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Inside Theater

SpongeBob in the Sea with Boulders

Bryan Reesman • Current Issue, Inside Theater, January 2018 • January 11, 2018
There have been few Broadway shows as exuberantly trippy as SpongeBob SquarePants, a crowd-pleasing, family-friendly show inspired by the television series. This live version — which features original songs by the likes of Panic! At The Disco, Cyndi Lauper, and the Flaming Lips, among many others — crams as much colorful scenery and costumes and energetic song and dance numbers as it can into its two and a half hour stage time. Read More...
Song Liling (Jin Ha) during a colorful performance. Photo by Matthew Murphy

M. Butterfly

Bryan Reesman • Articles, Inside Theater, December 2017 • December 14, 2017
Song Liling (Jin Ha) during a colorful performance. Photo by Matthew Murphy

David Henry Hwang’s play M. Butterfly re-emerges at a relevant moment in our history as the show delves into politics, gender identity and cultural stereotyping of the East by the West. Featuring some new material written in by Hwang to update it, the Broadway revival, the first since its original 1988-1990 run, was directed by Julie Taymor (of Spider-Man and Lion King fame), who is known for large, lavish productions.

Elizabeth McGovern stars in this remake. Photos by Jeremy Daniel

‘Time and the Conways’ on Broadway

Bryan Reesman • Inside Theater • November 9, 2017

Neil Patel Devises Scenic Transitions for a Vintage Time-Traveling Play

Time and the Conways is one of those rare Broadway revivals that truly makes vintage material relevant for a modern audience through a magical blend of performances and technical wizardry.

The dazzling drop and staircase combo from the Follies section. Images courtesy Beowulf Boritt.

The Tetris of Broadway

Bryan Reesman • Inside Theater • October 12, 2017

Beowulf Boritt is known for his bold, ambitious scenery in shows like Act One (a musical with a three-story revolving turntable) and Thérèse Raquin (a play with a river upstage). But for Prince of Broadway, the musical revue of the work of Broadway legendary Harold Prince, the Tony Award-winning scenic designer got a chance to create numerous old-school set pieces. The challenge was not to make everything fit onstage; it was storing it all in the wings of the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, which has not had a musical production mounted there since the Prince-directed Lovemusik, which Boritt also designed sets for, back in 2007.

'1984' photos by Julieta Cervantes

‘1984:’ Feeding The Machine

Bryan Reesman • Inside Theater, September 2017 • September 10, 2017

The play 1984 has shocked audiences on Broadway with a mind-bending stage adaptation of the famous George Orwell novel that predicted our grim future. Perhaps that is why, in these tumultuous times, it has resonated with people; that, and the graphic torture scenes which have allegedly caused heart palpitations for some audience members. A big part of the show’s intensity emerges through Tom Gibbons’ jackhammer sound design and Tim Reid’s essential video design, which both creates intimacy for key off stage scenes, and a sense of disorientation and danger for some disturbing moments. Read More...

Beowulf Boritt’s elaborate set for Act One was one of the biggest to make use of a turntable. Photo by Joan Marcus

Turning the Tables

Bryan Reesman • Inside Theater • August 15, 2017

Set Designers Discuss the Pros and Cons of Turntables

I remember the first time I saw a turntable in action was in a performance during the original run of Les Misérables in the spring of 1987. My teenage self had never experienced a Broadway show before, and it was all rather overwhelming, including the sequence where Jean Valjean races through a series of important events in his life that were represented through rotations on the show’s turntable. While I’ve always recalled that the sequence felt rushed (for the time), it was novel to me, it was state-of-the-art at the time, and it hinted at the direction that moving scenery would head towards in the future.

Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Room, a rolling display, gets flown in the wings when not in use. Photo by Joan Marcus

Winching in the Wings

Bryan Reesman • Inside Theater • July 12, 2017

Mark Thompson Solved a Scenic Puzzle for Broadway’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Broadway’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been dazzling audiences with its fast pace, dazzling set pieces, and the buoyant energy of a nearly 40-person ensemble; notably, charismatic star Christian Borle as eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka, who offers an exclusive tour of his factory to five lucky children.

The band plays their climactic television number with 10-inch scoops hovering behind them. All photos by Jeremy Daniel

Going Big and Bold for ‘Bandstand’

Bryan Reesman • Inside Theater • June 8, 2017

The Tony Award-nominated musical Bandstand is not quite what it appears to be. While it has been promoted as a peppy post-WWII musical, it is not simply extolling the big band virtues of that era. Underneath its dazzling veneer is the tale of a WWII veteran (Corey Cott) who returns home with few job prospects. He desires to form a jazz band with veterans to enter a television competition geared towards finding a great song dedicated to the service of American soldiers. Not only does he corral a spunky, talented group, but the wife (Laura Osnes) of his late best friend, who died in combat, becomes their charming singer.

The townfolk of Gander rose to the challenge of helping the stranded passengers. Real trees flanked the wooden floor, wall and furniture. Photos by Matthew Murphy

Light from the Trees: ‘Come From Away’ on Broadway

Bryan Reesman • Inside Theater • May 13, 2017

During the chaos and confusion of the 9/11 attacks, American airspace was closed, and many flights were diverted back to their point of origin or to other destinations. In one specific scenario, 6,700 airline passengers on 38 flights landed in the town of Gander on Newfoundland. Gander only has 10,000 residents, and over the next few days, the resilient, resourceful Canadians showed their unexpected guests hospitality, shelter and care in a way that surprised and moved many people. The new Broadway musical Come From Away celebrates those random acts of kindness in the wake of a horrible tragedy.

Significant Other photo by Joan Marcus

Significant Other

Bryan Reesman • Inside Theater • April 15, 2017

Scenic Designer Mark Wendland on the Art of Subtle Transformations

Significant Other is an unusual Broadway comedy. What starts off as a lighthearted tale of an awkward young gay man named Jordan who is lonely in love while his group of close girlfriends start to slowly pair off leads to an existential crisis. As he approaches age 30, he realizes he does not know how to make romantic connections and is in danger of being left behind in the coupling game.

'Sunset Boulevard' photo by Joan Marcus

‘Elegant Decay’ for ‘Sunset Boulevard’

Bryan Reesman • Inside Theater • March 13, 2017

With Glenn Close returning to the character of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, the role that won her the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical 22 years ago, one wonders what the creative team could do to top the previous production. As Sunset’s new scenic designer James Noone notes, the last mansion set was enormous and very realistic. “It was a beautiful, stunningly executed, Gothic Hollywood movie palace that came down from the flies and moved forward,” he says.

The cast of In Transit both blend in and stand out among the colorful set designed by Donyale Werle and lit by Don Holder. Photo by Joan Marcus

Thrusting a Transit Space

Bryan Reesman • Inside Theater • February 10, 2017

In Transit at Circle in the Square Theatre makes use of a unique scenic design by Donyale Werle

In Transit is Broadway’s first a cappella musical, a cheerful, peppy, and sometimes bittersweet look into the lives of different couples (and couples to be) in NYC. Performing on a bi-level, T-shaped stage at the Circle In The Square Theatre in New York, the 11-person ensemble generates all of the sounds heard with few exceptions. On top of nicely replicating the feeling of the New York subway with a token booth located on the second level, the show features a 71-foot conveyer belt that moves people and scenery around and gives the thrust space a genuine thrust. Read More...

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