Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily.
As regular readers will know, I enjoy few things more than revisiting shows I’ve seen and liked already; no two performances are ever entirely alike, but also a change of venue and/or city can make changes too.
Tonight, for instance, Alex Edelman’s solo show JUST LIKE US, opens officially at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre for a summer season. I missed it when it premiered downtown, but caught its short London run at the Menier Chocolate Factory, and seeing it again on Friday evening at the stunning Hudson Theatre — possibly Broadway’s single most comfortable theatre — made a big difference to the notoriously uncomfortable Menier.
But the discomfort here came with renewed force in the telling of his story of an event that happened in this most liberal of American cities, namely a white supremicist meeting that Edelman — a 34-year-old white Jewish comedian — took himself to. As he reflects on white privilege, including his own that enables him to actually do this — and and not come to any harm — he also demonstrates a sense of empathy for the outlier status that the other attendees must be feeling living in New York.
On Saturday evening, I caught Robert Icke’s galvanising Almeida hit THE DOCTOR again in its transfer to New York’s Park Avenue Armory, the new go-to destination for London productions seeking a Manhattan home that isn’t Broadway, along with St Ann’s Warehouse beside the river in Brooklyn. I’ve previously seen shows from the Young Vic (YERMA in 2018) and National (LOVE, a few months ago) transfer here.
THE DOCTOR portrays how the founder and head of a medical dementia research centre is hounded out and cancelled from that organisation after she denies a Catholic priest access to her patient — a young woman dying of sepsis after a botched self-administered abortion. Seeing this play again in New York, on the first anniversary of the reversal of Roe v Wade, gives it renewed urgency and poignancy, so it’s partly a matter of timing. But the play — originally premiered at the Almeida pre-Covid — also presciently observed possible conflicts over vaccination points of view, as well as those over religion vs medicine.
Icke’s production — which is partly cast in deliberately gender and colour blind ways that only reveal themselves over the course of the play to unsettle one’s preconceptions further — is led by a fierce Juliet Stevenson, who like Billie Piper in the aforementioned YERMA, Denise Gough who transferred to St Ann’s Warehouse in PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS, and the current Tony-winning Jodie Comer in PRIMA FACIE on Broadway, gives one of the great recent stage performances.
On Saturday I also saw an advance preview of HERE LIES LOVE, finally making the leap to a Broadway theatre that has been entirely reconfigured into a nightclub vibe. I previously saw it during its original off-Broadway run at the Public in 2013 and again as the opening production in the rebuilt Dorfman in 2015; now the star attraction is the theatre itself, and how creatively director Alex Timbers and his designers (with sets by David Korins and projections by Peter Nigrini) move the action around the entirety of the space. I was seated in the rear mezzanine, and the action was regularly brought to our level as well. Further critical comment will have to wait until it officially opens on July 19.
Yesterday I caught a double-bill of musicals composed by Adam Guettel with books by Craig Lucas. In the afternoon, I revisited DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, their new musical for the second time in the last week — I’d seen and loved it already, as I wrote in my column here on Friday, and had planned a return visit before I’d even been once, as I know that a Guettel score needs to be heard more than once to fully appreciate.
However, Kelli O’Hara, its co-star and possibly the most luminous soprano on Broadway after the now legendary Audra McDonald, was on a scheduled break from the show over the weekend; but this turned out to yield an unexpected treat for me of being able to see the role covered by Elena Shaddow (pictured above in powder blue suit, third from left), a Guettel specialist who has the distinction of having played both Margaret and Clara Johnson — the mother and daughter roles — in different productions of THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA (though I didn’t see her do it, one of those was in a London concert version of the latter). Shaddow isn’t O’Hara; she has a more fragile vulnerability, but an equally radiantly shimmering vocal tone.
After the matinee in Chelsea — over-run by revellers from yesterday’s annual Pride Parade, so a joyous party scene in itself — I travelled back uptown to City Center — the venue, as well as the part of town — for the final performance (for now) of the Encores! revival run of THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, one of the single most beautiful and yearningly romantic musicals of the noughties.
Originally receiving its New York premiere at Lincoln Center’s Beaumont in 2005 (when Kelli O’Hara originated the role of Clara opposite Victoria Clark as her mother Margaret), it was wonderful yesterday to see Ruthie Ann Miles as an unusually understated Margaret and Anna Zavelson as her daughter (they are pictured above at the curtain call).
Encores! famously sent CHICAGO to Broadway (where it is now the longest-running show now on), and more recently last year’s revival of INTO THE WOODS; THE LIGHT ON THE PIAZZA may well be destined to follow them now.
SHOWS AHEAD IN LONDON, SELECTED REGIONAL THEATRES AND ON BROADWAY
My regularly updated feature on shows in London, selected regional theatres and on Broadway is here: https://shentonstage.com/theatre-openings-from-w-c-june-262023/
See you here on Friday
I will be here on Friday. If you can’t wait that long, I may also be found on Twitter (for the moment) here: https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/ (though not as regularly on weekends)