Sangrit Malay

About Sangrit Malay

Sangrit loves working in New York City, he often writes advice columns on what to do for fun here. He is a frequent Broadway attendee and loves to write mostly about the intersection between art and commerce Favorite TV Talk Show: Late Night with Conan O'Brien

Last Chance! Tony Award Winning Broadway Shows To See Before They Close In Coming Weeks

As the 2012-2013 season gets in gear, several currently running Broadway musicals and plays are readying to close to make way for the new crop.  Here are four that you should see while you still have the chance.

Sister Act (closing August 26) – Raven-Symone (The Cosby Show) is currently starring in this stage version of the popular Whoopi Goldberg movie about a club singer who disguises herself as a nun after witnessing a murder.  One of the best of Broadway’s fluffy musicals, Sister Act is full of funny characters and toe-tapping ’70s soul numbers courtesy of composer Alan Menken.

One Man, Two Guvnors (closing September 2) – This British import has had Broadway audiences rolling in the aisles all summer.  A manic farce set in the 1960s, One Man, Two Guvnors includes wild slapstick, hilarious gags involving the audience, and musical interludes featuring a fantastic band playing original rock ‘n’ roll tunes reminscent of the play’s time period.

The Best Man Starring Candice Bergen Kerry Butler James Earl Jones Angela Lansbury Johm Larroquette Jefferson Mays Eric McCormackThe Best Man (closing September 9) – Timely for a presidential election year, this 1960 comedy by the late Gore Vidal stands up surprisingly well over 50 years after it was written.  The play itself is admittedly good, not great, but its starry cast makes it worth a visit.  James Earl Jones is giving the production’s most enjoyable performance as a former president, and his impressive list of co-stars includes John Stamos, Elizabeth Ashley, Cybill Shepherd, John Larroquette, and Kristin Davis.

Porgy and Bess (closing September 23) – Though controversial in theatrical circles because of the many changes made from the original version, this Broadway production of the Gershwin folk opera has been largely well-received by audiences and with good reason.  A powerful story, strong performances (Norm Lewis and multiple Tony winner Audra McDonald play the leads), and unforgettable music make this a great evening in the theater.

Bring It On: The Musical Broadway Show Review

Bring It On

Bring It On, now playing at the St. James Theatre, didn’t come to Broadway with much fanfare.  Loosely based on the 2000 movie of the same name, Bring It On: The Musical began by playing touring engagements on the road, then sneaked onto Broadway in the middle of the summer (usually a dead time for Broadway), scheduled for only a limited engagement.  Given its somewhat sheepish approach onto Broadway, most people didn’t expect much for this competitive cheerleading-themed musical.  However, Bring It On has managed to be a pleasant surprise, kicking off the 2012-2013 Broadway season with flair.

The thing that first catches your eye in Bring It On: The Musical is the acrobatics.  Many real-life competitive cheerleaders are in the show’s cast, and they pull off some incredible moves onstage, flipping, somersaulting, and being flung far up into the air.  Bring It On has more going for it, though, than the “special effects” provided by these talented young people.  It also has a smart, silly, and often hilarious book by Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), who creates a cast of well-drawn characters that each have their individual quirks (kudos also to the youthful cast, who bring these colorful characters to life).

One of Bring It On‘s innovations is employing two songwriting teams.  The show centers on two very different high schools that ultimately compete against each other, so it seems appropriate to have multiple songwriters.  In the Heights‘ Lin-Manuel Miranda, along with Tom Kitt (Next To Normal) and Amanda Green, provide the songs, utilizing very different styles to highlight the differences between the worlds of these two schools.  A few songs are a bit bland, but on the whole it is a strong score.  (The incredibly catchy number “Do Your Own Thing” deserves to be a Top 40 radio hit right now.)

Originally scheduled to play into October, enthusiastic audience reaction and ticket sales has already encouraged Bring It On: The Musical to extend through January 20, so you have plenty of time to catch this high-flying cheerleading crowd-pleaser.

New Hot Spot for Broadway Talent: 54 Below

It hasn’t been open long, but 54 Below has already become a second home to Broadway stars.  You could call it a nightclub, a supper club, a cabaret, or even “Broadway’s living room” (to borrow the venue’s own phrase), but whatever you call it, 54 Below is attracting top names from the New York theater scene.  Ben Vereen (Jesus Christ Superstar), Victor Garber (Sweeney Todd), Faith Prince (Guys & Dolls), Norbert Leo Butz (Catch Me If You Can), Jackie Hoffman (The Addams Family), Andrea McArdle (Annie), Michael Arden (Big River), and Rebecca Luker (Mary Poppins) are among the many respected Broadway performers who are performing there this summer.

Located at the uppermost part of the theater district, on West 54th Street (between Broadway and Eighth Ave.), 54 Below also offers fine dining in the form of small plates, usually featuring seasonal ingredients, and classic cocktails.  Needless to say, though, most people will be going there for the music and a chance to see favorite performers in a more casual setting.  The many 7 and 8pm show times conflict with Broadway show schedules, but there are also often 11pm sets for people who want to take in both a play and an evening at the cabaret.

The truth is that many promising cabaret venues have come and gone in New York City, so it’s hard to say which ones will survive.  But 54 Below has a better shot than most given its prime location.

Cirque du Soleil: Zarkana Review

Cirque du Soleils Zarkana

Zark from Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana ringleads an impressive troupe in this year’s show at the Radio City Music Hall

The golden glow of the walls and the oddly dressed performers walking the aisles set the stage for this year’s incarnation of Zarkana, the latest spectacular by Cirque du Soleil that runs through September 2, at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.

The show tells the story of Zark, a magician who has lost his powers, on his quest to rescue his love who was kidnapped. The plot, although confusing, was secondary — after all who doesn’t love a good Cirque du Soleil show strung together on a flimsy premise?

As for action, Zarkana doesn’t disappoint. The opening act features an impressive juggler and although she didn’t miss a beat, the onslaught of performers around her, was quite a distraction from her art.  The Trapeze and Acrobatics were sensational, and sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.  The Cyr Wheel and High Wire acts, although exciting, felt a little too circus-like. The Flag Throwers fell flat, hardly perilous enough to compete with the other death-defying feats followed by the Hand Balancing performer who will not only have you gasping, but will inspire you to run to a local yoga class.

The Sand Painting was by far, one of the highlights of the evening.  The magical ability to highlight every segment of the show using only hands and sand could easily leave you feeling mesmerized.  The Wheel of Death was the show stopper — with the huge cage-like cylinders rotating while two daring performers leapt inside and out, flipping and jumping — was nerve wracking. In an apparent misstep, when the performer’s leg became stuck in the jump rope as the wheel rotated at lightning fast speed, it appeared that near disaster was averted — or maybe it was part of the act.  Either way, it made for a nail biting experience.

As for the creepy factor, the six-armed floating fetus, the “Freddy Krueger meets Little Mermaid’s Ursula” Snake Lady, and eyeball projections will have you and that five-year old having nightmares for weeks.

The stage sets and elaborate costumes made you feel instantly transformed into an odd enchanted world. For a show that is supposedly a rock opera, the music is unimpressive, actually distracting to a point.   It was hard to make out what the singers were saying, even though it was in English versus Cirque’s typical Esperanto.

This is an entertaining show filled with phenomenal talent. Even with the many distractions, Cirque Du Soleil’s Zarkana, is a must see — but leave the timid toddlers at home.

If you can’t catch Zarkana‘s swan song in the New York show, don’t worry — beginning this fall, Zarkana will make its permanent home at Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

American Idiot Broadway Show Review

American Idiot Broadway ShowShow Summary
Based on Green Day’s Grammy Award-winning album, American Idiot follows the lives of frustrated working class youth struggling to find their place in a society that they feel alienated from.

Broadway Review
As in director Michael Mayer’s previous foray into the teenage wasteland, Spring Awakening, American Idiot both looks and sounds spectacular, thanks to an excellent young cast, Green Day’s many memorable songs (“When September Ends,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” etc.), Tom Kitt’s fine arrangements, and all-around terrific design elements (including Darrel Maloney’s clever video design). However, the loose concept that makes Green Day’s American Idiot album feel like a cohesive story is very weak when put up onstage, so the show is better appreciated as a staged concert than as an actual Broadway musical. Even then, it seems that American Idiot would fare better in a smaller concert-friendly venue that would allow the audience to rock along. (Or maybe the show just needs to take a page from Rock of Ages‘ book and find ways to create a more festive atmosphere.)

Red Broadway Show Revew

Red Broadway ShowShow Summary
Alfred Molina stars as the legendary abstract painter Mark Rothko in this new play about the artist’s struggle with fame, fortune, and the challenge of creating new work.

Broadway Review
John Logan’s two-man drama is a thrilling look at the artistic process and also a fascinating biographical sketch of a methodical painter who defied the stereotype of the reckless artist. Those who consider abstract art puzzling will likely find Red quite illuminating, and everybody can appreciate the dynamic performances being given by Molina and by Eddie Redmayne, who plays Rothko’s young assistant, a budding artist with a terrifying past.

In the Heights Broadway Show Review

Show Summary
The vibrant northern Manhattan neighborhood known as Washington Heights comes to thrilling life in this rhythmic and heartfelt Broadway musical about the denizens of a changing community.

Broadway Review
One of the most exciting Broadway musicals of the last several years, the Tony Award-winning sensation In the Heights has an original musical score by Broadway newcomer Lin-Manuel Miranda that includes Latin, hip-hop, and good old-fashioned showtune ballads. With Andy Blankenbuehler’s electric choreography and energetic performances by a diverse and talented cast, In the Heights brings the flavor of New York City’s streets to the Broadway stage.

Wicked Broadway Show Review

Show Summary
In this popular Broadway musical based on Gregory Maguire’s bestselling novel (a kind of “prequel” to The Wizard of Oz), we learn how Elphaba, a sensitive and misunderstood green-skinned college student in the land of Oz, eventually came to be known as the infamous Wicked Witch of the West.

Broadway Review
This Broadway musical spectacle is especially loved by tweens, who can relate to its tale of a different young woman struggling to fit in, but audiences of all ages appreciate the show’s themes about prejudice and friendship, as well as its pop-infused score by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin) featuring songs such as the catchy “Popular” and the soaring “Defying Gravity”. If you’re thinking of bringing your pre-tweens along to the theater, bear in mind that, as in The Wizard of Oz itself, there are some scary scenes in this story.

Race Broadway Show Review

Race Broadway ShowShow Summary
A law firm takes on a racially-charged case in this provocative new Broadway play written and directed by playwright David Mamet. James Spader and David Alan Grier play law partners, with Kerry Washington as their young associate and Richard Thomas as the famous client charged with the rape of a black woman.

Broadway Review
Race is an engaging play with a very good cast, and Mamet makes a few interesting observations about the subject matter. But the drama ultimately does little more than serve as an overview of the current state of race relations (as per the cynical Mamet), without actually offering much of anything new on the topic.

A Little Night Music Broadway Show Review

A Little Night Music Broadway ShowShow Summary
The air is filled with romance and revelation when friends, family, enemies, and lovers all meet for a weekend in the country in this witty musical by Hugh Wheeler and Stephen Sondheim, based on the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night.

Broadway Review
This Trevor Nunn-directed revival of the 1973 Broadway musical (which features Sondheim’s best known song, “Send in the Clowns”) is a bit too slow and colorless, which is an unwelcome reminder that A Little Night Music has always been a little lacking in warmth. Frustration, elation, jealousy, hurt, and longing are all displayed prominently in this tryst-filled comedy of romantic entanglement, but love barely figures into it. However, the production does feature fine performances by its most heralded stars, Catherine Zeta-Jones (as a glamorous but aging actress) and Angela Lansbury (as her disapproving mother).