In Case You Missed It: Seth Rudetsky Has a Broadway Disaster! and Did Critics Get Hot for On Your Feet?

News   In Case You Missed It: Seth Rudetsky Has a Broadway Disaster! and Did Critics Get Hot for On Your Feet?
 
King Charles III, Mike Bartlett’s new British play that imagines what would happen if Prince Charles became King of England—something Charles himself has probably been musing about for a half century or so—opened at Broadway's Music Box Theatre Nov. 1.

The play stars Tim Pigott-Smith as King Charles III and features other actors as additional real-life Royals, Princes William and Harry, Kate Middleton, as well as Camilla Parker-Bowles.

You couldn’t ask for a better review than the one the New York Times gave. The paper called the play a "flat-out brilliant portrait of a monarchy in crisis."

Time Out New York noted that Bartlett’s choice to use iambic pentameter worked in the play’s favor: "Improbably, the twittish Prince of Wales approaches the introspective grandeur of Richard II, and we lean forward hungrily, gobbling up his cascading iambs."

Margot Leicester and Tim Pigott-Smith
Margot Leicester and Tim Pigott-Smith Photo by Joan Marcus

Variety saw parallels to Shakespeare, writing, "Director Rupert Goold’s ingeniously abstract staging calls upon the players in this Almeida Theater production to amplify – even to the point of parody – the correlation of the real-life characters they play to the Shakespearean models they're based on. Prince Harry, cavorting with his Falstaffian friends, embodies the very soul and image of Henry IV. Will and Kate effortlessly transform themselves into the Macbeths. And all the politicians who betray Charles represent all the court villains who brought down the ill-fated kings in the history plays. There's even a tragic parental ghost and some wicked witches to dispense bad advice."

Not everyone was won over. Newsday admitted to experiencing many "perplexing moments in the Olivier-winning London smash, times when I felt tossed around by the inconsistent tone and confusing intentions in what is cleverly subtitled 'a future history play.'" Everyone agreed, however, on the excellence of the lead actor. Said The Daily News, "Pigott-Smith's vivid star turn anchors the production as the monarch-in-waiting who goes from nervous indecision to majestic might. King Charles III is a fantasy, but the actor playing him is the real deal."

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A very different play opened later in the week, as On Your Feet!, the new bio musical about pop star Gloria Estefan and her husband, producer-musician-entrepreneur Emilio Estefan, officially premiered at the Marquis Theatre. The musical stars Ana Villafañe and Josh Segarra as the central characters. Jerry Mitchell directed.

"The recipe may be familiar," wrote the Times, "but the flavor is fresh in On Your Feet!, the half-formulaic, half-original and undeniably crowd-pleasing musical."

Other critics agreed with that stance of, "Yeah, it’s another jukebox musical (yawn), but, actually, this one is pretty good!"

Said the Wall Street Journal: "Alexander Dinelaris’s book is heavy on the Hollywoodian clichés, but it has its charming moments, too, and every other aspect of the production, directed by Jerry Mitchell, is slick and satisfying, starting with the smoking-hot choreography of Sergio Trujillo and the tear-it-up onstage band. Not only does Broadway debutante Ana Villafañe look, sing and dance like Ms. Estefan, but she acts well enough to make me want to see her in more challenging fare. Yes, I know, it's just a jukebox musical, but I liked On Your Feet! In fact, I liked it a lot — and I think you might, too."

All were fairly impressed with the lead actress, who was variously descried as a "knockout" or a "supernova" (theatre critics do loves their hyperbolic cliches). "In the lead role of Gloria, newcomer Ana Villafañe has found her voice and emotional core since a more tentative Chicago debut," wrote the Chicago Tribune. "Villafañe does not have the formidably rich Estefan lower register...but her interpretations of the Estefan hits are quite lovely because they feel rooted in the kind of warmth and sincerity that marks the reputation of their subject."

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Theatre musician-actor-radio host-columnist Seth Rudetsky will soon add a new credit to his confusing resume: Broadway librettist.

Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick’s musical Disaster!, a parody of 1970's disaster movies that ran Off-Broadway in 2012 and 2013, has booked Broadway's Nederlander Theatre for a March 2016 opening.

Rudetsky and the original Off-Broadway company of <i>Disaster!</i>
Rudetsky and the original Off-Broadway company of Disaster! Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Rudetsky has worked with almost everyone in the business, and those connections no doubt helped in assembling the rather impressive cast, which includes Roger Bart, Kerry Butler, Kevin Chamberlin, Adam Pascal, Faith Prince, Rachel York, Jennifer Simard, Max Crumm, Lacretta Nicole—and, wait for it, Rudetsky himself!

Plotnick will direct. Rudetsky and Plotnick wrote the book. The score, meanwhile, wrote itself. It features a songbook of pop, rock and disco hits of the 1970's, including "Hot Stuff," "I Am Woman," "Knock on Wood" and "Daybreak.” As to plot, "Earthquakes, tidal waves, infernos and rampant wildlife" are promised.

Disaster! begins previews Feb. 9, 2016.

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An object lesson on how a drama critic should not behave–as well as how a decent human shouldn’t behave–was provided this week, free of cost, by a Seattle-based theatre critic.

L. Steven Sieden, who reviews for that lofty journalistic institution, The Huffington Post, posted an ad on Craigslist in which he offered to sell the other half of the free pair he regularly received as a critic of local theatre productions. Every critic with a brain and conscience knows this is a huge, honking ethical no-no. The plus-one comps are given to critics as a courtesy, and not an asset for resale.

But it didn’t stop there. Sieden also appears to have also extended the possibility of incorporating the buyer's opinion into his review. Moreover, the ad seemed to indicate that the offer—which was a personal ad on Craigslist under "Men Seeking Women"—was Sieden's way of scoring a date. A date who will still have to pay "less than half of the face value" of the ticket. Classy.

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