New York theater

Letter from NY: Broadway report

What's been lighting the lights on the Great White Way? A Choir Boy, a Mockingbird, Sam Shepard, and a Prom.

By MISHA BERSON

NEW YORK – Somewhere between the dead of winter and the rebirth of spring, Broadway takes a breath. It’s before a stream of shows hoping to vie for Tony Awards take up residence near Times Square.  And it’s after a lot of productions, including really great stuff like last year’s Tony Award for best original musical, The Band’s Visit, prepare to depart.

Yet for a Broadway-bound visitor to New York there is still enough to attract your attendance, if you choose wisely.

During a recent East Coast journey I was able to put together a smorgasbord of shows that included a riveting contemporary drama,  an engrossing play revival, a play based on an American literary classic and – oh, right – a new musical.  (And it wasn’t Cher.)  I watched several screen stars in live action, revisited an old favorite script, and witnessed the flowering of a young African-American writer who is helping revitalize serious American drama on Broadway.

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Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s “Choir Boy.” Photo: Matthew Murphey

LET’S START WITH THAT LAST ONE: Choir Boy, by Tarrell Alvin McCraney. Though it debuted Off Broadway in 2013, this adrenalin- and music-fueled play set in a black all-male prep school made its Broadway debut only this year, after some revision.  If its author sounds familiar, maybe that’s because McCraney collected an Oscar for his screenplay for the valuable film Moonlight. He also wrote the touted new Netflix baseball drama High Flying Bird.

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Wanderlust: a theater director trots the globe

Portland's Jon Kretzu reports back on shows in NYC, London, and Stratford: first of a series

By JON KRETZU

Travel has been an important part of my life since I was a child. I have always loved the excitement of traveling to other cities and making them homes away from home. It’s impossible to  imagine a year going by without multiple visits to the places I love and seeing friends, old and new, around the globe. My work in the theater has also been inspired immeasurably by these sojourns. How bereft I would be to not get to New York City or London (or my more recent new city-friends, Toronto, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Stratford – all of them a stone’s throw from each other in the beautiful province of Ontario) to see the glorious, and sometimes instructively abysmal, work in their theaters and opera houses.

This is the first in a series of reports about my personal wanderlust, with suggestions of what to see – or miss – on your own travels to the major fine arts centers of the United States, the United Kingdom, and our lovely neighbors to the North. As artists, we owe ourselves the multiple joys of getting out to see the work of our family of colleagues. It is both inspiring and essential to the art of creating new work and exploring new artistic vistas.

It’s also a helluva lot of fun.

 BIG APPLE: THE FABULOUS INVALID

New York City has been my beloved mistress since I was 21. That was the year I first saw its wonders, and it was love at first sight. The thrill of Broadway: my first show was the original cast of Sweeney Todd with Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou on that gargantuan Victorian factory setting at the Uris. Wow, what a way to start. It was on one of those school trips with my Drama Club, and I vowed to get back asap without the club. I started going there on my own the next year, beginning to know the exquisite pleasure of apartment-sitting and couch-surfing as I began accumulating my ever-growing stock of favorite walks, favorite sights, favorite restaurants.

Broadway's TKTS booth, where prices get a breath of fresh air. Jim Henderson/Wikimedia Commons/2008

Broadway’s TKTS booth, where prices get a breath of fresh air. Jim Henderson/Wikimedia Commons/2008

There is simply no way to tire of NYC. I always feel welcomed by its grand, ourageous beauty and power and loving embrace, as if by a very old and dear friend who is ready to stimulate me, challenge me and give me yet another series of wildly divergent and entertaining memories. I have thought about living there many times – but it would be like marrying your mistress. I would rather return, as I do now, four or five times a year to bask in its sooty glow and catch up on whatever is unmissable this week.

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