Corey Hawkins is an absolute star-in-the-making, and it’s a shame that more people didn’t flock to the fantastic production of Six Degrees of Separation.

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Tony Sunday in the Park Without George

As a relative youngin’, there are still so many classics that I have yet to see, and this season, I got to cross Sunday in the Park with George off that list. A beautiful production, directed by Sarna Lapine, the show was everything I wanted and more. The show is a masterpiece, so I won’t spend my time lauding Stephen Sondheim or James Lapine, because everyone else has already done that. Ms. Lapine manages to capture the beauty and pain that goes into creating art. The show itself was visually stunning, with a simple, yet effective scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, which was enhanced by Tal Yarden’s projections. Clint Ramos’ costume were absolutely gorgeous. Ken Billington’s lighting design, particularly the chromolumes, was excellent.

While it’s lovely to see a piece about the creation of art want to stand on its own, and bask in starry reviews, I’m a little disappointed that it wasn’t mentioned at all during the Tony telecast last night. I know the producers decided to remove the show from contention for awards, but the show was an absolute highlight of the season for me, so it was a shame that the show wasn’t part of the telecast at all. While I understand that closing the show in April meant that award nominations wouldn’t factor in to their run at all, I guess I’m used to ranking art and the weird competitive nature we as a society feel we must place on art, one of the most subjective areas there are. The producers stood on the moral highground that seems crazy in this industry, and I have to respect them for wanting their piece to stand on its own. Despite that, I have to say that the show surely would have been nominated for for Best Revival. And I would imagine that Jake Gyllenhaal would finally get nominated for Best Actor (I’m still mad that he wasn’t nominated for Constellations), and I could have seen Annaleigh Ashford sneak in as a Best Actress nominee.

The whole cast is stellar, and it was so heartwarming to see Ruthie Anne Miles and Ashley Park back on stage together again. It’s always nice to see two amazing Asian American actors on stage, especially cast in roles that aren’t traditionally Asian. And to stay on brand, it was also lovely to see (and hear) Philip Boykin, a much darker man than the real boatman in the painting. It sounds so simple, but it truly is remarkable to cast talented actors of colors in roles that are traditional white. So thank you, Ms. Lapine, for recognizing the importance of casting decisions in 2017!

A compelling story on the passion and sacrifices it takes to make art, Sunday in the Park with George was a brilliant production that lived up to the heaps of praise given to this show. I am anxiously awaiting the release of the the cast album to relive the best moments, and inevitably cry in the comfort of my own home. Yay for casting Asians just because! Yay for creating beautiful, moving pieces of theater! And yay for everyone’s sacrifices to create this wonderfully complex thing called art!

Last Dance

When I first heard that Gideon Glick was going to star in an Off-Broadway play about the twenty-something single experience, I was pumped. A horrific knee injury that left me unable to walk and housebound for weeks put in a crimp in my plan to actually see Significant Other, so I was so excited when it was announced long after that run had finished that the show would transfer to Broadway. Sadly, that run ended today, and it’s a shame.

For those who think theater skews to a older crowd, particularly straight plays, Significant Other was the answer about how to engage millennials in theater. A funny, heartbreaking, and at time, painful, look into the single life, Significant Other perfectly encapsulated so many of my feelings about the dating life today. I truly connected to Jordan Berman, minus being a Jewish, gay, male. It’s hard being single, and it’s hard when you feel like you’re behind all your friends. Jordan’s fantasy sequences, as well as his freak out over whether or not to send an email seemed to be scenes taken out of my own life. And that feeling of being alone, exacerbated when your friends are all partnered of were so searing, yet beautiful.

Gideon Glick was fantastic, and I think he deserves tons of awards recognition for deftlessly carrying the show. He made me laugh, he made me cringe, and he brought me to tears. Whether or not he always is that emotional, or if the end of the run brought out something extra, I do not know, but I do know that my heart continued to break for him, and in a way, for myself. Two of my other favorites, Lindsey Mendez brought great humanity and warmth to the schoolmarm, another character I sadly related to.

Joshua Harmon is a great new voice in the theater, and has written a piece that speaks to every young person that’s seen Significant Other. The haunting ending gave me chills and led me to tears, and I know it’s a lasting image that I’ll be sure to remember as I continue on my single struggle. I need to befriend a real-life Jordan to find my person so I too can dance the night away.

Shop Closed

I must say that I’ve been terrible at seeing plays this season. The latest casualty is Jitney at Manhattan Theatre Club, which has been selling out for weeks now. While I’m happy that so many people want to see August Wilson’s new piece on Broadway, I’m selfishly mad that I couldn’t get in and digital lottery tickets were snatched up the minute they went on sale. But kudos to you, New York theatergoers, for proving yet again that a show featuring actors of color can be a commercial success!

Way Down to Hadestown

Today, Hadestown ended its brilliant extended run down a the New York Theatre Workshop. The show is absolutely beautiful. From the first moments when Lulu Fall, Jessie Shelton, and Erica Sweany enter the stage with their lanterns and open their mouths, each Fate with their own beautiful, soulful voice, that all blend together perfectly, I just knew I was in for a treat. Nabiyah Be is a star in the making, and it’s refreshing to see a black lead for a role that doesn’t call for a black actress, and instead is just a fantastic voice and brings a gentle spirit to Eurydice. As Orpheus, Damon Daunno is the perfect mix of adorable, affable, and charming, and is given the sweetest lyrics that would make anyone fall in love with his lovable artist with a goofball grin. Amber Gray was so captivating and magnetic as Persephone, and Patrick Page has the perfect deep voice as a sinister and tantalizing Hades. Rounding out the cast, Matt Saldivar as the narrator looks like a badass Mark Ballas who manages to break your heart by the end of the show. All in all, the show is perfectly cast with a group of phenomenal voices that perfectly blend in Anais Mitchell’s score. The music was fantastic, catchy, eclectic, soulful, and beautiful and is one of the best scores I’ve heard in awhile. And under Rachel Chavkin’s direction, the movement of the show worked so well in NYTW’s space and the show felt organically diverse.

Despite knowing the outcome of Orpheus and Eurydice, Hadestown still manages to be a moving, thoughtful show on the price of love, artistry, and power. I am anxiously awaiting the cast album to be released, but I couldn’t let the run end without shouting my praise for the show out into the universe!

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

No, this post isn’t about Hamilton, but instead Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. The number of parallels between Shuffle Along and Hamilton are crazy. It’s a shame that the two shows are in the same season, because while Shuffle Along did pretty well in terms of Tony Award nominations, the show’s message is so similar to Hamilton and really brings issues of representation and diversity at the forefront. Here is a story that focuses on a real-life team, the challenges they faced, and how they changed the country. While we complain about #OscarsSoWhite, we forget the work that F.E. Miller, Aubrey Lyles, Noble Sissle, and Eubie Blake created that allowed for black performers to make it on Broadway and beyond. It’s a story that needs to be remembered, and what better way to tell the story then a Broadway musical love letter to the creators and performers who were changing the world in 1921?

Despite all the brilliant names above the marquee, it’s the ensemble that’s the heart of the show. These tap dancing fools light up the stage and bring so much energy to the show. It is truly a stacked cast, but it’s the giant tap numbers (particularly the tap battle) that stand out to me. Savion Glover’s work is astounding and it’s so great to see so many talented black dancers take center stage. While Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Brandon Victor Dixon, Joshua Henry, and Audra McDonald make the most of what they’re given, they individually do not have much to do, and all five actors felt underutilized to me. Dixon, who had Blake’s own backstory in addition to a love triangle, had the most to do, and was rewarded with a Tony nomination. To have big Broadway stars sign up for a show for the sake of telling a bigger story, rather than time in the spotlight is truly a beautiful thing. Of course, they each have a number that reminds you why they’re stars, but it’s the ensemble that carries most of the heavy lifting.

Much praise must go to George C. Wolfe, who directed the show and wrote the updated book. Kudos to him for realizing the potential in a behind-the-scenes story that happened during the creation of a game-changing show and for bringing it out for today’s audiences. This is a story that should be remembered, and needs to be part of our narrative. As we continue to talk about diversity in Hollywood and Broadway, this is a show that should be seen. In a banner year for diversity on Broadway, it’s only fitting that this was the show to close out the season. I fear that diversity will take a big hit next season, but hopefully Shuffle Along will continue to play and sweep everyone’s hearts with it.

The end of the show was heartbreaking and as the lights go down, it’s a beautiful reminder of the sacrifices that people made in the name of art. It’s a shame that art often gets disrupted by money and that the team broke up after creating Shuffle Along. And it’s a bigger shame that the producers think the show cannot run without Audra McDonald and is closing prematurely. As one critic said, this show will probably never be revived, and it’s a real shame that the world will no longer have Shuffle Along around to remind them of where black Broadway started. A moving and exciting production, this story deserves to be seen and remembered. Shuffle down to the Music Box Theater while you can!

Long Live King Charles III

I’m not usually one for British imports. It probably has to do with the fact that I don’t quite understand the lure of a monarchy, and there’s invariably no people of color. But after hearing all the talk of how King Charles III is the best new play of the year, I figured I had to go see it.

Not knowing what to expect, I was blown away by the concept. Despite being highly publicized for being told in verse, the dialogue seemed to flow right off the tongue. There was one monologue where the rhymes felt a little forced, but other than that moment, it was hard to tell that it was there. The play had an overarching Shakespearean feel to it, which I thought gave it great weight and drama. The beginning of Act II was intensely gripping and brought the audience right back in it. The immersive and thrilling pantomime brought a visceral element, signifying a change of pace. The lighting and the techno-beats were superb and the drama train was full-speed ahead after that. (There was also one black actor. Wahoo!)

As a cellist, I love any play that utilizes music. The cello and oboe was a great touch that added pomp and circumstance. The music tonally gave the show extra gravitas and added a feeling of grandeur and ceremony to the play. To offset the heaviness of the show, I loved the use of Lourde’s “Royals,” which was a great, playful touch. The play was funny, sharp, gripping, dark, witty, melodramatic, dramatic, haunting, engaging, and a must-see. I know the show is closing this week, but long live the King!