Ryan Leeds

About:  Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to The BroadwayBlog and Dramatics Magazine. He was also a 2017 fellow at the Eugene O'Neill National Critics' Institute.
Reviews (105)
Preview cih
75
Broadway Blog

“A cheeky new addition to holiday theatrical offerings...The York deserves kudos for going out on a limb and pushing the envelope with this humdinger of a show...As quirky as it is, there are also touching moments...Although it starts as an edgy and irreverent piece, ‘Christmas in Hell’ has trouble securing its footing and comedic tone...Could be trimmed...Destined to become a perennial classic? Likely not, But it is a pleasant one that breathes fresh life into the standard Christmas story." Full Review

Preview cohen
65
Broadway Blog

“Mildly entertaining...Yet somehow, the humor in ‘The Other Josh Cohen’ often feels cliché and dated...Rosen and Rossmer have glorious chemistry onstage. Real-life childhood friends, it is easy to tell that they are basking in the glory of the show’s success...Talented cast. Not only are they gifted with comedic timing, but they also work a double shift, serving as the onstage band. Musically, there is some catchy material.” Full Review

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80
Broadway Blog

"Anyanwu’s writing is both ethereal and spiritual, adding levity to what would otherwise be a heavy trudge of trauma. Yet she veers off course when she allows her characters to ramble on about mythical figures...'Good Grief' is at its best when it delves into the human interactions...Director Awoye Timpo handles the serious nature here with more mirth than one could expect...What makes 'Good Grief' so special is the unique lens from which this story is told." Full Review

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90
Broadway Blog

“On the surface, ‘Midnight at the Never Get’ is a well-focused 90-minute cabaret act. Yet it goes much deeper, offering insights into gay history and the struggle for acceptance. Sonneblick’s music is so authentic that at times, I had to question if it was, in fact, original...Podd has created some gorgeous arrangements...A classy show that inspires hope for the future of musical theatre and appreciation for places like the York Theatre, who proudly nurture new talent and ideas.” Full Review

Preview tb6
80
Manhattan Digest

“Fun and innovative...Maintains the plot and integrity of Chekhov’s original writing while adding pantomime, comedy, and original music...The entire cast...Brings a vivacious energy to the piece while simultaneously warning us against the dangers of complacency...Those who are still mourning the premature death of ‘The Great Comet’ would be wise to trek downtown...Though not nearly as large in scope, ‘Tararaboom’ brings a similar immersive quality and vibe." Full Review

Preview molasses in january
25
Broadway Blog

“While disaster tales can often be rich fodder for the stage, Pellegrino’s dramatization is nearly unwatchable. Pellegrino presents us with little more than a cookie-cutter, stereotypical Italian Immigrant family...Were this show a parody, it could have worked. The fact that it is played as a legitimate drama makes for an awkward and painful 90 minutes. The mixed caliber of talent makes the best of this burden...There have been finer junior high school productions mounted.” Full Review

Preview sas2
60
Manhattan Digest

"Cummings III helms this tepid allegory that pits human desire against morality but has done it in such a way that all of the tension is threadbare...Ireland is deeply layered and fully grasps the psychological depth of Alma...She delivers a stunning performance...The same cannot be said for much of her fellow cast members, all of whom seem to be - stylistically - in different shows...Williams' work is tragic enough. It doesn't require the death knell of mediocre treatment." Full Review

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75
Manhattan Digest

"Michelson may well be one of the most exciting composers working in musical theater today...Michelson's style is wholly unique and her style ignites listeners to sit up with curiosity and wonderment...The same praise can't be lavished onto Grote's well-intended, but often preachy book and lyrics...What binds the show together is Michelson's score, delivered with great conviction...For that alone, it's worth the admission price." Full Review

Preview rhc1
95
Manhattan Digest

"It still glosses over domestic abuse...Yet under O’Brien’s masterful direction, there is beauty, insight, and wisdom to be gleaned from this stunning new revival...There is a bounty of fine moments in this production, but the best one may come from Fleming, whose interpretation of 'You’ll Never Walk Alone' is otherworldly...Mueller's gorgeous vocals and wonderful acting add credibility to this near perfect reboot...The best Broadway musical revival I have ever seen." Full Review

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60
Broadway Blog

"The innocuous, 90-minute tuner has some great moments but tends to suffer frequently from unrealistic dialogue and elementary lyrics...What 'Goldstein' does well is question the meaning of legacy...Roberts knows his way around a catchy melody and his tunes lean toward traditional Broadway fare. With such a talented cast he could benefit from adding a few show-stopping numbers that really bring the house down." Full Review

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80
Manhattan Digest

"Thanks to clever staging and Coonrod's respect for audience intelligence, one feels as though a sumptuous meal has been enjoyed without the consumption of a single calorie...Much Christian symbolism can be found in this story of selflessness and sacrifice...Coonrod's cast of nine all work efficiently and effectively to render a quiet, but immensely powerful tale that teaches us how to receive unexpected generosity with open hands and hearts...An unexpected gift to theatergoers." Full Review

Preview b4
80
Broadway Blog

“An imperfect, but generally enjoyable and informative view into the turbulent career of Moses...Galperin and Kadin whiz through his story and one wishes that there was even more substance here...Still, they’ve packed quite a bit of good stuff...Don’t expect a definitive account of Moses’ historical significance, but do expect to walk away with a thirst for more knowledge about the man...You’ll have this remarkable cast, directed by Carpenter to thank for your piqued curiosity.” Full Review

Preview ftmp1
90
Manhattan Digest

“An irresistibly hilarious night of comedy...Devoted fans of the immensely successful sitcom will surely recognize most of the references and supporting characters...Each player captures the essence of their television counterparts in a manner that is self-deprecating, but never mean-spirited or ridiculing...Even a total newcomer to the series will be in for a treat...Gleizner’s bouncy melodies are endearing and keep the quick-witted comedy moving ahead at full speed.” Full Review

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65
Manhattan Digest

"“A gutsy play...There are moments between cultures which are truly poignant and thought provoking. Yet for all the humanity at stake, it is challenging to follow the narrative...It would have been helpful to offer more background and context within the production itself...On technical levels, 'The Siege' surpasses many Broadway quality shows...In spite of the shortcomings, one must admire the audacious spirit that inspires these artists and this company.” Full Review

Preview tt1 1
85
Manhattan Digest

"May not be one of the fastest moving plays around, but it is certainly one of the most honest, timely, and sapient works that subtly paints a complex portrait of relationships between a mother and her children...Director David Cromer guides the production with sensitivity. He is isn’t afraid of the awkward pauses and contemplation that his actors so wisely give to this material." Full Review

Preview petie image
40
Manhattan Digest

"It sinks under a contrived plot and a mediocre script...With cookie-cutter characterizations and broad, stereotypical references to small-town life, there is little opportunity to empathize with the plight of this family. Nonetheless, there is marvelous acting...Should this cast find material worthy of their abilities, we’ll all be better for it. For now, they are trapped in a boat that fails to sail." Full Review

Preview tyss1
85
Manhattan Digest

for a previous production "They wisely combine parodies and self-deprecating material with strong social and political themes. The result is a smartly crafted piece which is both entertaining and educational...Stuffed with gleeful irreverence and hilarious parodies...They effortlessly stay on key, navigating intricate harmonies and singing live, tongue-tying phrases to precision...Together, this bundle of beauties will leave you deeply moved and simultaneously amused." Full Review

Preview pob
80
Broadway Blog

"Over the course of this fantastic evening, nine talented Broadway stars introduce many of Prince’s works...There are numerous shining moments in the show, many of which come in the fourth sequence...With 'Prince of Broadway,' Mr. Prince—and his entire company—can reflect on a job that has not only been done well but one that has been done with heaping servings of vitality and panache." Full Review

Preview andshewould1
90
Broadway Blog

“An audacious new work…A powerful piece of theater. Their mission of ‘radical visibility and the power of collective healing’ is fully realized here…Brown is a commanding stage presence whose every gesture demands attention…Director David Mendizabal and Choreographer Kia LaBeija have masterfully provided heart and voice to marginalized souls in this limited engagement that will hopefully extend or move to a new space.” Full Review

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80
Broadway Blog

“A brief but potent play…Nadeem’s gift for character development is quite adept…Director Noelle Ghoussani has assembled a fine cast and has been careful not to let them become too maudlin…Pan Asian Repertory has not only given theatergoers an evening of provocative and engaging theater but it has also piqued a curiosity for learning more about this troubling time in history.” Full Review

Preview bella showscore
85
Manhattan Digest

"Wild West stories are a dime a dozen, but I can guarantee that you’ve never seen anything fresher or more completely original as Kirsten Childs’ 'Bella'...Childs takes her piece even further with social, racial, and political commentary—and she does it in such a crafty way that leaves audiences both entertained and richly nourished...The show moves along at a solid pace and musically, it offers some terrific tunes...Childs could easily tighten her material with a few cuts." Full Review

Preview h1
70
Manhattan Digest

“"An ambitious, bilingual production...Conceptually, the idea is brilliant and insightful. In execution, it is often muddy…Ajay Naidu is a particular standout for his wise, but chatty interpretation of Polonius...What truly makes the production sing—literally—are the musical interludes by Mohsen Namjoo and Yahya Alkhansa…Together, they create music that is simultaneously dramatic and hypnotic. Waterwell’s multicultural casting is another praiseworthy choice.” Full Review

Preview baghdaddy vertical rectangle
90
Broadway Blog

"I implore you to grab tickets for 'Baghdaddy,' the slick and clever roller-coaster musical...It’s even more potent now than it originally was...The creators handle the difficult aspects of the show with a great deal of respect and dignity...As smart satire often does, it makes the most unbearable circumstances bearable...Pailet has secured most of his 2015 cast, but the newcomers fit beautifully into the show. Shields’ choreography is sharp and inventive, and musically the show soars." Full Review

Preview gavel show score
70
Manhattan Digest

"There are glaring omissions of female representation, many of whom were contemporaries of the aforementioned artists...In a male-dominated profession, Lieberman may wish to consider including them in future rewrites of her play. Lieberman, who also directs, has assembled an able cast who keep the action brisk and lively. There are no real stand-out performances but collectively, this ensemble is able to deliver the goods." Full Review

Preview img 0159
85
Broadway Blog

"Thoroughly thoughtful and entertaining...Graham is a stunning performer. His work in this piece is a master class in the art of acting...Vernon is mostly wise to utilize the vocal talents of his cast...The score is terrific, but I wish that Vernon had showcased Davis a bit more...'The View UpStairs,' smartly directed by Scott Ebersold, is an important retrospective of the gay community: where we’ve been, where we are, and who we could—and should—be." Full Review

Preview wgd2
55
Broadway Blog

"As the underutilized Greek chorus filled the stage delivering the cacophonous sounds of technology...Ninety minutes later...Jung’s play continued to spew extraneous technobabble...Director Silverman and playwright Jung deserve major accolades for attempting to push the boundaries of conventional theater, and there is some poetically beautiful language. Yet the abstruse nature of 'Wild Goose Dreams' ultimately clouds the vital message about human connection." Full Review

Preview inner voices 2018 replace1
85
Manhattan Digest

“’Window Treatment’ fully captures the feeling of longing for someone you’ve only seen, but have never met...’The Costume’ stars a remarkable young talent, Douglas...There is so much heart here, making it impossible not to care...’Scaffolding’ portrays a devoted mother doing her best to shield her son...All three pieces force us to slow down, be more reflective, and provide us with a heavy dose of empathy." Full Review

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90
Broadway Blog

“It is bad form for critics to leave a performance early, but there is no rule stating that they can’t wish to leave before the final bow...I made that wish...Then McKeever’s play changed in an instant — and I was hooked...The ensemble is superb, bringing truth and authenticity to McKeever’s high stakes drama...’Daniel’s Husband’ embodies what quality playwriting should do. It surprises, engages, entertains, and challenges your own worldview without being didactic...I’m glad I stayed." Full Review

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80
Manhattan Digest

“Not the most action-filled piece, but it’s not intended to be. Instead, it is a slice of life drama...Watching this story unfold is fascinating and ominous...The amounts of grace, care, and compassion shared by this congregation are deeply touching. Yet beneath it lies a troubling, blinded cult-like mentality...Jones painted a respectable portrait for city slickers who are otherwise unfamiliar with this world...It might send you on a journey through your own soul.” Full Review

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85
Manhattan Digest

"Even with so many hot-button themes, Harrison’s script avoids sermonizing. Instead, it gives us the chance to be better. To understand each other and offer compassion. To remind us of our own battles for acceptance. This talented, intuitive, and racially diverse ensemble delivers Harrison’s razor-sharp writing with flair. In the process, it provides a much-needed dose of introspection. It’s a rare gift we should graciously accept." Full Review

Preview wof2
85
Manhattan Digest

"Rarely–if ever– have I seen a cast of women this diverse who represent the entire swath of our country...I was pleasantly surprised by the scope and depth that the piece offers. It is more than just a #metoo play. It is more than just a feminist piece. It is more than just political. What it is is the product of a compassionate, rational human being who finally understands that we’re not serving ourselves as a society if we do not listen to one another." Full Review

Preview briefhistoryposter
45
Manhattan Digest

"Though the entire cast hails from England, there is little authenticity to be found...Frequently, much of the scenery is chewed to the nub and is played as though it were an unfunny Saturday Night Live sketch...Ackybourn's decision to invite negative commentary on homosexuality...Fails to land well with modern audiences...There are a few poignant moments. Yet they are lost amidst the rambling and unfocused dialogue." Full Review

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30
Manhattan Digest

"McAnuff has bastardized her discography...You're unlikely to see a bigger misfire on a NY stage at the moment...With McAnuff, Domingo, and Cary's aimless book, it's painfully obvious that their story is going 'Faster and Faster to Nowhere'...Three variations of Summer are embodied throughout...This trio is in top voice. In spite of the jerry-built material, they bring a vital and much-needed ingredient of phenomenal talent to the stage...A harmful blow to good taste as well as to the wallet." Full Review

Preview sf2
85
Manhattan Digest

"Twist's magnificent revival...Neither theater nor a concert recital. The closest description might be 'performance art, but the best description could simply be 'stunning'...Visual eye candy...Pieces of cloth, plastic, feathers, and wires are dragged through the water to create mesmerizing images...A glorious score...It's hard not to fall into a hypnotic trance while watching. Between the sight and sound, it's an irresistible treat for the senses." Full Review

Preview walkinthewoods
60
Manhattan Digest

"In 1988 Lee Blessing’s play premiered on Broadway...Thirty years later, his message continues to resonate...An uncompelling, but perfectly adequate production...Van Treuren and Manning appear to be competent actors but here, they are miscast...For an intimate play like this to fully ignite, magnetism, razor-sharp acuity, and exceptional dynamism are required from its cast...Still, the two manage to deliver Blessing's vital message." Full Review

Preview otto
30
Broadway Blog

"Scheduled to run for six weeks. Coincidentally, six weeks is approximately the length of time you’ll feel like you’ve been trapped in your seat once the lights dim...Could someone please find a good editor for Mr. Rabe?...One ultimately wishes for fully realized humanity...For all of the poignancy in his language, there exists a void of relatability and connectedness in the material and towards these disparate characters. The result feels clinical and unemotional." Full Review

Preview spongebob
85
Broadway Blog

"One of the most creative animation-to-stage adaptations I’ve seen...Although the plot is paper thin, there is much more here than meets the eye. Self-help advice is liberally dispensed in musical form from artists in all genres...An original cast recording that is catchy and contagious. The musical variety is just one of the many things that makes this show a genuine crowd-pleaser. The energy that this supremely talented cast gives is beyond electric...Don’t resist this gem." Full Review

Preview lpkc1
65
Manhattan Digest

“There is surprisingly little emotional resonance. One of the problems may be the lengthy monologues, most of which are expository and come across rather sterile and matter of fact. As a result, there isn’t much left to feel. Nonetheless, Burton and McGrath are marvelously paired. Each of their performances is well worth the price of a ticket...'Lonely Planet' is a show that could well be described as 'enjoyable enough.’" Full Review

Preview tbt white
85
Manhattan Digest

"Fewer shows have provided the emotional impact as this one...Vardalos stars as Strayed in a subtle but winning performance...There is a letter here for everyone. For anyone who has ever lived life in all of of its glory and disappointment—this is a show for you...In the wrong hands, 'Tiny Beautiful' could easily have veered into treacly, sentimental schmaltz. Yet with such fine actors, a wise adaptation, and gentle direction, it is one long letter of hope, comfort, and reassurance." Full Review

Preview tv1
75
Manhattan Digest

"There is quite a bit that is commendable about this character-driven piece about trust and loyalty. Although it strains credibility, it wins over the audience by the time the curtain falls...Director Discher has assembled a phenomenal cast here, each of whom deliver McCormick’s script with sincerity and gusto. What the play lacks in entire believability, it more than compensates with these attributes by spinning an entertaining yarn and leaving theatergoers with a night well spent." Full Review

Preview image
80
Manhattan Digest

"A fluffy and fun spin on the Bard’s tale...Heffernan’s book keeps the action movin’ along at a brisk clip. Heffernan, who also directed, seems to mesh nicely with Aronson’s style. At 2 hrs and 40 minutes however, the story could use a small bit of trimming. Pleasant, but slow ballads tend to bog down the action near the end. Still, this cast is superb and delivers good ole-fashioned country twang with energy and authenticity." Full Review

Preview ppoh1
60
Manhattan Digest

"Loaded with some profound and touching ideas. It is also graced with the indefatigable presence of its star, Kathleen Chalfant...The stakes however, never seem that high and Ruhl’s play tends to meander between recollections, current affairs, ordinary sibling rivalry, and regret...It ends up feeling like a cathartic self-help exercise...In the final analysis, 'For Peter Pan' has some tender moments but, overall, it fails to take flight." Full Review

Preview comelight
10
Broadway Blog

"So appallingly bad that it’s difficult to know where to begin with its excoriation...Discussions of rape and incest are glossed over by uninspired songs that feel unbearably endless...What is most troubling about the show is writer and director Arnold L. Cohen’s tone deafness. Within the show’s first 15 minutes, he manages to offend every social group possible...Cohen’s attempt at hard-boiled murder mystery dialogue never takes off...I think it’s time to put this cigarette out." Full Review

Preview e m1
85
Broadway Blog

"Tribute shows are done exponentially, but rarely to the level of quality demonstrated by Ms. Frierson in her warm and winning solo show...Although it lacks intense dramatic stakes, Frierson’s story is worth hearing...Directors Murphy Criss and Paul Kreppel lend gentle touches to both the material and their leading lady by keeping the memoir floating along at a brisk 80-minute pace...As it stands now, it is in excellent form." Full Review

Preview attackelvis
35
Broadway Blog

"The comedic factor rarely rises to the occasion. Most of the jokes fall flat and elicit reactions ranging between audible groans to internal eye rolls. Lyrically, there are no gems to be found in the songs, either...Regarding production value and talent, there is much to admire...I must admit that a handful of the songs are quite catchy thanks to the musical direction, arrangement, and orchestrations...Long before intermission, this hound dog reviewer was ready to be euthanized." Full Review

Preview boy who danced
80
Broadway Blog

"A provocative, thoughtful, and moving story...It is handled with sensitivity and delicate understanding…The band fully realizes some of the most gorgeous and original tunes heard in ages...Speciale's entire cast is comprised of skillful actors who make each part distinctly their own...Rosser and Sohne sanitized the depiction of bacha bazi...Still, I commend them for exposing the subject and bravely tackling such a complicated matter with earnest humanity and heart." Full Review

Preview tlo art photo playbill discount
75
Manhattan Digest

"A subtle, yet poignant production...While Milne’s drama does not emanate taut, dramatic tension, it does offer a wonderfully human look at the complexities of sibling rivalry. For the most part, director Jesse Marchese’s cast pulls off convincing British accents...Works like this remind us why the Mint is such a vital part of New York’s landscape. They neither rely on spectacle nor gimmicks, but instead, focus on quality stories, beautiful language, and actual person-to-person communication." Full Review

Preview angry young man
80
Manhattan Digest

“Director Stephen Hamilton conducts this incredibly nimble cast like a precisely engineered Swiss watch…Thanks to the rapid-fire dialogue and high jinks, the 80-minute Off-Broadway piece moves as though it were a high-speed locomotive…What makes ‘Angry Young Man’ so entertaining is not necessarily the story, but rather the breakneck choreography and antics that are so well executed by this terrific cast. Sometimes, laughter is enough.” Full Review

Preview unnamed
85
Manhattan Digest

"Thanks to award-winning playwright Bruce Graham, the progressively minded will not be patting themselves on the back when they see 'White Guy on the Bus.' However, they are going to squirm a little bit and, by the end, they’ll have a helluva lot to think about...'White Guy On the Bus' is a provocative piece of theater and it manages to make a loud point without preaching. Director Bud Martin has assembled a fine cast, all of whom should be commended for tackling this fearless play." Full Review

Preview significant other1
60
Broadway Blog

"Joshua Harmon’s moderately appealing comedy...Glick is excellent and extremely likable, causing the audience to root for him...Still, the only new aspect of this often-told plot line is that it is viewed through the lens of a gay man. Ultimately, it’s just not enough...'Significant Other' translates simply to a good date: It’s attractive, it has some wit and a decent personality, but there’s just not enough substance for a full-fledged commitment of time or money." Full Review