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Showtime! features reviews, commentary and assorted theatrical musings from Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld.com's Chief Theatre Critic. To submit amusing backstage banter, absurd audience observations or noteworthy links to Showtime!, click here. Anonymity's guaranteed. My not taking credit for your clever remark isn't.


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The Other Place


Laurie Metcalf is already seated center stage as patrons enter the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre for Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of The Other Place, tempting less-sophisticated playgoers to yell out, “We loved you in Roseanne!”

But despite her Emmy-winning sitcom success, Metcalf’s extensive stage career has consisted primarily of critically acclaimed performances in more somber fare, such as her Mary Tyrone in last year’s London production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night.  As in that O’Neill classic, Sharr White’s psychological drama also has her playing a woman whose mind transports her into unreliable perceptions of reality.  The twist being that she’s this play’s storyteller.

As accomplished neurologist Juliana Smithton, Metcalf is a striking figure of confident, intelligent sexuality; smartly dressed and crackling with sarcasm.  She puts those qualities to good use in marketing a new pill intended to treat dementia and once the play gets started, she’s recalling a presentation she gave at a convention in St. Thomas, where she was distracted by a woman in the audience dressed in a yellow bikini.  Soon, the audience may question if the scantily clad guest was really there because, coincidentally, it seems Juliana may be suffering from dementia herself and, in a roller coaster of scene work deftly guided by director Joe Mantello, the play takes us from narrated remembrances to the present to flashbacks, all depictions questionable in their truthfulness.

In her messy home life, Juliana suspects her oncologist husband Ian (Daniel Stern) is cheating on her, and that she’s been getting calls from her long lost daughter (Zoe Perry) who might have married her former assistant (John Schiappa).  Eugene Lee and Edward Pierce’s clever set provides a background of jumbled window frames, none of which offer a clear view of what’s beyond.

With weightier roles for the supporting players, The Other Place might provide a deeper experience in its 70-minute length, but Juliana is the only fully-realized character.  Fortunately, the superb Metcalf, with her detailed performance exposing Juliana’s humiliation and fear of losing control of her mind, is attention-grabbing at every moment, but without her presence The Other Side seems little more than a competent, if somewhat familiar, episode.

Photo of Laurie Metcalf by Joan Marcus.

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Posted on: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 @ 02:23 PM Posted by: Michael Dale


Peter Marshall: And Then She Wrote

“If you’d like to sing along with us, please don’t.  It confuses me.”

Self-depreciating references to his age are hardly necessary for Peter Marshall, whose Metropolitan Room gig marks his first major cabaret engagement since he was partnered with Tommy Noonan in late 1950s.  In between he squeezed in careers as a musical comedy leading man – most famously on Broadway opposite Julie Harris in Skyscraper – and as the five-time Emmy Award winning host of The Hollywood Squares.

But even at 86 years of age, his saloon singing skills are still in exceptional shape.  The flashing smile from his handsomely-creased face is as charming as his mellow, romantic baritone crooning old favorites.

Marshall surrounds himself with talented women both on stage and on the set list for And Then She Wrote, a fun and lively revue of American Songbook classics written or co-written by women.  With music director Anne Drummond on piano and flute and Brandi Disterheft on bass, the male star shares vocal responsibilities with jazz singers Carol Welsman (who occasionally takes over the keyboard) and Denise Donatelli.  And he does share the stage.  The three divide up material pretty evenly.

Of course, the matriarch of the American Songbook, Nora Bayes, is introduced early on with “Shine On, Harvest Moon.”  Dorothy Fields is well represented with favorites like “Sunny Side of the Street," “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “The Way You Look Tonight,” as are Carolyn Leigh (“The Best Is Yet To Come” “Young At Heart” “Real Live Girl”) and Betty Comden (“Make Someone Happy” “Just In Time” “The Party’s Over”).

Thirty-nine songs in total, including selections by Ella Fitzgerald (“A-Tisket, A-Tasket”), Marilyn Bergman (“What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?”) and Peggy Lee (“It’s a Good Day”) are packed into the 90-minute program, mostly by limiting each presentation to one chorus.  The mixture of solos, duets and three-part harmonies are done in straightforward, standard arrangements with bits of patter praising each songwriter and adding some of Marshall’s personal remembrances.

And Then She Wrote may not be a particularly creative venture, but it’s a polished, cheery and enjoyable interlude, and a welcome chance to see one of television’s iconic figures successfully return to the type of performing he first loved.

Photo: Carol Welsman, Peter Marshall and Denise Donatelli.

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Posted on: Friday, January 18, 2013 @ 10:46 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 1/13/13 & Theatre Quote of the Week

 

"Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself."

-- Harvey Fierstein

The grosses are out for the week ending 1/13/2013 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: PICNIC (26.6%), GOLDEN BOY (12.5%), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (10.3%), ONCE (8.5%), THE HEIRESS (6.5%), THE OTHER PLACE (6.3%), WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (4.7%), GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (0.7%), THE BOOK OF MORMON(0.1%),

Down for the week was: MARY POPPINS (-32.7%), ANNIE (-29.2%), CHICAGO (-26.0%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-19.2%), MAMMA MIA! (-18.9%), EVITA (-17.8%), JERSEY BOYS (-13.8%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-9.9%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-9.3%), NEWSIES (-7.3%), WICKED (-5.7%), THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (-5.4%), ROCK OF AGES (-4.6%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (-4.2%), THE LION KING (-1.8%),

Posted on: Monday, January 14, 2013 @ 03:20 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Water By The Spoonful

It doesn’t happen often, but, fair or not, there’s always a little extra pressure put on a play when it comes to New York after having already won the Pulitzer Prize.  Quiara Alegría Hudes, a Pulitzer finalist for both Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue and her co-authorship of In The Heights, was awarded top honors last year for Water By The Spoonful, which was commissioned by Hartford Stage, where it premiered in 2011.  Shortly after, the recently-opened Off-Broadway mounting was placed on Second Stage’s schedule.

But while the playwright provides some intriguing characters and interesting themes, the evening’s dramatics remain rather tepid, despite the work of an engaging ensemble under director Davis McCallum.

Being the second part of the trilogy that began with …Soldier’s Fugue, we’re once again introduced to Puerto Rican Iraq War vet Elliot (Armando Riesco).  Back home in Philadelphia after being honorably discharged for a leg injury, his adjustment to civilian life includes working with his cousin Yaz (Zabryna Guevara) to pay for the funeral of his Aunt Ginny, who raised him from infancy.  Yaz is a college music professor with a strong admiration for John Coltrane; a theme-heavy scene has her speaking passionately of the beauty of dissonance in jazz which eventually leads to resolution.

Running parallel to their story are scenes involving an Internet support group for people recovering from crack addiction, run by a woman who goes by the on-line name of Haikumom (Liza Colón-Zayas).  Participants include 20-ish Japanese born/American raised Orangutan (Sue Jean Kim) who strikes up a closer friendship with middle-aged Chutes and Ladders (Frankie R. Faison) while discussing her wish to find her biological parents.  Though the group members never meet personally and only communicate on line, their dialogue seems too conversational to pass as typewritten chat.

The two worlds eventually connect and the comparisons between Elliot’s physical family and the virtual one created through the Internet carries the main weight of the play, with sidetracks into issues of dependency, wartime trauma and civilian loss providing the dissonance.

Hudes has a talent for dialogue, introspective humor and fresh storytelling ideas, but in the end Water By The Spoonful, a play deeply concerned with communication, doesn’t say very much. 

Photo of Liza Colon-Zayas, Sue Jean Kim and Frankie R. Faison by Richard Termine.

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Posted on: Monday, January 14, 2013 @ 02:15 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Norm Lewis

Norm Lewis is in a commercial for Cialis. Unfortunately, it doesn't begin with him singing "I Got Plenty Of Nothing" and end with him singing "Bess, You Is My Woman Now."

Posted on: Friday, January 11, 2013 @ 11:48 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 1/6/13 & Theatre Quote of the Week

 

"Valjean serves nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread; a punishment that he regards as unjust, though in fact it reflects well on the status of French baking." -- Anthony Lane

The grosses are out for the week ending 1/6/2013 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: THE OTHER PLACE (15.8%), GRACE (8.8%), PICNIC (4.4%), WAR HORSE(1.6%),

Down for the week was: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (-14.7%), GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (-11.1%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-10.4%), THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (-9.9%), CHICAGO (-9.4%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-8.8%), MARY POPPINS (-8.1%), GOLDEN BOY (-7.2%), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (-6.7%), MAMMA MIA! (-5.7%), ELF (-5.3%), ANNIE (-4.7%), THE HEIRESS (-4.1%), ROCK OF AGES (-3.1%), DEAD ACCOUNTS (-3.1%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-3.1%), JERSEY BOYS (-2.7%), WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (-1.8%), CHAPLIN (-1.3%), WICKED (-0.4%), NEWSIES (-0.3%), EVITA (-0.1%),

Posted on: Monday, January 07, 2013 @ 03:41 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Marilyn Maye & Golden Boy

If you have a hankering to see a room full of grown-ups acting like those teenagers watching The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, then get thee to The Metropolitan Room, where Marilyn Maye is doing her traditional job of knocking ‘em dead.

Back in the 60s, when The Fab Four ruled the airwaves, Maye was an emerging saloon singer in an era when saloon singing was going out of style.  (She lost the 1966 Best New Artist Grammy to Tom Jones.)  Rediscovered by New York’s 21st Century nightlife crowd, her flexible, clarion vocals – remarkably preserved by good health and good genes – are paired with nearly 85 years worth of lyric-interpreting savvy, making for thrilling renditions of American Songbook standards we’ve heard a million times before.  Johnny Carson, after one of her 76 Tonight Show appearances, once looked in the camera and advised young singers watching at home to buy her albums if they want to learn “how it’s done.”  Nowadays, cabaret performers of all ages know to check out her live performances to see how that’s done, too.

As is becoming her habit, Maye opens the new year with an engagement titled Marilyn By Request, where guests may request favorite songs of hers as they make their reservations, requiring the vocalist and her top-shelf ensemble (Ted Hubbard on bass, Warren Odze on percussion and her music director, the sublime Billy Stritch on piano) to whip up a new set for each show.

For newcomers to the Marilyn Maye experience who may not know what to request, may I humbly make a few suggestions?  First and foremost, you should physically block the exit and refuse to let her leave without performing Elisse Boyd and Murray Grand’s, “Guess Who I Saw Today,” a heartbreaking number she makes all the more crushing with her light conversational tone.

And while the hit song from Golden Rainbow was “I’ve Gotta Be Me,” Maye takes jazzy flight with the show’s title song, embellishing the tune with a vocal dexterity that enhances its clubby drive.  And speaking of Broadway title songs, it was Marilyn Maye who first had a hit single with “Cabaret” before the musical hit Broadway.  It’s well worth a listen, along with the title tune from Sherry!, which wasn’t a success on Broadway despite the popularity of her single.

I can’t name anyone with such a unique approach to Stephen Sondheim's survivalist anthem, "I'm Still Here"; done by Maye with the relaxed satisfaction of a woman who won't have any regrets about anything that led up to where she is now.  And for a divine introspective monologue, I recommend her subtle approach to Billy Barnes’ “Something Cool.”

One song you won’t have to request is her traditional finale, Jerry Herman’s “It’s Today,” always sung with a delightful exuberance.  It’s such an appropriate signature tune for her because, unlike just about any performer in her age range, a Marilyn Maye performance is not about nostalgia for what she once could do.  Maye is all about the here and now and she’s still showing them how it’s done.

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Director Bartlett Sher, who struck gold with his enchanting 2006 mounting of Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing!, now takes on the playwright’s boxing drama, Golden Boy.  And while the production may not score a decisive knockout, it does respectfully go the distance.

A great success for The Group Theater when it premiered in 1937, Golden Boy tells the story of aspiring young violinist Joe Bonaparte (Seth Numrich) the son of an Italian immigrant fruit peddler (Tony Shalhoub).  Attempting to pick up some cash to support his music career, Joe discovers a knack for boxing.  Not an imposing physical specimen, he becomes what is known in the game as a scientific fighter, out-maneuvering and out-strategizing his opponents while protecting his artistic hands.  But quick pugilistic success, and the money that comes with it, threatens to win over Joe’s heart, despite his father’s belief that his son can one day serve humanity more nobly through music.

The gray and gritty visuals realized by Michael Yeargan’s sets and Donald Holder’s lighting bring to mind the naturalistic impressions of urban life by early 20th Century painter George Bellows, but they also tend to blur the actors’ connections with the audience from the back of the house, hiding their performances in shadowy images.  This is less of a problem in the boxing scenes, where the solid performances by Yvonne Strahovski as the hard-boiled, leggy blonde, Anthony Crivello as the flashy promoter and Danny Burstein as the good-guy trainer enhance Odets’ colorful jargon.

But despite the presence of the fine Shalhoub, the scenes of Joe’s home life tend to drag deep into the play’s three act, three hour length.  And while Numrich is empathetic enough, he doesn’t carry the production as passionately as the role demands.

Some good hits throughout the bout, but this Golden Boy is a split decision at best. 

Photo of Seth Numrich and Danny Burstein by Paul Kolnik.

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Posted on: Monday, January 07, 2013 @ 02:15 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 12/30/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week

"Mother wasn't pushy enough or I'd be a big star by this time."

-- Marilyn Maye

 

The grosses are out for the week ending 12/30/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (34.6%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (27.7%), EVITA (27.4%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (24.0%), CHAPLIN (23.6%), CHICAGO (21.9%), MARY POPPINS (21.5%), MAMMA MIA! (20.7%), JERSEY BOYS (16.4%), ANNIE (15.1%), BRING IT ON THE MUSICAL (14.5%), THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (14.3%), GRACE (13.0%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (12.7%), DEAD ACCOUNTS (9.9%), GOLDEN BOY (9.2%), NEWSIES (8.0%), WICKED (7.2%), ROCK OF AGES (5.5%), THE HEIRESS (4.4%), GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (4.0%), A CHRISTMAS STORY (3.9%), ONCE (3.3%), ELF (2.1%), THE OTHER PLACE (1.0%), WAR HORSE (0.4%), WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?(0.4%),

Down for the week was: PICNIC (-4.4%), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (-3.0%),

Posted on: Wednesday, January 02, 2013 @ 10:25 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


The Holiday Guys & Dead Accounts

Even if the names Marc Kudisch and Jeffrey Denman are as foreign to you as the middle monikers of the three wise men, there’s a wonderful familiarity to their on-stage personas as The Holiday Guys.  It’s the kind of relaxed, off-the-cuff give and take that’s been enjoyed for generations, whether packaged as Hope and Crosby, Allen and Rossi or Brooks and Reiner.

Kudisch, the powerfully-voiced, square-jawed baritone, is known to musical theatre audiences as the kind of actor who excels at both serious leading man roles and the kind that spoof his hunky looks.  Denman is the kind of classic Broadway song and dance man who recalls a time of crowded supper clubs and art deco glitz.

Their two-man seasonal vehicle, Happy Merry Hanu-Mas, has the feel of an intimate television special from back in the days when Broadway performers were a beloved part of American popular culture and coast-to-coast televised visits with them had families anxiously gathered around the tube.

Actually, television figures rather prominently in their song list, which includes memories from A Charlie Brown Christmas, the stop motion animated Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and the more recent South Park.  And you’ll probably detect a bit of Oscar and Felix in the guys’ holiday personas; Kudisch as the casually-clad Jewish lug with a frat boy attitude gulping refreshment from a stein and Denman as the nattily dressed fastidious WASP reviving himself with sips from a proper cocktail tumbler.  Music Director Timothy Splain leads the band from an upstage corner of James Morgan’s festively trimmed living room set.

Working without a credited director and apparently self-scripted, the “plot” of the 90-minute entertainment concerns whether or not Kudisch can convince Denman to stop worrying about the rehearsed program and just kick back and do what feels right.  The result is a quirky mixture of traditionally-presented favorites like “The Christmas Song” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and fun variations like a Caribbean-flavored “Holly Jolly Christmas,” a jazz-tap arrangement of The Nutcracker and a challenge sing-off of “O Hanukkah” and “O Christmas Tree.”

Lucky audience members win gently used presents in the show’s “re-gifting” segments and there’s even a spot for a guest star (Michael Riedel the night I attended) to give a dramatic reading of Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas while the boys embellish the mood with radio-style sound effects.

Photos of Marc Kudisch and Jeffry Denman by Carol Rosegg.

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In these days when national budgets lay imbalanced by trillions of dollars, it’s rather easy to think of astronomical amounts of currency as little more than figures on a computer screen that have no physical existence.  At least, that’s the justification the protagonist of Theresa Rebeck's Dead Accounts claims in defense of his get rich reasonably quick scheme.

Norbert Leo Butz, using the same kind of frenetic energy that won him Tonys for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Catch Me If You Can (Jack O'Brien, who directed those two ventures, also helms this mounting.), carries much of the evening on his talented shoulders as Jack, a lower rung New York bank employee who has been slowly liquidating inactive accounts of deceased clients whose beneficiaries seem to be unaware of their existence.  The millions he’s acquired, he reasons, belong to nobody and just clog up the bank’s records.

A surprise visit to his mother’s (Jayne Houdyshell, wasted on bland material) Cincinnati home sees him wildly splurging on ice cream and take-out pizza, baffling his sister Lorna (Katie Holmes).  So little happens in the first act that three lines into the second act the entire first half of the play becomes superfluous.  The dialogue flutters about between childhood memories, discussions of ethics and a few anti-New York zingers.  Trees (The kind that money doesn’t grow on?) also figure prominently in Rebeck’s text and, eventually, David Rockwell’s kitchen set.

O’Brien keeps his star on the move with the ensemble generally hot on his trail.  Josh Hamilton, as Jack’s affable buddy with a secret crush on Lorna and Judy Greer, as Jack’s snooty wife trying to maneuver the most financially advantageous way to end their marriage, make fine impressions in underwritten roles.

Holmes has improved somewhat since making her professional stage acting debut four years ago in the Broadway revival of All My Sons – she’s audible this time – but as a stage actor her ability to generate ticket sales through her celebrity remain her most valuable asset.

Photo of Norbert Leo Butz and Katie Holes by Joan Marcus.

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Posted on: Sunday, December 30, 2012 @ 02:03 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 12/23/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week

“You can only close if you opened.”

-- August Wilson

 

The grosses are out for the week ending 12/23/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (15.2%), CHICAGO (14.9%), MAMMA MIA! (14.2%), MARY POPPINS (13.8%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (12.1%), BRING IT ON THE MUSICAL (9.5%), WAR HORSE (6.9%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (3.0%), THE LION KING (2.8%), NEWSIES (1.7%), THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (1.7%), WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (1.6%), CHAPLIN (0.9%), EVITA (0.3%), ROCK OF AGES(0.2%),

Down for the week was: NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-13.3%), GOLDEN BOY (-6.5%), DEAD ACCOUNTS (-6.0%), PICNIC (-5.9%), GRACE (-5.7%), THE HEIRESS (-5.4%), JERSEY BOYS (-5.3%), A CHRISTMAS STORY (-5.1%), ELF (-4.7%), ANNIE (-4.4%), GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (-1.8%), THE OTHER PLACE (-0.5%), ONCE (-0.3%), WICKED (-0.2%),

Posted on: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 @ 06:40 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


The Great God Pan

The subjectivity of the truth appears to be a running theme in the intriguing work of young playwright, Amy Herzog, who follows the recent success of After The Revolution and 4,000 Miles with a moving drama, The Great God Pan.

With a title taken from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem about the woodland god who must destroy before he creates and multiple settings represented by Mark Wendland's impressionistic unit set of leafy camouflage, Herzog's drama is a series of short, intimate scenes, mostly involving emerging Brooklyn journalist Jamie (Jeremy Strong), who, as the play begins, is reunited with childhood friend Frank (Keith Nobbs) who is collecting evidence in order to file criminal charges.  Frank says that his father molested him when he was a boy and believes he did the same to Jamie.

Though Jamie has no memory of such a thing, his long-time girlfriend Paige (Sarah Goldberg) suspects that if it did happen it might explain his recent bout with sexual dysfunction, his disinterest in getting married and his general lack of emotional communication.  Jamie's quest for truth-revealing clues leads him to encounters with his suburban parents (Becky Ann Baker and Peter Friedman) and his childhood babysitter (Joyce Van Patten), whose memory is fading from senility.

Director Carolyn Cantor's ensemble is excellent, as the playwright introduces small revelations that might make Jamie question whether or not he's better off being ignorant.  The only scenes not involving him reveal details about Paige, a former dancer turned nutrition counselor, by showing her sessions with an anorectic client (Erin Wilhelmi).

While Herzog denies us a traditionally satisfying conclusion, her astute talent for dialogue and gentle dramatics allow for convincingly subtle moments.  This is a quiet drama with understated, but potent, impact.

Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Jeremy Strong and Sarah Goldberg; Bottom: Sarah Goldberg and Erin Wilhelmi.

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Posted on: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 @ 03:33 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback




About Michael: After 20-odd years singing, dancing and acting in dinner theatres, summer stocks and the ever-popular audience participation murder mysteries (try improvising with audiences after they?ve had two hours of open bar), Michael Dale segued his theatrical ambitions into playwriting. The buildings which once housed the 5 Off-Off Broadway plays he penned have all been destroyed or turned into a Starbucks, but his name remains the answer to the trivia question, "Who wrote the official play of Babe Ruth's 100th Birthday?" He served as Artistic Director for The Play's The Thing Theatre Company, helping to bring free live theatre to underserved communities, and dabbled a bit in stage managing and in directing cabaret shows before answering the call (it was an email, actually) to become BroadwayWorld.com's first Chief Theatre Critic. While not attending shows Michael can be seen at Shea Stadium pleading for the Mets to stop imploding. Likes: Strong book musicals and ambitious new works. Dislikes: Unprepared celebrities making their stage acting debuts by starring on Broadway and weak bullpens.
 
   
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