News finally arrived that the upcoming Broadway revival of Les Misérables has its principal cast intact — with Iran-born musical-theater hunk Ramin Karimloo in his first Broadway role as the bread-stealing Valjean, Tony-nominee Will Swenson (Hair) as staunch Javert, Ghost‘s Caissie Levy dreaming a dream of time gone by as tragic heroine Fantine, and Book of Mormon Tony victor Nikki M. James as lovelorn Eponine. Will they duplicate the successes (or in Russell Crowe’s case, non-successes) of their film counterparts, this time without the fish-eye lenses? The spring will tell, but if you live up North and are dying of curiosity, Mr. Karimloo is currently playing the role in Toronto before they bring him home (hee-hee) to NYC.
Also, six new shows pushed through an already crowded fall theater season, including several debuts: playwright Sharr White (The Other Place) takes on Chekhov, sort of, with Mary-Louise Parker returning to the stage for the first time in four years, David Hyde Pierce appears in a piece by his nephew Greg and Curtains composer John Kander, and mega-author John Grisham finds one of his books adapted to the Great White Way for the first time. How did they fare? (Click on the links below for the full reviews.)
Fun Home Senior writer Melissa Maerz reviewed this long-awaited Off Broadway musicalization of Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic memoir of her troubled, eccentric family, calling it an “ambitious musical adaptation” whose songs “perfectly capture [the family's] longing.” Despite the excellent production, she adds, “the staging might be a little too neat, especially for a story about how messy things can get when you don’t know exactly who you are.” EW grade: B+
The Landing Curtains Tony winner David Hyde Pierce stars in a group of one-acts written by Greg Pierce (Slowgirl) and composed by the legendary John Kander (Cabaret). EW senior editor Thom Geier had mixed feelings on the results of the Off Broadway power pairing: “Except for Kander’s recognizably lush and hook-filled melodies, the show often seems like the work of a gifted apprentice who’s written a lot of short fiction.” He notes that the concluding act is the best: “Not only does it have a twist worthy of O. Henry (or Rod Serling), but it has genuine heart.” EW grade: B-
Luce Lincoln Center premieres a new work by writer JC Lee, about a family grappling with the fact that their star-athlete whiz kid might be getting into some bad situations. “Director May Adrales wisely avoids overheated melodrama, and the entire cast does solid work,” I wrote, but the writer “is perhaps too eager to make Luce’s family likable from the outset.” EW grade: B
Marie Antoinette David Adjmi takes on the hated teen queen with a revisionist, scaled-down production at Off Broadway’s Soho Rep starring Homeland and reasons to be pretty star Marin Ireland. Did Marie rule this time out? I answered with a wholehearted yes in my review: “The play’s delicate shifts in tone would be downright jarring without [Ireland's] expertly judged balancing act…this vivid reimaging of ”Madame Deficit” falls squarely in the black.” EW grade: B+
The Snow Geese Mary-Louise Parker takes on an upstate New York widow in World War I in playwright Sharr White’s follow-up to his acclaimed The Other Place, which garnered Laurie Metcalf a Tony nomination last season. Did White take flight again? “White sets the conflicts in motion with fine craftsmanship, but the second act shows a few more seams,” Thom Geier writes. “Despite these infelicities, The Snow Geese makes you care about this flawed and fractious clan.” EW grade: B+
A Time to Kill John Grisham’s heated, race-fueled courtroom potboiler launched Matthew McConaughey to leading-man status on the big screen, but the story is less successful on stage. “Sebastian Arcelus has a natural stage presence and combed-back hair that recalls McConaughey’s from the film, but he lacks a certain good-old-boy charm,” writes Thom Geier, who allows that “director Ethan McSweeny keeps the action moving to the decisive closing arguments.” EW grade: C+