Pop-pleasing the crowds with ease, & Juliet strides onto the Broadway stage with buoyant energy and a zest for teenage dream life. Marvellously fun and enthusiastically appealing, this show delivers with a smart smirk inside a ridiculously fun pretence. And it couldn’t be any better if you tried. As directed wisely and swiftly by Luke Sheppard (West End’s In the Heights; The Secret Life of Adrian Mole). & Juliet sings and roars “Larger Than Life“. It shows the “meaning of being lonely” in a heavily silly and ironic manner, most pleasurably, made up of, literally, dozens and dozens of pop songs by the super-producer Max Martin weaved together magically. They swirl out at you, at high volume and speed, with equally high energy by a brilliant cast of highly talented singers and dancers, digging in hard to the restructuring of the end of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. And unpacking the perfect gift.
Lorna Courtney in Broadway’s & Juliet – Photo by Matthew Murphy.
The fun is all there, live and electric, probably due in a great way to the slick storytelling of “Schitt’s Creek” writer, David West Read (The Performers) coupled with the memorable pop choreography by Jennifer Weber (Public’s Teenage Dick) that just never stops giving and giving. “Oh baby, baby, [they’ve] got me feeling so right” and that couldn’t be more true in this jukebox musical. Presenting a moment when William Shakespeare, played wry and charmingly by Stark Sands (Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird; Kinky Boots), is living his best life, very proud of the play he has written, when he runs headfirst into his disgruntled rebellious wife, Anne Hathaway, lovingly portrayed with spark and style by the understudy Tiernan Tunnicliffe (NY City Center’s Bat Out of Hell), who truly believes he has gotten it all wrong. Sadly I missed out on seeing the wonderful Betsy Wolfe (Broadway’s Falsettos) in the role that I hear she excels in, but boy, did Tunnicliffe do justice to the part, living it large and magnificently with every fiber of her being. I have no complaints. The dynamo pairing is stupendously silly, but once you give in to these actors, and you really do have no choice, these two certainly know how to “Show Me Love… and what it’s all about.“
Anne believes that Juliet, wonderfully embodied by the fantastically talented Lorna Courtney (Broadway’s West Side Story), should be allowed to survive her moment in the crypt, and live out her newly empowered life singing pop songs on a Paris road trip for love with her posse of pals. Courtney is an absolute triumph, breathing strong life into the part that she originated in the Toronto pre-Broadway run of this production. It’s a hoot of an adventure, and we are game to join in with the ride, even if it borders a bit on the superficially silly.
Naturally, dancing along to the immensely fun soundtrack of Tudor-nodding arrangements, thanks to music supervisor, orchestrator, and arranger Bill Sherman (Broadway’s In The Heights) and the musical director, Dominic Fallacaro (2016’s “Shortwave“), the journey is totally adorable, albeit wacky and fun, especially when Shakespeare resurrects the deliciously appealing Romeo, wonderfully portrayed by Ben Jackson Walker (Paramount +’s “Honor Society“) to mess up and get in the way of Juliet’s desire for true love. “It’s super dope!” he says as he late arrives at almost of end of Act One, and we can’t dispute with that (side note: I am told by one of my supreme theatre junkie buddies that Romeo’s understudy, Brandon Antonio, who plays Richard normally, rocks undeniably strong in the part when needed- and also has the best legs on that stage). Walker starts out strong, and just gets better and better as he develops into something more than just a mere member of the fan favorite, “De Boi’s Band“. Being an adorably honest edge to the young man. And those boi’s are back, alright, to screams of excitement from “Everybody“.
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 last...so 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 frontmezzjunkies.com
Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt Photo by Joan Marcus
I have always loved Jason Robert Brown’s score for Parade. “You Don’t Know This Man,” “This Is Not Over Yet” and the wonderfully romantic “All the Wasted Time” are just the tip of the iceberg for music that stirs your soul and tells a tale of heartbreak. There is a reason this score won the Tony Award in 1999.
Ben Platt Photo By Joan Marcus
The musical now playing on Broadway dramatizes the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank (Ben Platt), who was accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan (Erin Rose Doyle). The trial was sensationalized by the media, newspaper reporter Britt Craig (Jay Armstrong Johnson) and Tom Watson (Manoel Feliciano), an extremist right-wing newspaper aroused antisemitic tensions in Atlanta and the U.S. state of Georgia. When Frank’s death sentence is commuted to life in prison thanks to his wife Lucille (Micaela Diamond), Leo was transferred to a prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, where a lynching party seized and kidnapped him. Frank was taken to Phagan’s hometown of Marietta, Georgia, and he was hanged from an oak tree.
Erin Rose Doyle, Photo by Joan Marcus
The telling of this horrid true tale begins with the lush ode to the South in “The Old Red Hills of Home.” Leo has just moved from Brooklyn to in Marietta, where his wife is from and he has been given the job as as a manager at the National Pencil Co. He feels out of place as he sings “I thought that Jews were Jews, but I was wrong!” On Confederate Memorial Day as Lucille plans a picnic, Leo goes to work. In the meantime Mary goes to collect her pay from the pencil factory. The next day Leo is arrested on suspicion of killing Mary, whose body is found in the building. The police also suspect Newt Lee (Eddie Cooper), the African-American night watchman who discovered the body, but he inadvertently directs Starnes’ suspicion to Leo.
Across town, reporter Britt Craig see this story as (“Big News”). Mary’s suitor Frankie Epps (Jake Pederson), swears revenge on Mary’s killer, as does the reporter Watson. Governor John Slaton (Sean Allan Krill) pressures the local prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (the terrific smarmy Paul Alexander Nolan) to get to the bottom of the whole affair. Dorsey, an ambitious politician sees Leo as he ticket to being the Governor and though there are other suspects, he willfully ignores them and goes after Leo.
Sophia Manicone, Emily Rose DeMartino, Ashlyn Maddox Photo By Joan Marcus
The trial of Leo Frank is presided over by Judge Roan (Howard McMillan). A series of witnesses, give trumped up evidence which was clearly is fed to them by Dorsey. Frankie testifies, falsely, that Mary said Leo “looks at her funny.” Her three teenage co-workers, Lola, Essie and Monteen (Sophia Manicone, Emily Rose DeMartino, Ashlyn Maddox), collaborate hauntingly as they harmonize their testimony (“The Factory Girls”). In a fantasy sequence, Leo becomes the lecherous seducer (“Come Up to My Office”). Testimony is heard from Mary’s mother (Kelli Barrett ) (“My Child Will Forgive Me”) and Minnie McKnight (Danielle Lee Greaves)before the prosecution’s star witness, Jim Conley (Alex Joseph Grayson ), takes the stand. He claims that he witnessed the murder and helped Leo conceal the crime (“That’s What He Said”). Leo is given the opportunity to deliver a statement (“It’s Hard to Speak My Heart”), but it is not enough. He is found guilty and sentenced to hang. The crowd breaks out into a jubilant circus.
Alex Joseph Grayson Photo by Joan Marcus
Act 1, is not as strong as it should have been. I have attended three different incarnations, the last being with Jeremy Jordan as Leo and Joshua Henry as Jim in 2015. Part of the problem is Michael Arden’s direction. Instead of allowing his performers to act, he has them pantomime, as the solo goes forth. “Come Up to My Office” was not as haunting as in past productions. The same can be said of “That’s What He Said”. Who’s stands out in the first act is Jake Pederson as Frankie and Charlie Webb as the Young Soldier who sings “The Old Red Hills of Home.”
Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt Photo by Joan Marcus
In Act 2, Lucille finds Governor Slaton at a party (the hypnotic “Pretty Music” sung wonderfully by Krill) and advocates for Leo. Watson approaches Dorsey and tells him he will support his bid for governor, as Judge Roan also offers his support. The governor agrees to re-open the case, as Leo and Lucille find hope. Slaton realizes what we all knew that the witnesses were coerced and lied and that Dorsey is at the helm. He agrees to commute Leo’s sentence to life in prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, which ends his political career. The citizens of Marietta, led by Dorsey and Watson, are enraged and riot. Leo is transferred to a prison work-farm. Lucille visits, and he realizes his deep love for his wife and how much he has underestimated her (“All the Wasted Time”). With hope in full blaze Lucille leaves as a party masked men kidnap Leo and take him to Marietta. They demand he confess and hang him from an oak tree.
Paul Alexander Nolan, Howard McMillan Photo By Joan Marcus
In Act Two Parade comes together with heart and soul. Diamond, who shines brightly through out the piece is radiant, and her duets with Platt are romantic and devastating. Platt comes into his own and his huge following is thrilled to be seeing him live. Alex Joseph Grayson’s also nails his Second Act songs.
Dane Laffrey’s set works well with the lighting by Heather Gilbert.
Frank’s case was reopened in 2019 and is still ongoing.
Parade has multiple messages and the question is will audiences absorb it. I am so glad this show is on Broadway, making us think and see. This is a must see.
On Sunday, March 19, 2023, Hadestowncelebrated the first day of spring and the show’s recently-achieved milestone of 1,000 performances at Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre.
The handsome artist with Anais Mitchell
On hand were songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and director Rachel Chavkin, Tony Award winner Lillias White, original Broadway cast member Jewelle Blackman as Persephone, Grammy Award winner Reeve Carney as Orpheus, Tony Award nominee Tom Hewitt as Hades, and two-time Tony Award nominee Eva Noblezada as Eurydice. were joined by Amelia Cormack, Shea Renne, and Soara-Joye Ross as the Fates. The chorus of Workers is played by Emily Afton, Malcolm Armwood, Alex Puette, Trent Saunders, and Grace Yoo.
The winner of eight 2019 Tony Awards including Best New Musical and the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, Hadestown is the most honored show of the 2018-2019 Broadway season. In addition to the Tony and Grammy Awards, it has been honored with four Drama Desk Awards, six Outer Critics Circle Awards, including Outstanding New Broadway Musical, and the Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical.
Following two intertwining love stories — that of young dreamers Orpheus and Eurydice, and that of King Hades and his wife Persephone — Hadestown invites audiences on a hell-raising journey to the underworld and back. Mitchell’s beguiling melodies and Chavkin’s poetic imagination pit industry against nature, doubt against faith and fear against love. Performed by a vibrant ensemble of actors, dancers, and singers, Hadestown delivers a deeply resonant and defiantly hopeful theatrical experience.
A fun way to get active, learn and have fun: InterContinental New York Times Square has partnered with Broadway Up Close to provide monthly dance workshops. The new series offers the opportunity to learn choreography with current Broadway professionals, and to join them in conversation about their Broadway careers.
On Saturday, April 15, 2023 join Broadway Performer Sarah Meahl (Bad Cinderella, Hello, Dolly!, Kiss Me, Kate) and on Sunday, May 13, 2023 – Broadway Performer Thayne Jasperson (Hamilton, Newsies, Matilda).
All classes are scheduled from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm and include 60 minutes of dance class and 30 minutes to learn and connect.
Following the class, an à la carte lunch menu is provided at The Stinger Cocktail Bar & Kitchen for an additional cost; perfect timing for a matinee performance.
Parade: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W 45th Street.