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The Instigators hit the mark in some aspects of this charming production of The Seagull, but there are some inconsistencies in the interpretation of subtext and the direction of the piece.

This Chekhov classic depicts a family of writers and actors as they spend time in the country side home that belongs to Sorin (Roger Rathburn). The action reveals their ideals about art forms, and it illuminates the love triangles that keep all characters longing for a person they can’t have or doesn’t want them. The play opens with a gothic and moody Masha (Siena D’Addario) and an over eager Medvedenko (Emmanuel Elpenord). Within moments they establish the dark and comic lilt that reveals each struggling artist as the play moves forward: the robust, bored and jaded Arkadina (Kristen Vaughan), her son, a depressed and gifted writer Konstantin (Taylor Petracek), her lover, a famous writer Trigorin (Fergus Scully), the naïve ingénue, Nina (Jeanette Dilone). These artists are surrounded by others who support and inspire them: the handsome and logical doctor, Dorn (Todd Licea), Masha’s parents, Paulina (Deborah Unger) and Shamrayev (Peter Feliz) and the manservant Yakov (Kazuhiro Imafuku).

Taylor Petracek (Konstantin) and Jeanette Dilone (Nina) Photo by Lisa Renee Jordan

The charming set by Chika Shimizu earnestly reflects the simply elegant and quaint countryside house that sits by a lake. The gallery lighting adapted to stage lighting by Caitlin Smith Rapoport adds warmth that only exists in a few moments and characters of the play. The original music by Sylvana Joyce is a flowing somber underscore that matches the self-loathing spirit of Chekhov’s characters as well as the costumes do. Lisa Renee Jordan’s costumes bring out minute details of each character making this production feel full and round.

Fergus Scully (Trigorin) and Siena D’Addario (Masha) Photo by Lisa Renee Jordan

 

The flaws in the production appear to be directorial. While Lillian Meredith has used the full space to her advantage, Chekhov’s subtext is heavily misinterpreted. This is most evident in the final scene between Nina and Konstantin. The majority of the actors fluctuate between natural and over the top. Often there is too much shouting and movements escalate the scene before the text. The second half of the show is much more natural and appealing than the first. The most consistent and most believable performances come from Fergus Scully, Kristen Vaughan, Todd Licea, Siena D’Addario, and Deborah Unger.

Despite its flaws, this production is an engaging adaptation of Chekhov’s famous play. The themes and overall sensation of the play are just right.

 

The Seagull: The Instigators, Access Theater, 380 Broadway. Closes June 18th.

Virginia Jimenez is a writer, dancer and teaching artist in New York City. She teaches for various companies focusing on dancing for musical theatre, ballroom dancing, theatrical skills and story building. Bringing arts education to students in NYC is incredibly rewarding for her because she is passionate about arts integration and using the arts to facilitate an emotional education. As a writer, Virginia believes in the power of words and stories to challenge and encourage audiences to seek growth and modes of expression. She likes tequila and ice cream - though not necessarily together. www.vmjimenez.com

Cabaret

Cabaret Loses The West Bank Cafe and Laurie Beechman Theatre

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The West Bank Cafe and the Laurie Beechman theatre are closing their doors in August.

The West Bank Cafe opened in 1978. The restaurant’s early clients even included the notorious Irish gang, the Westies. The neighborhood was rough. In 1980, The New York Times awarded West Bank two stars, which increased its visibility and attracted a wider range of diners. 
In this era, West Bank Cafe’s owner, Steve Olsen opened the Laurie Beechman Theatre downstairs from the Cafe, which staged plays and hosted events nightly. A young Lewis Black was named playwright-in-residence; Howard Stern aired his third-annual live birthday broadcast from the theater; and the restaurant’s regulars included Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Bruce Willis, among others.

Soon the redevelopment of 42nd Street spread further west, bringing new businesses and residents to the area. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, the restaurant was a leader in the growing Theater District and Hell’s Kitchen dining scenes. As new theaters opened in the area, the restaurant’s connection to stage and screen remained strong as well. The Laurie Beechman Theatre continued to regularly stage the work of emerging writers, actors, and singers (many of whom later became stars) as well as established acts: The Who even gave four live performances at the restaurant while their musical Tommy was running on Broadway.

After 45 years, the restaurant’s surrounding neighborhood and America’s culinary tastes have changed dramatically. West Bank Cafe has evolved along with the neighborhood and maintained a commitment to serving high-quality food in a unpretentious setting where both theater-goers and theatre stars feel at home.

In 2020 the West Bank was likely to close imminently as it faced mounting debts and a steep drop-off in customers due to COVID. By Tuesday, though, there was an online fundraiser had raised more than $330,000, shooting past its initial goal of $250,000. Donations came pouring in thanks to Tom D’Angora, a Broadway producer and longtime customer. But things took off on Christmas Day, thanks to a star-studded, nine-hour telethon, featuring speeches and performances by Sean Penn, Nathan Lane, Pete Townshend, Debra Messing, Andre De Shields and dozens more performers who have called themselves West Bank regulars during its 42-year history.

The money raised allowed Olsen to pay off the cafe’s debts and save some cash for the future. Sadly it seems 2024 might be the end.

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Cabaret

Jason Robert Brown To Perform at Carnegie Hall In October

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Now here is a concert I will definitely be attending. Three-time Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown will perform a special concert event at Carnegie Hall on October 25, 2024, at 8:00 PM. He already had a sold-out concert at the London Palladium.

Expect to hear “Still Hurting,” and “Stars and the Moon.” I have included some of my favorite video’s of Mr. Brown’s music sung to perfection.

His repertoire, spans over thirty years of unforgettable and some of the best musical theatre songs ever written.

At the concert some of his closest collaborators and newest friends and some of the most celebrated performers of the stage and the music world – soon to be announced.

The Orchestra of St. Luke’s, New York’s own chamber orchestra, will accompany Jason and his guests with their virtuosic 22-piece ensemble. The evening will be conducted by Jason Robert Brown and Georgia Stitt.

Tickets go on sale to the general public at 11am EST on July 19, 2024, with a general pre-sale on Wednesday, July 17th, and a Live Nation presale, starting Thursday, July 18th. Tickets start at $59.50. For ticketing information and further details, please contact CarnegieCharge at (212) 247-7800, carnegiehall.org, or visit the Box Office on 57th Street and Seventh Avenue.

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Broadway

Theatre News: Teeth, Soft Power, Redwood, BOOP! The Betty Boop Musical and Pre-Existing Condition

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Jenna Rose Husli, Wren Rivera, Alyse Alan Louis, Phoenix Best and Helen J Shen in Teeth (Photo: Chelcie Parry)

Teeth is coming back to New World Stages in the fall for an open-ended run. The transfer begins on October 31, Halloween night, as its official opening. While casting for the commercial remount is yet to be announced, the Playwrights Horizons cast featured Alyse Alan Louis, Steven Pasquale, Will Connolly, Jason Gotay, Jared Loftin, Courtney Bassett, Phoenix Best, Jenna Rose Husli, Lexi Rhoades, Wren Riveras and Helen J. Shen.

The off-Broadway cast album for Teeth, written by written by Pop! creator Anna K. Jacobs (book and music) and Pulitzer Prize-winning A Strange Loop creator Michael R. Jackson (book and lyrics), is now available to stream on all major music platforms. The physical CD will be released August 30. Teeth opened its off-Broadway world premiere at Playwrights Horizons in March with direction by Sarah Benson and choreography by Raja Feather Kelly.

Based on Mitchell Lichtenstein’s screenplay for the cult-classic 2007 horror comedy, Teeth is a tale of revenge and transformation that tears through a culture of shame and repressed desire one delightfully unhinged song at a time. The musical follows Dawn O’Keefe, an evangelical Christian teen struggling to be an exemplar of purity amongst her community of fellow Promise Keeper Girls. As Dawn’s desires become tested and twisted by the men in her life, she discovers a deadly secret not even she understands: when men violate her, her body bites back—literally.

I loved Jeanine Tesori and David Henry Hwang’s SoftPower when it appeared at The Public, now it’s coming to the Signature Theatre in Washington  D.C., newly revised production and directed by Signature Associate Artistic Director Ethan Heard. The show opens August 6 and runs until September 15. Could NYC be next? The cast will feature Steven Eng as DHH, Daniel May (Flower Drum Song) as Xue Xing, and Grace Yoo (Hadestown) as Hillary Clinton with Eymard Cabling (Miss Saigon national tour) as Randy Ray and others, Andrew Cristi (A Christmas Story) as Chief Justice and others, Jonny Lee Jr. as Bobby Bob and others, Quynh-My Luu as Waiter and others, Christopher Mueller as VEEP and others, Ashley D. Nguyen as Jīng and others, Chani Wereley as Betsy Ross and others, Nicholas Yenson as Holden Caulfield and others, and Sumié Yotsukura as Flight Attendant and others. Olivia Clavel-Davis, Brian Dauglash, Emily Song Tyler, and Joey Urgino are swings.

After the 2016 election, when a Chinese American playwright is attacked by an unknown assailant, he hallucinates a Golden Age musical comedy about a Chinese theater producer and Hillary Clinton falling in love. Hilarious and biting, this political satire dares to ask: Does American Democracy still work? And is it worth believing in?

An exhilarating ride through political absurdity with a faceoff between Chinese and American exceptionalism, Soft Power makes an electric debut in the nation’s capital.

Idina Menzel, will open at the Nederlander Theatre in Redwood. This new Broadway musical starts previews January 24,  with a February 13 opening. Written and directed by Tony Award nominee Tina Landau, Redwood features music by Kate Diaz and lyrics by Diaz and Landau. The show is conceived by Landau and Menzel, with additional contributions by Menzel. The musical premiered earlier this year at La Jolla Playhouse. “I made my Broadway debut at the Nederlander Theatre in Rent almost 30 years ago, so to be returning there with Redwood is very emotional for me as it feels like a real homecoming. It has been such a gift to collaborate with Tina and Kate on this show, and I’m so proud to bring it to Broadway” stated Menzel. Redwood follows Jesse (Menzel), a successful businesswoman, mother and wife who seems to have it all, but inside, her heart is broken. Finding herself at a turning point, Jesse leaves everyone and everything behind, gets in her car and drives. Thousands of miles later, she hits the majestic forests of Northern California, where a chance meeting and a leap of faith change her life forever.

BOOP! The Betty Boop Musical has found is set to open at Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre on April 5, 2025. Tony Award®-winning director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell brings the Queen of the Animated Screen to the theater  with celebrated multiple Grammy® Award-winning composer David Foster, Tony Award®-nominated lyricist Susan Birkenhead and Tony Award®-winning book writer Bob Martin. This score is fabulous and we can’t wait to hear the rest of it.

Edie Falco Photo by Emilio Madrid

Today, producers O’Henry Productions, The Cohn Sisters, Jessica Chase, Taylor Williams, David Blum, Jesse Eisenberg and Charlie Kaufman announced that Pre-Existing Condition by Tony Award® nominee Marin Ireland will extend for two weeks through August 17 and will star Emmy Award® winner Edie Falco in the rotating role of “A” beginning on August 6

Pre-Existing Condition, directed by Maria Dizzia, is currently playing at the Connelly Theater (220 East 4th St.) in the intimate 60-seat Upstairs space. The play was originally set to close on August 3.

Pre-Existing Condition is a play exploring the challenges, shared community, and everyday indignities of learning to move forward after a life-altering, harmful relationship.

About the play, Ms. Falco said, “I am thrilled at the opportunity to be a part of something that moved me so much as a spectator. It involves an intimacy and vulnerability that I’ve sorely missed in the theater. I can’t wait to work with these people who I deeply respect so that hopefully more people can see and feel what I did when I saw the play.”

The role of “A” has rotated throughout the production and is currently played by Tony Award® winner Deirdre O’Connell (Dana H.). Tavi Gevinson (“American Horror Story”) will play the role from July 24-August 3 with Ms. Falco starting August 6-August 17. Previously, the role was played by Emmy Award® winner Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”), Julia Chan (Uncle Vanya) and Tony Award® nominee Maria Dizzia (In the Next Room).

The cast also includes Sarah Steele (“The Good Fight”), Dael Orlandersmith (Pulitzer Prize Finalist, Yellowman), Greg Keller (Alliance); with Raquel Chavez (Uncle Vanya) and Gregory Connors (The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window), understudies.

Tony Award® nominee Anne Kauffman (Mary Jane) serves as Creative Consultant on the production. In addition to Ms. Kauffman, the creative team includes Louisa Thompson (A Simulacrum), Set Designer; Tony Award® nominee Enver Chakartash (Stereophonic), Costume Designer; Tony Award® nominee Isabella Byrd (Enemy of the People, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club), Lighting Designer; Tony Award® nominee Palmer Hefferan (The Skin of Our Teeth), Sound Designer. Taylor Williams is Casting Director, Ashley-Rose Galligan is Production Stage Manager, Eric Nolan Mattingly is Assistant Stage Manager with Wagner Johnson Productions serving as General Management.  Associate Producer is Joe Meyer. David Manella at Loeb & Loeb LLP serves as Production Counsel.

For information on performance dates, ticketing lottery information please visit preexistingconditionplay.com. Tickets start at $49.

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Off Broadway

Coney Island Nursery Rhyme Is a New Play Still In Its Embronic State

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In the press release and on their own site Coney Island Nursery Rhyme sounds so intriguing. This historical fiction set in Connecticut and New York in the 1930’s is based on a true story. They state; Follows the esteemed incubator-doctor, showman, and unofficial father of Neonatology, Martin A. Couney. In a time where eugenics-focused medical culture refused to employ incubator technology. Martin A. Couney took it upon himself to save premature babies in his own incubators at a sideshow at Coney Island where funds were used to hire nurses and essentially create an unofficial hospital. We focus on Beatrice Winthrop, a woman from the American gentry who seeks Couney’s assistance after giving birth prematurely.

This is what we are told, but what the play is about, is less about the doctor and more about Raymond Abbot (Zachary Speigel) a fool who has a secret to confess. His friend Beatrice Winthrop (Jessica Noboa) has had a premie and her mother Candace Lahey (Phyllis Lindy) thinks the child would be better off dead. The doctor in charge (Judge Boothby) doesn’t hold out much hope and wants to send the child to Chicago. In the meantime Lt. Peter Petrovick (Pete Marzilli), wants to capture the killer of Mrs. Winthrop husband who was shot dead by his friend.

Jessica Noboa

The play by Lubomir Rzepka spends the first hour teaching us nothing about eugenics, making us wonder why we are here. We are introduced to Martin A. Couney (Mike Timoney), but Mrs. Winthrop dismisses him, until Raymond Abbot steals the child, saving the child’s life.

Mike Timoney, Jessica Noboa, Phyllis Lindy

Rzepka also directed the piece, but this was a mistake, as the actors for the most part scream for two hours.

Mike Timoney, Zachary Speigel

So little is spent on “The Infantorium”, in which visitors paid 25 cents to view prematurely born babies displayed in incubators. Thanks to Couney, who was one of the first advocates for premature babies, and his Infantoriums have become widely accredited with saving the lives of over 6,500 premature babies in the 30’s. Couney is additionally recognised as one of the first pioneers of neonatological technology. Now that is interesting.

Coney Island Nursery Rhyme: 754 9th Ave 4th floor (word of warning NO elevator). Premiering for 8 select shows July 12 through July 20th as an Equity Approved Showcase at the NuBox Theatre.

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Cabaret

My View: Lucie Arnaz…..How Did She Get This Job?

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With apologies to politicians who tout their job creating policies, Lucie Arnaz did not need any assistance to get her current job at 54 Below with a show titled “I Got The Job”.  Lucie got this gig because she is a supremely talented actor/singer/dancer who possesses a distinguished resume and long career of memorable performances on the stages of Broadway, Cabaret, and Concert Halls all over the world… and as I’ve said before about this show….

Lucie Arnaz hit the stage of 54Below with all cylinders on burn and guns ablaze! She performed an evening she calls “I GOT THE JOB” and kept the New York City audience entranced from beginning to end, garnering multiple ovations that seemed as natural as breathing.

For 85 minutes, she owned the stage, dressed to work, in black tights with tuxedo rhinestone striping and a dazzling orange silk blouse with glimmering buttons and cuffs. Basic, simple, perfect. This woman comes with all the equipment to perform, entertain and break your heart. She’s a master storyteller with impeccable timing and the voice shows up for her song after song, from show after show, exhibiting range and colors and nuancing that engage the audience at every turn. The star, of course, is the daughter of showbiz royalty, but she doesn’t rely on that one bit and has her own stories to tell, and they are mesmerizing.

Lucie Arnaz has had an extraordinary life and career and judging by what was on display, last night, I imagine, as Cy Coleman & Carolyn Leigh wrote, “The Best Is Yet To Come.” Lucie wrote and directed herself in this show, which opened the Birdland Theater years ago, but it has been fully fleshed out and brought to vivid life. Sharing the stage with her is what appears to be a musical soulmate in her Musical Director, Arranger and “Acting Partner,” Ron Abel, whose hands gave Ms. Arnaz her orchestra.

During the evening we were treated to a story of her audition (in a theatre) for THEY’RE PLAYING OUR SONG. During the audition, Neil Simon walked onto the stage and told her she was a breath of fresh air. She later “got the job.” Last night, she also stole our hearts and, now, we’re helpless and LOVE LUCIE.

LUCIE ARNAZ

LUCIE ARNAZ

RON ABEL

54 BELOW

LUCIE ARNAZ

RON ABEL & LUCIE ARNAZ

54 BELOW

MACRON PRICKETT

54 BELOW

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