Here’s a quick glance of some notable happenings on Broadway’s Great White Way this week:
Beginning Preview Performances this Week
Saint Joan – Begins April 3rd
A revival of George Bernard Shaw’s classic play that recounts the story of Joan of Arc, a peasant girl who claimed to hear the voices of saints directing her to help the Dauphin of France drive the English out of the country.
Opening this Week
Mean Girls – Opens April 8th
A new musical based on the 2004 film that follows Cady Heron, who joins the American high school food chain and plots to end the vicious reign of Queen Bee Regina and the “Plastics.”
Second Stage Theater celebrated the official Broadway opening of Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero last week at the Hayes Theater, marking the start of the company’s inaugural Broadway season, as well as the first show in the newly restored Broadway house. Critical response was positive, though some reviewers found Lonergan’s script treating the characters more symbolically than true-to-life. But the finely-tuned dialogue and excellent performances were enough for most critics to give the production a high recommendation:
Entertainment Weekly – “[The] jerry-rigged tension eventually comes to a head in a revelation that feels more schematic than earned, and the stress points of race and sex and power the script touches on are only glancingly resolved. But Lobby is still a smart, thoughtful piece of work, fairy-dusted by the starry presence of its celebrated cast.”
New York Daily News – “Lonergan specializes in flawed sad sacks and self-sabotagers. He has an all-too-rare gift of perfect pitch when it comes to dialogue. The cast make the most of the script and skillfully navigate the play’s plot and tonal twists.”
New York Times – “Meticulously acted…directed with savvy restraint…it [feels] a bit too openly schematic…But the performances here all so grounded that you never doubt their characters’ authenticity or sincerity.”
Hollywood Reporter – “Lobby Hero is a textured consideration of more or less honest characters dealing with sticky moral questions, its dramatic pulse and its needling humor underscored by a rich vein of melancholy….given a very fine production – with strong casting, sensitive direction…and dynamic physical design.”
The all-new concert event Rocktopia, celebrating the fusion of rock and classical music and featuring performances by world-renowned vocalists, opened on Broadway last week at the Broadway Theatre. Reviews were not kind to the production, finding the combination of classical and modern music, as presented, harsh and uninspired. Some praise was given for the performances, though a few critics found the singing styles a bit too forceful:
New York Times – “The intention may be to underline the resemblances between the pieces, but the result is a cacophony. The vocalists generally acquit themselves well enough. Ultimately, though, the real problem is the set list’s utter blandness.”
Hollywood Reporter – “The snippets from well-known classical pieces followed by bombastic renditions of overly familiar rock songs prove novel for the first few minutes. But over the course of two-and-a-half hours, it becomes a punishing exercise that will please neither classical nor rock lovers.”
New York Daily News – “Rocktopia gets old fast because a sameness sets in…Chalk it up too much lung-busting, facial-distorting American Idol-style singing and a Celtic violin overload. Clearly [the] co-creators like to think big. But they don’t always think coherently.”
Two-time Oscar winner Glenda Jackson, Tony winner and Oscar nominee Laurie Metcalf, and Tony nominee Alison Pill took their opening-night bows in Edward Albee’s Three Tall Woman last week at the Golden Theatre. Reviews were overwhelmingly positive, with the bulk of the praise given to the towering performance of Jackson in her Broadway return. While some critics found the material harsh and unrelenting, the outstanding performances by all three actors were more than enough for their highest recommendation:
New York Daily News – “Superb…directed with a sure hand and more than a touch of class by Mantello. The breathtaking Jackson…is back with a vengeance in a juicy role in Albee’s perceptive and personal and, at times, heavy-handed and merciless drama.”
Entertainment Weekly – “Three Tall Women is far from an easy evening of theater. The text, by turns poignant and funny, can also be prickly and distant. It is an imperfect play, but there are two excellent reasons to see [it]: Jackson and Metcalf.”
New York Times – “The themes eventually start to recycle with more panache than novelty. Still, time has been good to [the play] and Mantello’s production further burnishes its insights and confirms its originality. [The] three women…honor a play that despite its frailties and wrinkles has aged beautifully, into a burning, raving classic.”
Beaches Musical to Play London Prior to Broadway
- The long-anticipated Broadway premiere of Beaches the Musical will open in London’s West End in 2019 before heading to Broadway. The musical, which played both Chicago’s Drury Lane Theatre and Virginia’s Signature Theatre, will be directed by Tony nominee Lonny Price. Beaches the Musical is based on the novel with the same name by Iris Rainer Dart, which was adapted into a 1988 film starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. The musical follows two extraordinary friends through 30 years of camaraderie, laughter and sorrow. Vivacious, outlandish Cee Cee and beautiful, privileged Bertie meet as children and become fast friends. From pen-pals to roommates to romantic rivals, Cee Cee and Bertie’s oil-and-water friendship perseveres through even the most tragic trials. With a touching vulnerability, Beaches exemplifies the triumph of the human spirit and the bonds of sisterhood. More details here.
Stephanie J. Block to Play Cher on Broadway
- Broadway favorite and two-time Tony Award nominee Stephanie J. Block has been cast as one of three actresses who will play Cher in the Broadway-bound bio-musical The Cher Show, which will stage its world premiere this summer with a limited engagement at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre, ahead of an expected Broadway premiere in fall 2018 at the Neil Simon Theatre. Block earned Tony Award nominations for her performances in Falsettos and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, in 2017 and 2013, respectively. She has also appeared on Broadway with roles in Anything Goes, Wicked, The Pirate Queen, 9 to 5 and The Boy From Oz, and she can currently be seen in the TV series Rise on NBC. More details here.
Vacation Musical in Development for Broadway
- Producers have secured the musical rights to the film franchise Vacation. No production timeline or creative team has yet been announced for the project, currently titled Broadway Vacation. The Griswolds first hit the screen over three decades ago in the classic comedy National Lampoon’s Vacation, starring Chevy Chase, giving audiences lasting memories of the disasters that can befall a family on a cross-country road trip. That film was followed by three sequels and a 2015 reboot. The producers have hinted that the film’s suburban Griswold family may be bound for a vacation in New York City – a departure from the original 1983 comedy. More details here.
Beetlejuice Musical Sets Pre-Broadway Premiere
- The degenerate demon made famous by Michael Keaton in the 1988 Tim Burton paranormal comedy Beetlejuice will return as the skeevy song-and-dance protagonist of a new stage musical. Beetlejuice: The Musical will play a pre-Broadway world-premiere engagement at Washington, D.C.’s National Theatre, beginning performances in October. Casting and dates are to be announced for the show, which follows the story of morbidly obsessed goth teen Lydia Deetz and her discovery of the ghosts haunting the new house where she has moved with her embarrassingly pretentious parents. Drew Gehling (Waitress) will play the title role in the musical. More details here.