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Off Broadway

He Says: The Great Society Makes History Riveting – Even for Teenagers



I was a bit worried as I walked up to the Vivian Beaumont Theater to see the Lincoln Center Theater‘s grand and wise production of The Great Society written by Robert Schenkkan (All the Way). Standing outside the theatre were hundreds of high school students, taking up too much space, making it difficult to get through, even though, if they were being a bit more thoughtful, there was ample space to gather and not be in the way of people going to the doors of the theater. But yet they seemed oblivious, spreading out, filling the space, and making it difficult to wind our way through. It wasn’t a good sign, as it was clear that these teenagers were going to the same theater that I was going to this afternoon. Most likely, they were being taken to the same solid historical play that I was. A play based on Lyndon B. Johnson, and his determination to build a Great Society. Just how that was that going to turn out was anyone’s guess.

If anyone out there remembers that scene from television’s “Slings and Arrows“, when the seasoned actors, are standing back stage waiting to make their entrance, complaining and moaning about having to perform at student performances, and all the heckling and penny-throwing the actors had to deal with, as they tried, diligently to convey Shakespeare Hamlet to the room. It wasn’t a pretty structural set-up to have in my mind as I pushed my way through the iPhone-hypnotized crowd of students and teachers, particularly on this day. I must admit that I was exhausted from a not-so-great night’s sleep and a busy morning at work, the idea of sitting through a play about one of America’s presidents, even if that man was LBJ, seemed like a challenge. I’m a Canadian, you see, and although I know some American history (probably more than any American knows about Canadian political history – besides how lovely Justin Trudeau is), I don’t know it as well as I’d like as I took my seat.  I paused, took a deep breath as the crowds of teens took their seats around me, and pleaded to the theatrical gods that this was all going to turn out well.  Or that I didn’t fall asleep.

2769 Barbara Garrick and Brian Cox in THE GREAT SOCIETY

I had nothing to worry about. As directed with stealth and determination by Bill Rauch (LCT’s The Clean House), this piece of historical theatre was as riveting as one could hope for. The students were mesmerized, barely making a peep, (maybe one of the quietest shows I’ve sat through – not one cell phone went off – not one!) except for one particularly crass word spoken by one of the actors that caused an audible gasp from the crowd. Good, I thought, as it’s a word associated now with the Orange Monster, and I couldn’t have been more pleased that they all seemed to know how wrong that word is.  The Great Society pulled me in quickly and thoroughly, far more than I ever could have imagined. Brian Cox (Broadway’s Rock’n’Roll) powerfully embodies LBJ, the 36th President of the United States from the get-go, with his faithful and charming wife, Lady Bird Johnson, beautifully portrayed by Barbara Garrick (Keen Co.’s Later Life) standing steadily at his side.  LBJ was sworn into office following the November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and with that, he was handed the Vietnam War to deal with. But it was really his ambitious slate of progressive reforms that enveloped him, his “War on Poverty” aimed at creating The Great Society for all Americans. He championed many of the programs that still exist (and are under attack) now—Medicare, Head Start, the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act—having a profound and lasting impact in health, education and civil rights. But it was that war, the Vietnam War, that was his Achilles heel. It was his failure to lead the nation out of that marred his legacy in the history books. Under his watch, the number of American troops in Vietnam soared from 16,000 when he took office in 1963 to more than 500,000 in 1968, yet the conflict remained an impossible stalemate, with casualties and the injured, listed defiantly on the back wall, courtesy of set designer David Korins (Broadway’s Beetlejuice), lighting designer, David Weiner (Broadway’s The Price), and most importantly, projection design by Victoria Sagady (Broadway’s Leap of Faith), that added fuel to an uncomfortable fire.

0891 Grantham Coleman & Company in THE GREAT SOCIETY

The other flame that was burning at the same time, close enough to scald him, was a movement that would challenge his negotiating ways as he attempted to change American through social reform. The Civil Rights Movement, with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., dynamically and stylistically portrayed by Grantham Coleman (Shakespeare in the Park’s Much Ado About Nothing), standing up proudly to LBJ as the champion of non-violent confrontation, and the leader of that important movement. With his strong and sturdy wife, Coretta Scott King, dynamically portrayed by Nikkole Salter (DR2’s Gloria: A Life) lending her unflinching but concerned support, King, Jr. rose up and tried his best to work solidly and faithfully with Lyndon B. Johnson and his Vice President, the Former Senator and long time supporter of civil rights, Hubert Humphrey, strongly portrayed by Richard Thomas (Broadway’s The Little Foxes). It was a complicated path, filled with holes and slippery stones to blindside one or the other, and destabilize the secure stance they, at one time, believed they had with one another.

2630 Marchant Davis, Brian Cox and Bryce Pinkham in THE GREAT SOCIETY

Then there is the relationship he had with Senator Robert F. Kennedy, deftly portrayed by the always wonderful Bryce Pinkham (Broadway’s Holiday Inn) as the Democratic NY Senator and former Attorney General, who was the party rival to LBJ. Their interactions beautifully demonstrate all the complications that are difficult to manage in that political world, when personal opinions and arrogance outweigh the good of the country, something we sadly are seeing in today’s politics with a greater and more obvious clarity. The play is filled to the brim with other solid and stellar performances of well known historical figures, overflowing into the political side lines of that beautiful stage, such as the Mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley (Marc Kudisch); J. Edgar Hoover (Gordon Clapp); Senator Everett Dirksen (Frank Wood), the Senate Minority Leader (R) from Illinois who helped pass the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968; U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1961-1968, Robert McNamara (Matthew Rauch); Army General and commander of the U.S. forces during the Vietnam War, General William Westmoreland (Brian Dykstra); civil rights activist and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Bob Moses (Tramell Tillman); civil rights activists Stokely Carmichael and John Lewis (Marchant Davis); and American civil rights activist Rev. Ralph Abernathy (Ty Jones). In what is one of the most heartbreaking moments of the play, the tragedy of Jimmie Lee Jackson, beautifully portrayed by the engaging Christopher Livingston, floats out strongly for us to take in. The Great Society breathes life and courage into the story of the young civil rights activist whose death inspired the Selma-to-Montgomery marches. It stings forward, whispering into our ears his unforgettable story. This, in essence, is what makes The Great Society hypnotic.  They take the facts, and force the blinders off the horse, forcing the pain and the emotionality of the events to inhabit our soul and make us curious with care, even if it causes us to get a wee bit scared of what it all means.

0440 Brian Cox, Richard Thomas, and Gordon Clapp in THE GREAT SOCIETY

Stay or jump, they say, and LBJ, when he sees the literal writing on the wall, concedes defeat, and declines to run for a second term in office. He retires to his Texas ranch in January 1969, as we watch one of the last memorial images and scenarios of The Great Society, take his iconic place in national history. It is the silhouette of Richard Nixon, dutifully portrayed by David Garrison (CSC’s Dead Poets Society), who also, appropriately plays the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, the defiant opposer of integration and voting rights, as well as the Sheriff of Dallas County, Alabama, Jim Clark who was responsible for several violent arrests of civil rights protestors during the Selma-to-Montgomery marches. Garrison’s Nixon is the epitome of all we associate with that man, thanks to some fine work by costume designer Linda Cho (Broadway’s The Lifespan of a Fact), with equally solid sound design by Marc Salzberg (LCT/Broadway’s Oslo) and composer/sound designer Paul James Prendergast (TFANA’s Julius Caesar). With his wife Pat, portrayed by Angela Pierce (Broadway’s Norman Conquests) standing at his side, as all the wives seem to do, the man feels as shifty and dishonest as the man currently in office, although maybe just a bit less. The final moments ring true, and a warning to us all. I hope those kids seated around me take note, as they are our future, in a way. The Great Society that LBJ did attempt to formulate is at war with the current administration.  It could all crumble before our very eyes, and change the whole way America looks after their own.  It’s a horribly scary scenario, but I’m glad those kids were as taken as I was.  You could have heard a pin drop in that theatre, and that, I must say, is the biggest compliment you can give this solidly smart and captivating new play.

1531 Brian Cox in THE GREAT SOCIETY

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

Off Broadway

Golden Rainbow…indeed! 




By Jacqueline Parker 

Nature’s reward for enduring a spate of rain and gloomy weather is a rainbow. The York has delivered just that in their latest production in their Mufti series, Golden Rainbow. This musical from the late 60s is always mentioned among aficionados of this art form with wistful smiles and fond remembrances. The York has brought it back to life in a version that features some new lyrics by original composer/lyricist Walter Marks that carry the storyline into this century.   

Robert Cuccioli , Max Von Essen
Photo Credit: Rider R. Foster

From the opening notes of the Jule Styne-esque overture to the rousing finale, the audience was toe-and-finger tapping along to the sounds so evocative of the time when most of us were very young. The story itself is touching—a single father of a boy on the brink of teenhood must wrestle with the choice of saving his livelihood or letting his son move to the other side of the country with his aunt. The connection between father and son is made clear through several songs delivered touchingly by dad Max Von Essen and son Benjamin Pajak. 

Mari Davis Photo Credit: Rider R. Foster

The arrival under a false pretense of Mara Davi as Aunt Judy sets the plot spinning and allows Robert Cuccioli as mobster Carmine Malatesta and Danielle Lee Greaves as Jill to play their part in the resolution with songs hilarious and touching.   

Max Von Essen and Mara Davis Photo Credit: Rider R. Foster

If the story seems familiar it’s because it is taken from the film “A Hole in the Head,” based on the same source material, that starred Frank Sinatra and Eddie Hodges singing the Oscar-winning song High Hopes. Golden Rainbow opened in 1968 starring Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme in the leads. They were household names at the time, based on their talent and popularity from television appearances and cabaret performances.   

Max Von Essen and Benjamin Pajak
Photo Credit: Rider R. Foster

Perhaps most impressive in this production was Von Essen’s version of the hit song “I Gotta Be Me.” It was haunting as it built in intensity and left the audience almost breathless at the end of Act 1. 

Benjamin Pajak
Photo Credit: Rider R. Foster

Pajak, familiar to all from his recent appearances in Oliver! and The Music Man was astounding in his ability to project the at times heartbreaking and lovingly joyous emotions of his character.

Mari Davis Photo Credit: Rider R. Foster

Mara Davi’s character has her own roller coaster ride of emotions, which she transmits with style and conviction.

Robert Cuccioli Photo Credit: Rider R. Foster

Robert Cuccioli was hilarious as a mobster singing Taste,

Danielle Lee Greaves Photo Credit: Rider R. Foster

and Danielle Lee Greaves delivered two of the new songs, making me hope for a new recording of this terrific show soon.   

Max Von Essen and Benjamin Pajak
Photo Credit: Rider R. Foster

The clock is ticking on this gem of a show – it closes Sunday, October 1st.  Get your tickets at and find your own pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. 

Max Von Essen and Mara Davis Photo Credit: Rider R. Foster


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Theatre News: Here We Are, Some Like It Hot, A Beautiful Noise, All The Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented The Villain and The Laramie Project



The curtain rose last tonight on the first performance of the final Stephen Sondheim musical. Here We Are, the new musical from David Ives and Sondheim, is on stage at The Shed’s Griffin Theater (545 W. 30th Street), with an Opening Night on Sunday, October 22, for 15 weeks only.

Directed by two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello, the cast of Here We Are will feature Francois Battiste, Tracie Bennett, Bobby Cannavale, Micaela Diamond, Amber Gray, Jin Ha, Rachel Bay Jones, Denis O’Hare, Steven Pasquale, David Hyde Pierce, and Jeremy Shamos. The understudies for Here We Are are Adante Carter, Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Bradley Dean, Mehry Eslaminia, Adam Harrington, and Bligh Voth.

Here We Are is inspired by two films, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Exterminating Angel, by Luis Buñuel.

Here We Are will include choreography by Sam Pinkleton, set design and costume design by David Zinn, lighting design by Natasha Katz, sound design by Tom Gibbons, orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, musical supervision and additional arrangements by Alexander Gemignani, hair & make-up design by Wigmaker Associates, and casting by The Telsey Office.

Tickets are on sale on

For each performance, a limited number of $25 tickets will be available via a weekly lottery, which will open for entries on the TodayTix app each Sunday at 12:01 AM for the coming week’s performances and will close at 12:00 PM on the day before each performance. Winners will be notified by push notification and email between 1 – 4 PM on the day before their selected show, and will have 30 minutes to claim their tickets in the app. Entrants may request 1 or 2 tickets, and entry is free and open to all.

Via TodayTix’s mobile rush program, a limited number of $40 same-day rush tickets will be available for that day’s performance of Here We Are at 9:00 AM each day on a first-come, first-served basis. Users can download the app and “unlock” rush tickets by sharing the program on social media ahead of their desired performance day.  

The most award-winning musical of the 2022-2023 season, Some Like It Hot, will play for 13 more weeks through Saturday, December 30, 2023, at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre (225 West 44th Street) before launching a national tour and West End production.

Awarded Best Musical by The Drama League, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle, Some Like It Hot received over 20+ major awards throughout the 2022-2023 season, including four Tony Awards for Best Lead Actor in a Musical (J. Harrison Ghee), Best Choreography (Casey Nicholaw), Best Orchestrations (Charlie Rosen & Bryan Carter) and Best Costumes in a Musical (Gregg Barnes). J. Harrison Ghee made history as the first non-binary performer to take home the Tony Award in their category.

A national tour will launch in September 2024 and a West End production will follow in 2025, produced by The Shubert Organization and Neil Meron in partnership with Ambassador Theatre Group.

At the time of the final performance, the production will have played the Shubert Theatre for over a year, for a total of 483 performances.

Will Swenson and the cast. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

Will Swenson, who is electrifying audiences with his star turn in A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical, will play his final performance as ‘Neil Diamond – Then’ at the Broadhurst Theatre (235 West 44th Street) on Sunday, October 29. Casting for the role of ‘Neil Diamond – Then’ will be announced at a future date.

The unofficial commencement of “spooky season” takes place this Friday, September 29, when Tony Award® Nominee and Grammy Award® Winner Patrick Page returns to the New York stage in All The Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented The Villain, a new work created and performed by Mr. Page, based on the villains of William Shakespeare. Directed by Simon Godwin, the solo show will play the DR2 Theatre (103 E 15th Street) beginning Friday, September 29, with an Opening Night set for Monday, October 16, for 14 weeks only.

Tickets are now available at, Telecharge  or by visiting the DR2 Theatre box office (103 E 15th Street).

Julie White

Julie White and Brandon Uranowitz will join Ato Blankson-Wood in a staged benefit reading of The Laramie Project. Moises Kaufman and the Members of Tectonic Theatre Project’s The Laramie Projectwill bedirected by Dustin Wills (Wolf Play, Wet Brain). The event, which will raise funds to support the work of The Trevor Project, will take place on Monday, October 16th at 7:00 PM at Peter Norton Symphony Space, and is being produced by District Productions. Additional casting is soon to be announced. For tickets and more information, visit

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Off Broadway

Meet Michel Wallerstein and Spencer Aste of Chasing Happy



Pulse Theatre will be presenting Chasing Happy a new comedy by Michel Wallerstein (Flight, Five Women Waiting, Off Hand). Directed by Pulse Theatre co-Founder Alexa Kelly (Strings Attached).

Video by Magda Katz

The company of Chasing Happy features Spencer Aste (Wake Up, Axis Theatre), Jenny Bennett (City of Ladies, Pulse Theatre), Schyler Conaway in his Off-Broadway debut, Christopher James Murray (The Falling Season, Theatre Row), and Elizabeth Shepherd (Relatively Speaking and Conduct Unbecoming on Broadway; War and Peace and Inherit the Wind in London’s West End).

T2C talked to Michel Wallerstein and Spencer Aste to learn more.

Chasing Happy is a modern comedy about personal identity, love, acceptance …and the elusive pursuit of happiness. Nick is in love with another man’s boyfriend. (Oops.) Nick’s mother says George Clooney wants to date her (Really?). Nick’s ex-wife says she has to have surgery.( Now?) …It’s a laugh a minute on an unexpected merry-go-round when you’re chasing happy.

The limited engagement will play a five-week limited engagement, October 11 through November 11, at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street, NYC). Opening night is Thursday, October 19 at 7PM. Tickets are now on sale at or by calling the box office, 212-714-2442 ext. 45.

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Off Broadway

Primary Stages’ “DIG” Does Exactly That Into What’s Underground




By Dennis White

The theater is filled with eerie almost tribal music with birds chirping as the audience finds their seats for Primary Stages’ production of DIG at 59E59 Theaters. It’s a new play written by Theresa Rebeck (Bernhardt/Hamlet) who also directs and as the name implies, DIG is not going to let us just see what’s on the surface. This story wants us to DIG to find out what we don’t see going on underground. The play’s setting is a garden shop that we’re told is failing but is filled with what looks like thriving plants.

David Mason in Primary Stages’ DIG at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by James Leynse.

Roger, the owner, played with elegant restraint by Jeffery Bean (Broadway’s Amadeus, Bells Are Ringing) seems content with keeping his shop even though developers are buying up the neighborhood. But Roger is unaware of how his complacent life is going to change thanks to his longtime friend Lou played by Triney Sandoval (Broadway’s Bernhardt/Hamlet), a man who reluctantly has his tormented daughter Megan come live with him. Megan deftly played by Andrea Syglowski (Broadway’s Pass Over) is a woman lost but even though it seems futile, she has not given up – completely. Entering the shop Megan takes a seat in the corner facing the wall attempting to camouflage herself in greenery covering her face with a hoodie.

Greg Keller, Jeffrey Bean, and Andrea Syglowski in Primary Stages’ DIG, photo by Justin Swader.

She has committed an unforgivable act that has made national headlines. After a failed suicide her father agrees to supervise his daughter’s release even though he cannot forgive her. Megan reaches through her pain and within minutes she offers to repot a plant hoping to convince Roger he needs her help and she’ll work for free. You can feel how Syglowski’s Megan feels caught like the plant’s bound roots pushing against the sides of the pot, trapped and in pain. But she sees hope in the garden shop and Roger. The relationship between Roger and Megan is tenuous at first but the actors reel in the audience. The garden shop is coming alive as a place where they can both grow but it’s not as easy as they find out.

The rest of the cast is vital as they build the grotesque puzzle pieces of Megan’s horrifying past with pros like Mary Bacon (Public’s Coal Country) as Molly. Bacon does a good job as the judgmental nosy customer who turns into a helping hand. Stoner Everett aptly played in what can be described as a life lived in a pot cloud haze by Greg Keller (Playwrights Horizons’ The Thanksgiving Play) seems like a comical diversion but there’s a darker side coming. A surprising element is the appearance of Adam, Megan’s ex-husband, played with the intensity of a caged animal by David Mason (Broadway’s Pictures from Home) who makes the most of this small part. You can feel the audience cringing through the entire scene as writer/ director Theresa Rebeck finally gets her chance to see her play fully realized as she saw it in her mind, line by line.

Jeffrey Bean and Mary Bacon in Primary Stages’ DIG, photo by James Leynse.

DIG takes us to places we could not imagine when we first meet the characters. She builds relationships, tears them down, and then gives them some hope by the end. The play’s surprising revelation leaves the audience stunned, gasping at the turn of events and the secrets revealed. Rebeck’s direction seems effortless, moving her actors in the garden shop through this story of realization, forgiveness, and redemption. The scenic design by Christopher and Justin Swader (Off-Broadway’s The Boy Who Danced On Air) fill the garden shop with life, growing and changing reflecting the events of the play. Lighting by Mary Ellen Stebbins (MCC’s Space Dogs) helps set the mood with deep shadows and the original music and sound design by Fitz Patton (Broadway’s Choir Boy) give us an ominous melody to add to the tension, giving DIG a chance to get a lot of it right. The cast led by Syglowski and Bean hit all the right notes as they travel through tormented waters, some raging, while others swirl below the surface. Rebeck’s play with its unexpected twists and turns wrenches our guts and we follow gladly to the end.

Jeffrey Bean and Greg Keller in Primary Stages’ DIG, photo by James Leynse.
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Ken Fallin's Broadway

Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Dracula: A Comedy Of Terrors



Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors, is now playing at New World Stage, 340 West 50th Street, until January 7, 2024 or beyond.

In this caricature you will find James Daly’s Dracula and clockwise: Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Arnie Burton, Ellen Harvey and Jordan Boatman who make up this amazingly talented cast.

You can read T2C’s mouth watering review here.

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