NouNou On Broadway
Broadway Capsule Reviews by David NouNou

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‘SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS’: The cast. Photo: Joan Marcus


Based on Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants and never having seen an episode of the TV show, I have to declare that Bikini Bottom should be placed on an actual map. It is an enchanting place to visit and to my knowledge it is the first musical adapted from an animated TV series and the best to date. The originality of the show is astounding and the pleasure is never ending. A strong book by Kyle Jarrow and music supervisor Tom Kitt keep the action constantly on the move. Director Tina Landau and choreographer Christopher Gattelli have created one of the most joyous and visually stimulating theatrical pieces in a long time. David Zinn’s sets and costumes are a visual feast. However, none of this would have worked had the show not had the nimbleness, guilelessness, and the wonderful demeanor of Ethan Slater. He brings life to SpongeBob and makes him a believable character and not a cartoon figure. Kudos should also be given to Gavin Lee as Squidward Q. Tentacles in the showstopping number “I’m Not A Loser,” Danny Skinner as Patrick Star and Lilli Cooper as Sandy Cheeks. All I can say is I loved this show and long may Bikini Bottom have a place on Broadway.

The Palace Theatre, Broadway & 47th Street
, 877-250-2929

‘ONCE ON THIS ISLAND’: The cast. Photo: Joan Marcus



A Caribbean fantasy springs to life, in large part thanks to Michael Arden’s meticulous direction. Through the aid of his designers: sets, costumes, lighting, he reinvents this musical to fit the confines of Circle in the Square. He has made it into an immersive 360 degree musical that envelops the audience.

With a rhythmic and tantalizing score by Ahrens and Flaherty , one is transported to a mythic time and place, with a story paralleling Romeo and Juliet. Instead of the Capulets and Montagues you have the lovely dark-skinned native girl from the poor side of the island, Ti Moune (Hailey Kilgore), rescued from a near-fatal accident and falling in love with the aristocratic, lighter-skinned native from the upper-class gated community, Daniel (Isaac Powell). She risks her life so he can live, thus love has a miracle of its own.

Miss Kilgore is a treasure and a find, while Mr. Powell is easily forgettable. One wonders why she would risk her life for him, but then again you would never have a story. Love perpetuates life.

Circle in the Square Theatre, 235 West 50th Street, (212-239-6200)


‘THE BAND’S VISIT’: Tony Shalhoub (center) & company. Photo: Matthew Murphy



Music is a constant source of inspiration that brings people together and is a true healer. If properly done, it can create magic and bring sworn biblical enemies together, if only for a night. So it is with David Yazbek’s The Band’s Visit.  Middle Eastern music (Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese) is among the most uplifting and joyous music in the world, and Mr. Yazbek has implemented the use of Middle Eastern instruments to create a score that is original and mesmerizing, a sound that Broadway has seldom heard.

Based on the 2007 Israeli indie film of the same name, it is set in 1996 when eight Egyptian musicians who comprise the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra have been booked by an Arab cultural center in Petah Tikva, Israel, but through a language miscommunication end up in Bet Hatikva. It is a barren wasteland of a town in the Negev Desert. There are no hotels, restaurants or anything; the people there just survive. On this particular day and night, these two factions are brought together through their loneliness and desolation. They share their lives, love of music, food and tales.

This is basically the story of The Band’s Visit; however, it is the haunting score that adds humanity to this gentle story of misplaced people. The scenes between Ms. Lenk and Mr. Shalhoub discussing their lives and shortcomings are sheer perfection.  Everything and everyone in the show circles their orbit.  They touch on people’s humanity and need to connect to each other. A message that is so desperately needed in these turbulent times.


Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 West 47th Street, (212-239-6200)



‘HELLO, DOLLY!’ Bette Midler. Photo: Julieta Cervantes



Hello, Dolly! was a glorious, record-breaking musical when it opened in January 1964 and if it is properly done and not chintzed on, it is still an old-fashioned spectacular musical. Dolly is an iconic character in the musical pantheon. So whoever that plays her has to be bigger than life. Three women come to mind: Barbra Streisand, Cher and Bette Midler, and who better to play Dolly but Bette Midler because in addition to her singing, she has the comedic chops.

Ms. Midler is a fun Dolly; after all she is the Divine Miss M. From start to finish, the crowd cheers and roars at whatever she does. I am sure that there would be lesser-name actresses who can play the part of Dolly more vibrantly and vocally be far superior, but no one can fill a house the way Ms. Midler can. Ms. Midler as I said is a joy to watch, but does she inhabit the role? No. The audience that comes to see her has no yardstick to compare or measure her performance against. They will cheer if she reads the proverbial phonebook. The only comparison that exists is the 1969 movie version with Barbra Streisand. Take your pick. In this case Ms. Midler gives more to the character of Dolly than Ms. Streisand did.

When seeing Hello, Dolly! you are really seeing Hello, Bette! You leave the theatre with a big smile and a feeling of satisfaction. What could be better?


Sam S. Shubert Theatre, 225 West 44th Street, (212) 239-6200


‘ANASTASIA’: Christy Altomare & company. Photo: Matthew Murphy


 Anastasia is a musical that can’t make up its mind whether to cater to adults or to children. It was inspired by the two 20th Century Fox movies: the 1997 animated version with talking animals and the excellent 1956 adult version with an Oscar-winning performance by Ingrid Bergman. Luckily there are no talking animals here, but this version is a highly diluted fairytale version of the once captivating and thought-provoking notion that Anastasia Romanov was spared by the firing squad and actually survived and reunited with her grandmother. Two standout performances, high-tech sets and projections, plus gorgeous costumes make this Anastasia momentous, if nothing else.

All this is good and well if it wasn’t for the rambling book by Terrence McNally and the bland score by Flaherty and Ahrens, which makes the show seem interminable. Too many unremarkable songs stretch the evening as fillers and minimalize the depth of the narrative. This is where director Darko Tresnjak should have stepped in and tightened the proceedings.

Unfortunately, the show isn’t helped any by having two extremely bland performers as the protagonists. Neither Christy Altomare nor Derek Klena have the depth or charisma to carry off the leads. The two gems are Mary Beth Peil, who is so regal and divine as the Empress. Young performers, take notice and learn from Ms. Peil on how she commands the stage. The second is Ramin Karimloo, in the thankless role of Gleb, with a voice and presence that shakes the rafters. Oh, how wonderful it would have been if he had played Dmitry. Anyone would give up everything to be able to run away with him.

Broadhurst Theatre, 235 West 44th Street, (212-239-6200)



‘THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG’: (left to right) Dave Hearn, Greg Tannahill (on chaise lounge), Henry Lewis & Charlie Russell. Photo: Jeremy Daniel


This is a typical English comedy that has the subtlety of being hit over the head with a sledgehammer. The Play That Goes Wrong is relentless in all the absurdities that can go wrong by an amateur theatrical company during a performance. You would think it would be a hilarious riot as in Noises Off, but instead it is endless absurdities of pratfalls, bumping into walls, constantly drinking paint thinner and spitting it out, objects falling from every which way, till the whole set finally collapses. There is nothing worse than sitting through an abysmal comedy, but then again there were some people laughing and enjoying it. If you like unsubtle British farce, this may be your cup of tea.

Lyceum Theatre, 149 West 45th Street, 212-239-6200

‘COME FROM AWAY’: The cast. Photo: Matthew Murphy


This is the most exhilarating musical since Hamilton. You would not think a musical about the transatlantic flights that were grounded in Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11 would be a topic to write a musical about. Like Hamilton, it charts in a new form of a musical. It is the storyline that makes it riveting and so full of heartfelt characters and moments and the heart bursts at the seams when it is over.

The entire cast is flawless, the score is uplifting, and the direction by Christopher Ashley blows you away. The energy on stage is palpable and grabs you and soars within five minutes. It’s those five minutes that you need to understand the Newfie accent. Once you get the hang of it, the interaction and storyline of the Newfies to the passengers is magnetic; so well written, that you feel you were a part of it. Nothing short of brilliant.

Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45th Street, (212-335-1024)


‘DEAR EVAN HANSEN’: The cast. Photo: Matthew Murphy



Dear Evan Hansen is an original musical that is epic in its universality and its theme is timeless. It is a phenomenon for every parent that has a troubled child, who may be misunderstood, lonely, despondent, troubled, bullied, or even suicidal; it is a musical of our time and for generations to come.

Michael Grief has taken this complicated tale and directed it with the lightest of touches. He knows it’s a heady topic and he treats all the movements with the utmost respect. The book by Steven Levenson is brilliant; he combines teenage angst and pains with today’s multi media and all its trappings. The score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul is a marvel. They did an incredible whimsical score for the Christmas classic A Christmas Story but here the score reaches exultant heights that are haunting and riveting.

The entire cast is outstanding but the star of the show, Ben Platt, is a revelation. He has the acting chops, the singing voice, the looks, the charm, and the personality to make the star of tomorrow. His Evan Hansen is a performance for the ages.

Guess what, folks? Get your tickets while you still can, because come Tony time I see at least six major awards going to this masterpiece.

Music Box Theatre, 239 West 45th Street, (212-239-6200)


‘A BRONX TALE’: Bobby Conte Thornton & cast. Photo: Joan Marcus


I can honestly say A Bronx Tale is the first truly, thoroughly enjoyable show of the 2016 fall season and we are very close to the end of it. That should give you an idea of how exciting this fall season has been. This is not to undermine the show but to totally praise it. Who else could have written the book as well as Chazz Palminteri? After all, it is about his life and who should know it better? The music and lyrics by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater capture the mood, feel, and essence of the 1960s doo-wop and rock-and-roll sound to perfection. It distills the 1960s and transports us to the Bronx, Belmont Avenue and an Italian neighborhood where there was right from wrong and rules were still obeyed.

The show is a tribute to another time. It brings back to life a moving, stirring, delectable Americana morsel that preserves a period, time, place, sound, and people that is part of American history now.

Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street, (212-239-6200).




‘WAITRESS’: Jesse Mueller. Photo: Joan Marcus



Formulated with flour, baked with butter and sprinkled and seasoned with sugar are not only the ingredients of the pies that are baked in Waitress. They are also the ingredients of the show itself and showered all over with love.

Based on the 2007 movie of the same name, Waitress easily translates to the musical formula and is hugely influenced from a female perspective because its creators, book, score and direction, are all women. If you recall the 1970s sitcom “Alice” with Linda Lavin, and Mel’s Diner, it had a feminist point of view that was refreshing for its day. Waitress has updated that version and the notion women can ultimately have and do it all.

Jessie Mueller is quickly rising in the ranks as a top, bona fide Broadway star. Having won the Tony Award for Beautiful just two years ago, she will be up again for best actress for the coveted role of Jenna. She is the magical sugar, butter and floor that makes this musical rise. If you’re in the mood for a scrumptious piece of pie, why not try the big helpings you’ll get at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre? They will surely satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth

Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 West 47th Street, (877-250-2929)


'SCHOOL OF ROCK': The children's ensemble. Photo: Matthew Murphy

‘SCHOOL OF ROCK’: The children’s ensemble. Photo: Matthew Murphy




Having not seen the 2003 movie School of Rock and knowing very little about it (other than it was a huge hit for Jack Black) definitely gave me a leg up to enjoy this vastly entertaining musical. For me, it was seeing an original musical and it’s a rock-ass thrill. Adding to that thrill is the music by Andrew Lloyd Webber (longtime favorite) going back to his rock roots of Jesus Christ Superstar and the book is by Julian Fellows of “Downton Abbey” fame. Who would have thought that these two “very proper” Englishmen would give us a most compelling rock musical of this generation?

I would say that the most daunting task in originating this musical was to find the proper Dewey. You couldn’t just bring a Jack Black imitator; you have to bring a Dewey that can make the character real for the stage. After all, he is the loser. However, he has to have enough likability, charm and charisma to be able to win the audience over and root for him. This task has fallen into the hands of Alex Brightman. He is a person that should be noticed in the future and come awards time in the spring.

Laurence Connor, who directed the current version of Les Miserables, has tapped into a much lighter venue (rock comedy). He keeps things constantly moving and never allows the children to be annoying or cloying. He respects them and gives each one of them a distinct personality and we get to know them as individuals.

Winter Garden Theatre, 1634 Broadway at 50th Street, (212-239-6200)


‘HAMILTON’: The cast of the monster hit ‘Hamilton.’ Photo: Joan Marcusstars_5


Hamilton is epic and groundbreaking. Totally original and accessible, one can only hope that because this musical works in the grand scheme of theatricality, other creators will not take it upon themselves to cheapen the brand by capitalizing on the astounding and distinguished hard work that Lin-Manuel Miranda has achieved by doing cheesy hip-hop knockoffs. A predecessor comes to mind, the dreary and dreadful Tupac Shakur musical, Holler If Ya Hear Me. Mercifully that show had a super quick demise.

Hamilton is an American history lesson done in the most entertaining of ways. Unlike its predecessor Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, which also originated at the Public Theatre and transferred to Broadway (that one was a sloppy mess and really did not know which way it was going and had no place on Broadway, hence a quick exit), Hamilton meets all expectations and surpasses them because of Mr. Miranda’s brilliant book, music and lyrics. The book is smart and the score is memorable. It is far superior to his previous endeavor, the Tony-winning best musical In the Heights.

The acting is solid by the entire cast: Mr. Miranda as Alexander Hamilton, Phillippa Soo as his wife Eliza, Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr, Renee Elise Goldsberry as his sister-in-law, Angelica, Christopher Jackson as George Washington, and Jonathan Groff a marvel as King George III.

One must take into account the brilliance of the book and the score that has been put into hyper drive by its director Thomas Kail. The stage is always abuzz because it works with Andy Blankenbuehler’s distinctive choreography. The fluidity of direction and choreography is seamless and the action is nonstop. The heart races when one thinks of the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda and the ability to create such a masterpiece.

Richard Rodgers Theatre, 226 West 46th Street, (877-250-2929)


 'ALADDIN': James Monroe Iglehart. Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

‘ALADDIN’: James Monroe Iglehart. Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann




Theatergoers, be ready to welcome the next decade-long-running musical with open arms. If you have been hungry for spectacle and glitter, you have a feast in Aladdin. If you are tired of the labored, vacuous, threadbare and uninspired musicals, bring the whole family for a joyous magical carpet ride. For no one knows how to entertain and perform magic on stage like the Disney folks; and they are displaying a veritable smorgasbord for the senses.

Is it all perfect in Ali Babaland? No. The book at times is trite and some of the lines are hackneyed. The leads: Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) and Jasmine (Courtney Reed) are not awe- inspiring, but they don’t have to be; they just have to look good in their parts and be serviceable. The supporting players’ “friends” are at times hammy and should be reined in. Despite minor missteps, there is a Merman/Channing diva amidst all this. We already have Mama Rose and Dolly; we can now add Genie to the roster. James Monroe Iglehart deliciously embodies him. He has the force and drive of Ethel and the zaniness and heart of Carol. What more do you need?

This is a show to be enjoyed as a spectacle and as a magical ride just for the sheer fun of it. When you go to Disneyland, you don’t go to nitpick some of the shortcomings of a ride, you ride them with an abandonment of a child in the body of an adult.

NEW AMSTERDAM THEATRE, 214 West 42nd Street,  

PUTTIN' ON THE HITS: A scene from 'Beautiful.' Photo: Joan Marcus

PUTTIN’ ON THE HITS: A scene from ‘Beautiful.’ Photo: Joan Marcus




What makes Beautiful an enjoyable evening is the extensive songbook written by the once married husband and wife songwriting team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Their life was not a particularly interesting one, thus there is not much of a musical or a storyline. No drama. No tension. Just a simple story of a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn, who wrote songs, got married as a teenager, had two daughters, moved to the suburbs and got divorced at 28. However, the songs she wrote are incredible, from “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “One Fine Day” up to recording and writing her 1971 multi-Grammy-winning album Tapestry, Jessie Mueller does an admirable job as Carole King. Ms. King was a formidable artist, but as material for a musical, not very interesting subject matter. The evening at best is innocuous fun.

STEPHEN SONDHEIM THEATRE, 124 West 43rd Street, (212-719-1300)


'BOOTS' IS A HOOT: (L-R) Stark Sands, Annaleigh Ashford, and Billy Porter. Photo: Matthew Murphy

‘BOOTS’ IS A HOOT: (L-R) Stark Sands, Annaleigh Ashford, and Billy Porter. Photo: Matthew Murphy




When was the last time you saw an original musical and enjoyed it just for the sake of being fun? Here is a musical that is eager to please and has one of the best scores in many years. Granted, it is no Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim or Andrew Lloyd Webber, but it has the threads of all these masters; both music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper. What a perfect project to utilize her musical writing skills and talent. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Harvey Fierstein’s book; it becomes too leaden and mawkish in the second act, but thanks to Ms. Lauper’s score, she manages to keep the show afloat.

A musical about Charlie (Stark Sands) inheriting a failing shoe factory that was left to him by his father and with the aid of the drag queen, Lola (Billy Porter), they turn this broke business into an over-the-top venture, stilettos for drag queens. The plot is nothing new: straight and gay forming a beautiful partnership and learning from each other’s past hard knocks in life. Both Mr. Sands and Mr. Porter are perfect in their roles. However, being that Mr. Porter is the drag queen, hence the showier part, his arc becomes more visible (just as Albin is in La Cages aux Folles), but equal credit must be given to Mr. Sands. The goodwill doesn’t end there, for there is wonderful direction/choreography by Jerry Mitchell, who has brought imagination back to the musical form; and Gregg Barnes’ costumes and shoes are gorgeous. Both men have provided show-stopping and heart-pounding moments. This is one show that, at the final curtain call, doesn’t get the obligatory standing ovation because the person in front of you has stood up and blocks your view, thus creating a ripple effect. This show and the cast get a standing ovation because they have earned and deserve it.

AL HIRSCHFELD THEATER, 302 West 45th Street, (212-239-6200).



MORMONS ON A MISSION: (left to right) Rema Webb, Andrew Rannells, Josh Gad in 'The Book of Mormon.' Photo: Joan Marcus

MORMONS ON A MISSION: (left to right) Rema Webb, Andrew Rannells, Josh Gad in ‘The Book of Mormon.’ Photo: Joan Marcus




It seems that each decade Broadway generates a landmark immortal musical. In the 1950s, it was My Fair Lady ; in the 1960s, Fiddler on the Roof ; and in the 1970s, A Chorus Line, etc., (you get the idea). Well, the New Millennium has finally gotten its groundbreaking musical and it is, without question, The Book of Mormon. I know some of you will say, “Well, what about The Producers ?” And I say that show was highly overrated and nothing earth shattering or original, as it relied heavily on its star power. If you want original, nothing compares to The Book of Mormon. The score, book, direction, acting, choreography, and design are all brilliant, and oddly enough, its roots are embedded, like the classics mentioned earlier, in the traditional but unconventional Broadway musical manner of starting with a great book and score and building on it from there.

From the first episode of TV’s “South Park,”  I have been a huge fan of Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Their sense of humor is unique and fascinating. Nothing is sacred to them, and the word fear is not in their vocabulary. Irreverence is their mantra. Teaming up with Robert Lopez, who co-wrote Avenue Q, was a match made in Broadway heaven, for what they used was their brain, talent, and ingenuity to create a work of art and genius.  No multimillion dollar budget and over-inflated egos;  just sheer power of the word and the music. Throw in clever and inspired direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw and a hugely talented cast, headed by Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad, both of whom are sublime, and the lovely Nikki M. James and Rory O’Malley are wonderful in what should be Tony Award-winning supporting roles. Hell, throw in Tony Awards for everything, starting with Best Musical, Best Musical Book, Best Score, and Best Direction on down the line.

EUGENE O’NEILL THEATRE,  230 West 49th Street, (212-239-6200).



THE SHOW ON EVERYBODY'S LIPS: Amra-Faye Wright (center) & company of 'Chicago'. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

THE SHOW ON EVERYBODY’S LIPS: Amra-Faye Wright (center) & company of ‘Chicago’. Photo: Jeremy Daniel




Chicago has now become the sixth- longest show on Broadway, and for good reason. Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb and John Kander helmed one of the most inventive books and scores of a musical. In its original 1976 version, the story got lost in its gaudiness. The look and feel was reminiscent of Pippin, another Bob Fosse musical. It was not the hit it should have been. For economic purposes and what was supposed to be a limited engagement at City Center, the new 1996 version, stripped down to essentials by Ann Reinking and Walter Bobbie, stuck to the story, score, and choreography and turned it into a goldmine, and an occasional A-list artist to goose up the box-office does not hurt, either.

THE AMBASSADOR THEATRE, 219 West 49th Street, (212-239-6200).


'WICKED' PAIR: Witches Glinda and Elphalba in 'Wicked.' Photo: Joan Marcus

‘WICKED’ PAIR: Witches Glinda and Elphalba in ‘Wicked.’ Photo: Joan Marcus





If there were a Tony Award for the use of the color green, this show would have won it hands down. The story traces the paths of Glinda and Elphalba, the Good Witch and the Bad Witch, respectively, before they became the legends they now are in The Wizard Of Oz. The show is so overdone and cutesy that one longs for a cigarette break and an intermission, and I do not even smoke. However, tourists and children will enjoy the mayhem on stage. All that green will envelop them in a haze of hallucinogenic euphoria.

GERSHWIN THEATRE, 222 West 51st Street. (212-239-6200.)


TIMELESS TOURIST ATTRACTION: Sierra Boggess & Norm Lewis in 'Phantom.' Photo: Matthew Murphy

TIMELESS TOURIST ATTRACTION: Sierra Boggess & Norm Lewis in ‘Phantom.’ Photo: Matthew Murphy




What can be said of this beautiful Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, now in its 27th year on Broadway? It is truly the last of its kind. The glitz and beauty of a bygone era where no expense was spared can still be seen in a show. The score is lush, with an emotional storyline. The scenery and costumes are ornate and gaudy. May seem a bit dated now for New Yorkers, but for the out-of-towner, it is still a feast.

MAJESTIC THEATRE, 247 West 44th Street. (212-239-6200.)




Julie Taymor has taken the beloved Disney movie and turned it into a family entertainment for all times. The popular Elton John and Tim Rice score from the 1994 movie is intact, as well as all the lovable characters. The stage dazzles with the lush sets, costumes, and masks. Even a new generation of children and adults can enjoy this opulent musical without having seen the movie.

MINSKOFF THEATRE, 200 West 45th Street. (866-870-2717) .