“In the beginning”…Scott Carter, the playwright of the new play at Primary Stages at the Cherry Lane Theatre with the longest title of the season, The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord, had an idea. Carter (executive producer and writer for “Real Time With Bill Maher“) wanted to explore religion and spirituality using the self curated Gospels of these three great men as a catalyst for this spiritual journey. A reckoning and questioning of the status quo and the bold truth through their eyes, and Carter sure knows how to pontificate on the subject of Jesus and the history surrounding these three famous gentleman. He has so much to say apparently, but sadly, takes far too much time getting to the point. So let me try to do quite the opposite.
One at a time, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Charles Dickens (1812-1870), and Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) find themselves coming through a door into a very plain room that reeks of purgatory and a surreal dimension. It’s brightly light and sparsely furnished, with scenic design by Wilson Chin (Berkeley Rep’s Aubergine); costumes by David Hyman (PH’s The Treasurer); lighting by Jen Schriever (Broadway’s Eclipsed) with just two chairs and one table and no clear reason for them being there. They have died, this they are aware, and although the years don’t match up, time is irrelevant. One by one, they enter, look around, try to make sense of the situation, and attempt to leave only to find that they are locked in.
There are projections, designed by Caite Hevner (In Transit) and original music and sound by Lindsay Jones (Public’s Privacy), that add to the drama. The phrases are only seen by us, reminding me somewhat of the chapters of character-focus in the much better and more precise play, The Doll’s House, Part 2. The writings on the wall give us comical hints and guidance about what’s happening and what is to come. It tells us, “Don’t Close The Door”, but no one abides by that instruction. It also sheds light that these dead souls are “Three Jonahs” in a whale’s belly, and “Dead as Doornails”. With those clues, we get the picture quite quickly, far faster than the three wise men do. Squabbling narcissistically, Jefferson (Michael Laurence), Dickens (Duane Boutté) and Tolstoy (Thom Sesma) search and try to ascertain why they are in this room together, and what is the existential purpose. Laurence (Braodway’s Talk Radio) as Jefferson and Sesma (CSC’s Pacific Overtures) as Tolstoy are strong and believable in their characterizations, making us believe they are the souls of these serious men. Boutté (Lincoln Center’s Parade) on the other hand, never really resonates as the flamboyant Dickens. He’s hard to understand his spirited speech and to see as this famous British author. But together, the egotistical three must figure out what they need to do on this day of reckoning in order to save themselves from being trapped in this room pacing for eternity. And if they do, they hope to be granted freedom from this confinement and move beyond. Beyond to what? That’s another question that doesn’t appear to be asked in this slight metaphysical play.
In many ways, I think the director, Kimberly Senior (LCT3’s Disgraced) has some of the same questions to figure out and answer for us. One of the main ones, is whether there is enough to say by these three philosophers that is captivating enough for this 90 minute play. They speak and speak, clarifying their positions on God and religion but I wonder, are they speaking more out of fear that we might get to the end too quickly, and find out that Carter doesn’t have as much to say as he and we had hoped in the end. “Tales must sparkle,” Dickens insists, but rarely does the play’s bigger picture come close. It’s diverting and amusing but leaves us unsatisfied when the door finally pops open. In some ways, we are just as glad as they are.
For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com
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.
Theatre News: Smash, I Need That, Good Night, Oscar, Funny Girl, This Beautiful Lady and In The Trenches: A Parenting Musical
The NBC television series Smash is coming to Broadway for the 2024-2025 season. Robert Greenblatt, Neil Meron and Steven Spielberg will produce. The musical will feature a book co-written by three-time Tony Award nominee Rick Elice and Tony winner Bob Martin. Tony and Grammy winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Some Like It Hot). The team earned three Emmy nominations for their songs from the “Smash” series will pen the score, which will feature numbers from the TV show.
Five-time Tony winner Susan Stroman (New York, New York) will direct and Tony nominee and Emmy Award winner Joshua Bergasse will choreograph.
The series was created by Theresa Rebeck and Spielberg, launch the series. Spielberg is also one of the co-producers of Good Night, Oscar, which begins performances at the Belasco Theatre on April 7.
Official dates, theater, creative team and casting for the “Smash” stage musical will be announced at a later date.
Speaking of the Pulitzer Prize finalist playwright Theresa Rebeck, Danny DeVito and Lucy DeVito are set to star in her new play I Need That at the Roundabout. The new comedy will be directed by Tony nominee Moritz von Stuelpnagel which will open at the American Airlines Theatre in October. The cast will also include Ray Anthony Thomas. … Also newly announced for Roundabout’s new Broadway season is a spring 2024 revival of Samm-Art Williams’ 1980 Tony-nominated play “Home.” Tony winner Kenny Leon will direct
Speaking of Good Night, Oscar, Doug Wright’s play was named finalist for 2023 new play award by The American Theatre Critics Association. The other six finalists for the 2023 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award include: Born With Teeth by Liz Duffy Adams, the ripple, the wave that carried me home by Christina Anderson, Sally & Tom by Suzan-Lori Parks, Spay by Madison Fiedler and
Swing State by Rebecca Gilman.
Paolo Montalban and Anne L. Nathan are joining Lea Michele in Funny Girl as Florenz Ziegfield and Mrs. Strakosh. Montalban and Nathan will replace original cast members Peter Francis James and Toni DiBuono, who take their final bows on March 26th.
Elizabeth Swados’ This Beautiful Lady will play at La MaMa this May. Previews will begin May 5 for the Off-Broadway run ahead of the May 8 press opening, with performances set through May 28 in the Ellen Stewart Theatre.
In The Trenches: A Parenting Musical, with book, music, and lyrics by Graham & Kristina Fuller, will receive industry readings on Friday, March 24th at 11am & 3pm at Ripley Grier Studios. The readings will be directed by Jen Wineman (Dog Man: The Musical) and will feature music direction by Rebekah Bruce (Mean Girls) and arrangements by Dan Graeber, Graham & Kristina Fuller.
The cast of In The Trenches features Amanda Jane Cooper (Wicked), Jelani Remy (The Lion King, Ain’t Too Proud), Christine Dwyer (Wicked), Caesar Samayoa (Come From Away), Max Crumm (Grease, Disaster!), and Vidushi Goyal.Join two bleary-eyed young parents as they trudge through the trenches and discover their new post-baby identities. In an evening of new-parent greatest hits, a foul-mouthed toddler zeroes in on “the most dangerous thing in the room”, tap dancing towards bleach, knives, and tide pods; a chronically-overlooked younger sibling sings the “second child blues”; a mom trio celebrates yoga pants in an R&B love song to the “official mom uniform”; dad discovers he’s not the “ice-cream and movie-night cool parent” but rather the “do your homework real parent” amid a kiddo sugar-crash; and mom retrieves a sticky, hair-covered pacifier from the floor of a LaGuardia bathroom while her baby screams bloody murder and her flight boards without her.
Jason Robert Brown, Chuck Cooper, Janet Dacal, Sutton Foster, Lillias White and More To Perform at TheaterWorksUSA Spring Gala
TheaterWorksUSA, currently presenting the hit family show Dog Man The Musical at New World Stages, will host its annual Spring Gala on Monday, April 24 (cocktails begin at 6 PM) at The Current at Chelsea Piers.
100% of the net proceeds from the event will support our mission to create exceptional, transformative theatrical experiences that are accessible to young and family audiences in diverse communities across New York City and North America.
This year TWUSA will honor Lisa Chanel (TWUSA Board Chair 2019-2022), Andréa Burns (Award-winning Broadway actress & educator), Peter Flynn (TWUSA alumnus and award-winning director, writer, and educator), and Holly McGhee (Founder and Creator of Pippin Properties, New York Times best selling author). The event will feature appearances by some of Broadway’s biggest stars, including Jason Robert Brown, Chuck Cooper, Janet Dacal, Kevin Del Aguila, Sutton Foster, Lillias White and more.
On behalf of TheaterWorksUSA’s Board of Directors, we are thrilled to celebrate the people who have generously supported our mission, making it possible for us to bring high-quality theater to young audiences of all backgrounds throughout the country. We look forward to recognizing Lisa, Andréa, Peter, and Holly publicly at this very special event. – Tracy A. Stein, Board Chair
It’s a privilege to honor these individuals for playing such an important role in the work we do. Their vision, creativity, and ongoing commitment to our mission is truly something to celebrate. They are very much a part of our TheaterworksUSA family.- Barbara Pasternack, Artistic Director
TheaterWorksUSA (Barbara Pasternack, Artistic Director; Michael Harrington, Executive Director) has led the Theater for Young and Family Audiences movement in New York City and across North America for over half a century. At TWUSA, we believe that access to art—and theater, in particular—is vital for our youth. Since 1961, the 501(c)3 not-for-profit has captured the imaginations of 100 million new and veteran theatergoers with an award-winning repertoire of over 140 original plays and musicals. Acclaimed alumni include Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (Disney’s Frozen), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent), Jerry Zaks (The Music Man), Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen), Miguel Cervantes (Hamilton), Kathleen Chalfant (Angels in America), and Chuck Cooper (Tony award-winning actor, The Life). WWW.TWUSA.ORG
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