Bill Gale

Performing Arts Critic

Bill Gale has had a widely varied career (including a stint as an air traffic controller) before dedicating himself to The Providence Journal for 35 years — 25 of those as the Journal's theater and dance critic. He is the former executive committee chair of the Foundation of the American Theater Critics Association and currently serves on their board.Gale has received a variety of awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New England Theatre Conference. He has taught at Rhode Island College and Roger Williams University, and is currently an Admiral at Hope High School. He is married to clinical social worker Peggy Gale and is the father of two children. And he loves working in radio.

Ways To Connect

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.

Erin X. Smithers / Mixed Magic Theatre

The Mixed Magic Theatre in Pawtucket has begun its season with a play that opened some minds back in 1965. It was called “Day of Absence” and its plot – and its warning – still has something to say. 

Bill Gale has the review.

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

Theater season kicked off this week in Southern New England with a contemporary version of Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar” at Trinity Rep. Rhode Island Public Radio theater critic Bill Gale says there's hardly a better way to begin.

Mark Turek / Ocean State Theater

The Ocean State Theatre in Warwick is reviving one of the big musical hits of the 1950s, “Gypsy,” a story about family, show business and the life of the striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee.  Bill Gale says that despite some problems “Gypsy” is still worth seeing, one more time.

That's right. For you see “Gypsy” is one of those musicals you could call a “But, still . . .” piece of work.

Steven Richard / Theatre by the Sea

When “My Fair Lady” debuted on Broadway in 1956 it was an immediate classic. The “perfect musical” one review said. But how does this oft-repeated winner look today, almost 60 years later? Bill Gale says the version now at Theater by the Sea lets you know why “My Fair Lady” is still singing.

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.”

Richard W. Dionne, Jr. / 2nd Story Theatre

British playwright Joe Orton is probably best remembered for his loopy yet fiery comedy's “Loot” and “What the Butler Saw”. But his seminal piece was “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” a 1964 trouble-making work now being revived by 2nd Story Theatre in Warren.

When you enter 2nd Story's upstairs performing space these nights you'll be greeted by some real oldies. No, not the ushering staff. The recorded music being played: Petula Clark's “Downtown” The Seekers “Georgy Girl” and even “She's Not There” by the Zombies.

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.

Richard W. Dionne, Jr. / 2nd Story Theatre

2nd Story Theatre in Warren has always liked to do off-beat plays and its current work, “4000 miles,” is no exception. Bill Gale says it's a little loopy, a little lacking in plot, but that it's also one of those works you'll think about days after you see it.

It was, of course, the poet Robert Frost who wrote that “Home is the place where …they have to take you in.”  Well, “4000 Miles” is something of a recurrence of that idea.

Peter Goldberg / Gamm Theatre

Set in 1965 playwright John Guare's “The House of Blue Leaves” was a groundbreaking work, an American family drama set amid European-like absurdity. Now the Gamm Theatre has revived “Blue Leaves.” Bill Gale says it holds up, pretty well.

Mark Turek / Trinity Rep

A conservative approach to a classic play has rarely been the Trinity Rep way. Over the years full speed ahead has been more like it. That surely is the case with the theater's new take on “The Glass Menagerie.”  Bill Gale says it works, except when it doesn't.

“The Glass Menagerie” continues at Trinity Rep through March 29th. Bill Gale reviews the performing arts for Rhode Island Public Radio.

Ocean State Theater Company

  The Ocean State Theatre in Warwick has come up with a relatively unknown musical concerning a guy, a gal and a novel way of telling their story. Bill Gale says the production is a good try, at least.

"The Last Five Years” continues at the Ocean State Theatre through March 15th. Bill Gale reviews the performing arts for Rhode Island Public Radio.