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This Week on Stage: New York, New York – a helluva 'Town'

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On The Town 02
Joan Marcus

The randy sailors of On the Town are back in the Big Apple, and taking up permanent residence at the newly-renamed Lyric Theatre (where the beleaguered Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was the previous tenant), with lots of dancing boys and girls courtesy of Smash‘s acclaimed choreographer Joshua Bergasse (keep your eyes peeled to EW.com for a future feature on him, by the way). In other news, “Big” Al Pacino is coming back to Broadway next fall in a brand-new play written expressly for him by master wordsmith David Mamet, about a billionaire taking a fateful phone call before semi-retirement. And Emma Stone is getting ready to take over for Michelle Williams as Sally Bowles in Cabaret (EW jumped on that as well this week). And EW staff is busy as ever covering the fall openings, with six new productions this week, including a new musical based on Davy Rothbart’s famous series of found notes and letters, and new plays with live hot tubs and full meals; no expense-spared entertainment! (Click on the links below for full reviews.)

On the Town  The classic boys-on-a-day-pass from the Navy musical gets a large-scale revival with expert hoofers Tony Yazbeck, Megan Fairchild and Clyde Alves (with the comic stylings of Jackie Hoffman). Did senior editor Thom Geier have a helluva time? He calls it “spirited and surprisingly frank…But the biggest laughs of the evening go to Broadway veteran Hoffman, who serves up a rare culinary treat in her gut-busting recurring role as the heroine’s delusional vocal instructor: She’s a kosher ham.” EW grade: B+

While I Yet Live  Last year, Billy Porter won the musical best actor Tony for Kinky Boots so what was net on the horizon for him? Playwright, of course! He tells a semi-autobiographical tale of growing up black, gay and religious in a troubled family. Melissa Rose Bernardo praises its leading lady, Law & Order star S. Epatha Merkerson, dubbing her physical performance “astonishing”, but indicates the play has some issues: “Porter’s intentions may be beyond reproach; the fault is merely in his execution.” EW grade: C+

Found  Davy Rothbart’s magazines and radio programs centering around the antiquated practice of handwritten notes being repurposed gets its own musical, courtesy of Atlantic Theater Company. Thom Geier found some charm to the proceedings, but is mostly a ‘Dear John’ type of affair. He says “this is a modest show whose admirably modest ambitions can be undercut by the two act, 2 hour and 15 minute running time. In fact, Found‘s underlying message seems to be: Chase your dreams, but don’t dream too big.” EW grade: C+

Generations  Thom also checked out this Soho Rep offering, which is 40-minute, immersive piece set in an AIDS-ravaged South African village, but felt it was still a ways away from a fully satisfying meal. The increasingly weighty emotions are underscored by a 13-member choir, seated on stools amidst the audience and providing a kind of live requiem Mass for the fallen. “Despite the moving vocal performances, though, Generations remains a surprisingly chilly piece of theater, more of a structurally clever academic exercise than a fully engaging and emotional work of drama.” EW grade: B-

Jacuzzi   The up-and-coming, terrific theater company knows as The Debate Society premieres their newest play (starring Veronica Mars alum Chris Lowell) about a Colorado ski chalet reuniting a father and son amidst some oddball caretakers, and my review indicates that the water’s fine with this funny, creepy little tale. “Oliver Butler’s production is best when it is at its most cryptic. For most of the run time, the audience questions the motives of the shaggy pair, and the creators have nailed such a distinct tone, one isn’t sure whether to laugh or recoil in horror at what might unfold…Jacuzzi is as effervescent as those jet bubbles that swirl mere inches from your eyes.” EW grade: B+

Lennon: Through a Glass Onion  John Lennon’s songs and speeches are weaved through a 90-minute, two-man interpolation of his career with nothing but a guitar and a piano. EW’s Eric Brown was won over by the musical brio: “[The show] probably won’t sell you on Lennon if you aren’t already a fan. But it gets to the bottom of a rock ‘n’ roll great whose story has too often been obscured by decades-old caricatures.” EW grade: B