Sarah Downs

Sarah Downs is a critic with Front Row Center. This account has been auto-generated, and does not indicate that this person is an active member of Show-Score.com. That said, if you "follow" this member, you will automatically be updated whenever s/he writes a new review.

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Reviews (44)
92
Front Row Center

“This early Lerner and Loewe charmer...Has real music, real humor and real heart. ‘The Day Before Spring’ is charming without being trite, and in this adaptation...the excellent performances and direction give it life, celebrating the material in all its quirkiness and familiarity...Lightning does strike in the casting...Parks shimmers with the kind of classic leading lady glow that you cannot manufacture...Reynolds, as her husband also possesses the ‘it’ factor that draws the eye.” Full Review

87
Front Row Center

“A delightful show that celebrates the holidays with tongue securely in cheek. It keeps you chuckling from start to finish, with catchy tunes, bright colors, and clever lyrics...’Christmas in Hell’ is happily and unapologetically theatrical...It’s lighthearted and effective...In the same spirit, the actors wring every drop of humor out of each lyric. They are clearly having a great time, which is 90% of what makes comedy work.” Full Review

90
Front Row Center

“In ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’...Thomas weaves evocative text into a rich tapestry of enchantment...Moore brings Thomas’s memories to life in this adaptation of his popular reverie. Christmas carols and storytelling sparkle with humor and a large dose of nostalgia. Both Moore’s original music and the traditional holiday fare are arranged for the cast of six in refreshing harmony...The cast is chock full of excellent singers.” Full Review

60
Front Row Center

“One of those taut, intelligent, passionately restrained pieces of writing...The material is so juicy! Unfortunately, in this production by the August Strindberg Repertory you would never know it...The combination of pauses you could drive a truck through, an extraordinarily low level of energy, and complete lack of direction dooms this production from the first moments. It’s as if the actors are sleepwalking through the material...’The Father’ is both timeless and timely." Full Review

87
Front Row Center

"Will Durst does his best to make sense of the political chaos, or at least prioritize its various highlights. He is mostly successful, but as he notes it can be an uphill battle, bringing with it the guilt that what’s good for political humorists is by definition not good for the world...Durst reflects what we all feel — that we have no sense how and when or how we will escape this rabbit hole. He is not, however, giving up. Perhaps laughter is sufficient transgression for now." Full Review

87
Front Row Center

“Engaging and unpretentious, the music by Gwon and performers are right in the pocket. However, the music eventually loses pace with the story, causing the charm to wear a little thin...Bashor takes stage with ease...She is an excellent singer...The other three singers are also clearly well trained...This show has so much going for it...Unfortunately, the music doesn’t quite keep up...Consistent and comfortable but not memorable.” Full Review

82
Front Row Center

“Clever two-man show...The performance stands on its firmest ground during the non-verbal, more physical clowning scenes and those that take place entirely in the dark...Malkin as James remains more abstract while Knowles as Jamesy displays a more youthful character...They play off each other easily...The give-and-take to the audience is fun, but at times feels a bit clunky...Thought provoking and funny, ‘James & Jamesy’ challenges us not just to contemplate but to respond.” Full Review

90
Front Row Center

“By turns funny and intense, 'The Great Leap' is an intimate story played out on a world stage. The play is wonderfully written, well structured and considered very moving. The actors give consistently excellent performances...Ahn, as Connie exudes warmth...As Chang, BD Wong is riveting. His every moment burns with longing. Speaking in a quiet measured tone he is nonetheless intense and remarkably present...’The Great Leap’ speaks of ambition and overreach — and the power of idealism." Full Review

70
Front Row Center

"'Has some good moments, but it suffers from indecision – rock show or night at the theater – resulting in a mushy show that works too hard and repeatedly gets in its own way...At its best when rock and opera intertwine...The mishmash of styles begins to wear thin, however, long before intermission...The orchestra is very good...They offer a refreshing respite...It’s too loud; it tries too hard; it’s a bit cheesy, but in the end it is good fun. Just bring ear plugs." Full Review

85
Front Row Center

"This show exudes Broadway...This upbeat musical tackles the sober topic of racism in America...With beauty, elegance, and a versatile, big stage voice, Umoh is razzmatazz in leading lady form...Some of the material feels a bit dated and the balance of book to music feels a bit off...Could use some judicious trimming. In addition, Georgina carries the majority of the show, in a veritable marathon of singing that risks wearing us out. Nonetheless, 'Hallelujah, Baby!' is a terrific show." Full Review

80
Front Row Center

“In this stripped down production, Brody and Steinfeld direct much of the focus on the space between the actors all of whom are excellent. The group has that repertory feel...The two actors who are not regular Fiasco performers...Their energy is more direct, which contrast serves the production well...I wish that a sense of context and clarity were more consistently sustained...At times the humor feels a bit forced...It’s a wild ride worth the taking.” Full Review

85
Front Row Center

“An intelligently abridged interpretation...Evans has skillfully focused her adaptation on the essentials of the narrative to tell this rich story in a short time without sacrificing its complexity...The cast is consistently strong, both as an ensemble and individually...Modernizing a great play can sometimes fall flat but there is no danger of that here. Shakespeare’s work is relevant, and made all the more approachable in this excellent production.” Full Review

85
Front Row Center

"Some uniquely creative and thought-provoking theater...González has woven a tale of mystery and darkness; of poetry, an inexplicable murder and quiet disappearance, drawing us into a surreal world...An excellent ensemble of actors...play a variety of characters...Moving smoothly among fleeting identities, they sustain the performance with consistently focused energy...This production operates on several levels simultaneously...Milikowsky has created a dialogue among diverse elements." Full Review

65
Front Row Center

“‘Money Talks’ has yet to jell fully…What feels lacking is a sense of clear choices…Friedman‘s music is really good, with some terrific, witty songs…‘Money Talks’ has the bones of a really good show, especially with regard to the talented cast…It is a timely message ‘Money Talks’ delivers with a light hand and endearing humor. It would be great for everyone to hear it, if the production could just get out of the way of the material.” Full Review

65
Front Row Center

“The minimalist environment helps one to focus on the poetry of the text, but its music is hampered by the hodgepodge of accents. Jonathan Cake has the greatest success with the text…A group of talented, quick-witted supporting actors cavort through the narrative with verve and color. Each makes a mark…I found the play too long...it really became burdensome. The energy and focus of the talented cast, however, carried us through the few dragging moments.” Full Review

80
Front Row Center

"The use of light comedy to weave a serious narrative is a particularly British manner of storytelling, and it’s not easy to pull off. Director Jesse Marchese has skillfully managed to honor the style without any 'tickety-boo' self-consciousness that would belittle the material...The cast is very competent and clearly versed in theater, hitting the mark in gesture and tone...Milne has written with a sensitivity all the more affecting for its touch of autobiography." Full Review

95
Front Row Center

“The best of the best…A cast of exceptional actors keeps this farce moving with buoyant focus and attention to detail…However, it is Kline who anchors the production, in a performance of exceptional clarity...Director Moritz von Stuelpnagel has deftly guided the action without imprisoning his actors. Of course, he has been handed a gift in Kevin Kline, who with his prodigious talent and experience carries a show that sparkles. Don’t miss it.” Full Review

95
Front Row Center

"An extraordinary play...A fascinating piece of writing wherein a simple premise gives rise to refreshing catharsis...Verbally dazzling, alternately prickly and unruffled, the writing builds subtly on rhythmic increments through a gamut of emotions, at times exploding with unforeseen revelation...Director Geraldine Hughes has masterfully fine-tuned the work of this pair of enormously talented actors to a razor-sharp attention to detail from the music of the text to the arc of the narrative." Full Review

80
Front Row Center

"A charming love story with a very New York flavor...The four actors are all well cast...Justin Baldridge directs this piece as befits the writing, keeping it light and naturalistic...The book by Eric H. Weinberger and music by Gayla D. Morgan work very well together. The story is simple without being simplistic, and the music flows easily without the jarring transition from spoken word to singing that can afflict some musicals." Full Review

75
Front Row Center

"Director Davis McCallum wrangles all of the manic elements of an over-the-top script with the skill of Ben Hur at his chariot. So much could spin wildly out of control and yet it does not…The acting is excellent, particularly the bravura performance of Sears...He is at times overwhelmingly manic, but that is perhaps unavoidable, given the relentless motion of the writing...Trigorin has flashes of steeliness and lust, but in the end I was not convinced of his casting." Full Review

60
Front Row Center

"As they race through short scenes that are meant to overlap but do not, they have little opportunity to make more than an impression of a character in each vignette. The performances are uneven, but they do all find moments in which to shine...Act I is too long, and pace feels frenetic even as the story begins to drag." Full Review

80
Front Row Center

"'In Night is a Room,' playwright Naomi Wallace has accomplished that most difficult of tasks: she has written a story that is entirely new...Director Rauch demonstrates a mastery of working with powerful material, shepherding its varied elements with assured simplicity. He guides the arc of the narrative allowing it to dance on the verge of chaos...'Night is a Room' is thought-provoking, gripping drama. You are caught between Can’t. Watch. and Must. Look., but resistance is futile." Full Review

93
Front Row Center

“’Behind the Sheet’ tells a story from the early days of gynecology...This absorbing play centers around a particularly debilitating complication arising from difficult child births...Simpson has crafted a drama without sensationalism. Given the unbelievable reality on which it is based, the restraint of both the writing and the intelligent, inventive direction by Robert is near miraculous...The only complaint I have is the pervasive haze...Nevertheless, ‘Sheet’ is not to be missed.” Full Review

55
Front Row Center

"Overlong, amateurish and under-rehearsed. That being said, there is the kernel of something really workable in there, in the persons of Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard...The best moments in the show happen in the second act when onstage Ruben and Clay serenade video Ruben and Clay...You feel their authenticity...A smaller space would solve some of the problems...This is a cabaret show that should be 90 minutes maximum with no intermission." Full Review

67
Front Row Center

“'Inescapable' is diverting and well performed but fails to take us anywhere. In its brevity it feels more like an exercise than a finished product. Paterson and Dockery give it all they’ve got, keeping the energy going with fast paced dialogue and clear focus. They do build to one emotional moment. It is a much welcome pause. You think maybe the silence will restart the engine but drive the piece in a different direction. Alas, we just go back to the beginning, with no reprieve.” Full Review

95
Front Row Center

"As Ui, Esparza is a beast – devouring the stage with his every step, clawing at the air with expressive hands, teasing us with his humor, bullying the audience...Esparza drives the production...Director John Doyle‘s stripped down production intentionally exposes the bones of the play as both text and narrative, without losing any of the through line of the drama...With a riveting performance by Esparza, 'The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui' is devastating. " Full Review

93
Front Row Center

"Each unique story is linked thematically to the other in its exploration of loneliness and isolation, in compelling performances that range from delicate to dangerous...Each musical is deeply thoughtful and simply wrought. The performances lack the cloying self-consciousness that diminishes the quality of many a show...None of the theatrical elements...gets in the way of the story. Each character breaks your heart...as they inspire our compassion and empathy.” Full Review

90
Front Row Center

“Hollywood Western meets ‘Waiting for Godot’...An intriguing, at times unsettling evening of theater...Foreman dared to veer in the direction of truth, devising a realistic, nuanced narrative...Sharp has dug into Foremans’ screenplay, dissecting its emotional complexity...A truly ensemble piece. The uniformly excellent cast often moves as one...Unaffected choreography keeps the action moving despite the abstract, bare bones presentation.” Full Review

80
Front Row Center

"Burdened by a lackluster score by Adams, whose style is more suited to country/pop than the stage, 'Pretty Woman' is what you get when bad music happens to good singers...And yet, even with its flimsy story and inconsistent score, this show has something any creative team would kill for — the dazzling Samantha Barks...Despite its flaws, 'Pretty Woman' does have appeal, in the quirky individuality of its chorus members, and the truly stellar performance of Samantha Barks." Full Review

90
Front Row Center

"Cummings III has directed this production brilliantly. It is taught and purposeful yet unhurried...The centerpiece that drives this production is the cathartic performance of Ireland as Alma...She mesmerizes. She dazzles. She tears your heart out. Darrow as Buchanan, complements her work with a committed, nuanced performance...He gives us so much more than the handsome, charismatic yet troubled young man. Ireland and Darrow share a palpable, almost painful chemistry." Full Review

90
Front Row Center

"It is a charming farewell...The actors handle the dialect well, with only the the occasional lapse in accent...'Three Wise Guys' is a little gem of a play. So much of Damon Runyon’s storytelling takes place in dialogue, he’s a natural for the stage...Director Scott Alan Evans keeps the action moving without sacrificing the quieter moments that give the humor its zest. It is difficult to pull off, but the cast make it look easy." Full Review

65
Front Row Center

“So much lies behind the creation of this novel...but you wouldn’t know that from the uneven, unfocused, undefined creature that is ‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’...Wolf has not created a coherent evening of theater...Unfortunately, the actors suffer under the burden of the show’s overreach. The pieces just don’t come together as they should...’Frankenstein’ is a masterpiece. Too bad this play is not.” Full Review

97
Front Row Center

“Lost none of its luster over the years, and in the production the beauty of this musical has been given its full due and then some...The ensemble contribute in myriad ways to the performance, handing off the narrative to each other in a verbal dance...The cast infuses every moment with spirit, emotion, and music. Everywhere you look something catches your eye...Every single element blends perfectly to bring this already beautiful musical to dazzling, joyous life.” Full Review

85
Front Row Center

"As C.S. Lewis, Daniel Gerroll is outstanding...He keeps the material alive despite the fact that the wordy, overlong play makes the same point repeatedly in slightly varied reiterations that threaten to become tedious...Gerroll has endowed his character with the spark hidden vitality, and guides us through the verbiage as if he were, indeed, a professor himself...It is beautiful to watch Lewis open the door to his soul, revealing the wonders that lie beyond." Full Review

90
Front Row Center

"The actresses inhabit their roles effortlessly, each a portrait of unique experience from very different social backgrounds...Graham’s direction deftly combines nuance with attack, wrestling with tough material from a deeply personal perspective. This play throws you back in your seat. It is intense...As the characters trace a dizzying path across stage in the steady build of the action, you feel the war...'A Piece of My Heart' is a cathartic and deeply moving piece of writing." Full Review

85
Front Row Center

for a previous production "A rousing tonic to despair...A clever, satirical revue...The talented quartet sing with exuberance and commitment, doing hilarious impressions...This show is guaranteed to make you laugh. Guaranteed...This is definitely a satire from the heart and it gets to the heart of the matter...Holson speaks her truth, demonstrating the power of humor as refuge and inspiration. Kindred spirits gather, have a drink, laugh and are reinvigorated for the fight." Full Review

70
Front Row Center

for a previous production "All of the actors commit fully, maintaining a level of energy that at times overwhelms the space but which is nonetheless commendable. The difficulty is that the piece starts at such a high level of energy, there is little place to go...The horror doesn’t fully develop into a narrative...‘The Cooping Theory’ is great fun...It’s like a ride at a theme park without the tacky. You get into your seat, go on a whirlwind trip...Everyone was smiling as they paid their checks." Full Review

80
Front Row Center

"This adaptation, with just a few blips, rises to the occasion...Act I at moments lacks vitality, as if the muted colors have at times muted the action. Act II fares better, with dazzling color and a faster pace...A marvel of theatricality, with a great voice and a gift for physical comedy, Borle gives an electric performance of unflagging energy...O’Brien has directed an eccentric, entertaining, and at times dazzling production of a timeless story audiences will take to heart." Full Review

80
Front Row Center

“A metaphor through which to examine the contradictions inherent in a religion that preaches both forgiveness and damnation...The ensemble cast is onstage throughout, stepping in as various characters, ably supporting the drama. Among the cast are several standout performances…One issue I have with the play is its length…I would also wish for more creative blocking and visuals…Regardless...‘Judas Iscariot’ is an excellent, if verbose, piece of writing well worth the seeing.” Full Review

90
Front Row Center

“A performance that is both hilarious and touching. The text is presented irreverently, with modern references peppered throughout, and yet the expertly delivered one-liners and physical comedy do not derail the serious work...Throughout, this committed, talented ensemble breeze back and forth across the fourth wall. In their skilled hands, the co-existence of broad comedy and serious storytelling hovers securely on the brink of chaos to the audience’s delight.” Full Review

85
Front Row Center

"Three words to describe this production would be wit, whimsy and wherewithal...The actors are uniformly excellent and very well cast, each finding both the humor and the heart in the character...Within...the pared-down nature of the production, the actors find numerous colors and levels, in some ways liberated by the imposed limitations. It is a testament to their commitment and the director’s intelligence that they embrace this experience and run with it." Full Review

95
Fen
Front Row Center

"A beautiful piece of writing...Sensitively presented in this excellent production, the play comes to life in an evening of well-wrought storytelling…There is not a weak link in this production. The actors are wonderful — interesting, vulnerable, unique, strong — and their accents are spot-on…From start to finish, this is great theater that speaks to the individual experience of sadness, of dreams, of hope, leaving indelible images that remain with you long after you have left the building." Full Review

85
New York Theatre Guide

"Tap dancing is about joy and you can feel his joy when Maurice Hines steps onstage. He hits every mark with high energy and style in a seamless performance that transports the audience to his world for 85 toe-tapping minutes." Full Review

70
Front Row Center

"'Becky Shaw' fairly burst with plot lines, making for an interesting night of theatre...Director Elena Kritter faces a daunting challenge of telling so many stories in a small space. She handles this with aplomb. One feels her assured directorial hand as she allows the actors to follow their own rhythms yet also keeps the swirling plot lines pretty well focused. A play that could stall at many turns moves forward only with the occasional drop in energy," Full Review