LCT Unearths a Fantastically Bizarre Skin Of Our Teeth to Slide Down Into
Up a little further north than the other traditional Broadway houses, the Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater is unleashing its wild creative juices on an old and abstract Thornton Wilder play called The Skin of Our Teeth, and the amazing thing about this whole experience, beyond its breathtaking design aesthetic, is, in fact, its theatrical history. This was something I looked up quite hastily during the first of two intermissions (over its three-hour running time) because I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This is no ordinary play. It is filled with grand themes and bizarre twists that make no logical sense beyond its metaphors and symbols, yet it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama after opening at the Plymouth Theatre on Broadway on November 18, 1942, and was considered quite the commercial success, back in the day. I can understand its intellectual celebration, but that financial success, well, after watching it play out on that wide Lincoln Center Theater stage, I am just so surprised by what the audiences took in back in its day.
It’s a play that today feels like an artifact that only a well-funded theater such as Lincoln Center could pull off and invest in it for the overall good of our theatrical community and its history, and it does, in a way, do just that. The production is exemplary, looking like a well-polished piece of history, redesigned for our intellectual consumption and examination, but one that feels somewhat more like a history lesson than a solid entertaining night at the theatre. Now, I am all for a well-thought-out night of Shakespeare or Shaw, as long as it still finds the emotional thread to our heart and soul, but if it misses that mark and becomes something more akin to a lesson in history, then that, I must say, is a pill that is a bit harder to swallow.
“That’s all we do—always beginning again! Over and over again. Always beginning again.” So says Sabina, who both begins and ends this fantastically bizarre slide of a play. Portrayed most magnificently by Gabby Beans (ATC’s Anatomy of a Suicide), she, as the family’s maid in the first and third acts, and as a beauty queen temptress in the second, finds her way to talk directly to us, sorting through the apocalyptic threats to the wacky antics that soon follow. I wish I could say that I found the whole thing intellectually stimulating, even after reading during intermission about the symbols and metaphors that live inside the text, but I can’t really do that. The history that I did unearth did give the play some context and a framework to engage in, and although I was never completely bored or disengaged, I can’t say that I was enthralled. Intrigued? Yes, but captivated? No, not really.
This is not to say that this production isn’t a beautifully articulated and constructed piece of theatre. The actors all do their due diligence within the whimsical orchestration, delivering their formulations with a force that is determined and convincing. But the real star of the production is the design team itself. A wide-eyed inventive Adam Rigg (Public’s Cullud Wattah) has created a wonderland of mammoth proportions, utilizing the expansive stage for this play’s contentment as well as its enlightenment. He, along with the lighting designer Yizhao (LCT’s Greater Clements), sound designer Palmer Hefferan (Broadway’s Grand Horizons), and the costume designer Montana Levi Blanco (Broadway’s A Strange Loop), have all supersized the space, creating visuals that elevate and broaden the horizons displayed, all the while giving our eyes something to be marveled at. It’s gigantically spectacular, delivering dynamic vistas to take in the metaphors presented. Even after the conceptualization has made its point, sadly, quite early on in this three-hour extravaganza, the environments where these talented actors make their case for this play’s relevance continue to entertain and enlighten way beyond the moment when Wilder’s wild ideals have come and gone from our consciousness.
The phrase, “The Skin of Our Teeth” supposedly comes from the King James Bible, Job 19:20, which reads: “My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.” And although that should make the whole proceedings seem more vibrant and meaningful, I can’t say that I genuinely got into these three somewhat entertaining and funny acts about the Antrobus family with any emotional urgency, as they attempt to survive the history of catastrophes and wars that wage just outside their home. It feels like the play should be profound, but as it slips in and around the scientific and biblical constructs, The Skin of Our Teeth starts to feel more and more remote, as if we are the ones looking to escape with just that.
With the play expanded by the contributions of playwright Branden Jacobs Jenkins (War), the energetic and determined director, Lileana Blain-Cruz (LCT’s Pipeline), finds a way to dutifully unpack each presentation with an amusingly playful arrangement. It is a fascinating journey she takes on, prefacing each segment with a “News of the World” black and white cinematic moment that is enlightening and forward-thinking. The film and the three very different scenarios do their best to give a framework to Wilder’s thematic ideology and a direction to place it somewhere inside our conscious understanding. I’m not convinced that I needed that much time and space to understand the symbolic concept, but if you’re going to present this play to the modern world, I guess this is pretty much the best packaging one could ever hope for.
The same family of characters tries their best to live beyond the oncoming disasters plaguing their timeless existence. It all starts with an advancing ice age that threatens to bring destruction to the 20th Century New Jersey suburban home where a husband and a wife, played strongly by James Vincent Meredith (Broadway’s Superior Donuts) and Roslyn Ruff (Broadway’s Fences) attempt to save themselves and those around them, including their two (out of three) children; Gladys (Paige Gilbert) and Henry (Julian Robertson), and their maid, Sabina. The third child, a son named Abel, has a Biblical connection that I will leave you to sort out. It is presented enough that the thread is basically visible to the audience, mirroring the biblical story in which Adam’s son murders his brother after God favors Abel over Cain, implying that George Antrobus is in fact Adam, and his wife, Eve. What that really means beyond its intellectual playfulness, I wasn’t Abel to put those pieces together.
Let us not forget about the dinosaurs that are brought in from the cold so they might avoid becoming extinct – thanks to some pretty spectacular work from puppet master, James Ortiz (Public’s Hercules). The weirdness of that time-framed amalgam is followed by a Second Act convention of the Ancient and Honorable Order of Mammals on a playful, busy boardwalk in Atlantic City that is currently under a three-coined storm watch. A slide entertains the assortment of characters that wander about, most of which are ignoring the floodwaters that gather and the alarm bells that are going off. All this boardwalk madness ushers forth a Third Act that is more of a post-destruction construct, rather than one of impending doom like the first two. This time around the survival circus, the same family emerges from an underground shelter post-war to see if their old suburban world can be rebuilt. And if the play itself can survive a stage manager’s impromptu interruption. I’m not so sure.
I must admit outright that by the time the third act got underway, I had long lost the intense interest in trying to unravel the intersections of ideas and conceptualizations that Wilder intended with his strange pretentious brand of intellectualism. Beans does manage to turn out a captivating performance, even though the beginning takes a bit of readjustment in our senses and theatrical expectations. She dutifully finds the delicate balance between abstractionism and engaging comedy, much like the rest of the large cast does to maybe a lesser degree, discovering their own way of grounding the absurd into carefully crafted points of convincing authority.
Sabina states almost pleadingly, “That’s all we do—always beginning again! Over and over again. Always beginning again.” “Don’t forget that a few years ago we came through the depression by the skin of our teeth! One more tight squeeze like that and where will we be?” The pieces of this puzzle are intuitively put together quite quickly; the importance and consistency of family, and that there are always peaceful moments in our world history that will inevitably be followed and plagued by disaster and destruction, both natural and man-made. We see it in our news cycle right now, unfortunately; plagues and wars, yet we all (hopefully) look into our future with optimism, trying to envision a day when things won’t appear to be so dark. I remember having somewhat the same reaction to his much more digestible Our Town, particularly when I saw that last production directed by David Cromer at Barrow Street Theatre a number of years ago (February 26, 2009 – Sept. 12, 2010). It was infused with a universal message, that the simplest day, filled with the ordinary, is in fact the most beautiful and striking. Our Town asks us, most thoughtfully; do any of us truly understand and see the sheer beauty inside every minute while we actually live it? “No,” says that play’s narrator, “The saints and poets, maybe – they do some.” The Skin of Our Teeth takes it to a whole other level, shifting the sweet smell of connectivity and emotional truth far away from our grasp, leaving us with a more self-indulgent narrative that only confuses (me) more than it ever engages.
Hadestown Celebrates Their 1000th Performances and The First Day of Spring With Lilies White, Anaïs Mitchell and Rachel Chavkin
Hadestown, the Tony® and Grammy Award®-winning Best Musical, celebrated both tomorrow’s first day of Spring and the beloved show recently achieving a milestone 1,000 performances at Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre (219 West 48th Street) with a surprise appearance by songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and director Rachel Chavkin.
After a heartfelt thank you from both, Mitchell and Tony Award winner Lillias White led the audience in a special performance of a classic springtime anthem. Then, as the audience departed the theater, the cast took to the Kerr’s fire escape overlooking West 48th Street and threw flowers to fans.
In addition to White, Hadestown also stars 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. They are 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 cast includes swings Sojourner Brown, Brandon Cameron, Max Kumangai, and Yael “YaYa” Reich, Allysa Shorte, and Tanner Ray Wilson.
Hadestown originated as Mitchell’s indie theater project that toured Vermont which she then turned into an acclaimed album. With Chavkin, her artistic collaborator, Hadestown has been transformed into a genre-defying new musical that blends modern American folk music with New Orleans-inspired jazz to reimagine a sweeping ancient tale.
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.
Hadestown marks the first time in over a decade that a woman has been the solo author of a musical: writing the music, lyrics, and book, and is the fourth time in Broadway history a woman has accomplished this creative feat. It also marks the first time in Broadway history that a show’s female composer and female director both won Tony Awards for their work. Earlier this year, the landmark musical became the longest running show in the history of the Walter Kerr Theatre and holds the record for highest grossing musical in that venerated stage’s 100-year history.
The Original Broadway Cast Recording of Hadestown is one of the most streamed cast albums of all time with over 300 million streams to date. It topped Billboard’s Broadway Cast Recording chart and debuted at #8 on the Top Album chart. The CD edition features a 64-page booklet and a two-disc set, while the triple vinyl edition features a 16-page booklet. Both editions include complete song lyrics and photos of the Hadestown cast and creative team in the studio, and other exclusive content. A special limited-edition transparent green vinyl box set was just released on Friday.
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Pictures From Home
Theatre News: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Bad Cinderella, John Kander, KPOP and The Rewards of Being Frank
A Statement From Andrew Lloyd Webber
I am absolutely devastated to say that my eldest son Nick is critically ill.
As my friends and family know, he has been fighting gastric cancer for the last 18 months and Nick is now hospitalised.
I therefore have not been able to attend the recent previews of Bad Cinderella and as things stand, I will not be able to cheer on its wonderful cast, crew and orchestra on Opening Night this Thursday.
We are all praying that Nick will turn the corner. He is bravely fighting with his indomitable humour, but at the moment my place is with him and the family.
Opening Night Performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical Bad Cinderella is Thursday, March 23, 2023 at Imperial Theatre, 249 W 45th Street.
Red Carpet arrivals of celebrity guests including Afyia Bennett, Senator Barbara Boxer, Alex Brightman, Tory Burch, Kandi Burruss, Jordan E. Cooper, Erin Dana Lichy, Lamar Dawson, Machine Dazzle, Bethenny Frankel, Mandy Gonzalez, Amber Gray, Jae Gurley, Amber Iman, Ashley Longshore, Carson Kressley, Judy Kuhn, Loosey LaDuca, Luann de Lesseps, Marcia Marcia Marcia, Martyna Majok, Ingrid Michaelson, Andy Mientus, Minnie Mills, Pablo Montalban, Justin Peck, Wendell Pierce, Zac Posen, T. Oliver Reid, Krysta Rodriguez, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Sylvester Stallone, Elizabeth Stanley, Alex Timbers, Tommy Tune, Tanairi Sade Vasquez, Ana Villafane, Anna Wintour and the cast and creative team of Bad Cinderella including Andrew Lloyd Webber, Linedy Genao, Carolee Carmello, Grace McLean, Jordan Dobson, Sami Gayle, Morgan Higgins, Cameron Loyal, Christina Acosta Robinson, Savy Jackson, Mike Baerga, Raymond Baynard, Lauren Boyd, Tristen Buettel, Alyssa Carol, Gary Cooper, Kaleigh Cronin, Josh Drake, Ben Lanham, Angel Lozada, Mariah Lyttle, Robin Masella, Sarah Meahl, Michael Milkanin, Chloe Nadon-Enriquez, Christian Probst, Larkin Reilly, Julio Rey, Lily Rose, J Savage, Dave Schoonover, Tregony Shepherd, Paige Smallwood, Lucas Thompson, Alena Watters and more.
John Kander celebrates his 96th birthday on Saturday, March 18, six days before New York, New York, his 16th original Broadway musical begins performances at the St. James Theatre., giving him the distinction of being the oldest composer to open a new musical on Broadway. To honor the legendary composer Susan Stroman, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Colton Ryan, Anna Uzele and the cast and creative team of New York, New York surprised John Kander with a Big-Apple-sized rendition of “Happy Birthday.” You can watch the video here.
A titan of the American Theatre, John Kander made his Broadway debut as the rehearsal pianist for the original production of Gypsy starring Ethel Merman in 1951. The first Kander & Ebb musical, Flora The Red Menace, debuted in 1965 and starred Liza Minnelli in a Tony-winning performance. What followed was a string of legendary musicals including Chicago, Cabaret, Steel Pier, Curtains, The Visit and The Scottsboro Boys, all culminating in this new musical set in post-war New York, inspired by the 1977 Martin Scorsese film of the same name, which features the iconic song “New York, New York.” New York, New York marks the 15th Kander & Ebb musical to open on Broadway.
New York, New York marks the first new John Kander & Fred Ebb musical to open on Broadway since 2015’s The Visit, which was nominated for 5 Tony Awards including Best Musical. The legendary duo is also currently represented on Broadway with Chicago, which holds the distinction of being the longest-running American musical in Broadway history.
New York, New York stars Colton Ryan (Girl From The North Country, Hulu’s “The Girl From Plainville”) as Jimmy Doyle, Anna Uzele (Six, Apple TV+’s “Dear Edward”) as Francine Evans, Clyde Alves (On The Town) as Tommy Caggiano, John Clay III (Choir Boy) as Jesse Webb, Janet Dacal (In The Heights) as Sofia Diaz, Ben Davis (Dear Evan Hansen) as Gordon Kendrick, Oliver Prose as Alex Mann (Broadway Debut), Angel Sigala (Broadway Debut) as Mateo Diaz, and Tony Award nominee Emily Skinner (Side Show) as Madame Veltri. The ensemble includes Wendi Bergamini, Allison Blackwell, Giovanni Bonaventura, Jim Borstelmann, Lauren Carr, Mike Cefalo, Bryan J. Cortés, Kristine Covillo, Gabriella Enriquez, Haley Fish, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, Richard Gatta, Stephen Hanna, Naomi Kakuk, Akina Kitazawa, Ian Liberto, Kevin Ligon, Leo Moctezuma, Aaron Nicholas Patterson, Dayna Marie Quincy, Julian Ramos, Drew Redington, Benjamin Rivera, Vanessa Sears, Davis Wayne, Jeff Williams, Darius Wright. New York, New York begins performances Friday, March 24, 2023 and officially opens Wednesday, April 26, 2023 at Broadway’s St. James Theatre (246 West 44th Street).
Featuring music and lyrics by Tony, Emmy & Grammy Award winners and Academy Award nominees John Kander & Fred Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret), written by Tony Award nominee David Thompson (The Scottsboro Boys, Steel Pier), co-written by Sharon Washington (Audible’s Feeding The Dragon) and featuring additional lyrics by Pulitzer, Tony, Emmy & Grammy Award winner and Academy Award nominee Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, In The Heights), New York, New York will be directed and choreographed by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman (The Producers, The Scottsboro Boys).
It is 1946, the war is over, and a resurgent New York is beginning to rebuild. As steel beams swing overhead, a collection of artists has dreams as big and diverse as the city itself.
Among them is New York native Jimmy Doyle, a brilliant but disillusioned musician looking for his “major chord” in life: music, money, love. The odds are against him getting all three until he meets Francine Evans, a young singer just off the bus from Philly, who is destined for greatness. If they can make it there, they can make it anywhere.
Tickets for New York, New York are now on-sale at www.NewYorkNewYorkBroadway.com. Tickets start at $59.
This new musical is inspired by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Motion Picture New York, New York written by Earl M. Rauch.
Sony Masterworks Broadway, along with producers Tim Forbes and Joey Parnes, share new track “Super Star” from KPOP – Original Broadway Cast Recording – listen here. Featuring vocals from chart-topping Korean songstress and show lead Luna as well as the show’s talented cast of performers, “Superstar” is the second track to debut from the album, which arrives digitally on Monday, May 8 and on CD Friday, May 12. “Super Star” premieres today alongside an accompanying video featuring Luna – watch here.
Available for preorder and presave now, KPOP – Original Broadway Cast Recording was produced by Helen Park, Matt Stein, and Harvey Mason jr.(NCT 127, Red Velvet), and features music, lyrics, music production and arrangements by Park and music and lyrics by Max Vernon. The first-ever Broadway musical to celebrate Korean culture with Korean, Korean-American, and API representation on and off-stage, the album features a star-studded cast of performers from the world of K-pop, including chart-topping superstar and lead Luna, BoHyung (from the K-pop group SPICA and half of the duo KEEMBO), Min (from the K-pop group Miss A), Kevin Woo (from the K-pop group U-KISS), and more.
The Rewards of Being Frank, currently running through March 26, 2023 at the Mezzanine Theatre at ART/New York Theatres (502 West 53rd Street), is now available for streaming, also through March 26 only. The World Premiere play, written by Alice Scovell, is a sequel to Oscar Wilde’s immortal 1895 comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest. https://ci.ovationtix.com/35099/store/donations/49755 The cast for The Rewards of Being Frank feature Moboluwaji Ademide Akintilo (New York Classical’s The Importance of Being Earnest (Two Ways), Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as Frank, James Evans (The McKittrick Hotel’s The Woman in Black) as Algernon, Kelly Mengelkoch (Cincinnati Shakespeare Company) as Gwendolyn, Tora Nogami Alexander (The Acting Company’s Twelfth Night) as Cecily, Jeremy Dubin (Cincinnati Shakespeare Company) as Ernest, and Christine Pedi(Broadway’s Chicago, Talk Radio, Off-Broadway’s Forbidden Broadway) as Lady Bracknell. Oscar Wilde’s much-loved The Importance of Being Earnest receives a hilarious sequel in this world premiere. Set seven years after Wilde’s play, see what happens to our characters when they meet Frank. After all, the only thing more Important than being Earnest, is being Frank! Performances are Tuesday-Sunday at 7:00 PM with matinees on Wednesdays at 2:00 PM. Running time is two hours including intermission. Tickets are available on the NY Classical website. Advance reservations are $35 per seat. These reservations are refundable—in cash, at the theatre—following each regular performance.* All NY Classical programs are free and open to the public. Pending seating availability, FREE admission will be available beginning one hour before curtain, on a first-come, first-served basis.The Rewards of Being Frank is a co-production of New York Classical Theatre (Stephen Burdman, Founding Artistic Director, Matthieu Chapman, Literary Director) and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (Brian Isaac Phillips, Producing Artistic Director). Mr. Burdman directs. The streaming version of The Rewards of Being Frank is available for a donation of $10 or higher. You can watch the recording as often as you wish and at any time. The link will expire at 10:00 pm on Sunday, March 26, 2023. To order, or for more information, please visit:
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