This Week On Stage: Bette Midler, Alan Cumming, Fiona Shaw, and Cicely Tyson take the stage

pippin-week-in-stage

Image Credit: Joan Marcus

Here they are, the last gasp of shows for the 2012-2013 theater season as we approach T-Day (Tony Nomination Day on April 30). And on that note, some notable rulings have been announced: the four young tykes taking on the title role in Matilda will not be competing jointly for Best Actress in a Musical (they will instead receive a special “Tony Honor For Excellence”). And poor Kristine Nielsen (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) and all the men in Orphans have been added to the crowded slate of competitors for Leading Actor/Actress, which means about eight Tony-worthy performers will be vying for five spaces in each, already dubbing this year as Sophie’s Choices. Read the full eligibility details here.

This edition features return Broadway favorites like Pippin and The Trip to Bountiful and a particularly solo-show heavy week, with Bette Midler, Fiona Shaw and Brief Encounter’s Tristan Sturrock all holding court (and even Alan Cumming’s take on the Scottish Play falls into the pseudo category). And David Byrne and Fatboy Slim are getting their groove on downtown too. (Click on the links below to read the full reviews):

Here Lies Love  On your feet, disco lovers! No, really. This new David Byrne-Fatboy Slim musical is a literal stand-up experience — wear comfortable shoes! — using the space inside the Public Theater as a full-on dance floor to tell a mirrorballed tale of controversial Philippines strongman Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda. Kyle Anderson declares the odd hybrid a smashing success: The show’s narrative center is so strong and its infectious melodic spirit so complete that it could easily work in a traditional theater setting (or in the round, on a street corner, or in your living room). The fact that you can sweat right along with the incredible cast is a happy-footed bonus.” EW grade: A

I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers  The Divine Miss M, a.k.a. Bette Midler, returns to Broadway for a one-woman ode to Hollywood super-agent Sue Mengers in her first non-concert or revue role since stepping into Fiddler on the Roof in 1967.  So is her long-belated return a good Bette? Reviewer Lisa Schwarzbaum dubs it a don’t-miss: “Midler owns the place with one flip of her frosted coif … [and] manages a fabulous feat: she marshals all her own famously divine Bette-ness to bring to life a kindred spirit.” EW grade: A

Macbeth  After a smash-hit run at the Lincoln Center Festival last summer, Alan Cumming (best known to TV folk as the neurotic Eli Gold on The Good Wife) takes on the Bard and inhabits all of the principal players, lunatic-in-the-asylum style. Will you go mad for it? EW’s Thom Geier is certain you will for Cumming:  “What a tour-de-force performance it is … Cumming doesn’t merely strut and fret his hour and 45 minutes upon the stage — he strips naked and bathes and tosses in his sleep and kills and cowers and dies.” EW grade: B+

Mayday Mayday  Brit actor Tristan Sturrock returns to St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn for a one-man reflection on his harrowing fall that nearly sidetracked his entire acting career. Told with gentle humor, EW’s review states that our guide is “one remarkably limber fellow” and his story “has been lovingly yet judiciously crafted by Sturrock and his wife, director Katy Carmichael.” EW grade: A-

Pippin  There is even more “Magic to Do” in Diane Paulus’s highly-anticipated, circus-themed revival of the much-loved 1972 Stephen Schwartz musical. Did Thom Geier find it exciting, mystic and exotic? “No matter our age, we need never outgrow the capacity for wonder”, he says, “it’s amazing how Chet Walker’s Fosse-inspired choreography blends seamlessly with the hand-walking, knife-throwing, backflipping, human-jump-roping antics of the enviably limber cast.” EW grade: A

The Testament of Mary  Irish dynamo Fiona Shaw returns to the Broadway stage after a 10-year absence to tackle one of the most famous women of all time: the mother of Jesus. Is her return the second coming? Lisa Schwarzbaum praises the ferocious performer: “Shaw is, yes, the marvel we have come to expect her to be,” adding “she could probably knock an audience out just standing stock still and reciting [Colm] Tóibín’s burning recitative. I pray she would.” EW grade: B+

The Trip to Bountiful  Actresses such as Geraldine Page and Lois Smith have won major awards for playing the lead role in one of the late Horton Foote’s signature works, centering on a lonely, elderly woman (Cicely Tyson) living with her son and daughter-in-law (Cuba Gooding Jr. and Vanessa Williams) who embarks on an unsanctioned journey back to her hometown. Will Tyson (on stage after a three-decade break) repeat such success? Melissa Rose Bernardo thinks so, calling her “awe-inspiring… she sings, she dances, she does everything but cartwheels.” EW grade: B+

Read more:
Broadway Box Office: ‘Matilda’ and ‘Motown’ Hit it Big
Listen to three tracks from Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
Broadway Review: Matilda the Musical

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