Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

A Tale of Two Epochs: Romeo & Bernadette: A Musical Tale of Verona & Brooklyn

Oh, Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? In the case of Romeo & Bernadette: A Musical Tale of Verona & Brooklyn, it all depends. That is, it depends on whether you’re looking to reality to find the answer to the question, or to the fantasy created as an extended reality in this new hilarious off-Broadway show. The best answer is to suspend belief altogether and go with the flow. That’s really what this quirky, fun romp is all about.

The musical is one long exercise in romance.  At the beginning, Romeo is a character in a cheesy version of the traditional Shakespearean play, attended by a Brooklyn couple on a date. Brooklyn Girl is markedly affected by the story, while Brooklyn Guy — who could have been plucked right out of Saturday Night Fever or Grease — has other ideas. He doesn’t quite understand the emotional reaction that’s now limiting his after-date possibilities.  How does he rectify this?  By creating a second Romeo tale, one in which Romeo and Juliet are not dead at the end of the story, but are transported instead to a different reality where a different outcome is possible.

Therein lies the plotline, the extended fantastical tale of the very-much-alive Romeo who meets his revived Juliet (or so he thinks) and transcends time and geography to pursue her. Where the story goes is a tale of hilarity, confusion, and misunderstood and mistaken identities – in effect, a modern-day Montague and Capulet feud with a much sunnier ending.

En route from Brooklyn to Verona and back to Brooklyn, you’ll meet an assortment of stereotypical and atypical Brooklyn characters: a Bobby Darren lookalike, two warring mob patriarchs, a foul-mouthed bride-to-be and her best friend, two men vying for the attention of the beautiful  “Juliet,” a thug at-the-ready, and a dance teacher-priest-dressmaker-florist rolled into one. Costumed by Joseph Shrope and Fabio Toblini, even Romeo sheds his Veronese garb and goes full-on Brooklyn. Action and dialogue are all played out with an over-the-top Brooklyn accent in which Shakespearean English is replaced by a fuggedaboutit version, and the refinement of Italy’s La Scala and Verona disintegrate into scenes with Sal in his underwear and Bernadette in a bow-bedecked wedding dress.  If Shakespeare could have re-imagined his oeuvre as an exercise in camp, he couldn’t have done it any better.

Newcomers to off-Broadway Nikita Burshteyn (Romeo), Anna Kostakis (Bernadette), Michael Notardonato (Dino Del Canto/Brooklyn Guy) and Ari Raskin (Donna/Brooklyn Girl) shine in the show , along with veterans Judy McLane (Mamma Mia, Kiss of the Spider Woman), Zach Schanne (City of Light), Carlos Lopez (Man of La Mancha, Grease)and Viet Vo (Carousel, Evita) as Camille Penza, Tito Titone ,Sal Penza and Lips with winning vocals that soar in light opera motif. Think Gilbert and Sullivan meets the Mafia with a dash of Puccini and Volare. Lyrics by Mark Saltzman are set to songs derived from classic Italian music. Throw in some Guys and Dolls, a few malapropisms, spot-on characterizations and adept staging and you have the makings of two hours of spoofy fun.

Tickets are available through February 16 at the Mezzanine Theatre at A.R.T./NY, 502 West 53rd Street.  The play was produced by Amas Musical Theatre, a performing arts pioneer in promoting  diversity and multi-ethnic casting, currently serving as a not-for-profit laboratory for new musicals.

Six Broadway and Off-Broadway Shows Closing This Month

It’s time to make good on that New Year’s resolution to see more theater this year.  Book now to see these six great shows which will be ending their runs in January.

Brought to you by Fiasco Theater, the classic Shakespearean comedy, Twelfth Night, tells the story of shipwrecked twins Viola and Sebastian on the island of Illyria. Shakespearean disguises, romance, and humor reign throughout. Classic Stage Company, 136 East 13th Street, New York City. Tickets at

Two Lincoln Center shows are closing January 7. The first, Junk, is a fast-paced story about markets, drive and intrigue, set in the 80s. Starring Steven Pasquale (The Bridges of Madison County). Vivian Beaumont Theatre. 150 West 65th Street, New York City.

Tickets at

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

The second, The Wolves, is a story of high school girl angst and issues told by a girls’ indoor soccer team during warm-ups and practices. Great performances and creative staging. Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. 150 West 65th Street, New York City Tickets at

Photo by Julieta Cervantes

The Irish Repertory Theatre’s staging of James Joyce’s haunting novella, The Dead, 1904, takes place at a Feast of the Epiphany party over the course of one evening, with conversations, music, dancing and dining. What does it mean to be alive, or to be dead? The play ponders these questions. With a premium ticket, you sit a dinner with the actors. Starring John Treacy Egan. The American Irish Historical Society. 132 West 22nd Street. Closing January 7. Tickets at

Photo by Carol Rosegg

If you haven’t made it to Hamilton, but especially if you have, Spamilton is a must-see. Gerard Alessandrini’s hilarious take-off on Hamilton draws from his Forbidden Broadway background, with satires, spins, and superb talent. With Christine Pedi (Sirius XM). 47th Street Theater/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater. 304 West 47th Street, New York. Closing January 7. Tickets at

Willy Wonka will be leaving Broadway on January 14. Starring Christian Borle (Something Rotten, Smash), Emily Padgett, Bed Crawford and Jackie Hoffman. The Broadway adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is all about chocolate, The Candy Man, Oompa-Loompas and a chance to win the Golden Ticket. Catch it before you can only see it on the small screen. Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. 205 West 46th Street. Tickets at

Photo By Joan Marcus

The stunning remake of Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical Miss Saigon will also be flying away on January 14. Don’t miss your  chance to hear “The American Dream” sung by the fabulous Jon Jon Briones as the Engineer, or see Eva Noblezada in the title role made famous by current Once on this Island star Lea Salonga. Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway, New York. Tickets at

Last Call for Two Wonderful Off-Broadway Plays by Shakespeare and Potok

The Public Theater’s acclaimed Shakespeare in the Park series concludes on August 18 with a rollicking musical interpretation of the bard’s early comic masterpiece, “Love’s Labours Lost” .  This time set as a reunion at a prestigious college, with the beautiful Belvedere Castle as a fitting backdrop, the play takes the story of young men willing to forego the pleasures of the flesh (to find truer meaning in life) to a level that true Shakespeare fans may not appreciate.  It could be called a “Saturday Night Live” mashup with Shakespeare – it even features SNL’s fabulous Rachel Dratch as one of the professors – and it’s a lot of fun.  With a terrific band playing 30 or so memorable songs ranging from rock to rap, and a super-talented cast with two of the stars from the Public Theater’s successful “Passing Strange”(Daniel Breaker and Rebecca Naomi Jones), the production guarantees a wonderful evening.

Tickets, as usual, are distributed free in a democratic manner: you must line up early in the morning near the Delacorte Theater in Central Park to await distribution for the performance of the same day.  Two per person.  Alternately, you can donate to support free Shakespeare in the Park through the Public Theater’s website for $175 per person and receive one ticket to this show.  The song “Rich People” pokes fun at this with a wonderfully hilarious song.  The show is a must-see. Delacorte Theater in Central Park, Manhattan, enter at 80 Street.

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“My Name is Asher Lev” at the Westside Theater is a powerful adaptation of Chaim Potok’s 1972 novel about a Hasidic boy growing up in Brooklyn in the 50s.  The story about Asher’s conflicts with his father, his drive to be an artist (painting subjects taboo in the Hasidic world), and the role of his Hasidic mother as intermediary is a portrayal of tradition versus passion. Asher’s relationships with his art mentor Jacob Kahn, his mother, and his father form the backbone of the story.  Performances by Ari Brand (Asher) and Mark Nelson (Aryeh) are gripping and often disturbing, with Asher looking almost possessed at times.  Chaim Potok’s daughter, Naam Potok, is the understudy for Rivkeh, a rare and especially meaningful theatrical tribute to the author.  Closing September 1. Westside Theater, 407 West 43rd Street, Manhattan.

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