Michael Musto

About:  Michael Musto writes theater reviews, along with other entertainment reporting, in his "Musto! The Musical!" column on Out.com. He also writes for Papermag.com, The Village Voice, and The New York Times "Styles" section.
Reviews (106)
70
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

85
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

80
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

55
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

85
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

70
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

60
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

75
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

80
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

75
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

85
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

90
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

80
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

80
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

85
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

85
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

65
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

75
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

85
Out Magazine

"The play—under Sam Gold’s direction—often attains a screwball comedy tone, with modern thinking and behavior mixed in and some wacky interactions that make things seem very now...The resulting debates are fresh and entertaining, and there’s also pathos in the fact that Nora is still seeking validation...Metcalf commands the stage, using all her expert comic and dramatic skills to create one of the season’s most indelible performances." Full Review

70
Out Magazine

"In the nineties, this story—and play—had shock value, but now, in the age of identity theft and Internet fraud, it doesn’t quite have the same pull. But Trip Cullman’s production is strong, with Allison Janney nailing the laughs...John Benjamin Hickey and Corey Hawkins are good...One sequence relies on a lot of screaming to get sitcommy effects, but mainly the tone is wry, as the characters break the fourth wall with monologues and asides." Full Review

80
Out Magazine

"There are musical numbers along the way, helpful subtitles pop up behind the actors, and the intermissionless 100 minutes are impeccably staged by Rebecca Taichman (who’s credited with co-creating the piece with Vogel)...At times, 'Indecent' feels like an earnest evening that’s good for you, but stop your kvetching and stay till the final rain scene." Full Review

60
Out Magazine

"'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' wants very badly to be loved. It restores some elements that were in the original story, while updating it to the present and adding references to hip-hop and tweeting...There’s also animation, large squirrels, and lots of funny business in Act Two, when Borle lets loose with his wryly witty taunting antics. The show has a lot of hard sell, but some rewards, as it lampoons gluttony at Broadway prices." Full Review

85
Out Magazine

"They alternate roles, getting to play two juicy parts, with results that prove to be expectedly rewarding. First, I saw Linney as the scheming matriarch Regina. Linney is very good, exuding fake charm when needing to...All smiles and trying to please, Nixon is extremely touching...Linney was an absolutely superb Birdie, not as dithery as she’s usually played, but just as plagued by regrets and sorrow underneath the perky exterior...The men are uniformly good." Full Review

85
Out Magazine

“A sprawling 3 hours, the play is talky but full of history, observation, and entertainment…Tony winners Ehle and Mays are terrific as the Norwegian couple, and in the showiest role—Israeli diplomat Uri Savir—Michael Aronov is sexy, angry and full of sass. Bartlett Sher’s direction is lively…An imposing door looms symbolically, and projections and films are flashed onto the wall, but for once, this sort of thing seems inventive and apt, not purposely scaled down.” Full Review

80
Out Magazine

"It’s a lighthearted series of confrontations, with not much heft, but blessed with Coward’s customarily tart spoofing of human frailty, and again, the parts are juicy to bite into, especially as the plottings mount to a delirious level. Kevin Kline doesn’t disappoint as Garry...Kristine Nielsen brings her usual quirky humor to the part of Monica...The goings-on, directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, are slight but zippy. Check it out for a taste of old-style wit and silliness." Full Review

80
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

75
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

70
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

85
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

80
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

55
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

85
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

75
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

80
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

70
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

85
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

90
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

80
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

75
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

70
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

65
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

65
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

65
Out Magazine

“There’s precious little about Prince's creative process...Fortunately, the talented and game cast delivers some knockout set pieces, as a segment on one show drifts to a quick set change and a segment on another show...But then there will be some clunkers. And some lame bit of narration. And the realization that you’ve seen all these shows done with more expensive chandeliers…A mixed bag that theater maniacs might find worth grabbing into for the showmanship and history it celebrates.” Full Review

55
Out Magazine

"I thought the first half of 'Anastasia' came off a bit like a theme park musical...Lavishly produced, with lovely sets, projections, and costumes, but is bogged down by bland material and leads...Act Two, fortunately, is dramatically stronger, and even has some cute comic relief thanks to Caroline O’Connor and John Bolton...An old-school entertainment that girls seem to adore. But I’m not Russian to see it again." Full Review

60
Out Magazine

"It’s not cheesy. Blankenbuehler provides swirling movement and zippy choreography. The leads work hard, and deliver knockout numbers...But the net result feels like a noble flop. There’s just too much music, and not all of it is top drawer. The story sometimes verges on a hackneyed Dick Powell movie. And for all the slickness and swing-era recreations, the mood borders on dullish...This one falls into the category of admirable misstep. " Full Review

75
Out Magazine

"This would seem like an impossible project to musicalize, but they’ve managed it with humor and charm. The numbers are cleverly done, there’s lots of well-staged physical action and stagecraft...Act One is better than Act Two—the long-simmering romance becomes a bit strained—and there are a couple of songs by minor characters that don’t gel, but the show is novel and Karl is not only nervy, he’s a delightful leading man." Full Review

90
Out Magazine

"Pure entertainment of the most delicious kind. With peppy choreography by Warren Carlyle and candy-colored sets and costumes courtesy of Santo Loquasto, the show is an eyeful, and with performers like Gavin Creel and Kate Baldwin aboard, it’s an earful too...Bette has long been a master at deftly intertwining sassy and sweet...Throughout, Bette seems to be having a high time, even adding some of her personal vocal phrasings, along with quirky pronunciations." Full Review

80
Out Magazine

“Something the queers should flock to…The show is lavish and well designed…The two leads deliver, Ebersole emanating control and singing beautifully, knocking out her terrific 11 o’clock self-doubt number, ‘Pink.’ As Rubinstein, LuPone employs a thick accent, making her first song hard to decipher. She is also directed to overly lean on some of the joke lines she’s been given. But she’s in top vocal form, and when the two ladies are warring it up, this is gay heaven.” Full Review

65
Out Magazine

"Your preciousness threshold may well be tested with 'Amelie'...The musical adapts the film into a quirky operetta—with lots of emo-drenched pop/rock/Broadway sounds by Daniel Messe and Nathan Tysen...Pam MacKinnon’s direction keeps things clever and charming...Phillipa Soo doesn’t overplay or underline the cuteness. The result is an oddity that is best when it goes for flat-out satire." Full Review

80
Out Magazine

for a previous production "The tone is extremely funny and light, then takes a wild turn toward the dramatic when something happens to one of the main characters...In going from breezy cocktail chatter to devastating dramatics, McKeever performs an impressive tightwire act, and his cast is deft with every turn." Full Review