Broadway Is All About Revivals and Outer Borough Theaters this Fall
Listen to WNYC host Richard Hake talk to theater critics Elisabeth Vincentelli, of the New York Post, and Adam Feldman, of Time Out New York, about the season's Broadway offerings.
Thursday, October 06, 2011
The playbills are folded and the red velvet curtains are poised to go up on Broadway for a new fall theater season.
This season includes revivals (and revise-als), of "Porgy and Bess" and “Follies.” There's also a host of new, small theaters cropping up in the outer boroughs that are producing interesting work for theater lovers who aren't afraid of taking the subway out of Manhattan.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and the OBIE-winning composer Diedre Murray adapted "The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess" for Broadway.
The show itself hasn’t been staged on the Great White Way in over 25 years, although jazz standards like “Summertime” and “I Loves You Porgy” come from the score of George and Ira Gerswhin's "Porgy and Bess."
Time Out New York theater critic Adam Feldman said playwrights hadn’t adapted the classic opera recently because the subject matter can be a tough sell.
"It's complicated because the original material is a little bit old, and certainly to modern black ears can sound a little condescending," he said.
In August, composer Stephen Sondheim even took issue with the creative changes in the Parks and Murray adaptation in a letter in The New York Times.
Gershwin purists and theater lovers will have to wait until December to see "Porgy and Bess" on the Broadway stage, but for Sondheim aficionados, the musical "Follies" is running at the Marquee Theater on Broadway now.
New York Post theater critic Elisabeth Vincentelli said she was not moved by the show, which casts Bernadette Peters in the starring role of Sally Durant Plummer.
"The production is really pedestrian,” she said. “There are some inspired moments, but there are too many moments that are completely flat. There are some completely befuddling staging decisions that are made."
Despite all that, Vincentelli felt that Sondheim's material shines through: "That musical is so great that it could survive anything, even a visually impaired director.”
Feldman, on the other hand, loved the musical, saying Jan Maxwell's performance of the song "Could I Leave You" is one of the best he's ever seen.
"This is a show that I really think that everyone -- not just theater aficionados -- everyone should see," he said.
Broadway isn't the only place to catch innovative new work this fall.
A number of young, new theater spaces are opening up in the outer boroughs.
Venues like the Bushwick Starr in Bushwick, Brooklyn; the Irondale Center in Fort Greene, Brooklyn; and the Chocolate Factory in Long Island City, Queens are catering to communities of young theater artists who've escaped the high costs in Manhattan.
Above: Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis in "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess." Photo by Michael J. Lutch