This has been a big season for Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. First they revived “The Fantasticks,” their best-known musical, in a splendid Off Broadway production directed by Mr. Jones that opened last August and is still going strong. Now the Roundabout Theatre Company has brought “110 in the Shade” back to Broadway for the first time since it closed in 1964–and it turns out to be every bit as good as “The Fantasticks.” Not only is Lonny Price’s staging letter-perfect, but Audra McDonald, who hasn’t appeared in a Broadway musical since 1999, is giving the performance of a lifetime as Lizzie Curry, a plain-Jane gal from Texas who is haunted by the prospect of permanent spinsterhood until a fast-talking con man named Starbuck (Steve Kazee) blows into town and awakens her inner babe….
Ms. McDonald gives the most fully realized performance I’ve seen in a musical this season, not excluding Donna Murphy in “LoveMusik” and Raúl Esparza in “Company.” It goes without saying that she has the best voice on Broadway, but like Kristin Chenoweth, she doesn’t have to sing a note to grab your attention. Ms. McDonald is an actor who sings, not a singer who acts…
Rejoice greatly, stargazers: Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes have returned to Broadway to share a stage in Terrence McNally’s “Deuce.” Would that this tale of two retired tennis pros were something other than an ordinary celebrity vehicle, but great acting can ennoble the tritest of scripts, and Mr. McNally’s leading ladies deliver the goods with postage to spare….
August Wilson is back in town–posthumously. “Radio Golf,” the tenth and last installment in Wilson’s “Pittsburgh cycle” of plays about black life in 20th-century America, opened at the Yale Repertory Theatre in 2005, seven months before the playwright’s death. It has since been performed by a half-dozen other regional companies. Now it’s arrived on Broadway in a road-honed production directed by Kenny Leon, designed by David Gallo and performed by five first-class actors, three of whom have been with the show since its premiere….
Good drama doesn’t always tell the truth–it doesn’t have to. Great drama, on the other hand, turns a spotlight on the world and forces the viewer to acknowledge the most painful and fundamental facts about human nature. Many of August Wilson’s plays do that, but in “Radio Golf” he settled for the lazy half-answers of the ideologue. While that doesn’t diminish in the least the genuine greatness of a play like “Fences,” I wish he’d gone out on a higher, truer note.
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Next week, Chicago!