Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Lightning Thief, The Percy Jackson Musical


The Lightning Thief
The Percy Jackson Musical
Longacre Theatre
October 12, 2019

Photo courtesy of The Lightning Thief,
The Percy Jackson Musical
The Lightning Thief, The Percy Jackson Musical hits Broadway like a lightning bolt.  Commissioned by Theatreworks USA in 2017, this show has gained quite a momentum.  The book by Joe Tracz is masterfully adapted from the young adult novel by Rick Riordan.  The music and lyrics by Rob Rokicki brilliantly builds the action and develops the relationships.  Choreography by Patrick McCollum is crisp and concise.  Director Stephen Brackett skillfully pulls all these high quality pieces together to create an engaging and entertaining production for all ages.

Percy Jackson (played by Chris McCarrell) is expelled from school for a mishap during a field trip.  When his mother (played by Jalynn Steele) finds out the reason, she decides it is time to tell him about his father, who he has never met.  After telling him of their chance meeting and the plans for him to go to camp, she is killed by a Minotaur.  Percy finds himself at the camp, protected by Grover (played by Jorrel Javier), a faun (a mythical half goat, half human creature) and Chiron (played by Ryan Knowles), a centaur (a mythical half horse, half human creature).  They tell him that he is a half-blood (half god, half human), as are all the inhabitants of the camp.  Percy does not know who his father is until Annabeth (played by Kristin Stokes), the daughter of Athena, uses him as bait to win a war game.  When he draws upon his undiscovered power over water to lead them to victory, they all realize his is the son of Poseidon.  This discovery makes him a suspect in stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt.  He, Grover, and Annabeth go on a quest to get it back and prove his innocence.

Kristin Stokes, Chris McCarrell, & Jorrel Javier
Photo courteys of The Lightning Thief,
The Percy Jackson Musical
There are only seven actors in the cast and most of them play more than one major role.  They all deliver phenomenal performances.  Chris McCarrell is magnetic as Percy.  Jorell Javier is energetic as Grover and outstanding as Mr. D.  Ryan Knowles shows his expansive vocal range, creating the roles of Chiron, Medusa, Hades, and Poseidon.  Kristin Stokes is strong as Annabeth.  She blows the roof off the theatre with her singing.

The Monotaur
Photo courtesy of The Lightning Thief, The Percy Jackson Musical
The Lightning Thief, The Percy Jackson Musical is playing at the Longacre Theatre through January 5.  It is refreshing to see a low budget Broadway production that captures the imagination.  It is good storytelling with excellent performances.  It is great family entertainment.  Go see it!

Domenick Danza

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Sound Inside


The Sound Inside
Studio 54
October 5, 2019

Photo courtesy of The Sound Inside
Adam Rapp’s play, The Sound Inside, is mesmerizing.  It is an intimate story of connection and regeneration.  Mary-Louis Parker is riveting.  You hang on her every word.  She does not leave the stage for a full ninety minutes.  Director David Cromer finds moments of profound insight that pull you deeply into the soul of the main character.  Just when you think you’ve gone as far as humanly possible, Mr. Rapp takes you further through the despair and gives you a glimpse of hope for the future.

Bella (played by Mary-Louise Parker) is a creative writing professor at Yale University.  As she tells her story, she takes notes, writing the sentences that ring with poetic truth.  She tells of her mother’s painful death by a rare cancer that spreads through her stomach.  As she sat with her during her final days, her mother seemed to vanish before her eyes.  She then tells of her own recent diagnosis, not as severe as her mother’s, but no less fatal.  Before the reality of that news sinks in, she jumps back in her story to an unscheduled office visit by a student, a freshman, Christopher (played by Will Hochman).  He tells her how much he loves her class and that he is writing a novel.  Christopher is awkward and unconventional.  He returns the next day to tell her about his novel, again an unscheduled visit.  Their connection has a distance that cannot be crossed.  His third visit is appropriately on Bella’s calendar.  When an unexpected request is made, their fates become parallel, both tragic and optimistic.

Will Hochman & Mary-Louise Parker
OPhoto courtesy of The Sound Inside
This is a must-see play.  Adam Rapp’s writing is profound, prolific, and succinct.  The mood is haunting, mysterious, and at times wonderous.  Mary-Louis Parker and Will Hochman fill the expansive Studio 54 theatre with a resounding and quiet intimacy.  Their performances are honest, natural, and deeply moving. 

The Sound Inside is running through January 11.  Don’t miss this play!

Domenick Danza

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Doubt


Doubt
Studio Theatre
Washington DC
September 29, 2019

Photo courtesy of Studio Theatrer
When John Patrick Shanley wrote Doubt, he was addressing what he felt was a situation bubbling up in America’s mindset.  The need to take a side without all the facts creates a sense of doubt.  His skillful writing for this timely play won him the Pulitzer Prize in 2005.  This underlying theme is more relevant today than when first presented, and the Studio Theatre production is giving audiences in Washington DC the opportunity to experience it with a new perspective.

Christian Conn & Sarah Marshall
Photo courtesy of Studio Theatre
It is 1964 in the Bronx, New York.  When the principal of St. Nicholas School, Sister Aloysius (played by Sarah Marshall), suspects Father Flynn (played by Christian Conn) of wrongdoing, she asks the novice, Sister James (played by Amelia Pedlow), to keep a sharp eye for anything out of the ordinary.  Sister James observes some peculiar behavior by one of the boys in her class, and reports back to Sister Aloysius.  She confronts Father Flynn directly, even though it is highly inappropriate.  Once the floodgates are open, there is no going back.

Sarah Marshall & Tiffany M. Thompson
Photo courtesy of Studio Theatre
Sarah Marshall is strong and rigid as Sister Aloysius.  The confrontation scenes between her and Christian Conn’s Father Flynn are fiery and full of conviction.  They are an even match, which is required in these two characters if this story is going have impact.  Amelia Pedlow portrays Sister James with the right balance of innocence and eagerness to please.  She finds herself caught in the middle of something she does not fully understand, and grows significantly from the experience.  Tiffany M. Thompson plays Mrs. Muller.  She and Sarah Marshall deliver excellent performances in the most striking scene in the play.    

Doubt has been extended at Studio Theatre in Washington DC through October 13.  This play is John Patrick Shanley at his best.
Domenick Danza

Monday, September 30, 2019


Henry IV
Folger Theatre
Folger Shakespeare Library
Washington DC
September 28, 2019

Photo courtesy of Folger Theatre
The Folger Theatre production of Henry IV (Part 1) is packed with merriment, celebration, and honor.  In one of the final scenes the character of Falstaff humorously tells us that “the better part of valor is discretion,” yet the action of the play illustrates a more serious and noble theme.  Director Rosa Hoshi keeps the lighthearted scenes genuine, while sustaining the danger and risk of the rebels seeking the crown.  The performance culminates in scenes of battle that are choreographed with precision and build quickly from one moment to the next.

Avery Whitted & Peter Cook
Photo courtesy of Folger Theatre
King Henry IV (payed by Peter Crook) is in dispute with his once ally Hotspur (played by Tyler Fauntleroy), who decides to rally Worchester (played by Naomi Jacobson) and Northumberland (played by U. Jonathan Toppo) to rebellion.  They rise up against the King’s army.  The King summons his son, Prince Hal (played by Avery Whitted) to return to duty.  Hal has spent his youth carousing in taverns and befriending Falstaff (played by Edward Gero), who mischievously influences his behavior.  Their bond is strong and gives Hal the excuse to continually chose irresponsibly.  When summoned by his father, Hal needs face his fate and make a life altering decision.

Edward Gero & Avery Whitted
Photo courtesy of Folger Theatre
The ensemble cast plays numerous roles and keeps the action moving at a brisk pace.  Peter Crook is commanding as King Henry IV.  Tyler Fauntleroy’s Hotspur is passionately driven.  He lights a fire under the characters who he leads into rebellion and never loses his conviction.  Avery Whitted portrays Prince Hal with youthful energy and a strong sense of integrity.  His character’s honor and morality are never compromised.  Edward Gero is warm and genuine as Falstaff.  He does not take anything too far over the top, so we can see why Prince Hal follows and admires him.  Their relationship is truthful and sincere.

Henry IV (Part I) is playing at Folger Theatre in Washington DC through October 13.  It is a powerful and bold production.  If you see a performance at Folger’s Theatre, be sure to sign up for the Folger Library tour.  It is free and truly remarkable.   

Domenick Danza

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Rose Tattoo


The Rose Tattoo
Roundabout Theatre Company
American Airlines Theatre
September 21, 2019

Photo courtesy of
Roundabout Theatre Company
Marisa Tomei is passionate and tempestuous in Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of The Rose Tattoo.  Director Trip Cullman finds the rhythms and longings in Tennessee Williams’ writing.  He builds the action of the play to the stunning realization for the main character as she releases the past and opens her heart.  The original music by Fitz Patton and Jason Michael Webb sets the perfect tone throughout the play.  The composition and vocals allow time to  process and absorb the events of the story, as they connect the poignant moments.

It is1950 in a small Gulf Coast town.  Serafina (played by Marisa Tomei) is a Sicilian woman, passionately in love with her husband.  Together they have one daughter, Rose (played by Ella Rubin).  Serafina wakes from a dream one night and envisions her husband’s rose tattoo on her breast.  At that moment she knows she has conceived a son.  When her husband does not return from work, the women of the town come to tell her he has been killed.  The shock causes her to lose the baby.  Three years pass.  Seraphina keeps her husband’s ashes in an urn on a shelf, and holds on tight to her daughter’s innocence.  She prays to the Blessed Mother for help and send a sign of how to handle her daughter’s growing up.  Alvaro Mangiacavallo (played by Emun Elliott), a truck driver passing through, winds up at her door.  He has the body of her husband and the face of a clown.  Is this the sign Serafina was praying for?  What will it take for her to open her heart again?

Marisa Tomei as Searfina
Photo courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Company
Emun Elliott and Marisa Tomei have a powerful chemistry.  They find the humorous moments in Tennessee Williams writing, then dive deeply into the fire.  The second act is rich in emotion, discovery, pain, and joy.  Ella Rubin also shares a beautiful chemistry with her love interest, played by Burke Swanson.  She is bold and forthcoming, while he is reserved and respectful.  This plays out in wonderfully tender and sincere moments.

The entire ensemble works magnificently together to create a close-knit community.  The set design by Mark Wendland and lighting design by Ben Stanton evoke a warm, open, and run-down beach front home, complete with a stage covered in a foot of sand.

The Rose Tattoo is playing at the American Airline Theatre through December 8.  This production brings the poetry and passion of this Tennessee Williams work beautifully to life on a large scale.  The performances are magnificent!

Domenick Danza

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Scotland, PA


Scotland, PA
Roundabout Theatre Company
The Laura Pels Theatre
September 14, 2019


Photo courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Company
Michael Mitnick and Adam Gwon’s new musical, Scotland, PA, is making its premier at Roundabout Theatre Company.  It is based on the movie of the same title, which is based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  It is wickedly funny, as it follows the underdog hero’s rise to the top, then brutally dramatic as he tragically falls.  Director Lonny Price maintains the balance of humor and severity in this multi-layered story.  He guides the cast to build a wide range of characters and deliver skillful performances.

It is 1975 in Scotland, Pennsylvania.  Mac (played by Ryan McCartan) is constantly pitching innovative ideas to his boss, Duncan (played by Jeb Brown).  Mac and his wife, Pat (played by Taylor Iman Jones), have been working in Duncan’s restaurant since high school.  After more than twelve years, Pat wants more.  She convinces Mac to rob the restaurant.  The voices in his head (played by Alysha Umphress, Wonu Ogunfowora, and Kaleb Wells) make him feel like he can achieve anything, so he agrees.  Mac and Pat set up their alibi by attending a party their friend Banko (played by Jay Armstrong Johnson) is throwing.  Duncan fights back during the robbery and is unexpectedly killed.  Mac and Pat remove all evidence and think they’re in the clear, until Detective Peg McDuff (played by Megan Lawrence) shows up asking questions.

Ryan McCartan & Taylor Iman Jones in Rehearsal
Photo courtesy ot Roundabout Theatre Company
Act II is full of all the dark intrigue and psychological intricacies of Shakespeare’s tale.  It also contains some haunting melodies, “Clairvoyant” being the strongest.  Ryan McCartan and Taylor Iman Jones effectively carry the tale all the way to its tragic ending.  Their portrayals of Mac and Pat are genuine and complex.  You root for them to succeed and are understanding when events turn dark and out of their control.  As they fall deeper into their own selfishness and make desperate decisions to hide from their guilt, you know their downfall is inevitable.

The Full Cast of Scotland, PA
Photo courtesy fo Roundabout Theatre Company
Jay Armstrong Johnson is outstanding as Banko.  His comic timing is perfect.  His character is sincere, simple, and caring.  He delivers a strong and unique performance.

Scotland, PA is dark and funny.  If you like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, you will laugh at the inside jokes and outlandish setting and situation.  The show is playing at the Laura Pels Theatre through December 8.  Check it out! 
Domenick Danza

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Sunday


Sunday
Atlantic Theater Company
Linda Gross Theater
September 7, 2019

Photo courtesy of Atlantic Theater Company
Jack Thorne’s new play, Sunday, commissioned by Atlantic Theater Company, is an intimate exploration of the powerful moments that define a person’s life.  It is a character driven story with a clear and valuable message.  The six characters are well developed and clearly defined.  The relationships continually feed the conflict, which leads to introspective moments that pull the story forward.  The cast is keenly connected and all deliver crisp and potent performances. 

Juliana Canfield, Sadie Scott, Zane Pais, & Ruby Frankel
Photo courtesy of Atlantic Theater Company
Marie (played by Sadie Scott) is on the phone with her mother while waiting for her roommate, Jill (played by Juliana Canfield), to get home.  It is Sunday, their book group night.  Marie’s downstairs neighbor, Bill (played by Maurice Jones), asks Marie to not play the music too loud because he has to get up early for work.  Jill returns with the vodka and snacks for the meeting, and the rest of the group descends upon the apartment.  They are discussing Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler.  Keith (played by Christian Strange) continually takes the conversation off topic.  Alice (played by Ruby Frankel) strains to bring it back into focus.  Milo (played by Zane Pais) gets inappropriate with Marie, but Jill keeps him from getting out of hand.  The evening’s conversation continually gets personal and is filled with animosity.  After everyone leaves, Marie finds herself alone and unsettled.  Her downstairs neighbor, Bill, hears her pacing the floor, and knocks on her door.  Their conversation turns deeper than either of them expects. 

Ruby Frankel in rehearsal
Photo courtesy of Atlantic Theater Company
The character of Alice narrates throughout the play.  The brilliance of this choice by Mr. Thorne is skillfully followed through by Director Lee Sunday Evans by keeping Alice aloof in how she relates to the other characters.  She is more than just a narrator.  She is an observer.  Her insights come from her first hand knowledge of the characters and their experiences, and propel the story deeper into their emotional state and motivating impulses.  Ruby Frankel’s portrayal of Alice brings depth and vitality to the story.

Sadie Scott in rehearsal
Photo courtesy of Atlantic Theater Company
The scene between Marie and her downstairs neighbor, Bill, after the book group members leave the apartment, is monumental.  Mr. Thorne takes huge risks with these two characters in their interaction.  Each one has a valuable payoff.  The scene builds and falls, then builds again, taking the play to a stunning conclusion.  Sadie Scott and Maurice Jones are genuinely vulnerable in this scene.

Jack Thorne has written a uniquely structured, thought provoking, and intriguing play.  Sunday is playing at the Linda Gross Theater though October 13.  See it with a friend.  An intense discussion is sure to follow.       

Domenick Danza