This Week on Stage: Porn stars, Dickens, and Kathie Lee Gifford invade Broadway

drood

Image Credit: Joan Marcus

It was one busy week on the New York stage, with three Broadway openings and one rare day-after-premiere closing: No sooner did the producers of the starry porn-world comedy The Performers study the show’s mixed reviews than they decided to call it quits. (Guess they thought they’d lost their money shot.) Over at the Encores! series at New York City Center, Glee star Amber Riley jazzed up the Broadway-ready revue Cotton Club Parade. And Off Broadway saw at least a half dozen major new productions featuring stars like Ethan Hawke, Sigourney Weaver, David Hyde Pierce, and Boardwalk Empire‘s Gretchen Mol. A roundup of our reviews from this week:

The Mystery of Edwin Drood The nonprofit Roundabout Theatre Company goes out on a limerick with this “brisk” revival of Rupert Holmes’ 1985 musical based on Charles Dickens final and unfinished novel (pictured above, with Betsy Wolfe and Smash‘s Will Chase). I wrote that “the standouts in the cast are the septuagenarian vets”: Jim Norton (“spry perfection”) and Chita Rivera, who “can sell a song like no other.” Grade: B

The Performers Tanner Stransky raved about this send-up of the porn industry starring Cheyenne Jackson, Alicia Silverstone, Henry Winkler, and “ditsy scene-stealer” Ari Graynor: “David West Read’s laugh-a-minute script is light, but it fires on all cylinders.” EW grade: A–

Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson Carolee Carmello is “charismatic” as a 1920s preacher woman in this based-on-a-true-story musical, but Keith Staskiewicz found that Kathie Lee Gifford’s book and lyrics only “work in part.” EW grade: B–

OFF BROADWAY
Emotional Creature The Vagina Monologues‘ Eve Ensler presents a new series of monologues about the plight of girls worldwide, but Melissa Maerz found that though the target audience seems to be the younger generation “some of the references are ridiculously dated.” EW grade: B–

Giant I heaped praise on composer John Michael LaChiusa’s adaptation of the 1952 Edna Ferber novel, starring Smash‘s Brian D’Arcy James and Kate Baldwin in the roles Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor made famous on film, “one of the finest new American musicals in recent memory.” EW grade: A

Golden Child Despite some significant rewriting by playwright David Henry Hwang, this revival of the 1996 drama about polygamy in early-20th-century China is “disappointingly uneven,” wrote Melissa Rose Bernardo. EW grade: B–

The Good Mother While Gretchen Mol brings “an appealing vulnerability” to the role of a troubled single mom, Stephan Lee concluded,  “Francine Volpe’s script delivers nothing to reward our attention.” EW grade: C+

Ivanov I found the Classic Stage Company’s new revival of Anton Chekhov’s drama to be “solid but uneven,” marred by Ethan Hawke’s overly “actorly” approach to the title role. “It’s an almost manic take on melancholia, a contradiction that makes his character’s trajectory feel more like the stuff of melodrama than tragedy.” EW grade: B

Mies Julie A retelling of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie set in modern South Africa, is “raw and graphic and definitely NC-17″ in its depiction of the central conflict between a black servant and his white mistress, wrote Melissa Rose Bernardo. “The intensely violent nature of the sex — and the ensuing grisly punishment — almost eclipses the passionate interplay” between the leads. EW grade: B

Murder Ballad Though there’s not much suspense in the plot of this alt-rock musical, Melissa Maerz appreciated Juliana Nash’s tunes. Stars Karen Olivo and Rebecca Naomi Jones “would make phenomenal frontwomen in any band,” Maerz wrote. “Olivo doesn’t so much sing the lyrics as take a shot of tequila and blowtorch them.” EW grade: B

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Despite the welcome reappearance of Sigourney Weaver and David Hyde Pierce, Lisa Schwarzbaum concluded that Christopher Durang’s new play is “a wan comedy mash-up of Chekhovian themes that feels all the shallower for the fancy production values and star power attached to so sophomoric an exercise.” EW grade: C+

Follow Thom on Twitter: @ThomGeier

Read more:
‘Glee’ star Amber Riley jazzes up Off Broadway musical ‘Cotton Club Parade’
First look at the poster for Broadway’s ‘Picnic’ with Maggie Grace and Sebastian Stan
Broadway box office: Jessica Chastain and ‘Downton’ star Dan Stevens lure fans to ‘The Heiress’
EW’s Stage Hub

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