The Siegel Column

Sunday in the Park with You

Let's get something out of the way right at the top. Don't expect to see performances to match the magic of Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters in the revival of Sunday in the Park with George at Studio 54. It's simply not fair to ask or expect that kind of ascendant brilliance. It would be like expecting Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in a remake of Casablanca. Be more than satisfied with the strong performances of Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell. If one were inclined to single out a performance, it would be Russell's because it is so well acted as well as sung. If the show runs through Tony season, she might very well snag a nomination.

Of course, this production of Sunday in the Park is getting a great deal of attention for its design elements: a transformative combination of projections, lighting design, set design, and direction. Earlier attempts to modernize Broadway stage design, most notably The Woman in White, were failures, but this show marks a genuine breakthrough. Simply put, the show is as thrilling to look at as it is to hear. And bottom line, Sunday in the Park is a great musical that is receiving a stellar revival.

What's Normal?

Next to Normal is no Sunday in the Park with George. In fact, it's not a stroll in the park, period. This is a dark, darker, darkest show that should set the bar forever on dysfunctional family musicals. In other words, if Mary Poppins is more your speed, this is not for you. However, if don't mind some emotional misery in your musicals, you will discover a show with a fiery pop/rock music score (Tom Kitt), with some very clever lyrics (Brian Yorkey).

Even more impressive is the show's six knock 'em dead performers. Alice Ripley gives the performance of her career as a careening wife and mother. The same holds for Brian d'Arcy James as her loyal, long-suffering husband. Their two kids, played by Jennifer Damiano and Aaron Tveit have killer voices, as well. Rounding out the stunning cast are Adam Chanler-Berat and Asa Somers. The cast is not next to normal, it's next to perfection.

Speaking of show's not for everyone: The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island

This may be the most original musical to hit the boards in years. It's goofy but not quite campy. It's comic but not quite satirical. The score by Ben Katchor and Mark Mulcahy seems, on the surface, remarkably simple - music and lyrics, both - but it manages a breathtaking sagacity in its simplicity.

On one level, if you don't go for the ride, the show is going to seem like an unmitigated fiasco built on a mountain of silliness. But if you hook into the show's warped sense of humor, like we did, you will have a riotously funny musical adventure that is as provocative as it is clever. We'd tell you the plot but it won't sell you on the show; it's all about the tone.

Like Sunday in the Park, this show has wildly imaginative projections and set design courtesy of Jim Findlay and Jeff Sugg. Bob McGrath has directed this unique show with flair, keeping it on its highwire of irreverent tone throughout. McGrath has also elicited charming performances by the show's two young leads, Bobby Steggert and Jody Flader, plus powerful character work by Stephen Lee Anderson and Peter Friedman, not to mention a sexy turn by Matt Pearson. The whole thing is a hoot - and unforgettable.

They Fly Through the Air With the Greatest of Ease ...

The group is called 7 Fingers, but you'll need all ten of yours to applaud like mad when you see their soaringly acrobatic show called Traces. Yet another amazing troupe from the province of Quebec in Canada (the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil), these remarkable performers put on a show that makes the phrase "circus act" irrelevant. It's as if they heard the hit song from Wicked, "Defying Gravity," and made it their mantra.

Though Traces takes place at The New Victory Theater and is certainly kid-friendly, this is a show that can (and does) appeal to all ages. It runs through March 2nd. This review is as close to a money back guarantee as we can make. The show is that jaw-droppingly good.

-- Barbara and Scott Siegel

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