“King Kong” at the Broadway Theatre – A Review Rebuttal

“King Kong” at the Broadway Theatre – A Review Rebuttal

Having read the New York Times review of “King Kong,” I found it to be utterly unwarranted and pretentious. In an effort to use my indignation productively (rather than writing angry letters which only seems to get me in trouble), I asked my fellow critic, Tim Leininger from the Journal Inquirer, to join me in a sit-down in response to Ben Brantley and Jesse Green’s “evisceration” of the $35 million Australian production that recently opened at the Broadway Theatre.

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Review: “Catch the Sparrow” at Theatre 54

Review: “Catch the Sparrow” at Theatre 54

Few things hurt families more than the sudden and devastating loss of a loved one. The only thing that can make matters worse is when it leads to a falling out between the relatives that are left behind, causing them to remain estranged for a considerably long period of time. It is this type of divide that is explored in a very emotional and in-depth manner in Alex Mace’s new play Catch the Sparrow, a compelling story about the final reunion of an ailing father and his estranged adult son.

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Review: “Independent Study” at The Tank

Review: “Independent Study” at The Tank

The feeling of betrayal is always one of the most sickening and disturbing feelings that someone can have. It’s only even worse, when it comes as a result of losing trust – as a result of learning facts about them not previously known – in a close mentor or teacher whom you once admired and thought you could look up to. It is exactly this type of relationship that is explored, in a very modern and relevant context, in Ben Gassman’s brilliant new play entitled Independent Study.

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U.K. Review: "Hadestown" at the National Theatre

U.K. Review: "Hadestown" at the National Theatre

Some of my favourite reviews in the past have often been theatrical adaptations of works from a variety of sources, primarily film, television or literature. You can imagine my intrigue and excitement, then, when I had the opportunity to review a folk opera concept album adaptation from a respected and admired singer-songwriter. Any guesses? I am of course talking about Anaïs Mitchell’s ‘Hadestown’, the musical adapted from her 2010 album of the same name, recently reworked with director Rachel Chavkin and premiering at the National Theatre of Great Britain before heading to Broadway. 

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Review: "A Bronx Tale" at Hollywood Pantages Theatre

Review: "A Bronx Tale" at Hollywood Pantages Theatre

Broadway’s coming of age hit A Bronx Tale is filled with exciting choreography by Tony Award nominees Sergio Trujillo (On Your Feet and Jersey Boys). The toe-tapping numbers and catchy musical tunes by Oscar, Grammy, and Tony Award winner Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors and The Little Mermaid), and lyrics by Grammy Award winner and Oscar and Tony Award nominee Glenn Slater (School of Rock, The Little Mermaid and Sister Act) lend to its success. Directed by two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro and four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks, A BRONX TALE has the audience walking out of the Pantages smiling.

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Review: “A Hansel and Gretel Christmas” at Manhattan Repertory Theatre

Review: “A Hansel and Gretel Christmas” at Manhattan Repertory Theatre

When looking for events to do with your kids during the holiday season, a show you’ve just discovered based on a fairy tale that everyone knows is hardly something you could go wrong with. Just the title of the show itself – “A Hansel and Gretel Christmas” – conveys joy for the whole family. Furthermore, the fact that it’s produced by one of the more prolific and successful indie theatre companies of the past decade – “Friends Always Creating Theatre” aka FACT – would seemingly add to its promise. However, once you’re seated in the theater, you quickly realize how one creative decision involving one main character can easily ruin the whole show.

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Review: “The Prisoner” at Yale Repertory Theatre

Review: “The Prisoner” at Yale Repertory Theatre

In the past two years, I have been sent by On Stage to write about well over 25 shows – that’s not mentioning the countless plays I’ve seen, read or participated in – and yet “The Prisoner” is probably the hardest one to review. That’s because, unlike those other 25+ shows, “The Prisoner” doesn’t follow the guidelines of modern, Western theater. I understand how that kind of theater-making works from Shakespeare to Shaw to Sondheim. I know the rules and the conventions behind them. I can evaluate how they complement or break those traditions. But “The Prisoner,” making its US debut at the Yale Repertory Theatre, is a turn away from that style of performance.

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Review: "Theory" at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre

Review: "Theory" at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre

The controversy of political correctness versus freedom of speech, in a university classroom setting which must encourage progressive thought, left me with so many unanswered questions at the conclusion of Norman Yeung’s ‘Theory’ now on stage at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre. Along with the intersectionality of these two elements, the story is also graphic at times in language, themes and visual presentation of projected images. Did I feel cheated because I had unanswered questions? Slightly, as I really wish there was a talk back with the performers in order to gain further insight into the text.

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Review: ‘Motown: the Musical’ at Leeds Grand Theatre

Review: ‘Motown: the Musical’ at Leeds Grand Theatre

The modern musical is finding itself at a crossroads, particularly those modern musicals that tell the stories of artists and expand on their legacy. I’ve noticed many have started to diversify from the traditional jukebox ‘tribute show’ style and adopt the stylistic stances of musicals that actually use songs as a vehicle to explore narrative and character. So when I finally got the chance to see ‘Motown: the Musical’, I looked forward to seeing how the show that celebrates the story of music giant and Motown founder Berry Gordy makes use of its new theatrical home to expand on the label’s rich history.

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Review: “Next to Normal” at Casa Manana

Review:  “Next to Normal” at Casa Manana

Casa Manana’s exceptional performance of the emotionally evocative 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical,” Next to Normal,” plunges headlong into the turbulent waters of a modern suburban family battling the painful, life-altering effects of mental illness. Through an intimate, roller coaster exploration of the twists, turns, peaks and steep plunges of the mind, “Next to Normal” dives deep to unmask the face of those struggling with depression, isolation, anxiety, loneliness and more.

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Review: "Divination" at American Theatre of Actors NYC

Review: "Divination" at American Theatre of Actors NYC

“Divination” is not a perfect play, but it expresses ideas that are often thought about with an ensemble of unique individuals dealing with the struggles that we deal with everyday. I hope as the play continues to evolve that it will not lose sight of these wonderfully fascinating ideas.

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Review: “Small Craft Warnings” at 13th Street Repertory Theatre

Review: “Small Craft Warnings” at 13th Street Repertory Theatre

Widely considered to be one of the finest playwrights of the 20th century, titles such as “The Glass Menagerie” and “A Streetcar Named Desire” are often among the first to come to mind, when someone hears the name Tennessee Williams. However, while those plays came during the earlier part of his career, the final decade or so of his life is more associated with his personal troubles than with anything to do with his artistic output. This is a terrible shame, as there are still plenty of gems worth appreciating, when looking back on this period of his life. Among them is “Small Craft Warnings”, first produced in 1972 and now revived at the historic 13th Street Repertory Theatre by Regeneration Theatre.

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Review: “Gemini” at Theatre Row NYC

Review: “Gemini” at Theatre Row NYC

Though, I feel “Gemini” doesn’t dig in to Francis’ struggles with his homosexuality as much as I would have liked to see, instead opting for the wacky antics of the people around him, and the ending feels sudden, the actors and director did a fine job with the text that they were given and put on a show that will be enjoyable for the audience.

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Review: “Thousand Pines” at Westport Country Playhouse

Review: “Thousand Pines” at Westport Country Playhouse

Watching Matthew Greene’s triptych “Thousand Pines” is like sitting down to a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast – the kind made up of individual, familiar parts you already like, the kind that takes center stage in Walt Spangler’s homey set – only to find a few side dishes that, while tasty, don’t nearly fill you up. It’s a frustratingly fuzzy experience, especially since there’s such a compelling story so close to the surface. But more often than not, Greene’s work is well-meaning but rushed, overstuffed and undernourished.

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Review: "Freefall Frostbite" at Feinstein’s/54 Below

Review: "Freefall Frostbite" at Feinstein’s/54 Below

A new musical, Freefall Frostbite, was presented as a 65-minute concert at Feinstein’s/54 Below on Tuesday, October 16.

“Freefall Frostbite” is a full, two-act musical. This is the show’s third New York engagement, following an October 2017 run at St. Mark’s Theater. The show originally premiered in 2013 at the NYC International Fringe Festival, but was completely reimagined with a new score and altered script.

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A UK review in [exactly] 250 words: “Jane Eyre” at Watermill Theatre

A UK review in [exactly] 250 words: “Jane Eyre” at Watermill Theatre

“Jane Eyre” is well-acted by a cast of only three. The title role is played by Rebecca Tebbett, whose performance is suitably grounded and down-to-earth, whilst still being immensely likable. Wreh-Asha Walton and Alex Wilson play all of the remaining characters, which is quite a feat. They switch between the roles deftly, and perform all of them with great conviction.

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Review: Apocalypse for Tea — Soulpepper and Necessary Angel Present "Escaped Alone"

Review: Apocalypse for Tea — Soulpepper and Necessary Angel Present "Escaped Alone"

It is in those rare moments where one gets to see something uncommon in theatre that stirs the heart and makes one’s love of theatre grow. Case in point — Caryl Churchill’s “Escaped Alone”, being presented by Soulpepper in conjunction with Necessary Angel Theatre.

The play explores the relationship of three friends in their sixties or older, Vi (Brenda Robins), Lena (Kyra Harper), and Sally (Maria Vacratsis) — and a lesser-known neighbour they don’t know as well, Mrs. Jarrett (Clare Coulter), who arrives and joins them for tea in Sally’s backyard. Mrs. Jarrett listens intently as the three women chat about their lives and neighbourhood, finishing and cutting off each other’s sentences as only long-time friends can do. The action occasionally freezes, and Mrs. Jarrett delivers chilling and surreal accounts of apocalyptic visions, often with details that satirize our current social media climate (for example, people taking selfies amid a disaster event in case they get a chance to post them at some point).

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U.K. Review: ‘Rain Man’ at Leeds Grand Theatre

U.K. Review: ‘Rain Man’ at Leeds Grand Theatre

I’ve noticed a recent trend in the rise of pieces of theatre inspired by stories from across the States, as well as productions actually brought over from there too. It almost seems as if British directors are seeing the merit in finding and understanding the universal power of narratives from other cultures, and seeing how they interweave with our own narratives and culture. On that note, I popped into the Leeds Grand Theatre to check out The Classic Screen to Stage Theatre Company’s latest adaptation of the classic MGM film ‘Rain Man’.

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