Verklempt with laughter: Urie shines in Buyer & Cellar

Aug 21

Verklempt with laughter: Urie shines in <i>Buyer & Cellar</i>

Michael Urie is so freaking charming it's outrageous. The erstwhile scene-stealer from "Ugly Betty" landed in a one-man off-Broadway hit more than a year ago, and he's had the good sense to take this show – the perfect showcase for his prodigious talents – on the road, just like the big stars of yesteryear used to do.

The play is Buyer & Cellar by Jonathan Tolins, a fantasia on Barbra Streisand, which is to say an examination of fame, wealth, creativity and loneliness, among other things. It's a fascinating play with deep wells of compassion for the rich and famous and for the poor and ignored.<.p>

But perhaps above all else, it's funny. Really funny.

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In (and out of) the Motown groove

Aug 20

In (and out of) the <i>Motown</i> groove

The challenge in reviewing Motown: The Musical is to be honest about its two most prominent components. The first is the clunky, self-aggrandizing book by Motown founder Berry Gordy who, at one point, has Diana Ross bat her big eyelashes and compare him to Martin Luther King Jr.. He also depicts the first time he attempted to sleep with Ross as a dismal failure, but when you're in bed with a pop legend in the making and you're writing the script, you can have her tell you everything will be OK and then sing "I Hear a Symphony" to you. It should be funny, and it is, but it's just as cringe-inducing.

The other component, and this is far, far more important, is the Motown music itself.

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Depth, beauty surge through glorious Once

Jun 19

Depth, beauty surge through glorious <i>Once</i>

If every movie-to-musical transformation were as soulful and creative as Once the state of the Broadway musical would be in a much better place.

There would seem to be no less likely candidate for the Broadway treatment than the sweet and modest 2007 Irish indie film Once about a frustrated singer/songwriter in Dublin and the Czech immigrant who changes his life. It's a love story and not a love story, a musical and not a musical. Above all else, it's intimate and delicate, like a slice of life infused with passionate music transferred with great love to the big screen.

Fans of the movie (which nabbed a best song Oscar for songwriters/stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová's "Falling Slowly") let out a collective groan when it was announced that Once would be turned into a Broadway musical.

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Porgy sings anew at the Golden Gate

Nov 14

<i>Porgy</i> sings anew at the Golden Gate

p>The music of Porgy and Bess is so pervasive in the musical landscape that actually seeing the show and how the songs fit into the story is a little startling.

I know the George Gershwin-Ira Gershwin-DuBose Heyward score not from cast recordings but from pop and jazz versions recorded by the likes of Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson and Joe Pass, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Carmen McRae, Cleo Laine and Ray Charles and Frances Faye and Mel Tormé. And then there are the countless covers of the show's songs. "Summertime" is considered one of the most recorded songs of all time, with more than 30,000 versions. This music, in other words, is part of the American cultural fabric.

Productions of Porgy and Bess don't come along very often...

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Enchanting Starcatcher has all the right star stuff

Nov 07

Enchanting <i>Starcatcher</i> has all the right star stuff

The company of Peter and the Starcatcher opens Act 2 with a rousing number involving Neverland mermaids. The Tony Award-winning play continues through Dec. 1 at the Curran Theatre as part of the SHN season. Below: Peter (Joey deBettencourt) takes a leap of faith into a golden lagoon. Photos by Jenny Anderson Is it the fantasy of flying? The lure of perpetual...

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Broadway-bound Carole King bio truly is Beautiful

Oct 09

Broadway-bound Carole King bio truly is <i>Beautiful</i>

You know that Beautiful: The Carole King Musical has worked its musical biography magic when, during the curtain calls, the extraordinary Jessie Mueller takes her bow, you feel like you're applauding an actor for her superb performance as King and you feel like you're acknowledging King herself and all of the remarkable work she has contributed over the last five decades.

King herself is nowhere to be found in the creation of this Broadway-bound enterprise except where it really counts: in the music. The story that book writer Douglas McGrath and director Marc Bruni are telling springs out of King's early start in the songwriting business and her emergence as a seminal singer-songwriter of the 1970s, but the show is really a tribute to the craft of songwriting.

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