Post image for San Diego Theater Review: GYPSY (Cygnet Theatre)

A SCALED-DOWN GYPSY NONETHELESS GOES OFF THE SCALE Gypsy, the musical theater biography of striptease performer Gypsy Rose Lee, is really about Gypsy’s mother, Mama Rose, immortalized by Ethel Merman in the original 1959 production. Not just a chronicle of the superstar ecdysiast’s checkered childhood, Gypsy is a celebration of the addictive insanity of show business. […]

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Post image for Chicago Theater Review: BYHALIA, MISSISSIPPI (Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre)

A MASON/DIXON CATHARSIS REPRISES ITS SUCCESS Can white trash/peckerwood/country cracker/Dixie doodles rise above their rotten roots? Byhalia, Mississippi is not just a place or a title but a condition—a backwater hamlet with none of the sophistication, joie de vivre or cosmopolitan culture of Jackson, the nearby dumbass state capital. A 2015 Jefferson Award-winning world premiere […]

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Post image for Chicago Theater Review: DOUGLASS (the american vicarious at Theater Wit)

AN EX-SLAVE BREAKS NEW CHAINS Eager to be relevant but not quite succeeding, Thomas Klingenstein’s Douglass, a world premiere by the american vicarious at Theater Wit, is nonetheless a valuable historical allegory. An exercise in irony as much as reclamation, it depicts the struggle of a 19th-century American emancipator, not just to find freedom from […]

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Post image for Chicago Theater Review: WAR PAINT (World Premiere Musical at the Goodman)

A FAR FROM COSMETIC MUSICAL MAKEOVER In the late James Kirkwood’s Legends!, two feuding divas–played on a 1986 national tour by theatrical goddesses Carol Channing and Mary Martin–reach a reconciliation before death divides them forever. In War Paint, a vehicular musical trying out at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, the rags-to-riches rivals are historical personages: Helena Rubinstein and […]

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Post image for Concert Review: WEST SIDE STORY (Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl)

HERE’S A PLACE FOR US When I first heard West Side Story, it was the original Broadway cast recording on my parents’ mono Magnavox console. Without the Jerome Robbins’ direction and choreography, without the sets and costumes, and without the dialogue, I was transfixed over and over by the 1957 trailblazing musical, an updating of […]

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Post image for Chicago Theater Review: EROICA (Azuza Productions at Redtwist Theatre)

HYPOCRISY BEGINS AT HOME In theater revenge is best served quickly. That’s a virtue in David Alex’s 80-minute family drama, now detonating four times a week at Chicago’s Redtwist Theatre. A world premiere from Asuza Productions, Maggie Speer’s intense (as in loud) staging drives home the rifts and grudges that ravaged loved ones during the […]

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Post image for San Diego Theater Preview: AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ (North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach)

IN HARLEM’S WAY “One never knows, do one?” That’s the favorite catchphrase of Fats Waller (1904-1943), an irrepressible master of music. The 285-pound, cherubic-cheeked jokester genius is the powerhouse presence and driving dreamer behind Ain’t Misbehavin’, the still irresistible 1978 tribute revue from Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby Jr. In this happy case, well, one […]

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Post image for Los Angeles Music Preview: THE SINATRA PROJECT, VOLUME 2 (Michael Feinstein & the Pasadena POPS)

YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET I have seen Michael Feinstein perform many times, but he was never better than last year when he celebrated Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday with the Pasadena POPS at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. Indeed, The Sinatra Project was one of my favorite concerts ever, and not just because of the wonderful songs […]

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Post image for Tour Preview: CABARET (National Tour at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre)

RUN TO THE CABARET You better tell Momma and everybody else to come see Roundabout’s production of Cabaret, which kicked off its national tour this year. It plays the Hollywood Pantages Theatre for a limited three-week run from July 19 – August 7, 2016, and continues through the summer of 2017. The backstage story that becomes […]

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Post image for Chicago Theater Review: BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY (Steppenwolf Theatre Company)

COLORFUL CHARACTERS AIN’T ENOUGH Between Riverside and Crazy is a 2015 slice of strife from Stephen Adley Guirgis (perpetrator of The Motherf**ker with the Hat and Jesus Hopped The ‘A’ Train). It’s a very N.Y.C. story of unprocessed rage and self-sustaining disappointment. Character-driven by hard luck Big Apple survivors ever on the edge (of breakdowns, […]

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