theater review

bradlypjohnson / Creative Commons License

“Wicked” that ultimate prequel to “The Wizard of Oz” is back at the Providence Performing Arts Center. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Bill Gale says it’s a fine Broadway quality production its many fans are going to love.

Mark Turek / Ocean State Theatre

“Anything Goes” is a classic Broadway musical that first appeared in 1934. Now the Ocean State Theatre Company is doing a re-done version from 1987. Bill Gale says the result is pretty darn good – with some reservations.

Let's begin with the good stuff. After all, “Anything Goes” is filled, saturated actually, with the music (and lyrics) of the great Cole Porter. If you are of a certain age, or a person of any age who loves good songs, you get a kick out of this show.

Mark Turek / Ocean State Theatre

“Break A Leg” is a well-known (if rarely seriously used) phrase to encourage an actor before he or she goes on stage. Now, Warwick's Ocean State Theatre presents “Breaking Legs,” a highly farcical comedy combining the theater world and the mafia. Bill Gale went to see it anyway.

The production, directed by Trinity Rep's Fred Sullivan Jr., turns out to be an overdone, over silly piece that somehow manages to be pretty darn funny.

Maggie Hall / Wilbury Theatre Group

Providence’s Wilbury Theatre Group is staging another provocative drama, filled with humor and music. Rhode Island Public Radio’s theater critic Bill Gale, says the show has something to say.

Despite that somewhat sophomoric title, this work eventually turns out to make a point or two. In a snap-fire three act production, in about 2 hours, it manages to take a look at a group of arts-world folks. It peels away the covering, lets us in the audience see their troubles, exterior and internal. And perhaps even offers us a chance to think about our own lives.

Peter Goldberg / Gamm Theatre

Remember Sarah Palin? Of course you do. Who could forget?

Well, the political career of Ms. Palin is the jumping off point for “Grizzly Mama” by George Brant, the author of the high-flying  “Grounded” done at the Gamm last year.

But “Grizzly Mama” is a very different piece of theater. It takes off and goes way beyond the blue yonder, into a world of familial atmosphere, good and bad, loving and hating.

Mark Turek / Trinity Rep

In 1989, playwright Wendy Wasserstein’s “The Heidi Chronicles” won a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize. Now, Trinity Rep in Providence has revived this very personal play. Rhode Island Public Radio Theater Critic Bill Gale says maybe they should have left well enough alone.

Courtesy Gamm Theatre

Confrontations between white police officers and people of color may be the main public conflict in the United States these days. At the Gamm Theatre, a play called “The Rant” looks into the issue, and goes on to possibly even deeper questions. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Bill Gale has the review.

“The Rant” continues through December 13th at the Gamm Theatre in Pawtucket. Bill Gale reviews the performing arts for Rhode Island Public Radio.

Maggie Hall / Ocean State Theatre

Warwick’s Ocean State Theatre opens the season with a mixture of music and dark humor. Rhode Island Public Radio theatre critic Bill Gale was mostly won over by The Addams Family: The Musical.

The Addams Family: The Musical runs through October 25th at Ocean State Theatre in Warwick. Bill Gale reviews the performing arts for Rhode Island Public Radio.

2nd Story Theatre

Ed Shea, artistic director of Warren's 2nd Story Theatre, had to ring up theater folk in London for permission to do “Dangerous Corner,” a mostly forgotten 1930s play by J.B. Priestley. Bill Gale says the result is, somewhat mixed.

Maggie Hall / Wilbury Theatre Group

Using the same theater space where Trinity Rep began more than 50 years ago, The Wilbury Group is another young theater willing to take a chance. Bill Gale says their latest work, “Dry Land,” is certainly risky.

Ah, yes, so it is. Written by Ruby Rae Spiegel when she was still an undergraduate at  Yale University, “Dry Land” rushes you into a vortex of, well, you could say a bunch of  kids being young and stupid.

Peter Goldberg / The Gamm Theatre

So far, the Southern New England arts season has been a place for serious theater. Trinity Rep opened with Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar.” And now, Pawtucket's Gamm Theatre has presented Tennessee Williams' deep and driving “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Mark Turek / Trinity Rep

The right of all Americans to be down-hearted once in a while is brought up -- and defended -- in a new musical comedy having its premiere at Trinity Rep. Bill Gale says it  can have you laughing out loud, and thinking, too.

Sarah Ruhl is a playwright known for her off-beat but well put together plays. “The Clean House,” has a Brazilian maid who cares only to find the perfect joke which then turns to a narrative about being joyful in the face of death and dying. Or in “Dead Man's Cell Phone” Ruhl looks at the societal disconnection brought about by the digital age.

Maggie Hall / Wilbury Theatre Group

Serious mental illness might well seem an unlikely jumping off point for musical theater. But with “Next to Normal,” now at the Wilbury Group in Providence, the subject becomes a powerful drama mostly well done. 

Brian Yorkey, who wrote the book and lyrics for the engrossing “Next to Normal” once opined that “musicals can be ridiculous.”

“You know, all those people breaking into song all the time,” he said. But the author also  pointed out that, somehow, a good musical can be “sublime.”

Peter Goldberg / Gamm Theatre

The Gamm Theatre is closing its season with a play reaching back to the French Revolution and the Enlightenment. It's a crackling production. But is there a connection to today? Not so much.

Mark Turek / Ocean State Theatre

“Into the Woods” won three Tony Awards on Broadway in 1988. But “Best Musical” wasn't one of them.  Bill Gale thinks that a strong production at the Ocean State Theatre tells you why.

Full disclosure, I have never cottoned to “Into the Woods” which brought so much fame and honor to its creators Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.

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