Every Wednesday morning, Jeff Spurgeon finds out what's new on Broadway and beyond from Charles Isherwood, theater critic for the New York Times.
'Shuffle Along,' an Unusual Revival Finds Its Way Back to Broadway
One of the most interesting musicals to appear on Broadway this season brings a new look to an almost century-old story. Ninety-five years ago, Shuffle Along was an unprecedented sight on the Great White Way: a show written, produced, directed and performed by an African-American cast of characters. The not-quite-a-revival carries the unwieldy full title: Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, which New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood calls "truth in advertising."
The current production, starring Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell with choreography by Savion Glover and direction by George C. Wolf (who also wrote the book), has earned 10 Tony Award nominations. Isherwood explains why the show is deserving of those accolades.
'Hamilton' Receives Record 16 Tony Nominations
The 2016 Tony nominees were announced on Tuesday, and Charles Isherwood, theater critic of The New York Times, joins WQXR morning host, Jeff Spurgeon, to gab about the big news. Most notably, the juggernaut known as Hamilton met lofty expectations with a record 16 nominations.
The musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton headlines a diverse list of potential winners, in contrast to the pool of Academy Award nominees that begat the #OscarsSoWhite social-media movement.
In addition to trying to predict how many statuettes Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda will take home, Isherwood mentions who was snubbed and which of the year's races are the most competitive. Listen to the discussion in the audio above.
'Waitress' Serves Up a New Recipe for Movie-to-Musical Adaptations
Broadway is home to another a new musical based on a movie. Waitress springs from the 2007 film of the same name and tells the story of a small-town girl, who dreams of an escape from her small-town existence. It stars Jessie Mueller, who makes an even stronger impression than in her Tony Award-winning portrayal of the songwriter Carole King in Beautiful, the Carole King Musical.
Pop artist Sara Bareilles wrote the songs for the show with care toward the characters and attention to language.
New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood joins WQXR morning host Jeff Spurgeon to offer more about what this Waitress is serving to theater audiences at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
In 'Mary Page Marlowe' a Role so Big It Requires 6 Actresses
Tracy Letts, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (August: Osage County) and Tony Award-winning actor (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf), has a new play running at his home company, Chicago-based Steppenwolf Theatre. The play, Mary Page Marlowe, tells the story of one woman at various points throughout her life. And to accomplish this, she is played by six talented actresses with a supporting cast of equal caliber.
New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood visited the Windy City to see the production and offers his impressions of the play, Anna D. Shapiro’s direction, reasons behind dividing the title role into a half dozen parts and whether it may land in New York in the near future.
'Exit Strategy': The Final Days of a Failing School
Set at an urban public school on the brink of closure for the usual reasons — poor test scores and low graduation rates — playwright Ike Holter's Exit Strategy is an indictment of the state of public education but not a polemic. Much of the play takes place in a teacher's lounge, where faculty discuss their previous stints failing schools.
When one enterprising student hacks into school's website, creating a Kickstarter campaign for last-ditch fund-raising, several teachers are inspired to act.
Despite the serious subject matter, "the play is quite funny," says New York Times theater critic, Charles Isherwood. "The characters are wisecracking their way through this crisis in their careers."
3 Kings, 4 Plays, 12 Hours, a Shakespeare Cycle at BAM
This spring, England’s Royal Shakespeare Company has taken up residence at the Harvey Theater at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It's presenting four of Shakespeare’s plays — Richard II; Henry IV, Parts I and II; and Henry V — in a package called King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings. Our intrepid critic, Charles Isherwood of The New York Times, has traveled far from Broadway to take in approximately 12 hours of the Bard's prose and verse over three days.
During that period, he experienced David Tennant as Richard II, Antony Scher as Falstaff and Alex Hassell as Prince Hal, who becomes King Henry V, and reports that the company is in good hands. Click on the audio above to hear more of his impressions. Performances of the productions continue through May 1.