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Theater Review: An All-Female, All-Japanese Chicago

Whenever I’d hear critics describe musical theater as one of the few truly American art forms, I would think, well, at least one of those words is right. It’s a form. I suppose it is also, at its rare best, an art, but American it never fully was, except in having, like bastard America itself, plenty of European and African roots. Recently, though, I’ve been changing my mind, and not just because most non-American musicals are so wretched. As the operetta format and literary tone of the so-called Golden Age continue to recede in favor of more domestic subjects and more vernacular styles, musicals do begin to seem more intrinsically local, a phenomenon that may be playing a role in the popularity of Hamilton. (It is, after all, subtitled An American Musical.) But what has now really clinched the case for the Americanness of the form, for me, is the bizarre hall-of-mirrors production of Chicago that opened last night at the Lincoln Center Festival. This Chicago, produced by a 103-year-old, all-female Japanese troupe called the Takarazuka Revue, is so minutely faithful to the Broadway version playing a mile away at the Ambassador that its complete cluelessness left me feeling shocked and a bit demented. How could something so intensely familiar, copied so precisely, turn out so utterly foreign?

Minutely detailed replication that still seems strange. »

  • Posted 7/18/16 at 10:24 PM

Theater Review: Listening in on Daniel Radcliffe in Privacy

Abstract-noun titles are usually deceptive, or at least under-determined; DoubtDemocracy, and Plenty, good plays though they are, might each just as easily have been named something else. Not so for Privacy, which opens tonight at the Public in a production starring Daniel Radcliffe. It is so specifically and solely a discussion of privacy in the age of smartphones — from cookies and Uber ratings to Big Data and Edward Snowden — that it barely functions as anything else. 

A few extra tech tricks, undisclosed, are part of the production. »

The Cast of Hamilton Bids Farewell to Daveed Diggs

Excuse us, but Daveed Diggs's last Hamilton performance is going to send us headfirst, into the abyss with sadness. Diggs ended his Tony-winning tenure in the dual role of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson — which he originated — on Friday night. But the sun comes up and the world still spins despite his departure, which follows Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., and Phillipa Soo leaving last week. Hamilton's formidable cast took to social media to send Diggs various fond farewells and well wishes. No one will ever work that purple-velvet suit as good as you, man. (As for Diggs himself, how did he celebrate? By taking 40 shots out of a Grammy.)

  • Posted 7/13/16 at 8:30 PM

Theater Review: Near-Silence Never Sounded So Good As in Small Mouth Sounds

Aside from an occasional unicorn like The Humans, Off and Off–Off Broadway plays almost never dare transfer to Broadway anymore, which means that New Yorkers who miss them in their original limited runs don’t get a second chance. Bess Wohl’s Small Mouth Sounds seemed to be one such play: Despite rave reviews for its premiere in March of last year, it closed as scheduled after six weeks and basically disappeared. How many people saw it in Ars Nova’s 99-seat space? Perhaps 5,000. (Thanks to end-stage Tony-mania, I wasn’t one of them.) And yet here it is again, in the 199-seat Linney Courtyard Theatre at the Signature Center, where it opens tonight for a three-month commercial run. Should it succeed, that would be great news, and not just because the theater industry needs to find a fruitful middle ground between tiny not-for-profit stages and Broadway, with middle-ground prices to match. Over the course of its run, some 20,000 people, typically paying $75, could catch Small Mouth Sounds at the Signature. 

An essentially wordless play. »

This Week’s Ham4Ham: Come for Rory O’Malley’s Emcee Debut, Stay for Daveed Diggs’s Dabbing Skills

If the video of Rory O'Malley's Ham4Ham hosting debut is any indication, he's going to make a fine, fine emcee. But this week's Ham4Ham was overshadowed by some somber news Daveed Diggs, Hamilton's flamboyantly wonderful Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, will be leaving the production on July 15. Don't weep, though! Diggs is here for one last Ham4Ham appearance, and he brought his top-notch dabbing skills with him. "I fucking love y'all," Diggs said. "Thank you so much everybody who has been a part of making this the most incredible few years of my life. It has been such an honor to perform for y'all. This is the most important thing about Hamilton to me. The way that you guys come out here and reclaim this area, that I didn't come to at all before I was in Hamilton, is the most important thing to me. This is public space, and it belongs to all of you." Travel the wide, wide world and come back to us soon, Daveed.

  • Posted 7/13/16 at 1:43 PM
  • Theater

What Comes Next? Everything We Know About the Future of Hamilton

After making a bunch of people very rich and winning a whopping 11 Tony Awards, what comes next for Hamilton? This summer marks the end of act one for the smash Broadway hit: Unlike Alexander Hamilton himself, many of the people involved are taking a break from the production now that their yearlong contracts are up. With the change in administration, we thought this would be a good time to check in on the future of Hamilton, from cast departures to filmed versions to non-Broadway productions. Take a look below to see what you missed.


Renée Elise Goldsberry Is Leaving Hamilton in the Fall for a Netflix Sci-Fi Series

Renée Elise Goldsberry is getting ready to work, work for Netflix. Goldsberry, known for her Tony Award–winning role as Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton, will be leaving the musical at an unspecified date in the fall to join the streaming service's newest sci-fi drama, Altered Carbon, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She'll be playing a master strategist and revolutionary named Quellcrist Falconer in the ten-episode series, which is set in the 25th century and described as "what happens when the human mind becomes digitized and the soul is transferable from one body to another." (It's based on Richard Morgan's 2002 novel of the same name.) She'll be starring opposite Joel Kinnaman, who plays "an ex–elite interstellar warrior" named Takeshi Kovacs who has been "imprisoned for 500 years and is downloaded into a future he had tried to stop." The two are also lovers. Laeta Kalogridis will write, executive produce, and be the series showrunner.


Daveed Diggs Is Leaving Hamilton July 15

Every action has an equal opposite reaction: Now that co-stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., and Phillipa Soo have said goodbye to Hamilton, Daveed Diggs will leave the record-breaking musical as well. Diggs won a Tony for his dual role of Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson; his last day in both parts will come July 15. The departure comes as a slight surprise, as Diggs was reported to be among the original cast members who renewed their contracts in early July, but his rep tells Vulture his inclusion was an "error."

Theater Review: Oslo Finds Drama in the Back Channels of Diplomacy

It’s not often I think a three-hour play could profitably be longer, but J. T. Rogers’s gripping, big-boned Oslo, which opened last night at Lincoln Center Theater, needs all the meat and muscle it can pack on its frame. It is, generically, a “secret history” drama, which means there’s a lot of context to provide: in this case, the long trail of sad events and unheralded personalities that made the 1993 Oslo “accord” between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization such a surprise. The agreement, really a framework for future peace rather than an actual treaty, was negotiated through a back channel almost entirely unknown to the diplomats engaged in the hopeless official process in Washington, London, and elsewhere. Organized by Terje Rød Larsen, a rogue Norwegian sociologist, and his wife, Mona Juul, an official in the Norwegian foreign ministry, it involved nine months of covert meetings in a remote manor house about 60 miles south of the title city. The scheme was based on the audacious proposition that if these enemies, some of them legally forbidden to meet the others, could break bread in dinner-party-sized gatherings rather than huge delegations, if they could get to know one another as people rather than as vessels for hardened positions, they might find a way forward.


Here’s What It Was Like at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Final Hamilton Performance

A Meowth on 46th and 6th almost made me miss a historic night on Broadway, the last performance of Hamilton for star/creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as Tony winner Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr), Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton), and ensemble member Ariana DeBose. I was blocks away from the Richard Rogers Theatre, with my head down, looking at my Pokémon Go screen, and out of nowhere, one of my favorite Pokémon shows up. I needed to get to the theater, because I knew the scene outside would be a biblical shit-show, but this was Meowth. So I turned and walked the opposite direction from the theater, in an attempt to catch it.

It took seven Pokéballs, one slight stumble off the curb, and dirty looks from a family that thought I was creepily taking pictures of them when in reality they were just standing right behind this beautiful Pokémon, but I got it. 


The Cast of Hamilton Says Goodbye to Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phillipa Soo, and Leslie Odom Jr.

You're probably well aware by now that three of Hamilton's stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phillipa Soo, and Leslie Odom Jr.  performed their last show at the Richard Rodgers Theatre last night. Tributes dedicated to the formidable thespian trio began pouring in well before the curtain call, with collaborators, fans, celebrities, and the cast themselves taking to social media to celebrate their Tony-winning tenure. In honor of their final hoorah, we went ahead and rounded up how the Hamiltonians celebrated the original cast's final performance. History has its eyes on all of you, without a doubt.


Look Around, Look Around, at How Lucky We Are to Watch Hamilton’s Tribute Video to the Original Cast

Have you heard the news? Alexander Hamilton, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, and Aaron Burr  commonly referred to by their given names of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phillipa Soo, and Leslie Odom Jr. gave their final performance of Hamilton last night, much to the massive dismay of theater enthusiasts everywhere. To celebrate the original cast's long tenure in the smash musical, the official Hamilton YouTube page released a short video that highlights some touching behind-the-scenes moments they experienced throughout the past year. So, now, "What Comes Next?"

Woah, Oh, Oh: The Schuyler Sisters Perform ‘The Longest Time’ for a Sweet Farewell

You might get a little weepy watching Hamilton's original Schuyler Sisters Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Jasmine Cephas Jones perform one last song before the departure of their dear onstage Eliza. (Soo's final show was last night.) If some Billy Joel doo-wop classics don't bring on the waterworks, we really don't know what will. Work, work!

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Final Hamilton Curtain Call Was to the West Wing Theme Song; That Man Sure Loves His Political Narratives!

The room where it happens just lost a core trio. Leads Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phillipa Soo, and Leslie Odom Jr. ended their exceptional Hamilton tenures last night, taking their final curtain calls following the July 9 evening performance. (It was also the last show for Ariana DeBose, an ensemble member best known as "the bullet.") Miranda, of course, took some additional time for his emotional final bow  no speech, though  which was accompanied by the orchestra playing the West Wing theme song. You really did "Blow Us All Away," you three. Until next time.

Theater Review: Runaways, at Encores! Off-Center

The Encores! Off-Center series, which opened its fourth season last night, is meant to do for Off Broadway in summer what the main Encores! season does for Broadway in spring: recall to our attention worthy musicals that were underappreciated in their time or are on the verge of oblivion now. Runaways, Elizabeth Swados’s revue about the plight of street kids, is both an unorthodox and a perfect choice for the series. Unorthodox because it had an eight-month Broadway run in 1978 — though it did begin Off Broadway, at the Public Theater, earlier that year. And perfect because it was indeed underappreciated and largely forgotten. Many of the original production’s reviews condescended to its earnestness, perhaps because Swados was 27 and female and outside the songwriting mainstream. What those reviews missed was the necessity of her outsiderness in developing and presenting outsider subject matter. In this, Runaways was part of a movement that in the 1970s achieved modest commercial traction: works like The Me Nobody Knows (1970), for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf (1976), and Working (1978). For a while these first-person-plural tone poems and dystopian, underclass vaudevilles seemed to represent the future of the form. But the form went another way, in part the result of another Public Theater musical — A Chorus Line — that adapted many of the same presentational techniques while applying megadoses of gloss and spectacle.

"A hard slap from the past." »

Don’t Cry Because Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Ham4Hams Are Over, Smile Because They Happened

Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton er, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., and Phillipa Soo are leaving Hamilton at the end of the week, and with their departures also comes the sad end of the eclectic Miranda-hosted weekly Ham4Ham performances. (Don't worry, King George III will continue the legacy.) Ending his Ham4Ham tenure with a bang, Miranda chose to recite a Fifty Shades of Grey–esque letter that Alexander wrote to Eliza before they were married, while also instigating a group "Happy Trails" sing-along to Odom and Soo. Until we meet again, you three ... keep smiling until then ...

Jenna Fischer and Greg Germann Are the Stars in Steve Martin’s Meteor Shower

Just weeks after the Broadway lights went off on his Tony-nominated musical Bright Star, playwright (and famous actor/comedian/banjo player) Steve Martin is back, baby. With an all-star cast featuring The Office’s Jenna Fischer and Greg Germann (Ally McBeal), Martin’s newest venture, Meteor Shower, has already, according to Deadline, received a one-week extension due to high ticket sales. The play starts previews at San Diego’s the Old Globe on July 30 and opens August 7. The play's official description explains that Fischer and Germann play a married couple who invite another pair of lovebirds over for a night of stargazing when "the conversation gets rolling, cocktails flow, tempers flare, and sparks fly — literally." So, basically this is Martin’s comedic take on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Meteor Shower will run through September 11.

*Correction: A previous version of this post credited Deadspin instead of Deadline.

HBO Might Be Making a True Blood Broadway Musical to Sink Your Fangs Into

What's better than Eric and Alcide doing supernaturally sexy things on TV? Eric and Alcide doing supernaturally sexy things live, right in front of you, while singingAccording to the New York Post, HBO is in early talks to revive True Blood as a Broadway musical adaptation. Tony-nominated director Pam MacKinnon reportedly has workshopped a draft written by young-adult-fiction author Elizabeth Scott, with music by composer Nathan Barr (who scored the TV show). The show's creator Alan Ball is also said to be "keeping an eye" on the whole production, which is apparently already ballooning, story-wise: The first act reportedly is 132 pages and in need of some cutting. Though if it's 132 pages of a shirtless Eric Northman sing-brooding his way into Sookie's bed, you have our full bloodthirsty blessing to keep every word.

Ah, Mister Secretary; Mister Burr, Sir; Didja Hear the News About Hamilton Hitting Half a Million in Album Sales?

Here's some nice news that may succeed in cheering up Hamilfans, especially in light of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., and Phillipa Soo leaving the production next week. (Don't leave us, Daveed and Renée! Not now!) Hamilton's official Broadway cast recording all 46 songs has crossed the half-million sales mark in the United States. The past week saw an additional 32,000 copies sold, bringing its cumulative total up to 522,000. It now stands as the twelfth-best-selling cast album of all time since Nielsen Music began tracking the sales in 1991. (They're coming for ya, Jersey Boys.) In the event you don't want to cough up a few bucks for the album, it's also streaming on Spotify for some ... "Non-Stop" ... musical enjoyment.

Rereviewed: She Loves Me Onscreen, The Color Purple Recast

The theater is a hothouse; everything grown within it is exotic, demanding, and sensitive to minute fluctuations of environment. Even with only time as a variable, a show is always reaching and reconfiguring, deepening and dying. Bigger variables, such as the one She Loves Me gambled on last night when, in a Broadway first, it was streamed live over the internet, may be a boon or a trial — or, as in this case, a bit of both.

Playing to the house and playing to the camera don't always mix well, but ... »


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