September 17, 2019 at 4:22 pm #1203083183
Hadestown will release the CD and vinyl versions of its cast recording in November. http://www.playbill.com/article/hadestown-broadway-cast-recording-sets-dates-for-cd-and-vinyl-releasesSeptember 29, 2019 at 10:06 am #1203111960
Mike Birbiglia is adapting The New One into a memoir, which will be release next year on May 5. http://www.playbill.com/article/comedian-mike-birbiglia-is-adapting-his-solo-show-the-new-one-into-a-bookNovember 4, 2019 at 1:14 pm #1203166062
Last Friday night, I got to catch the Broadway production of Tootsie. Today, I give my review.
Now I’ve only seen the original movie once a couple years ago, so I’m not intimately familiar with it. Therefore, this review will be mainly focused on the musical itself. Though this adaptation does completely update the plot. Not only is the story now set in 2019, but is also very well aware of how much daytime soap operas nowadays aren’t as big as they were back in the 1980’s. So instead, the main protagonist finds himself cast in a (fictional) new Broadway musical. Book writer Robert Horn absolutely deserves a lot of credit for not only completely rethinking the plot of the original movie as a Broadway musical, but also for making the story itself accessible for the era we’re living in now with the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. After all, it is about a man taking a job away from a woman (which is smartly pointed out in the first act). Not to mention that David Yazbek has crafted a terrific musical comedy score, where he even manages to reveal characters through song.
Under the direction of Scott Ellis, he assembles an impressive cast of quadruple threats who each sing, dance, act, and play comedy very well. Leading the show is Santino Fontana, who pulls off quite a high wire act. Not only does he spend quite a bit of time in drag as Dorothy Michaels at multiple points throughout the show, but he also disguises his own voice in terms of both speaking and singing. Even if you just listen to Dorothy’s songs on the original Broadway cast recording, you’d be so astonished that it’s a man singing as a woman. Credit definitely has to go to costume designer William Ivey Long for helping Santino physically transform himself into a woman. Though as Michael Dorsey, he really has a great character arc as he goes from desperate unemployed actor in the beginning of the show to learning about the consequences of his scheme as the plot unfolds.
In fact, one area where I thought the musical improved upon the original movie was the role of Julie Nichols. While I liked Jessica Lange’s performance in the film, I didn’t find anything special about her character that would result in winning her first Oscar (though it is worth noting that Lange had an additional nomination in Best Actress that year for Frances). In the musical, Julie has an Act I number titled ‘There Was John’, where she sings about a previous failed relationship she had which gives more depth to that character. Ultimately, Lilli Cooper’s performance as Julie Nichols becomes the heart of the show, grounding it from all the craziness going on in the plot.
Other comedic highlights of the cast include Andy Grotelueschen as Michael’s roommate, Jeff Slater, who is also an unsuccessful playwright; Sarah Stiles as struggling actress Sandy Lester; John Behlmann as Max Van Horn, an actor who ends up falling in love with Dorothy Michaels; Reg Rogers as director/choreographer Ron Carlisle; Julie Halston as Broadway producer Rita Marshall; and Michael McGrath makes the most of his limited stage time as Michael Dorsey’s agent, Stan Fields.
Overall, Tootsie is a great new musical comedy that perfectly updates a classic story to 2019. If you’re a fan of the original movie, this adaptation should prove to be a worthy companion without ever feeling like a carbon copy. If you’re not too familiar with the original movie, you should still get a kick out of watching one of the best musical comedies of the decade. By the way, I should also add that the performance I attended happened to have been the night the show was filmed for the archives at the New York Public Library.November 6, 2019 at 6:09 am #1203168220
Last weekend, I got to catch the Broadway production of Ain’t Too Proud. Today, I give my review.
Book writer Dominique Morisseau dramatizes the story in a documentary style while apparently also having it told within the framework of a concert. The musical begins with The Temptations giving a concert at the Fox Theatre in the home of Motown music, Detroit. It is after the opening number, ‘The Way You Do the Things You Do’, when Otis begins telling the story of how it all began. Actor Derrick Baskin, who earned a Tony nomination for his performance earlier this year, makes for a very charismatic leading man, which is necessary in being the glue to keep the whole story together. However, at the performance I attended, we the audience got an announcement right before Act II began that Baskin’s understudy, Marcus Paul James, would be going on for the remainder of the show. I don’t know what exactly happened with Derrick Baskin during intermission, but Marcus certainly came to the rescue and gave his own charisma to the role of Otis Williams.
In fact, a couple other understudies went on for two of the other Temptations throughout the whole show, Corey West went on for James Harkness as Paul Williams and Elijah Ahmad Lewis went on for Ephraim Sykes as David Ruffin. Though it does feel ironic given how many new members would go on to take over for the original Temptations over the years. After all, Paul Williams ended up departing the group from having fallen into depression due to stress from performing and personal issues while David Ruffin was fired due to his difficult behavior. With that being said, Corey and Elijah both did great work filling in. Also terrific are Jawan M. Jackson as bass singer Melvin Franklin, who provides a lot of the show’s comic relief, and Jelani Remy as Eddie Kendricks, who became detached from The Temptations following Ruffin’s departure. Not only do all five performers look and feel like the real Temptations, but they also work so well together.
Under the direction of Des McAnuff, he is able to keep things moving throughout the staging as tons of information flies by right at the seat of your pants. Meanwhile, Peter Nigrini provides some informative projections which gives important context to what is going on in the plot. The great Harold Wheeler has also breathed new life into these classic songs that are so energetically played by an onstage band. Credit must also be given Sergio Trujillo for creating some incredible choreography for a dance heavy show like this.
Overall, Ain’t Too Proud is a great crowd-pleasing musical that tells the remarkable true story about The Temptations. Unlike Motown: The Musical which centered on a whole lot of the company’s history in a convoluted way, this show mainly focuses on one notable part of it. In a less is more fashion, this is able to provide a good amount of historical context to what happened during the era of the classic 5. Ain’t Too Proud is not only sure to be a hit on Broadway, but also a big hit on the road when the national tour begins next year.November 11, 2019 at 4:38 pm #1203175188
Tootsie will close on January 5, after 293 performances. So the Marquis will be open for the spring. Perhaps Almost Famous?December 18, 2019 at 11:25 am #1203242860
Aaron Sorkin’s stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird will become the first Broadway production to ever perform at Madison Square Garden on February 26th in front of 18,000 New York City public school students.
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