, Bacharach has placed 73 songs in Billboard magazine’s Top 40 music chart. We told you that you know more Bacharach than you think. But can the quirky, catchy songs of Bacharach be refreshed for a new generation? That’s a question posed in the new off-Broadway musical What’s It All About? Bacharach Reimagined. The show, conceived by Kyle Riabko and David Lane Seltzer, and starring Riabko and a half-dozen other singer-instrumentalists, is directed by Steven Hoggett in a production at New York Theatre Workshop. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood shares his impressions.
12/11/20133 minutes, 48 seconds
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Two Knights on Broadway

Two fabled knights are jousting on Broadway these days, and no, it’s not a revival of Camelot. The knights are Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart and they’re appearing together at the Cort Theater in two plays, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, and Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, both directed by Sean Mathias.  These two stars are just half the company, but the other half are also players of considerable stature: Billy Crudup and Shuler Hemsley. Both plays have darkness at their centers, but have a lot of built-in comedy. In a production with such high-wattage stars, do the players outshine the plays they’re in, or does the ensemble take us deeply inside these two important 20th century stage works? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood shares his reactions.
12/4/20134 minutes, 19 seconds
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Eight Roles is Enough for Jefferson Mays

Actor Jefferson Mays is only one man, but he’s happy not to limit himself to a single role when he goes on stage. In 2004, Mays won a Tony Award and several other awards for his two-character turn in Doug Wright’s play, I Am My Own Wife. But now he's quadrupled that load in the new musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway. The show is set in Edwardian England, where Mays plays eight members of a high-born family who all fall victim to a distant relative with murder on his mind. The show is directed by Darko Tresnjak, the book is by Robert L. Freedman, the score is by Steven Lutvak, and Freedman and Lutvak collaborated on the lyrics. Is A Gentleman’s Guide a killer entertainment, or merely deadly? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers a review.
11/27/20133 minutes, 9 seconds
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The Jazz Age is Revived in <em>After Midnight</em>

An iconic moment in American history is the subject of a new Broadway revue at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. After Midnight purports to take its audience to a Jazz Age Harlem nightclub. It was a time and place in which America’s new music, jazz, was burgeoning. Conceived by Jack Viertel, and directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, this new show pays homage to the Cotton Club and other Harlem hotpots that had their heyday in the 1920s and 1930s. The show features more than 25 songs from the era, with an emphasis on both compositions and arrangements by Duke Ellington. The production features the Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars, "American Idol" winner Fantasia Barrino in the role of Special Guest Star, and actor Dulé Hill as The Host. The producers plan to keep this show around, too. They’ve booked pop singer K.D. Lang to replace Barrino this coming February, and a double bill of R&amp;B singers Babyface and Toni Braxton to follow Lang in mid-March. With a cast of more than 40, including the band, this is a high-wattage production. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us know if all that 20th century juice can light up Broadway almost 90 years later.
11/20/20133 minutes, 12 seconds
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John Grisham Novel Comes to Broadway for the First Time

Crime novelist John Grisham is one of the most successful novelists of our time. Now, his novel "A Time to Kill," has come to the Broadway stage at the John Golden Theater. It’s Grisham’s first novel, and the first of his books that he has allowed to be adapted for theatrical presentation. The adaptation is by Rupert Holmes, whose legendary contribution to the stage is the musical "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," based on a work by Charles Dickens. The cast of "A Time to Kill" includes Tom Skerritt, Fred Thomson, Tonya Pinkins and other respected, high-profile performers, and the show is directed by Ethan McSweeny. Moving a work of art from one medium to another is always risky, but the long list of literary works that have found new depth and even greater renown on stage and screen makes the gamble one worth taking. But if box-office receipts are one way of measuring the success of that gamble (and they are), then the stage version of "A Time to Kill" seems not to be the winner that was hoped for. The show closes Nov. 17, and New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers some thoughts on the production and on the difficulty of moving dramatic excitement from the page to the stage.
11/13/20132 minutes, 50 seconds
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Rattigan Revived: <em>The Winslow Boy</em> Back on Broadway

More than a century after the incident that inspired it, Terence Rattigan’s play The Winslow Boy, is back on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre in a production from Roundabout Theatre Company. In 1908, a cadet at England’s Royal Naval Academy was accused of stealing a postal order and kicked out of the school. The potential damage to the young man’s character, and that of his family, was so great that the family mounted a lawsuit to prove the cadet’s innocence. British playwright Rattigan turned that fight for honor into a successful play in 1946. The Winslow Boy has been revived on stage several times since, both in the U.K. and the U.S., and has been made into a movie several times, too, most recently in 1999. While Rattigan’s works have long been popular in England, his American success has been more limited. But New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood says this production, directed by Lindsay Posner and starring Michael Cumpsty, Roger Rees and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, may push Rattigan’s reputation up a notch or two on this side of the Atlantic.
11/6/20132 minutes, 58 seconds
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Spending a Night with Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin's star burned briefly, but brightly. For only about three years was her name prominent among pop musicians of the late 1960s. She made a single — "Me and Bobby McGee" — that reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart, and two albums that reached into the top five. She died of an accidental drug overdose at age 27. But her powerful, gutsy vocals and performance style continue to be distinctive among the singers of her era. Now her enduring appeal is recognized with a Broadway show at the Lyceum Theatre. Written and directed by Randy Johnson, A Night with Janis Joplin brings you the songs that helped her become famous and some of the great performers who influenced her style. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood tells us about the show, about some of the characters who appear in the story and about Mary Bridget Davies, who plays and sings the title role.
10/16/20133 minutes, 49 seconds
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Billie Holiday's Story and Music Hits Broadway in <em>Lady Day</em>

Billie Holiday’s voice and image are icons of 20th century America and the jazz world. Now her story comes to the stage in the musical biography Lady Day at the Little Shubert Theater. Writer and director Stephen Stahl sets the tale in London during Holiday's 1954 European tour. The trip turns out to be a necessity as much as an adventure. After a serious drug arrest and the revocation of her cabaret license in New York, Holiday is trying to rebuild her reputation as a jazz phenom.  Holiday's personal and professional trials have long been fodder for books and movies. Now the tale comes to the stage with Dee Dee Bridgewater as the star and Holiday's music as the soundtrack. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood clues us in on what to expect from Lady Day.
10/9/20133 minutes, 33 seconds
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Bryan Cranston in 'All the Way'

Fans of “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston can see him up close at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cranston stars as Lyndon B. Johnson in “All the Way,” a new play detailing Johnson’s first year in office after John F. Kennedy is assassinated. The drama follows Johnson as he moves quickly from a powerless Vice President to a success-driven leader.   New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood shares his thoughts on Cranston’s portrayal of LBJ and the complexities of a play that focuses on politics and personality. “All the Way,” written by Robert Schenkkan and directed by Bob Rauch, is onstage until October 12, 2013.
10/2/20133 minutes, 13 seconds
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'Romeo and Juliet' Returns to Broadway

The first of this fall's unusually ample supply of Shakespeare-on-Broadway is a production of "Romeo and Juliet" at the Richard Rodgers Theatre starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad as the star-crossed lovers. Bloom — a Romeo to swoon for — shines high in the Hollywood firmament. The British actor is best known for his work in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Lord of the Rings” franchises. Condola Rashad — a stunning Juliet — is a rising talent and two-time Tony Award nominee, most recently for her work in "The Trip to Bountiful." The David Leveaux directed production retains Shakespeare’s language, but updates the setting and adds a racial element to the conflict between the warring families. In this version, the Montagues and the Capulets are of different ethnic origins. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood shares his review.
9/25/20133 minutes, 22 seconds
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Exploring Stereotypes in 'Fetch Clay, Make Man'

A relationship between two prominent African-Americans with markedly different profiles is at the heart of "Fetch Clay, Make Man," a new play by Will Power at New York Theater Workshop. The two central characters are the celebrated boxer Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, and the actor Lincoln Perry, better known to the world as Stepin Fetchit. Muhammad Ali and Stepin Fetchit are figures charged, respectively, with such positive and negative energy that they might as well be the two ends of a battery. Ali, born Cassius Clay, is an emblem of African-American power, perseverance, triumph, and grace; Fetchit, the vaudeville and film character created by actor Lincoln Perry, is a black stereotype of humiliation and degradation. When playwright Will Power saw a photograph of Ali and Perry together, he wanted to know the occasion of their seemingly unlikely meeting. That photograph planted the seed of Power’s new play, “Fetch Clay, Make Man,’ which brings Ali and Perry together as Ali prepares for his 1965 rematch against heavyweight Sonny Liston. New York Times theater critic, Charles Isherwood, offers his reflections on the play and on the players who bring these iconic characters to life on stage. “Fetch Clay, Make Man” is now playing at the New York Theater Workshop.
9/18/20133 minutes, 34 seconds
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Small Town Plays Featured in NYC's West Village

Lucy Thurber is getting an honor not usually granted to mid-career playwrights: a cycle of five of her plays is being mounted in New York City. The cycle, called “The Hill Town Plays,” centers around one character, a smart young heroine struggling to form an identity independent from her western Massachusetts upbringing.  The first play "Scarcity," follows the character at age 11, while the final play, "Stay," focuses on a woman in her 30s. Keep in mind, the main characters in each of these five plays don't always share the same name. Rattlestick Playwrights Theater is behind this deep dive into Thurber’s oeuvre, which continues through September 28. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood has seen the plays and tells us what to expect from the performers and the world they create on their various stages
9/11/20133 minutes, 54 seconds
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Adulterers Flirting with the World Beyond

"The Cheaters Club" is the latest production from The Amoralists, a downtown theater group self-described as producing “work of no moral judgment.” The company may be standoffish about right and wrong, but it is firmly committed, in this production at least, to actors. There are 26 people in the cast. The play, written and directed by Derek Ahonen, is billed as “A Savannah Ghost Story.” Ticket buyers are warned of the production’s use of “strobe effects, gunshots, herbal cigarettes and haze.” A large cast, a gothic setting and special effects are all part of “The Cheaters Club,” but what do these elements add up to? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers a review.
9/4/20133 minutes, 21 seconds
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Fall Preview: An Eclectic NY Theater Season

Labor Day Weekend is here – alas, the unofficial end of Summer. But with that ending comes many new beginnings, one of which is the new theater season in New York City. In this brief glance at what's to come on playbills and marquees this year, New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood reports that there are new plays by major authors, revivals of old plays with superstar casts (e.g., Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, and in repertory, no less!), and just as you'd expect in New York, something for just about everyone – except, maybe, musicals. And even in that category, there are some new things coming this season too.
8/28/20134 minutes, 35 seconds
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Opposites Attract in New Broadway Musical 'First Date'

Who doesn't remember the awkwardness of a first date? First Date, the first new Broadway musical of the season playing at the Longacre Theatre, is a romantic comedy about a young couple meeting for the first time on a blind date. The book is by Austin Winsberg and the score is by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner. Zachary Levi from the television series "Chuck" stars alongside Krysta Rodriguez, who appeared in the backstage-on-Broadway series "Smash." New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood tells us if the two leading characters, Aaron, a nice Jewish guy who’s a banker, and Casey, “who falls for bad boys,” will survive this first date while pointing out some of the highlights in what is otherwise a familiar story.
8/21/20133 minutes, 4 seconds
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Less Shakespeare and More Musical in the Park

The second offering from The Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park this summer is a musical adaptation of Love’s Labour’s Lost, the Bard's early comedy about four young men who swear off romance to devote themselves to study, only to promptly fall in love. The play has been adapted and directed by Alex Timbers, the director of Peter and the Starcatcher, among many other shows, and the songs are by Michael Friedman, the house composer of the downtown theater troupe the Civilians. Shakespeare scholars and purists will find little of the original text in this version which is set at a college reunion. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood tells us about other changes to the plot and characters and whether we'll be pleasantly surprised or scandalized by this new production at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.
8/14/20133 minutes, 13 seconds
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'The Jungle Book' Comes to the Stage

The 1967 animated Disney film "The Jungle Book" — inspired by Rudyard Kipling's book of the same name — springs to life in a new musical that had its world premiere at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. Written and directed by Mary Zimmerman, best known for her stage play based on Ovid's "Metamorphoses," the new show features all the songs from the movie, including the hit tune "The Bare Necessities."  The musical stars Akash Chopra as Mowgli and veteran performer Andre de Shields as King Louie. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood tells us about its subtle staging, how it ranks among Disney musicals and where it's headed next.
8/7/20133 minutes, 27 seconds
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A Two-Man Whodunit Heads Uptown

There’s a new murder mystery in town and it comes with musical comedy included. Murder for Two may be a two-man show, but the characters onstage appear in numbers far greater than that of the performers. Jeff Blumenkrantz and Brett Ryback not only play all the characters, but they are also the musicians, each taking turns at the piano to accompany the other, and even sharing the keyboard on occasion. Murder for Two was originally produced in Chicago and is getting a New York outing on Broadway, but not on Broadway. The musical, written by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, and directed by Scott Schwartz, is uptown at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre as part of Second Stage Theatre's Uptown series.  New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood does not reveal whodunit in this whodunit, but he tells us a bit more about the production itself, and whether it’s worth it to see this mystery solved.
7/31/20132 minutes, 22 seconds
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Reality TV: The Musical

Reality television is lampooned a lot  — and loved a little bit, too — in a new musical now running at Second Stage Theatre. Written by the playwright Itamar Moses and the composer and lyricist Gaby Alter, Nobody Loves You follows a philosophy student’s televised pursuit of his girlfriend on a reality show that looks a lot like "The Bachelor." Other contestants, a telegenically smarmy host, and even a Twitter-addicted fan, all make appearances. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood tells us how successful Nobody Loves You is at parodying a genre that sometimes looks like a parody itself.
7/24/20133 minutes, 8 seconds
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In the Basement with Babs

Did you know that Barbra Streisand has a shopping mall in the basement of her barn? (You did know she had a barn, didn’t you?) Playwright Jonathan Tolin has taken that surprising thread of superstar trivia and woven it into the one-man show Buyer &amp; Cellar at the Barrow Street Theater. Michael Urie, best-known for his work on the TV show "Ugly Betty," plays the lone clerk in Babs' barn basement boutique. Urie also plays a couple of other characters, including The Voice herself. So what’s this mall about? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood’s already browsed Buyer &amp; Cellar, and lets us know what Tolin and Urie are selling to ticket buyers.
7/17/20132 minutes, 55 seconds
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Lincoln Center Festival Journeys to the West

A Chinese fable told in music and visual spectacle is one of the signature offerings of this year’s Lincoln Center Festival. Monkey: Journey to the West is a collaboration of director Chen Shi-Zeng and musician Damon Albarn, the songwriter and singer of the British band Blur. His collaborator on the virtual band Gorillaz, Jamie Hewlett, designed the costumes and the animation. Monkey: Journey to the West combines theatrical and other media devices to tell an old story for a 21st-century audience. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us know what kinds of audiences might like to see this Monkey do his tricks, and what those audiences can expect from this unusual production.
7/10/20133 minutes, 2 seconds
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London Calling

Charles Isherwood, theater critic at The New York Times, just got back from a week in London and he spent substantial amounts of it going to the theater. That city is a great theater town, just as New York is. It’s also the place where a lot of New York shows are born; we like British imports. But Isherwood sampled American fare on the English menu, too, including two Eugene O’Neill plays, as well as a new work by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, and a new musical version of Roald Dahl’s book, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” We check in with our reviewer to find out if he liked what he saw in the West End and other London venues, and if he saw anything that’s likely to be the next hot British import on Broadway.
7/3/20134 minutes, 24 seconds
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Private School Lessons Offered in <em>A Kid Like Jake</em>

The task of getting your child into the best possible preschool is a gauntlet run by a particular stratum of Manhattan parent. Daniel Pearle’s new play A Kid Like Jake, examines that famously difficult process with a dramatic twist or two. Directed by Evan Cabnet and starring Carla Gugino and Peter Grosz as Jake’s parents (the child is unseen in the play), A Kid Like Jake closes the season at Lincoln Center Theater’s LCT3 program, which is dedicated to developing both new artists and new audiences for New York theater.  New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us know a little more about Jake’s parents, the actors who play them, and the lessons offered to the audiences who see the show, which runs through July 14 at the Clair Tow Theater at Lincoln Center.
6/26/20133 minutes, 32 seconds
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Shakespeare in the Park Kicks Off with Kid-Friendly <em>Comedy</em>

You know summertime in New York has arrived when the Delacorte Theater unwraps itself for Shakespeare in the Park. The Public Theater presents two free Shakespeare works this season: The Comedy of Errors and later in the season, Love’s Labors Lost. The Comedy of Errors has been updated to the 1940s, with some musical touches, too (though not as extensive as those expected for Labors, which is billed as "a new musical"). Starring in the Comedy are actors Hamish Linklater and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, which Shakespeare fans will recognize from previous outings at the Delacorte (fans of the ABC sitcom "Modern Family" will also know Ferguson). And Shakespeare in the Park regulars may also recognize the handiwork of director Daniel Sullivan, who has become a reliable mainstay of the program in recent years with his productions of Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice and last summer’s As You Like It. The play turns on the confusion that results when Antipholus and his servant Dromio, visitors from Syracuse, arrive in Ephesus, where unbeknownst to them their identical twins also live. In this production each set of twins is played by a single actor. The production runs through June 30. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood sizes up the comedy and the errors.
6/19/20133 minutes, 15 seconds
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A Broadway Story: Tony Loves <em>Kinky</em>

The American Theatre Wing gave out its Tony Awards this past Sunday night at Radio City Music Hall and the big winner of the night was Best Musical Kinky Boots, which also brought home statuettes for Billy Porter as Best Performer by a Leading Actor in a Musical and Cyndi Lauper for Best Original Score.  Forty New York City theaters are considered Broadway houses and productions featured there are eligible to win Tonys. The 868-member electorate gave at least one award to 10 plays and musicals out of 38 that were nominated. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood tells us what the Tonys got right this year, both onstage and onscreen, and why there were a few surprises among the awards, too.
6/12/20133 minutes, 53 seconds
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'War and Peace' – with Music and Tableside Service, Too

Imagine turning Tolstoy’s famously epic novel "War and Peace" into a musical. Actually, hold it. Imagine turning 100 or so pages of "War and Peace" into a musical. That's a more manageable chunk of the novel, for sure, and there are still plenty of relationships and nearly inscrutable Russian names to sort out. Next, imagine a new venue in which to see the story unfold. And now you’re ready for Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, the musical that first appeared in New York last year in an off-off-Broadway theater. Now it’s returned in an upgraded production at a pop-up cabaret space in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan called Kazino. What is this play written by Dave Malloy, who also stars as Pierre, and directed by Rachel Chavkin? And amid a cabaret setting in New York City, does Tolstoy stand a chance? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood finds out. And the Tony Awards are this coming Sunday. Tell us the musical and play you think will take home a Tony. .chart_div { width: 600px; height: 300px; } loadSurvey( "tonys-2013-who-will-win-best-musical", "survey_tonys-2013-who-will-win-best-musical"); .chart_div { width: 600px; height: 300px; } loadSurvey( "tonys-2013-who-will-win-best-play", "survey_tonys-2013-who-will-win-best-play");
6/5/20133 minutes, 26 seconds
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Bette Midler Returns to Broadway as Legendary '70s Talent Agent

She’s famous as a movie star, a recording artist and a concert performer, but you may not be familiar with Bette Midler as Broadway actress. Well, it has been a while. Midler made her Broadway debut in the original production of Fiddler on the Roof as a replacement for one of the daughters of Tevye the Milkman back in the 1960s. More than four decades later, she’s back in the solo show I'll Eat You Last as the legendary real-life Hollywood talent agent Sue Mengers. Directed by Joe Mantello at the Booth Theater, I'll Eat You Last was written by John Logan, who brought artist Mark Rothko to theatrical life in the play Red. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood takes the measure of the creative forces joined in this project and what they add up to in I’ll Eat You Last.
5/29/20133 minutes, 3 seconds
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<em>Kinky Boots</em> Steps Toward the Tonys

The show with the most Tony Award nominations this year is, unsurprisingly, a musical. But Kinky Boots does seem to have surprised at least a few Tony-watchers by besting the more-anticipated Matilda for nominations, if by only one: 13 for Kinky Boots and 12 Matilda. With a book by Broadway veteran Harvey Fierstein, songs by pop star Cyndi Lauper and direction and choreography by Jerry Mitchell, the show tells the tale of a British shoe factory rescued from closure with the help of a drag queen. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers his impressions of Kinky Boots and whether it or Matilda will come out on top when the Tony Awards are given away on June 9.
5/8/20133 minutes, 1 second
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Tony Awards Forecast: Kinky and Matty (and Masha and Spike)

The scene is now set for Broadway’s big night, the 67th annual Tony Awards. The nominations were announced Tuesday and among the musicals up for the most awards are Kinky Boots, Matilda, Pippin, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The most-nominated plays include Golden Boy, Lucky Guy, Vanya and Sonja and Masha and Spike, The Nance and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood does a bit of Tony handicapping for you and names a few of the performers who were properly recognized and some who were, perhaps, unfairly overlooked by the nominating committee. Consider this your warm-up for the Tony Awards, which will be broadcast on June 9.
5/1/20133 minutes, 48 seconds
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Telekinetic <em>Matilda</em> Moves Broadway

Wait a minute. A girl who can make objects move just with her mind. Hasn’t this been on Broadway already — and failed? Yes, but that was Carrie, an altogether different girl. This girl is Matilda and her new Broadway musical is based on a children’s book by Roald Dahl. Book-loving Matilda is beset by rotten, book-disdaining parents and a diabolical schoolteacher named Miss Trunchbull and her struggle to overcome these obstacles makes Matilda someone worth rooting for. But is Matilda The Musical worth rooting for as well? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers his thought (which don’t move objects at all) on Matilda.
4/24/20132 minutes, 57 seconds
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The Sounds of the Motor City Roll onto Broadway

Broadway musicals have always sought to entertain with custom-made songs designed to move the story along, songs that are full of catchy melody and clever lyrics that hook you into wanting to hear them again and again. Lately, however, musicals have come with the musical appeal built in, through the use of popular hit songs the audience already knows. Those songs are then refitted into a plot, sometimes comfortably, sometimes not. But the formula has had huge successes: Mama Mia using songs of '80s pop group ABBA and Jersey Boys, which tells the story of Franki Valli and the Four Seasons using their music. More than 50 hit songs, made famous on the legendary Detroit record label Motown, are heard in Motown: the Musical at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway. Motown label founder Berry Gordy appears in the show, too, along with some of Motown’s most famous musical acts such as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder — each one of them played by Broadway actors and singers. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood gives us his spin on the newest jukebox musical to reach the big time in New York.
4/17/20133 minutes, 13 seconds
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Tom Hanks is Broadway’s <em>Lucky Guy</em>

Tom Hanks, one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, is making his Broadway debut in Lucky Guy, a new play by the late Nora Ephron. Directed by George C. Woolfe and now playing at the Broadhurst Theatre, Lucky Guy is a true New York story about Mike McAlary, a New York storyteller himself — a tabloid reporter for, variously, The Daily News and the New York Post. McAlary’s career waxed and waned, but waxed again just before his death in 1998 at age 41. Hanks stars as McAlary, with Maura Tierney as his wife and a strong cast of character actors from the worlds of film, TV and the stage. The production is also getting a lot of attention because it is the last work by writer and moviemaker Ephron, who died last year. But Hanks is the draw and he shoulders a big burden as a big-name actor and Broadway first-timer in the title role of a new play. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us know how Hanks carries that load in Lucky Guy.
4/10/20133 minutes, 18 seconds
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Singing and Dancing on Broadway (But Don’t Let Go of the Truck)

Hands on a Hardbody is the decidedly catchy title of a musical with a particular catch in its plot: A group of people are in a contest to win a new truck. The competition is simple enough. The contestants stand around truck with one hand on it and the last person to let go of the truck is the winner. This new musical is based on a 1997 documentary film about a contest that took place at a Nissan dealership in Longview, Texas. The show features a score by Trey Anastasio of the jam band Phish, and Amanda Green, and a book by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Doug Wright. And while the premise of the contest — and the show — is simple enough, the catch isn’t as much in the competition as it is in the conventions of the Broadway musical: namely, how much dancing can you do while standing with one hand on a truck? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood explains how that challenge is handled and some other ways in which the show is unconventional. “Hands on a Hardbody” is now playing at the Brooks Atkinson Theater.
4/3/20133 minutes, 10 seconds
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From the Political Stage to the Broadway Stage: Ann Richards is Resurrected in 'Ann'

Ann Richards was silver-haired, sharp-tongued, brassy, bold and mostly beloved. She came to national prominence with a speech at the 1988 Democratic Convention and served a term as governor of Texas starting in 1991, making a very distinctive mark both politically and personally. Now, at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, she tells her own story in "Ann," the one-woman show written and performed by Holland Taylor and directed by Benjamin Endsley Klein. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us know if Taylor's evocation is on the mark.
3/20/20133 minutes, 14 seconds
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Familiar Territory for Two Observers of the Disaffected

The Flick is the newest play by Annie Baker, whose frequent collaborator, Sam Gold, directs the production now running at Playwrights Horizons. Baker and Gold have worked together on her previous plays The Aliens and Circle Mirror Transformation, as well as Baker’s translation of Uncle Vanya. As she did in The Aliens, Baker again looks at what might at first appear to be small moments in small-town lives of young, underpaid, and perhaps unmotivated workers in New England. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood has liked Baker’s previous work. He tells us if her track record continues.
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Beautiful on the Surface, Darkness Just Beneath

A young, idealistic, American married couple move to Paris to live together and do good work. But youth and idealism aren’t enough to build a life on in a strange city, unless the foundations of the relationship are solid. Amy Herzog’s new play Belleville, described as a “psychological thriller,” is in its first Manhattan production at New York Theatre Workshop. The play comes to the city after its initial outing at Yale Repertory Theatre a year-and-a-half ago, bringing with it the same creative team of director Anne Kaufman and its lead actors. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood tells us what pushes this couple’s relationship askew, and whether or not the playwright achieves the effect she intends.
3/6/20133 minutes, 39 seconds
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Does 'Moose Murders' Still Hold Up (as One of the Worst Plays Ever)?

Sometimes we look back on the low moments in our lives and realize, hey, we did learn something from that awful episode; it wasn’t as bad as we remember, after all. Can the perspective afforded us by the passage of time yield the same realization at the theater? Hey, maybe that horrible show we saw years ago isn’t as bad as we thought back then. In 1983, a play called “Moose Murders” by Arthur Bicknell provoked then-New York Times theater critic Frank Rich to write a legendary column condemning the show to the Inner Circle of Theater Hell. But time has passed. Perhaps Rich was wrong about “Moose Murders.” A small troupe called Beautiful Soup Theater Collective has remounted (to use a startlingly apropos expression) this infamous theatrical disaster set in a hunting lodge. Charles Isherwood lets us know if time and new attention have given Moose Murders any merit.
2/13/20133 minutes, 1 second
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Verdi in Vegas Brings a Touch of Broadway to the Metropolitan Opera

What's a theater critic doing at the opera house? Well, opera is theater, after all. But it's the particular Broadway connection of director Michael Mayer that caught New York Times critic Charles Isherwood's eye on the marquee at the Metropolitan Opera. Best known for directing the Tony Award-winning rock musical Spring Awakening, Mayer is the latest conceptual maestro tapped by Met General Manager Peter Gelb to provide a new perspective to a staple of the operatic repertoire: this time, Verdi's Rigoletto. The production is set in the Las Vegas of the 1960s. Does Mayer's update let Rigoletto remain true to itself, or should what happens in the Met's version of Vegas stay there? Isherwood lets us know if it's worth the gamble.
2/6/20134 minutes, 13 seconds
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Conversation Becomes Theater in 'Life and Times'

Sometimes it’s hard to know whether a statement should be taken literally or not. For instance, the Nature Theater of Oklahoma is not from the Sooner State, it’s based here in New York.  On the other hand, its current show, Life and Times: Episodes 1-4 could hardly be more literal.  One member of the experimental theater company (named from a reference in a Kafka) told her life story over the phone and that conversation – not the story told in the conversation, but the conversation itself – has been turned into a four-part theatrical presentation totaling some eight hours by presented by Soho Rep at the Public Theater. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood shares his impressions of what is, by any measure, a most unusual theatrical event.
1/30/20133 minutes, 21 seconds
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Scarlett Johansson Headlines a New Broadway 'Cat'

Movie star Scarlett Johansson made a very successful Broadway debut in 2010, so successful that she won a Tony Award for her work in Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge.” Three years later, she’s back on Broadway in a much more substantive role as Margaret, or “Maggie the Cat” (as the character is more often referred to), in Tennessee Williams' “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. This Rob Ashford-directed production is the third revival in a decade of “Cat,” and its competition also includes the very well-known 1958 movie version. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lets us know if the latest Broadway “Cat” is hot, or not.
1/23/20133 minutes, 17 seconds
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Laurie Metcalf Keeps Her Character in 'Place'

She’s best-known to the world-at-large for her long-running role as Jackie, sister of the title character in the TV sitcom, “Roseanne.” But actress Laurie Metcalf has had a long and distinguished career as a stage actress. Metcalf was with the esteemed Steppenwolf Company in Chicago, and has appeared regularly on stages in New York and London – notably, across the pond, as Mary Tyrone in a recent production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Currently, she’s reclaimed the role of Juliana Smithton, a doctor turned pharmaceutical company representative whose well-controlled life is moving out of control, in Sharr White’s play The Other Place. Metcalf created the part in the play’s Off-Broadway production two seasons ago and returns to it for the play’s Broadway premiere, now running at the Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood has a review. And you can join Metcalf, her co-star Daniel Stern and the playwright, along with WQXR’s Elliott Forrest, for a conversation about The Other Place at 5 pm on Thursday, Jan. 17, in the Jerome L. Greene Performance. Watch a live video Webcast or get tickets here.
1/16/20132 minutes, 42 seconds
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A Pulitzer Prize-Winner Probes Connections and Re-Connections

The name Quiara Alegría Hudes may not be on the average theatergoer’s short list of major playwrights, but it’s well-known to the Pulitzer Prize committee. Hudes wrote the book for In the Heights, the Tony Award-winning musical, which was a finalist in 2009 for a Pulitzer Prize. Hudes was a Pulitzer Prize finalist before that, for her 2007 play, Elliott, a Soldier’s Fugue, the first part of a trilogy exploring the world of a Puerto Rican-American soldier returning home from the war in Iraq. Last year, Hudes won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the second part of the trilogy, Water by the Spoonful. That play is now in its initial New York production, at Second Stage Theatre and directed by Davis McCallum, who staged the premiere at Hartford Stage last season. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood brings us his review.
1/9/20133 minutes, 35 seconds
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An Exploration of Trauma Unknown, or Unremembered

How would you react if you were told that, as a child, you had been the victim of a horrible crime, one of which you have no memory? Playwright Amy Herzog has tackled an unspeakably difficult topic in her play The Great God Pan, now in a production at Playwrights Horizons. The young man at the center of the play must face claims about his past which he cannot verify but must nonetheless confront. A subject as volatile as the one at the center of The Great God Pan requires a deft touch to avoid being maudlin on one side, or perhaps preachy on another. Does Herzog’s work strike the right note? New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood weighs in.
1/2/20133 minutes, 9 seconds
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New Shows in New Haven

Two of the major regional theaters in New Haven, Conn., have mounted new productions recently, one a premiere and the other a revival. The new play, seen at the Yale Repertory Theater, weaves together true-life material from what is now a near-extinct form of communication: letters. The correspondence between American poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell is the basis for Dear Elizabeth by Sarah Ruhl. The revival is a play that was controversial at its premiere 48 years ago and is now best-known in its 1968 film version of The Killing of Sister George. The Long Wharf Theater brought in Kathleen Turner as director of the new production and performer of the title role. New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood took the train to New Haven to see both and offers his review.
12/26/20123 minutes, 37 seconds
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A Civil War Christmas Story

As always at holiday time, theaters across the city and, indeed, the country, program Christmas entertainment with the perennial Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol and numerous Nutcrackers leading the way. In New York this year, however, there are two brand-new entries in the holiday theater sweepstakes: on Broadway, a new musical adaptation of the popular movie “A Christmas Story,” and Off Broadway at New York Theater Workshop, a more somber and unusual work of seasonal fare, A Civil War Christmas. In New York this year, however, there are two brand-new entries in the holiday theater sweepstakes: on Broadway, a new musical adaptation of the popular movie “A Christmas Story,” and Off Broadway at New York Theater Workshop, a more somber and unusual work of seasonal fare, "A Civil War Christmas."
12/19/20123 minutes, 35 seconds
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Broadway’s Diamond Anniversary for <em>Golden Boy</em>

Clifford Odets was a vibrant New York playwright in a vibrant period in American theater: the 1930s. Life during the Great Depression provided rich material for works confronting the difficulties and opportunities that lay in the American experience. Odets explored those ideas first in the theater, and then in Hollywood, writing for the screen. Three of his works have been revived recently in New York. The latest is Golden Boy, about a young man with both artistic talent and a taste for quicker, cruder fame.
12/12/20123 minutes, 7 seconds
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A New York Scandal Goes Home to the Heartland in <em>Dead Accounts</em>

With a cast led by a two-time Tony Award-winner Norbert Leo Butz, and an actress currently best-known for her off-screen life, Katie Holmes, the new play Dead Accounts, gives fans of both acting and star-gazing a reason to head to the Music Box Theatre.
12/5/20122 minutes, 39 seconds
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What’s in a Name? Chekhov, Obviously

Fans of Anton Chekhov will likely recognize three of the four title names in playwright Christopher Durang's new comedy, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which stars Sigourney Weaver and David Hyde Pierce in the Lincoln Center Theater production at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater.
11/28/20123 minutes, 29 seconds
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<em>The Piano Lesson</em> Plays Again on New York Stage

August Wilson’s play The Piano Lesson is one of the few in his 10-play “Century Cycle” that has not seen a major New York revival since its original Broadway production in 1985. The Signature Theatre, which devoted a whole season to Wilson’s work a few years ago, has now revived this Pulitzer Prize winner, in a production directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson at the Pershing Square Signature Center.
11/21/20123 minutes, 44 seconds