All articles by James MacKillop

A Can’t Miss Les Miz

James Mackillop reviews Cortland Repertory Theatre’s production of Les Misérables.

Director Sam Scalamoni may not have a long history with Cortland Repertory Theatre, but he is just the man to figure out how to stage the epic musical Les Misérables (running through July 26) in the up-close-and-personal space of the Little York Lake Pavilion.



A Grand Slam for Damn Yankees

Damn Yankees remains popular for many good reasons.

That sturdy evergreen built on a Faustian pact, Damn Yankees remains popular for many good reasons. The Richard Adler-Jerry Ross score, one of golden Broadway’s last shouts before the arrival of Elvis, is as good as new under Corinne Aquilina’s musical direction in this revival at Auburn’s Merry-Go-Round Playhouse (running through July 30).



Green Thumbs Up for Horror Spoof

James MacKillop reviews Little Shop of Horrors (running through July 26).

To launch her first season as artistic director at Ithaca’s Hangar Theatre, Jen Waldman delivered a crackling good production of John Logan’s drama Red. With David Studwell as the towering painter Mark Rothko, one could not have asked for a more stimulating dance of ideas about aesthetics and self. Just a few weeks later Waldman and Studwell are back again in Howard Ashman and Alan Menkin’s Little Shop of Horrors (running through July 26). But, whoa! This does not mean the company has slid down a cultural pole. In Waldman’s hands, Little Shop is also a cultural adventure, as well as being a helluva lot of fun.



Shavian Cream

Posh productions and top performances highlight James MacKillop’s visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Shaw Festival.

Everything old is new again at Canada’s Shaw Festival of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. At this year’s fest is one of the most incisive comedies ever written, originally opening in 1906, and has been little seen since, while another offering, a lush romantic comedy, dates from 1939 when art deco was in late bloom.



Hangar Theatre’s Global Initiative

(REVIEW) Around the World in 80 Days

Mark Brown, creator of the slapstick epic adaptation of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, was in Ithaca for last week’s opening at the Hangar Theatre, where he sat prominently in a box seat. His presence gives one pause to think how much of the show comes from him.



Swell Elvis Spoof Rocks On with Nifty Nostalgia

What they have delivered is the music of Elvis Presley and contemporaries but not Elvis himself or even an impersonator.

After striking box-office gold last summer with Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Cortland Repertory Theatre returns to the same vein with this summer’s All Shook Up (through July 5). What they have delivered is the music of Elvis Presley and contemporaries but not Elvis himself or even an impersonator. With a clever book by Joe DiPietro (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change), All Shook Up is both a celebration and a spoof of the jukebox musical.



Murders, She Wrote

Everybody on the island has done something worthy of execution.

No matter what you call it, And Then There Were None is Agatha Christie’s greatest hit, bigger than The Mousetrap. It feels like the Clue game board, without Colonel Mustard, because it looks as though everyone on the isolated island near Devonshire is going to be bumped off, until . . . . But you can’t psych this one out. Everybody on the island has done something worthy of execution, and Christie, a champion of the Christian dogma of original sin, thinks we’re all guilty. In the original novel (sales 100 million), titled Ten Little Indians, she prescribed one ending, but when she revised the work for the stage, she changed the climax. The Indians have been changed to figurine soldier boys, who get knocked off the mantel as the bodies fall.



Back to School for World Premiere of Slashes of Light

Far from being a ghetto war zone, her new middle school is a private academy where the girls wear uniforms and the kids pass copies of C.G. Jung’s Man and His Symbols among themselves.

Judy Tate’s Slashes of Light begins by upending a familiar Hollywood template. That’s where the heroic white teacher (think Michelle Pfeiffer or Sandra Bullock) brings discipline and hope to urban black students.



Brush Hour for Hangar’s Season Kickoff

Red has demonstrated wide appeal to disparate audiences because it is also the conflict of two men, not unlike Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus.

“I am here to stop your heart: I am not here to paint pretty pictures.” So roars abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko (David Studwell) in John Logan’s -award-winning drama Red, the season opener (through Saturday, June 21) at Ithaca’s Hangar Theatre. The time is 1958 to 1960, and Rothko has accepted a plush commission to paint murals for the upmarket Four Seasons Restaurant. Prestige counts more than money. To help with menial work, like stretching canvas over frames, Rothko hires an assistant, Ken (Paul-Emile Cendron). Despite being a working, 9-to-5 artist, Rothko has plenty of time to talk. He sees his job as 10 percent putting paint on canvas and the rest of the time spent waiting.



A Splashy Spoonful of Sugar

Magical elements from the 1964 film that can only be accomplished with a camera have been deleted, and replaced with miracles of stagecraft.

The movie Saving Mr. Banks told us there is more to Mary Poppins than a flying nanny with an umbrella. Banks revealed that the much-loved 1964 movie was the unlikely fusion of two warring aesthetics: author P.L. Travers, a querulous, left-wing theosophist, and Walt Disney, the smiling corporate master of cinema confection.