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Alice By Heart Comes To MCC With Music By Duncan Sheik and Lyrics By Steven Sater

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MCC Theater (Robert LuPone, Bernard Telsey, William Cantler, Artistic Directors; Blake West, Executive Director) announced today casting and creative team for the New York premiere of the musical Alice By Heart with book by Steven Sater with Jessie Nelson; music by Duncan Sheik, lyrics by Steven Sater, and directed by Jessie Nelson. Choreography will be by Rick and Jeff Kuperman.

We found Duncan Sheik singing “Another Room in Your Head” from the show.

The cast will feature Molly Gordon (Life of the Party, “Animal Kingdom”) as Alice and Colton Ryan (Girl From the North Country, “The Americans”) as Alfred/The White Rabbit, along with Mia DiLena (Disney’s The Music Man), Zachary Downer (Hello, Dolly!CATS), Noah Galvin (Dear Evan Hansen, “The Real O’Neals”), Zachary Infante (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, dir. Julie Taymor), Andrew Kober (School of Rock, Hair), Grace McLean (Great Comet), Nkeki  Obi-Melekwe (“Bull,” “SMILF”), Catherine Ricafort (SpongeBob Squarepants, Honeymoon in Vegas), Heath Saunders (Great Comet, “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert”), and Wesley Taylor (Spongebob Squarepants, The Addams Family).

The creative team for Alice By Heart includes scenic design by Donyale Werle, costume design by Paloma Young, lighting design by Bradley King, sound design by Dan Moses Schreier, hair, wig and makeup design by J. Jared Janas, orchestrations by Duncan Sheik, additional orchestrations by Simon Hale, music direction and vocal arrangements by Jason Hart, and casting by Telsey + Company/Bernard Telsey, CSA, Rebecca Scholl, CSA. The Production Stage Manager is Davin DeSantis and the Stage Manager is Jason Pacella.

Alice By Heart begins performances on Wednesday, January 30, 2019 as the first show in the Newman Mills Theater at The Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space (511 West 52nd Street), with an official opening night set for Tuesday, February 26, 2019.

When the madness of the world is too much to bear, we take refuge in the stories we love. Tony® and Grammy® award-winning creators of Spring Awakening, Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, reunite for their new musical Alice By Heart, inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and directed and co-written by Jessie Nelson (Waitress). In the rubble of the London Blitz of World War II, Alice Spencer’s budding teen life is turned upside down, and she and her dear friend Alfred are forced to take shelter in an underground tube station. When the ailing Alfred is quarantined, Alice encourages him to escape with her into their cherished book and journey down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. As they travel through the tale, Alice By Heart explores the poignancy of first love, coming to terms with loss, and finding the courage to move forward. This world premiere musical encourages us all to celebrate the transformational power of the imagination, even in the harshest of times.

Tickets are on sale now at mcctheater.org. For all tickets purchased via the MCC website today, Thursday December 6th, MCC Theater will waive any extra fee/service charge.

A workshop production of Alice by Heart was presented by New York Stage and Film & Vassar at the Powerhouse Theater, Summer 2018.

Developed at Theatre Aspen’s New Work Development Program.

Steven Sater: Musicals include: Spring Awakening (Tony, Olivier, Drama Desk, Grammy Awards); The Nightingale (La Jolla Playhouse, NY Stage and Film); Alice by Heart (National Theatre of London: Connections); Prometheus Bound (music by Serj Tankian, A.R.T.); Some Lovers (music by Burt Bacharach, The Old Globe, The Other Palace, Upcoming, Adirondack Theatre Festival); Nero (Magic Theatre, NY Stage and Film). Plays: Carbondale Dreams; Perfect for You, Doll (Rosenthal Prize); Arms on Fire (Steppenwolf New Play Prize, Chester Theatre, NY Stage and Film), A Footnote to the Iliad (NY Stage and Film); Shakespeare’s Tempest (London’s Lyric Hammersmith); No One’s Sonata (Eugene O’Neill Theatre); New York Animals (Bedlam Theatre Co.).

Duncan Sheik: Performer/Composer. Theatre credits include: Spring Awakening (2006) Tony Awards for “Best Original Score” and “Best Orchestrations,” 2008 Grammy Award for “Best Musical Show Album”, Because of Winn-Dixie (Alabama Shakespeare Festival 2017, Delaware Theatre Company 2015), Whisper House (London 2017, Old Globe Theater 2011), American Psycho (2016), The Secret Life of Bees (upcoming 2019), Nero (Another Golden Rome) (currently in development), The Nightingale (currently in development) Noir (currently in development). Recordings include: American Psycho (Original London Cast Recording 2016), Legerdemain (2015) Covers 80s (Sneaky Records 2011), Whisper House (Sony 2009), Spring Awakening (Original Broadway Cast Recording 2006), White Limousine (Rounder 2006), Daylight (Atlantic Records 2002), Phantom Moon (Nonesuch 2001), Humming (Atlantic Records 1998), Duncan Sheik (Grammy Nomination “Best Male Vocal”, RIAA Certified Gold) (Atlantic Records 1996).

Jessie Nelson began her career with Mabou Mines at the Public Theater.  An unexpected left turn led her to film where she wrote, directed, and produced Corrina Corrina, I Am Sam and To The Moon Alice. She directed Love The Coopers and “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. Her writing credits include Stepmom and The Story of Us. She produced Fred Claus and Danny Collins.  Brought back to her first love, theater, Jessie wrote the Broadway musical Waitress with music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles. She directed the workshop of Alice By Heart at the National Theater’s Connections Program. She has been the Artistic Director of the Sundance Writers Lab. She wrote the children’s book Labracadabra.

Rick and Jeff Kuperman. Recent choreography highlights include Cyrano (Goodspeed, starring Peter Dinklage and Haley Bennett), a NYE performance for Phish (Madison Square Garden), The Count of Monte Cristo (Saint Petersburg, Russia), Broadway Asia’s immersive Peter Pan (Beijing, China), Orpheus in the Berkshires (Williamstown Theater Festival), and The Light Princess (A.R.T./New Victory, NY Times Critics’ Pick). As directors: SMILE (FringeNYC), Roll! (Ars Nova), The 39 Steps (PST), and Dispossessed (HERE). Their film work has screened at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, HollyShorts, and online on Entertainment Weekly, NPR, and The Huffington Post. The brothers are third degree black belts in Kenpo Karate, experienced fight directors, and grads of Harvard and Princeton. kupermanbrothers.com

Mia DiLena is originally from Toronto, graduated from The Ailey School in 2009. Following that, she attended Springboard Danse Montréal for three seasons. Mia performed with Travis Wall’s company, Shaping Sound, on the tours of After the Curtain and Dance Reimagined, and most recently performed Travis’ choreography at the American Music Awards for Jennifer Lopez. Earlier in 2016, Mia worked with Stacey Tookey on the original creation of a Canadian musical entitled DANCER!: A Musical in Ten Furlongs. Some of her film and television credits include Disney’s The Music Man, From Time to Time (Bravo), and several music videos. Mia has danced in a number of Toronto-based companies including Helix Dance Project, Bridge To Artists, Conteur Dance Company, and TOES FOR DANCE. Mia was thrilled to be a part of the creation process of Alice By Heart, and is elated to be joining the cast here and now.

Zachary Downer. Broadway: Hello, Dolly!, CATS (Mr. Mistoffolees). Television: “So You Think You Can Dance” S14, “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” YoungArts Alumni ‘15. World Ballet Competition – Bronze Medalist ‘14. Thanks to God, my incredible family, mentors, & Lakey Wolff & Co.! Psalm 16:6

Noah Galvin made his B’way debut as the titular character in Dear Evan Hansen. Upcoming Film: Booksmart (dir: Olivia WIlde), Film: Assassination Nation (dir. Sam Levinson). Television: “The Real O’Neals” (ABC). Off-Broadway: What I Did Last Summer (Signature Theater), Love and Information (New York Theater Workshop), The Golden Dragon (The Play Company), Yosemite (Rattlestick Theater), King Lear (Exit, Pursued by Bear), Treasure Island (Irondale Theater), Our Town (Barrow Street Theater), The Burnt Part Boys (Vineyard, Playwrights Horizons, New York Stage and Film- Lortel Nomination), Esther Demsack (Public Theater). Regional: The Power of Duff (Huntington Theatre Company), Filming O’Keeffe (Adirondack Theatre Festival), The Great American Mousical (dir. Julie Andrews -Goodspeed), Tommy (Bay Street Theatre), Wintuk (Cirque du Soleil), Ace: The Musical (St. Louis Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Old Globe-Kevin Kline Award). Audiofile Magazine’s Earphones Award winner (2014) for his narration of “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “Somebody Up There Hates You,” and “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.”  

Molly Gordon co-starred alongside Melissa McCarthy in the Warner Bros/New Line comedy feature film Life of the Party and just completed production on Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut film, Booksmart and the Universal Pictures comedy Good Boys directed by Lee Eisenberg & Gene Stupnitsky for Seth Rogen’s Point Grey Pictures. Additionally, Gordon starred as Nicky in the TNT drama “Animal Kingdom,” based on the 2010 Australian film of the same name. Other TV credits include “Ramy” on Hulu (upcoming), “Orange is the New Black,” “Sin City Saints” and the voice of Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Stephen Colbert’s “Our Cartoon President.”  Her other credits include Sweeney Todd (Lincoln Center, Great Performances) and Love the Coopers. Gordon resides in New York and Los Angeles.

Zachary Infante is passionate about new work and grateful to be making their MCC debut! Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Dir. Julie Taymor, Theatre for a New Audience), Big River (Dir. Lear deBessonet, New York City Center), Fingersmith (Dir. Bill Rauch, American Repertory Theater), Do I Hear A Waltz? (Dir. Evan Cabnet, NYCC), Pericles (Dir. Trevor Nunn, TFANA), Tamburlaine the Great (Dir. Michael Boyd, TFANA), Somewhere (Dir. Giovanna Sardelli, Hartford Stage), Peter Pan (Dir. Mark Hoebee, Paper Mill Playhouse), In The Heights (Dir. Nick DeGruccio, Orlando Shakes), The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Dir. Ken Rus Schmoll, Two River Theater), Rent (Dir. Nicola Murphy, Cas Di Cultura, Aruba’s National Theater), Petrol Station (Dir. Sulayman al Basam, The Kennedy Center), TV/Film: “Gotham,” “Alpha House,” Carrie Pilby (Dir. Susan Johnson), School of Rock (Dir. Richard Linklater). They’d like to thank their family, friends, and the team at Abrams for continued love and support. This one is for their niece Mia. @zachinfante

Andrew Kober has appeared on Broadway in School of Rock, Sunday in the Park with George, She Loves Me, Les Miserables, and Hair as well as the West End production of Hair. He toured nationally in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and has appeared off-Broadway and regionally with Roundabout Theatre Company, The Public Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, The Old Globe, Yale Rep, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Bucks County Playhouse, The Denver Center Theater, Barrington Stage Company, and four summers at Shakespeare in the Park, most recently playing Malvolio in the 2018 production of Twelfth Night. His television credits include “Ray Donovan,” “House of Cards,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Blue Bloods,” “Pan Am,” and the upcoming FX miniseries, “Fosse/Verdon.” Twitter: @andrewkober 

Grace McLean. MCC debut. Broadway: Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. Off-Broadway: Natasha, Pierre…, Kazino; Brooklynite, Vineyard; Bedbugs!!!, ArcLight; The World is Round, BAM; Sleep No More, McKittrick; Twelve Ophelias, Woodshed Collective. Regional: Natasha, Pierre…, A.R.T.; Pump Boys and Dinettes, Weston Playhouse; La MaMa Cantata, in Spoleto, Italy; Zagreb, Croatia; Belgrade, Serbia; From The Fire, Edinburgh 2011; MTM Best New Musical; The Last Goodbye, WTF. As a musical ambassador for the US State Department, Grace toured Russia with Migguel Anggelo (2018), and Pakistan with her band (2015). Grace McLean & Them Apples headlined Lincoln Center’s American Songbook in 2015 and 2016. Grace is the recipient of the 2017 Hunt Family Emerging Artist Award from Lincoln Center and her original musical about the early life of 12th century mystic and polymath Hildegard von Bingen is commissioned by Lincoln Center. Original music on iTunes. www.gracemclean.com @thatgracemclean

Nkeki Obi-Melekwe is overjoyed to be making her NYC debut! She most recently appeared in Half Time (Paper Mill Playhouse). TV: “Bull” (CBS) and “SMILF” (Showtime). Proud University of Michigan graduate, Class of 2018 (Go Blue!). Thank you to Jen, Ben, and Telsey & Co. As always, for Mom and Dad.

Catherine Ricafort was last seen as villainess “Karen The Computer” in SpongeBob Squarepants on Broadway. Catherine also originated the role of “Mahi” in Jason Robert Brown’s Honeymoon in Vegas on Broadway. Other Broadway shows include Mamma Mia! (“Ali”, 10th Anniversary Cast), Cinderella, Allegiance, Disaster!, Holiday Inn, and Miss Saigon (for which she received the Legacy Robe). As a lead vocalist, she has performed on NBC’s “The Sing-Off” as a featured soloist of “The Backbeats,” can be heard on a cappella albums with “The SoCal VoCals,” and has performed for troops across the country with The USO Show Troupe.  As a director and choreographer, her latest project is “Choose,” the debut music video for Queens-based rapper Super Smack. B.S. Industrial & Systems Engineering (Cum Laude), University of Southern California. Love to God, Pa, Ma, Jaydee, Lims, Scott. Thanks to Telsey and the incredible Alice By Heart team for having me! www.catherinericafort.com @cattricafort

Colton Ryan is currently starring in Girl From the North Country at The Public. He recurred on FX’s “The Americans,” and Showtime’s “Homeland.” He will appear in Rhys Ernst’s upcoming feature, Adam, alongside Margaret Qualley and Nicholas Alexander. Colton understudied for Ben Platt in the Tony-Award winning musical Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway. He also shot a lead role in the feature film The Social Ones, directed by Laura Kosann. 

Heath Saunders spent much of 2018 involved in Jesus Christ Superstar, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, as Jesus, and also as an apostle in “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” on NBC. His summer and fall were filled with various workshops, readings, and new works, including being a featured vocalist with Constellation Chor at the New York Philharmonic’s gala welcoming Jaap Von Zweden. He made his Broadway debut in 2016 with the much-acclaimed musical Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, after participating in the show’s American Repertory Theatre production. He has appeared Off-Broadway in Newton’s Cradle (New York Musical Theatre Festival), for which he also wrote the music and lyrics. Other New York appearances include Lennon (Union Square Theatre), I Am Harvey Milk (Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center), and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (New York City Center Encores). Regionally Saunders has been seen in Twelfth Night (Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.), Blessing (Yale Repertory Theatre), The 12 (Denver Center), James and the Giant Peach (Seattle Children’s Theatre), and numerous productions at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, including Spamalot, The Pirates of Penzance, Hairspray! In Concert, Rent, and Titanic: In Concert.heathcliffsaunders.com @feeltheheath 

Wesley Taylor. Broadway: SpongeBob SquarePants (original cast), The Addams Family (original cast), Rock of Ages (original cast). Theatre World Award Winner and Outer Critics Circle Nominee. Denver Center: An Act of God. Signature Theatre: Cabaret. Second Stage: Little Miss Sunshine. American Conservatory Theater: Tales of the City. TV: “Smash” (26 episodes), “The Good Wife,” “The Tomorrow People,” “One Life to Live,” “Looking,” “I’m Dying Up Here,” “Difficult People.” Taylor is a published playwright, as well as the Co-Creator/Writer/Star of “Indoor Boys,” (HuffPost Queer Voices/Vimeo) “It Could Be Worse,” (Hulu/Pivot Tv/Vimeo), and “Billy Green” (YouTube). BFA: North Carolina School of the Arts.

MCC is one of New York’s leading nonprofit Off-Broadway companies, driven by a mission to provoke conversations that have never happened and otherwise never would. Founded in 1986 as a collective of artists leading peer-based classes to support their own development as actors, writers and directors, the tenets of collaboration, education, and community are at the core of MCC Theater’s programming. One of the only theaters in the country led continuously by its founders, Artistic Directors Robert LuPone, Bernard Telsey, and William Cantler, MCC fulfills its mission through the production of world, American, and New York premiere plays and musicals that challenge artists and audiences to confront contemporary personal and social issues, and robust playwright development and education initiatives that foster the next generation of theater artists and students.

MCC Theater’s celebrated productions include Jocelyn Bioh’s School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play; Penelope Skinner’s The Village Bike; Robert Askins’ Hand to God (Broadway transfer; five 2015 Tony Award® nominations including Best Play); John Pollono’s Small Engine Repair; Paul Downs Colaizzo’s Really Really; Sharr White’s The Other Place (Broadway transfer); Jeff Talbott’s The Submission (Laurents/Hatcher Award); Neil LaBute’s Reasons to Be Happy, reasons to be pretty (Broadway transfer, three 2009 Tony Award® nominations, including Best Play), Some Girl(s)Fat Pig, The Mercy Seat, and All The Ways To Say I Love You; Michael Weller’s Fifty Words; Alexi Kaye Campbell’s The Pride; Bryony Lavery’s Frozen (Broadway transfer; four 2004 Tony Award®nominations including Best Play, Tony Award® for Best Featured Actor); Tim Blake Nelson’s The Grey Zone; Rebecca Gilman’s The Glory of Living (2002 Pulitzer Prize finalist); Margaret Edson’s Wit (1999 Pulitzer Prize); and the musicals Coraline, Carrie, and Ride the Cyclone.  Many plays developed and produced by MCC have gone on to productions throughout the country and around the world.

Blake West joined the company in 2006 as Executive Director. MCC will begin production in January, 2019 in its new home in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, the Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space, unifying the company’s activities under one roof for the first time and expanding its producing, artist development, and education programming.

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

Off Broadway

NYTW’s “I Love You So Much I Could Die” Asks A Lot From You. Are You Willing?

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I’ve seen several one-person shows this past week, 3 to be exact (Grand’s Huff, Tarragon’s Guilt, & TPM’s As I Must Live It); sorta 4 if you don’t want to get toooo technical about it all (Soulpepper’s De Profundis). And each one engaged our emotional soul in differing and unique manners. I couldn’t help myself thinking about that theoretical construct as I watched Mona Pirnot, writer and performer of I Love You. So Much I Could Die, walk in from behind, down the stairs, and onto the bare minimalistic set at the downtown New York Theatre Workshop. She sits, facing away from us all, staring upright at the back walk of exposed brick, and turns on her laptop and types a few things in to get this exercise rolling. And I was struck by the abstractionism we were about to sit through for the next 65 minutes. It was clearly going to be a different experience than any of these other shows I experienced last week, and I couldn’t help but wonder how I was going to respond to this setup.

It’s a structural theoretical experience, one destined to play mind tricks with almost every person in the audience. Pirnot (NYTW’s Usual Suspect) never turns to face us with the story she wants to tell. It’s unclear why at the beginning, but as she unleashes her story, not with her own voice, but with the voice of her computer, Microsoft text-to-speech tool, the complicated, and frustrating, unwrapping becomes more and more clear. It’s a completely devastating tale of pain and tragedy that she has set out to detail, most effectively in her “cut to” tense listing of events. And she doesn’t have the voice to actually say it out loud. It’s too much. Too difficult to vocalize. She has the words, obviously, and the wit and strength, but not the voice. Unless she is singing a sad song of sorry, or love, accompanying herself with her trusted guitar that sits, oddly enough, facing us on the wide expanse of the stage.

Mona Pirnot in I Love You So Much I Could Die at New York Theatre Workshop – photo by Jenny Anderson.

The story is spoken out to us from that Microsoft voice, somewhat flat and awkward, distancing ourselves and her from the horribly sad and dark moments of an accident of some sort that incapacitated (to put it mildly) her sister during that complicated timeframe of the pandemic when visiting a loved one in the hospital was just not allowed. It seems she needs that disconnect to really tell us that tale; of that difficult and chaotic time in Florida where she spent months trying to survive her emotional self and the space she found herself with her husband; the playwright and ultimately the director of this show Lucas Hnath (Broadway’s A Doll’s House, Part 2). It’s an understandable predicament, one that I’ve always praised when an actor can tell us such a sad tale and maintain their voice, so I wrestled with that inside my head, somewhat distractively, during her unpacking, and somehow came out the other end understanding and sympathizing with the theory and experiment.

Using that flat computer tone and by staying turned away, she is able to unwind a story that may cripple her if she had to look us in the eye and tell us personally about her pain. I get that entirely, but I wasn’t convinced at the beginning (and maybe a little at the end as well) that this kind of confessional makes for good theatre. I soon discovered that there was little to look at on that stage after the initial few minutes, even with the fine work done by scenic designer Mimi Lien (Broadway’s Sweeney Todd), the fading lighting design mastery of Oona Curley (NYTW’s runboyrun & In Old Age), the simplistic but meaningful costume design by Enver Chakartash (PH’s Stereophonic), and the solid expanding sound design by Mikhail Fiksel (NYTW’s How To Defend Yourself). I could engage during the few musical interludes that filled the space with her lovely voice singing touching songs of sadness and love, but during the other moments, especially the “cut to” scenarios and a sad tale revolving around sickness and death, I could look away, stare at the floor or the wall of ladders that were to my left, and just dive into those flat words with abandonment.

Mona Pirnot in I Love You So Much I Could Die at New York Theatre Workshop – photo by Jenny Anderson

It’s not the simplest experience to endure, and endear, but there is another level, maybe one that director Hnath has played with before in his experimental Dana H., which played both off-Broadway and on (and on a Toronto stage next month that I hope to see) where we have to pull out internal connections to our own pain and sadness to really engulf ourselves in this somewhat slim play. It’s the flatness and metallic quality of the voice that forces us to find what we feel about the tale she is telling. Not an exercise of taking on what an actor is somehow transmitting to us, in a way, telling us how to feel about the pain being described. I’m crying, so you should be too. I’m laughing at this part, so you should laugh too. No one is giving us a sign or direction in the way we should be experiencing this, so we must look deep inside ourselves if we are to really embrace it.

Or we don’t have to. That is the other option. We can let the computer voice give us permission to nod off, and not engage with this terrible event she needs to tell us, nor the love and care she experienced from her husband. Pirnot tells us flat out (in a NYTimes interview), that she “couldn’t find the strength to verbalize her feelings to [Hnath] or her therapist … she typed her thoughts into her laptop, and prompted a text-to-speech program to voice them aloud.” Makes sense, even to this writer (who is also a psychotherapist in his real day job). Does it make great theatre? That is a question that only each audience member can decide for themselves, inside and within that very moment, as they sit in the ever-darkening theatre listening to I Love You So Much I Could Die. Do I dig deep and engage with my own emotional self, led there by no other person but myself? Or do I decide to not go there? Both are credible options, with very different outcomes. You decide. Dig deep or go home. And I won’t judge you for which you choose. I chose one-way last night. I can’t tell you what I might have chosen on a different night. That’s pretty impossible to know.

Mona Pirnot in I Love You So Much I Could Die at New York Theatre Workshop – photo by Jenny Anderson. For tickets and information, click here.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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Off Broadway

FIVE: The Parody Musical Meets The Press

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Look out SIX, here comes FIVE: The Parody Musical. Henry VIII and his six wives had nothing on Donald, the 45th, and these five ladies. This morning they met the press.

FIVE is an irreverent musical comedy revue starring Anyae Anasia as Ivana, Gabriella Joy Rodriguez (The Color Purple) as Marla, Jaime Lyn Beatty (Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical) as Melania, Gabi Garcia as Stormy, Hannah Bonnett (Legally Blonde national tour) as Ivanka, and Jasmine Rice LaBeija as Hillary Clinton.

Michael Cohen

Featuring a book and lyrics by Shimmy Braun and Moshiel Newman Daphna and music and lyrics by Billy Recce (A Musical About Star Wars), directed and choreographed by Jen Wineman, the production features orchestrations and arrangements by Terence “T” Odonkor, music supervision and arrangements by Lena Gabrielle, scenic design by David Goldstein, costume design by Florence D’Lee, lighting design by Marie Yokoyama, sound design by UptownWorks, hair and wig design by Ian Joseph, and props by Brendan McCann. Mark Osgood is production stage manager.

Moshiel Newman, Billy Recce, Jen Wineman, Shimmy Braun

FIVE begins its run Off-Broadway at Theater 555 February 15. Opening night is February 19, and the limited engagement will continue through March 10.

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Off Broadway

Russian Troll Farm; a Comedy About Dirty Politics, Dirty Russians and Dirty Trolls

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“As I researched the IRA’s (the Internet Research Agency) activities, I started getting this uncomfortable feeling that … I might be really great at this job. Trolls spend all day making up characters, writing dialogue, staging fights, triggering strong emotions … essentially, they’re playwrights!” Sarah Gancher in her program notes.

Sarah Gancher’s Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy takes us back to the time before the 2016 presidential election. Here truth, facts, manipulation, propaganda are in question — or are they?

Hadi Tabba, Renata Friedman
Photo by Carol Rosegg

We are transported to the real-life organization, the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg. The agency employed fake accounts registered on major social networking sites attempting to influence the 2016 United States presidential election. On February 16, 2018, a United States grand jury indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities, including the Internet Research Agency, on charges of violating criminal laws with the intent to interfere “with U.S. elections and political processes”, according to the Justice Department.

Haskell King, John Lavell,Christine Lahti, Renata Friedman, Hadi Tabba
Photo by Carol Rosegg

What Russian Troll Farm does is introduce us to the people inside. We have Egor (Haskell King), who is into his job or is it the people he meets on-line?  Steve (a fabulous John Lavelle) who is on high octane, intimidating others and getting off on 4chan. The supervisor of the floor Nikolai (Hadi Tabbal), whose marriage got him the job and whose chemistry with newcomer Masha (Renata Friedman) a former journalist will be his downfall. Heading them to their dark demise is Ljuba (Christine Lahti), a woman of steel who used to be a KGB senior manager, whose sexuality could get her axed.

Christine Lahti, Renata Friedman
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Like life, the most manipulative see and seek ways to destroy the fold, simply for fun and control.

Christine Lahti, Haskell King Photo by Carol Rosegg

Darko Tresnjak’s direction keeps us at a distance from being too pulled in. It feels as if we are watching a tragedy that has no hope.

Haskell King, John Lavell Photo by Carol Rosegg

Lavelle makes this play thoroughly entertaining, reminding us of Jack Black, as he mops up the stage. He is a frat boy who will never grow up and is still playing those repulsive childish games, just because he can. Christine Lahti’s story is the most human, but it comes out of left field.

The set by Alexander Dodge is sterile and Jared Mezzocchi’s projections with titles to let us know whose game it is are confusing.

There are many who will love Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy, I just think it lost track of what it was trying to say.

Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy: Vineyard Theatre, 108 E 15th Street through February 25.

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Off Broadway

Off-Broadway Week Starts February 13

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NYC Off-Broadway WeekSM, presented by Mastercard®,has 2-for-1 ticket sales to 30 Off-Broadway shows. This biannual program, which features over a dozen new shows, runs February 12–March 3, 2024.

Participating shows in NYC Off-Broadway Week Winter 2024 include:

  1. A Perfect Peace *

  2. All The Devils Are Here

  3. Blue Man Group

  4. Brooklyn Laundry *

  5. Cinderella The Musical

  6. Dead Outlaw *

  7. Drunk Shakespeare

  8. Eva Luna

  9. Five The Parody Musical *

  10. Friel Project – Aristocrats *

  11. Friends! The Musical Parody

  12. Gazillion Bubble Show 

  13. Hotel Happy *

  14. Jack Tucker: Comedy Standup Hour *

  15. Jonah * 

  16. La Breve Y Maravillosa Vida De Oscar Wao

  17. The Life And Slimes Of Marc Summers *

  18. Make Me Gorgeous * 

  19. Munich Medea: HAPPY FAMILY *

  20. Nicole Travolta Is Doing Alright *

  21. Nina Conti: The Dating Show *

  22. The Office! A Musical Parody

  23. Perfect Crime

  24. Pericles *

  25. Play That Goes Wrong

  26. Radojka

  27. Singfeld! A Musical About Nothing

  28. Tennessee Williams’s The Night Of The Iguana *

  29. Titanique  

  30. White Rose: The Musical *

* New participants in NYC Off-Broadway Week.

“We are proud to have over 30 Off-Broadway productions take part in this year’s NYC Off-Broadway Week program,” said Casey York, President of The Off-Broadway League. “For over a decade, this biannual program has allowed our productions to continue to showcase the intimate setting and diversity that is inherent to the Off-Broadway community, captivating both New Yorkers and visitors alike.”

Participating Off-Broadway shows can be sorted by filters including Genre (Comedy, Drama, Kid-Friendly, Magic, Musical, Play), Audience (Adults Only, Family–All Ages, Not for Younger Children (5+), Teens and Adults), Borough and Neighborhood at nyctourism.com/offbroadwayweek

Since its launch in 2009, over 800 Off-Broadway productions have participated in NYC Off-Broadway Week. The program has also generated nearly $5 million in revenue through sales; over 120,000 tickets have been sold. New York City’s economic recovery continued in 2023 with 61.8 million travelers arriving in the City—marking a recovery of 93% of the City’s record 2019 visitation levels.

For more information and tickets, visit nyctourism.com/offbroadwayweek

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Off Broadway

Still Brings Jayne Atkinson and Tim Daly Off Broadway

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Following a successful run at the Dorset Theatre Festival in 2023, Jayne Atkinson and Tim Daly will be reprising their acclaimed roles as Helen and Mark in the New York premiere of Still by Lia Romeo. The play will be produced by Colt Coeur (Adrienne Campbell-Holt, Founding Artistic Director; Heather Cohn, Executive Producer), directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt (Lucille Lortel Visionary Director Award).

Jayne Atkinson

 

“Lia Romeo has written a play that I feel I’ve waited for my whole life. What an honor!,” said Tony Award nominee Jayne Atkinson.

“This play is funny, moving, thought provoking, and endlessly surprising and as an actor and for an audience that’s an exciting combination of elements,” said Emmy Award nominee Tim Daly.

Thirty years ago, Helen and Mark broke up, but they never completely forgot about each other. When they meet for dinner to catch up, the flame is rekindled… but Mark is running for Congress, and Helen has a secret that could derail his bid. Lost love is revisited and an avocado goes flying in Lia Romeo’s whirlwind New York premiere comedy about getting older, political divisions, and roads not taken.

“I wrote Still because I was struggling with some big questions… what to do when you love someone, but you hate some of the things they believe… and what to do when there’s someone you can’t be with but you also can’t manage to forget. I thought writing about these questions might lead me to answers. It didn’t. But it did show me that they’re questions that also resonate with a lot of other people,” said Playwright Lia Romeo. “I’m so excited that Colt Coeur is bringing this beautiful production to New York. Tim and Jayne bring so much sympathy to these characters… it’s impossible not to love them, even when they’re doing and saying terrible things to one another.”

Still begins previews on April 13, for a limited engagement through May 18, 2024, at DR2 Theatre (103 East 15th Street). The press opening is scheduled for Thursday, April 18.

Tickets begin at $26 and are on sale now at www.telecharge.com and 212-239-6200. Ten $10 tickets will be available for each performance in April while supplies last. Student and Artist Tickets available for a discount in-person at the box office only with valid ID.

 

 

 

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