Album Reviews: Renée Fleming – Broadway & The Quentin Dentin Show

Two new music releases – Renée Fleming tackles Broadway classics in style, and The Quentin Dentin Show releases its cast recording

“Life is what you want it to be”

No matter what you think of Renée Fleming, you can’t accuse her of resting on her laurels. At this point in her career, she could well be taking the easy route but this decade alone has seen her tackle Broadway (most recently receiving a Tony nomination for Carousel) for the first time and release an album that featured interpretations of three Björk songs. Her newest release cleaves closer to musical theatre though, and Broadway is available now from Decca Classics. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Renée Fleming – Broadway & The Quentin Dentin Show”

Review: Fun Home, Young Vic

As exciting as musical theatre can get – Fun Home becomes a must-see production at the Young Vic

“Caption—My dad and I were exactly alike

Caption—My dad and I were nothing alike”

It’s fitting that Fun Home should open in Pride month, not least because it is an all-too-rare show that focuses on the L in LGBT+. But as stirring and gratifying and significant as it is to have a lesbian protagonist, this musical works because it is straight-up fantastic – an unabashedly bold queering of the form that reins back any notion of excess to reveal the simple truth that beneath it all, we all hurt the same.   

Fun Home is based on Alison Bechdel’s memoir of the same name, a graphic novel musing on her experiences in coming out and later discovering her father is a closet homosexual, yearning for a deeper understanding about how he could have, maybe, possibly, taken his life while she was still a teenager. Lisa Kron’s book adopts a non-linear approach, using an adult Alison as a narrator to recall fragments of memory from her childhood and from her early university days, the bruising experience of her own life facilitating a deeper reflection.  Continue reading “Review: Fun Home, Young Vic”

Review: Caroline or Change, Minerva

“Household rules and small decrees unsuspecting bring us these secret little tragedies”

Well Daniel Evans looks set to be continuing one of Chichester Festival Theatre’s longstanding traditions, of producing musical theatre that tempts the cognoscenti over to West Sussex in droves and which leads calls for West End transfers as soon as the curtain falls (if they had curtains in Chichester that is…). His first musical for the venue is a promising one too, an adventurous choice in Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s Caroline or Change, and an entirely successful one under Michael Longhurst’s direction and a genuinely superb cast.

It is 1963, the United States is in the grip of a civil rights movement but one whose effects haven’t quite trickled all the way down to the Deep South just yet. Caroline Thibodeaux is an African American maid in Lakes Charles, Louisiana working for a Jewish family, The Gellmans, for 30 dollars a week. But she’s a single mother of 4 and ends are barely meeting so when stepmother of the house Rose devises a plan to teach her 8-year-old stepson Noah not to leave change in his pocket, it’s a difficult one to resist despite – or maybe because of – all the racial, social and economic tensions it represents. Continue reading “Review: Caroline or Change, Minerva”

Album Review: Billy Porter – At The Corner of Broadway + Soul (2005)

“I woke up this morning on the wrong side of life”

I loved Billy Porter’s second album Billy’s Back On Broadway so I turned with interest to his first, released nearly a decade before in 2005. At The Corner of Broadway + Soul was recorded live at Joe’s Pub and sees Porter bring together his own R’n’B compositions with gospel songs and Broadway hits – both old and new in his own inimitable style. Porter has a massive voice and loves to sing big and it is a joy to hear him cut loose as he so often does here.

A snippet of Dreamgirls’ ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’ is fierce, Into the Woods’ ‘Last Midnight’ is just beyond, and there’s a healthy smattering (7 in fact) of his own songs which effectively mine a nu-soul vein – the dirty funk of ‘Hell or High Water’ probably emerging as my favourite. He’s not just a belter though. The Adam Guettel/Jason Robert Brown two-fer sees him rein in the power to glorious effect on both ‘Awaiting You’ from Myths and Hymns and ‘King of the World’ from Songs for a New World which shine in their subtlety. Continue reading “Album Review: Billy Porter – At The Corner of Broadway + Soul (2005)”

Album Review: Audra McDonald – How Glory Goes (2000)

“In the starlight, that is what we are”

Having firmly established her credentials as a fervent supporter of new musical theatre on her first album Way Back to Paradise, Audra McDonald allows herself a dip into the Great American Songbook on her second collection How Glory Goes. But maintaining that link with contemporary writing, the CD blends the old and the new with the effortless charisma of McDonald’s superlative voice.

In particular, she turns to the music of Harold Arlen – from ‘Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home’ to ‘I Had Myself a True Love’, ‘A Sleepin’ Bee’ to ‘I Never Has Seen Snow’, his classic songwriting meshes perfectly with the purity of McDonald’s soprano and the freshness of her approach. Show Boat’s ‘Bill’ similarly shimmers as do the lesser-known (to me at least) Jeff Blumenkrantz’s “I Won’t Mind and Steve Marzullo’s ‘I Hid My Love’. Continue reading “Album Review: Audra McDonald – How Glory Goes (2000)”

Review: Thoroughly Modern Millie, Landor

“Give me the meat without the gravy”

Based on a film from 1967, the musical of comedy pastiche Thoroughly Modern Millie actually only dates back to 2000, though a substantial deal of its humour harks back to an uncomfortably old-school era. Set in 1920s New York, Millie Dillmount arrives determined to marry for money instead of love but finds herself mixed up in a white slavery ring run by a faded actress pretending to be a Chinese woman (as you do). The Landor has a sterling record in successfully mounting small-scale productions of big musicals but Matthew Iliffe’s production doesn’t always hit the mark. 

Full of fresh young faces, the company brims with youthful vigour and there’s lots of potential on show. Sarah-Marie Maxwell displays wonderful comic timing, Samuel Harris could do with a little more volume but his patter song is good and in a number of small roles, Charlie Johnson stands out in the ensemble. But even with ethics aside, Steph Parry can’t quite carry off the jaded persona of Mrs Meers, nor Chipo Kureya invest bon vivant Muzzy van Hosmere with enough personality to really fill the room.  Continue reading “Review: Thoroughly Modern Millie, Landor”

Winners of 2015 Lucille Lortel Awards

Outstanding Play
WINNER – Between Riverside and Crazy Produced by Atlantic Theater Company. Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis
Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) Produced by The Public Theater in association with American Repertory Theater. Written by Suzan-Lori Parks
The Invisible Hand Produced by New York Theatre Workshop. Written by Ayad Akhtar
My Mañana Comes Produced by The Playwrights Realm. Written by Elizabeth Irwin
The Nether Produced by MCC Theater. Written by Jennifer Haley

Outstanding Musical
The Fortress of Solitude Produced by The Public Theater in association with Dallas Theater Center. Book by Itamar Moses, Music and Lyrics by Michael Friedman. Conceived by Daniel Aukin, Based upon the novel by Jonathan Lethem
WINNER –Hamilton Produced by The Public Theater. Book, Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Inspired by the book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
The Lightning Thief Produced by Theatreworks USA Music and Lyrics by Rob Rokicki, Book by Joe Tracz. Adapted from the book by Rick Riordan
Nevermore – The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe Produced by Radio Mouse Entertainment, Martin Hummel, Caiola Productions, Terry Schnuck, Susan Jaffe Tane, Hernreich-Horvath Productions, Catalyst Theatre in association with Fireboat Productions, Mary Cossette, Meredith Lynsey Schade. Written and Composed by Jonathan Christenson
Pretty Filthy Produced by The Civilians in association with Jon B. Platt Music and Lyrics by Michael Friedman, Book by Bess Wohl. Conceived by Steve Cosson, Michael Friedman & Bess Wohl Continue reading “Winners of 2015 Lucille Lortel Awards”

Nominations for 2015 Lucille Lortel Awards

Outstanding Play
Between Riverside and Crazy Produced by Atlantic Theater Company. Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis
Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) Produced by The Public Theater in association with American Repertory Theater. Written by Suzan-Lori Parks
The Invisible Hand Produced by New York Theatre Workshop. Written by Ayad Akhtar
My Mañana Comes Produced by The Playwrights Realm. Written by Elizabeth Irwin
The Nether Produced by MCC Theater. Written by Jennifer Haley

Outstanding Musical
The Fortress of Solitude Produced by The Public Theater in association with Dallas Theater Center. Book by Itamar Moses, Music and Lyrics by Michael Friedman. Conceived by Daniel Aukin, Based upon the novel by Jonathan Lethem
Hamilton Produced by The Public Theater. Book, Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Inspired by the book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
The Lightning Thief Produced by Theatreworks USA Music and Lyrics by Rob Rokicki, Book by Joe Tracz. Adapted from the book by Rick Riordan
Nevermore – The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe Produced by Radio Mouse Entertainment, Martin Hummel, Caiola Productions, Terry Schnuck, Susan Jaffe Tane, Hernreich-Horvath Productions, Catalyst Theatre in association with Fireboat Productions, Mary Cossette, Meredith Lynsey Schade. Written and Composed by Jonathan Christenson
Pretty Filthy Produced by The Civilians in association with Jon B. Platt Music and Lyrics by Michael Friedman, Book by Bess Wohl. Conceived by Steve Cosson, Michael Friedman & Bess Wohl Continue reading “Nominations for 2015 Lucille Lortel Awards”

Winners of 2013-2014 Outer Critics Circle Awards

John Gassner Playwriting Award
Scott Z. Burns, The Library
WINNER – Eric Dufault, Year of the Rooster
WINNER – Madeleine George, The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence
WINNER – Steven Levenson, The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin
Lauren Yee, The Hatmaker’s Wife

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Michael Cerveris, Fun Home
Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Andy Karl, Rocky
WINNER – Jefferson Mays, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love Murder
Bryce Pinkham, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder Continue reading “Winners of 2013-2014 Outer Critics Circle Awards”

Winners of 2014 Lucille Lortel Awards

Outstanding Play
Bad Jews, Produced by Roundabout Theatre Company, Written by Joshua Harmon
Domesticated, Produced by Lincoln Center Theater, Written by Bruce Norris
The Night Alive, Produced by Atlantic Theater Company, Originally Produced by the Donmar Warehouse, Written by Conor McPherson 
WINNER –The Open House, Produced by Signature Theatre, Written by Will Eno

Outstanding Musical
WINNER – Fun Home, Produced by The Public Theater, Music by Jeanine Tesori, Book and Lyrics by Lisa Kron Based on the Alison Bechdel book
Here Lies Love, Produced by The Public Theater Concept and Lyrics by David Byrne, Music by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, Additional Music by Tom Gandy and J Pardo
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, Produced by Howard & Janet Kagan, Paula Marie Black, John Logan, Lisa Matlin, Daveed Frazier, Tom Smedes, Vertical Ent./Roman Gambourg/Lev Gelfer Written by Dave Malloy
What’s It All About? Bacharach Reimagined, Produced by New York Theatre Workshop, Music by Burt Bacharach, Lyrics by Hal David and Others Conceived by Kyle Riabko and David Lane Seltzer   Continue reading “Winners of 2014 Lucille Lortel Awards”