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Theatre Review: “Jerry’s Girls”

Can’t get tickets to Hello, Dolly? Well for the rest of this week, you can hear all of the major songs from that show sung beautifully, plus just about every other great song Dolly composer Jerry Herman wrote, in the York Theatre’s “Musicals in Mufti” presentation of Jerry’s Girls, a revue of Herman’s best, designed for a trio of women. “Mufti” refers to “everyday clothes,” and this series from the York presents worthy but neglected musicals of the past in something between a staged reading and a full production, in rehearsal clothes with script in hand, minimal rehearsal and no design elements. The stellar trio in this production are Stephanie D’Abruzzo (Avenue Q), Christine Pedi (Forbidden Broadway) and Stephanie Umoh (Ragtime...

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Cabaret Review: Tovah Feldshuh

Smart, skillful shtick and schmaltz in service of sharp storytelling. Tovah Feldshuh’s current cabaret act at Feinstein’s / 54 Below, entitled “Aging Is Optional,” pulls together a diverse set of songs and character bits in service of the theme of staying young throughout your life. For starters, she gives an emotional account of Dar Williams’s “When I Was A Boy,” suggesting that few things age you prematurely more than too-rigid gender roles. Feldshuh’s sweet spot is a rich mix of deeply felt sentiment and willfully zany shtick. Previous acts of Tovah’s have felt a little random in the way they mix these two modes, but “Aging Is Optional” is a well-oiled machine, truly sophisticated in the way it approaches its subject...

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Opera Review: “Idomeneo”

The first of Mozart’s operas written entirely during his adulthood, Idomeneo is a nod to an older, now unfairly ignored, operatic form, opera seria, that was undergoing intense reform at the time (1781). But it also includes innovations that point towards later Romanticism, a style that forms the core of the operatic standard repertoire as we know it today. It connects what was glorious about both ages of opera, and is a great musical glory itself. The gorgeous treatment it is currently being given at the Met under conductor James Levine’s still powerful baton – as well as the always-magnificent Met Chorus under Donald Palumbo – is a must-hear. Is it a must-see? Well, the production by the late director Jean...

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CD Review: “It’s About Time” – Karen Mason

Broadway and cabaret star Karen Mason isn’t kidding around with her new CD It’s About Time! More than 50 percent of the songs on the album are showstoppers – including “Fifty Percent” itself, with composer Billy Goldenberg on the piano. Several are drawn from the greatest hits of Judy Garland, one of the most showstopping performers of all time. Mason sticks closer to the melody of these songs than many contemporary Broadway performers. However, the aim here seems to be less about creating definitive versions, and more about showing how gifted Mason is at knocking these big numbers out of the ballpark. Her big, expressive voice is one of Broadway’s most under-utilized treasures, and this CD puts it on more impressive display than ever...

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Cabaret Review: Marcos Valle and Celso Fonseca

I like bossa nova singer / songwriter and all around luminary Marcos Valle because he combines a strong sense of syncopation and groove with a rich and vibrant harmonic palette – these things will get my attention anytime. Add to that a sunny disposition and sensibility best expressed by his signature song “Summer Samba (So Nice)” (made famous by Astrud Gilberto), and I’m in musical love. In his current club act at Birdland, Valle is backed by a trio of musicians whose precision and energy border on the supernatural. When they lock into the groove that Valle is playing on the keyboard – which is most of the time – the room positively levitates with musical excitement in its most direct form. The effect is so dynamic...

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Cabaret Review: KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler

Many years ago, Soprano KT Sullivan and pianist/entertainer extraordinaire Mark Nadler starred in a very smart revue of Gershwin songs called American Rhapsody. The two of them packed a cabaret stage with more talent than many a Broadway musical, and the show ran for nine months. Now, all these years later, they’re doing an entirely new show – their first new one together since 2010 – devoted to the lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner, titled Almost Like Being in Love. It’s every bit as engaging as American Rhapsody. Nadler is the showier of the two talents: At one point during American Rhapsody he leapt from floor to piano bench, tap-dancing madly, singing and keeping steady eye contact with the audience – all this while playing a...

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Opera Review: “L’Italiana in Algeri”

A fun time is had by all. Sure, Rossini’s comedy L’Italiana in Algeri is an exercise in orientalism. But it’s a relatively innocuous one. Little is made of the “Turkishness” of the setting (Algeria was under the control of the Ottoman Turks in 1813 when Rossini wrote the opera). Instead, Turkish potentate Mustafa is simply an ancient comic type, the “braggart soldier,” who happens to be wearing a fez. As a matter of fact, the tension of the “exotic” setting gives L’Italiana a bite that most frothy bel canto comedy doesn’t have. The plot is, typically, thin: feisty Italian girl Isabella (Marianna Pizzolato, in a charmingly funny Met debut.) turns the tables on the blustery but bumbling Mustafa (the delirously hammy...

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‘The Devil Wears Prada’ is Coming to Broadway, Reaffirming Our Faith in Humanity

‘The Devil Wears Prada’ is Coming to Broadway, Reaffirming Our Faith in Humanity Did you just hear a million gay men scream? News broke today that The Devil Wears Prada is heading to Broadway! Maybe the next four years won’t be so bad after all? Lies but this does help! The news has restored our faith in humanity, especially since one of the men behind the musical adaption is Sir Elton John! How fabulous is that? “Re-imagining The Devil Wears Prada for the musical theater is super exciting,” John said in a statement. “I’m a huge fan of both the book and the feature film, and a huge aficionado of the fashion world. I can’t wait to sink my ...

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Cabaret Review: Marilyn Maye “By Request”

Ella Fitzgerald once called Marilyn Maye “the greatest white female singer in the world”. That’s no exaggeration; she may be the only singer alive who combines a great vocal instrument with interpretative flair and savoir faire equal to Ella’s own. There are younger singers who might posses more powerful voices but I can think of no other singer who possesses Maye’s combination of interpretive ability, rhythmic verve, and vocal range – at 88, her voice is the envy of singers 40 years her junior. She’s also a “saloon singer”, a singer who has a fantastic rapport with her audience, singing them beloved songs from a startlingly wide variety of genres. These shows at the Metropolitan Room take full advantage of this facet of her talent. Marilyn asks...

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Opera Review: “Candide”

I’m biased here: I am a complete Leonard Bernstein nut. I’ve been very excited ever since I first heard about the New York City Opera revival of Candide. It’s not the unimpeachable masterpiece that Lenny’s West Side Story is – the book is famously problematic – but it is still enough of a joy that as long as you nail that sublime Bernstein score, it’ll be a grand night out. Nail it this company does, and the results are glorious. Based on Voltaire’s 1759 novella of the same name, Candide follows the naïve titular character as he strives to maintain his optimism in the face of brutal experience. The sprightly, brilliant score is one of the best things Bernstein ever wrote, and starts with...

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Cabaret Review: Orfeh and Andy Karl

Big-piped (and married) musical theatre couple Orfeh and Andy Karl aren’t delivering any particular story or message in their current club act at Feinstein’s / 54 Below. Pleasantly enough, they simply sing songs that suit their voices – soulful and wild in her case, poppy and tuneful in his (note to Andy, though: the band When in Rome, whose hit “The Promise” you sing so beautifully and tastefully, have absolutely nothing to do with Depeche Mode, as you said they did). They also touch on songs they’ve done in the musical theatre, including the lovely ballad for Andy called “Seeing You” from the upcoming Groundhog Day. They met doing Saturday Night Fever on Broadway and married soon after, but most people associate the two of...

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Theatre Review: “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”

It’s a little different seeing Les Liaisons Dangereuses in these days of heightened awareness of the prevalence of sexual assaults on women. Our new pussy-grabber-in-cheif makes the exploits of the rapacious Vicomte de Valmont stand out even more starkly. Valmont may claim that his assaults are intentionally resistible so that woman can’t claim he forced them. Still, he does indeed grab women – who are saying no – right in the pussy. If in the past the Marquise de Merteuil’s final “war” on Valmont seemed a pass too far, it seems all too justifiable now. As Valmont, Liev Schreiber cleverly calibrates all of this, shading his interpretation with the sense that he is more a slave of his appetites than their...

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Cabaret Review: Judy Collins

No one sings a folk song more beautifully than Judy Collins, and few people sing more beautifully, period. She’s an authentic river of song, in truly golden voice in her seventies. She’ll be talking about a song in passing, and then launch into three or four lines, singing with breathtakingly casual grace and beauty. And then continue with her story “and so I told Leonard Cohen that yes, ‘Suzanne’ is a good song and I’ll be recording it tomorrow…” In tribute to Cohen’s passing she did a medley of his “Bird on a Wire” with one of he own songs – Cohen had encouraged her as a songwriter, which was life-changing for her. When she sings a song in earnest, she’s truly...

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Interview: Justin Sayre

The Meeting* hosted by Justin Sayre – the monthly gathering of the International Order of Sodomites, a fictional “centuries-old organization which sets the mythic Gay Agenda” – will come to an end at the conclusion of its upcoming season. After seven years of audacious humor, trailblazing political discourse and button-pushing cultural exploration, the acclaimed comedy/variety show will be presented for the eighth and final season from September 2016 through May 2017 at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater. The Fall 2016 season shows are Sunday nights at 9:30pm and will feature tributes to gay icons Bette Midler (October 23), and Angela Lansbury (November 20), with the 8th Annual Holiday Spectacular! being held December 18. There will also be a November 5 show at Oasis in San Francisco. I...

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Theatre Review: “On Your Feet!”

This is a solidly made, adequately entertaining jukebox musical. The Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine songbook is sturdier than I realized, and is more than enough to fill a musical, even to slightly over-stuff a musical (we hear all the verses of only a handful of songs, mostly ballads). Not only does On Your Feet follow the romantic and musical partnership of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, it also gives a peek into the energetic and glamorous music and dance of Miami’s Cuban-American subculture. It certainly helps that the show has been crafted by some of Broadway’s steadiest hands. Director Jerry Mitchell’s already impressive ability to calibrate the perfect pace for a show grows more precise each time out, and On Your...

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Cabaret Review: Joan Osborne

Very smart: Folk rock singer/songwriter Joan Osborne, for her Cafe Carlyle debut, has chosen to do a show devoted exclusively to one of the greatest songwriters associated with New York, Bob Dylan. When Carlyle “debutantes” put that much thought into their act, and do some kind of tribute to the classic “New York-ness” of the venue, the results are usually stellar – and Osborne easily hits that mark. Osborne is a Dylan interpreter of long standing. She first came to the public’s attention with her hit 1995 album Relish, which included a Dylan cover, “Man in the Long Black Coat”. In fact, she’s much like Carlyle regular Judy Collins – a female folksinger with a beautiful voice, and a sly, canny way as...

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News: Lypsinka sings! Out of drag at Joe’s Pub today and Wednesday

In an evening that encompasses a personal and rarified experience of moving to and living in New York City, John Epperson – the real person behind Lypsinka – will take the stage in John Epperson: The Artist Principally Known as Lypsinka for four nights only at Joe’s Pub at The Public. With a nod to the urbane cabaret style of Bobby Short, Epperson’s evening embraces classic entertainment filled with stories, tunes, and a few surprises. The entertainer, aka The Goddess of Showbiz Lypsinka, commands the piano and stage with a musical journey that weaves together Stephen Sondheim, Frank Loesser, Jule Styne, Kay Thompson, Kander & Ebb, Comden & Green, Rodgers & Hammerstein, and transgender icon Christine Jorgenson. Jay Rogers directs the limited engagement show which takes place...

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Theatre Review: “She Loves Me”

This always was and always will be an utterly charming musical. It is much loved in certain corners, and deservedly so. The score by Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick (lyrics) beautifully demonstrates how to be simultaneously sophisticated and light-hearted – this is my kind of sugar sweet show. She Loves Me follows Georg and Amalia, two parfumerie clerks in 1930s Budapest who get off on the wrong foot and are constantly sparring. Amalia, however, has been writing to a “lonely hearts” pen pal who sought correspondence in a newspaper ad…but, unbeknowst to both of them, that pen pal is Georg. Director Scott Ellis’s nimble staging flows like champagne out of a bottle: shimmering and effervescent. David Rockwell’s candy-colored jewel-box set...

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Theatre Review: “New York Spectacular”

If you love New York, there are a handful of lump-in-your-throat moments in the Rockettes’ New York Spectacular. Sure, they are rather baldly emotionally manipulative, but I for one didn’t care – I got the feeling that all of the creators of this extravaganza were sincere in their own love of the Big Apple, and that makes a big difference. Of course the Rockettes have been famous for over 80 years for their Christmas Spectacular. New York Spectacular replaces Christmas with the city itself, to marvelous effect. Broadway scribe Douglas Carter Beane (Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Xanadu, The Nance) weaves a story of two tourist kids separated from their parents during a summer vacation. Beane hit upon the clever idea of having the...

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Cabaret Review: Steven Page

Steven Page chooses his words carefully. I mean this in a couple of ways: the former Barenaked Ladies frontman is a real craftsman as a songwriter – his lyrics surprise and conjure evocative images. But he also doesn’t say much in between songs; maybe a few pithy comments about the next song, nothing that you could really call “patter.” So his current show at the Café Carlyle is not your typical cabaret show. It more closely resembles a concert of laconically funny folk rock. And that’s fine, because this is sophisticated folk rock of a high caliber. The show leans heavily on Page’s new album Heal Thyself, Pt. 1: Instinct, which deals with themes of love, loss and healing, with a rich vein of...

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Theatre Review: “Blackbird”

I have very mixed feelings about this play. I often look at shows through the lens of my work as a stage director – I ask myself, would I want to spend several weeks of rehearsal in the world of this play. Blackbird is a play I would never want to direct, I decidedly would not want to spend all that time with Ray and Una, who had a sexual relationship when he was an adult and she was 12. That said, I do recognize Blackbird as a powerful piece of theatre, and this production as an accomplished one. It’s definitely a juicy meal of “actor meat” for two adventurous performers, and the leads in this production, Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams, tear into it with gusto...

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Theatre Review: “Waitress”

Pop-rock singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles has succeeded where several of her Billboard chart colleagues have failed – she has written the score for a musical that is not only catchy and tuneful, but also serves the storytelling in a coherent and cogent way. Waitress tells the story of Jenna (the ever-luminous Jessie Mueller), a waitress and expert pie maker in a small southern town, who married far too young to a man she doesn’t love. Can she escape him, and if so, how? Both the character of Jenna and Bareilles’s rich and zesty songs are terrific vehicles for Mueller’s detailed, heart-felt acting and liquid gold voice. Her Jenna feels incredibly approachable – she feels like an earth mother in spite of...

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Theatre Review: “Bright Star”

Affable and inoffensive – those are the adjectives that leap to mind when thinking about the Steve Martin / Edie Brickell bluegrass musical Bright Star. It’s a perfectly pleasant evening in the theatre, but on a Broadway musical landscape populated by big, brassy entertainments on one hand, and fresh, innovate think pieces on the other, it may have a difficult time keeping it’s darling little head held high. Bright Star tells the story of Alice Murphy, a North Carolina literary editor. When she encounters an aspiring young author – a small town soldier just home from World War II – a chain of events is set in motion that take Alice back to the best and worst moments of her own youth. The best thing about...

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Theatre Review: “Old Hats”

Rubber-limbed clown Bill Irwin was one of the biggest successes to come out of the “New Vaudeville” of the ’70s & ’80s. Around the time he joined forces with fellow clown David Shiner in the early ’90s for Fool Moon, the “New Vaudevillians” had done their work, and you could do straight-up vaudeville (no “New”) – much as has happened with burlesque since. So in Old Hats, Irwin and Shiner combine bits with roots going back to the 19th Century to a brand-spanking-new routine involving an iPad for Irwin. Seems Irwin’s image on his device sometimes gets the better of the real person! Long gone are any pretensions to High Art. This is not to say Old Hats is...

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Theatre Review: “Disaster!”

When the willfully silly Disaster! is funny, it’s one of the funniest shows in town. Plus, you will simply not hear the 1970s disco and pop rock songs that make up its score sung better anywhere – in some cases they outshine the original. Broadway musician and comedian Seth Rudetsky got together with director Jack Plotnick to write this loving tribute to disaster movies of the 1970s (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, etc.). They’ve added an extra thick layer of camp, making Disaster! musically to 1970s pop rock what Rock of Ages is to hair metal. Rudetsky also plays “disaster expert” Ted, who everybody thinks is crazy for predicting Manhattan’s first floating casino and discotheque is destined for all kinds of trouble...

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Theatre Review: “A View from the Bridge”

I liked this as well as I could. Ivo von Hove is a very thoughtful director, but he’ll never be my favorite. Arthur Miller isn’t my favorite classic American playwright, and this isn’t even my favorite play of Milller’s. Hove’s production of Miller’s A View from the Bridge, is, however, the most lucid work I’ve seen from this sometimes opaque auteur director. It’s rock-solid theater for sure, but not quite up to the mark of director Gregory Mosher’s production a few seasons back. What irks me most about this play is its strong strain of homophobia. When Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone, the protagonist of A View from the Bridge, says that Rodolpho, a fresh-off-the-boat...

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Theatre Review: “School of Rock”

The tradition of breaking with tradition – that’s what is at the heart of the light-hearted and playful romp School of Rock. I like this better than anything composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has written since he split with lyricist Tim Rice in the late 1970s, partly because Webber is clearly having a blast returning to his rock roots, and partly because it celebrates rock’s spirit of adolescent rebellion and individualism. I’m told that the Julian Fellowes book for School of Rock follows the film very closely (haven’t seen the film). It focuses on Dewey Finn, a rock and roll true believer, who fakes his way into a job as a substitute teacher to pay the rent. The only subject he knows well...

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