Here’s a quick glance of some notable happenings on Broadway’s Great White Way this week:
Second Stage Theater’s Broadway premiere of Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men celebrated its opening night last week at the Hayes Theater. Reviews were mixed to positive, with some critics finding the plot threadbare and the themes vague:
Hollywood Reporter – “…the play falters when it attempts to explore more serious terrain. The work’s ambiguity, deliberate or otherwise, ultimately proves frustrating, especially in its unresolved conclusion.”
Time Out New York – “[Author] Lee offers little by way of plot: Most of the show finds the brothers reverting to the horseplay and bonding of their childhood.”
But the majority of reviews praised the production for its strong performances and its portrayal of the human condition:
Entertainment Weekly – “Overall the cast delivers magnetic and profound performances, sandwiching harsh truths between jokes and even some adorable dance moves.”
New York Magazine – “Those buying tickets hoping for a gleeful evisceration of straight white male privilege…may be disappointed. Lee is doing something much harder and much more humane. Its final notes aren’t of anger or righteous resentment, but rather of a kind of pondering, humane sadness.”
New York Times – “Smart and thorny…Straight White Men is still an exceedingly odd and thus welcome – presence on Broadway. It remains undeniably powerful.”
The new jukebox musical Head Over Heels, featuring the music of the 1980’s female rock superstars The Go-Go’s, officially opened on Broadway last week at the Hudson Theatre, where the response from critics was mixed to negative. Many reviewers took issue with the musical’s flimsy plot, stilted dialogue, and awkward insertion of the popular songs:
Variety – “…the show never recovers from the pervasive feeling of exhaustion…the exertion of making the stilted choreography seem vaguely vogue…the constant struggle to push and shove songs into places where they don’t fit…this one shows the strain.”
New York Post – “The uppity chitchat is the musical’s main gag, and it’s extremely tedious. The songs are a bad fit for theatrical storytelling. They begin at one place, plant their feet and stay there, both musically and lyrically. There really aren’t any exhilarating musical moments in director Mayer’s slapdash production.”
However, some critics were enchanted by the production’s humor, earnestness, and celebration of The Go-Go’s catalogue of catchy songs:
NY1 – “…if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, under Mayer’s spirited direction, there’s so much good-natured talent on the stage you may just give in to the frivolity.”
Entertainment Weekly – “The joyful production dials the camp to 11; this is a show with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. The result is a production that feels as freewheeling and handcrafted as a local outdoor Shakespeare festival.”
Village Voice – “…a polished yet touching fairytale rom-com that succeeds where so many catalogue tuners fail. Shrewd, funny, sexy, and with a glorious beat, Head Over Heels will have you flipping for joy.”
Broadway News and Notes:
Hamilton Creators to Receive Special Kennedy Center Honors
- The Kennedy Center Honors have announced this year’s recipients, which include the co-creators of the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning Hamilton – writer and original star Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, and music director Alex Lacamoire – as “trailblazing creators of a transformative work that defies category.” The Honors recipients are recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts. In a star-studded celebration on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage December 2, the 2018 Honorees will be saluted by performers from New York, Hollywood, and the arts capitals of the world. Other 2018 recipients include actor-singer Cher, composer and pianist Philip Glass, country music star Reba McEntire, and jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter. More details here.
Date Set for NBC’s Hair Live!
- Producers of NBC’s Hair Live! have announced the airdate for the televised event. The production will be broadcast live May 19, 2019, directed by two award-winning artists: Diane Paulus, the Tony-winning director of Broadway’s 2009 Best Revival of Hair, and Emmy winner Alex Rudzinski, who will serve as live television director as he did for Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. Hair tells the story of peace, love, and hope, through a group of politically active hippies living a bohemian life in New York while fighting against and resisting the Vietnam War. The musical premiered in 1967 at Off-Broadway’s Public Theater before a Broadway transfer the following year. The 2009 revival went on to win the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. More details here.
Cast Announced for Huey Lewis Musical Heart of Rock and Roll
- Casting has been announced for the Huey Lewis and the News musical The Heart of Rock & Roll. The production will run September 6 through October 21 at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre. Broadway alum Matt Doyle (Spring Awakening, The Book of Mormon) has signed on to play the central role in the musical. The cast will also include Tony nominee John Dossett (Gypsy), Katie Rose Clarke, Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Patrice Covington, Paige Faure, F. Michael Haynie, Orville Mendoza, Lucas Papaelias, Zachary Noah Piser, Christopher Ramirez and Billy Harrigan Tighe. With chart-topping songs such as “Hip to Be Square,” “Do You Believe in Love,” “Workin’ for a Livin’,” and “The Power of Love,” the musical follows a former rock singer who has traded in his guitar for a stable job in corporate America. He’s on the verge of closing the ultimate business deal and winning the girl of his dreams (who’s also the CEO’s daughter) — that is, if he doesn’t jeopardize everything by reuniting with his band for another shot at rock-and-roll glory. More details here.
Hillary Clinton Attends Broadway’s Hello, Dolly!
- Hillary Clinton was greeted with a standing ovation as she arrived at the Broadway production of Hello, Dolly! last week. Audience members stood and cheered as Clinton entered the theater for the performance on Thursday night. Broadway star Bette Midler, who is performing in the production, tweeted that Clinton attended the show and posted a picture of the two women backstage. “It made us all unbelievably happy to see her,” the Tony Award winner tweeted. The former Secretary of State and Presidential candidate also tweeted about the experience, calling it “a joyful night.” More details here.