December 31, 2014

Hello to the New Year, Good-bye to Old Shows

Happy New!  Until this week, the weather in New York has been unseasonably mild but winter is about to hit Broadway hard. Eight main stem shows are scheduled to take their finals bows in January and time is running out for a bunch more off-Broadway as well. Some are departing after long runs, others have been forced into hastier exits, a few are keeping to their predetermined timetables and several will be sorely missed. Below are 12 (along with links to reviews for the ones I wrote about) that are bidding farewell this weekend but there's still time, if you hurry, to catch one or two:

RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN’S CINDERELLA:  Douglas Carter Beane’s cheeky update of the 1957 TV musical that Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote for Julie Andrews has enchanted scores of would-be princesses (and show queens) for more than 750 performances and now ends its run with the history-making appearance of an African-American actress in the title role.  My review.

ONCE: This underdog winner of the Tony for Best Musical in 2012 turned a small indie film about the love story between an Irish street musician and a Czech immigrant into a big charmer of a show that even after nearly three years and several cast changes kept audiences falling in love with it. My review.

A PARTICLE OF DREAD: Sam Shepard’s riff on the Oedipus myth at Signature Theatre Company left me scratching my head to the point that I couldn’t even figure out what to write about it. But the show has its partisans, including the New York Times’ Charles Isherwood. Both Shepard completists and fans of the show’s star Stephen Rea will want to see it before it closes on Sunday.

PIPPIN: Director Diane Paulus set Stephen Schwartz’s musical about a Medieval prince’s search for the meaning of life against the backdrop of a traveling circus (including a grandma swinging on a trapeze) and won not only a Tony for the Best Revival of 2013 but the hearts of audiences for nearly 700 performances. My review.

POCATELLO: An ambitious work about the decline of the middle class in Middle America, this play bites off more than it can chew but its playwright, the newly-minted MacArthur genius Samuel D. Hunter, remains a talent to be reckoned with. And so although it disappointed me, people who care about the future of American drama should still check this one out before its short run ends on Sunday. My review.

SIDE SHOW: Few modern musicals have more devoted cult followers than this one based on the lives of the Hilton sisters, conjoined twins who had a brief time in the spotlight during the Depression, but neither the original 1997 run nor this revisal has been able to cross over to mainstream acceptance.  Still, there are bragging rights to be had (I’m claiming mine here cause I didn't get the chance to write about it) for those who see one of the fewer than 50 performances that will have played before the show ends this weekend. 

TAIL! SPIN!: Even though I enjoy this satire about the political sex scandals that dominated the news a few years back when I saw it at the Fringe Festival in 2012, I was dubious when I heard that it was returning for an off-Broadway run. But its eight-week run was extended to this weekend, suggesting that there are still chuckles to be had from the bad behavior of Anthony Weiner, Mark Sanford and others. My review.

THE INVISIBLE HAND: Most of the attention has gone to Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced, which made a transfer to Broadway this fall, but this taut and thoughtful thriller about an American banker who has been kidnapped by a group of Muslim fundamentalists is the Akhtar show to see before it ends its too-short run at New York Theatre Workshop on Sunday. My review.

THE REAL THING: Smart theatergoers regard Tom Stoppard’s plays the way they do Stephen Sondheim musicals: intellectually stimulating, emotionally resonant (if you know where to look) and an essential part of every theater season. I found this revival of his 1982 play about love, marriage and infidelity to be the less satisfying of the fall’s two Stoppard offerings (I preferred the Roundabout Theatre’s lovely production of Indian Ink) but it's still a treat to see the Broadway debuts of movie stars Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal before the show ends its run Sunday. My review.

THIS IS OUR YOUTH: This revival of Kenneth Lonergan’s 1996 play about three affluent kids obsessed with sex, drugs and their relationships with their distant parents failed to catch on with Broadway audiences (or with me, for that matter) but it did win raves from most of the critics and even I appreciated the performances of its stellar young cast, who are worth seeing before the show closes, as planned, on Jan. 4.  

THE ILLUSIONISTS: Magic shows make me nervous and so I didn’t see this collection of prestidigitators but if you love hocus-pocus, then this may be the one for you before the show disappears on Sunday.

IT’S ONLY A PLAY:  OK. I'm cheating. This farce about a group of theater people at the opening night party for an ill-fated play is actually going to continue its run but I’ve included it here because it will be doing so without the amusing presences of Nathan Lane and Megan Mullally who are leaving after this weekend. However, Martin Short and Katie Finneran join the cast next week. My review.

In the meantime, I wish you and yours the happiest of new years filled, of course, with much happy theatergoing.

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