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The Best of 2022 On Stage – in NYC, London, and Toronto



Oh, what a year it was. Running back and forth with a vengeance from Toronto to NYC, with stops in London, England, and London, Canada. Mostly for the sake of theatre. It was quite the adventure, but there were so many theatrical moments that made it so very worth it all. And I wouldn’t change a thing. Except maybe not having to wait to see NYTW’s Merrily We Roll Along. (You can click on each and every title for a link to my frontmezzjunkies review, if you so desire.)

Sara Bareilles in Into the Woods on Broadway.
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

At the top of the heap is Into the Woods, which began in May as another star-filled Encores production at NYCC. And I owe that all to the amazingly warm and wonderful Sara Bareilles as The Baker’s Wife, who filled the role with such tenderness and humor that I couldn’t wait to see it once again when it transferred to Broadway, to even more acclaim. “This fairytale adventure is and continues to be a forever joy, delivering a connected, clever piece of magical storytelling, that takes smart off-the-path twists and turns with several well-known children’s bedtime stories, and one brand new one; The Baker and his Wife. Sondheim expertly weaves them together into a compelling musical about wishing and wanting, and if you stay for Act II, you learn that actions have consequences and that one must lead by example. We get the answer to what happens when you actually get what you wish for, and what one can learn from what they lost. All played out in and amongst the white birch woods on the stage of the St. James Theatre, surrounded by the wonderful Encores! orchestra, led by the musical director, Robert Berman (Broadway’s Bright Star).” And because of popular demand and a long list of stars happy to step into roles as replacements, the show is still playing, even though it started out as a short-term investment.

Gavin Creel and Julia Lester in Into the Woods on Broadway.
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Back when I wrote the review, I stated: “Directed with a joyful acknowledgment of the fine cast assembled and the impeccable piece of writing at her disposal, DeBessonet executes the task most effectively and efficiently, finding all of the humor and care inside Sondheim’s smart words and melodies. The overlaying is magnificent, and although I thought, as I did with the Encores! production, that the piece could use a bit more intrepid introspection into the darkness and sensuality of the lyrics, the production steadfastly unearths a straightforward jokie innocence that lives beautifully deep in the entangled darkness. All and all, this bypass doesn’t come even close to hurting this production, mainly because it is full of wildly wonderful performances having a fun comedic playtime with every scene and scenario, unpacking and delivering with gusto, intelligence, and bravado.”

Other musical adventures that spiked my senses during the year 2022 included Some Like It Hot on Broadway. A musical film-to-stage remake that both did the original justice and took the story into our modern sensibilities without missing one tap dancing step. The question, “What are you thirsty for?” rings true in regards to this newly crafted dynamically funny production, “delivered by the unstoppable Sweet Sue, embodied by the impossibly strong, vocally-gifted Natasha Yvette Williams (Broadway’s Chicken and Biscuits) in the first moments of Broadway’s newest film-to-stage musical. Williams’ voice surges forth, demanding us to sit up to the Depression and be amazed.” It will truly be the one to knock on the Tony Award door, right after the incomparable Kimberly Akimbo, my all-time favorite new musical of the 2022/23 season so far. “It’s warm and impossibly touching, yet many of the characters are not”.

Victoria Clark in Broadway’s Kimberly Akimbo. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2022.

“Even on my second viewing, this time at the Booth Theatre on Broadway, this fantastic new musical, maybe the best of the season, finds its way into our collective heart so beautifully but from paths unexpected. It drives itself forward, down such a winding road, finding a golden and unique place to call home, where the music and the songs find a way of elevating the story with glee while keeping its sense of self-honest and truthful.” The truth and wonder in the show, and in the cast presentation, particularly the incredibly convincing Victoria Clark (Broadway’s GigiThe Light in the Piazza), alongside all her costars, make this a must-see in my books, and hopefully will take home a slew of awards in the spring.

There is also the surprisingly good and fun & Juliet that jumped over the pond, via Toronto, and took over the Stephen Sondheim Theatre with a gusto that is infectious, and I mean that in all the best fun ways possible. “Marvelously fun and enthusiastically appealing, this show delivers with a smart smirk inside a ridiculously fun pretense. And it couldn’t be any better if you tried.” On Broadway, it’s joyously clever, and I say that even though I wasn’t as struck by it when I saw it years ago in the West End of London. Now, I must admit “It’s super dope!

Lorna Courtney, Betsy Wolfe, Justin David Sullivan and Melanie La Barrie in Broadway’s & Juliet – Photo by Matthew Murphy.

But let’s not forget, nor ignore A Strange Loop, the musical that “Leaps High Across the Divide” transferring onto Broadway from Playwrights Horizons and breaking barriers left, right, and center. “This isn’t Broadway’s typical musical looking through the looking glass into some part of her soul thinking “white girls can do anything, can’t they?“ This is playwright Michael R. Jackson (Amazon’s “I’m a Virgo“) finding his own on Broadway, whirling around intersectionality in the most detailed and delightfully dark loop, probably throwing not just a few patrons off their comfy little Broadway seats.” And remember, it took home a heaping bunch of Tonys.

And what about Broadway’s Ain’t No Mo’? ““Say yes, bitch!” “Especially once the sound ministry gets it together and wakes up the mournful spectacularly in white… the roof is raised high by that ministry, with all of that wailing and carrying on by a gaggle of mourners flinging forth with such enthusiasm in the first and foremost vignette from the satirical and devilishly funny” Ain’t No Mo’ that played out a much too short run on Broadway at the magnificent Belasco Theatre. “This piece of surprising power that debuted back in 2019 at The Public Theater is stuffed solidly inside a laugh-out-loud flight of fancy written by an impressive Jordan E. Cooper (“The Ms. Pat Show“) that consistently shows its smart deep roots with every unveiling.” It should still be playing to packed houses. But sadly it is not.

Off-Broadway the Classic Stage Company production of A Man of No Importancesurprised and touched my heart, starring an engaging Jim Parsons (Broadway/Netflix’s Boys in the Band), the always excellent Mare Winningham (Broadway’s The Girl from the North Country), and the electric and sexy A.J. Shively (Broadway’s Paradise SquareBright Star). There was also Suffs at the Public, which “Majestically Climbs Those Hard Earned Stairs Beautifully” shaking some things up with its politics and power. As well as Atlantic Theater’s devastatingly good, The Bedwetter which I was lucky to get in to see just before it closed. Sadly I missed the chance to witness both Bebe Neuwirth and Caissie Levy, but that “Sarah, as portrayed most deliciously by the very talented Zoe Glick, (Broadway’s Frozen), had me at hello, basically…., it’s completely captivating, and Glick finds her spotlight as… the fresh, fictionalized young pre-teen version of Silverman, walking out boldly into the spotlight to introduce herself to her new classmates, and in turn, to us. And we know immediately, we can’t get enough. Swear words, and all.”

Zoe Glick (Sarah) and Emily Zimmerman (Laura) in Atlantic Theater Company’s world premiere production of The Bedwetter. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster

I sadly missed the Encores! production of Parade starring Ben Platt at NY City Center (but I hear I’ll get my chance next season when it transfers to Broadway. Woo Hoo!), as well as Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along at New York Theatre Workshop, although I have a ticket waiting for me at the box office for early January long before it transfers to Broadway in the fall. So no tears for me, I guess as I’ll get to see that classic show twice. And it will most likely make it onto my next year’s list. Probably, from what I’ve heard, right next to Parade. Fingers crossed.

Luckily, I was able to sneak my way in for a second round of the Broadway revival of Funny Girl solely to catch Lea Michele (Broadway’s Spring Awakening) dominating the stage in a role she seemed destined for her to devour.  The show itself is fairly well designed and directed (although not perfectly), and when it starred the terribly miscast Beanie Feldstein, it never really rose above second hand, but with Michele in the part, it really does elevate this Funny Girl to grand new heights, making it her very own while vocally honoring the icon Streisand. “It still has some intrinsic flaws, but now, in this rejuvenated production, the show spins and swirls with so much more assurance, saving it from the stormy waters that were crashing up against its sides before the recasting. The musical easily pulls in the already excited audience, with Lea elevating the production into the enthusiastic fine space it belongs. Finally, the ship has been saved from going under. Thank goodness.”

Naomi Wirthner and Juliet Stevenson in Robert Icke’s The Doctor. Photograph: Manuel Harlan.

The best plays of the year (not the new season) are a fascinatingly eclectic bunch, with most of them being connected to London, England in one way or another. By far, the best thing I saw was The Doctor spinning spectacularly smart in the West End. “It stands strong and stoically upfront, unpacking complexities such as medical ethics, identity politics, racism, antisemitism, and a whole bunch of other compelling conflicts that are boiling through our society currently, with a brilliance that is astonishing. One of the main vantage points that it forces a confrontation with is the ideas that swirl around unconscious bias and projected constructs. The play sneaks in loudly, filling the space with a focused intensity from the moment the music and the lights pinpoint the actors intently walking in”. It originated at the Almeida Theatre, toured the UK, and landed in the West End at the Duke of York’s Theatre, where I saw it over Thanksgiving. Starring the magnificent Juliet Stevenson (Robert Icke’s West End adaptation of Mary Stuart), it is the most excitingly crafted play I’ve seen in a long time, maybe since The Lehman Trilogy, tackling issue upon issue with a brilliance that is almost deafening. Written and directed by the amazing Robert Icke, The Doctor shouldn’t be missed, especially when it makes its way over to NYC – not on Broadway, surprisingly, but at the Park Avenue Armory in the early summer. Go.

Second on my list is Tom Stoppard’s semi-autobiographical play, Leopoldstadt, which dramatizes events and complications around Jewish identity, cultural assimilation, and anti-Semitism around the Second World War in Europe. Clocking in around two hours, this National Theatre, London production “Digs Deep into History and the Heart” steadily galvanizing our senses while never giving us the chance to back away from the crushing emotional dynamics at its core. “Holding it all in, close to the heartstrings, Stoppard’s intense play dives deep into the generational trauma and descent of an affluent Jewish family living and intellectualizing their existence with an understandable false sense of security. And ultimately, we are living that delusional nightmare right now, as Fascism tries to grab hold in the early 21st Century.”

Sharon D. Clarke, Wendell Pierce, and André De Shields in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2022.

Other great plays that made their way onto the stage include the Broadway production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. The West End transfer revival “shines a misty light on the memories and arguments that hover in the past, forcing themselves down and forward into the present. The production wisely uncovers all from a new vantage point, that of the Black Man’s experience inside that twisted American Dream that hangs above our collective heads around prosperity and success. The revival shifts this view, elevating and expanding Miller’s vision exponentially, thanks to the inventive craftpersonship of director Miranda Cromwell (Almeida Theatre’s and breathe…) who unpacks an idea that few knew was so essential to the play and our present.” It’s a play that at first I wasn’t exactly interested in seeing one more time. But boy, am I glad I did.

The West End revival of Mike Bartlett’s Cock that I saw in London also filled my mind with exciting wonder. With a starry glee, even with the replacement of its big-named draw,  the dashing and talented Taron Egerton, the production “stands up tall and strong for the whole world to see, thanks to the combative stance of playwright Bartlett (King Charles III). He has formulated a ring where the men stand at odds, all of a sudden, out of the blue, all because of an accident followed by a run-in meet/cute with a fellow commuter.”

“Director Marianne Elliott (West End/Broadway’s Angels in America) guides us convincingly through Bartlett’s battleground of sexuality, gender expression, and identity giving the whole engagement a precise edge. She lets them hang out in confusion, within their own limited constructs, contorting them in and around one another with expert ease.” Egerton’s replacement, the phenomenally talented and impressive Joel Harper-Jackson (UK Tour of Kinky Boots) was a dream, probably for both of us, but it really was all about the Olivier Award winner Jonathan Bailey (West End’s Company) who elevated it all, as only a “Bridgerton” could.

Jonathan Bailey in West End’s Cock.

Martyna Majok’s captivatingly strong Cost of LivingSpins a Fascinating and Compelling Net of Complicated Care and Sorrow.” The MTC show takes us in deep, determinately revolving us around the complications and struggles of living with some pretty serious physical disabilities. Also asking us to sit up and take notice is Bruce Norris’s Downstate at Playwrights Horizons, a show I also saw first at the National Theatre in London. It does us something similar, but this time it swings us around the concepts of punishment when it comes to sex offenders. “The play, as directed strongly by Pam MacKinnon (PH’s Log Cabin), ventures strongly up and into our collective faces, digging deep inside this controversial and dynamically real argument about punishment and survival in a morally ambiguous dimension. Authentically moving and utterly disturbing, the play begins with a victim coming forward to confront his past and the perpetrator of sexual abuse he experienced from his piano teacher when he was a young child, and from there, it spins its web inside and out of this complicated group home structure.”

There was Mary-Louise Parker (Broadway’s The Sound Inside; HBO’s “Angels in America“) who took over that Broadway stage with an emotionally captivating remounting of Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive, which “is as rich and dense on the inside as it is on the outside, folded in and around a difficult subject matter with an artful wonder.” On the opposite side of the spectrum, we can’t forget about Broadway’s funniest comedy of the 2021/22 season, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive. That team of artists involved “definitely know how to keep this ruckus play going strong and rocking, delivering line after line of hilarity for us all to savor. It’s pure deliciousness, this farce about all the female staff that works together to keep the country out of trouble. They do this with aplomb, all the while babysitting the idiot that holds the highest office in the land. If only all these women who brought forth this comedy actually could run the country. We might be better off.”

Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen also delivered once again some brilliance from over there across the pond after this devastatingly good black comedy from off-Broadway transferred to the Broadway stage. “Roping us in tightly to what is at the core of Martin McDonagh’s 1963 England” the play, unfortunately, got a bit knocked off its chair because of the lockdown and never found its audience and footing once it returned. There was the beautiful and elegant A Prayer for the French Republic at MTC’s New York City Center Stage 1. “Clocking in at an impressively brave three-plus hours, this multi-generational tale of a persecuted Jewish family living in Paris is, in general, a captivating triumph, one worthy of your attention and patience.” Truly.

And let’s not forget Sanaz Toossi’s mesmerizingly impressive and thoughtful play English at Atlantic Theater, as well as Ana Nogueira’s hilariously good Which Way to the Stage at MCC Theater that elevates the over-the-top fandom of musical theatre legends to a whole new exciting level. “Theatrical references are thrown around like beautiful fun confetti in MCC Theater‘s hilarious and surprisingly meaningful new play, Which Way to the Stage. They fly in and out with a smart force, zinging to the heart of the matter, before ricocheting around to hit another theatrical target dead center with aplomb. It’s epic and zazzy dialogue, written with a clever insider spark, shot out with such wild and insightful abandonment that we are left speechless.”

Max Jenkins, Evan Todd, and Sas Goldberg in MCC Theater’s 2022 production of WHICH WAY TO THE STAGE – Photo by Daniel J Vasquez.

In a one-person theatrical realm all to its own, a number of shows masterfully engaged us without a lot of help from other actors. The wonderfully funny storyteller, Mike Birbiglia, did it again with his honest and hilarious The Old Man & The Pool, which took over the large Lincoln Center Theater Main Stage most swimmingly breathing depth and insight into his hilarity. There was the riveting The Human Voice in the West End that “Connects Even When Disconnection is at its Core” starring the one and only Ruth Wilson (Broadway’s ConstellationsKing Lear) all alone on stage behind a plate of glass.

An amusing and brilliant triumph, equal to two smaller shows in Toronto that I also couldn’t get out of my mind easily, not that I wanted to. There was the wonderfully creative Haley McGee hitting the Right Formula in The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale at Soulpepper Theatre, and the intimately moving and upsetting Civilized at the Red Sandcastle Theatre that floored me emotionally. This play is “a must-see, for everyone who wants to truly understand the hatred and white supremacy that was at the core of these [Residental] schools and our country’s creation. It was not a pleasant evening of theatre, as there were many moments I could not look up from the ground at the actor on stage. But these words matter, and this is an important piece for us all to hear and take in.”

Speaking of Toronto, I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am to have the opportunity to see such great theatre here in Canada. A few productions stood out, captivating and enthralling me with their precision and artistic sensibilities. There was Factory Theatre’s absolutely genius production of Trojan Girls & The Outhouse of Atreus. It “Throws Grease on the Fire for a Greek Tragedy Swing Romp“, and completely blew me away. “This two-part/two-play simultaneous immersive production flies forth with confidence and skill, almost defying description. It transcends both time and the indoor/outdoor spaces where this two-party play melts together Greek mythology and modern vernacular with aplomb. Unfolding inside and out, at the same time, with the same cast in multiple connective parts, this epically exciting exploration of personal and global inheritance, citing the impending climate change emergency hanging dangerously over our worlds, jumps as high as Evil Knievel over our heads, forcing us all to grapple with deep seeded themes of parent/child attachment and personal tragedy, stitched inside love, lust, Greek tragedy, and immortal demands.”

Sébastien Heins in Factory Theatre’s Trojan Girls & The Outhouse of Atreus. Photo: Jeremy Mimnagh.

And let’s not forget their intimate, engagingly brilliant Wildfire that Toronto’s Factory Theatre “Magnificently Ignites … Most Strong, Bright, and Deliciously Weird“. “Exquisitely translated by Leanna Brodie (For Home and Country) from [David] Paquet’s play, Le brasier, the three orphaned souls, each living in different apartments slowly weaves and are bound together by the subtle and instinctual writing. We discover their intimate emotional connections, inch by inch, step by step, call by call, all within the same familial and physical structure that binds them forever together, and as each layer of that fire is built and burnt, the love and the hate of the flames dance before us with an ease and an intensity that is studiously astounding.”

Soulpepper Theatre also delivered strongly their lined-up productions of King Lear, a classic by Shakespeare, and Queen Goneril, a new play by Erin Shields (If We Were Birds), that “unearths all the magic required to turn this on its head and expand our understanding.” As well as the tender and emotional Where The Blood Mixes, a play that “Swims Strong in the Rough Muddy Currents of our Trauma.” “This was one of those ‘hard to take in’ and ‘difficult to let go’ experiences that happen sometimes when you see something so smart, dynamic, and meaningful in theatre. The number of metaphoric layers that are formed inside the first play written by Kevin Loring (Battle of the Birds) is utterly astounding. [The play] feels ever so effortless, especially as it slowly dips its toes in the current.”

Vanessa Sears and Oyin Oladejo in Obsidian/Necessary Angel/Canadian Stage production of Is God Is. Photo by Elijah Nichols.

It Took Three (Companies) For These Two (Sisters) to Act So Powerfully for (She) the One” in the Intense Is God Is that brought fire and revenge to the Canadian Stage Theatre. “The 2018 play by the brilliant American writer Aleshea Harris (On Sugerland) is one wild ride, reminiscent of a dark American ‘Oedipus Rex‘ reformulated into a modern-day violent road trip, raising itself up like a Greek chorus in the Wild West. The action within Sophocles’s play concerns Oedipus’s search for the murderer of Laius in order to end a plague ravaging Thebes, unaware that the killer he is looking for is none other than himself. The journey is the core, with the play unleashing horrific acts of patricide and incest, leaving the central character so overwhelmed with guilt that he proceeds to gouge out his own eyes in despair. This is not exactly the framework within Harris’s Is God Is, but some of the frameworks fit, and many of the horrors remain disturbingly in full view after the truth finally comes to light.”

I didn’t get a chance to see Talk is Free Theatre‘s Sweeney Todd, but I sure would have loved to. The same could be said about Coal Mine Theatre‘s The Antipodes, Studio 180/Off-Mirvish‘s Indecent, as well as Crow’s Theatre‘s Red Velvet, but you can’t see everything, I am (sadly) told. But I was able to get myself over to the wonderful Tarragon Theatre to see their production of Cockroach that “Powerfully and Intensely Flourishes Against All the Racist Odds of the World.” The play “transforms our perception of the ‘where’ and the ‘what’ we are collectively experiencing, thanks to the exceptional writing by playwright Ho (Iphigenia and the Furies (On Taurian Land); Antigone: 方; trace). It scratches and demands, wrapping our heads up in and around parallels and symbols that deepen and twist our consciousness into knots so complicated and distinct that we can sometimes get snarled up and trapped within. But hopefully, find our way out.” It, and every production listed here, continue to scamper around my brain and heart for days and days beyond their viewing. Like a cockroach, I guess. In the best of possible ways.

Anton Ling and 郝邦宇 Steven Hao in Tarragon Theatre‘s Cockroach – Photo by Joy von Tiedemann.

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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


Broadway’s A Doll’s House Meticulously Stunning Revival Soars Like a Birdie Above That Clumsy Cat on a Hot Tin Roof




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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Relevantly Tuneless Fairytale Bad Cinderella Isn’t Bad, It’s Forgettable



You are seriously asking for it, when you make the title for your musical Bad Cinderella, however the show is  not bad, it’s just seriously lacking. For an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which is normally rich in melody, the only song that has any kind of hold is “Only You, Lonely You” sung by Prince Sebastian (Jordan Dobson or in my performance the wonderful Julio Ray). The lyrics by David Zippel and book by Emerald Fennell, adapted by Alexis Scheer are inane. It doesn’t help that the cast for the most part speaks and sings with mouths full of cotton. The orchestrations sound tinny and computerized, The lead Linedy Genao has no charisma or vocals that soar musically, instead she is rather nasal, like Bernadette Peters with a cold. Why this show is two and a half hours long is beyond me.

Grace McLean and the hunks Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

The show is based in a town called Belleville (beautiful town en Francais), that is based solely on looks and prides itself on its superficiality. The opening number starts with “Beauty Is Our Duty,” the Queen (a fabulous Grace McLean) is into her hunks including her missing son Charming (Cameron Loyal).

Christina Acosta Robinson Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

And the fairy godmother (Christina Acosta Robinson) is a plastic surgeon who sings “Beauty Has a Price”. In a day and age, where we are suppose to see past all that, this show is politically incorrect.

Linedy Genao Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Cinderella a Gothic, and a graffiti artist, naturally does not fit into the town’s mold of beauty, which is how she earns her nickname. Her rebel move happens when she defaces a memorial statue of Sebastian’s older brother, Prince Charming. Sebastian is more of a geek, and he and Cinderella are in the “friend zone,” since both lack communication skills in admitting their love.

Carolee Carmello Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Sebastian is being forced by his mother, the Queen to find a wife at a ball and invites Cinderella. Cinderella’s stepmother (the always remarkable Carolee Carmello) blackmails the Queen to get one of her daughters Adele (Sami Gayle) or Marie (Morgan Higgins) the gig.

Grace McLean, Carolee Carmello Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

McLean and Carmello are the bright spots in the show and if the show had been about these two, maybe we would actually have a show that could work. These two steal the show.

Linedy Genao, Jordan Dobson, Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Cinderella has not one, but two what should have been show stopping numbers “I Know I Have A Heart (Because You Broke It)” and “Far Too Late,” but she does not have the vocals, the character development or the star power to carry them off.

The set and the revenge porn costumes by Gabriela Tylesova, are just over the top, with the storybook set faring much better than the over complicated flowered pastels that waltzed across the stage.

The direction by Laurence Connor is just dull and lacks oomph.

If you like buff men and Chippendale type choreography this is the show for you.

Bad Cinderella, Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th Street.

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Did You Know There Is A Kander & Ebb Way?



On Friday, March 24th, the 96-year-old John Kander was given a Mayoral Proclamation from Mayor Eric Adams in celebration of the first performance of his new Broadway musical New York, New York. Following the proclamation, Lin-Manuel Miranda unveiled the sign renaming 44th Steet ‘Kander & Ebb Way. On hand was the Manhattan School of Music to performed the iconic Kander & Ebb song “New York, New York.”

New York, New York opens Wednesday, April 26, 2023 at Broadway’s St. James Theatre (246 West 44th Street).


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