Fall/Winter 2017 on Broadway

David Zinn’s fabulous set and costumes for SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS.

Dear Readers,

Since my last review, I have been withholding; I saw six shows. Why didn’t I write reviews of these shows? Because they were one and all utterly uninspiring. None was so bad as to receive a pithy reproach. Equally, none inspired glee. So here is my short catch-up on this lackluster season to date:

LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONSJohn Leguizamo’s entertaining one-man show includes a short political diatribe which is to be expected considering the “Wall” etc. Not quite the insightful, thrilling journeys we’ve gone through with him in the past, but amusing enough.

METEOR SHOWER – I expected so much more from the author of SHOPGIRL and BRIGHT STAR, this slight play reads like a college exercise in surrealism, but damn, that is a “grade A” cast of comedians and I laughed A LOT during the first 2/3rds.

ONCE ON THIS ISLAND – I’m not one for folk tales about women sacrificing for love. Don’t you think we’ve had enough of that? This show has some great music, some great dancing, but comes off like an overstuffed Disney Caribbean Princess story.

THE PARISIAN WOMAN – Bland show with a bland leading actress. Politics-lite.

SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS – If you know the cartoon, you will love this show. The characters are absolutely spot-on, David Zinn‘s set & costumes are eye-popping. The story is a jumble of unresolved plots and the songs are a jukebox mess.

FARINELLI AND THE KINGMark Rylance is always enthralling on stage, and the castrati-style vocalist supported by original instruments (and no sound system) are stunning. Unfortunately, the play is slight and drags.

So what’s the take away from this mediocre start of the 2017-2018 season? Producers are mostly back-ending the shows to the spring, closer to the TONYS, but once the theaters are all full, there may be a traffic jam and it’s usually the interesting straight plays that lose out when that happens.

I’ll be reporting from LA for the next few months. Stay warm.


Bright Star Globe Theatres - Old Globe Theatre Production Credits: Directed by Walter Bobbie Other Credits: Lyrics by: Edie Brickell Music by: Edie Brickell and Steve Martin Book by Steve Martin The acting company includes Stephen Lee Anderson (Daddy Murphy; Broadway's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Richard III at the Old Vic and BAM, Chasing the Song at La Jolla Playhouse), Stephen Bogardus (Daddy Cane; the Globe's The Last Goodbye, many Broadway roles), Allison Briner (Ensemble), Max Chernin (Ensemble), Patti Cohenour (Mama Murphy; Broadway's The Light in the Piazza and The Sound of Music), Carmen Cusack (Alice Murphy; Broadway/West End, Nellie Forbush in South Pacific in the LCT National Tour), Wayne Duvall (Mayor Josiah Dobbs; the Globe's Working, Bonnie & Clyde at LJP), Hannah Elless (Margo Crawford; Broadway's Godspell revival),Jeff Hiller (Daryl Ames; Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at The Public and Broadway), Leah Horowitz (Ensemble; Broadway's Follies and LES MISERABLES), Joe Jung (Ensemble; Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, The Public and Broadway), Lulu Lloyd (Swing; San Diego native, God's Country Off Broadway), Kate Loprest (Lucy Grant; Broadway's First Date and Hairspray), Ashley Robinson (Ensemble; Merrily We Roll Along on the West End, The Last Goodbye at Williamstown, Giant in Chicago), Greg Roderick (Swing; Broadway's South Pacific/LCT and Ragtime),Sarah Jane Shanks (Ensemble), A.J. Shively (Billy Cane; Broadway's La Cage Aux Folles, Brigadoon concert), Scott Wakefield (Ensemble; Broadway's Hands on a Hardbody, Ring of Fire), Wayne Alan Wilcox (Jimmy Ray Dobbs, Broadway's Chaplin, The Normal Heart, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Coram Boy), and Libby Winters (Dora Murphy; Broadway's American Idiot). The creative team includes Broadway powerhouses Josh Rhodes (Choreographer), Peter Asher (Musical Supervisor),Rob Berman (Musical Director, Vocal Arrangements), August Eriksmoen (Orchestrator), Eugene Lee (Scenic Design),Jane Greenwood (Costume Design

Photo by Joan Marcus

BRIGHT STAR broke my heart in so many ways.  This is a small, blue grass fable with some catchy tunes (by Steve Martin & Edie Brickell) that packs a sweet, powerful wallop.  Although the twist quickly becomes obvious, and the reveal is ham-fisted, getting there is all the fun and by the end I was sobbing; the kind of crying you do when you are overwhelmed with happiness and relief.

Carmen Cusack plays Alice Murphy who has a tall tale to share with us.  Her acting is infectious and her voice is extraordinarily textured and enchanting.  Unfortunately, rather than letting this wonderful chamber piece be true to its heart, the director Walter Bobbie has thrown in a completely superfluous chorus.  A few times the chorus works, but most often they unnecessarily pull focus from the leads. There aren’t any big ensemble numbers and they aren’t integral to telling the story. They are there for one reason: to justify the price of a Broadway ticket.  What I wouldn’t give to have seen this gem as an eight character intimate musical at the old Promenade Theater. 💔

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