Theater company bares all for art

A New York theater company performs ‘The Rover’ with full nudity in a public park. Rough cut (no reporter narration)


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Theater company bares all for art

A New York theater company performs ‘The Rover’ with full nudity in a public park. Rough cut (no reporter narration)


Reuters Video: Entertainment

Find your Soulmate Live webcam chat!

Chris Martin Drops $4.45 Million for 99-Seat Malibu Theater

Chris Martin now has a venue to showcase his talented kids … a 99-seat theater he just bought for more than FOUR MILLION BUCKS!! The Coldplay frontman plunked down $ 4.45 million for the Malibu Playhouse … currently home to the Malibu Stage…

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TMZ Celebrity News for Music


Tell Em Steve Dave Fair-re-re Tale Theater (Unabridged) – Brian Quinn, Bryan Johnson & Walter Flanagan

Brian Quinn, Bryan Johnson & Walter Flanagan - Tell Em Steve Dave Fair-re-re Tale Theater (Unabridged)  artwork

Tell Em Steve Dave Fair-re-re Tale Theater (Unabridged)

Brian Quinn, Bryan Johnson & Walter Flanagan

Genre: Comedy

Price: $ 6.95

Publish Date: July 30, 2013

© ℗ © 2013 Makin Hay Books

iTunes Store: Top Audiobooks in Comedy

Miracle on 34th Street: A Special Lux Theater Episode Plus Special Commentary (Unabridged) – Bill Mills

Bill Mills - Miracle on 34th Street: A Special Lux Theater Episode Plus Special Commentary (Unabridged)  artwork

Miracle on 34th Street: A Special Lux Theater Episode Plus Special Commentary (Unabridged)

Bill Mills

Genre: Arts & Entertainment

Price: $ 0.95

Publish Date: October 9, 2009

© ℗ © 2009 Renaissance E Books Inc.

iTunes Store: Top Audiobooks in Arts & Entertainment

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Theater: Thin Falstaff, Solid Hal In “Henry IV;” Gloria Estefan Congas Onto Broadway

HENRY IV *** out of ****
ON YOUR FEET! ** out of **** (but first act ***)

HENRY IV *** out of ****
ST. ANN’S WAREHOUSE

When is a solid, entertaining production of Henry IV a mild disappointment? When it comes from director Phyllida Lloyd and the marvelous ensemble that brought us Julius Caesar, at the top of my list for the best shows of 2013. Two elements hold it back. The framing device of having the production being performed by women in prison feels less germane (and certainly less surprising). And the choice to keep Falstaff a less swollen presence (when usually one thinks the show should be renamed for him) lessens the impact of the finale. Nonetheless, strong performances and clever touches abound, making it a worthy if not revelatory experience.

We begin in the lobby, with armed guards clearing a path. “Prisoners coming through!” they announce, as the manacled cast is led past us into the theater. Finally we troop in and it begins. Guards are always present and at two minor points, they intrude. The spell is broken once for comic effect and once for a serious purpose but neither felt telling. But by and large the play didn’t feel informed by the danger and menace and looming despair of prison the way Julius Caeser did.

Happily, Lloyd has many other insights to offer. Battle scenes are rendered as pantomimes of boxing matches. Maps are spray painted on the floor. Deejays spin appropriate music at key moments or make the sounds of babies and animals in an openly theatrical, pleasing style. And much of the cast is excellent, led by the brilliant Harriet Walter, so good here that instead of retitling the play Falstaff (or Prince Hal) you think it fitting that it is dubbed after her character and only wish she had more stage time.

2015-11-12-1447307752-8318614-HarrietWalter.jpg
(Photo By Pavel Antonov)

Hal (Clare Dunn) of course is a wastrel, a princeling who has sunk into drink and bawdiness with disreputable friends like the braggart and thief Falstaff (a fine Sophie Stanton, but fine don’t cut it with Falstaff). Hal’s father the king (Walter) despairs of him and despairs of the kingdom when Hal comes to power. Sensing weakness, the upstart Hotspur (Jade Anouka) raises an army, hoping and expecting more to follow once things get underway.

But a genuine threat to the kingdom rouses Hal’s princely blood. He astonishes his father and indeed everyone with purpose and modesty and a lion-like vigor to defend the kingdom and everything his father has built. Not because he will inherit it one day, but because it deserves defending and his father deserves better than layabout for a son. His former ways must be banished for good, as banished as the portly Falstaff who is denounced in one of the most pitiable scenes in all of Shakespeare.

The cast is strong throughout. But the dueling between Hotspur and Hal is electric thanks to the two actors who embody them. Dane is wonderfully present from the start, alive to the foolishness of Falstaff and clearly a better person in waiting. This makes sense, but it does remove some of the drama from Hal’s transformation and ultimate rejection of his (mostly) harmless drinking buddy.

Anouka’s Hotspur is even more rounded, shading from confident to bragging to desperately trying to convince himself that the longer the odds, the greater the glory. He’d clearly take lesser glory and better odds — no fool, he — but those aren’t the cards he’s been dealt and he makes the best of them. It makes Hotspur a more convincing and sympathetic character, rather than the fool he often seems.

Women barely figure here, so padding a scene to target one of the few female characters and have it sting doesn’t really make sense to me. It certainly doesn’t illuminate this play. (Now Taming of The Shrew might benefit from an all-female cast….) Yet it’s the finale that really falls flat. The less dramatic arc for Hal, the decision to make his rejection so regal and public (including, I think, echo on his voice as if Hal were addressing the world over a PA system), to having Falstaff/the prisoner react so dramatically all lessens this moment’s wrenching possibilities.

Still, the ensemble! The inventive staging! And the King! Walter holds our attention with ease, the ache of this father and this king having many layers. When he is ill but still gives his son sound advice for managing the country (setting up Henry V in the bargain), we hang on every word. It’s enough to make you head to the warden and ask to leave credit for all the cigarettes she can smoke on Walter’s account.

ON YOUR FEET! ** out of **** (but first act ***)
MARQUIS THEATRE

On Your Feet begins so confidently, you get excited. It’s frothy, fun and as the songs pile up, you realize that you recognize a lot more of them than you thought. And even the ones you don’t recognize are ones you’d like to hear again. Is this bio-musical about Gloria Estefan the new Mamma Mia? While hardly perfect, that sense of innocent pleasure continues for the entire first act, which ends inevitably with the cast performing her breakout hit “Conga” as they wind their way through the audience. Unfortunately, there’s also an act two.

The fun forward momentum created by director Jerry Mitchell and choreographer Sergio Trujillo grinds to a halt as we deal with the famed accident and surgery on her spine that meant Gloria Estefan might never walk again. Unfortunately, very minor squabbles with her husband and a more meaningful conflict with her mother simply don’t have the fun and excitement of watching the Miami Sound Machine discover its sound, find success and plug away until breaking out of the Latin market into worldwide fame. Sure, it’s wonderful that the love of her fans inspired Estefan; we just don’t need to see it acted out onstage. So the first act remains a tantalizing look at what might have been a far more satisfying musical.

That beginning is very strong. After a clever prologue, we see Little Gloria (a sweet, endearing Alexandria Suarez) doing her many chores, but always always singing. She can’t help it! Her daddy savors audio cassettes of her singing while serving in Vietnam and cherishes her voice even more while suffering from MS later in life. But Little Gloria is always butting her heads with her mother (a very good Andréa Burns), who sees singing as a waste of time. All too soon, Little Gloria is replaced by teenage Gloria (Ana Villafaña).

They live in South Florida and Gloria’s grandmother sees a young woman born to sing. A local band that is having success working the wedding/bar mitzvah/party circuit is making a name for itself and Consuelo (a winning Alma Cuervo) convinces Emilio Estefan (Josh Segarra) to come over, meet Gloria and maybe give her some advice about the music business. Emilio hears one song and knows he’s just seen the future. Before you know it, Gloria is rehearsing with the band, working on dance moves, learning to not hate the spotlight and writing songs.

Becoming a hit in the Latin market is no easy task. But it’s crossing over to the pop market that really fires up Emilio. His record label doesn’t want any songs in English, the radio stations don’t want to play them (the Latin stations say they’re too Anglo; the white stations say they’re too Latin) but by God Emilio believes in Gloria’s talent! It won’t be long before they have the world doing the conga and the act one finale is a clever combination of seeing the band work their magic at every two-bit venue imaginable (from weddings to a Shriner convention) before finally setting the world on fire.

While none of this is revelatory, it’s presented with genuine humor and a pleasingly innocent charm that’s winning. Villafaña is a winning presence and an absolute dead-ringer for Estefan’s voice. If you told me that she was actually lip-syncing to Estefan herself I’d believe you; it’s that similar. Segarra has a sleepily sexual charm and the chemistry between the two leads is genuine. However, he is absolutely no singer.

The cast is pleasingly a rainbow of Latino shades (Segarra is of Puerto Rican descent, for example, not Cuban like Emilio) so while Hispanic and Latino audiences will note actors who don’t “fit” their roles, it doesn’t matter. And the fact that Segarra really can’t sing doesn’t matter in the first act. He only has one obligatory number and chimes in on another. Unfortunately, in the second act with Gloria incapacitated, Emilio is front and center vocally. Suddenly, casting the charming Segarra becomes indefensible when he takes the lead or sings a portion of three or four more songs. Dramatically, he’s great. But this is a musical and it’s a mortal blow to have one of the two leads not up to the demands of the role.

That’s just one more reason the relatively boring and Lifetime movie of the week nature of act two is such a bad call. (Book writer Alexander Dinelaris is very nimble and strikes the right tone in the first act.) Quite simply, the entire show takes place in act one, which should have been expanded. The Little Gloria scenes are charming and frankly over too soon. Another scene or two where we saw her weighed down by responsibility and finding refuge in song would have been very welcome. A flashback to Cuba is very effective and another moment or two would bring the heartbreak of her mother’s dreams being dashed even more into focus. The fun of breaking out in the Latin market and then wanting more (even though they risked it all by doing so) was plenty of drama to build on. “Conga” shouldn’t have been the climax of act one. It should have been the climax of the show.

The scenic design by David Rockwell is fine but not his strongest visually, though very effective in incorporating many different locations and switches from front stage to back and the like. The costumes by ESosa are a slam-dunk and don’t disappoint. Ditto the lighting of Kenneth Posner. Trujillo’s choreography is appropriately working class in its idiom and delivered with panache by a very hard-working cast. Mitchell’s direction is energetic, from the jolting opener with a live band onstage to the friendly, megamix finale where seemingly every member of the cast takes a turn on the mike just to prove they all have a better voice than Segarra (he actually raps at this moment, a wise choice). All they needed was a ruthless editor. Sometimes an album of 17 songs isn’t nearly as good as an album with just ten. Leave after the first act and you’ll recommend On Your Feet to undemanding theater-goers looking for some harmless fun. Stay for the whole show and you’ll probably go home to buy Estefan’s greatest hits (or stream them, I guess). But recommend the musical? Probably not.

THEATER OF 2015

Honeymoon In Vegas **
The Woodsman ***
Constellations ** 1/2
Taylor Mac’s A 24 Decade History Of Popular Music 1930s-1950s ** 1/2
Let The Right One In **
Da no rating
A Month In The Country ** 1/2
Parade in Concert at Lincoln Center ** 1/2
Hamilton at the Public ***
The World Of Extreme Happiness ** 1/2
Broadway By The Year 1915-1940 **
Verite * 1/2
Fabulous! *
The Mystery Of Love & Sex **
An Octoroon at Polonsky Shakespeare Center *** 1/2
Fish In The Dark *
The Audience ***
Josephine And I ***
Posterity * 1/2
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame **
Lonesome Traveler **
On The Twentieth Century ***
Radio City Music Hall’s New York Spring Spectacular ** 1/2
The Heidi Chronicles *
The Tallest Tree In The Forest * 1/2
Broadway By The Year: 1941-1965 ***
Twelfth Night by Bedlam ***
What You Will by Bedlam *** 1/2
Wolf Hall Parts I and II ** 1/2
Skylight ***
Nellie McKay at 54 Below ***
Ludic Proxy ** 1/2
It Shoulda Been You **
Finding Neverland ** 1/2
Hamlet w Peter Sarsgaard at CSC no stars
The King And I ***
Marilyn Maye — Her Way: A Tribute To Frank Sinatra at 54 Below ***
Gigi * 1/2
An American In Paris ** 1/2
Doctor Zhivago no stars
Fun Home **
Living On Love * 1/2
Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation ***
Airline Highway * 1/2
The Two Gentlemen Of Verona (Fiasco Theatre) ***
The Visit (w Chita Rivera) ** 1/2
The Sound And The Fury (ERS) **
Broadway By The Year: 1966-1990 ***
The Spoils * 1/2
Ever After (at Papermill) **
Heisenberg *** 1/2
An Act Of God **
The National High School Musical Theatre Awards ***
Amazing Grace *
The Absolute Brightness Of Leonard Pelkey ** 1/2
Cymbeline (Shakespeare in the Park w Rabe and Linklater) ***
Hamilton *** 1/2
The Christians ***
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Pearl Theatre Company) ** 1/2
Spring Awakening (w Deaf Theatre West) *** 1/2
Daddy Long Legs **
Reread Another **
Fool For Love (w Nina Arianda and Sam Rockwell) ** 1/2
Barbecue (at Public) **
Old Times (w Clive Owen) **
The Bandstand ***
The Gin Game **
Rothschild & Sons ** 1/2
The Inn At Lake Devine **
First Daughter Suite ** 1/2
The Humans *** 1/2
Sylvia **
Dames At Sea ** 1/2
Ripcord **
Hir **
Thérèse Raquin *
King Charles III *** 1/2
Henry IV (Harriet Walter at St. Ann’s) ***
On Your Feet **

_____________

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the founder and CEO of the forthcoming website BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. Trying to decide what to read next? Head to BookFilter! Need a smart and easy gift? Head to BookFilter? Wondering what new titles came out this week in your favorite categories, like cookbooks and mystery and more? Head to BookFilter! It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. It’s like a fall book preview or holiday gift guide — but every week in every category. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day and features top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

Note: Michael Giltz is provided with free tickets to shows with the understanding that he will be writing a review. All productions are in New York City unless otherwise indicated.

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School Theater

Billy’s father picked him up from school to take him to a dental appointment. Knowing the acting roles for the school play were being posted that day,
he asked Billy if he got a part.

Billy enthusiastically announced that he’d gotten a part. “I play a man who’s been married for twenty years.”

“That’s great, son. Keep up the good work and before you know it they’ll be giving you a speaking part.”

Received from Thomas Ellsworth.
The Good, Clean Funnies List

Movie Theater

“Pardon me, lady,” said the man trying to get back to his seat in the darkened movie theater, “but did I step on your toes a few minutes ago?”

“You certainly did!” said the woman in the aisle seat.

“Good, then I’m in the right row,” the man said as he went back to his seat.

Received from Doc’s Daily Chuckle.
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Theater: Solid Sam Shepard, Half-Baked “Barbecue” And Muddled “Old Times”

FOOL FOR LOVE ** 1/2 out of ****
BARBECUE ** 1/2 out of ****
OLD TIMES ** out of ****

FOOL FOR LOVE ** 1/2 out of ****
MANHATTAN THEATRE CLUB AT SAMUEL J. FRIEDMAN THEATRE

I’ve spent my entire adult life watching the stock of playwright Sam Shepard fall. He was at his peak in the 1980s, with that iconic trade paperback of seven plays sporting his handsome mug on the cover.

2015-10-10-1444450776-3565548-SamShepard.jpg

That compilation was just a blip on the radar for Shepard. He starred in the landmark film Days of Heaven in 1978. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his play Buried Child in 1979. He received an Oscar nomination for his great work in 1983’s The Right Stuff, a masterpiece by any measure. He co-wrote the Palme d’Or winner Paris, Texas in 1984, the same year that collection of plays became a fixture in bookstores around the world. No wonder he made the cover of Newsweek in 1986.

The plays kept coming: about one every three years since Seven Plays was published 31 years ago. But cruelly for someone so acclaimed and clearly devoted to his craft, they haven’t become part of the repertory yet, not really. Buried Child played Broadway for two months in 1996. A praised revival of arguably his best play True West had a five month run in 2000 and received three Tony nominations. And now this revival of Fool For Love with Nina Arianda and Sam Rockwell. One play on Broadway in 1996, another in 2000 and now (finally) another in 2015. Shepard’s new work has been seen at various venues Off Broadway to little success.

What do I think of Shepard as a playwright? How would I know? I haven’t had a chance to see his best work performed by committed actors. (No wonder Signature devoted a season to Shepard back in 1996. For all their good work, it’s a pity they don’t continue that tradition.) So it’s a pleasure to see four excellent actors tackle 1983’s Fool For Love. And it’s a disappointment to say that on my first viewing, it feels like a flawed work that has not dated well.

The set-up is simple: May (Arianda) is slumped over, sitting on the edge of a bed in a dumpy hotel room. The cowboy Eddie (Rockwell) is in a corner, taking a break from what is clearly an exhausting battle of wills. Off to the side (In the room? Outside? Metaphorically watching from above?) is an Old Man (Gordon Joseph Weiss). At first May clings to Eddie, then she pushes him away. She claws at him; he threatens her. She orders him to go then begs him to stay. He insists on leaving and then remains. The Old Man watches.

They’re fools for love, obviously, and it’s fun to watch. The tension is real (along with the humor) as we try and figure out who is toying with whom and whether they belong together and if being together will mean more battling or actual, genuine happiness. It feels meaty and real and while hardly revelatory is certainly satisfying, thanks to talent like Rockwell (sneakily charming as always) and Arianda (who is thoroughly at home and not flashy for a single moment despite the acclaim of recent years that might have sent anyone less grounded flying off into space).

Eddie has blown back into town and wants to — maybe — take May away with him. More tension arises for this on-again off-again couple with the arrival of May’s date for the evening, a hapless local fellow (Tom Pelphrey) who just wants to take her out to a movie. Instead he becomes trapped in their game of truth-telling about what is really tearing them apart. Director Daniel Aukin has molded the cast into an excellent ensemble: his two leads are marvelous; Weiss is spot-on and Pelphrey was for me a revelation, wonderfully funny and dim-witted while holding his own onstage with two powerhouses, all with a minimum of dialogue. The tech elements were also strong, though I could have done without two visual and sonic flourishes (once at the beginning and once at the climax) that called too much attention to themselves.

But the play? It revolves around the revelation that this couple is related. They fooled around in high school only to discover that Eddie’s father knocked up May’s mother. Once upon a time, such was the stuff of Greek tragedy. Today it fails to shock (What? No gender confusion?). And once that twist was made clear, the play became less and less compelling. Perhaps I was too quick to credit this production. Certainly in retrospect I didn’t sense the seeds of despair that should be driving it. Eddie’s violence didn’t seem the frustrated violence of one unexpectedly in love with his half-sister, just your run-of-the-mill violence. May’s fickle attitude towards Eddie seemed powered only by his wandering attention, not by the turmoil of a love that dare not speak — or even think — its name.

And where in all this naturalistic fatalism does the rather fantastic off-stage character of The Countess fit in? A nutty rich woman who shoots up hotel rooms and sets fire to trucks hardly squares with a simmering tale aspiring to Sophoclean despair. I felt confusion over the big outburst of the Old Man and just a sense of anti-climax when Eddie and May kiss ferociously at the end. Since they already kissed earlier, the tension for a physical release was already dissipated. Sure, the first time we didn’t know they were siblings, but what might have felt transgressive and powerful at the finale had already been undermined by the play itself.

Shepard is a terrific actor, an admirable artist and devoted to theater. I want to be a fool for his work — I have ever since buying that collection back in college with student loan money I should have saved for food. I just wish I had more chances to judge his work where it belongs: on stage. Surely this showcase for four actors (and True West, which was catnip for the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly) is proof he’s worthy of more attention. It may reveal flaws but that’s better than not being seen at all.

BARBECUE ** 1/2 out of ****
PUBLIC THEATER

Everyone’s faith in playwright Robert O’Hara is thoroughly justified. He’s whip-smart, funny, provocative and has a gift for entertaining. (I’ll take entertaining over deep thoughts any day.) I didn’t go over the moon like some with Booty Candy, but that often hilarious look at growing up gay was bursting with inventiveness, to say the least. Barbecue may be a little more flawed but it confirms O’Hara as a playwright you don’t want to miss. It seems only a matter of time before he hits one out of the park.

A park, actually is the setting for his new play Barbecue. A family is gathered not to grill some meat but to confront one of their siblings, the out of control Barbara. Calling Barbara out of control is really saying something since all the other adults in this family boast a roll call of addictions and pathologies: alcohol, marijuana, meth (maybe), pills (certainly), busted relationships and dead-end jobs are all on the menu.

Barbara may not be quite ready for an intervention. Will she really cotton to the idea of heading to Alaska for yoga and group therapy? But if she gets out of hand — a distinct possibility since razors-hidden-in-the-mouth is one ploy they worry about — well, they’ve always got the rope, duct tape and Taser to fall back on.

So there you have it. A flawed play with a strong first act, a sputtering second act, a good cast and solid tech elements (especially the costumes by Paul Tazewell and the hair and wigs by Leah J. Loukas which work together in ways subtle and clever to keep it funny but real). O’Hara tosses a lot of plates in the air and — while many of them crash — it’s invigorating to watch. Barbecue employs some big switches (just like Fool For Love, which has a big reveal as well). As in Shepard’s play, the Big Reveal is not terribly interesting and makes what came before it less interesting in retrospect. Meta playfulness is irresistible for a playwright with an unbridled imagination. But the discipline of rules and genre and structure (rather than always tearing that structure down) can be just what is needed to give that imagination focus. Here’s hoping O’Hara works to use his distinctive voice in a context less freewheeling just to see what happens. I can’t recommend Barbecue as strongly as Booty Candy. But if you’re in New York City and a regular theater goer, O’Hara is clearly a talent you want to watch develop. By all means go.

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

Why are you still reading? I said spoiler alert! If you have any ability to see the play, walk away please. But Barbecue and its flaws are impossible to discuss without spoiling the multiple tricks that O’Hara plays with us. Literally impossible. So the first half of my review is for anyone who might go see it. Now for posterity, let’s actually discuss the damn thing. Truly, it’s no fun to even KNOW there’s a spoiler much less dissect it. But what can one do? Not talk about the new play by a clearly bursting at the seams talent like O’Hara? So you’ve been amply warned.

The first big reveal is an absolute corker. The family — led by the redoubtable Becky Ann Baker of Freaks & Geeks — has discussed all possibilities while they wait nervously for Barbara. A violent, hilarious peak is reached when the lights go to black, the show pauses very briefly and then the lights come up and the action begins again…but the entire white cast has been replaced by black actors clearly playing the same characters in the same scene. It’s head-spinning, unexpected and marvelously effective in super-charging the action.

The rest of the first act continues this by transitioning back and forth several times between the two sets of actors. A play about white trash has now become a play about black people held down economically. Or is it that a play that didn’t seem to be about race now really is about race? Or maybe it’s not race but class that we’re dealing with? And why am I laughing more with the ensemble of black actors? You immediately question your own prejudices. Am I trained to be embarrassed or less amused by white trash since they reflect poorly on me, a white man? Or am I seductively encouraged to laugh at black folk as a subtle form of racism that reinforces racial stereotypes perpetuated by white society?

Naturally, I decided I wasn’t racist (no one ever decides they are racist, do they?) and that the black cast was in fact stronger across the board. However, I was also aware of a heightened reality present when the black cast was performing. Their roles and jokes were broader and bigger — it was meant to be funnier. I think. Or I’m just a jerk. This was a rich vein O’Hara had opened and it was fully worth exploring for an entire play. Unfortunately…

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

Okay, there’s another Big Reveal. In truth, a great work should be able to survive knowing about the “twist.” You can enjoy and appreciate it even if you know something the original audience didn’t. (It’s a sled.) Still, it’s certainly more fun not knowing, if possible. So if you’re in NYC and might go to the show and kept reading past the first Spoiler Alert, for heaven’s sake, stop now! On the other hand, you’ll find out why the play that started out so strongly became so muddled.

After the switching between casts, act one climaxed with yet another switch. As the black cast was on stage, suddenly Barbara (Tamberla Perry) shouted out “Cut!” and the stage was swarmed by cameramen and sound guys and PAs and all the other folk on a film crew. The audience, already blindsided by the brilliant ploy of swapping out casts, exploded in mirth. So this is being filmed? I assumed it was reality TV we’d be spoofing, but in fact act two revealed that we were watching the actual events of an intervention (later made famous by Barbara’s best-selling triumph-over-addiction memoir) interspersed with a cast of black actors filming it for a movie.

Act Two goes way, way down hill as we jump back a little and watch a world famous Whitney Houston-type singer and actress (played by Perry) meet with the “real” Barbara (Samantha Soule) in that same park. The self-absorbed diva is searching for authentic details and deciding whether to make the movie we’ve watched her film throughout act one. The energy and inventiveness disappears and the play slowly loses steam as it plods to a close.

Perry’s diva is a boring stereotype that also makes no sense: she’s from the ghetto but puts on a fake British accent? When authenticity is the coin of the realm in the pop world and not one she’d run from? We’re supposed to seesaw back and forth as we watch these two women search for power over the other. The movie star blathers on and occasionally reveals how little Barbara means to her. Revelations pile up, each one less meaningful and interesting than the last: the memoir is faked, the diva is an addict, one or both of them is a lesbian and so on.

While act one juxtaposed “real” people with cinematic portrayals that were exaggerated, in act two all we get are “real” people who seem a lot more fake than everyone in act one. Potentially the most powerful scene — when the diva demands the clean Barbara do some crystal meth — becomes a throw-away moment when clearly it should have been the manipulative pivot of the entire act. How far will a diva go to demonstrate power or gain an Oscar worthy project? How far will a recovering addict go to cash in? And does dignity even come into the equation? Everything here is less interesting, including the performances of the two women since their characters become more cardboard by the second.

It’s very confusing. On the one hand, O’Hara clearly has a fertile imagination. On the other hand, he had an absolutely brilliant concept — switching between an all black and all white cast — that was plenty for an entire play. It should have been the sole “trick” in the show, one that was worthy of exploring deeply and imaginatively. I feel almost cheated that this clever and potentially penetrating gambit was squandered. On the other (other?) hand, he came up with that idea, didn’t he?

OLD TIMES ** out of ****
ROUNDABOUT THEATRE COMPANY AT AMERICAN AIRLINES THEATRE

The soufflé did not rise. Truly, what else can one say about a production of Harold Pinter that doesn’t work? One can see a decent production of Oscar Wilde or Horton Foote, a good performance here and there and all of it…okay, But Pinter (and Brecht and that ilk)? Their work is so ambiguous and off kilter that either it clicks or it doesn’t. This one most assuredly doesn’t. That isn’t to say your experience at Pinter is either euphoric or nightmarish. Far from it. The three actors are to varying degrees solid, the production is certainly enjoyably risk-taking (at least visually) and unlike some truly off the rails productions that flop entirely, it’s hardly an endurance test. But does it rise? Does it breathe? Sadly, no.

This is the first time I’ve seen Pinter’s Old Times so I have nothing to compare it to, no way to know what power plays and intriguing shifts in balance can take place when it’s done well. Deely (Clive Owen) and Kate (Kelly Reilly) are at home. I use the term “home” loosely, since the set by Christine Jones depicts a striking vortex looming over them at all times while a giant slab of ice is a stand-in for a door or perhaps a window. A tad abstract, but hardly out of place for the oft-surreal Pinter. They banter about a dinner guest soon to arrive. Anna (Eve Best) is an old friend of Kate, though Kate clarifies by saying Anna was and is her only friend. She has no other friends, not really.

Typically for Pinter, they are fencing with words. Anna arrives and a sexy, provocative presence she is indeed. Anna and Deely seem to be battling each other for supremacy; they’re trying to prove which one of them is more important, more crucial to Kate (or at least the person Kate has become)? Inevitably, the somewhat passive Kate will make her own move for domination before all is said and done.

Reilly is the least satisfying here and Best the most. Owen is very solidly in the middle, proving himself a strong and promising stage presence, fully at home and ready to play. One must point the finger at director Douglas Hodge. Whatever music is to be found in this Pinter play remains unheard. Whatever drama, mostly unseen. Whatever sense the scenic design and the vaguely period costumes of Constance Hoffman might have made unexplained. Whatever impact the modest visual and sonic pow of key moments delivered by Thom Yorke (music), Japhy Weideman (lighting) and sound (Clive Goodwin) unfelt.

I really have no idea what Pinter is up to in this play. But I’m certain Hodge and his team haven’t figured it out either.

THEATER OF 2015

Honeymoon In Vegas **
The Woodsman ***
Constellations ** 1/2
Taylor Mac’s A 24 Decade History Of Popular Music 1930s-1950s ** 1/2
Let The Right One In **
Da no rating
A Month In The Country ** 1/2
Parade in Concert at Lincoln Center ** 1/2
Hamilton at the Public ***
The World Of Extreme Happiness ** 1/2
Broadway By The Year 1915-1940 **
Verite * 1/2
Fabulous! *
The Mystery Of Love & Sex **
An Octoroon at Polonsky Shakespeare Center *** 1/2
Fish In The Dark *
The Audience ***
Josephine And I ***
Posterity * 1/2
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame **
Lonesome Traveler **
On The Twentieth Century ***
Radio City Music Hall’s New York Spring Spectacular ** 1/2
The Heidi Chronicles *
The Tallest Tree In The Forest * 1/2
Broadway By The Year: 1941-1965 ***
Twelfth Night by Bedlam ***
What You Will by Bedlam *** 1/2
Wolf Hall Parts I and II ** 1/2
Skylight ***
Nellie McKay at 54 Below ***
Ludic Proxy ** 1/2
It Shoulda Been You **
Finding Neverland ** 1/2
Hamlet w Peter Sarsgaard at CSC no stars
The King And I ***
Marilyn Maye — Her Way: A Tribute To Frank Sinatra at 54 Below ***
Gigi * 1/2
An American In Paris ** 1/2
Doctor Zhivago no stars
Fun Home **
Living On Love * 1/2
Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation ***
Airline Highway * 1/2
The Two Gentlemen Of Verona (Fiasco Theatre) ***
The Visit (w Chita Rivera) ** 1/2
The Sound And The Fury (ERS) **
Broadway By The Year: 1966-1990 ***
The Spoils * 1/2
Ever After (at Papermill) **
Heisenberg *** 1/2
An Act Of God **
The National High School Musical Theatre Awards ***
Amazing Grace *
The Absolute Brightness Of Leonard Pelkey ** 1/2
Cymbeline (Shakespeare in the Park w Rabe and Linklater) ***
Hamilton *** 1/2
The Christians ***
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Pearl Theatre Company) ** 1/2
Spring Awakening (w Deaf Theatre West) *** 1/2
Daddy Long Legs **
Reread Another **
Fool For Love (w Nina Arianda and Sam Rockwell) ** 1/2
Barbecue (at Public) **
Old Times (w Clive Owen) **

_____________

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the founder and CEO of the forthcoming website BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. Trying to decide what to read next? Head to BookFilter! Need a smart and easy gift? Head to BookFilter? Wondering what new titles came out this week in your favorite categories, like cookbooks and mystery and more? Head to BookFilter! It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. It’s like a fall book preview or holiday gift guide — but every week in every category. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day and features top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

Note: Michael Giltz is provided with free tickets to shows with the understanding that he will be writing a review. All productions are in New York City unless otherwise indicated.

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Theater: Glorious “Spring,” Sugar “Daddy,” Stingy Stein

SPRING AWAKENING (2015) ***1/2 out of ****
DADDY LONG LEGS ** out of ****
REREAD ANOTHER ** out of ****

SPRING AWAKENING (2015) ***1/2 out of ****
BROOKS ATKINSON THEATRE

When Deaf Theatre West came to Broadway in 2003 with its acclaimed revival of Big River, I was bummed not to get a chance to see it. Like many, I was intrigued. A deaf theater company. Doing a musical? What did that even mean, I and perhaps the clueless like me in the hearing community wondered. It sounded fascinating, to say the least. An interesting experiment. I was sorry to miss it.

Now having seen their revival of Spring Awakening on Broadway, I know exactly what I missed back in 2003: great theater. Like an all-male As You Like It or an all-female Julius Caesar, like an all-Asian Death Of A Salesman or any other such approach to the canon, these unified takes on casting or performing can offer insights both large and small, inspire staging and reveal meaning quite unexpected and refreshing. Done as a stunt, none of these approaches mean a thing. Done with purpose and artistry and a desire to find connections and inspire performances, they are revitalizing.

That’s the case here, with the doubling up of key characters underlining their isolation and inability to communicate, with signing becoming as intimate and moving as a whisper, with silence the most powerful moment in a musical filled with great numbers.

Spring Awakening left Broadway just six years ago. And its original cast — Jonathan Groff, John Gallagher Jr. and Lea Michele — left huge shoes to fill. But it’s a delight to see the story has lost none of its impact, the score and songs none of their dusky, moody impact.

Teenagers in the late 1800s of Germany feel unduly repressed. Like teenagers everywhere, they question everything and want to know everything…now! Melchior (a handsome Austin P. McKenzie) is a budding thinker who refuses to attend church and tries to console his sex-obsessed friend Moritz (a convincingly troubled Daniel N. Durant) with the facts of life. Wendla (a fresh-faced and appealing Sandra Mae Frank) simply wants to know where babies come from, something her mother (Camryn Manheim) is incapable of explaining. Hanschen (Andy Mientus, so good in the original cast of the new Les Miz) just wants to sleep with anything that moves. The school they attend –mirroring the times — insists all deaf students learn to speak instead of sign and punishes those who won’t or simply don’t gain fluency as failures. Hearing a teacher mock a student’s attempts to verbalize Latin is haunting. Their parents are dour and disapproving and demanding, when not downright abusive. It won’t end well.

Spring Awakening is a signal moment in musical theater. This is the show that made rock n roll truly belong on Broadway — not as a jukebox musical or as nostalgia or for specific shows drawn from rock albums but as a specific voice and style that earned a permanent place on the stage alongside country and folk and blues and Tin Pan Alley. It’s never left since. Spring Awakening returns just as the show’s creatives return: Steven Sater has School Of Rock later this year and Duncan Sheik has American Psycho in the spring. It should give them courage to see how vibrant and moving their breakthrough remains.

Director Michael Arden honors the original while putting his own touches on it in ways large and small, from the intertwined bodies of students that form a tree to the coup de théâtre at the end which makes use of the show’s gunmetal grey look throughout for a final breathtaking glimpse of a brighter future during the closer “”The Song Of Purple Summer.” He proves himself a director of the first order. The work of choreographer Spencer Liff and the rest of the technical team is similarly inspired.

The signing throughout is just lovely and poetic, often spreading from the person speaking to the cast as a whole, becoming as important visually as the movement or the set or the lighting.

The cast as a whole is sexy and talented, from the moment they come onstage in their underwear to dress in front of us before the beginning right to the finale where they strip back down again, emphasizing the innocent beauty of youth that has nothing to be ashamed of, whatever parents or society might say. (No wonder teenagers love this show.)

Artistically, the production is unified and strong from start to finish. Its weakness mainly comes in some vocals, normally a fatal flaw in a musical but not here. McKenzie is an appealing lead and a deeply sympathetic presence throughout. I worried he didn’t have the power to put across the climactic “Totally Fucked” but in fact McKenzie came through in stellar fashion. While Durant has the turmoil of Moritz down pat, Alex Boniello couldn’t match him as the Voice Of Moritz (and fell way short of Tony winner John Gallagher Jr. who blew the roof off with these same songs). Similarly, Kathryn Gallagher’s bluesy mama take on the Voice Of Martha failed to impress, though in this case it felt of a piece with the unsatisfying work of Treshelle Edmond. (To be fair, the role is brief and not terribly interesting, though somehow Lilli Cooper made something of it in the original.) The great Marlee Matlin simply has little to work with in several one-note adult roles.

Patrick Page and Manheim were able to make more of their various roles, thanks to the many opportunities they had to give voice to others as well. And how did this work, with one actor performing a character and another actor sometimes giving them voice in line reading or song? In general, one simply watched the performer who embodied the character, while the voice or the singing did its work. Sometimes lines appeared on screens or chalkboards, sometimes they were spoken and signed, sometimes just signed but always the visual impact was clear and the doubling or tripling of a line was clarifying and powerful, never confusing.

Both Mae Frank as Wendla and Katie Boeck worked in synergy to create an angelic, sweet but troubled Wendla, the girl who felt herself confusedly aroused by the idea of punishment. The devilishly sexy Mientus and the innocent (?) Joshua Castille had great fun in the seduction scene “The Word Of Your Body.” And the winning McKenzie (an excellent actor) made you believe Melchior would rise above this brutal start to demand a better world.

And all of this discussion of individual performances underplays the overall impact of a show that is truly conceived and performed as a unified whole, with the cast moving in concert and reinforcing dramatic scenes in powerful ways. Arden and the design team work together seamlessly, building the story element by element, overpowering the melodrama inherent in the original play with sophisticated verve, creating a second act that builds on the first right up to a finale that really is a triumph. It was like seeing Spring Awakening for the first time. Or should I say, like hearing it in a new way.

DADDY LONG LEGS ** out of ****
DAVENPORT THEATRE

Few remember Jean Webster’s epistolary novel Daddy Long Legs. It features a spunky, winning orphan a la Anne Of Green Gables and so many other tales, but somehow hasn’t retained its hold on readers. A pity, since the book is a charmer. Still, it’s endured long enough to be made into a film at least four times (including Mary Pickford, Janet Gaynor, Leslie Caron and even Shirley Temple as our heroine) and presumably adapted for the stage just as often.

Those coming to this two-hander musical fresh will find it innocuously pleasant if somehow unsatisfying when all is said and done. Those who have read the book will be more confused, wondering how the essentially bright and witty tale became so quiet and rather mournful. That shouldn’t dim the pleasure of two solid performers doing their best, namely Megan McGinnis as the orphan Jerusha and Paul Alexander Nolan as her benefactor and eventual love Jervis.

In the show, Jerusha is”The Oldest Orphan In The John Grier Home,” as McGinnis charmingly sings in the opening number. She’s 18 and quite clever, industriously helping at the dour but competent orphanage where she must depend on charity for housing or brave the cold streets alone. What more can she hope for? Quite a bit, since Jerusha now has great expectations: one of the home’s patrons has decided to send her to college. Jerusha will go to school and have everything she needs paid for (including a king’s ransom of $ 35 a month allowance — in 1909, mind you — so she can “fit in”). In return, she will never know her patron’s name but must write to him as “John Smith” once a month with a report on her progress.

Soon Jerusha is off at school, making friends and delighting in the opportunity to learn (and buy pretty dresses; she’s not a saint, after all). She assumes her patron is quite old and grey-haired (if he’s not bald, that is) and has the idea he is very tall. So she dubs him “Daddy Long Legs” and writes him far more than once a month. In fact, her patron is the youngish and handsome Jervis Pendleton, the eccentric uncle of one of her schoolmates. Despite his better judgment, Jervis is charmed by her letters. Soon he is re-reading the books Jerusha is reading, visiting her with the pretext of checking on his niece and of course falling hopelessly in love. Jerusha quite likes this Jervis, though he is far from the only young man paying her attention. Yet her sad background worries her.

Could any man of standing approve of an orphan? And Jervis worries, will Jerusha forgive his deception? Can he get her to love him as Jervis before discovering Jervis is her patron and then perhaps, horribly, feeling obliged to marry him? Well, really, have you never read Anne Of Green Gables or Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm and the like? The pleasure is in getting to know the characters, after all, not the suspense of their presumably happy fates.

Daddy Long Legs has been turned into a movie at least four times, including the godawful musical version starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron. That’s a little surprising since it’s an epistolary novel and almost all the letters are written by Jerusha to her unknown patron. It is, essentially, a monologue. The charm comes in falling in love with this intelligent young woman and slowly imagining her patron is falling in love with her as well. The modest suspense comes in wondering if the handsome young Jervis and her benefactor are one and the same.

This show lacks that suspense of course: we know Jervis is her patron from the start. So here the suspense must come in getting to know him as well, along with his dilemma about when to reveal this double identity. Notably, the songs for Jerusha often pull from lines in the book and feel more specific and alive. The songs for Jervis must be created from whole cloth; time and again the music and lyrics of Paul Gordon fall short. Whether because of clunky lines or confused references to the Camelot tale of the Lady In the Lake or a never fleshed-out backstory of a broken heart, the songs and story of Jervis remain unsatisfying.

The problems reach their peak with his big number “Charity.” Suddenly Jervis is denouncing charity as corrosive, as building up a wall between the giver and the receiver, a wall that can never be scaled. Huh? This is bizarre on many levels. The story celebrates charity and in the case of Jervis, the noble act of charity has done exactly the opposite of what he claims: without expecting anything in return, Jervis has found his wall scaled and his heart opened by another. So what exactly is he complaining about? (The book by John Caird with its hints as to why Jervis is closed-off to feeling is surely at fault here too. We simply don’t know why this man is such an emotional recluse, despite a vague reference to him being dumped for a duke many years ago.)

The songs for Jerusha are better, especially when peppy. But the arrangements and chamber feel of the show emphasize the romantic and even mournful undertones of the work. Since we don’t know where Jervis has begun, it’s hard to follow him on his journey to love. When they finally meet, Jerusha’s anger and then abrupt declaration of love feels both obvious and undramatic. We know her well, but after two hours we still don’t know him. John Caird has provided a showcase for two actors, not a satisfying work.

And that takes care of the show they made. What remains are many confused questions about why they made this show out of this book. First and foremost, there is the overall tone. The novel is a delight to read. Webster’s heroine is funny and smart and self-aware. But you certainly wouldn’t know that watching this. Humor is modestly present but more often the tone is dramatic and serious rather than exciting and fun. Jerusha is a firecracker and that’s clear from the start of the novel. Instead of “John Smith” as requested, she calls her patron “Daddy Long Legs.” She plays with the form of a letter to reflect her many studies. (Something the show attempts poorly.) The focus is always on learning and how Jerusha discovers a world of possibilities. The real adventure is knowledge, education, trying and succeeding at becoming a writer and discovering oneself. It is not about falling in love and being rescued by a man.

In the novel, when she talks about seeing Hamlet performed for the first time, Jerusha drolly says this Shakespeare fellow really is good, despite her having assumed he was coasting on reputation all this time. It captures both her genuine excitement at seeing a great play for the first time, her self-aware lack of experience (she’s seen precious little if any live theater) but without downplaying her innate intelligence, never more exemplified than by her awareness of how much she has yet to learn. This understanding of her meaning is perfectly in sync with the cheeky, witty tone she sets at the start of the book. But in the show, the lines are split up between Jerusha and Jervis and played straight; we’re allowed some condescending pleasure at her naive appreciation of the Bard, a la Educating Rita.

It typifies the show’s confused attitude towards Jerusha. Yes, the novel will end with a conventional happy ending of marriage. But Jerusha is hardly conventional: she touts education for women, argues for getting the vote and expresses a rather shocking disregard for organized religion if not downright atheistic thoughts (in 1909!). So why when she displays her first new dress do we see a sparkly virginal white one that looks for all the world like a wedding gown, as if her only dream was to be a bride? Being a bride is quite the last thing on her mind. She wants to be a writer and a reformer and a citizen, thank you very much. The novel describes Jerusha first buying SIX new dresses — she describes them all and none of them are white. Yes, white is an appropriate color for a woman her age when stepping out, but seeing it sends entirely the wrong signal.

Similarly, the production design sets all the action in Jervis’s world since we’re nominally in the library where he reads her letters. Fine enough and it’s a warm inviting room for any booklover. When Jerusha heads to a farm towards the end of act one, the windows are opened wide and the light streams in to indicate clear country air. Good. But in the second act, those windows are left open throughout. I kept thinking, are we back in the country?

The one unquestionably dated element of the book is that Jerusha often calls her benefactor “Daddy.” It’s forgivable since she imagines he is in his eighties and never had a father of her own. But since we have modern ears and sense her benefactor and her true love will be one and the same quite soon, it’s creepy to readers of today. She also has many other nicknames for him so this dated wording is easily fixed for the show. And yet, bizarrely, they remain adamantly faithful to the book and have Jerusha call him Daddy quite often. (Yes, “Daddy” is easier to fit into songs but that’s no excuse.)

And finally, in a perverse reversal, they ignore the book — and indeed every other adaptation of the novel I’m aware of — and call our heroine “Jerusha” from start to finish. Now Jerusha is a horrible name and it was randomly chosen for her at the orphanage, just one sign of many that reform is needed. As soon as she gets the chance, Jerusha dubs herself “Judy.” Wouldn’t you, given a name like Jerusha? Even in 1909? She announces this name change in the third or fourth letter of the book. It echoes what every reader has been thinking and proves early on that Judy nee Jerusha is an independent, confident, spunky sort thoroughly deserving our admiration. And of course “Judy” works much better in lyrics. Instead we have Jervis singing about “Jerusha” and how much he loves “Jerusha” and adores “Jerusha” and we think, couldn’t you give her a nickname please? Jerusha may be the least romantic name around and since Jerusha herself changes it to Judy and every other adaptation has eagerly done the same, it remains unfathomable as to why this show doesn’t. “Daddy” is a little icky but “Jerusha” is downright unforgivable. Certainly Jerusha would never approve.

REREAD ANOTHER ** out of ****
THE BRICK IN BROOKLYN

Having recently seen the Gertrude Stein children’s book The World Is Round turned into a captivating evening of theater, I was intrigued by Target Margin tackling her rarely performed 1921 puzzler Reread Another A Play To Be Played Indoors or Out I Wish To Be A School. A stage filled with detritus from a party long over is the setting. The game cast composed of Clare Barron, Purva Bedi, Ugo Chuckwu (and honorary cast member and sound man Jesse Freedman) give their energetic all, led by director David Herskovits. It’s not enough.

If the title alone makes you wary, stay away. If you’re willing to give a talented cast your focused attention, you will be rewarded with some potent imagery, some poignant moments where leaves are falling and music is playing and emotion is conjured out of thin air.

But you soon realize the text is stuff and nonsense. Without some structure imposed on it by the director, without discovering some internal rhythm that makes it sing, it remains a disconnected series of bits. Snatches of dialogue, ideas proffered up then batted away, word play that soon becomes work — it’s all here, unfortunately, and nothing more. Still, one respects the attempt, the dedication to following wherever the author leads, especially when it’s clear that — as a dramatic work — the author has led you astray.

THEATER OF 2015

Honeymoon In Vegas **
The Woodsman ***
Constellations ** 1/2
Taylor Mac’s A 24 Decade History Of Popular Music 1930s-1950s ** 1/2
Let The Right One In **
Da no rating
A Month In The Country ** 1/2
Parade in Concert at Lincoln Center ** 1/2
Hamilton at the Public ***
The World Of Extreme Happiness ** 1/2
Broadway By The Year 1915-1940 **
Verite * 1/2
Fabulous! *
The Mystery Of Love & Sex **
An Octoroon at Polonsky Shakespeare Center *** 1/2
Fish In The Dark *
The Audience ***
Josephine And I ***
Posterity * 1/2
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame **
Lonesome Traveler **
On The Twentieth Century ***
Radio City Music Hall’s New York Spring Spectacular ** 1/2
The Heidi Chronicles *
The Tallest Tree In The Forest * 1/2
Broadway By The Year: 1941-1965 ***
Twelfth Night by Bedlam ***
What You Will by Bedlam *** 1/2
Wolf Hall Parts I and II ** 1/2
Skylight ***
Nellie McKay at 54 Below ***
Ludic Proxy ** 1/2
It Shoulda Been You **
Finding Neverland ** 1/2
Hamlet w Peter Sarsgaard at CSC no stars
The King And I ***
Marilyn Maye — Her Way: A Tribute To Frank Sinatra at 54 Below ***
Gigi * 1/2
An American In Paris ** 1/2
Doctor Zhivago no stars
Fun Home **
Living On Love * 1/2
Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation ***
Airline Highway * 1/2
The Two Gentlemen Of Verona (Fiasco Theatre) ***
The Visit (w Chita Rivera) ** 1/2
The Sound And The Fury (ERS) **
Broadway By The Year: 1966-1990 ***
The Spoils * 1/2
Ever After (at Papermill) **
Heisenberg *** 1/2
An Act Of God **
The National High School Musical Theatre Awards ***
Amazing Grace *
The Absolute Brightness Of Leonard Pelkey ** 1/2
Cymbeline (Shakespeare in the Park w Rabe and Linklater) ***
Hamilton *** 1/2
The Christians ***
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Pearl Theatre Company) ** 1/2

_____________

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the founder and CEO of the forthcoming website BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. Trying to decide what to read next? Head to BookFilter! Need a smart and easy gift? Head to BookFilter? Wondering what new titles came out this week in your favorite categories, like cookbooks and mystery and more? Head to BookFilter! It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. It’s like a fall book preview or holiday gift guide — but every week in every category. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day and features top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

Note: Michael Giltz is provided with free tickets to shows with the understanding that he will be writing a review. All productions are in New York City unless otherwise indicated.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.




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NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL THEATRE AWARDS *** out of ****
MINSKOFF THEATRE

Summertime may be slow for new shows on Broadway, but it’s a great chance for other events to garner attention. The August Wilson Monologue Competition in May spotlights USA’s greatest playwright and gives high school kids from around the country a chance to sink their teeth into his work. If you’re planning a visit to the city in July, checking out the brand new musicals getting full productions in the New York Musical Theatre Festival from July 7-27 is an absolute must.

And in June, savvy theater buffs check out the talent on display at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. Hosted by two time Tony winner Michael Cerveris, the awards offer scholarships to deserving winners, give 52 talented teens a chance to be mentored, receive top notch coaching, work with directors and choreographers and then perform numbers on a Broadway stage. But put all that good work aside: it’s just a fun evening of entertainment and you invariably spot a star or two of tomorrow. They’re nicknamed the Jimmy, in honor of James Nederlander, who has been working in the theater world for 86 years (he started sweeping the floors for his dad when he was 7) and was proudly in attendance.

The evening is split into two parts. In the first half, six groups of performers do medleys of songs from the musical that took them from their local schools to regional competitions to New York City. Numbers are strung together very cleverly, often with two or more actors who tackled Mary Poppins or Doctor Frankenstein or the lead in Big Fish (apparently a big show in high schools last year!) trading off lines in clever ways. Based on this night’s entertainment (and a full solo performance by each actor the day before for a panel of judges) six finalists are selected. In the second act, three men and three women do another number and two winners are chosen.

It’s a fun night worth every penny, with the money going to fund the evening and all the arts outreach done by the various groups involved with the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. Naturally, the audience is filled with family and friends. Yet it’s a shame more casting directors and agents don’t flock to the show because there’s a lot of talent here. They really should post the solo performances from Sunday of all 52 performers online, not to mention the medleys and solo numbers done live on stage Monday night. Why not showcase their talent as much as possible?

The performers themselves give you hope for musical theater when you realize how much work they put into learning their choreography, the group numbers, the lyrics of the other songs in their medleys AND bits of business to do throughout. All in less than a week. Much credit for the night goes to director Van Kaplan, choreographer Kiesha Lalama and musical director and arranger Michael Moricz, who do a sterling job in a very short amount of time molding these kids into a satisfying ensemble.

I’m not quite sure who to credit for the creative decisions that turn 52 individual performances into a medley. Vast fun is had in transitioning from one song into another, often to humorous effect. Wisely, they focus on turning out a good show, rather than worrying about shortchanging one performer or another. There’s simply no good way to showcase three different actors who played the same role and each gets a chance to strut their stuff the day before. Witty moments abound and it’s surely a group effort of all involved, though Kaplan’s name is at the top as director.

The highlight was unquestionably having the maid in Caroline, Or Change bemoan her job and then having two of the four actresses who played Mary Poppins assure Caroline that “In every job that must be done/ there is an element of fun.” Clearly a tremendous effort has been made to give all the actors bits of business: they stay in character even when performing in the ensemble or passing off the baton from one performer to the next, often getting little laughs but never, ever upstaging one another or interfering with the overall flow.

Marla Louissant was the night’s standout and won Best Actress for her performance as Caroline, as well as a solo turn doing “I’m Here” from The Color Purple. The judges have a lot more to draw upon when making their choices than the audience but there was no doubting Louissant’s talent as an actress and singer. If the new Broadway revival of The Color Purple didn’t already have its star, Louissant would be ready to make the leap today, just as a runner up from two years ago jumped right into the West End revival of Miss Saigon.

Anthony Skillman won Best Actor after doing a number from Tarzan and a solo turn from Parade, specifically Frankie’s angry soliloquy “It Don’t Make Sense.” And Skillman proved Tony ready in his endearing acceptance speech, giving a happy shout out to the Supreme Court decision for marriage equality and thanking his parents in the audience in the same breath.

Here’s Skillman doing a performance of a medley during one of the regional events leading up to the finals.

Yet they were far from the only story here. I circled six people as locks for the finals (I got three right) and another ten as very promising talents. So more applause for Kylie Lynn Heyman who gave verve to Reno Sweeney of Anything Goes. I was certain she’d be one of the finalists! Travis Anderson was a long-limbed Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, also from Anything Goes (but a different production), creating a full comic performance in about 90 seconds. He was matched by Zac Gottschall’s equally winning Horace Vandergelder from Hello, Dolly and Larry McKay’s charming J. Pierrepont Finch from How To Succeed.

Marnie Quick made the tricky Bacharach/David tune “Wishin’ And Hopin'” seem easy. She too was a deserved finalist. Aleksander Papanastasopoules had by far the best name of the night and was a very good Javert, matched by Evatt Salinger’s convincing Jean Valjean. Kamari A. Saxon was the lucky talent who earned a scholarship to attend Carnegie Mellon’s pre-College Drama Program. (I wish I’d been able to hear his performance from Violet in full.) Noah Barnes was a natural for Joe Hardy from Damn Yankees he’s too handsome and gifted with such a classic, gorgeous Broadway voice (he opened his mouth and filled the Minskoff with ease) that you have to believe this won’t be the last time Barnes will be on stage in New York.

Finally, my vote for Best Actor based simply on what I saw this night was for finalist Alec Michael Ryan who was excellent as Laurence in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and — like Louissant — had one of the night’s cleverest transitions and made the most of it, in his case playing off Les Miserables. His solo turn (“Who I’d Be” from Shrek The Musical) jand medley number both felt like complete performances as both actor and singer. I don’t always say that with the pros being paid to perform on Broadway every night but I’m saying it about him. And I’d happily pay to see him perform again.

THEATER OF 2015

Honeymoon In Vegas **
The Woodsman ***
Constellations ** 1/2
Taylor Mac’s A 24 Decade History Of Popular Music 1930s-1950s ** 1/2
Let The Right One In **
Da no rating
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The World Of Extreme Happiness ** 1/2
Broadway By The Year 1915-1940 **
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Fabulous! *
The Mystery Of Love & Sex **
An Octoroon at Polonsky Shakespeare Center *** 1/2
Fish In The Dark *
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Lonesome Traveler **
On The Twentieth Century ***
Radio City Music Hall’s New York Spring Spectacular ** 1/2
The Heidi Chronicles *
The Tallest Tree In The Forest * 1/2
Broadway By The Year: 1941-1965 ***
Twelfth Night by Bedlam ***
What You Will by Bedlam *** 1/2
Wolf Hall Parts I and II ** 1/2
Skylight ***
Nellie McKay at 54 Below ***
Ludic Proxy ** 1/2
It Shoulda Been You **
Finding Neverland ** 1/2
Hamlet w Peter Sarsgaard at CSC no stars
The King And I ***
Marilyn Maye — Her Way: A Tribute To Frank Sinatra at 54 Below ***
Gigi * 1/2
An American In Paris ** 1/2
Doctor Zhivago no stars
Fun Home **
Living On Love * 1/2
Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation ***
Airline Highway * 1/2
The Two Gentlemen Of Verona (Fiasco Theatre) ***
The Visit (w Chita Rivera) ** 1/2
The Sound And The Fury (ERS) **
Broadway By The Year: 1966-1990 ***
The Spoils * 1/2
Ever After (at Papermill) **
Heisenberg *** 1/2
An Act Of God **
The National High School Musical Theatre Awards ***

_____________

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the founder and CEO of the forthcoming website BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. Trying to decide what to read next? Head to BookFilter! Need a smart and easy gift? Head to BookFilter? Wondering what new titles came out this week in your favorite categories, like cookbooks and mystery and more? Head to BookFilter! It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. It’s like a fall book preview or holiday gift guide — but every week in every category. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day and features top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

Note: Michael Giltz is provided with free tickets to shows with the understanding that he will be writing a review. All productions are in New York City unless otherwise indicated.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.



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In immersive theater audiences join the show

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Backstage At The Beacon Theater

Backstage At The Beacon Theater

Backstage At The Beacon Theater 1:29
Dave Attell, Judd Apatow, Colin Quinn, and Mike Birbiglia drop names in the elevator of the world-famous Beacon Theater in New York City.
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Audio Archive Presents Dashiell Hammett’s ‘the Thin Man’: A LUX Theater Episode Plus Special Commentary – Dashiell Hammett

Dashiell Hammett - Audio Archive Presents Dashiell Hammett's 'the Thin Man': A LUX Theater Episode Plus Special Commentary  artwork

Audio Archive Presents Dashiell Hammett’s ‘the Thin Man’: A LUX Theater Episode Plus Special Commentary

Dashiell Hammett

Genre: Arts & Entertainment

Price: $ 0.95

Publish Date: April 10, 2006

© ℗ © 2006 Renaissance E Books Inc.

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‘Ever After’: Theater Review


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Theater: Eisenberg’s “Spoils;” Cinderella…Again

THE SPOILS * 1/2 out of ****
EVER AFTER ** out of ****

THE SPOILS * 1/2 out of ****
THE NEW GROUP AT SIGNATURE THEATRE

It’s shaping up to be a stellar year for Jesse Eisenberg. He has a collection of short stories (Bream Gives Me Hiccups) due out September 8. He’s got several strong festival films due out in the fall, including a flick about writer David Foster Wallace and one about a family recovering from the death of their mother. As a perfect capper to those art house projects, Eisenberg is the next Lex Luthor, has a sequel to Now You See Me and a role in the next Woody Allen movie.

And here he is writing and starring in a new play. You might think Eisenberg would write a role for himself that others haven’t: a charming romance, for example. Instead, The Spoils is exactly what you might expect for a stereotypical Eisenberg role. He plays a hyper-verbal, prickly, downright unlikable fellow with obsessions and rages and simmering self-loathing. Romance can wait.

Wisely, Eisenberg is surrounded by a strong cast and the capable direction of Scott Elliott. The Spoils wears out its welcome long before it’s over (and long after we realize it doesn’t know where it’s going) but it’s certainly given a first-class production any playwright would appreciate.

Eisenberg is Ben, a would-be filmmaker who enjoys the luxury of a nice apartment and endless funds to keep him happily situated while he (sort of) tries to make it in the movie industry. HIs roommate Kalyan (Kunal Nayyar) lives rent-free on Ben’s insistence. Kalyan is Nepalese and he’s written a book on the economic situation of his home country. Thanks to Ben’s largesse, Kalyan doesn’t have to deliver pizzas anymore. But despite an excellent degree and being a published author on economic issues, Kalyan can’t seem to get entree to Wall Street so he can gain some practical experience. He’s simply too self-effacing.

It could be worse. At least Kalyan has a girlfriend, the attractive and driven Reshma (a fun Annapurna Sriram) who can barely contain her disdain for the rude and overbearing Ben. Ben is so filled with quirks and lies and self-destructive egomania that it’s no surprise he doesn’t have a girlfriend. Of course, Ben would be the first to insist he doesn’t want one. Then he unexpectedly bumps into a kid he grew up with named Ted (Michael Zegen). Ben is flummoxed to hear Ted is marrying his first and only crush Sarah (Erin Darke, solid). Ben immediately invites them over with the implausible scheme of reminding Sarah how much they liked each other when they were eight, ending her engagement and getting Sarah for himself. Needless to say, it doesn’t end well.

Ben is a confusing character. For the first 30 minutes, he has an aggressive energy that keeps the show lively. First, Ben has a playful bromance of a friendship with Kalyan, who seems both understanding of Ben’s insecurities and the only person who can keep Ben in check. It’s a genuinely odd friendship and not simply a case of Ben dominating Kalyan or Kalyan sucking up to keep his free room. The comic momentum grows with the introduction of Ted, an amusingly simple financial dude who takes people at face value and always seems to be laughing two or three steps behind everyone else but doesn’t really mind. Both Nayyar of The Big Bang Theory and Zegen (who was acclaimed for Bad Jews) are excellent, especially early on.

Yet just as we think we know Ben and his relationship with Kalyan, it shifts into something entirely new. When Sarah shows up, Ben is not dominating in a hatefully pushy manner; he’s needy and ineffectually rude and the idea he might actually woo Sarah or even make it through the evening without being hospitalized is hard to swallow. His self-lacerating attitude grows more out of control to the point where you can’t understand why everyone doesn’t just stay away from his toxic meltdown. Ben’s boasts and lies are sadly transparent to everyone but him. He never seems strong enough to bring anyone else down with him, so there’s no real tension.

A very long first act is followed by a shorter but somehow more drawn-out second one. The story, which was always more intellectual fireworks than flesh and blood, becomes increasingly divorced from reality until the artificiality of it all becomes overwhelming. Revelations are made, characters behave in ways that make no sense and almost none of it adds up, down to the final speech and abrupt fade out. It’s never a good sign when characters and plot grow more mystifying as the show goes on. Eisenberg has some good dialogue and deft characterization, but spoils whatever groundwork he and this cast accomplish at the start.

EVER AFTER ** out of ****
PAPERMILL PLAYHOUSE

Cinderella is put through her paces yet again in a world premiere musical directed by Tony winner Kathleen Marshall. The actors are pros throughout and the presentation solid. But nothing can disguise the very familiar feeling of the modernized book and the mildly pleasant but difficult to remember songs and score of Ever After. Following on the heels of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Papermill has again showcased a work in the best possible light but it’s not enough to make the work worthy of such care.

One could imagine the hit film’s cachet and the easy familiarity of Cinderella might get this produced regionally and at community theaters. But it’s hard to imagine why they wouldn’t just choose the Rodgers & Hammerstein Cinderella instead, since that show has a spunkily modern book as well, not to mention much better songs.

You know the story, though in this umpteenth telling there are some songs but no real magic (in more than one sense of the word). Danielle nee Cinderella (Margo Seibert) has a wicked stepmother (Christine Ebersole), a cruel stepsister and a kind but ineffectual stepsister. She takes solace in her books a la Belle, especially Thomas More’s Utopia, the last book her late father ever shared with Danielle.

The handsome Prince (James Snyder) doesn’t really like the idea of an arranged marriage and runs away, only to cross paths with the commoner Danielle, who pummels him with apples for trying to steal her father’s horse and then pummels him with quotes from Utopia when the Prince isn’t suitably class conscious. They bicker, they fight, they kiss, she’s afraid to reveal her lowly stature, the evil stepmother will do anything to make her spoiled daughter the next Queen and it all comes out in the wash.

Ever After has echoes of Disney’s Beauty And The Beast and Camelot and a dozen other fairy tales, without ever really establishing a style or tone of its own.

It’s also oddly conflict-free. Time and again, problems are raised and then immediately solved. A servant and friend of Danielle is wrongly accused of stealing and sent away? In the next scene Danielle receives gold coins and buys his freedom. The Prince balks over having to marry a Princess of Spain? The King quickly allows the Prince to marry whomever he chooses. The Prince and Danielle are kidnapped by gypsy thieves? They immediately declare her their Queen and start dancing for joy. Again and again, a plot twist threatens for just a moment before it’s dismissed.

That book is by Marcy Heisler. It’s not helped much by the songs (the music is by Zina Goldrich and the lyrics by Heisler). Most have a mid-tempo, gently comic tone to them and are fine enough. They just aren’t memorable enough or worse, memorable for the wrong reasons like the tepid Act One closer “Out Of The Darkness” (which of course follows that title with “into the light”).

A handful of exceptions stand out. “Who Needs Love?” and “My Cousin’s Cousin” are enjoyable amusing tunes, along with “Is There Anything Leonardo Can’t Do?,” a second act highlight with Marshall’s most satisfying choreography and staging. But without question the show’s peak moment dramatically and musically is Ebersole’s rendition of “After All,” in which the stepmother bares her soul to Danielle in the cruelest but most human fashion.

Indeed, the show is blessed with a strong cast (especially the women) that elevates the material tremendously. Seibert and Snyder are a handsome couple as Danielle and the Prince, doing what they can with rote material. Tony winner Ebersole almost single-handedly brings complexity to the show. But there’s also the marvelous Julie Halston putting her droll spin on the Queen of France, Charles Shaughnessy as the King and Tony Sheldon as Leonardo Da Vinci. In utterly thankless smaller roles, Annie Funke must play the nice, curvier sister and endure fat jibes from her mother before inevitably getting spunky in the second act; while the delightful Andrew Keenan-Bolger has literally nothing to do but stand around and smile as Danielle’s nominal best friend. (He’s surely got his fingers crossed for a Broadway run from Tuck Everlasting, the new musical he starred in during its Atlanta debut.)

The tech elements were strong if simple, from the solid sound design of Nevin Steinberg to the orchestra it captured so well led by music director David Gardos. Derek McLane’s scenic design was good, along with the costumes of Jess Goldstein, with the very notable exception of the silly costume designed for Danielle’s entrance at the finale. She’s given fairy wings but the effect is to make her look childish, not beguiling or magical.

Unlike so many musicals, it should be said that Act Two was superior to Act One. After a long buildup (ironically not helped by the overly familiar story at hand), Marshall put the pedal to the floor. While Act One was filled with time-killers (like that gypsy dance-off that was not one of Marshall’s better efforts), Act Two positively sped along, moving briskly from one moment to the next. It wasn’t enough to rescue the evening. But a strong cast and a quick-paced finale did at least send you home without having to wait forever to hear they’d be living happily ever after.

THEATER OF 2015

Honeymoon In Vegas **
The Woodsman ***
Constellations ** 1/2
Taylor Mac’s A 24 Decade History Of Popular Music 1930s-1950s ** 1/2
Let The Right One In **
Da no rating
A Month In The Country ** 1/2
Parade in Concert at Lincoln Center ** 1/2
Hamilton at the Public ***
The World Of Extreme Happiness ** 1/2
Broadway By The Year 1915-1940 **
Verite * 1/2
Fabulous! *
The Mystery Of Love & Sex **
An Octoroon at Polonsky Shakespeare Center *** 1/2
Fish In The Dark *
The Audience ***
Josephine And I ***
Posterity * 1/2
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame **
Lonesome Traveler **
On The Twentieth Century ***
Radio City Music Hall’s New York Spring Spectacular ** 1/2
The Heidi Chronicles *
The Tallest Tree In The Forest * 1/2
Broadway By The Year: 1941-1965 ***
Twelfth Night by Bedlam ***
What You Will by Bedlam *** 1/2
Wolf Hall Parts I and II ** 1/2
Skylight ***
Nellie McKay at 54 Below ***
Ludic Proxy ** 1/2
It Shoulda Been You **
Finding Neverland ** 1/2
Hamlet w Peter Sarsgaard at CSC no stars
The King And I ***
Marilyn Maye — Her Way: A Tribute To Frank Sinatra at 54 Below ***
Gigi * 1/2
An American In Paris ** 1/2
Doctor Zhivago no stars
Fun Home ** 1/2
Living On Love * 1/2
Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation ***
Airline Highway * 1/2
The Two Gentlemen Of Verona (Fiasco Theatre) ***
The Visit (w Chita Rivera) ** 1/2
The Sound And The Fury (ERS) **
Broadway By The Year: 1966-1990 ***
The Spoils * 1/2
Ever After (at Papermill) **

_____________

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the founder and CEO of the forthcoming website BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. Trying to decide what to read next? Head to BookFilter! Need a smart and easy gift? Head to BookFilter? Wondering what new titles came out this week in your favorite categories, like cookbooks and mystery and more? Head to BookFilter! It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. It’s like a fall book preview or holiday gift guide — but every week in every category. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day and features top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

Note: Michael Giltz is provided with free tickets to shows with the understanding that he will be writing a review. All productions are in New York City unless otherwise indicated.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Entertainment – The Huffington Post
Entertainment News-Visit Adults Playland today for the hottest adult entertainment online!

Hot Tip Alert!

Click here for more.

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Theater Sluts 5

Jasy looks like the girl next door but, she has a bad girl streak that Dirty D is cultivating. Dirty D takes Jasy to the dark porn theater to expose her to the seedy sexual underground. Jasy never knew that anonymous public sex existed, and now she is about to get a taste of it first hand. Dirty D brings her inside the theater and Jasy quickly notices that all eyes are on her. Dirty D removes Jasy’s top showing off her natural titties. The crowd starts jacking their cocks in anticipation of what’s to come. Dirty D lifts her skirt to find that she is wearing no panties and is wet and ready. Jasy bends over and sucks Dirty D’s dick while he shows off her shaved pussy to the crowd. Dirty D takes turns fucking her with a guy from the crowd. Soon Jasy begins taking loads of hot cum all over her tits. Dirty D gives Jasy a big messy creampie for the grand finale!

Watch the Full Length, High Quality Movie!

This clip from Theater Sluts 5 by Kick Ass Pictures and Dirty D Productions features Missy really hitting rock bottom this time, getting banged out in the theater by a crowd of nasty perverts who are all too eager to squirt in all her tight little holes.

Stars: Missy

Categories: Reality Based Gonzo GangBang Amateur

Scene Number: 3

Orientation: Straight

Studio Name: Dirty D Productions

Amateur Pay Per View

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David Letterman Probably Won’t Visit Ed Sullivan Theater After ‘Late Show’ Finale

After David Letterman tapes his final Late Show on Wednesday, he doesn’t think he’ll return to the show’s longtime home, the Ed Sullivan Theater.
“I…
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Hot entertainment tips and specials!
Download FREE Music for your iPod® or any MP3 player!

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Call Now: 877-516-9953