Author: Donna Herman

Numbers Nerds

Numbers Nerds is a selection of the New York Musical Festival playing at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater until Sunday July 23rd, but it could just as easily be part of the fall line-up on Fox or the CW.  Not surprising since a note in the Playbill from Producer Larry Little (also responsible for the story) informs us its target audience is high schools, colleges & community theaters.  Numbers Nerds is about a mostly female competitive high-school math team from Wisconsin that reaches the National Sum-It Championships. And it was written in response to a dialogue with theater faculty at local high schools and colleges bemoaning the lack of roles for females. Which brings us full circle to the Festival which encourages musicals with diversity.

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The Fourth Messenger

The Fourth Messenger is part of the New York Musical Festival and has performances through Sunday July 23rd. A reimagining of the legend of Buddha as a modern day woman who is both enlightened and flawed, the piece itself is a mirror image of its protagonist. The creators Tanya Shaffer (Book & Lyrics), Vienna Teng (Music & Additional Lyrics), and Matt August (Director); are a little like Park Slope helicopter parents.  Too close and loving to see their child’s flaws in order to correct them.  And really, the kid’s not that bad – there’s a lot to love here – which makes it almost more frustrating.  Because with a tweak or two, The Fourth Messenger could be outstanding.

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If you’re a Harry Potter mega fan who has read all the books every year since they’ve been released like my friend Katy, you’re going to love Puffs or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic.  Do you have your own wand? Run right out and buy a ticket, don’t bother to read the rest of this review.  If, like me, you read the books as they came out and enjoyed them, but haven’t felt the need to revisit Hogwarts again and again, you’ll enjoy the show. But you may not understand why the audience is laughing at some points.  If you’ve heard of Harry Potter but the word Hogwarts is totally foreign to you – Puffs will leave you scratching your head.  You’ll feel a little like Tarzan would if he was kidnapped and woke up watching the movie “Tootsie.”  No context for anything that was happening around you.

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Miss Blanche Tells It All

The New York Musical Festival is in full swing, fostering culturally and stylistically diverse new musicals by early-career artists.  But don’t let the “early-career artists” designation fool you – all it means is that they’re not household names – yet.  A perfect example is Miss Blanche Tells It All currently playing at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater through Sunday, July 16th. Set in the late 1960’s in a gay friendly bar in New Orleans, an intoxicated drag performer, Miss Blanche (Brian Charles Rooney), reveals more than originally intended. It’s a nuanced story and a tour de force performance by consummate professionals.

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Amerike – The Golden Land

This year’s summer offering by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, Amerike – The Golden Land, is a perfect fit for the NYTF’s mission: “to celebrate the Yiddish experience through the performing arts by transmitting the rich cultural legacy in exciting new ways that bridge social and cultural divides.” It’s not surprising that Amerike – The Golden Land does that so perfectly, since it was commissioned in 1982 by the Workmen’s Circle to do just that.  WC Director of Education, Yosl Mlotek, tapped Moishe Rosenfeld and Zalmen Mlotek – now the Artistic Director of the NYTF – to write the piece. And yes, Zalmen is Yosl’s son, and Moishe is Yosl’s nephew. Making Zalmen and Moishe cousins.  And you’ve just played a round of what is affectionately known in NYC as “Jewish Geography,” or “are you a landsman (google it)/six degrees of separation.”

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