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You watched the Tony Awards (and if you haven’t, my live blog of the event will get you up to speed tout de suite), so you know who won what during the exciting broadcast honoring the 2011-2012 Broadway season. And -- assuming the shows you most desire to see are still running (some, alas, are long gone limited editions) -- summer here in New York is known as prime time for scooping up the primo seats on the Great White Way.
But Broadway isn’t the only game in this theatre-savvy town—not for a nanosecond! Several big buzz Off-Broadway productions are front and center this year, offering a little something to delight everyone, regardless of generation!
Let us begin with two shows with both kid and adult allure: Cirque du Soleil’s “acrobatic rock opera” Zarkana and Potted Potter, a two-guy trek through all seven Harry Potter novels.
A pop-up book of awesomeness, Zarkana (a combination of the words “bizarre” and “arcana,” the latter meaning “mystery” or “secret”) fuses captivating circus artists from across the globe with phantasmagorical visuals and a story line about a magician on a quest for both his lost powers and the love of his life. Designed expressly for its Radio City Music Hall home, Zarkana is set in an abandoned theatre populated by a motley collection of off-the-wall characters: daredevils, clowns, villains and acrobats... all unforgettably amazing.
On the flip side -- or size, as the case may be -- Potted Potter is a deconstructed bolt of lunatic lightning featuring a cast of two Brits without boundaries: Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner. Embracing the joys of low-tech props and scenery, multiple-role playing, cool lighting effects, low-brow bouts of improvisation, first-rate audience interaction (kids, adults, and anyone willing to volley a ball overhead) and the love of all things Harry Potter, this 70-minute show is a must see for wizard wannabes, madcap Muggles, Rowling readers, film devotees, Hogwarts grads (and undergrads), Quidditch fans and yes, even those who don’t have a clue… or a wand… or a snitch… or a Patronus.
And while we’re on the subject of low-tech brilliance, I feel obligated to return to Broadway to heap unlimited praise onto Peter and the Starcatcher, an ingenious fantasy so simultaneously smart and silly and savvy that it has no real stage rivals – it’s that unique.
Director Roger Rees and playwright Rick Elice have turned this prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan into a seductive masterpiece peopled by a stellar (pun intended) cast led by Christian Borle, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Adam Chanler-Berat. With rope, trunks, ladders and tongues-in-cheeks, this fable -- too dense for the very young, but totally appropriate for shrewd, well-read youngsters nine and up -- is told with poetry, poignancy, puns and the most hilarious Act II opening number (yes, this is a play with music) ever. Ever!!
Finally, in the nostalgia/adult category, I am happy to announce the return to Off-Broadway of A Jew Grows in Brooklyn, Jake Ehrenreich’s acclaimed comedy and musical memoir chronicling his life and family. The son of Holocaust survivors, Ehrenreich’s autobiographical scrapbook of a show includes three musician/singers with whom he performs a wide range of music as he looks back at the Catskills as they once were, and sheds light on his personal journey from denial to rebirth.
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