Monday, October 30, 2023

Jukebox: The Musical

Over the years, the Broadway Close-Up series has featured selections from  musicals-in-development, including discussions with their creators; salutes to established composers and writers of musicals, including interviews and scenes from their shows; evenings of songs grouped by theme; and tributes to the greats (see, for example, the upcoming Party at the Princes'). And now Broadway Close-Up has presented its first original jukebox musical. Or perhaps it should be "original" jukebox musical. But, then again, how original can a jukebox musical ever be?

Sean Hartley

The one-night-only Jukebox: The Musical satirized jukebox musicals by being a jukebox musical devoted to, well, jukeboxes. Written, assembled, and narrated by Sean Hartley, producer of the Broadway Close-Up series, it was wry, silly, and a great deal of fun. The paper-thin plot concerned two inventors trying to develop the first viable jukebox; descriptions of some of the failures were exactly as goofy as they needed to be.

The show featured an excellent cast, A.J. Shively, Allison Blackwell, Nick Cearley, Elena Ricardo, and Gabrielle Stravelli, all of whom had ample opportunity to strut their stuff. 


The problem with reviewing one-night-only shows is, of course, that's it's always too late to recommend them. I can, however, suggest that you check out the two remaining evenings in the Broadway Close-Up series:

Party at the Princes’November 13, 2023

The Writers’ RoomDecember 4, 2023

Wendy Caster

Thursday, October 19, 2023


The fabulous Mint Theater Company is presenting Partnership, the third in their "Meet Miss [Elizabeth] Baker" series. The first, The Price of Thomas Scott (review here), from 1913, movingly explores the clash between profit and principle. The second, Chains (review here), from 1910, vividly depicts how having a job can choke the joy out of life; it is sadly still timely. Both of these, while a little flabby, were effective, sometimes excellent, pieces of theatre, well-presented by the Mint. Unfortunately, the third play, Partnership, from 1917, falls short of the first two in both writing and presentation. 

Kate has a small dress shop. Now that Lady Smith-Carr-Smith is a customer--and plans to recommend the shop to a duchess--success seems guaranteed. Kate would like to acquire the shop next door to combine with her own. However,  rumor has it that George Pillatt, described as "a pig" and "cold as a tadpole," has taken the shop. To Kate's surprise, Pillatt suggests that they become partners in business, and in life. Kate says yes.

It's not clear why Kate would say yes. She knows that she is an "eligible" young woman. She doesn't need someone to support her. And she never even suggests to Pillatt that they be business partners only. 

Yes, women in the early 20th-century frequently made non-romantic marriages. I just don't see why Kate would. And, as you could probably predict, Kate promptly falls in love with someone else. Nothing that happens afterward is remotely surprising or particularly compelling. The play might come across better with a more lively production, but it is a surprisingly lackluster night at the Mint.

Wendy Caster

Monday, October 02, 2023

Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch

It's difficult to decide where to begin discussing the wonders of Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch. The incredibly funny, smart, musical writing; the extraordinary acting; the smooth, perfectly paced direction; the handsome, practical scenery and lighting; and the attractive, character-enhancing costumes all mesh into one brilliant unit. Discussing them individually feels inappropriate and reductive.

Leslie Odom, Jr.

The website describes the play as " the rousing, laugh-filled comedy by . . . Ossie Davis that tells the story of a Black preacher’s machinations to reclaim his inheritance and win back his church." True. But it's also a story of getting by, overcoming mistreatment, fighting for the truth (sometimes by lying), humanity, and love.

Kara Young

Starring Leslie Odom Jr. (remarkable), Vanessa Bell Calloway, Billy Eugene Jones, Noah Pyzik, Noah Robbins, Jay O. Sanders, Heather Alicia Simms, Bill Timoney, and Kara Young (a wonder). Directed by Kenny Leon. Set by Derek McLane. Costumes by Emilio Sosa. Lighting by Adam Honoré. Sound by Peter Fitzgerald. Hair, wig and makeup by J. Jared Janas. Fight direction by Thomas Schall. Original music b, Guy Davis. Executive producers, Maia Kayla Glasman and Brandon J. Schwartz; production stage manager, Kamra A. Jacobs.

The list of producers over the title suggests the need to reinforce the stage any time Purlie Victorious wins an award. For this show, it did indeed take a village: Jeffrey Richards, Hunter Arnold, Leslie Odom, Jr., Louise Gund, Bob Boyett, Willette and Manny Klausner, Salman Moudhy Al-Rashin, Creative Partners Productions, Irene Gandy, Kayla Greenspan, Mark and David Golub Productions, Kenny Leon, John Gore Organization, Morwin Schmookler, Van Kaplan, Ken Greiner, Patrick W. Jones, Nicolette Robinson, National Black Theatre, Alan Alda, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Nnamdi Asomugha, Kerry Washington.

It's a funny, heart-warming (and occasionally heart-breaking), impressive evening in the theatre. A true delight.

Wendy Caster