Friday, June 3, 2022

Broadway Reviews: Ambitious Choreopoem Revival “for colored girls…” and the Black Comedy “The Minutes” as the Tony Awards Approaches

for colored girls... (c) Marc J. Franklin

2022 Tony Awards Recap: Part 2 

In honor of the upcoming Tony Awards on June 12, I have collected thoughts on Broadway shows I’ve seen that I didn’t write a proper review for. This is the second part, which covers two shows still playing on Broadway, two that have closed as well as links to the ones I did review. 

Review: for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf 

At the Booth Theatre 


   Best Play Revival 
   Best Featured Actress: Kenita R. Miller 
   Best Director: Camille A. Brown 
   Best Costume Design: Sarafina Bush 
   Best Lighting Design: Jiyoun Chang 
   Best Sound Design: Justin Ellington 
   Best Choreography: Camille A. Brown 

Ntozake Shange won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1975 for her self-described choreopoem, “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.” The play consisted of a series of poems embodied by seven African American women, each identified by a color, who relayed what it means to be black and female in America. The play had a successful revival at the Public Theater in 2019, directed by Leah C. Gardiner and choreographed by Camille A. Brown, but for Broadway (at the Booth Theatre, where the original Broadway run also played), Brown takes over as director as well and reconceives the play with many of the actresses reprising their roles. Although I’m not sure what prompted this change, the current incarnation feels more accessible to a Broadway audience, perhaps sacrificing a bit of the poetic intensity of the Off-Broadway version. Okwui Okpokwasili’s powerful Lady in Green poem about someone stealing her stuff is still the most audience-friendly, while the poem by Lady in Red (Tony nominee Kenita R. Miller, new to the production and very pregnant at my performance) is the most heartbreaking. For a Broadway audience looking for a linear play with a plot, this will be a head scratcher, but for more daring theatergoers, there is much to admire. 

The Minutes (c) Jeremy Daniel

Review: The Minutes 
At Studio 54 

   Best Play by Tracey Letts 

Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-nominated “The Minutes” is probably the most well-written “Twilight Zone” episode ever. If that makes for a satisfying Broadway play, however, is up for debate. Letts, best known as a writer for his play, “August: Osage County,” and as an actor in movies like “The Post” and “Indignation,” sets his play at a local city council meeting at a Midwestern town where the newest member, Mr. Peel (Schitt’s Creek’s Noah Reid) missed the last meeting (his wife gave birth) and realized something must have happened as fellow member, Mr. Carp (Ian Barford), is no longer there. As the meeting progresses, in hilarious examples of red tape minutiae and member grudges, Mr. Peel keeps bringing up Mr. Carp and keeps getting shut down, until he exasperatedly requests to have the minutes of the last meeting read. Letts keeps the tension high as the play heads for its inevitable conclusion of what happened at that meeting, and while I will keep this review spoiler-free, topics of white privilege, toxic masculinity and colonialism are brought up, if not fully examined. The play is nothing if not timely, with debates about critical race theory still in the zeitgeist, but I’m not sure if Letts illuminates the issues with any new insight. The eleven-member cast is quite good, especially Reid as the newbie crusader and Austin Pendleton as the senior and most petty member of the council. I admired what Letts was aiming for, but I think he fell short at the end. 

Lackawanna Blues (c) Marc Franklin

Review: Lackawanna Blues 

   Best Actor: Ruben Santiago-Hudson 

Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s semi-autobiographical one-man play, “Lackawanna Blues,” is about his childhood with the woman who raised him, known as Nanny, and the events that happened in her boarding house in Upstate New York in the 1950s. Santiago-Hudson has performed the play on and off since its premiere in 2001 at the Public Theater, and it was also adapted into a successful film for HBO in 2005 (S. Epatha Merkerson won an Emmy for playing Nanny). The Broadway production, directed by Santiago-Hudson, gave a chance for Broadway audiences, who may only know the movie, to enjoy Santiago-Hudson playing all the characters in a virtuoso turn. 

Diana, The Musical (c) Matthew Murphy

Review: Diana, The Musical 

   Best Costume Design: William Ivey Long 

If you saw the Netflix performance capture of “Diana, The Musical,” you know that this Joe DiPietro production with songs by DiPietro and David Bryan (of Bon Jovi) is just a mess. Seeing the film version of a musical without an audience is one thing, but when the show reopened on Broadway at the end of 2021 after the COVID shutdown, seeing it live was not something I wanted to pass up. And I have to admit, seeing it with an audience (some of them devoted to the show) was not only a better experience than watching it alone at home, but I also enjoyed some of the elements more the second time around, including the extravagant Tony-nominated costumes and surprisingly enough, Jeanna de Waal’s go for broke performance as the titular Princess. But the show remains mindless and occasionally senseless. The lyrics would be funny if they weren’t so self-serious. The only scene that seems to get the tone almost right is “This is How Your People Dance,” where Diana, on a date with Charles at a classical music concert, fantasizes she’s at a raucous rock show. Pity she came to her senses. 

Links to Previous Reviews:

Paradise Square 

   Best Musical
   Best Actress: Joaquina Kalukango 
   Best Featured Actor: Sidney DuPont 
   Best Book by Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas and Larry Kirwan 
   Best Original Score by Jason Howland, Marcus Gardley and Nathan Tysen 
   Best Scenic Design: Allen Moyer 
   Best Costume Design: Toni-Leslie James 
   Best Lighting Design: Donald Holder 
   Best Choreography: Bill T. Jones 

Company (c) Matthew Murphy, Brinkhoff Moegenburg


   Best Musical Revival
   Best Featured Actor: Matt Doyle
   Best Featured Actress: Patti LuPone
   Best Featured Actress: Jennifer Simard
   Best Director: Marianne Elliott
   Best Scenic Design: Bunny Christie
   Best Lighting Design: Neil Austin
   Best Sound Design: Ian Dickinson for Autograph
   Best Orchestrations: David Cullen

SIX: The Musical 

   Best Musical
   Best Original Score: Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss 
   Best Director: Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage
   Best Costume Design: Gabriella Slade
   Best Lighting Design: Tim Deiling
   Best Sound Design: Paul Gatehouse
   Best Choreography: Carrie-Anne Ingrouille
   Best Orchestrations: Tom Curran

Flying Over Sunset (c) Joan Marcus

Flying Over Sunset 

   Best Actress: Carmen Cusack 
   Best Original Score: Tom Kitt and Michael Korie
   Best Scenic Design: Beowulf Boritt and 59 Productions
   Best Lighting Design: Bradley King 

Take Me Out 

   Best Play Revival
   Best Featured Actor: Jesse Tyler Ferguson
   Best Featured Actor: Michael Oberholtzer
   Best Featured Actor: Jesse Williams

Trouble in Mind (c) Joan Marcus

Trouble in Mind 

   Best Play Revival
   Best Actress: LaChanze
   Best Featured Actor: Chuck Cooper
   Best Costume Design: Emilio Sosa 

POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive 

   Best Featured Actress: Rachel Dratch
   Best Featured Actress: Julie White
   Best Scenic Design: Beowulf Boritt 

Funny Girl 

   Best Featured Actor: Jared Grimes

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