The Siegel Column

X Stars (because it doesn’t matter): X-Men: The Last Stand

"X" marks the spot for theater stars Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman who are top-billed with Halle Berry in the motion picture X-Men: The Last Stand that opens on ten gazillion movie screens this Memorial Day Weekend. Don’t count on any Shakespeare from Stewart nor any singing and dancing from Jackman. Just expect plenty of mayhem and millions upon millions of dollars of CGI. For a comic book come to life, it’s better-acted than it has any need to be. But even stalwart theater fans of Stewart and Jackman may balk at this one. But we thought you’d like to know they were in it ...

4 ½ Stars:The Race

Race over to 59E59 to see The Race, one of the most viscerally exciting pieces of theater we’ve seen in a long time. The show is just one hour long, but it’s non-stop action ... and we do mean action. This is a physical production that is almost as exhausting to watch as it must be to perform. But what a performance its five stars provide as they run, climb, jump, dance, dangle, swing across the stage. Tarzan’s got nothing on these folks.

An inventive evocation of a young man’s fears as his wife is about to give birth, this Brits Off-Broadway production offers a dreamlike journey through the mind of its protagonist. We see him (comically) struggle with his fidelity, share his fears with his best friend, find himself the object of wild congratulations by his friends at work, while getting belittled in another scene by his family. And those examples are just some of the situations in which our hero's fears and follies come to life in front of our eyes. There is almost no dialogue in the piece. Most of the meaning comes from the kinetic visuals that are created in a play that is more correctly choreographed than directed. Nonetheless, there is no choreography credit so kudos surely go to the show’s sensational directors, Amit Lahav and Al Nedjari, both of whom also star to great effect in the show. They are joined by the talented (and athletic) James Flynn, Katherine Markee and Natalie Joy Ayton.

The producers of the show are the same folks that brought the critically acclaimed Jackson’s Way to 59E59 in last year’s Brits Off Broadway series. They are two for two. In point of fact, this festival of British theater is a tonic of creativity, wit, and wonder. We’re delighted that it has obviously become an annual event.

Ashley Brown: Poppin’ out of Beauty and the Beast

This weekend is your last chance to see Ashley Brown in Beauty and the Beast. She is leaving the show after Sunday’s performance to prepare for her title role performance in the Fall opening of Mary Poppins. Happily, we took our own advice and saw Ms. Brown on Thursday night. There were two revelations. The first was that Ashley Brown is no mere replacement as Belle. She has a stunning voice, a winsome and wonderful stage presence, and wow does she look great in those gowns in the second act. You really should try to catch her at the Lunt-Fontanne just so you can say you saw her before she became a star.

The second revelation was Beauty and the Beast, itself. We haven’t seen the musical since it opened. It seems as fresh today as it did back then. Sure, we know they cut back on some of the production values when the show changed theaters, but it still looks and sounds swell. The performance we saw was crisp and exciting. And it was more than a little bit touching to see the audience rise to its feet at the end to give the show a standing ovation. Imagine: that’s been happening eight times a week for all these years. What was particularly thrilling about that standing ovation was that the show deserved it!

Seasons of Love

We also recently went back to see Jersey Boys. We weren’t going to wait four seasons to see it again. And what was fun back when it opened has now evolved into something even more polished and dynamic. The "Boys" have all gotten more deeply enmeshed in their roles. John Lloyd Young, in particular, has grown into his star status and that has only improved his performance as Frankie Valle, especially toward the end of the musical when Frankie himself has become a star. This is a show that will, indeed, be affected when replacement performers are eventually worked into the cast. All the more reason to see it again now when it is at the apogee of hits success.

[Please note: The Siegel Column is using a 5 star rating system with 5 being its highest rating.]

-- Barbara and Scott Siegel

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