If you love Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, you will love Jennifer Berman’s new play The Last Séance part of the NY Summerfest at the Hudson Guild Theater. This well thought out play, follows two of the biggest celebrities of their age, starting with their first meeting. Doyle, the famed creator of the great detective Sherlock Holmes, and Houdini, the illusionist and escape artist who became one of the world’s highest-paid entertainers were from vastly different backgrounds. Doyle (Jim Haines) was a well educated Brit and a Catholic, Houdini (Justin Chevalier) a self-educated Jewish Hungarian immigrant. Brought together by a shared interest in spiritualism, it was also spiritualism that destroyed this unlikely friendship. Doyle embraces the ability to contact and talk to the dead, Houdini was an anti-Spiritualist crusader. When Doyle’s wife, Jean (Isabel Schnall), becomes a self-proclaimed medium using automatic writing and attempts to contact Houdini’s mother, cracks in the men’s relationship begin to appear. When Houdini publically denounced mediums, including Doyle’s wife, their relationship brakes down. After Houdini’s death, his widow, Bess (Megan Ghorashy), hoped that her husband might make contact and give her message using a prearranged code, but he never does.
Justin Chevalier, as Houdini is a find. He understands the difference between the showman and the man. His performance is layered and intelligent. Jim Haines, as Doyle, doesn’t connect as strongly, but grows in his performance. Isabel Schnall and Megan Ghorashy play multiple roles and succeed in making each one unique and different. Only Michael Fidalgo who plays multiple characters doesn’t bring the magic.
Director Andrew Glant-Linden, does a excellent job in keeping the play moving and engaging. A huge shout out goes to Patrick Bakalli for his production design, which is outstanding.
Jennifer Berman has done a wonderful job at bringing history to life. There is a huge call for shows based on these two men and she has a winner. Though she has not given herself credit Ms. Berman has done a fabulous job at costuming the show. For a show of this kind, all elements need to come together and I am going to predict this show has a life beyond this festival.
The Last Séance: NY Summerfest, Hudson Guild Theatre, 441 West 26th St. 10/29 @ 9pm and 10/1 @ 3:30pm.
*Mark Returns To The Magis Theatre Company
Magis Theatre Company will present a revival of their critically acclaimed production of *mark, a solo performance of the Gospel of Mark. Originally produced at La MaMa ETC and directed by Luann Purcell Jennings in 2014, it features original music composed by internationally acclaimed, award-winning composer Elizabeth Swados. Actor George Drance will again perform the role of the storyteller. *mark will be performed at Theatre 315 located at 315 W. 47th St. New York, NY. The show dates are as follows: Wednesdays, April 12 and 19 at 7PM; Thursdays, April 6, 13 and 20 at 7pm; Friday April 7, 14 and 21 at 8PM; Saturday April 8, 15 and 22 at 2PM. Tickets are available at Eventbrite: tinyurl.com/36h7rzdt. The production is directed by Jackie Lucid.
The Gospel of Mark, the oldest of the four gospels, had an early tradition of being performed aloud from start to finish. It was finally written down during Nero’s brutal persecution of the followers of “the Way.” Recited in its entirety to give courage to this community of quiet rebels, their radical compassion put them in danger because their inclusivity threatened the Empire’s status quo. Today it is rare for an audience to hear this gospel performed in its totality, or to experience it with the immediacy of that dangerous period of oppression. In his contemporary solo performance, Drance, reclaims the urgency of the words as when they were first spoken. He examines the message of commitment and love through the eyes of a street artist, using drawings to illustrate and illuminate the text.
Magis Theatre Company, founded in 2003, is an ensemble of actors and teaching artists who came together out of desire: desire to teach, desire to train, and desire to act. The company has produced a variety of actor driven, physically based theatre productions that explore the human condition. Recent productions include: Thornton Wilder’s The Alcestiad performed at FDR Four Freedoms Park; Calderon’s Two Dreams, presenting both the 1636 comedia and the 1677 auto sacramental of Life is a Dream; Leslie Lewis’ Miracle in Rwanda, testifying to the transformative power of prayer and forgiveness. Their adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s fantastical spiritual tale The Great Divorce was hailed by the New York Times as “thought provoking… long on theatrical skill and remarkably short on preachiness.”
Actor George Drance, Artist-in-residence at Fordham University, has performed and directed in over twenty countries on five continents. He has served as artistic director of Theatre YETU in Kenya and artistic associate for Teatro la Fragua in Honduras. Drance has been a guest artist and lecturer at Columbia University, Cornell University, Marquette University, Marymount Manhattan College, Hebrew Union College, and Boston College. In March, Drance, who is Ukrainian, will appear at LA Mama in Radio 477!, a new show created by Yara Arts Group and Ukrainian artists about the city of Kharkiv, its jazz history, and how it stood up to Putin today. With texts and lyrics by award-winning Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan, music by Anthony Coleman, it is directed by Virlana Tkacz.
Perhaps best known for her Broadway and international smash hit Runaways, the late Elizabeth Swados (1951-2016) composed, wrote and directed issue-oriented theatre for over 30 years. Some of her works include the Obie Award winning Trilogy at La Mama, and Alice at the Palace with Meryl Streep at the New York Shakespeare Festival. Her awards include: Five Tony® nominations, three Obie® Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Ford Grant, the Helen Hayes Award, a Lila Acheson Wallace Grant, PEN, and others.
Visit the Magis Theatre Company online at: https://www.magistheatre.org
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.
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