All articles by James MacKillop

Seasoned Greetings

James MacKillop previews the hefty stage calendar, with plenty of new productions to go with some classic chestnuts

There will be more area premieres than in any recent season, as well as four world premieres of completely original dramas. Expect a flush of Tony and Pulitzer winners, including Other Desert Cities and Clybourne Park, previously unseen musicals like The Book of Mormon, Young Frankenstein, A Man of No Importance and The Color Purple and two new plays on the life of Mary Todd Lincoln. All these plus The Vibrator Play.



Family Matters in Cortland Rep’s Making God Laugh

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

It might have been Woody Allen, or maybe it was Albert Einstein, who said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” When playwright Sean Grennan uses the line for his 2011 comedy Making God Laugh, he’s signaling that what people project in the first act is just not going to work out during more than two hours of stage time.



They’ll Take Manhattan in Merry-Go-Round’s On the Town

James MacKillop reviews the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse production of “On the Town.”

Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein were brash 20-somethings when they shook up the musical theater world with their highly innovative On the Town during one of the darkest years in World War II. Seventy years later in this dynamite production at Auburn’s Merry-Go-Round Playhouse (through Aug. 27), it still challenges complacency.



Cortland Rep’s New Sherlock Fiddles on the Sleuth

There are two things you need to know about playwright Katie Forgette’s 2009 play Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily.

Most people have never heard of playwright Katie Forgette or her 2009 play Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily, playing through Saturday, Aug. 9, at Cortland Repertory Theatre. There are two things you need to know, however.



Secrets and Lies Close Hangar Season

Jon Robin Baitz’s much-lauded 2011 hit Other Desert Cities, the season finale at Ithaca’s Hangar Theatre (through Saturday, Aug. 9).

Thomas Wolfe had it all wrong. Not only can you go home again, but you must, as demonstrated in Jon Robin Baitz’s much-lauded 2011 hit Other Desert Cities, the season finale at Ithaca’s Hangar Theatre (through Saturday, Aug. 9).



Jungle Fever at the Redhouse

This Tarzan is aimed at youthful audiences. Think of it as The Lion King’s mini-me.

Tarzan has been swinging on his own vine for a long, long time. When Edgar Rice Burroughs launched Tarzan of the Apes in 1914, the guy was an avatar of British imperialism with racist impulses. Since then he’s been all over the jungle: a swimming champ, a body builder and a soft-core stud. It took the Walt Disney company’s 1999 animated feature Tarzan to emphasize our hero’s identity in his adopted simian family. After Phil Collins’ score won an Oscar, Chinese-American playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly, Chinglish) agreed to write the book for the 2006 Broadway musical, including more music from Collins. The Redhouse Arts Center production (running through Saturday, Aug. 2), with spirited direction from Stephen Svoboda, marks the show’s first appearance in these parts.



Classical Glass

James MacKillop takes in Carousel and Madame Butterfly, two popular operatic showcases at this summer’s Glimmerglass Festival

Francesca Zambello retains the common touch at Cooperstown’s Glimmerglass Festival. Determined that the artistic director of one of the nation’s only two world-class summer opera festivals (the other is Santa Fe) should not be seen as formidable, she wanders the pre-curtain crowd, bantering with whomever she can find.



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.