What The Constitution Means To Me
Heidi Schreck’s, Tony-nominated mostly one-woman play began its Manhattan life at New York Theatre Workshop last year. Now it is on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theater. What The Constitution Means To Me is a survey of the Constitution, and also a witty and moving memory piece centered around Schreck’s early life as a teenage debate champion. The show also includes a wonderful, interactive element with a real-life teenage debate champion. My view on this play is simple: go see. Now.
James Graham’ play about a young Rupert Murdoch (Bertie Carvel) coming to London in the late 1960s to launch the iconic tabloid The Sun with that paper’s first editor Larry Lamb (Jonny Lee Miller) is the focus of this Manhattan Theatre Club production at Broadway’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater. It won rave reviews in London, and while some parts are lost in translation, Carvel and Miller play their parts winningly.
To Kill A Mockingbird
The excellent Celia Keenan-Bolger plays Scout Finch, watchful guide for the audience in Aaron Sorkin's stage adaptation (at the Shubert Theatre) of Harper Lee's classic novel of prejudice and injustice. Jeff Daniels plays Atticus Finch—like Keenan-Bolger and Gideon Glick (Dill Harris), he is Tony-nominated—and Sorkin recasts some elements of the play, particularly around giving black characters fuller voices, for 2019.
It missed out on a Best Play Tony nomination, but if you hold Mockingbird as a classic close to your heart, you should book a ticket. (Full disclosure: One of the play’s producers is Barry Diller, chairman of IAC, The Daily Beast’s parent company.)
The reviews were not good when Beetlejuice opened in its pre-Broadway incarnation in Washington D.C. Variety called it “overstuffed, crude,” and “a frenetically paced and woefully overcooked endeavor that’s excessive in virtually every respect.” (Except for a widely praised performance by Sophia Anne Caruso.) Producers hoped the helpful specter of Tim Burton’s much-loved 1988 film would attract audiences to this story of a family of ghost driving away the very much living new residents of their home when it opened at Broadway’s Winter Gardens Theatre. And you know what? It's demented and, for this critic, brilliant.
Another famous 1980s film, radical in its time for having Dustin Hoffman as male actor Michael Dorsey drag up as soap opera actress Dorothy Michaels, has been recast as a Broadway “comedy musical” with Dorothy now a Great White Way star. It progresses in fits and starts. The book is witty. The interplay of gender and sexual politics is clunking. Santino Fontana plays Hoffman’s role with a frenzied determination. The supporting cast shine.
Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune
Frankie (Audra McDonald) and Johnny (Michael Shannon) work at the same restaurant. When we first see the couple—in this revival of Terrence McNally's 1987 play at the Broadhurst Theatre—they are swathed in darkness and having very loud, fun sex. It's when the lights come on, and the talking starts that vulnerabilities and hurts come to the fore.
Johnny is this Broadway season's second potential heterosexual male abuser and unapologetic domestic space invader as written by a gay man in the 1980s (for the less successfully-mounted other, see Burn This, starring Adam Driver). Frankie wants him out of her apartment. But on stage, as directed by Arin Arbus, Shannon (who spends much of the time clad only in his boxer shorts) and McDonald share an electrifying equity of emotion and assertion. The actors make the play funny, dramatic, and sometimes very moving, and they certainly have Broadway's best couple-chemistry of the moment.
Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations
This jukebox musical at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre telling the history of the Motown band, is beautifully acted and beautifully performed, with wonderful music, dance, design, and costuming. The various dramas (addictions, deaths, fallouts, egos) all unfold alongside a packed roster of Temptations standards. The show also sharply evokes the Temps’ rise to fame within the context of the civil-rights era.
After its barnstorming NYC entrée at St Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn last year, Bard Summerscape’s brilliantly reimagined Oklahoma! audaciously dusts down Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic and gives it a new, plausible life. Staged in the round at Circle in the Square and directed by Daniel Fish, the musical is still period, but modern in mind and intent, interrogating themes of gender, class, desire, crime, and punishment. The characters are who you remember, but not quite; the songs and dancing are fresh, vibrant, dark, and sexy. Drop everything, must see!
Hillary and Clinton
Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2, won Laurie Metcalf a Best Actress Tony, as well as a host of other award nominations. Metcalf returns to Broadway in Hnath’s Hillary and Clinton at the Golden Theatre (alongside John Lithgow), playing Clinton during her 2008 primaries face-off against Barack Obama. The performances are as nuanced as you would expect (and any stage time spent in Laurie Metcalf's presence tends to be a pleasure), but the play tells us nothing new about well-written-about-people in a moment that now really doesn't feel that significant.
Gary! A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Taylor Mac, the creator, author, and star of the acclaimed A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, has written a play set just after the conclusion of William Shakespeare’s first tragedy, Titus Andronicus, with a society in bloody meltdown (full disclosure: One of the play’s producers is Barry Diller, chairman of IAC, The Daily Beast’s parent company).
Staged at the Booth Theatre, this is Mac’s Broadway debut, with Nathan Lane leading the cast, and five-time Tony Award winner George C. Wolfe directing. Some will find it wildly funny, some pretty gross, and others may be baffled. Santo Loquasto's design will stun you. Lane brings his customary manic energy to the title role, Kristine Nielsen and Julie White provide excellent support—and whatever else, we can all agree that there is nothing like it on Broadway.