This Week on Stage: Fantasia in the Jazz Age, Neil Patrick Harris serves up magic

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Image Credit: Walter McBride/WireImage

November is shaping up to be the busiest in recent memory, but the hustle and bustle is costing Broadway a few shows. John Grisham’s A Time to Kill became A Time to Close with an end date of Nov. 17, and the Zachary Levi-Krysta Rodriguez musical rom-com First Date will have its last date on Jan. 5. With as-yet-unannounced premiere dates for shows like Tracy Letts’ Killer Joe (making a spring Broadway bow), Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses (starring Michael C. Hall, Toni Collette, Marisa Tomei and…Letts — busy guy!) and Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons with Tyne Daly, it seems there are more productions than theaters to hold them. Stay tuned for which ones make the cut. Meanwhile, there have been a bevy of new openings, including Fantasia’s return to Broadway, Ed Harris and real-life spouse Amy Madigan in a new Beth Henley drama, a new play by Pulitzer winner Bruce Norris, Neil Patrick Harris directing a new magic show, and Julie Taymor’s major comeback (click on the links below for full reviews):

After Midnight  The Cotton Club era gets a jazzy jolt with this new Broadway revue already being called the sleeper hit of the season. Did senior editor Thom Geier share the enthusiasm? Ab-scat-lutely! “There are showstoppers aplenty in the ebullient new musical revue..After Midnight is a show that’s as light on its feet as its very talented ensemble.” EW grade: A-

The Black Suits Call it School of Rock with an age upgrade; Joe Iconis’ take on a high school rock band opened in L.A., but EW.com’s Laura Hertzfeld felt they could use a little more practice: “The Black Suits never gets deep enough into the roots of suburban angst to make you feel like these guys really have something to rage about — nor does it come up with light, frothy pop numbers that urge you to bop along.” EW grade: C+

Disaster!  Off Broadway gets invaded by killer bees, tidal waves, and disco-era hits in Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick’s wacky take on disaster movies. The show doesn’t hit any icebergs on the way to hilarity. As I write in my review, “It’s the perfect antidote to those lamenting the lack of Forbidden Broadway in their urban lives…scrappy but irresistible.” EW grade: B+

Domesticated  Jeff Goldblum and Laurie Metcalf star in Bruce Norris’ dark comedy about a disgraced politico and his put-upon wife weathering a Spitzer/Wiener/Good Wife-like scandal. Thom Geier had mixed feelings on this follow-up to the author’s Clybourne Park: “[Norris] strives to make a larger point about modern gender relations and the utility (and possibility) of male monogamy. But despite Anna D. Shapiro’s crisp, well-paced direction, Domesticated is better on caustic humor and verbal one-upmanship than real insight or character development.” EW grade: B

How to Make Friends and Then Kill Them  Actress Halley Feiffer takes a hand at playwriting in a new work at Off Broadway’s Rattlestick Theatre, but Stephan Lee firmly believed she may want to hone her craft a little more. “How to Make Friends and Then Kill Them opens with three girls shrieking at the top of their lungs, and over the next 90 minutes, they never really stop.” EW grade: C

The Jacksonian  Staff writer Keith Staskiewicz took a look at the NYC premiere of Beth Henley’s eerie Southern drama about a motel barkeep (Bill Pullman) corralling his oddball patrons (including multiple Oscar nominee Ed Harris). “Robert Falls’ eerie direction has more than a hint of David Lynch…here’s a healthy vein of black humor running throughout which turns Henley’s Southern Gothic soap opera into an even more surreal experience.” EW grade: B+

La Soiree  The naughty burlesque revue — already a hit in Europe — settles in downtown NYC to make the city blush. Marc Snetiker was among those wooed by the circus-like, raunchy fun. “There is an abundance of charm oozing from the cast, who each exude a gleeful passion for their talent (be it sexy, silly, or downright strange). If traditional circus isn’t your thing, you’re in luck.” EW grade: A-

A Midsummer Night’s Dream  Visual stylist Julie Taymor trades Spidey for fairies with an opulent new version of the Shakespeare comedy, the inaugural production at Theatre for a New Audience’s new Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn. Thom Geier found himself much enchanted by Taymor’s reborn ingenuity: “There’s a magnificent muchness of her approach to the Bard’s most durable of comedies, as she tosses in everything from pillow fights to a grass-upholstered reclining chair to achieve her vision. But remarkably, this Midsummer never tips over into a too-muchness.” EW grade: A-

Nothing to Hide  It’s no secret that beloved star Neil Patrick Harris likes magic, but he’s fan of his peers too, and decided to helm a new 70-minute variety show featuring upstart showmen Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimarães. Did Hillary Busis surrender to the sleight of hands? “[The performers are] clever, surprising, and altogether incredible, in both the literal and figurative senses.” EW grade: A-



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