Friday, April 28, 2023

REVIEW: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Review of the matinee performance on Sunday, April 23, 2023 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York City. Starring Josh Groban, Annaleigh Ashford, Maria Bilbao, Nicholas Christopher, Jordan Fisher, Jamie Jackson, Gaten Matarazzo, Ruthie Ann Miles and John Rapson. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by Hugh Wheeler. Based on an adaptation by Christopher Bomd. Orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick. Scenic design by Mimi Lien. Costume design by Emilio Sosa. Lighting design by Natasha Katz. Sound design by Nevin Steinberg. Choreography by Steven Hoggett. Direction by Thomas Kail. 2 hours, 45 minutes, including one intermission.

Grade: A+

Even if you think you've seen everything Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street can be, you need to see this brilliant revival as soon as you can snag a ticket! After seeing the original tour staging, an opera staging, Sweeneys huge, Sweeneys teeney, a "modern" concept, and even a dinner theater staging (they served pot pies, of course), I thought I'd seen it all. Turns out that going back to a full, lavish staging with an incomparable company of artists is exactly what I needed to see. Utterly thrilling, this is, hands down, the very best production of Stephen Sondheim's masterwork I have ever seen.

Directed by Hamilton's Thomas Kail with a breakneck pace, building tension and peeling back layer after layer of drama, and, inevitably, sheer terror, he has brought things out in this tale that have been missed in previous versions. It is tight and focused, and yet, somehow, epic and grand. He and choreographer Steven Hoggett have created a Sweeney that moves with a frantic breathlessness, adding intensity in unexpected ways. Even still, both find ways to slow things down just enough - and provide a giggle or two - to give us a chance to catch up. (
I have to admit that when I first heard there was choreography at all, I was nervous. Happily, I didn't need to be.)

The creative team has brought its A-game. Mimi Lien's enormous black box settings seem to just appear out of the haze, with a foreboding sense of danger; her use of stage-wide bridges provides a sense of movement, oppression, and unique places to catch the action. Adding to this sense of apprehension while heightening the urgency is Natasha Katz's lighting, probably the best of her illustrious career, and definitely the best of the season. Darkness and light are opposing forces in the context of the script, and her design reflects that perfectly, and her frequent use of silhouetting is a dramatically chilling. Emilio Sosa's class-defining costumes immediately conjure a time and place where social status and power dynamics were the order of the day. Finally, whatever sound issues there were in early previews are gone; Nevin Steinberg's sound design is crystal clear and perfectly balanced - no small feat in the cavernous Lunt-Fontanne.

But...oh...the cast. God they're good! The large ensemble is filled with triple-threats, and they sing the score with such exacting perfection. Each member plays a variety of fully realized background characters that always add to but never distract from any scene they are in, and are always interesting to watch. Stand outs include the always amazing Timothy Hughes, Samantha Pollino, and extra charming Raymond J. Lee, who faces the razor twice! 

Nicholas Christopher has the distinction of being the first of over a dozen Pirelli's I've seen that delivers a completely audible contest sequence. He's a funny and sinister blast of energy, who ultimately gets what he deserves. Speaking of sinister, the villainous pair of Judge Turpin (Jamie Jackson) and Beadle Bamford (John Rapson) are evil incarnate - you feel a little dirty after every scene they are in. Both are superb character voice actors; even "Ladies in Their Sensitivities" and - gasp! - "Parlour Songs" are highlights here. Tony-winner Ruthie Ann Miles' Beggar Woman is probably the most complex I've seen, adding a poignant layer to the tragedy of her final scene. Utterly brilliant.


As the operetta-style lovers, Jordan Fisher (Anthony) and Maria Bilbao (Johanna) have fully embraced the hyperbole of their roles, creating not only moments of comic relief, but also a couple whose love at first sight is almost believable. Both sing beautifully - "Johanna" and "Green Finch and Linnet Bird" are lovely - and their voices blend beautifully in dramatic and hilarious effect in "Kiss Me" and "Ah, Miss!" For me, the biggest revelation of the performance was Gaten Matarazzo as the sweetly dim Tobias. He's endearing and pitiable, and like so many of the characters, desperate - for safety, love and a sense of belonging. Every time he sings and speaks, you sit forward just a bit so as not to miss a single nuance. So full-bodied is his performance that I found myself watching what he was doing even when he was not the center of attention, and he did not disappoint. Bravo, young man, bravo.

Finally, gloriously, the central pair of this melodrama are blissful perfection. Annaleigh Ashford delights with every twitch, tick and wiggle of her dual-bunned hairdo. Character is the order of the day with every word she utters and every note she sings. A younger skewing Mrs. Lovett, she uses her relative youth to her advantage - she's a sexier pie maker than we may be used to - and her hunger and desperation both ground her portrayal and heighten her extremes. Even with all of her physical comedy bits, she never goes overboard. Both "Wait" and "By the Sea" are delightful. There is a palpable chemistry between her and Josh Groban as the titular barber, a key to any Sweeney Todd. His is not a Todd we have seen before. No, he starts off with a brooding melancholy and evolves into a master of manipulation and vengeance. This slow build to a seething rage is quite effective, making his final, yes,  desperate killing spree a cathartic release. He's also quite funny and charming - necessary for a serial killer, right? That he can sing is never in doubt, though when he finally gets to unleash his instrument in "Epiphany," it is truly musical theater nirvana.

From the moment the music (under the skilled baton of Alex Lacamoire and the original, glorious Jonathan Tunick orchestrations) begins and smoke fills the stage, we are immediately transported to a different time. The company appeared from and within the shadows, and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. This is not a Sweeney for the faint of heart. And it just builds from there. Part psychological thriller, part horror show, part musical comedy, this production embraces all of it. It is traditional yet acutely modern. The result is one of the top theater experiences I've ever had. 

📸: M. Murphy & E. Zimmerman

Thursday, April 27, 2023

REVIEW: Camelot

Review of the evening performance on Saturday, April 22, 2023 at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center in New York City. Starring Andrew Burnap, Phillipa Soo, Jordan Donica, Dakin Matthews, Taylor Trensch, Marilee Talkington, Camden McKinnon, Anthony Michael Lopez, Fergie Philippe and Danny Wolohan. Book by Aaron Sorkin, based on the original book by Alan Jay Lerner, which is based on The Once and Future King by T.H. White. Music by Frederick Loewe. Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. Scenic design by Michael Yeargan. Projections by 59 Productions and Benjamin Pearcy. Costume design by Jennifer Moeller. Lighting design by Lap Chi Chu. Sound design by Marc Salzburg and Beth Lake. Choreography by Byron Easley. Direction by Bartlett Sher. 2 hours, 55 minutes, including one intermission.

Grade: C-

Camelot is the most disappointing revival of the season. So why a "C-" and not a lower grade? Well, it's because what is good about it is superb; the rest, not so much. For me, this is a show that has, in my mind, never lived up to its potential. Despite its solid, if not fully satisfying, Lerner and Loewe score, the property has always been a bit of a bore. Pageantry and mythical magic always seemed to stave off the doldrums. And so, with Aaron Sorkin on board to tweak and update the book, and revival master Bartlett Sher at the helm, my hopes were high for a thrilling new take to make me reevaluate my feelings about this classic.

Alas, I'm afraid I like Camelot even less now than before.

To start, the overall production is, to be blunt, unattractive on the verge of ugly. Designed by Michael Yeargan (sets), 59 Productions and Benjamin Pearcy (projections), and Lap Chi Chu (lighting), the cavernous Beaumont stage is severely underutilized. Large faux stone arches reach past the proscenium and suggest that castle hallways go off both sides. The floor, resembling a few lanes at a bowling alley, is there for the using, but really only facilitates a whole lot of walking around. Occasionally, the monolithic upstage wall and the sides are transformed by projections into various vague settings - lush-ish green expanses in spring, grey desolation with snow in winter, and some oddly science-like images when the villain shows up in act two. As nice as they are, they actually emphasize a lack of dimension rather than adding to it. While I wouldn't even begin to profess an understanding of how to light such a space, I found it to be largely uninspired. An occasional pool of light to denote the isolation of various areas in the castle, and an eye-opening brightness to let us know it is the lusty month of May, are about all we get - not even any interesting use of murky shadows.

Some of Jennifer Moeller's costumes are lovely - Arthur, Guenevere and Lancelot definitely get the royal treatment. Others look like cast offs from an as yet unseen Star Wars film: the knights are all dark, overly armored and shrouded with floor-length capes, reminiscent more of Darth Vader than any hero of The Round Table. Still others look embarrassingly amateurish - Renaissance Fair cosplay garb for the "simple folk." 
All of that is to say that visually the show looks as cold, distant and off-putting as it feels.

By and large, Sorkin has reworked this into a series of TV drama scenes where more often than not, it feels like the songs are interruptions. Not good for a musical. In his alleged effort to "update," "enrich," and "modernize" the book, he has stripped it of its heart, humor and magic (literally and figuratively). Okay, so the central trio are more relatable (?), and argue and strategize like we do. So what? You'd think he'd know how to do this without decimating what makes Camelot Camelot. To match that, Sher has blocked a series of scenes that involve a lot...a lot...of pacing, and dramatic turns, and still more pacing. You'd have thought with all of that skulking around, he'd have used more of the stage, or at least given us something more to look at. More than once, I thought to myself, "if he was only going to use the thrust, why not use the Circle in the Square?"

There were but two times in the it-feels-longer-than three hours, where the staging was actually excellent. Thrilling even. One was the tournament, that was actually colorful, exciting and wonderfully staged (fight direction by theater legend B. H. Barry). The other was the extended sequence during "Fie On Goodness!"/"I Loved You Once in Silence"/"Guenevere." 
The energy was palpable. It was like watching a live action movie, with cross-cutting, chases, sex scenes, arguments and treachery all weaving in and out at an alarming - and exciting - pace. The best 20 minutes of the entire production.

By far, though, the very best thing about this Camelot is its principal cast, who, to a person, mines the otherwise tedious book for every possible nugget of gold. It speaks volumes for both the production and the actors involved that the most interesting things happen in act two, when the bastard son of the King shows up to wreak havoc on the realm, and his mother lets her former lover have it, claws full out. The son, Mordred, is played by one of my favorite young actors, Taylor Trensch. His record of captivating performances remains unblemished; he pretty much single-handedly breathes life into the whole thing. His mother, Morgan Le Fey, in this version stripped of any magical powers, instead traded in for some test tubes and the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun. It is Dark STEM and Marilee Talkington (in a delightful Broadway debut) makes a meal out of the crumbs she is given.   

With the central trio, we are watching a living chess game. The knight, Lancelot, is played with humorous pomposity and staggering chivalry by
Jordan Donica. His "If Ever I Would Leave You" is a true highlight of the entire Broadway season. The queen, here a quagmire of conflicting loyalties and love, tempered by self-protective harshness, is astutely, if coolly, played by Phillipa Soo. She really is the full package, even if more than once one gets the sense that she is holding something back. The king, a very human, conflicted, and unsure Arthur is fully embodied by the marvelously charming Andrew Burnap. It is astonishing to watch him evolve from a youthful victim of fate/circumstance to a not-much-older but wiser (if reluctantly so) leader. By the time it is over, you'd swear he'd actually aged a few decades. All three are superb despite the material they have to work with.

The best way, unfortunately, to sum up the problems with the show comes during one of the final scenes, where both Burnap and Soo are crying passionately, and Arthur and his queen admit they have loved each other from the moment they saw each other. I was surprised. Though not the actors' fault (that is all on Sorkin and Sher), not once did I see even a glimmer of love between them. 

What does it say about a Camelot where its one brief shining moment involves an illicit tryst, an evil illegitimate son and a scorned older woman? 

📸: J. Marcus

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

REVIEW: Shucked

Review of the Saturday, April 22, 2023 matinee performance at the Nederlander Theatre in New York City. Starring John Behlmann, Kevin Cahoon, Andrew Durand, Grey Henson, Caroline Innerbichler, Ashley D. Kelley and Alex Newell. Book by Robert Horn. Music and lyrics by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally. Scenic design by Scott Pask. Costume design by Tilly Grimes. Lighting design by Japhy Weideman. Sound design by John Shivers. Choreography by Sarah O'Gleby. Direction by Jack O'Brien. 2 hours, 15 minutes including one intermission.

Grade: A+

I can't remember the last time a Broadway show was as good as its hype. Shucked, a completely original musical to boot, is that rarest commodity - it is even better than the hype! Leave your "serious musical" hat at home and come to the Nederlander Theatre with an open mind and heart. You'll laugh, tap your toes, and feel your heart fill with joy. The endorphin rush will last - trust me, it's been five days and I'm still smiling! 

The score, by Broadway newbies and country music royalty Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally is an absolute delight, equal parts twang and Broadway pizzazz. I've often said that I thought country lyrics and Broadway lyrics were very similar: both are driven by character and story. Looks like I was right! They know their way around a big, splashy production number - with the opening number, "Corn," a rousing delight, and the uproarious ode to Tampa, "Travelin' Song," standing out. Both are equally adept at character songs: "Independently Owned" the viral hit (my new go-to shower song), "Walls," and "Somebody Will" are three numbers that have wit and insight and a ton of heart for the characters of Lulu, Maizy and Beau, respectively.

Speaking of heart, for me that's what makes Robert Horn's brilliantly hilarious book really work. Oh, yes, the jokes are plentiful, ranging from groan-worthy dad jokes, to clever puns and pithy zingers. Indeed, several jokes stop the show. But it's the unapologetic heart that Shucked proudly wears on its husks sleeves that grounds the piece. Horn makes sure we laugh with the characters, not at them. And we care - I distinctly remember thinking to myself, "I am really invested in this corn dilemma!" And if you really have to have depth, there's no shortage of commentary on everything from politics to environmental concerns to women's rights, always with a laugh accompanying each, uh, kernel of truth.

If the old TV show Hee Haw had a baby in 2023, it would look like Scott Pask's barn set, with rustic charm and wit to spare. The playing spaces allow for a wide variety of locales, and split-second changes with just a row of corn or two to mix things up. Japhy Weideman's magical color pallet lights the proceedings with charm and certainly adds to the emotional moments, and Tilly Grimes' delightful costumes bring denim and flannel to a whole new level! Her costumes that parody Floridians are as silly as they are on point. The sound design by John Shivers is a rare thing, indeed. No tricks, just solid design that insures that every single syllable of every joke and song is heard - even over screams of laughter.

The cleverness of the whole affair is held together by the sharp as a tack musical staging of choreographer
Sarah O'Gleby and director Jack O'Brien. Ms. O'Gleby is happily on the same page with the book and score, including some tricky long board and rolling barrel dance sequences. Mr. O'Brien's work here is reminiscent of what he did with Hairspray, with inventive staging and clever visual humor. Most importantly, while he allows the cast a generous amount of leeway in milking every laugh, he has taken great care to keep everything under control. He knows just when to cut the hilarity and allow the heart to shine through. It's a delicate balance, and it is handled brilliantly.

The citizens of Cob County, where this little fable takes place, are a game group. From boot-stompin' to barrel rollin' and a generous amount of good ol' fashioned Broadway hoofin', the eight member ensemble are all aces. It is clear that they are having as much fun as we are. They are the perfect support for the principal cast.

As our narrators and tour guides, Ashley D. Kelley (Storyteller #1 - a great Broadway debut) and Grey Henson (Storyteller #2), are a riot, delivering eye-rolling one-liners and plot details with equal zeal. When they let go playing a variety of smaller roles (sometimes two or more at a time - each), you can see the twinkle in their eyes all the way back in the rear orchestra! 

Broadway debutante Caroline Innerbichler is giving the sweetest leading lady role of the season with the finesse of a seasoned pro. She navigates each twist and turn of her anything-but-typical fish-out-of-water plot line, singing like a bird, and deftly handling the straight man duties of this comedy. She imbues Maizy with a wide-eyed wonder and a smart backbone. Her co-star, the, um, amazingly fit (it's a plot point, honest!) Andrew Durand, is an impressive mixture of hayseed, masculinity, and endearing warmth. His big act one solo, "Somebody Will," stops the show, and makes us root instantly for his character, Beau. His chief nemesis, Gordy, a dim, but conniving city fella is played by John Behlmann, a lanky giant of a man, who easily (and comically) handles the physical comedy demands of the role expertly. I'd say more, but his role is integral to the surprises of the show, and I won't spoil it for you!

Kevin Cahoon has returned to Broadway after a more than 15 year absence in the role of a lifetime: Peanut, Beau's cornfield smart, otherwise dim brother. His comic gifts are superior. I can't imagine anyone else delivering pun after pun, observation after observation, with as much skill as Mr. Cahoon does. It is entirely to his credit that each (intentionally) bad joke lands with both a groan and a laugh of delight. Sure, not all the jokes are created equally, but I feel sure that in lesser hands, Peanut would not be welcomed by audiences as he currently is.

Before we saw it, word on the street was that Alex Newell's turn as whiskey entrepreneur Lulu was stealing the show. As it turns out, he does and he doesn't - and that is 100% a sincere compliment. Written as it is, Lulu is always going to be a crowd-pleaser. She's quick-witted, with a savvy understanding of how the world works, a tight hold on her own life, and a generous heart that envelopes all of Cob County. But what makes Newell's take on the role so wonderful is the unfettered joy that exudes out of him, as he creates this wonderful woman. That joy is infectious, and we hang on Lulu's every word and gesture. And when she unleashes the already classic "Independently Owned," one experiences that elusive moment of Broadway nirvana. As I said though, Alex doesn't steal the show because this is a generous performance that is as much a tour de force as it is an integral part of the company. 

Shucked knows what it is, and delivers from the first line to the final bow. Would that other musicals were as aware. This is one show you don't want to miss. 

📸: M. Murphy & E. Zimmerman

Monday, April 24, 2023

The 2023 JKTS Awards: The Reader's Choice Nominations Ballot


The 2023 JKTS Awards:
The Reader's Choice Nominations Ballot

Time to nominate your favorites in 10 categories that the Tony Awards leave out! This year, we are considering only the 9 new musicals and 6 musical revivals that opened during the 2022/2023 Broadway Season. Today, you can nominate your favorites!

Below are many of the possible nominees in each category, plus an "Other" box where you can list your own nominees! NOTE: We have not yet seen New York, New York or Parade, so there are fewer choices of those on the ballot. Please add using the "Other" button for those as well.

  • You must choose at least one nominee in each category.
  • You may select 1 to 3 choices in each category.
  • This ballot will be open through Friday, May 5 at 6PM, Eastern.
  • You may complete more than one ballot.
  • The final voting for the winners will begin on Monday, May 8!


Friday, April 21, 2023

Broadway Jeopardy - Game 4

Broadway Jeopardy! 

It's game time again, Broadway fans! This. Is. Jeopardy!: one Jeopardy round, one Double Jeopardy round, and Final Jeopardy, plus two (not so hidden) Daily Doubles. Good luck!

Today's Jeopardy round category is One Word Musical Titles. We'll describe the show's plot, you name the title of the work. Get those signalling devices ready... and go!

One Word Musical Titles

Cute girl and her dog escape orphanage and move into a mansion

Gang member meets good girl over summer nights

Baltimore girl changes the world with big dance moves and bigger hair

 Beautiful girls and a Broadway Baby have a reunion

Guy falls slowly for Girl

Now it's time for Double Jeopardy! Dollar values are doubled. Today's category is Subject Matter. We'll describe a show, you name the title of the work. Grab those signalling devices! Good luck!
Subject Matter

Milkman's daughters defy his closely held traditions

Musicians arrive in the wrong town & spend the night

Baseball team gets a little help from the Devil himself

Hookers (and their pimps) deserve respect and understanding

Unemployed steel workers bare it all

And now, Final Jeopardy! Carefully calculate your wagers, based on your knowledge of today's category: Celebrity Replacements.

Celebrity Replacements

Emma Stone and Jennifer Jason Leigh both replaced the original stars who played this role in Cabaret

The Answers to Game 4 are below!
Jeopardy Round 1 - One Word Musical Titles:
$200: What is Annie?
$400: What is Grease?
$600: What is Hairspray?
Daily Double: What is Follies?
$1000: What is Once?

Double Jeopardy Round 2 - Subject Matter
$400: What is Fiddler on the Roof?
Daily Double: What is The Band's Visit?
$1200: What is Damn Yankees?
$1600: What is The Life?
$2000: What is The Full Monty?

FINAL Jeopardy: Celebrity Replacements
Who is Sally Bowles?

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

2022 - 2023 Logos: Dancin' and Parade

2022 - 2023 Logos: 

Dancin' and Parade

We've covered almost all of the logos of all the shows we have seen or will be seeing from this season. Today, we take a closer look at the show art from the last two musical revivals.

Bob Fosse's Dancin'



The color scheme of a deep blue against a black background is perfect, given the production's now-iconic finale, which features the title in giant letters, bathed in deep blue lighting. Just before that happens, each cast member takes a bow with their names in blue lights across the stage-wide black video screen. The title, in a bold font, also matches that moment in a way, but really the bold lettering is bold, just like Fosse's dance moves.

The top iteration of the full key art above is reminiscent of that curtain call, beautifully recreating signature Fosse poses, as the dancers do at the end. Just as wonderful, is how it spotlights the uniqueness of each individual, something not only well-deserved, but in keeping with the master's vision of his choreography. Another tenet of the style is the synchronicity of the whole company. The Playbill covers celebrate the cast as one, creating an array of Fosse signature arms, legs and hands. It's interesting to note that so far each month of the run a different dancer is featured in front. (Dear Playbill: Maybe you could sell each one...?)

I think the campaign perfectly captures the spirit of the production and the man behind the moves.

Grade: A+



This show art is a little bit of an enigma, but in a good way. Though you need to see the show to fully (or at least get you started) understand the title. So a relatively plain, but bold title might temper expectations that this will be a breezy romp about a parade. The burnished gold color used on the title, as well as the metallic grey/silver used for the credits suggests a historic memorial, like maybe a plaque or statue. It also fits the color scheme of the rest of the image.

It is also a lovely tribute to the Franks, here forever memorialized in early 20th century garb, with an empty, yet monolithic factory - scene of the tragic events of the show. It also works to showcase the stars of the show, who are clearly a draw for audiences. Perhaps it works particularly well because it divorces both from their prior, iconic star turns in Dear Even Hansen and The Cher Show. In other words, Ben and Micaela fans, you aren't getting a rehash. You are getting grown-up, mature performances.

Side note: People Magazine ran some exclusive photos, including the one to the left. It is clearly the same photo used in the current campaign, only with a different - though still factory-ish - background. The sepia toned photo even further adds to the whole historic importance of the piece. Using full color as they chose, does actually add a certain "modern" connection. The story is, unfortunately, as resonant in the 21st century as it was when these events happened more than a century ago.

Grade: A+

Monday, April 17, 2023

When the "Best" Isn't Your "Favorite": Thoroughly Modern Millie vs Urinetown

When the "Best Musical" Isn't Your "Favorite":

Thoroughly Modern Millie vs Urinetown

It was the 2001-2002 season, and we were all still recovering from the shocking tragedy of 9/11. We were all looking for laughs and comfort, and Broadway was providing just that. That season, there were three big shows, all funny, all song and dance. As it all shook out in the long-run, Mamma Mia! ran for years even if it went home Tony-less. The other two shared in the Tony glory and had respectable runs: Thoroughly Modern Millie (903 performances) was crowned Best Musical, while Urinetown (965 performances) took home the triple crown of Best Book, Score and Direction. For months, pundits argued, "how could one have the best book, best score and best director, and not be the best musical?" No matter. It's all history, now.

While I will always have an affectionate spot in my heart, Mamma Mia! is a sugary treat and my go-to for comfort food theater. As for the other two, that year's Best Musical, was my least favorite of the whole season, while the runner-up is still one of my all-time favorites.

I can appreciate Millie, after all it made a star out of Sutton Foster, one of my favorite performers. The principal cast included some other greats including Gavin Creel, Marc Kudisch, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Harriet Harris. There were also some fantastic ensemblists, too; you may have heard of Anne L. Nathan, T. Oliver Reed, Kate Baldwin, JoAnn M. Hunter, and a guy named Casey Nicholaw

The dances, choreographed by Rob Ashford were splashy, tap dance and old school musical theater, jazz infused numbers. There were also new songs written for the score by Jeanine Tesori. Again, no slouches there.

Of course, a great deal of Millie would not pass muster today. It's cringe-worthy for its blatant sexism, and it's absolutely insane that even then, its overt racism involving Asian stereotypes played for laughs wasn't called out. Will this ever be revived? Not as originally scripted for certain.

No, that season's Best Musical was not my Favorite Musical. That honor goes to Urinetown. Why? Well, I love shows that push the boundaries of the art form. Okay, in this case it was more of a nudge than a push, but progress was made. Despite the profuse silliness of the entire premise, it still had something to say about capitalism, policing, gender expectation, and class warfare. I like my laughs with a side of meaning. Then, there was the reverence for musical theater history, with its nods to West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht and others in its staging and choreography (by Tony-winner John Rando and John Carrafa, respectively). The environmental scenery was by a newbie you may have heard of, Scott Pask, who transformed the entirety of the Henry Miller's Theatre, inside and out into a dystopian (tongue in cheek) Hell-scape, from the leaky roof all the way down to the basement bathrooms. (Amazing how a show that sings about the privilege to pee makes you have to go at intermission - there was even a line for the men's room! It was there that they had free souvenirs: a series of postcards!

It was a battle of the Fosters that year: Sutton led Millie; her brother Hunter Foster, was the lead actor in Urinetown. He was a hilarious triple-threat. Other standouts included the always wonderful John Cullum, Jeff McCarthy, Spencer Kayden, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Ken Jennings (Sweeney Todd's original Tobias), and Nancy Opel. They even had several great replacements, including Carolee Carmello, Amy Spanger, Charles Shaughnessy, Tom Cavanagh and Victoria Clark.

The score, though, is probably my favorite part of the whole thing - I still, more than 20 years later, listen to the cast recording. Some of Greg Kotis (music) and Mark Hollmann 's (lyrics) gems include "It's a Privilege To Pee," "Cop Song," "Snuff That Girl," the rousing numbers, "Run Freedom Run" and "I See a River," and my favorite of them all, "Don't Be the Bunny." If you've never heard the score, I highly recommend that you get yourself a copy. And if you have heard it, I suggest you dust off your copy and revisit it. I think it really holds up.

Now, how about a revival? It seems as relevant as ever.

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