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Il bisogno si conosce l'amico.

You know a true friend when in need.


Officially, the Broadway and off-Broadway season ended the last week of April and the last minute openings seemed endless. There were some real clunkers in that group, but the theaters are full, the audiences keep coming. The great news is there’s plenty of wonderful stuff to see, and a few great surprises in that cluster of productivity.
I saw London’s National Theatre of Great Britain’s production of “War Horse” two summers ago while in London, where it still runs to capacity, and I knew then it was only a matter of time before it made its way to our shores. Well, it has arrived, in all its magnificence, looking sharper than it did in London, acted to the hilt by a crack ensemble led by Seth Numrich and Peter Hermann, and filling Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater with a magic and beauty that can’t be beaten by any other show in town. This is theater in its purest form-theater that engages, dazzles, fascinates, inspires, moves, and excites you-theater you carry with you days and weeks later because the story and the storytelling are so exceptional, so dizzyingly beautiful and yet so primal and elegant at the same time-it simply must be experienced. The piece will bring up feelings and even memories you’re sure you had stored away forever-it will have you standing and cheering and shouting and loving every minute-and all for the simple story of a young boy and his beloved horse. And to make it even more theatrical, the people may be all alive and real and breathing-but the horses are all giant puppets courtesy of the Handspring Puppet Company of London. These magnificent creations are operated in plain sight by three puppeteers for each horse, but after a few minutes, you can only see the horses, and to a lesser degree, the geese, and the starlings-but you will believe in everything you see and will believe in the kind of magic only theater can provide. And rest assured, this is not just a show for children-in fact, this story might be much too intense for young children- for this is a tale of a horse sold to the British Army during World War I, when machine guns and tanks and mortars were being introduced into warfare, and when it became clear horses were going to lose against such tremendous odds-in fact, it is estimated that eight million horses died during the First World War, eventually replaced in battle by the tank, but still sacrificed at such an enormous cost. This story is one of a young man who joins the Army to find his beloved horse, and undergoes the horrors of war in the process. The journey encompasses hundreds of miles and several years, but it’s a story you won’t soon forget, played by a group of master craftsmen who will keep you pinned on the edge of your seat. Parents, just keep in mind, this won’t be “My Little Pony” you’ll be taking your child to see-there is death and carnage and some pretty graphic images, because, as I said, a few minutes into this story, you’ll forget these are puppets manipulated by men in black and believe it is all real. And how much better can theater get than that?
The latest revival of “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” is so beautifully staged, you’ll feel as though you’re seeing the show for the first time, no matter how familiar you are with it. The fact that it stars “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe, making a superb musical-theatre debut, also means that much of the show’s audience probably hasn’t seen any of this before, and the sight of all these young audience members delighting in a show almost 50 years old, is a sight worth savoring. Radcliffe is more than ably abetted by veteran actor John Larroquette, who’s also making HIS musical comedy Broadway debut, and the way the two of them interplay, you’d swear they’d been doing this stuff for years. Radcliffe plays J. Pierrepont Finch, a window washer intent on working his way up the corporate ladder, who manages to insinuate himself into the company of Larroquette’s J.B. Bigley, the big boss of Worldwide Wickets, and eventually, with the help of his secretary/girlfriend Rosemary, played deliciously by Rose Hemingway, work himself up to exactly where he wants to be. The production, directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford, who I almost gave up on after last season’s tepid “Promises, Promises”, here returns to top form and seems to be even re-energized with material that covers pretty much the same period as last year’s musical. Maybe it’s the gorgeous score by my hero, Frank Loesser that has inspired Mr. Ashford, but his choreography here is just a joy, the dances are inventive and eye-catching, and oh, those dancers!! What we have here are the best dancers on Broadway, and the sexiest, with something to please just about everyone. “How To Succeed” is a definite must-see, and Daniel Radcliffe’s joy of performing is infectious-he’s having the time of his life up there.
Lastly, I must urge you to catch Larry Kramer’s play, “The Normal Heart”, finally making its Broadway debut, 25 years after its first appearance at the the Public Theatre, where it starred the late Brad Davis, and where it became the longest running show still to ever play the Public. It is Larry’s chronicles of the early days of the emergence of the AIDS epidemic, when he seemed to be the only person in the country shouting from the rooftops in a period of time when government officials, city, state, and federal, did their best to ignore a dire health emergency. It is a riveting piece of political theatre, acted by the incredible ensemble that includes Joe Mantello, returning to acting after a 17 year hiatus, in the role inspired by Kramer himself, as well as heavyweights Patrick Breen, John Benjamin Hickey, Mark Harelik, Luke MacFarlane, Jim Parsons, Richard Topol, Wayne Alan Wilcox, Lee Pace, and making a sensational Broadway debut, the mesmerizing, ferocious, Ellen Barkin, who could be giving the breakout Broadway performance of the season. She has a scene in the second act I defy you to sit still through or stay silent afterwards for. You’ll never see Ms. Barkin in the same light again.
And Larry, after years of vilification, finally gets his due for being right about EVERYTHING all along.