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ARTSBEAT and Culture 1/15/14
Looking at the Arts
Part I – Theater
From the theater, film, television and visual arts to dance, opera, classical and pop, it is anticipated that 2014 will bring many highlights in the Arts. In coming weeks, this column will offer insight to the many happenings taking place in Manhattan, the boroughs, and in mainstream entertainment.
Cabaret – the highlight of this year is the return of the 1998 production of the Kander and Ebb musical. The rethinking of this classic musical catapulted Alan Cumming to fame 15 years ago for his Tony-winning portrayal of the Emcee. The remounting with co-direction by Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, along with Marshall’s sexy and sinister choreography will feature Michelle Williams as Sally Bowles. Studio 54 – 254 west 54th St. – previews begin March 21; opens April 24.
Rocky – co-produced by Sylvester Stallone, this new musical based on the Academy Award-winning classic boxing film of the same name will feature an original score alongside the hit songs “Eye of the Tiger” and “Gonna Fly Now.” The production had its world premiere in Hamburg in November 2012, where it continues to run. Winter Garden Theatre – previews February 11; opens March 13.
Bronx Bombers – a new American play from the team behind Broadway’s Lombardi that follows baseball icon Yogi Berra and his wife Carmen through a century of the New York Yankees’ trials and triumphs. Circle in the Square – previews began January 10; opens February 6.
The Bridges of Madison County – based on the novel by Robert James Waller, the story centers on a brief but passionate love affair between a photographer and an Italian-American housewife in 1965 Iowa. Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep starred in the 1995 film; their roles are realized by Steven Pasquale and Kelli O’Hara, in a production that premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in August 2013. Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre – previews January 17; opens February 20.
All the Way – Bryan Cranston (of TV’s “Breaking Bad”) plays President Lyndon B. Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s biographical drama of the tumultuous first year of presidency – from controversial social programs, to a landslide 1964 election win, to the looming shadow of the Vietnam war. This production premiered at Boston’s American Repertory Theatre in September – October 2013. Neil Simon Theatre – previews February 10; open March 6
Bullets Over Broadway – directed by Susan Stroman (The Producers) with a book by Woody Allen himself, this musical adaptation of his 1994 film about a playwright whose first taste of success comes with mobsters and a domineering diva attached will star Zach Braff and Marin Mazzie. St. James Theatre – previews March 11; opens April 10
Mothers and Sons – Tyne Daly (TV’s Cagney and Lacey) stars as a mother who pays a surprise visit and is challenged to face how society has changed around her. After a world premiere at Bucks County Playhouse in June 2013, Terrence McNally’s latest work transfers to Broadway. John Golden Theatre – previews February 23; opens March 24
Aladdin – Disney’s stage adaptation of the 1992 Academy Award-winning animated film. Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon) directs. Another Disney hit? New Amsterdam Theatre – previews February 26; opens March 20
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – traces the personal and professional life of the Brooklyn girl who rose through the music-industry ranks from songwriter to chart-topping voice of a generation. Jessie Mueller stars as King, with Jake Epstein as her husband and songwriting partner Gerry Goffin. Stephen Sondheim Theater – opened January 12
Outside Mullingar – a new play by John Patrick Shanley (Pulitzer and Tony-winning playwright of Doubt) is described as “an Irish Moonstruck and stars Debra Messing (Will & Grace) and Brian F. O’Byrne as eccentric misfits living on neighboring properties in rural Ireland. Samuel J. Friedman Theatre – in previews; opens January 23
Off-Broadway and further:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream –Shakespeare’s enchanted comedy in Julie Taymor’s visually eye-popping production at the new Brooklyn headquarters of Theater for a New Audience. Polonsky Shakespeare Center – Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Buyer & Cellar – an irresistible one-man play where an underemployed Los Angeles actor goes to work in Barbra Streisand’s Malibu, California basement. Barrow Street Theater – West Village in Manhattan
Disaster! – a hilarious musical lampoon of those cheesy 1970s movies by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick in which unnatural acts of nature befall C-list celebrities. St. Luke’s Theater – Clinton section of Manhattan
Hamlet and Saint Joan – with just four actors playing all the characters The Bedlam Company presents Shakespeare and Shaw’s work in repertory as stripped-down productions that are modest and sensitive to the sound and power of the language and poetry of the written text. Lynn Redgrave Theater at the Culture Project – East Village in Manhattan
Rehab – follows the sometimes funny/sometimes heartbreaking stories of an ensemble cast as they try to figure out their lives and overcome their own personal demons while in in-patient rehab. The story is based on Playwright and Director Frank Sluszka’s personal experience. Theatre Row – The Studio Theatre – Midtown Manhattan
What’s It All About? Bacharach Reimagined – features a cast of singers and musicians in a low-key revue of songs written by Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David. With direction of Steven Hoggett (Once) and stripped-down arrangements by Kyle Riabko, the show echoes and enhances the emotional depth of the music. New York Theater Workshop – East Village in Manhattan
Sleep No More – loosely based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, this movable, murderous audience sensation takes a non-linear approach to its storytelling, allowing theatregoers to freely explore the dark environment – where scenes, tableaux and scenarios play out, thus conjuring the world and themes of this bloody tale. Audience members don masks, open drawers, pull back curtains, read private notes and journals as they navigate the shadowy, music-filled world. The McKittrick Hotel – Chelsea section of Manhattan
The Glass Menagerie – a stunning, acclaimed revival of Tennessee Williams’s 1944 masterpiece stars Cherry Jones, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Zachary Quinto and Brian J. Smith and directed by John Tiffany (Once). A fading Southern belle strives to give her two grown children – the lame Laura and the unruly Tom – a last chance at happiness as her own dreams slip through her fingers. Booth Theater, 222 West 45th Street – closes February 23
Twelfth Night and Richard III – Shakespeare in repertory featuring an all-male company playing both male and female roles, as the plays were originally staged during this period. Filled with music, played live by musicians on traditional Elizabethan instruments, the productions are lit almost exclusively by the glow of 100 on-stage candles. Belasco Theater, 111 West 44th St. – closes February 15/1
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 – a critically praised, electro-pop opera by composer Dave Malloy based on a fragment of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Loves and losses of 19th-century aristocrats unfold in the vibrant, intimate life of a stylish cabaret setting with pierogi, zakouski appetizers, and wódka being served. Kazino, West 45th St., near Eighth Ave – closes February 2
700 Sundays – Billy Crystal’s solo show returned to Broadway with old, reliable jokes, heartfelt sentiment and nostalgia in a brilliantly beautiful homage to his family and life. It was an intimate opening night performance, as Crystal only invited his family, a few friends like David Letterman, Paul Shaffer, Regis and Joy Philbin, and David Steinberg, along with a few hundred theater patrons. It is my hope that this production will be preserved by either HBO or PBS for viewing by an even larger audience – Imperial Theater.
Big Fish – a movie-inspired musical that celebrates tall tales, failed to produce the contrast in style and approach between the fantasy and reality scenes to make the story and the characters poignantly connect. Norbert Leo Butz and Kate Baldwin are talents to behold, and the eye-popping production numbers were audience-pleasing.
Shen Yun Dance Company on US Tour
In 2006, a group of leading classical Chinese artists came together in New York with one wish: to revive the inspired culture of China and share it with the world. Entirely non-profit and independent of the Chinese regime, Shen Yun NY, enabling it to bring these ancient traditions to the stage. Every year, the company tours for approximately six months – performing in over 20 countries and 100 cities. Shen Yun will have an engagement at Lincoln Center’s David Koch Theater in Manhattan through January 19 and continue on tour in the U.S. www.ShenYunPerformingArts.org.