‘Cinderella’ and ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Are the Movie Musicals We Deserve.

On September 14th, a handful of Broadway’s longest-running hits had a chance to re-open their doors. Desperate for the balm of musical theatre, I was among the first audiences for Wicked‘s return. It’s always been a favorite of mine and the past few years have made me eager for easy comfort. The show was exactly what I needed, and the production still holds up. After 18 years, Wicked still resonates, as story, as craft, and as social engagement. While its politics are shallow, the show washes down easy with glitzy special effects and a palpably dramatic story.

Seeing Wicked again, I was reminded of just how affecting musicals can be. Its creators concocted a musical theatre event powerful enough to connect with audiences the globe over. Terry Teachout was underselling it when he called it “more than good enough to run for a decade or two”. There are plenty of flaws if you know where to look, but that September 14th performance provided the kind of overwhelming joy that guarantees the audience will know the great truth of the American theatre: musicals are wonderful

Seeing the Broadway production of Wicked also had the uncanny effect of transporting me to 2003, when the production first opened. All of a sudden, the world was more innocent, more hopeful. Political causes are just as selfish, but perhaps less blindingly stupid. Exiting the Gershwin theatre provided a twofold wound in the form of two hideous billboards in Times Square for the movies of Dear Evan Hansen and Cinderella. It’s not 2003 anymore. It’s eighteen years worse.

Maybe I romanticize the past too much. To be fair, I was five in 2003 and had basically no knowledge of politics or culture — doubtless plenty felt apocalyptic back then, too. Here’s for certain: I’ve seen the films advertised by those hideous billboards, and I’m ready to declare that now is the time of monsters. Flabby, unfunny, joyless soulless vehicles for corrupt moralism, both films approach genuine artistic worthlessness. I have to believe the culture hasn’t always been this lifeless. Even in the few years I’ve run this blog I’ve noticed we’ve started to run out of gas. But we’re running on fumes now, and I have to wonder: how are these movies possible? How did we get here from there?

Continue reading “‘Cinderella’ and ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Are the Movie Musicals We Deserve.”

Flesh of a Corrupted Heart: Shakespeare, Jocelyn Bioh, and Equivocal Joy in Central Park

All hail Jocelyn Bioh. Three years ago MCC premiered her debut play School Girls, or the African Mean Girls Play to thunderous success. Lean, funny, and thought-provoking, it presented a brand-new playwriting voice in Bioh: devoid of pretension but crackling and theatrical. Her next play, Nollywood Dreams, has been delayed, but in the meantime audiences can see her wonderful adaptation of Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor, here titled just Merry Wives, for free in Central Park.

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The Best Theatre of 2018

2018 has been many things, but it has not been dull. The same can be said of the theatre of this year, which had many wonderful highlights and almost as many painfully bad lowlights. Wonderful plays like Is God Is, The Thanksgiving Play, and Mlima’s Tale were highlights of the year, though they just missed out on the top ten list. Of the worst of the year, nothing could possibly come close to the almost unimaginable stupidity of the King Kong musical, but better theatre always makes for more interesting reading; and so, without further ado, my top–10 list of the theatre I saw in 2018.

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The Best Theatre of 2017

Once again we find ourselves at the end of the calendar year, and while most sane humans are taking this time to surround themselves with family and friends in preparation for the new year, the folks who have completely lost their minds—theatre people, as we might term them—use the end of the year to qualify and quantify the theatre performances that they were lucky enough to see throughout the preceding year.

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The Best Theatre of 2016

2016 was a terrible year for almost everything but the arts. Yes, while we watched in horror at the national news, we could also steal away to the movies or the theatre and watch our fair share of incredible art. Movie-wise, I’m still clawing my way through the 200+ films of note that came out this year, though I would be immensely surprised if anything could come even remotely close to the acutely devastating powers of Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Seaa film so heartrending that it actually frightens me to think about sometimes, but once again the theatre has given us a wide variety of wonderful experiences to cherish for years to come.

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Movie Recommendation: “Moonlight”

I mentioned in my review of Theatre Rhinoceros’s production of The Brothers’ Size that Tarell Alvin McCraney was about to become a recognizable commodity thanks to the new movie Moonlight that would be coming to theaters in later 2016. Well, now it’s later and Moonlight is playing in several hundred theaters nationwide.

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Thoughts On: Live-streamed theatre

On June 30th, BroadwayHD broadcast the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of the 1963 Bock and Harnick musical She Loves Me to anybody who had paid the $9.99 fee and had a working internet connection. This stream was the first of its kind and has been very well received by those who have seen it, but it raises some interesting questions about the relationship between theatre and the internet in the near future. Continue reading “Thoughts On: Live-streamed theatre”

Thoughts on: A True Blood musical?

According to Michael Riedel of the New York Post, a new musical is being developed based on the hit HBO television series True Blood. Created by Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under), the television series was a surprise hit for the network, coming out around the same time that books like Twilight were sweeping the nation, offering decidedly more adult-oriented fare in the same market. Continue reading “Thoughts on: A True Blood musical?”