Company

The 1970 Stephen Sondheim musical, his first big "concept" show, is revived by director John Doyle, who repeats the actors-as-their-own-orchestra gimmick he used so effectively in last season's Sweeney Todd. It's less integrated here but doesn't do too much damage to a strong show. Singer/actor Raul Esparza is excellent as charming, conflicted Bobby and a few others shine in what can be thankless roles. And let's face it: even imperfect Sondheim is a must-see for theater fans.

The Drowsy Chaperone

Framing its tribute to the frothiest of theater forms1920s musical comedyas the obsession of an agoraphobic theater freak, The Drowsy Chaperone gives us permission to enjoy the form's pleasures while laughing at its absurdities. A strong production directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw helps a lot, giving expert performers such as Sutton Foster, Georgia Engel, Beth Leavel, Bob Martin and Danny Burstein the chance to leave logic and three-dimensional characterizations at the stage door.

Awake and Sing!

The left-wing ideas are as timely as ever but the words and structure presenting them are showing their age in this revival of Clifford Odets' 1935 play, making what should be timely sound a tad quaint. Some fine actors (Lauren Ambrose, Ben Gazzara, Mark Ruffalo, Richard Topol and especially Zoe Wanamaker as the ultimate Jewish mother) do good work, but the dated language keeps the play's emotional undercurrents from connecting with the audience.

Edward Albee's Seascape

Albee's deceptively simple 1975 Pulitzer Prize-winner gets a sturdy revival directed by Mark Lamos. This tale of talking sea creatures (Frederick Weller and Elizabeth Marvel) who visit an older couple on the beach (George Grizzard and Frances Sternhagen) is funny and thought-provoking. Despite a slow first act, the conversational quartet of Act II is worth the wait. 

Monty Python's Spamalot

Cows and puns fly thick and fast in this satisfyingly silly concoction that combines the anarchic rudeness of Holy Grail with the theatrical expertise of director Mike Nichols and a cast of versatile zanies. This musical deconstructs and spoofs the form itself much the way the original Pythons ripped apart TV and movies, and to similar humorous effect.

Mark Twain Tonight!

Hal Holbrook doesn't just play Mark Twain, he becomes him, in a gesture of theatrical alchemy that can only be described as magical. Both Holbrook's embodiment and Twain's words remain fresh, sharp and sassy, giving both Red and Blue Staters something to laugh at and something to ponder.

A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams' great play survives and thrives despite some odd casting choices, notably John C. Reilly as a too-ordinary Stanley Kowalski. Natasha Richardson could be a great Blanche DuBois, and she's always interesting to watch.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

It's NASCAR spin-outs for the Mensa set, as we watch fiercely competitive spellers crash and burn, their pain intensified by adolescent angst. Funny and fresh, with excellent performances by a tight ensemble, but hampered by songs that are almost indistinguishable from one another. At least it's original and not another jukebox musical.

Pacific Overtures

This beautifully designed, sharply directed revival, with a talented cast led by B.D. Wong, spotlights the Sondheim show that even some of Steve's fanatics know little about. The musical, focusing on the 1853 "opening" of Japan by the West, is more timely than ever but is too complex to indulge in simple U.S.-bashing.

Hedda Gabler

Director Ivo van Hove rips Ibsen's classic from its Victorian roots to focus
on the characters' psychology in an approach that works fairly well, mainly
due to a top-notch performance by Elizabeth Marvel as a delightfully
destructive Hedda.

Wonderful Town

Skillful, hardworking star Donna Murphy sparkles in a few numbers, but Kathleen Marshall's direction lets her and the production down too often. But Jennifer Westfeldt as Eileen and the Bernstein-Comden-Green score are terrific.

Gypsy

Bernadette Peters successfully scales the Everest of musical roles, "Mama" Rose, in a strong production that balances humor and heartbreak.

Avenue Q

Or, "Sesame Street" grows up and gets down. Fresh, funny, lively musical that applies educational TV's teaching techniques to everything from post-collegiate aimlessness to coming out of the closet. Puppets and people interact seamlessly.

I Am My Own Wife

Compelling, unique theatrical experience, with a tour de force performance by Jefferson Mays as a German tranvestite and dozens of others. Fascinating and funny.

Nine The Musical

Lot's of sparkle (though not enough sensuality) and a fine score by Maury Yeston dress up a pretty basic midlife crisis, via Fellini and starring Antonio Banderas. Yes, he can sing.

Take Me Out

Richard Greenberg's brilliant, multi-layered play takes off when a baseball
superstar announces he's playing for the other team. Executed by the best
acting ensemble on Broadway, led by Daniel Sunjata and Denis O'Hare.

Imaginary Friends

Real-life rivals Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy face off in an intellectual vaudeville devised by Nora Ephron. Not as much fun as it sounds, despite knockout performances from Swoosie Kurtz and Cherry Jones.

Hairspray

It's worth the price of admission to see Harvey Fierstein blossom from frump to plus-size fabulosity in this musical based on the John Waters film.

Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune

Stanley Tucci and especially Edie Falco shine in Terrence McNally's two-hander about ordinary-but-extraordinary people flailing towards love.

Thoroughly Modern Millie

Silly fluff that's less than the sum of its parts. Harriet Harris steals the show in the Beatrice Lillie part.

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