Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Cleveland reviewer goes to Broadway at Tony time, 2017 (capsule summaries)

Several times a year I go to review what’s on stage on Broadway.  This spring, at the time the Tony Award nominations were announced, I had the chance to see some excellent nominees. 

Seeing local talent on stages on the Big White Way adds to the excitement.   During this and last season about twenty Baldwin Wallace University grads (Berea, OH, a CLE suburb), which recently was named as the best musical theatre program in the country, were appearing in the Big Apple.  Many of them are still on stage, as well as some newbies. Included are Caitlin Houlihan, “Waitress,” Steel Burkhardt, “Aladdin,” Shannon O’Boyle and Kyle Post in “Kinky Boots,” Cassie Okenka, “School Of Rock,” and Colton Ryan, “Dear Evan Hansen.”

In addition, the talented Chagrin Falls native Corey Cott, A Carnegie Mellon grad, has the lead in the Cleveland-centric “Bandstand.”

On the business side, Matthew and Michael Rego and Hank Unger, of The Araca Group are one of the producers of Tony nominated “Groundhog Day.” They formed their very successful production team in 1997 and have been involved with such hit shows as “Urinetown,” “Wicked,” “’night mother,” “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” and “Rock of Ages.”   (Honesty disclosure:  Mike, Matt and Hank met when they were involved in a production of “The Music Man” which I directed some years ago.)

Here are capsule judgments of four new shows, all of which received Tony nominations.  To read the whole review of each, go to http://www.royberkinfo.blogspot.com/, scroll down to find show of choice.

What: “Groundhog Day”
Where:  August Wilson Theatre, 245 West 52nd Street
Capsule judgment:  Though it doesn’t reach the comic levels of the film version of the tale, “Groundhog Day The Musical” delights.  It’s the kind of show that will entertain Broadway audiences and be a hit when the sure to come national tour hits the road. 

What: “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.”
Where:  Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th Street
Capsule judgment:  The total effect of “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” is breathtaking.  The traditional music, dress, stylized acting, and Josh Groban’s booming voice add to the over-arching effect. Yes, this is more than a musical, it is a spectacle of enormous proportions. 


What: “Bandstand—The New American Musical”
Where:  Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 West 45th Street

Capsule judgment: “Bandstand” isn’t a great musical, but the well-conceived production has the music, story line, dancing and patriotism to make the show a touring company favorite when it hits the hinterlands.  In the meantime, it deserves a healthy run on the Great White Way.

What: “Sweat”
Where:  Studio 54, 254 West 54th Street
Capsule judgment: Theater represents the era from which it comes, and “Sweat” clearly and shockingly tells the depressing tale of what went on during the financial downturn of this country and the resulting hysteria and desperation by a group of people who felt they had been disenfranchised by big business, betrayed by their government, and sold out by their union and political leaders.  It is an important play which fulfills the educational obligation of the arts.  It’s a script that is sure to be produced by many theatres as soon as its Broadway run concludes.

The much Tony nominated “Falsettos” which opened last spring, opened too late for the 2016 recognitions, but you can read its review on my blog.

Other new multi-Tony nominated shows which I did not see, but deserve attention are: “Come From Away,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Oslo,” “Indecent,” “War Paint,” “Anastasia,” and “Doll’s House Part 2,” as well as the revival of “Hello Dolly” (starring Bette Midler) and “Miss Saigon.”