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Nominations in 22 competitive categories for the Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards were announced today by actress Cobie Smulders on the hit Broadway.com daily series “Live at Five.” The nominees were selected by fans who voted for all eligible candidates in a comprehensive Broadway.com survey. Nominated candidates will have the opportunity to be voted for online by fans celebrating the “People’s Choice Awards” for Broadway.

This year, Dear Evan Hansen and Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 top the list of the most nominated musicals while Significant Other and The Glass Menagerie were among the most nominated plays. Broadway newcomers Cobie Smulders and Denée Benton received nominations in addition to Broadway vets including Patti LuPone, Christian Borle, Kristin Chenoweth, and Nathan Lane.  For the ninth year in a row, Wicked has been nominated as “Favorite Long Running Show,” defending the eight-year title it currently holds. 

In its 17th year, the Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards celebrates the fan favorites of the season by giving the vote to the people.  The voting period begins Monday, May 8th at 5pm and will conclude on Wednesday, May 17th at 11:59pm.  Voting is open to everyone and can be completed by visiting Broadway.com/awards.  Winners in each category will be announced on May 19th.

 

Voting takes place from May 8th at 5pm – May 17th at 11:59pm at: www.Broadway.com/awards

Nominations for the 2017 Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards
Presented by Broadway.com 

Favorite New Musical

Amelie

Anastasia

Bandstand

Come From Away

Dear Evan Hansen

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Favorite New Play

A Doll’s House, Part 2

Indecent

Oh, Hello on Broadway

Oslo

The Play That Goes Wrong

Significant Other

Favorite Musical Revival

Cats

Falsettos

Hello, Dolly!

Miss Saigon

Sunday in the Park with George

Sunset Boulevard

Favorite Play Revival

An Act of God

The Front Page

The Glass Menagerie

The Little Foxes

Present Laughter

Six Degrees of Separation

Favorite Long-Running Show

The Book of Mormon

Hamilton

Kinky Boots

The Lion King

Waitress

Wicked

Favorite Tour

The Book of Mormon

Finding Neverland

Fun Home

Rent

Something Rotten!

Wicked

Favorite Leading Actor In A Musical

Christian Borle, Falsettos

Corey Cott, Bandstand

Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Jake Gyllenhaal, Sunday in the Park with George

Andy Karl, Groundhog Day

Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen

Favorite Leading Actress In A Musical

Christy Altomare, Anastasia

Annaleigh Ashford, Sunday in the Park with George

Denée Benton, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!

Laura Osnes, Bandstand

Phillipa Soo, Amelie

Favorite Leading Actor In A Play

Gideon Glick, Significant Other

Sean Hayes, An Act of God

Kevin Kline, Present Laughter

Nick Kroll, Oh, Hello on Broadway

Joe Mantello, The Glass Menagerie

Mark Ruffalo, The Price

Favorite Leading Actress In A Play

Cate Blanchett, The Present

Sally Field, The Glass Menagerie

Allison Janney, Six Degrees of Separation

Diane Lane, The Cherry Orchard

Laura Linney, The Little Foxes

Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2

Favorite Featured Actor In A Musical

Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!

Mike Faist, Dear Evan Hansen

Ramin Karimloo, Anastasia

Derek Klena, Anastasia

Andrew Rannells, Falsettos

Will Roland, Dear Evan Hansen

Favorite Featured Actress In A Musical

Brittain Ashford, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos

Jenn Colella, Come From Away

Laura Dreyfuss, Dear Evan Hansen

Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen

Jennifer Laura Thompson, Dear Evan Hansen

Favorite Featured Actor In A Play

Michael Aranov, Oslo

Anthony Azizi, Oslo

John Behlmann, Significant Other

Danny DeVito, The Price

Nathan Lane, The Front Page

Finn Wittrock, The Glass Menagerie

Favorite Featured Actress In A Play

Rebecca Naomi Jones, Significant Other

Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Cherry Orchard

Lindsay Mendez, Significant Other

Cynthia Nixon, The Little Foxes

Sherie Rene Scott, The Front Page

Cobie Smulders, Present Laughter

Favorite Funny Performance

Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos

John Bolton, Anastasia

Christian Borle, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Andy Karl, Groundhog Day

Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!

Will Roland, Dear Evan Hansen

Favorite Diva Performance

Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos

Kristin Chenoweth, My Love Letter to Broadway

Glenn Close, Sunset Boulevard

Patti LuPone, War Paint

Bette MIdler, Hello, Dolly!

Laura Osnes, Bandstand

Favorite Onstage Pair

Christy Altomare and Derek Klena, Anastasia

Annaleigh Ashford and Jake Gyllenhaal, Sunday in the Park with George

Denée Benton and Lucas Steele, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Laura Dreyfuss and Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen

Christian Borle and Andrew Rannells, Falsettos

Corey Cott and Laura Osnes, Bandstand

Favorite Breakthrough Performance (Male)

Jon Jon Briones, Miss Saigon

Mike Faist, Dear Evan Hansen

Jake Ryan Flynn/Ryan Foust/Ryan Sell, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Will Roland, Dear Evan Hansen

Anthony Rosenthal, Falsettos

Lucas Steele, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Favorite Breakthrough Performance (Female)

Brittain Ashford, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Denée Benton, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Savvy Crawford, Amelie

Laura Dreyfuss, Dear Evan Hansen

Kristolyn Lloyd, Dear Evan Hansen

Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon

Favorite Replacement (Male)

Will Chase, Something Rotten!

Brandon Victor Dixon, Hamilton

Jordan Fisher, Hamilton

Todrick Hall, Kinky Boots

Brian d’Arcy James, Hamilton

Javier Munoz, Hamilton

Favorite Replacement (Female)

Sara Bareilles, Waitress

Alysha Desiorieaux, Hamilton

Mandy Gonzalez, Hamilton

Heather Headley, The Color Purple

Lexi Lawson, Hamilton

Jenna Ushkowitz, Waitress

Favorite New Song

“Charming” – Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

“For Forever” – Dear Evan Hansen

“Only Us” – Dear Evan Hansen

“Requiem” – Dear Evan Hansen

“Waving Through a Window” – Dear Evan Hansen

“You Will Be Found” – Dear Evan Hansen

Shows With Multiple Nominations

Dear Evan Hansen – 18

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 – 9

Hamilton – 8

Falsettos – 7

Anastasia – 6

Bandstand – 5

Hello, Dolly! – 5

Significant Other – 5

The Glass Menagerie – 4

Sunday in the Park with George – 4

Amelie – 3

The Front Page – 3

The Little Foxes – 3

Miss Saigon – 3

Oslo – 3

Present Laughter – 3

Waitress – 3

An Act of God – 2

The Book of Mormon – 2

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – 2

The Cherry Orchard – 2

Come From Away – 2

A Doll’s House, Part 2 – 2

Groundhog Day – 2

Kinky Boots – 2

Oh, Hello on Broadway – 2

Six Degrees of Separation – 2

Something Rotten! – 2

Sunset Boulevard – 2

Wicked – 2

Performers With Multiple Nominations

Stephanie J. Block – 3

Christian Borle – 3

Laura Dreyfuss – 3

Bette Midler – 3

Laura Osnes – 3

Will Roland – 3

Christy Altomare – 2

Annaleigh Ashford – 2

Brittain Ashford – 2

Denée Benton – 2

Corey Cott – 2

Mike Faist – 2

Jake Gyllenhaal – 2

Andy Karl – 2

Derek Klena – 2

Ben Platt – 2

Andrew Rannells – 2

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

Broadway

Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Sondheim

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Stephen Sondheim birthday was March 22nd and somehow I missed it. His masterpiece Sweeney Todd opened on Broadway originally March 1, 1979, at the Uris Theatre (now the Gershwin). His newest revival opened Sunday, March 26th at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. So here’s to you Steve.

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Broadway’s Parade, a Masterpiece and Master Class, Not to be Missed.

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With a blast of bright white light, the Broadway revival of Parade marches itself forcibly onto the stage, surging from the sidelines once the love-making center stage comes to an end. It’s a compelling beginning, one that, as it turns out, doesn’t really add a whole lot to the proceedings. But the show finds its strong footing soon after. No doubt about it. I didn’t really understand the full need for the sexual interaction between the young soldier (Charlie Webb) and his pretty young companion (Ashlyn Maddox) that takes place in those first few moments, as well as the consistent reappearing of that same soldier, 50 years later, as an old man (Howard McGillin) throughout, other than to remind us that the old Confederate way of thinking still flies its flag strong and true. Even if the flags they are waving in this production of Parade make us feel uneasy and unsure.

Overall, the compounding effect is captivating and intense, as this musical, with a book by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy), music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown (Songs for a New World; The Last Five Years), and originally co-conceived by Harold Prince (West Side Story), stands strong, taking on race, antisemitism, and prejudice in “The Old Red Hills of Home” South. It dutifully dramatizes the disturbing but true story of a 1913 trial of a Jewish factory manager who was wrongly accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old young girl and employee of the factory. The musical revival is as timely as can be, and as surefooted as one could hope for. And as directed carefully and artistically by Michael Arden (Broadway/Deaf West’s Spring Awakening), Parade delivers on all fronts.

After a well-received short run as part of New York City Center’s Encores! series, this tense and sharp musical finally has made its way back. I didn’t really know much about this musical, but I was surprised to hear that it first premiered on Broadway in December 1998 starring Brent Carver and Carolee Carmello in the two lead roles. It won Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Original Score (out of nine nominations), not surprisingly, and six Drama Desk Awards. And I’m guessing the accolades will come pouring in once again when the Tony Award nominations are announced.

Portraying that doomed factory manager, Leo Frank, Ben Platt (Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen) once again finds power and passion in abundance, striding back onto the Broadway stage both sheepishly and strongly. He grabs hold of the part, demanding justice and the truth for the man who tried his imperfect best to live a dutiful life. Married to his loving wife, Lucille, played spectacularly by Micaela Diamond (Broadway’s The Cher Show), the pair seems well-matched, both in their characterizations and their vocal expertise. Their singing and emotionality soar, especially in Lucille’s “You Don’t Know This Man” and Leo’s captivating Statement, “It’s Hard to Speak my Heart“, as the piece gets darker and darker, breaking apart our collective hearts as it marches to the end. We all know this is not going to end well for this innocent man, but we are drawn in completely as the two begin, quite quietly, finding a simple and tender, yet complicated connection in their marriage.

We feel their bond as Leo gets ready and makes his way to the office on this odd day of celebration in Atlanta. He sidesteps the parade, which is oddly celebrating the confederacy and a war lost, leaving his wife to picnic alone. We collectively wish he’d stay home, giving in to the gentle pleas of his wife. Things might have turned out so differently if he had. But this is the tale that must be told, to be witness to, as we are simultaneously given a glimpse into the soon-to-be shortened life of Mary Phagan (Erin Rose Doyle), being flirted with by a young boy (Jake Pedersen) about “The Picture Show“, as she rides a trolley car on her way to the factory to collect her wages, at ten cents an hour. The white balloon floats above her head, just like her spirit, simple and buoyant, until it escapes her hand, and floats away from her into the heavens above.

Erin Rose Doyle and Jake Pedersen in Broadway’s Parade. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The Dream of Atlanta” isn’t so true, fair, or right, as it doesn’t take long for that Jewish factory manager to be accused of the raping and murdering Mary Phagan, even as we see clearly that it wasn’t, and couldn’t possibly be Leo. The “Hammer of Justice” isn’t honest, that becomes obvious, but it is the way it works, as we watch the unhonourable Hugh Dorsey, an ambitious politician with a “lousy conviction record,” played to perfection by Paul Alexander Nolan (Broadway’s Slave Play) decide, regardless of proof, to convict, at least one of the two men who were around the factory at the time. Would it be the simple black man, Newt Lee (Eddie Cooper), the night watchman who discovered the body, or the Jewish man who wrings his hands and looks down at his feet? This is “Real Big News“, we are told, by the opportunist reporter, Britt Craig, dynamically portrayed by Jay Armstrong Johnson (NYCC Encores’ A Chorus Line), as we watch the spin gets spinning. Dorsey, with the blessing of Governor of Georgia, John M. Slaton, as played strongly by Sean Allan Krill (Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill) with his wife, Sally (Stacie Bono), standing at his side, turns the accusing finger towards Leo Frank, for no other reason than not wanting to hang another black man. “We gotta do better.

A Rumblin’ and A Rollin’” towards the trial, this wrongly orchestrated circus is sensationalized by the newspapers and arouses some pretty disturbing antisemitic hatred across the stage, and the whole state of Georgia that sometimes, as a whole, gets a bit lost inside the jumble of the large cast of characters. Yet, despite the messiness of grieving mothers (Kelli Barrett) and observing servants (Douglas Lyons, Courtnee Carter), the “That’s What He Said” testimonies are a thoroughly uncomfortable parade to bear witness to, as a musical game of justice chairs is performed, most fascinatingly by the cast that includes Sophia Manicone, Maddox, and DeMartino, as members of the community, the factory, and another one straight from Frank’s own home, Minnie McKnight (Danielle Lee Greaves). It’s played out strong and deliberate, particularly and most strikingly when Platt’s Leo takes on the alternate guise of the evil Jewish man-character that is being portrayed by the witnesses, orchestrating the murder and rape of a young girl, untruely formulated by the ambitious Dorsey.

William Michals, Jackson Teeley, Paul Alexander Nolan, Eddie Cooper, and Max Chernin in Broadway’s Parade. Photo by Joan Marcus.

He pulls out all stops to get what he wants and needs from the jury in a masterclass of duplicity and dishonesty. But the final blow comes from the dynamic and magnetic coerced testimony by Jim Conley, as portrayed magnificently by the super talented Alex Joseph Grayson (Broadway’s The Girl From…) that brings the musical theatre roof down on the audience in the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. The hypnotizing performance of Grayson is completely unstoppable. It’s clear. There is no other way this trial would go in front of the complicit Judge Roan, portrayed by McGillin (Broadway’s Gigi), and as we sit and watch Act One swing its way horrifically toward the verdict, we cannot help but feel the sickness in our stomachs grow. And the disgusting smell of injustice fill the interval air.

The “Pretty Music” and “The Glory” lyrics spiral out as strong and true as the cause, delivering the ideals forward beautifully and emotionally thanks to the fine work of music director/conductor Tom Murray (Broadway’s Anastasia) and music coordinator Kimberlee Wertz (Broadway’s The Music Man), is laid out bare. The sound is magnificent, pushing out the intricate story with a rhythmic and complicated style that contains so much meaning within the array of numerous complimentary musical genres. The formula is intense, enhanced by the strong straight-shooting choreography of Lauren Yalango-Grant and Christopher Cree Grant (OBS’s King Kong). As the stage is crowded to the rim with benches and chairs, infused with impeccable tension by scenic designer Dane Laffrey (Broadway’s Once on This Island), with solid costuming by Susan Hilferty (Broadway’s Funny Girl), deliberate lighting by Heather Gilbert (Broadway’s The Sound Inside), and a clear sound design by Jon Weston (Broadway’s Paradise Square). The large squared statement at the heart of the piece gives a strength to the sentencing, which is only enhanced and elevated by the stellar work of projection designer Sven Ortel (Broadway’s Thoughts of a Colored Man), who gives a historic face to the profiling and to the proceedings.

Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond in Broadway’s Parade. Photo by Joan Marcus.

But the true heart of this intricate and wise musical lies in the very capable and talented hands of Diamond, who takes charge of the stage, even as her character’s husband insists he needs to “Do It Alone.” It’s her under-estimated passion and incredible voice that drives this story to its history-making conclusion, as we rally behind the determined Lucille as she pushes on the departing Governor Slaton to commute Frank’s death sentence to life in prison after a further, and more fair, investigation. Leo Frank is transferred, thankfully, to a prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, and even though that is where the story should have found a more peaceful ending, the most tragic part of this true-to-life tale comes knocking, somewhat due to the hate-mongering of a writer for The Jeffersonian, an extremist right-wing newspaper, by the name of Tom Watson, played strongly by Manoel Felciano (Red Bull’s The Alchemist). Leo Frank, the wronged and innocent man, pulled from his life by antisemitism and racial hate, was hanged from an oak tree in the hometown of Mary Phagan. For no other reason than being a Jewish man who happened to be working on a holiday in the same building on the day this young girl was killed.

On a side note, the events surrounding the investigation and trial led to two very different groups emerging from the fray; the revival of the defunct KKK and the birth of the Jewish Civil Rights organization, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Parade, the revival musical that has stormed onto Broadway, brings all of that complicated energy to the forefront, expanding and enlightening, while not shying away from the horror of the events. “Where Will You Stand When the Flood Comes?“, the musical asks. And in the hands of Arden, its director; its fantastically talented two lead players, Platt and the incomparable Diamond; and the entire cast and crew, Parade marches ever-so strong and true. A masterpiece and master class, not to be missed. Thanks again, Encores! You’ve delivered once again.

Alex Joseph Grayson in Broadway’s Parade. Photo by Joan Marcus.
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Broadway’s A Doll’s House Meticulously Stunning Revival Soars Like a Birdie Above That Clumsy Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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For a revival to find its footing, it has to have a point of view or a sense of purpose far beyond an actor’s desire to perform a part, whether it suits them or not. It needs to radiate an idea that will make us want to sit up and pay attention. To feel its need to exist. And on one particular day in March, I was blessed with the opportunity to see not just one grande revival, but two. One was a detailed pulled-apart revolutionary revival of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House that astounded. The other, unfortunately, was a clumsy revival of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that fell lazily from that high-wired peak – not for a lack of trying, but from a formulation that never found its purpose.

Jessica Chastain in A Doll’s House. Courtesy of A Doll’s House.

But over at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre, a reformulation chirps most wisely and wonderfully, bringing depth and focus to a classic Henrik Ibsen (Hedda Gabler) play that I didn’t realize was in such need of an adaptation. With no extravagance at its core, Amy Herzog (Mary Jane) dynamically takes the detailed structure and beautifully adapted it with due purpose. It hypnotizes, dragging in a number of light wooden chairs, Scandinavian in style, I believe, onto the stage, one by one, by their black-clad counterparts in a determined effort to unpack what will unfold. There is no artifice to hide behind in this rendering, as designed most impeccably by scenic and co-costume designer Soutra Gilmour (NT’s My Brilliant Friend; Broadway’s & Juliet) and co-costume designer Enver Chakartash (Broadway’s Is This A Room), only A Doll’s House’s celebrated star, Jessica Chastain (Broadway’s The Heiress; “The Eyes of Tammy Faye“) rotating the expanse of the bare stage before the others join her slowly and deliberately. She sits, arms crossed, staring, daring us to look away, while knowing full well we won’t. Or can’t. And without a word, it feels like she has us exactly where she wants us. Needs us to be. And all that transpires before the play even begins.

They sit on that bare and stark stage, waiting, in a way, to be played with, like dolls patiently wanting some children to come and give them a voice through their imagination. As Nora, Chastain delivers forward a performance that is unparalleled. To witness what transpires across her face during the course of this extra fine adaptation is to engage in a dance so delicately embroidered that we can’t help but be moved and transported. She barely moves from her chair, as others, like the equally wonderful Arian Moayed (Broadway’s The Humans) as Torvald, are rotated in to sit beside her, conversing and delivering magnified lines, thanks to the brilliant work of sound designers Ben & Max Ringham (West End’s Prima Facie), that dig deep into the underbelly of the complicated interactions. This pair of actors find a pathway through the darkness, never letting us come to any conclusions until they are ready to unleash a moment that will leave you breathless. This is particularly true for Moayed’s Torvald, who seems decent enough at the beginning, but once the shift occurs, when the beautiful thing doesn’t happen as it should, his unveiling is as gut-wrenching to us as it is to Nora. Even though we knew it was coming long before the play even began to spin forward.

Arian Moayed, Jesmille Darbouze, Okieriete Onaodowan, Tasha Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Patrick Thornton in A Doll’s House. Courtesy of A Doll’s House.

The art of the unfolding is steeped within the whole, refocused inside the brilliant shading, shadowing, and starkness of the cast. As Krogstad, the powerful Okieriete Onaodowan (Broadway’s Hamilton), alongside the deliciously tight Jesmille Darbouze (Broadway’s Kiss Me, Kate) as Kristine, find an engagement that sits perfectly in the structuring. They push the reforming to the edge, approaching and receding away from Chastain’s brilliant centering helping move the piece towards the required conclusion.

The same can be said of the wonderful Tasha Lawrence (LCT’s Pipeline) as Anne-Marie, and the exquisitely emotional turning of Michael Patrick Thornton (Broadway’s Macbeth) as Dr. Rank. Thornton, in particular, finds a telling and emotional space to connect, unearthing an engagement that breaks the circle apart, leaving Chastain’s Nora and all of us observers shattered and broken in its black X’d finality.

As directed with the same magnificently detailed energy and flat-walled framework as the previously seen Betrayal on Broadway and the West End, Jamie Lloyd gives us A Doll’s House that will never be forgotten. The focus is so deliberate, and the formulations are just so strong, pushed forward in black and white by the exacting lighting design of Jon Clark (West End/Broadway’s The Lehman Trilogy). Forced while remaining ever so intimate, the cascading of the statement delivered registers in a precise way, more exacting than I ever remembered, and I’ve seen numerous renditions of this epic play. And even though, from what I hear, many on the left couldn’t see the epic exit of Nora, a moment that typically registers throughout theatre history, the symbol of a woman, steadfast and true, leaving the safe and simple artifice of A Doll’s House for engagement in the hard cruel reality of the world outside is as clear as can be. The delicacies of this birdie trapped inside a cage, poisoned with lies and excuses, and beautifully brought forth by Chastain, registers the reasonings for this revival to exist. It has found a new and deliberate place to sing, and for that, I am truly grateful.

Arian Moayed and Jessica Chastain in A Doll’s House. Courtesy of A Doll’s House
Matt de Rogatis in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.

I wish I could say the same about Ruth Stage‘s modern take on the Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire) classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, currently being re-delivered at the Theatre at St. Clements. As directed by Joe Rosario (Hemingway and Me; Ruth Stages’ The Exhibition), the play doesn’t find its rationale for existing in the modern day beyond the simplistic sexualization of its boxing-ring corners. Matt de Rogatis (Austin Pendleton’s Wars of the Roses) as the tense athletic Brick stays broken and damaged in his corner, riding out the moment, waiting for the click, while in the other corner is the tense Maggie, played without hesitation by Courtney Henggeler (Netflix’s “Cobra Kai“) poised and ready for the bell to ring.

The battle is only heightened by the presence of two other fighters in the opposing corners, Big Daddy, played with determination by Frederick Weller (Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird) in the third, and Big Mama, played with a strong intent by Alison Fraser (Gingold Theatrical’s Heartbreak House), in the fourth. And watching and cheering for their own personal perspective wins are the obnoxious Mae, typically portrayed by Christine Copley (although I believe I saw an understudy), the weasely Gooper, played by Adam Dodway (Theatre Row’s Small Craft Warnings), Rev. Tooker portrayed by Milton Elliott (Ruth Stage’s Hamlet), and Doc Baugh, typically played by Jim Kempner (“The Girlfriend Experience“) (although, once again, I believe I saw an understudy).

Frederick Weller and Alison Fraser in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.

Generally, this is a battle that rages deceptively strong and subtle for the length of the play, swimming cruelly in the hazy heat of its Southern charm. But somewhere in this modernization, the reasonings never get fully realized, leaving the cast to wander in their stereotypical delivery without a sharp focal point in the horizon to zero in on. Hidden behind the bar and the drink, de Rogatis finds a Brick to be engaged with. He’s definitely handsome and desirable, especially in the eyes of the far-too-straightforward Henggeler’s Maggie the Cat, and his occupation of drinking rings more true than most. I’m not sure if the modernization has been created to fit his chest-baring delivery of a broken Brick, but I will say that his artful approach to the part is one of the stronger components of this otherwise clunky reimagining.

Given so much to unpack, Henggeler runs a little too fast and furious, not weaving a pause into her thoughts and actions. It’s all forward flowing, ignoring the laws of silence and deliberation. Big Mama and Big Daddy, ignoring the fact that they don’t seem to fit in with their surroundings or the set-up, find their way into the same cage as the two central figure fighters, giving us something else to contemplate in their constructs, beyond their tight fitting jeans and dress. There’s not much of a father/son connection, nor does their familial energy register, even as it moves and twitches within the pauses well. The details of attachment are lost, as they talk around things, with everyone else playing at high volume, courtesy of a sound design by Tomás Correa (Hudson Street’s Adam & Eve), delivering the Southern drawl with the intensity of an SNL skit. That’s a problem to the whole and one that doesn’t work for this rendering.

Courtney Henggeler in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.

Most of the cast is all hock and no spit, moving around the room with a strange case of physicalized mendacity while never really finding a reason for their existence. The artifice gets in the way of the movement, especially in Matthew Imhoff’s (off-Broadway’s soot and spit) busy and overly clumsy set, with some distracting fading in and out by lighting designer Christian Specht’s (SSTI’s Cabaret). The storm approaching is as false as the formula and the reasoning for this retelling. It showcases some basically good actors embracing the chance to play iconic Big roles that I’m sure they have always wanted to dig their Southern-accented chomps into, possibly because one or two of them might never otherwise get the chance as they don’t exactly fit the literal sashaying of the “fat old” bodies out and around the staging of this play. The idea breeds curiosity, but one that doesn’t save this Cat on a Hot Tin Roof from falling quick and hard from its perch, I’m sad to say. While the birdie in A Doll’s House flies strong out into the cool Broadway air, with solid reasoning on its stark wings, reminding us all what makes for a worthy reimagining of a classic.

Frederick Weller in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.
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