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Cary Fukunaga Hung From the Ceiling to Shoot Jake Gyllenhaal Singing Sunday in the Park With George

Weeks before last night’s premiere of Sunday in the Park With George, the Stephen Sondheim musical’s star Jake Gyllenhaal and director-auteur Cary Fukunaga got together to make a backstage teaser featuring Gyllenhaal performing the show-stopping number “Finishing the Hat.” Maybe because of Fukunaga, maybe because it showed off the newly renovated Hudson Theatre, but probably because of Gyllenhaal’s vocal chops, the video went viral, to the tune of more than a million views.

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Theater Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in Sunday in the Park With George

A 98-year-old woman named Marie sits in a wheelchair surveying the Georges Seurat painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1984. She is, she insists, the artist’s daughter by a model named Dot who appears at the front of the composition. “The child is so sweet and the girls are so rapturous,” Marie sings of the characters Seurat has gathered in perpetuity. “Isn’t it lovely how artists can capture us?”

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Watch the Cast of Broadway’s Anastasia Perform New Songs From the Musical

The wistful Russian dreams of ’90s kids will soon be alive again, as a new musical inspired by 1997’s Anastasia comes to Broadway this spring. The new Anastasia is a more grown-up affair than the film. Rasputin and Bartok the talking albino bat are gone, and the show, which played in Hartford before moving to New York, focuses more intently on the Russian Revolution. Plus, the musical simply has more music. Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, who contributed the music for the animated film, added a slew of new songs to this production and reworked the plot with Ragtime’s Terrence McNally. The musical doesn’t begin previews until March 23, and it opens on April 24, but to hold you over, Vulture has an early look at some of the numbers added to the show.

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  • Posted 2/22/17 at 11:37 AM
  • Media

Why Was Times Theater Critic Charles Isherwood Fired?

Charles Isherwood woke up on the morning of February 3 with one of the best jobs in the country: second-string theater critic for the New York Times. Around noon that day, he was summoned to the Times’s 40th Street office, along with representatives of his union, the NewsGuild of New York. They were called into a room with two senior editors and two other executives. Isherwood was confronted with nine of his own emails, which the paper claimed as evidence that the critic had violated ethical rules. Shortly afterward, he was escorted out of the building. In the two weeks since, no one who knows the details has spoken publicly, and those Times-watchers and Broadway people who don’t know can hardly talk about anything else. It’s not every day that a Times employee — never mind one of the most prominent theater critics in the country — is so publicly given the boot.

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Glenn Close Is Ready for a Second Turn in Sunset Boulevard

“Norma Desmond is one of the great characters ever written for a woman, certainly a woman of a certain age,” says Glenn Close, dressed for comfort in all black as we walk to lunch at Cafe Cluny after dropping off her loyal white Havanese, Pip, at her apartment. Pip was wearing a collar that read BAD TO THE BONE, and he coordinated well with Close’s short, wig-friendly natural coif; they go most places together, it seems. “And now,” Close says, “I’m a woman of a certain certain age.” And she’s back playing Desmond on Broadway.

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  • Posted 2/21/17 at 9:00 PM

Theater Review: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Brings a 600-Year-Old Play Up to the Moment With Everybody

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins — a MacArthur genius, a Pulitzer finalist, and a recipient of Yale’s Windham–Campbell Literature Prize — gets my award for most restless playwright. Five of his works have been produced in New York since 2010; none seem to come from the same universe. Gloria, which horrified me (and not in the good way), was an office satire about magazine menials that turned into a Grand Guignol; An Octoroon, which thrilled me (is there a bad way to be thrilled?), reclaimed plantation melodrama as racial inquiry. I don’t know what Appropriate was, except a mess, albeit one that got its share of praise and nominations. Neighbors was suburban minstrelsy done in blackface. Jacobs-Jenkins seemed to be making a beeline to everywhere.

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  • Posted 2/16/17 at 9:47 PM

Theater Reviews: Evening at the Talk House and Escaped Alone

For at least 30 years, Wallace Shawn has been warning theatergoers about totalitarianism: how near it is, how easily we might acquiesce in it. I have to admit I’ve sometimes found his alarm to be a little, well, alarmist. In plays including Aunt Dan and Lemon (1985) and The Designated Mourner (1996), which were set in dystopian versions of our own society, intimations of strongmen with final solutions materialized within genre frameworks that barely seemed able to support them. Aunt Dan and Lemon begins as a family drama and The Designated Mourner as an academic satire; I wanted them to stay that way. Still, something always stuck with me about the nervousness and dawning horror of those plays, the way they suggested that our comfortable world is always just a series of smallish blunders away from disaster. Even dear, cosmopolitan New York, in Shawn’s vision, could turn unresistingly into a post-Soviet or South American–style nightmare. Like the playwright himself, who makes his living impersonating cute gnomes in movies and television, these works were adorable in précis but tremendously darker upon inspection.

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  • Posted 2/16/17 at 10:04 AM
  • Theater

Sara Bareilles in Talks to Join Broadway’s Waitress in the Lead Role

After receiving Grammy and Tony nominations for writing the music and lyrics for Broadway’s Waitress, Sara Bareilles will star in the show herself. The New York Times reported today that Bareilles will replace Jessie Mueller in the lead role for ten weeks, starting on March 31. Billboard first reported that Bareilles was in talks to join the musical in January. This will be the pop star’s Broadway debut, and yes, you’re already crying over her rendition of “She Used to Be Mine.”

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Hamilton Star to Replace Josh Groban in The Great Comet of 1812

How do you replace a name as recognizable as Josh Groban? Broadway’s Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 is going with a man who needs no introduction, Hercules Mulligan. The show announced today that Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan, who originated the role of Mulligan and James Madison in Hamilton, will replace Groban in the role of Pierre starting July 3. He’ll star alongside Denée Benton, who currently plays Natasha, meaning that the show, which is based on sections of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, will have two black actors playing lead characters not specifically written to be black. Also, we hope this means that Onaodowan follows Josh Groban’s footsteps elsewhere and releases a whole Christmas album, preferably all in a Hercules Mulligan voice.

Theater Review: The Town Hall Affair Gets at the Best and Worst of Avant-Garde Theater

On April 30, 1971, at New York’s Town Hall, Norman Mailer, of all people, moderated a program billed as a debate on feminism. In the audience, having paid $25 each, were the would-be cream of the local intelligentsia, come to see what would happen when the author of The Prisoner of Sex, Mailer’s recently published gynophobic treatise, wrangled with Germaine Greer, Diana Trilling, Jill Johnston, and NOW’s Jacqueline Ceballos about women’s lib. Johnston, who appeared stoned and spoke throughout in the breathy cadences of a coffeehouse poet, later described the event as “a disaster for women” because it occurred at all, yet she also called it the social event of the season. Mailer was the reason for both, being both condescending and glamorous. Trilling he called “our leading literary lady-critic”; his response to one heckler began, “Hey, cunty.” But beyond the name calling, Mailer distinguished himself as the clownish misogynist everyone expected by framing feminism as a humorless stalking horse for a left-based totalitarianism. To his provocations Trilling remained tartly aloof; Johnston merely giggled and muttered like Louise Lasser. It was left to Greer, whom Life had recently dubbed the “saucy feminist that even men like,” to snap the tongue out of Mailer’s mouth, even while seeming to flirt with him. She wore a fox boa.

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Theater Review: This Sunset Boulevard Is Facedown in the Pool

It’s easy to see why Stephen Sondheim and the team of Kander and Ebb each took a stab at musicalizing Sunset Boulevard. The still-startling 1950 movie, directed and co-written by Billy Wilder, is deeply human and diamond-hard. In Norma Desmond, a has-been silent movie star whose wild self-regard has long outlived her fame, it features a central character of innate drama and enormous scale: She’s big enough to need to sing. It has a nifty plot, too, as the cynical young screenwriter Joe Gillis gets lured into Norma’s web of crazy by the fancy duds and gold cigarette cases she dangles before him. The way Wilder frames both characters — and the audience — as collateral damage of the mid-century dream factory gives the material sociological heft.

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Theater Review: Encores! Shows Why Big River Isn’t Coming Back Anytime Soon

It might be possible to enjoy the musical Big River by squinting. It is, after all, based on Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, whose main events — Huck’s escape from his Pap, Jim’s escape from slavery — are neatly miniaturized in William Hauptman’s stage adaptation. Seventeen pleasant American vernacular songs by Roger Miller (“King of the Road”) aptly reference country, bluegrass, gospel, and rockabilly. (There’s plenty of fiddling from the orchestra, which also features harmonica and Jew’s harp.) Now even more than when it first appeared on Broadway in 1985, its overall feel-good sentiment about the possibility of happy endings to the story of race in America would seem to be welcome. And yet if you are even a little bit alert to the questions raised in the intervening 32 years about tokenism and cultural appropriation, you will not be able to watch Big River without squirming. It has approximately the same moral seriousness about race as a lawn jockey does.

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The Color Purple’s Cynthia Erivo Will Star in a Harriet Tubman Biopic

Cynthia Erivo is here, and she’s booking lead roles in movies. Erivo, who recently won a Tony for her work in The Color Purple, has signed on to play abolitionist Harriet Tubman in a new biopic titled Harriet, written by Gregory Allen Howard and directed by Seith Mann. We’re assuming this film will be a whole lot more serious than 30 Rock’s fictional take on Tubman’s history, but we hope that it still gives Erivo an excuse to sing. Also, when can we have her lead a movie musical, or maybe just a remake of The Last Five Years?

Cary Fukunaga Made a Video of Jake Gyllenhaal Singing ‘Finishing the Hat’ Where There Never Was One Before

As if you weren’t already excited to see a swarthy Jake Gyllenhaal sing Sondheim in Sunday in the Park With George, well, we don’t know what would change your mind, but maybe this video will help. Gyllenhaal’s pal Cary Fukunaga (True Detective, Beasts of No Nation) stopped by rehearsals for the musical at the Hudson Theatre to shoot a single-take video of Gyllenhaal singing “Finishing the Hat.” Sunday in the Park With George begins performances this Saturday, February 11, with opening night set for Thursday, February 23. Now when do we get a full-length Gyllenhaal-Fukunaga movie musical?

  • Posted 2/7/17 at 8:00 AM
  • Theater

Marin Ireland, Theater’s Best-Kept Secret, May Not Be a Secret Much Longer

When Marin Ireland graduated from drama school in 2000, she had to choose between two jobs: She could go to Vermont to play Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew, or she could join the cast of the playwright Adam Rapp’s Nocturne at the American Repertory Theater. Bianca was Shakespeare, “what I thought my career would be,” Ireland says today. For Nocturne, on the other hand, “I was just told, ‘We don’t have the script. You may have lines; you may not. And you may also be nude the entire time you’re onstage.’ ” Naturally, she signed on.

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London’s 1984 Is Coming to Broadway, Just in Time for 2017

Big Brother is arriving from overseas. In an eerily resonant start to the 2017–2018 season, a stage adaptation of George Orwell’s chilling dystopian novel 1984 will travel from the London stage to Broadway this June — that is, from the land of Brexit to the land of Trump.

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  • Posted 2/2/17 at 11:35 AM

Hillary Clinton Received a Riotous Applause at Broadway’s In Transit

Hillary Clinton will probably return to the political arena at some point, but until then, she’s living a New Yorker’s dream: seeing every show on Broadway and being publicly applauded by large groups of strangers. Several weeks after receiving an ovation from the stage while attending The Color Purple, Clinton got a riotous welcome from the audience of the Broadway musical In Transit. And if that wasn’t enough? Pretty good seats. It’s almost enough to make up for, you know, all that stuff that happened.

Theater Review: In Yen, London Misery Makes Great Company

Who’s to blame for Hench and Bobbie? The two boys, 16 and 14, live alone in a rundown “social housing” block in a London suburb, with one shirt between them and only what food they can nick. Neither goes to school; rather, they spend most of their time on a foldout sofa bed in the living room, playing Call of Duty or watching porn dispassionately. (The décor may be bare-bones, but the electronics are fully loaded.) Bobbie has an untreated, violent rash on his back; both have untreated violent rage. Hench’s is the stiff, dead-eyed kind but Bobbie’s is more animalistic: He leaps and hoots when excited and barks when upset. In this he is much like their dog, Taliban, whom they seem to love but fail to walk or feed or play with. Which is exactly how their mother — mostly absent, and with problems of her own — treats them.

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Clive Owen to Star in Julie Taymor's Broadway Revival of M. Butterfly

David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly, inspired by the Puccini opera Madama Butterfly, premiered on Broadway in 1988 to critical acclaim, snagging Tonys for Best Play, Best Actor in a Play, and Best Direction of a Play, as well as a Pulitzer Prize nomination. The show’s revival is clearly hoping for an equally big splash, bringing in The Lion King and Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark's Julie Taymor to direct and casting Clive Owen as the play’s Rene Gallimard, a French diplomat who carries on a decades-long love affair with Chinese opera singer Song Liling, who, unbeknownst to him, is a man engaged in espionage. Owen had previously appeared the 2015 Broadway production of Old Times.
 
Even more intriguing, playwright Hwang reportedly plans to incorporate new material about the real-life relationship between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and Chinese opera singer Shi Pei Pu, the relationship from which the show draws its inspiration, into the revival. “Julie’s suggestion to look at the wealth of new information about the real affair between Bernard Boursicot and Shi Pei Pu that has surfaced since the show’s premiere helped to unlock new possibilities within the play,” Hwang said in a release.  “I’m thrilled with this opportunity to revisit these characters — their motivations and their personal and political deceptions – to more fully explore this extraordinary love affair.” While Owen will be stepping into a role originally played by John Lithgow, it's not yet been announced who will be cast to fill B.D. Wong’s Tony Award-winning shoes, though here's a suggestion: there is always B.D. Wong.

Theater Review: David Ives’s Sparkling, Hardened Rewrite of The Liar

The production of The Liar opening tonight at Classic Stage Company is billed as a play “by David Ives.” So what if Pierre Corneille wrote it first? That was in 1644, and in French, and anyway, Corneille lifted his version, called Le Menteur, from an even earlier Spanish work. Turnabout is fair play, especially when it’s an improvement. Ives calls what he has done to the Corneille a “translaptation” — part translation, part adaptation — but it’s really in most ways a new and better thing entirely: a sparkling if sometimes overbright comedy in place of a labored one.

"To laugh heartily in the theater again, after what seems like 400 years, is worth any quibbles." »

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