May 12, 2012

Another Look at the Season's Biggest Transfers

So many shows opened in the final weeks of the theater season that officially ended on April 26 that I’ve had to scramble to catch up with all of them. There were 14 new shows on Broadway in April alone 
(I just saw the final one on my list last night) and maybe a half dozen more off-Broadway.   

There simply aren’t enough Wednesdays and Saturdays for me to tell you what I think about each one.  Luckily, I saw a few of the big Broadway shows when they played off-Broadway and I talked about them then. And since this is an unbelievably busy weekend for me (yes, I do have a life besides seeing shows and writing about them) I’ve decided to cheat a bit with just a small update on three shows that made the transfer to Broadway with their original casts fully intact:

Clybourne Park
Click here for my review of the production that ran at Playwrights Horizons two years ago and before this riff on Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and an Olivier Award for Best New Play when it ran in London last year. It’s now in residence at the Walter Kerr Theatre and although I still have some problems with it, the audiences are gasping with delight at its blunt talk about race and the production has been nominated for a shelf-load of awards, including four Tonys, among them Best Play.   

The Lyons
Click here for my review of the production that ran at the Vineyard Theatre just last October.  One scene has been cut since the production moved to the Cort Theatre but the play still offers the same sardonic look at a dysfunctional family as it prepares for the death of its cancer-ridden patriarch. My tepid feelings about the show are pretty much the same too, except that this time I was content to just sit back and marvel at the comic genius of Linda Lavin, who is deservedly a frontrunner for a Tony in a competitive pack that includes Venus in Fur’s wunderkind Nina Arianda, Tracie Bennett for her turn as Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow, Stockard Channing as the matriarch of a differently troubled family in Other Desert Cities and Cynthia Nixon as the dying poetry scholar in the revival of the Pulitzer-Prize winning  play Wit.

Peter and the Starcatcher
Click here for my review of the production that played at New York Theatre Workshop last spring.  Some of the anachronistic jokes have been toned down for the move to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre but I still don’t know who the target audience is for this fanciful prequel to the Peter Pan story.  Yet its low-tech storytelling is still great fun and the performances are delightful.  Christian Borle--whose performance as the songwriter on "Smash," NBC's behind-the-Broadway-curtains series, is the best thing about that show--is still a hoot as the villainous Black Stache but I’ve now also fallen in love with Celia Keenan-Bolger, who is not only believable as the show’s plucky tween heroine Molly but makes her the kind of role model that any 21st century girl should admire.  But the entire show has become the, ahem, darling of smart theater lovers, having picked up nine Tony nominations.

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