Take a Bow, Broadway!

We’ve seen two stage musicals in the last month to take note of: The Outsiders and Days of Wine and Roses—both with fine pedigrees as movies, and, in the case of The Outsiders, the popular young adult book by SE Hinton.

The Outsiders

Playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, The Outsiders’ director, Danya Taymor, and her team brought together a terrific cast of young actors to play the teenage antagonists—the socs (pronounced sohsh, an abbreviation for “social,” denoting the teens from wealthier families) and the greasers (their opposites). Actor Brody Grant received a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Ponyboy Curtis, as did Joshua Boone and Sky Lakota-Lynch for their performances. It’s a coming-of-age crime story involving the perennial friction between those on the inside of a group and those not. The book and music were strong (both nominated for Tonys), and the high-energy choreography and fight choreography were spectacular.

I’d never read the book nor seen the 1983 Francis Ford Coppola movie (maybe you remember the amazing cast–Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, et al.), so it was all new to me. It received a too-tepid review in the Washington Post, in which the reviewer seemed troubled by the musical’s occasional divergence from the story’s previous two incarnations. No problem for me, of course. Nor for those who selected it as a nominee for a Tony Award for best musical, best direction, best book, best original score, and, no surprise—best choreography—this year! Among other nominations. Well worth seeing.

Days of Wine and Roses

Studio 54 has mounted a nicely staged production of The Days of Wine and Roses, based on the 1962 movie classic (Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, et al., directed by Blake Edwards). Directed by Michael Greif, the musical version stars Kelli O’Hara and Brian D’Arcy James, both of whom received Tony nominations for their roles. This is O’Hara’s twelfth Broadway show, and she’s been nominated for seven Tony Awards (winning for The King and I), an Emmy, an Olivier, and two Grammys. Jones is a four-time Tony-nominated, Grammy-winning actor, also with more than a dozen Broadway appearances on his resume. Needless to say, they’re up to the musical demands.

You may recall the story. Farm-girl Kirsten Arnesen (O’Hara) is working in San Francisco and meets city slicker Joe Clay (James). He talks her into taking her first drink, and it’s all downhill from there. Since the pivotal role of brandy alexanders in the story is the main thing I remember about the movie, I can’t say how closely the musical tracks the film.

The sets are cleverly done for a smallish stage, and the book by Craig Lucas and music/lyrics by Adam Guettel are pretty good. In 90 minutes, no intermission, the cast has to take you through some dramatic and heart-wrenching falls. Byron Jennings does a memorable turn as Kirsten’s father too. It won’t leave you laughing, but it’s a fine show.

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