Michael Musto

About:  Michael Musto reviews theater in his "Musto Unfiltered" column for NewNownext.com.
Reviews (121)
NewNowNext.com

"The cast lacks powerful vocals, but they’re game...Veering between semi-racy and quaintly old-fashioned, the two-acter leads up to a not fully earned 'Who you are as a person is beautiful' message and it’s about as deep as a 'Here’s Lucy' episode, but it moves along and there are witty observations (and Grindr references) and fourth wall-breakings. So enjoy—but don’t touch the merchandise." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"Shannon is appropriately invasive and insistent and Audra is skeptical yet obviously intrigued by someone who proposes marriage and kids on a first date. Classical music wafts as a backdrop throughout, and the closing moments—as directed by Arin Arbus—neatly balance the lyrical and the mundane, with Johnny’s high-flying ideas grounded by a couple of toothbrushes in motion. It’s good stuff, but you should mainly see this for the excellent star duo of Audra and Michael." Full Review

Tootsie (NYC)
Midtown W
NewNowNext.com

"Slickly entertaining and feel-good in a good way...Well-crafted and refrains from constant back-and-forth switcheroos that would have been tedious...All the supporting players are knockouts...But none of this would matter if there weren’t a Tootsie to drive it all home, and Fontana delivers a star performance, with comic chops, increasing pathos and heart, and tip-top singing...Horn’s book...has the most laugh-out-loud moments in a show this year." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

“An ambitious mix of the hipster and the precious...Flawless staging...Mitchell’s diverse score, some of which is thrilling, some dull...’Hadestown’ is full of feeling, movement, and journeys to the dark side, though it strains for profundity and is a bit twee in trotting out old-time views of young love...If the whole isn’t greater than the sum of its parts, ‘Hadestown’ still has effective elements that come together for the best atmosphere on Broadway.” Full Review

Burn This
Midtown W
NewNowNext.com

“Colorful and poetic writing...Excellent direction and performances...Driver is a bull in a china shop and charismatically raging as he reveals surprising sides to the character...Russell is a fine Anna...She and Driver don’t seem to share a burning chemistry...But their physical differences make them an interesting odd couple...When they come together...it’s lovelier than anything in the gossip headlines. I’m burning to see this again.” Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"Retains the old songs and characters, but it’s all been tweaked and subverted and underlined in mostly thrilling ways...Though the blood-soaked finale might seem out of character for Curly, it’s one of the production’s boldest moves, and leaves you fascinated rather than just humming the score...But out of synch with the show, the Dream Ballet is an overwrought misfire that truly drags on, though the forgiving might give it an O-K for effort." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"Initially, I recoiled from the preponderance of narration and I have to admit that throughout the show, there’s too much of it...But director Des McAnuff and choreographer Sergio Trujillo keep things spiffily moving, and the five guys—and others along the way—radiate sheer talent that makes this more than a Vegas revue...What could have been just a TV movie-ish indulgence becomes an uneven but swirling pastiche, with smooth moves and singing." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"Even though the cast has been stripped down to six, the stage feels as full as those shelves because of the well-paced staging...The central role of Frank could be played with more charisma and some of the other actors’ line readings are overly glib, but I felt 'Merrily' was worth the ride this time, as a heady exercise in the pitfalls of thinking the past used to be better—except that it really was. Except for 1981." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"While not pursuing an air-tight narrative, impressionistically follows Pharus as he navigates his place in an all-male landscape fraught with landmines, while grappling with ways to express his gayness...McCraney’s writing is crisp—one of the best sections has Pharus explaining the power of spirituals—and Cullman’s kinetic direction gets expert performances out of Pope in the lead role, Cooper as the flustered headmaster, and Pendleton as a well-meaning new teacher." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

“I enjoyed ‘The Cher Show’ starring three interacting women at different phases of her life...The musical is honest about some dark stuff, like Cher’s difficulty reading and the way she was bullied as a child...A glorified Vegas tribute—veered between bouts of grinning and sympathizing. After a too jokey start—it settles into a lively swirl of dramatics, fashion, and music, with fun juxtapositions of the ladies, as they ‘turn back time’ and show how they made their dreams come true.” Full Review

King Kong (NYC)
Midtown W
NewNowNext.com

"Mixes remarkable wizardry with musical theater imperfection, though it’s way better than most of the pretentious critics are letting on...The sets and projections by Peter England are darkly splashy, though the score doesn’t always soar and some dullness sets in before the ape appears. But then he does!...Take this for what it is—a tourist-friendly spectacle with some memorable monkey business." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"The cast is very good and Hedges does the best he can with the rather colorless role of the grandson/narrator...But Elaine is pretty much the whole show to the point where you miss her when she’s offstage...May not be a great play, but it’s a great showcase, and as directed by Lila Neugebauer with some overlapping dialogue and fuzzy-memory projections when the set’s being changed, it lets us remember how divine Elaine May is." Full Review

The Ferryman (NYC)
Midtown W
NewNowNext.com

"Pretty compelling stuff and clearly one of the theatrical events of the season...The play manages to be playful, confrontational, dramatic, eerie, romantic, and deeply political...The writing in the first act might dawdle on a bit, but Mendes’ direction is strong throughout, and the 30-plus member cast are all startlingly good...One thing is certain: You’ll gasp in the closing minutes, bloke." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"A show that doesn’t lack for amiability, but which is too often bland, has some jokes that don’t land, and boasts a rap version of 'Hava Nagila' that is possibly the worst number ever on a Broadway stage. Act Two becomes more aggressively silly and therefore more enjoyable...But generally, this show belongs in certain parts of New Jersey. At least I got some Rice Krispies treats from Marilu Henner when she came down the aisle to hand them out during intermission." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"Things are smoking over at 'Smokey Joe’s Café'...The spectacular singer Alysha Umphress is on hand to work miracles with 'Trouble' and the poignant 'Pearl’s A Singer'...And the men are terrific too...The whole cast keeps delivering (and there’s even a little drag bit), and though two oversung numbers towards the end threaten to turn this into 'American Idol,' the show recovers and gets the audience standing." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"The cast is hardworking and talented, especially the amazing Bonnie Milligan as the more narcissistic of the two daughters and the Peter Scolari-ish Andrew Durand as the lead drag queen, who breaks fourth walls and romantic barriers...Michael Mayer’s direction and Spencer Liff’s choreography are specific and vigorous (with lots of voguing moves thrown in)." Full Review

Mary Page Marlowe
Midtown W
NewNowNext.com

“Letts's new play, directed by Neugebauer at Second Stage is a worthy addition to his credits...The chronology is carefully jumbled so that the pieces of Mary’s life come together in offbeat ways...For the most part, Letts’s writing is crisp and far from boring...The set seems too bland, but it has to cover a lot of bases with quick changes. The production itself, though, is an intriguing experiment in time and punishment.” Full Review

Skintight
Midtown W
NewNowNext.com

"Harmon’s writing is funny and observant and the cast is game (I especially liked Menzel and Wetherall), each one climbing or descending the long stairway in amusing ways specific to their characters, but Elliot delivers an unnecessarily long monologue about his cravings, spelling out what we already know, and by the end, I felt the evening had been as fleeting as a Calvin Klein affair." Full Review

Desperate Measures
Midtown W
NewNowNext.com

“A delightful musical...It’s all pretty ridiculous, but those doings (and the repercussions) are presented in a spirited fashion, and with a lovely (and sometimes funny) score, as well as dialogue amazingly pulled off in rhyming couplets à la the bard himself...The cast is game...The villain is a piggish male who is presented as a despicable buffoon. The women are part of a plan to outsmart him, which they nimbly do, using all their wiles. It all works out.” Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"If you’re at all able, please go see the revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s 'Carousel'. Director Jack O’Brien has sculpted a dark, powerful production, which—like the revival of 'My Fair Lady' uptown—earns its strength by reveling in moment-to-moment acting choices and glorious singing and staging. The ever-reliable Jessie Mueller is wonderful." Full Review

Hangmen
Chelsea
NewNowNext.com

"McDonagh specializes in unsentimental looks at culpability that are filled with horror, dark humor, and ambiguity...McDonagh keeps that focus with 'Hangmen'...McDonagh's banter keeps things fascinating, along with the sense that everyone here is deeply flawed and/or confused...No one is quite what they seem, and it's best not to know too much in advance about what happens. Just submit to this well done journey into amoral anarchy." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"A nonstop swirl of color, dazzle, moving sets and props, and inventive silliness...The eclectic score...amazingly seems of a piece, and director Tina Landau’s cleverness keeps things frantically eye-catching...The first act almost reminded me of wacky 1980s shows done in the East Village...Its exuberant zaniness verges on too much of a good thing, but you miss the energy onslaught in Act Two...Anyone angling for some lavishly thought-out lunacy should squeeze this sponge tightly." Full Review

The Parisian Woman
Midtown W
NewNowNext.com

"It’s peppered with lots of talk, including gross-generalization jokes about how 'Men are always like this' or 'Bankers do such and such.' Heavy-handedness seeps in...Fortunately, there’s also occasional insight into human (and political) nature, as a wisecrack reveals more than a facile observation...Tony winner Blair Brown adds verve as a powerful woman who becomes the object of some serious machinations, and the striking Thurman acts in a committed fashion." Full Review

Junk
Upper W Side
NewNowNext.com

"There’s a feeling that some heavy lifting was involved in trying to make the play’s themes surrounding ‘80s greed and corruption fresh. No wonder the Hughes-directed production is flashy and energetic, with very little down time or introspection...Akhtar serves some worthy insights about money-based machinations in a world full of oppressions and vulnerabilities, but also some heavy-handed attempts at satirical comment." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"Alexandra Spencer-Jones’s stage production is visceral, energetic, and well choreographed...Songs by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Beth Ditto form the backdrop of this 90-minute rethinking, which I found a little one-note and wearisome, while still admiring its tenacity." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"The music is varied and vibrant, and the cast is good...Some of the plot seems convoluted and just about everything is resolved by the end (a suicide in the original novel doesn’t happen here). Furthermore, the gritty doings don’t always cohere with the bouts of magical realism. But again, it’s about creating mood and turning sadness into honey, and there’s a lot of real beauty here. I give this a Bee plus." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"The show feels like a musical that’s been tampered with—which is the case—as certain characters zoom in and out of focus along with the narration itself. Some songs seem unnecessary and the central couple is kind of dull, even when deceased. But then there will be a flash of inspiration and a burst of sardonic kookiness and this seems like a noble misfire that occasionally comes back from the dead when you thought it was down for the count." Full Review

All My Sons
Midtown W
NewNowNext.com

"The writing is so naturalistic and crisp that the plotting actually keeps you riveted. The new Broadway revival, directed by Jack O’Brien, does powerful things with the material, starting with Santo Loquasto’s realistic backyard set and continuing into the acting by a tight ensemble...If you think the Mueller Report exonerates Trump, you’ll believe Joe Keller is innocent, too—and in that case, this revival isn’t for you. Everyone else, dig in." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"Stoppard, Durang, Giraudoux, Beckett, commedia dell’arte, and the Theatre of the Ridiculous all come to mind...but though you’re laughing, the absurdism doesn’t seem based in enough grounding to fully take off, and the cast is directed at a pitch of hysteria...But I still cheer this kind of anything-goes burlesque, since perverse verse is always cherce and the three priceless clowns—sorry, fools—dive in with all burners lit." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

“A satirical but pathos-laced take on the former president and ex-first lady reuniting as Hill tries to garner the Democratic nomination in 2008...’H & C’'s lead characters go at it, screaming harsh truths and half-truths at each other for almost the whole play...There are some laugh-out-loud moments, as deftly played by...Metcalf and Lithgow. The absurdist comedy bits work better than the screaming rages, which become wearying.” Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"One of the most original and thrilling pieces on Broadway...Schreck radiates star presence, and as directed by Oliver Butler, this is 100 well-spent minutes." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"The book by Sam and Bella Spewack is pretty thin...But the leads—while not dominating—infuse the show with presence, O’Hara lilting her songs in a breathtaking fashion...Any profound statement about the battle of the sexes is as absent any reason 'Too Darn Hot' was put in the show in the first place. It’s that kind of show, and that’s all fine; this is pure entertainment, and as such, it’s too darn hot, especially when performed with this kind of verve." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

“I was disheartened with Act One, feeling that Ethan Hawke wasn’t fully embodying the randy mess that is Lee, and Paul Dano—another actor I admire—was stretching with the button-down role of Austin and coming off shockingly bland, way more so than required. The sparks weren’t exactly flying, but when the second half veers into surreal theatrics, the direction kicks in and the two actors come alive...At this point, the production finds its tone and settles into some beautiful disarray.” Full Review

Network (NYC)
Midtown W
NewNowNext.com

"Bryan Cranston is absolutely brilliant...The adaptation seems to have the characters speaking a little less floridly than in the movie to make them more concrete, though the bite and intelligence remain...Cranston leaves virtually everyone else onstage in the dust with his textured, rousing, and heartbreaking performance, but Goldwyn manages to project a world-weary lapse into immorality, while Maslany—while not possessed enough—mounts in outrage for a climactic turn of events." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"Manages to combine sharply hilarious spoofs of narcissistic actors with a feel-good narrative about overcoming intolerance, though interestingly, the satirical Broadway characters come off better developed than the lesbians...'The Prom' far from a searing portrait of small town America or queer sexuality, but it doesn’t pretend to be. Instead, it’s a zippily entertaining romp involving self-discovery and zazz, with a middle-aged quartet that sings and dances their heinies off." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"We need a great play to delve into issues stirred by horrifying police violence against black people, but I don’t feel that Christopher Demos-Brown’s 'American Son' is it...Kendra and Scott sometimes talk as if they’ve never conversed before. Yes, they are emotionally miles apart, but there are times when you’d barely feel they even met...Fortunately, complexity emerges, but overall, this dire American crisis deserves stronger treatment." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"A comedy about fact checking? Sounds hilarious, right? Well, it is! And it also happens to be extremely topical...The play has the stellar actors sparring in surprisingly funny ways...To spin comic gold out of this topic provides a refreshing night of theater, and though the play is not as successful when it aims for more profundity, this is a worthy look into the art of double-checking—and that’s a fact." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"McTeer’s Bernhardt is impetuous, sardonic, and assertive in captivating ways, and she makes no secret of loathing her rival, Eleanora Duse, who she feels experiences no emotions onstage but her own...The play meanders into some dullness and has some heavy-handed dialogue ('You are Sarah Bernhard…'), but also a lot of witty banter—and the actress reveals at one point that she was infatuated with a female sculptor. I bet she had a hard time molding Sarah." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"The award winning 'Hansen' is also about an unpopular teen’s fraudulent way of becoming more accepted, but it happens to have way more texture and subtlety...Joe Iconis has a few interesting songs, like 'The Pants Song,' but a lot of the score is sunk by 'moon/June' type lyrics, and there are two self-pitying numbers pretty close to each other...When 'Be More Chill' is clever, it’s fun, but in general, it needs to chill out." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"An observational everyman, he speaks fairly gently—sometimes in a whisper—and at times smiles and laughs along with the audience, giving the sense of a very accessible guy who happens to be wonderfully out of step with normalcy...This having-a-baby-is-challenging routine is something we’ve heard a million times from comics, especially since it leads to some reluctant joy over the situation, but fortunately, Birbiglia’s wit, timing, and personal approach make the show well worth birthing." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"All of it is not what you’d expect and not what it may seem, which was exactly the point...The three brothers have a highly entertaining camaraderie, going into racy, silly shtick as if they were still pre-adolescents, and two funny set pieces emerge...The play, as directed by Anna D. Shapiro, is uniformly well-acted and quite funny, though the jokes are more persuasive than the pathos." Full Review

MUMMENSCHANZ: you & me
Upper W Side
NewNowNext.com

“The long-running troupe that specializes in ‘sculptural puppetry and visual antics’ has mounted yet another show done without a soundtrack, and you probably won’t miss the noise...It weaves a spell...As onstage images continually change—and an egg keeps growing—the ‘Mummenschanzers’ seems to be saying that with the slightest provocation, something immaterial can become major and something alarming can become beautiful.” Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"The illusionist only made one mistake, in a set piece where he serves people drinks while blindfolded, but that made me appreciate him even more. If what he does is fallible, then his success rate is quite astounding. Vitaly said he even 'fooled' Penn and Teller, who started out at this very same theater. Or let’s just say he filled them with wonder." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"Crowley’s script crackles with pathos and bitchy hilarity...Mantello’s production doesn’t disappoint, bringing together a star-studded cast featuring a lot of high profile gays to get to the heart of 'Boys’' humor and poignancy...I only had reservations about Zachary Quinto as the bemused, withering Harold...Still, Quinto scores laughs and has good moments...There’s a sexy, more hopeful ending here, and then the cast reconvenes to take an ensemble bow. My lips are blue from cheering." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"The longish show has many highlights and tries to humanize the material, with a running theme of 'What’s wrong with me?' Fortunately, things never get too gooey, as snappy cracks take precedence over soul searching. The time period has been wisely moved to the present, when technology (and Trump) can be more properly spoofed. The result is very fetch, though the gays pretty much end up loveless if prideful." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

“Dove’s production itself is an eyeful, the cast working the stage before showtime...The royal décor is gilt-edged and gorgeous...Rylance’s King is dotty, hilarious...Two men play Farinelli: Crane when he’s speaking and Davies when he’s singing, the latter reaching precise and beautiful sounds on a variety of Handel arias...Rylance is the main attraction, commanding the show with his supple wit, weirdness, and edge of danger as he tries to hold onto his elusive mind." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"I found the 1990 Broadway debut of 'Once on This Island' too slight and precious for my taste, but I have to admit I was enraptured by the revival I just saw. As directed by Michael Arden and featuring a vibrant ensemble, it sings, it floats, and it soars...The staging propulsively uses the whole space and the whole production feels committed almost to the point of mania." Full Review

NewNowNext.com

"Fresh and innovative just like 'Hamilton' and 'Dear Evan Hansen' did before it....It eschews easy jokes, production numbers, and obvious emotions in exchange for moving sets, a score filled with jazzy and exotic sounds, and a lot of atmosphere...There are some moments where the cast stays immobile, not afraid to be still or quiet, and that will be challenging for those who want their shows more traditionally presented, but this one has rewards." Full Review

M. Butterfly
Midtown W
NewNowNext.com

"The play is talky but full of Hwang’s lively, sexy and knowing writing, which also spans the hot topic of men relentlessly trying to dictate how women should act...Taymor employs a series of rotating panels that are sometimes lovely and other times distancing...Required sparks of chemistry and shock value seem to be missing this time (the original version sent jolts), but by the end, Owen excels." Full Review

Charm
West Village
NewNowNext.com

"Dawkins’ play 'Charm' has Darleena—a black, transgender woman based on the real life Gloria Allen—teaching Emily Post’s behavioral principles to a group of feisty young people...How that’s all resolved—including a surreal visit from Emily Post herself—may be a little pat, but the play has spunk and humor and is blessed with a fine cast who devour their roles, as directed by Will Davis. Sandra Caldwell is fierce as Darleena." Full Review