The themes of high school, young love and growing up are timeless. Add in a very catchy soundtrack, an iconic movie musical and you’ve got Grease (1978).
The go to musical for school productions and local theater groups for over 40 years, Grease is the story of a high school romance set in the late 1950’s. Sandy (Olivia Newton John) and Danny (John Travolta) had a brief summer romance. But summer is over and school has started. Sandy is now the new good girl and Danny is the leader of the T-Birds, bad boy greasers.
Danny is not the same boy Sandy knew over the summer. Sandy is spending her time with the Pink Ladies, the female equivalent of the T-Birds. Will Sandy and Danny’s romance be nothing more than a summer romance or can they bridge the gap that is keeping them apart?
We all know this movie. We all know the songs. The stage musical premiered in 1971 and has not left the public consciousness since then.
Do I recommend it? Why not?
Queen Elizabeth II is an interesting figure in British history. She is one of the most well known public figures in the world, but there are a few who are lucky enough to get beyond the public persona.
The Audience, a new play by Peter Morgan is about a little known meeting that the Queen has had with her Prime Ministers. Every Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister and Queen Elizabeth will meet for twenty minutes to hash out the past week’s events and to speak of what is to come for the next week. This has been a tradition for sixty years, 12 Prime Ministers have sat opposite the Queen in those six decades.
Playing Queen Elizabeth II once more is Helen Mirren. But this is not the just the older Queen Elizabeth that Mirren played in The Queen. The play jumps back and forth in time, going back to her childhood (Sadie Sink & Elizabeth Teeter alternate the part of young Elizabeth). As an adult, we see Elizabeth with her Prime Ministers, starting with Winston Churchill (Dakin Matthews) and ending with the current Prime Minister David Cameron (Rufus Wright).
This play is nothing short of a masterpiece. Helen Mirren has proved once more why she is goddess that she is. Her Elizabeth is more than a ceremonial figurehead. She is witty, intelligent and extremely interested in the day to day running of her country. We also see her growth as a woman and as a young girl, she chafed that rules placed upon her when her father became King. Like any manager, her relationships with her Prime Minister vary from professional to warm.
Tonight was the last performance of this show. I’m usually not a fan of revivals, but next time this show comes around to NYC, I would see it again. Especially if Helen Mirren reprises her role.
I absolutely recommend it.
I’ve been stating recently about the dearth of original ideas on Broadway and in Hollywood.
Something Rotten has proved me wrong.
Nick Bottom (Brian D’arcy James) and Nigel Bottom (John Cariani) are renaissance era playwrights trying to make a name for themselves. Standing in their way is the biggest name in theater of the era: The Bard (Christian Borle). Desperate for a hit, Nick reaches out to the Soothsayer (Brad Oscar). The Soothsayer tells Nick about a musical (a play that combines acting, singing and dancing at the same time. Completing shocking, I know). Running with the idea, Nick and Nigel prepare their theater troupe for opening night. But they will learn that being at the top also requires in the words of the Bard “to thine own self be true”.
This show is one of the funniest and most original shows that I have seen on Broadway in a very long time. It speaks to all of us have a dream and see someone who is living that dream while we are watching from afar. While the entire cast are standouts, Borle’s The Bard is amazing. He has a Mick Jagger rock and roll swag in tight leather pants that is unique from any other portrayal of William Shakespeare.
I absolutely recommend this show.
Something Rotten is currently playing on Broadway at the St. James Theater, 246 W 44th Street, New York, NY.
There is something about a jury room that brings out the best or the worst in us. 12 strangers have been randomly chosen to decide if another stranger is innocent or guilty of the charges that they have been accused of.
Based on the play of the same name, 12 Angry Men was adapted for the screen in 1957.
The audience does not know the names of the jurors or the lives they will lead when they leave the courthouse. They are known by their numbers. The accused is a young man who is charged with killing his father. Now these men must decide if the accused is guilty or innocent. The first round of voting is fairly simple. All but one of the jurors, #8 (Henry Fonda) believes that the accused is guilty. In the interest of returning to their everyday lives quickly, the rest of jurors try to convince #8 that he is wrong. What seems like an open and shut case turns into a revelation of personal prejudice, hidden scars and our inability to see beyond our own lives.
This play and the adapted film is a masterclass in acting. The drama is heightened from the first page and does let up until the last page. I have seen the movie and subsequent revivals on stage several. No matter how many times I see it, it is still one of the best plays ever written.
I highly recommend both.
A William Shakespeare play will always draw a crowd.
Earlier today, I attended the final performance of A Winter’s Tale at The Pearl Theatre Company in New York City.
The play is the story of a king who in fit of jealousy, accuses his pregnant wife of cheating on him with his best friend. His wife dies soon after the birth of their daughter. Refusing to believe that the child is his, the king sends the child away with a trusted adviser who is eaten by bears. A shepherd find the baby and raises her as his own.
Sixteen years later, his daughter is now growing up and in love. She is in love with the prince, who happens to be the son of the best friend who her father accused her mother of cheating on him with. His father does not approve of the match and the young lovers run away to the neighboring kingdom, which happens to be the birthplace of the girl.
I’ve seen many Shakespearean plays, but this afternoon was a first for me. It was entertaining, but not the best.
When We Were Young And Unafraid is the best play of 2014.
In the early 1970’s, Agnes (Cherry Jones) runs a bed and breakfast while raising her teenage daughter, Penny (Morgan Saylor) on an island near Seattle, Washington. The bed and breakfast is a cover for an underground battered women’s shelter. Mary Anne (Zoe Kazan, granddaughter of the legendary director Elia Kazan) is running from her abusive husband. Paul (Patch Darragh) is one of Agnes’s clients, seeking shelter from his own past. Hannah (Cherise Boothe) came to the island looking for work and the womyns group she has been following.
This play is beyond magnificent. The topics of feminism, homosexuality, abortion, spousal abuse, teenage angst is written in such a way by playwright Sarah Treem that instead of being preachy or soapboxy, it intertwines with the secrets that we all have. Put against the backdrop of the early 1970’s, when the world was changing, this play is dynamic, powerful and everything a play should be.
I highly recommend this play.
Daniel Radcliffe is an exceptional actor. At the the young age of 24, he has starred in one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. In the three years since the release of the final Harry Potter film, Radcliffe has continued to show audiences that he can play characters that are far from the world of his bespectacled wizardly alter ego.
His new play, The Cripple of Inishmaan is about a small island off the coast of Ireland. Among the residents of this island is Billy (Radcliffe), a orphaned young man born with a physical deformity. When Hollywood visits to make a film about their island, the residents hope for a chance for stardom. Vying for this chance of stardom is the very funny and mouthy brother and sister duo of Helen and Bartley McCormick (Sarah Greene and Conor MacNeill). Billy’s aunts, Kate and Eileen Osbourne (Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna), who have raised Billy since his parent’s death, are equal parts concerned about him and quick to remind him of his deformity.
This play is very good and very funny. While most of the characters have a small town mentality, Billy is eager to leave his small town and find opportunity in Hollywood. The supporting cast is well chosen and very funny.
I recommend this play.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that certain stories are meant to live forever, re-visited and introduced again and again to audiences.
Such is Henrik Ibsen’s masterpiece, A Doll’s House, presently at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music until March 23rd.
Nora and Torvald Helmer (Hattie Morahan and Dominic Rowan, Elinor Dashwood in the 2008 Sense and Sensibility and Mr. Elton in the 1996 Kate Beckinsale Emma, for my fellow Janeites) have been married for nine years. The play opens just before Christmas, Torvald is waiting for a promotion to bank manager, which will mean a raise. His wife, Nora, appears to be flighty and somewhat dimwitted.
The arrival of Nora’s childhood friend, Kristine Linde (Caroline Martin) reveals that Nora is much more than she appears. Early into her marriage, Torvald became sick. Following doctors orders, they traveled to Italy where the warm weather was recommended to improve Torvald’s health. Unbeknownst to her husband, Nora took out a loan which she is secretly paying off and has not told him. One of her husband’s employees, Nils Krogstad (Nick Fletcher) knows that he will be out for a job very soon and tries to use the unpaid loan to get his job back.
This play is amazing. Morahan is perfect for Nora and Rowan is equally as perfect as Torvald. The tension is there from the moment that it starts. The audience knows Nora’s secret and we all know that it will only be a matter of time before Torvald finds out. The slamming of the door at the final moments of play reverberated throughout the theater.
I’ve heard of this play, but I’ve never seen it. I hope to see it next time it comes my way.
There is a reason that Tennessee Williams is one of the most brilliant playwrights of the 20th century. His characters are so human, full of the same experiences, joys and mistakes that we all go through in life.
This weekend, I saw a revival of The Glass Menagerie starring Cherry Jones.
The Glass Menagerie is the story of a family living in the midwest during the 1930’s. Amanda Wingfield is a single mother living with her adult children, Tom (Zachary Quinto) and Laura (Celia Keenan-Bolger). Tom is working at a local factory and frequently argues with his mother. Laura is walks with a limp and only socializes with her mother and brother, suffering from anxiety attacks if she has to socialize with anyone else.
Amanda is determined to bring in gentleman callers for her daughter and fondly remembers her youth and the gentleman callers she used to entertain. When Tom bring in a gentleman caller (Brian J Smith) home for dinner, a slim chance of happiness and marital bliss appears for Laura, only for it to be smashed into tiny pieces by the end of the play.
Tennessee Williams is one of my favorite playwrights. I love Streetcar Named Desire, it’s one of the most brilliant plays ever written, Blanche Bubois is hands down one of the great characters ever created. The same themes of reality vs. fantasy, the dream like memories of the past vs. the rough and not so nice present appear in both plays.
Cherry Jones is a wonder in this part. I saw her a few years ago in Mrs. Warren’s Profession. She blew me away then and she blew me away this weekend. Zachary Quinto and Celia Keenan-Bolger as her children seem on stage as if they are really siblings, instead of actors pretending to be siblings. Brian J Smith as the gentleman caller gives the audience hope that Laura may find the happiness that both she and her mother want to have.
The play closes on February 23rd. If you have the opportunity to get tickets, I highly recommend this show.
This weekend, I bought ticket to a limited run of Lemieux and Pilon’s La Belle et la Bete at BAM.
It ran only three performances, but if this production comes to a theater near you, I highly reccomend it.
There have been numerous adaptations of Beauty and The Beast over the years, most famously, the Disney movie from the early 90’s.
But none as simple and powerful at this adaptation.
Stripped down to a 90 minute three act play with only three characters on a nearly empty stage, the special effects assist the story and the actors without overwhelming them.
The thing that makes this adaptation so memorable is that a single line in the play is all you need to know about the lead characters “A scar for a scar”.
Stripped of the 16th century trappings of the original story and the Disneyfied singing and dancing household objects, Beauty and Beast is a very simple, beautiful and timeless tale. It is the tale of two people, who have been knocked down by life, who feel like outsiders, who each bear scars from their pasts. Through their interactions with each other, they begin to heal, accept themselves and find the internal peace they have been searching for.
I wish it had a longer run, but I am glad I had a chance to see it this weekend. I would most certainly see it again if it came to my area.