News: I’m directing “Groupies” in FringeNYC

GROUPIES_colorIn the spirit of what my peeps over at call “shameless self-promotion,” I’m directing a play in the Fringe called GROUPIES, and I’d very much like all you “drama queens” to come see it!

Here’s the info:

at The Studio @ Cherry Lane Theatre
At FringeNYC

Fri August 14 8:45 pm
Sat August 15 1:45 pm
Wed August 19 7:00 pm
Sat August 22 8:00 pm
Mon August 24 6:15 pm
Tue August 25 2:15 pm

The Studio @ Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce St. between Barrow & Bedford Streets
For tickets, click here.

A play by Sharon Lintz. Directed by Jonathan Warman

Featuring Jeff Berg, Tricia Beyer, Damion Lee and Ralph Pochoda.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, what sex you are, what your sexual orientation is, what color you are: every one of us has been fascinated by celebrity.

GROUPIES starts with a pop concept—celebrity obsession—then goes deep, offering surprising trips into the minds, passions, and sexuality of four very different people. Celebrity is the key into each character’s psyche: the perfect entry point to understand his or her humanity, desires, regrets, loves, loneliness.

And each character’s story comes with a twist.

Why GROUPIES? Because we like our pop culture with depth. And we love New York City. The stories contained in this massive city never cease to amaze us. Even so, we admit to forgetting at times about the wealth of human experience out there. As denizens of New York—as humans anywhere—we so often get lost in our own lives, in the chaos of life, in the anonymity of trying to get by.

For tickets, click here.
For more about my directing work, see

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Review: Phantom of the Opera

phantom3I have to say right off the bat that I’ve never been a big fan of the music from Phantom. In my other life as a theater practitioner (hey, some critics know what they’re talking about), I’ve had more than a few green room goonies thrust the Original Cast Recording in my face saying “hey, man, at least give it a chance!” Well, I did, and I was unimpressed. But I have to admit that it works better in the theatre that I had any right to expect.

It just goes to show what a difference a really good, experienced production team can make. Phantom was directed by Harold Prince, one of the greats of musical theatre—the man produced West SIde Story and directed the original productions of Cabaret, Company and Follies for goodness sake! Not to mention a ton of opera, which was the chosen field of the show’s talented set and costume designer Maria Björnson. Little surprise, then, that the opera numbers in the show have a richly authentic 19th century flavor.

Sir Lloyd Webber’s retelling of the classic story of loving the monster…well, it’s camp as can be, which only adds to the fun. Chandeliers crash, candelabras shoot up out of the floor, fire momentarily blinds you—it’s all like an old horror movie as shot by Stanley Kubrick.

Still, certain musical elements bug me: the sextets and such in the first act, where all the characters are operatically shouting their heads off, are muddled and difficult to follow. And the second act, well, pyrotechnics aside, it’s kinda boring. All in all, though, Phantom is worth seeing—if one of your out-of-town friends insists on dragging you to see it, you’ll survive.

For tickets click here.

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Review: Old Queen


There couldn’t be a more perfect show for my first review at than Old Queen.  In this moving, often hilarious performance art piece, Penny Arcade laments that today’s young queers (and queens) have more information at their fingertips than ever, but what they lack, she speculates, is context. Providing that larger picture, when she was growing up, was what the old queens did best.

Arcade, at 59, has realized that she is—in spite of her gender and orientation—an “old queen,” but is finding it hard to pass the context she now understands to the new generation. In my reviews (although I am nearly twenty years younger than Penny) I will strive to provide both timely information, and my sense of the larger context.

But enough about me! As a teenager in the early 60s, Arcade knocked around in the gay bars and gay coffee shops in Hartford, Connecticut, Providence, Rhode Island, Boston, and Provincetown and finally, at just past 16, washed up on the shores of Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side—this is the story she tells in Old Queen.

In telling that story, she also speaks to the “socialite” part of Gay Socialites, lamenting that fabulous wit is not treasured as much as it used to be. She realizes that this fabulousness came out of a bad situation—that is, when she was young, to be out and queer required nearly unbelievable courage, resilience, determination and intelligence. Plus, queers’ outsider status of the time encouraged the development of unique, insightful world views. With all that, how could you help but be fabulous?

Today, even the most boring, suburban people can come out without feeling their very lives are threatened. Great in a way, but it also means a glut of dull, mediocre, bourgeois souls in the gay scene.

This is required viewing for gays of all ages. I’ll let Arcade herself have the last word: “The old queens knew everything I wanted to know and for them conversation was more than an art, it was the existential nectar that gave form to the power of the word. The old queens knew everything about life and travel, the human condition, about the world—this one and others—and I craved their company. They tolerated neither banality nor mediocrity, and they possessed a fierce and unapologetic intelligence and wit. Just sitting at a table of old queens in a dark bar or fluorescent coffee shop lifted your IQ twenty points!”

Originally reviewed for

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(Big) News: I Join


I am now the exclusive theatre critic for, a popular, lively Google News-listed web site based in New York City. See the announcement here:

Their motto is “More than Gay News for Gay Men” and its content truly reflects that motto. It is smart and timely; I believe in it, and think it represents a fresh vision for the future of gay news media. I am as proud to be associated with this brand and what it stands for as I was to be associated with the Blade and HX.

See you at the theatre!

Review: Vanities


It’s a bad sign for a musical when you’re listening to the songs waiting on the edge of your seat for the dialogue to return. The engaging story of Vanities centers on the lives and friendship of three women who first become friends as Texas high school cheerleaders in the early 60s. Over time, stretching into the 80s, their friendship is tested, but in the end they discover that they can still rely on each other. It’s based on Jack Heifner’s very popular 1976 dramedy of the same name.

Heifner also wrote the book of this new musical, and it’s his writing—vivaciously acted by Lauren Kennedy, Sarah Stiles and Anneliese van der Pol—that gives this show what charm it possesses. The score by David Kirshenbaum isn’t truly awful, but it is noticeably not up to Heifner’s level of craft.

Musically, it’s pleasant enough, with a handful of moments that “pop.” Kirshenbaum also does a decent job of evoking the pop sounds of the 60s and the 70s—though it’s actually more reminiscent of Stephen Schwartz’s shows of the same period, especially Pippin. Lynne Shankel’s corny orchestrations didn’t do the score any favors, underlining already too-sentimental moments with such clichés as cutesy plunking on the glockenspiel (until I wanted to strangle that otherwise innocent percussionist).

Kirshenbaum also wrote the lyrics here, and he makes me appreciate what a fine lyricist Schwartz is. He also wrote his own lyrics for his previous show Summer of ‘42—I was underwhelmed then and I’m underwhelmed now. Heifner evokes very specific environments in his decade-spanning book, but Kirshenbaum’s lyrics are as general and clichéd as can be.

You won’t have a horrible time at Vanities, but will probably be left with a nagging feeling that it should have been so much better!

For tickets click here.

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Review: Mamma Mia

Mamma Mia boysNew York theatre critics are such bitches! I used to ignore theatre reviews for any given show until I’d written my own, but with a high-profile show like Mamma Mia I inevitably got wind of what my colleagues are saying—and their negativity about Mamma Mia genuinely surprised me. From the concept alone, it’s clear that this ABBA-mad musical is a piece of fluff, a bit of light fun, and that’s the standard by which it should be judged.  By this standard, it’s pretty accomplished.

As a matter of fact, I was struck by how often these songs tapped an emotional depth I had no reason to expect. Watching Mamma Mia I was reminded that Pete Townshend once commented that ABBA was more rock and rock than, for instance, Paul McCartney or Little Richard. If I remember correctly, Townshend argued that the heart of rock and roll is story songs that transform pain into joy, or even ecstasy, and ABBA did that very well in songs like “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and “The Winner Takes It All.” ABBA’s songs already tell little stories, and Mamma Mia weaves them into a larger one.

I must admit that the big story is perhaps less than the sum of its moments and that the book is awkwardly written and directed. Sophie is about to get married, and she wants her father to walk her down the aisle. Problem is, her mother Donna was a pop star and a bit of a wild woman, so there are three candidates for “daddy.” Sophie invites all three to her wedding without telling “Mamma” and thus sets the plot, such as it is, in motion.

Director Phyllidia Lloyd, a Brit, suffer from a problem endemic to British directors who try directing musicals: not enough experience working with contemporary musicals. In Lloyd’s case, this means that’s she’s directed the actors to overact where they should be low-key, making way too much of throwaway moments.

Okay, that was kinda mean (hey, I am New York theatre critic, after all!). That said, whenever the clunky dialogue switches to Andersson and Ulvaeus tunage, it’s always delivered with that kind of delirious joy Townshend was talk about.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the ample male flesh on display, and it’s all true. There’s even a semi-nude moment given to Sophie’s fiancée Skye, and yes, it’s worth taking your opera glasses for. The last word: As far as the Winter Garden is concerned, this is a huge improvement over Cats.

For tickets click here.

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News: Hair Joins National Equality March

hairIn an unprecedented move, the producers of HAIR: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical have announced they are canceling the show’s Sunday, October 11th performance so that the entire cast can join the National Equality March in Washington, D.C.  The announcement was made this evening by the cast of HAIR at a spirited rally in Los Angeles (the entire company of HAIR has traveled from New York to California to appear on tonight’s broadcast of “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien”).  The cast was joined at the rally by National Equality March organizer and historic LGBT activist Cleve Jones, Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk) and a handful of other prominent equality advocates.

In a statement, Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of The Public Theater and producer of HAIR, said “The Public Theater has always aspired to make theater that matters, that speaks to the great social issues of our time.  HAIR has never been just a show; its message of change and hope and inclusion is one we try to live, not just preach. This is the moment when we need to recognize the right of all citizens, gay and straight, to have their love and their unions acknowledged by the state. We are proud to join with Cleve Jones and the National Equality March in support of gay marriage.  Peace now! Equality now! Justice forever!”

Last May, civil rights activist David Mixner called for a national march on Washington in support of Equal rights for LGBT people, calling on prominent LGBT community leaders Cleve Jones and Torie Osborne to execute and organize it. Days later in Fresno CA, at a rally of approximately 5000 people from all walks of life protesting the California Supreme Courts decision to uphold Prop. 8, Cleve Jones stepped to the podium and committed to Mixner’s plea. At that moment Jones’ organization Equality Across America was born, along with its first mission: the National Equality March. Between now and October, Equality Across America will develop grassroots leadership in all 435 congressional districts to ensure that their message is heard loud and clear by elected officials all across America.  In October 1979, LGBT activists from across the country marched on Washington to fight for equal rights towards all. Exactly 30 years later a new generation of equality activists will take to the National Mall and continue that fight — and not quit until LGBT people are granted equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states. 

Ticketholders for the Sunday, October 11, 2009 performance of HAIR, can exchange their tickets for a different performance of HAIR as follows: if you purchased your tickets at the box office, please bring your tickets back to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre Box Office (302 West 45th Street); if you purchased your tickets through (either by phone, by mail, or online), you can exchange your tickets by phone with Customer Service Department (212-239-6210 in the tri-state area or 800-543-4835 outside of the tri-state area); if you purchased your tickets from any other source, you must contact the original ticket-seller.

Review: Jenna Esposito Sings Connie Francis


JennaEspositoSingsConnieFrancis-BConnie Francis is perhaps best known for the song “Where The Boys Are,” a perennial favorite among gay men for obvious reasons—who doesn’t want to know where the boys are! But she was a truly multi-talented and versatile performer equally capable of growling blues and down-home country, and she’s still in the top echelon of the best selling female recording artists of all time. She also had an ongoing love affair with the pop and folk music of Europe, and was rightly known for her landmark albums in languages such as Italian, Yiddish and German.

Jenna Esposito, a great young belter, rummages though both Francis’s hits, such as “Stupid Cupid” and “Who’s Sorry Now,” and some terrific obscurities. The show combines the best of a rock concert (a five piece band and backup singers, complete with period vocal arrangements) and the intelligence, elegance and detail one expects from the best cabaret.

In her between-song patter Esposito enthusiastically  tells the story of Francis’s life, exploring the ups and downs, her hidden love with fellow teen idol Bobby Darin, Jenna’s touching personal story of meeting the great lady herself and much else besides. “Jenna Esposito Sings Connie Francis” is a winning throwback to Francis’s late 50s-early 60s heyday, sung by an engaging singer with some serious pipes!

For tickets click here.

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Review: Thank You for Being a Friend

thankyoupre460There’s a cute show somewhere in “Thank You for Being a Friend,” an unauthorized musical parody of “The Golden Girls.” That show would have the same cast and a trimmed version of the same script, but these crazy kids would have to bust their butts rehearsing to transform the uneven mess currently on the stage of the Kraine Theatre into that “cute show.”

In “Thank You,” four women who closely resemble those cheesecake-lovin’ Miami-livin’ sitcom gals get all wound up when gay pop superstar Lance Bass moves next door—his loud outdoor sex parties keep them awake at night! So, you see, the underlying concept is goofy but has potential.

“Thank You” creators Nick Brennan (book) and Luke Jones (lyrics) are quite simply spread too thin. Brennan also plays “Roz” and Jones “Dorothea” and they do a respectable job of imitating the originals. They would be spread much less thin if they didn’t direct (Brennan) and design (Jones). They generally have the right ideas in these areas, but the execution falls far short.

Brennan has structured suspense into the script, but he can’t see from the inside that the pacing is very often lax. When you can’t hear Roz’s lyrics, there’s no-one to tell Brennan “louder.” And Jones’s design is clever and often funny, but it just as often gets in the way—there are so many time-consuming prop and costume bits that actually kill the payoff they should be helping. Jones should definitely leave more to the audience’s imagination.

Plus the warm and noisy Kraine doesn’t feel like the right venue for “Thank You.” The much-missed Fez would have been great—it definitely should be in a quiet, cool place that serves drinks. So perhaps the best way to get pleasure from this intermittently enjoyable spoof would be to have a couple cocktails beforehand at Boiler Room or one of the Second Avenue boy bars, and bring a fan.

For tickets click here.

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Review: The 39 Steps

39 Steps

Thank goodness the small and charming 39 Steps is now playing at the small and charming Helen Hayes Theatre. The first time I saw it at the American Airlines  Theatre, I felt like I was just seeing it in the wrong theater. That’s decidedly the case with this very physical British comic import. Based on John Buchan’s spicy 1915 spy novel and Hitchcock’s classic 1935 film version, it’s meant to be a gag, a giggle, a giddy good time. Its small-scale charms are easily found at the Helen Hayes.

This version of “Steps” is a likable beast, in many ways quite admirable. All the many characters from the film are portrayed by only four actors, who also create all of the film’s settings and effects with great virtuosity and astonishingly minimal means. My recommendation: Get seats as close as you can, and have a cocktail or two beforehand. Enforced intimacy and a couple cups of kindness may allow you to enjoy this sweet, fleet-footed thing the way its creators intended.


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