Author: Michael Hillyer

Six By Sondheim

A beautiful piece of theatre happened tonight on television.  SIX BY SONDHEIM, a 90-minute documentary produced by Frank Rich and James Lapine and directed by Mr. Lapine, premiered on HBO tonight and charted its way through Stephen Sondheim’s musical theatre career with a loose focus upon six of his songs.  Naturally, those songs are from different points of Mr. Sondheim’s long and celebrated six-decade career as a composer and lyricist, and in-between them Mr. Lapine interweaves a fascinating patchwork of old and recent interviews, as well as still photographs of Sondheim at work, at rest, and at play, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that come together into a cohesive picture only at the end.  That final image is a photograph of Sondheim behind his desk, working and smiling. It is a mesmerizing and emotional hour and a half, beautifully directed and edited; a few minutes into the documentary we are watching Larry Kert’s pretty much complete performance of “Something’s Coming” from WEST SIDE STORY and I am already reaching for the tissues, completely done in.  There was another hour twenty to follow, during which Stephen Sondheim appears on camera quite often, of course, talking to a whole slew of interviewers about his life, his craft, his points of view.  We see him as a much younger man, chain-smoking cigarettes and seeming somewhat sour and gloomy, but always bright...

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Nephew’s Night Out – Lincoln Center, Jack O’Brien and Joe Allen

I took my nephew, now a sophomore at Columbia, to see Ethan Hawke in the Scottish Play at Lincoln Center last night.  My nephew is far from my sister and home, and the Columbia campus is a tad remote from the cultural hub of the city, so I thought we’d make an entire evening of it.  I booked a reservation at Joe Allen after the show.  He has seen a couple of musicals on Broadway, but that’s pretty much the extent of my nephew’s theatre-going experience.  This was the first time, he said, that he was seeing “a drama.”  I liked that he dressed up for the occasion. Jack O’Brien’s production of MACBETH indeed provided plenty of drama.  Both acts begin with the house lights on, and in both instances the director lets us know that we are entering a world of darkness and hurt.  The opening sound and light effects that begin the evening seem to hammer the very light out of the room; something wicked this way comes.  The cast is, on the whole, quite good, and this director’s control over his milieu is complete and masterful.  His staging is imaginative, fluid, and visually stunning.  He is aided by wonderful designers, and by the cavernous thrust arena of the Vivian Beaumont.  I mean really, it is thrilling to watch his work, and I am glad that my nephew’s...

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Desperately Seeking The Exit

BY MICHAEL HILLYER   Desperately Seeking The Exit, Peter Michael Marino’s no-frills, one-man show currently playing in the modest performance space in the basement of the Triple Crown on Seventh Avenue (just south of Madison Square Garden), actually started out in life as a $7-million dollar West End musical named Desperately Seeking Susan, based on the 1985 movie with Madonna.  No lie.  With music by Blondie.  A brilliant idea, it crashed and burned.  You can’t make this stuff up. The cast of characters in this amazing theatrical disaster epic includes Mr. Marino himself, who had the idea to write...

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Broadway Close Up: Bound For Broadway XII

BY MICHAEL HILLYER   Of the fourteen seasons the Kaufman Center has been presenting Bound For Broadway at Merkin Concert Hall as part of the Broadway Close Up series on Monday nights, Liz Callaway has hosted the event ten times.  As she confided to the audience last night, she was hoping that maybe there would be a cake waiting for her at the theatre, or even some entrance music – one of her signature songs, perhaps – as she came onstage, but no.  She made her entrance across the stage to her chair accompanied only by the warm ovation she received. ...

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