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Off Broadway

Which Way To The Stage Lights Itself Up Strong, Smart, and Hilariously.

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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. Playwright Ana Nogueira (Empathitrax) knows her stuff, finding fight, fun, and meaningful fire while just standing outside the stage door of Broadway’s If/Then waiting and hoping.

Standing tight, the two fragile and imperfect characters that we meet in that first deliciously written scene, circa 2015, are the duo, Jeff and Judy, played to perfection by Max Jenkins (CSC’s Unnatural Acts) and Sas Goldberg (Broadway/RTC’s Significant Other; MCC’s Moscow Moscow). They inhabit the roles so completely that one wonders if they are the actual playwrights of this smart comedy, as they squabble about theatrical history and performances with almost a harsh glee. They end each other’s sentences like they are family, meant to stick together through thick or thin, even when they disagree. They wait together, stretching their limbs and verbiage, while unpacking all the discomforts in their lives, particularly the fears and panic that live inside the audition room and in their performances. All this while holding their breath, hoping that they might finally get an autograph from If/Then‘s mega-musical theatre star, Idina Menzel, something that some rain deprived them so many moons ago.

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

That first scene is filled with zinger lines that theatre junkies will just love and eat up, wiggling with delight when they get the Alice Ripley of Bernadette Peters reference, as well as the hundred other ones that fly fast and furious. It’s a stupendous opening, flashing insight into these two performers’ deepest insecurities and strengths with spark, while never really giving away the ultimate idea. And just as we start to wonder where this is planning on going with these two, the scene shifts, courtesy of the talented scenic designer Adam Rigg (Public’s cullud wattah), with exacting costuming by Enver Chakartash (ATC’s English), a purposeful and sharp sound design by Sinan Refik Zafar (NYTW/Broadway’s What the Constitution…), and a solid big-finish lighting design by Jen Schriever (2ST’s Grand Horizons) and Mextly Couzin (PH’s Tambo and Bones), and a new playing field or two are rolled out. It’s clear that Nogueira has more in store for us than smart banter by a stage door.

With a cast that also includes two other spectacularly well constructed, seemingly staunch stereotypes, played to the max by the very appealing and handsome Evan Todd (Broadway’s Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) and the wonder that is Michelle Veintimilla (Broadway’s The Visit; ABC’s The Baker and the Beauty). To say more about how they both dig in and unearth stereotypes is to give to much away, but within their smart portrayal and words, the play flies us forward, shedding light on an emotional experience within. Which Way to the Stage plays it strong and flexible, experimenting with sexual and gender dynamics, stereotypes, and inequalities that are never simple or obvious, mixed in with a huge unpacking on the ideals of beauty and the powerful attraction of privilege and passion.

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

All the levels of engagement are twisted around and unpacked with a wit and a force, both compellingly funny but also heart-breakingly concise. Their experiences burst forward, one after the other, throwing them all for a loop in a way that is utterly course-changing and hilariously charming. The play teeters on falling over its own too Fossiessed feet, but never does, righting itself with an ease that is almost jaw-dropping, particularly in that last scene between the two female actors as they engage, waiting to go in for another soul-crushing audition while never failing one another surprisingly. At that moment the play stands up, and we scream our approval, all about the lie of fixed identity and the idea of who is actually empty and who is full. “Sorry, you’re a Roxie“, an existential truth that forces almost everyone to look a whole lot deeper into their dynamics and fears, without ever giving it up or taking the easier way out.

Sas Goldberg and Michelle Veintimilla in MCC Theater’s 2022 production of WHICH WAY TO THE STAGE – Photo by Daniel J Vasquez.
Featuring the choreography by Paul McGill (MCC’s The Legend of Georgia McBride), Which Way to the Stage ends with the biggest bang of the season. To borrow one of its more hilarious lines, this wonderfully smart and hilarious play “is a garden, not an empty vase” and should be taken very seriously, all while you laugh and feel in awe of those involved for the whole 110 minutes. It’s the “realest bitch there is” off-Broadway, and you better get yourself to that stage.

Previously titled Here She Is, Boys, Which Way to the Stage began previews in the Newman Mills Theater at MCC Theater (511 W 52nd Street New York, NY 10019) on Thursday April 14 and will open on Tuesday May 10 for a limited engagement through May 22, 2022.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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 last...so 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 frontmezzjunkies.com

Broadway

Theatre News: Teeth Soft Power, Redwood, BOOP! The Betty Boop Musical

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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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Ken Fallin's Broadway

Ken Fallin’s Broadway:​ Inspired By True Events A New Play by Ryan Spahn

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Off-Broadway’s Out of the Box Theatrics is presenting Inspired By True Events, a new play by Ryan Spahn.

In the green room of a community theater in Rochester, the Uptown Players are getting ready to play to a full house after opening to rave reviews the night before. When their star actor arrives in a dangerously unhinged state, they must improvise on and off stage in ways they could not have imagined. By turns hilarious, harrowing, and horrifying, Inspired By True Events follows a tenacious group of show people who must determine at what cost the show must go on.

Inspired By True Events received development workshops with New York Stage & Film, Vineyard Theatre and EST.

Knud Adams is directing, and the cast will feature Lou Liberatore, Jack DiFalco, Mallory Portnoy, and Dana Scurlock. The play opens July 17 at 154 Christopher Street (formerly the New Ohio Theatre). The play was developed by Michael Urie.

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Obituaries

Saying Good Bye To Dr. Ruth

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“I was left with a feeling that because I was not killed by the Nazis — because I survived — I had an obligation to make a dent in the world,” Dr. Westheimer stated.

Becoming Dr. Ruth was a compelling play that chronicled the remarkable journey of Karola Siegel, who was best known as Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the iconic sex therapist. Dr. Ruth’s escape from the Nazis as a child, her time as a sniper in Jerusalem, and her courageous pursuit of success in America as a single mother, Becoming Dr. Ruth was and is about a triumphant spirit. On July 12, 2024 Dr. Ruth passed on at her home in Manhattan. She was 96.

Sex sells and Ruth Westheimer, a child survivor of the Holocaust who was a sex therapist knew that. At a time when the world didn’t talk about sex Dr Ruth’s frankness led to a long-running radio and television call-in shows. She was the go-to for tips on the art and science of lovemaking.

The sexual revolution that began in the 60’s but the world was still repressed on subjects like erectile dysfunction, masturbation, fantasies and orgasms.

Dr. Ruth was not the typical radio and TV personality, She stood at 4-foot-7, she was bedecked in pearls, and had a recognizable German-inflected voice.

Dr. Westheimer was over 50 when she debuted in 1980 on New York’s WYNY with “Sexually Speaking.” The radio program started out in 15-minute segments and was later syndicated and extended to two hours to accommodate those who were curious. There was also “Good Sex With Dr. Ruth Westheimer,” She was a frequent guest on late-night talk shows.

After surviving the Nazis, she went to Israel, where she joined the Haganah paramilitary group fighting for Jewish statehood (and where, she said, she lost her virginity in a hayloft). After that to France and to New York. As Dr. Westheimer she taught university courses in human sexuality before a producer at WYNY, an NBC affiliate, booked her for quarter-hour segment, first broadcast on Sundays after midnight. Within a year, she was on prime time at 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.

She wasn’t the first on-air therapist, but the most remembered.

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Off Broadway

The Journals of Adam and Eve The World’s First Love Story Starring Hal Linden and Marilu Henner

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photo by Paul Aphisit

“Some day we’ll look back on this and laugh.”

The Journals of Adam and Eve The World’s First Love Story starring Hal Linden and Marilu Henner is a master class in acting. Created by Emmy-winning comedy writer Ed Weinberger (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, The Cosby Show), the show is very reminiscent of Mark Twain’s The Diaries of Adam and Eve. Ultimately an endearing love story, the  show records the couple’s initial ambivalence to growth within themselves and in love.

Done like a reading, the actors are in black street clothes. They refer to their scripts from adjoining music stands. There is water on small tables and a chair for each.

Hal Linden and Marilu Henner are very amusing and powerful storytellers. Linden’s journey as Adam, starts off with “Much to my amazement, I was born a full-grown man,” to “It wasn’t the Garden of Eden. Not by a long shot.” We meet and see a man who is flawed, childlike in full blown ego to a man content with the journey. It is truly funny to see Mr. Linden recall his favorite herb. “A few swallows of the bud and I soon found myself wolfing down handfuls of figs drenched in honey and sprinkled with crunchy chili peppers. It also made me giggle when I counted my fingers.”

Henner commands the stage squeezing every laugh out of goading Adam, flirting in a way that is subtle and innocent. When he tries to rule over her she states; “Well, it just so happens that this living thing that ‘moveth’ is not one of your birds, fishes, or any other animal you have dominion over. So maybe you and this God ought to have another little talk about who is whoest and what is whateth.”

As the mysteries of life and love are explored desire, discoveries, temptation, lust, being the world’s first parents, joys, sorrows, separation and contentment in their twilight years all are explained and shown in a way that makes you think.

This thought-provoking comedy’s makes you wonder did we ever really know the first couple, that in a strange way has influenced all of our lives?

Amy Anders Corcoran’s direction is simple, yet effective and you will leave the theatre more satisfied than Adama dn Eve after they bit that apple.

The Journals of Adam and Eve: The Sheen Center, Loreto Theater, 18 Bleecker Street, until July 28th

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Off Broadway

Cats – The Jellical Ball at PAC NYC Death Drops Deliriously Divine and Feline-Free

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This is a ball darling, emote!” and with the glitter dust blown off an iconic album, this Jellicle Ball reimaging eyes the runway in classic form, giving a nod to the old, but radically restructuring this new version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats with divine aplomb. The shadow ballet to the overture, as directed by Zhailon Levingston (Broadway’s Chicken and Biscuits) and Bill Rauch (LCT’s The Great Society) with choreography by Arturo Lyons (Madonna’s Celebration Tour) and Omari Wiles (Les Ballet Afrik), sets fire to the excited crowd that has gathered around the runway at PAC NYC, giving mystical divinity to Gay Pride Saturday. It’s clearly the musical theatrical event of the summer, with nothing else coming close, other than a few shows that are coming to an end after reaping the awards of a Post-Tony upswing. And I couldn’t feel more blessed as I took my seat right behind the two special guests who were seated on each side of an empty throne. So prepare yourselves, kittens, for what is about to come, because it’s not what you remember. Not at all. It’s something very different, and magically magnificent in ways I could never have imagined before this construction. It has meaning, deeper than when it first crawled in from the streets, and a unifying sense of community that registers far beyond what one could have anticipated, culturally and emotionally.

For anyone of a certain age, this musical, Cats, which started out in the West End at the New London Theatre in May 1981, was a phenomenon that was unparalleled at the time. Interesting fact: Judi Dench was originally cast to play the glamour cat but tore her Achilles tendon during rehearsal and was replaced by Elaine Paige.  Later, it opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre in 1982 with Buckley as Grizabella. Her 1983 Tony-winning performance has etched itself firmly into our collective theatrical minds with all of its pain, beauty, and power. I was not lucky enough to have seen either Buckley or Paige as Grizabella, but I did see Cats for the first time at the newly opened historic Elgin Theatre in Toronto in 1985.  It was a big deal for me and the city when this famous show ushered in a new period of theatrical renewal for Toronto, and I, as a university student studying Theatre Design at York University, could not wait to see it.

André De Shields in Cats – The Jellicle Ball at PAC NYC. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman.

I had worn out my record (or was it a cassette tape?) listening to all of those unique and exciting songs over and over again. I cannot tell you who played the part in the Canadian production for this two-and-a-half-year run (if you can tell me, I’d love to know) but I can honestly admit that I loved the experience. An idea that both tells you the state of theatre at the time, and how this musical, even if it has gained a certain level of disdain and unpopularity in the modern theatrical world, ignited something in our collective consciousness that hadn’t been seen on stage before it purred its way forward. It was revolutionary, even as we look back at it down our more enlightened noses.

When I saw the 2016 Cats revival, directed again by Trevor Nunn, it was like revisiting an old magician friend, but one that I had hoped would have tried a few new tricks, and maybe given us a bit different twist.  Cats, to be frank, is a ridiculously silly show in terms of modern-day musical theatre, but I do recognize that at the time, back in 1985, it was historic. Cats started a theatrical trend or model, whether you like it or not, for producers to create what was to be called the ‘megamusical’ phenomenon. It quickly established a global market for musical theatre, focusing the industry towards establishing big-budget blockbusters, as well as creating a theatrical entertainment landscape devoted to family and tourist-friendly shows. The musical’s profound but polarising influence also reshaped the aesthetic, technology, and marketing of the medium for the better, or maybe the worse for the industry today.  It changed what musicals were allowed to be.  And I get that.  But some shows don’t age so well.  Don’t get me wrong, Cats is not a bad show in any way but it was running out of lives, and needed viewing through a completely different lens.

The cast of Cats – The Jellicle Ball at PAC NYC. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman.
But who could have guessed it would be reborn most brilliantly on the runway of Harlem Ballroom; a culture made iconic in shows like 2018’s “Pose“, as well as in the video for Malcolm McLaren’s “Deep in Vogue“, released in 1989, and Madonna’s “Vogue“, released in 1990, one year before the ground-breaking documentary “Paris Is Burning“, which really brought the iconic framework into our cultural sensibilities. They all did in their own ways, but co-directors Levingston and Rauch (artistic director of PAC NYC) took on this dusty ALW musical, that was famously inspired by “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T. S. Eliot, and sent it swirling and voguing itself into an astounding new Heaviside Layer (the Cats version of heaven), reforming and rebirthing these former felines into something very different, and absolutely earth-shakeringly fabulous.
Their new Cats has been reborn and redesigned, throwing itself into the competitive Ballroom Scene with a confident power that is intoxicating and electrifying. Played out on a long runway space running from the windows to the judges’ table, designed with a spirited sense by Rachel Hauck (Broadway’s Hadestown; MCC’s The Wrong Man), the newly formed megamusical delivers its mega reframing with an African-American and Latino underground LGBTQ+ subcultural slant, rolled out with pride and self-assurance. The retooling has nothing to do with the four-legged feline. These ‘cats’ are performative alter-ego contestants; magnificent and creative, competing in a captivating, integrated competition that has its historic soul coming from drag balls of the mid-19th Century. And those balls, in response to increasing racism and homophobia, evolved in the 20th Century into house Ballroom Competitions, where Black and Latino participants would ‘walk’ the runway in a variety of categories, resulting in the awarding of trophies and cash prizes. The framework is perfection for these personality introductions, and these ‘cats’ are ready to revel and death-drop dip into these historic roots like no one could have ever imagined possible.The newly formed framing works its magic throughout, creating community within the Cats clan of chosen names and chosen family. Adam Honoré (Broadway’s Ain’t No Mo’) delivers a spectacle in lights alongside the solid sound design by Kai Harada (Broadway’s Kimberly Akimbo), as does the recreated iconic projections by Brittany Bland (Public’s A Raisin in the Sun) that honor, enhance, and elevate. But like any ballroom competition, memorable magic is forever created in the costumes designed masterfully by Qween Jean (TNG’s Black No More) and the wigs created by Nikiya Mathis (Broadway’s Home), and neither let this ball drop.

Sydney James Harcourt and the cast of Cats – The Jellicle Ball at PAC NYC. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman.

Competing in an assortment of Ballroom categories like “Butch Queen Realness” and “Old Way vs. New Way” voguing, the cast fly themselves forward, finding authenticity in their irresistibility. It’s powerful exciting and theatrical, while only once purring itself a bit too closely to the actual idea of playing Cats. That moment aside, everyone in the cast is beyond excellent, dipping themselves down into death at the drop of a hat, while playing with the structure and feline concepts most majestically. The incredibly sexy Sydney James Harcourt (Public’s Girl From the North Country) makes an irresistible Rum Tum Tugger, winning his trophy easily, while Emma Sofia (Broadway’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Skimbleshanks, loses by a whisker. Antwayn Hopper (Broadway’s A Strange Loop) as Macavity steals the scene in designer labels with tags still attached, while later on, ballroom legend Junior LaBeija delivers a touchingly sweet spiriting as Asparagus, the old theater cat. But it is the long-legged “Magical Mr. Mistoffelees“, embodied by the mega-talented Robert “Silk” Mason (“Into the Colors“), that truly brings all that brilliance to the forefront, and ties it all together with such talent and presence.

But really we are all waiting for the arrival of Old Deuteronomy, knowingly played most deliciously regal by André De Shields (Broadway’s Hadestown) to take his seat on the throne. His entrance and demeanor couldn’t have been more perfect for the part, carrying himself forward like many of the trophies given out by MC Munkustrap, portrayed dutifully well by Dudney Joseph Jr. (Public’s The Harder They Come), to the young contestant kitties vying for Old D’s respectful nod. As in the traditional telling of this tale, a tribe of ‘cats’ called the Jellicles have come before the honorable Old Deuteronomy to make the “Jellicle choice”, deciding which of the many worthy cats assembled will ascend up to the Heaviside Layer and come back to the world in a new life. Here, under the strongly focused eyes of its determined directors, the lens has shifted yet remained tuned into the competitive introductions of ‘cats’ vying for the ultimate award of the night. And the experiment works, better than any of us could have dreamed or hoped for.

André De Shields (center) and the cast of Cats – The Jellicle Ball at PAC NYC. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman.

It’s a deliciously delivered radical relayering, that completely renders us helpless against the talented ‘cats’ laid out before us, choreographed to the heavens, and performed to energetic perfection by an astounding cast. Anyone familiar with this musical knows we are all waiting for the one who has fallen on hard times, the formally glamorous Grizabella, usually played by “Tempress” Chasity Moore, but on this particular night, understudy Garnet Williams (Parity’s At Hotel MacGuffin) majestically donned the smudged lipstick and ripped coat, delivering the goods with extreme gusto. The other cats pull back and away from her at first, but it’s only a matter of time until Grizabella is given the floor, and Williams, thanks to the strong musical supervision and music direction by William Waldrop (Broadway’s Evita; Cats) and Beats arranger Trevor Holder (Brian Jackson’s Gotta Play; Broadway’s The Wiz), weaves some “Memory” magic all around her, shining radiantly upwards to the Heaviside Layer in shimmering majestic fashion. It’s an exit worthy of the work being done here, and the supreme magic created in this radically magnificent restructuring of Cats – The Jellical Ball. Let’s hope this ‘radical reimagined’ production has a few more lives to live, and runways to walk. Is Circle in the Square its next alley cat Ballroom? Or are the whisperings I hear wrong?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrfstFrQKccTo see the video click here.

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