The last few weeks have been a bum rush of theater openings, each show eager to debut prior to the deadline for Tony Award eligibility. The 2011 Tony award nominations were announced earlier this week and we will tackle the slights and the worthy nods in an upcoming column, but for now, here is the lowdown on two of the season's buzziest shows:
Broadway is in the midst of an ongoing love affair with the British theater actor Mark Rylance. He has already reprised one of his indelible London performances earlier this season in the New York run of the verse play La B'te. Now, he has landed in the Broadway transfer of the smash London hit Jerusalem. New York critics have tripped over their own grandiose praise, dubbing Rylance's performance as a charismatic squatter in a British forest a portrayal for the ages. In truth, the pundits are correct. As Johnny 'Rooster' Byron, Rylance hobbles around the stage, telling tall tales that might indeed be true and entrancing a gaggle of teenagers as he rails against the agents of commercial progress encroaching on his plot of land. The play, written by Jez Butterworth, is imperfect. It presents more questions than it does answers. Yet that is its allure. There is a shot of the mystic in Jerusalem, like a pagan ritual embodied nightly. You might even call it communion.
Sister Act This adaptation of the popular Whoopi Goldberg movie embraces religion, but of a much more pedestrian kind. Confession: I love the original movie. The musicalized version only occasionally captures the giddiness of the movie. Still, when it does, the show is a delirious good time. Patina Miller, as Deloris Van Cartier, the role originated by Whoopi Goldberg, is superb -- all brass and nuance in a performance that is far better than the material written for her. Likewise, Victoria Clark is a fine Mother Superior and Chester Gregory, as a police officer infatuated with Deloris, steals the show momentarily with his double quick-change first act number, 'I Could Be That Guy.' All in all, Sister Act is a good time, but it certainly isn't divine. Click here to buy tickets.