Home Exclusives Broadway: Scott Rudin out of Groundhog Day, plus Tonys, Fiddler, Humans, Eclipsed

THE TONY AWARDS are coming this Sunday on CBS at 8pm. Yes, it’s all about “Hamilton.” But it’s got to be about a few other things, too. The show at the Beacon is going to be off the hook and very exciting. And Barbra Streisand is coming!

If “The Humans” wins Best Play, I’ll be disappointed. But it seems like that’s where we’re headed. The Best Play, in my opinion, is Durira Gurai’s “Eclipsed.” That is a theater experience, so exciting and fresh. The subject matter– these women imprisoned in Liberia, finding their freedom–opens us to new worlds. The actresses are superior, and not just Lupita Nyong’o.

“The Humans” is well acted and directed but it feel like an off Broadway production. Stephen Karam’s set up of a family revealing secrets to each other at Thanksgiving has frankly, been done to death. And these secrets aren’t at all as mesmerizing as the ones from O’Neill or Miller, let alone “August: Osage County.”

Most of the play’s so called secrets are telegraphed from the beginning of the 95 minutes (with no intermission). The father (Reed Birney) tells enough in the first few minutes that you know he’s lost his job or all his money, and that something has gone wrong with his job at a Catholic school.

The rest of the family consists of his wife (Jane Houdyshell), the grandma in wheelchair (Lauren Klein), the two daughters (Sarah Steele as the cute one, Cassie Beck as the Lesbian with stomach problems) and Arian Moayed as the older boyfriend with a trust fund and sleep problems.

Much of the play circles around electrical problems in the crappy duplex basement Chinatown apartment. Apparently, no one can go to the corner and buy lightbulbs, so little by little the lamps blow out and then the stage is drenched in darkness. Is this supposed to a statement that  We Are All Powerless? Yes, typical American family except we’ve met them before. I think Joe Mantello’s direction is good that it makes us think the material is better than it is.

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF doesn’t look like it will win Best Revival of a Musical, as “She Loves Me” and “The Color Purple” seem to be the favorites. But my second trip to see Danny Burstein last week as Tevye was more than rewarding. Burstein is better than ever. Jessica Hecht as Golde seems to have grown by leaps and bounds. The sets, the dancing, and the songs are a masterwork woven together.  Some women from the Dominican Republic sat next to me and front of me, they were all crying.  “Fiddler” is the ultimate Immigration Musical, the anti-Trump opera of all time. This show is rightly a Classic now, well beyond any of its competitors. Ironically, Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock wrote the songs for “She Loves Me,” also. It’s their secondary work, and it may beat their primary one. How weird. See this show without fail.

I received an anonymous tip early Monday morning: Scott Rudin was out of “Groundhog Day” and would no longer be the producer. The musical based on the movie is starting in London and then moves here. “Matthew Warchus is fed up with his antics,” my spy wrote of the famed director (“Matilda”). Well, may be. Scott Rudin isn’t easy. But he has a lot on his plate already for 2016-17. Rudin will live without “Groundhog Day.” And he has to deal with all the changes at “Shuffle Along” including replacing a departing star with a singer who doesn’t act, a choreographer who’s coming into the show in a role that doesn’t exit, and a lack of story for the second act. Groundhogs, he doesn’t need.


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