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This Week on Stage: Hugh Jackman, Glenn Close and 'Side Show' storm Broadway's busiest fall week

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The River 02
Richard Termine

This was a theater week of major losses for the stage community (RIP Mike Nichols) and some a bit smaller (the soon to be RIP Rock of Ages on Broadway, which announced a Jan. 18 closing), and the last onslaught of opening nights before the holiday season takes shape. And folks are already casting an eye toward the spring with rumors that the long-delayed Broadway arrival of The Visit starring Chita Rivera might succeed Rock of Ages, which leaves behind a highly desired theater (the Helen Hayes is Broadway’s smallest with only 597 seats). Meanwhile, there’s plenty of fish out there right now for theatergoers; literally, in the case of the week’s leader Hugh Jackman (pictured above) taking pride in gutting an actual fish onstage mere feet in front of you in his new Broadway play The River, which EW has checked out in addition to, among other dignified openings, the star-laden revival of one of Edward Albee’s best works, the glitzy revisal of the beloved 90s musical Side Show, and a super-bloody three-hour-plus Christopher Marlowe revenger (click on the links below for full reviews).

Allegro  Director John Doyle takes a dissective, pruned-down approach to a Rodgers and Hammerstein flop from the 40s (employing his signature cast-as-orchestra style), but the tune here goes occasionally flat. “This update, with its original, copious Agnes DeMille dream ballets excised to reach a fairly tight 90 minutes, will satisfy completist palettes and there’s never any denying Doyle’s arresting choices”, says my review, “but the production doesn’t allow its well-chosen cast much leeway toward etching out anything terribly singular.” EW grade: B-

By the Water  A Staten Island family picks up the pieces-literally-after enduring the hardships of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but this new play fails to say anything new on the harrowing toll it took on NYC. My review states that “the level of Arthur Miller-like anguish that befalls the Murphy [family] is never dramatically satisfying. Instead, you get something much closer in tone to a Very Special Episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.” EW grade: C

A Delicate Balance  Edward Albee’s chilly 1966 Pulitzer winner gets a dream cast in Glenn Close, John Lithgow and Lindsay Duncan, among others. Did EW correspondent Marc Snetiker cozy up to Albee’s parlor family drama? He calls the revival “feisty if occasionally restless” and adds, “on this balanced stage—gorgeously designed by Santo Loquasto—the scales are surely tipped in Close, Lithgow, and Duncan’s direction.” EW grade: B

Our Lady of Kibeho  Rising scribe Katori Hall (The Mountaintop) takes on religious apparitions and three Rwandan girls who lay claim to such, and Thom Geier was made quite a believer by the layered tale. “The playwright has a strikingly earnest approach, and has never been shy about embracing the mystical…even nonbelievers may find it hard to reject the testimony of these real-life characters and their expressions of God’s grace.” EW grade: B+

Punk Rock  Playwright Simon Stephens–enjoying acclaim on Broadway with his adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time–takes on teenage angst and violence in this NYC premiere of his 2009 school-set play. Staff writer Esther Zuckerman was less than Rock-ed, however: “Director Trip Cullman has drawn energetic performances from a bright cast”, she writes, adding, “[the play] is too concerned with artifice to yield a work that truly provokes. Alas, the violent, inevitable conclusion feels both frustratingly obvious and never fully earned.” EW grade: C+

The River  Hugh Jackman makes his fourth pilgrimage to Broadway, this time with a moody chamber piece, about a trout-obsessed fisherman courting young lasses, in Jez Butterworth’s intimate drama. Wolverine delivers the goods, per my review, which proclaims Jackman “finally gets to take a firm bite out of stoicism, and he’s a terrific orator to boot”, with kind words about the production as well, warning that The River won’t suit all tastes: “Butterworth’s perhaps most enigmatic, interpretive work to date; knowing Jackman as well as we do creates an immediate ‘in’ that might have been more work for a lesser known actor.” EW grade: B+

Side Show  The much-adored 1997 cult musical about conjoined sisters/circus entertainers Daisy and Violet Hilton only eked out 91 performances in its initial Broadway run, but proved to live in the hearts of show queens everywhere since. But Melissa Rose Bernardo believed it could have used some more gestation time before revisiting: “If you didn’t see it the first time around, you’re likely to leave asking: what was all the fuss about? Certainly not this leaden, sporadically moving update—which bears little resemblance to the original production.” EW grade: C

Straight White Men  Downtown vet Young Jean Lee takes on a male brood at Christmastime in her typically playful style, and it turns out quite engaging…for a stretch. I write, “The three leads find poignant centers to their antics, but Austin Pendleton is less assured, particularly in the play’s more somber final third…one just wishes the (admittedly clever) creator would have just let the boys be boys.” EW grade: B

Tamburlaine, Parts I and II  How does one take a multi-hour Kit Marlowe play from 1587 and make it palatable to modern audiences? Blood, blood, and more blood, though EW reporter Joe McGovern’s review of this new production at Brooklyn’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center says there’s a lot more to recommend here than mere carnage. “The rewards of this gnarly, muscular production—edited and directed by Michael Boyd and headlined by the monumental John Douglas Thompson—come from the retrofitting of Marlowe’s jumbled text into a dark, cracked fantasy of carnage and revenge.” EW grade: B+

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