Theater Reviews by Morna

Morna Martell

Dear Theater Lovers:

In my search to find live recordings of brilliant stage plays from the past to share with you, I came across the following three that I still recall, with emotion and admiration, their original New York Productions.

BOYS IN THE BAND (1968, Off Broadway)

Once regarded as shocking, this play is about a group of gay men in Manhattan who get together for a birthday party and spend much of the evening hacking away at each other’s submerged emotional truths. When each one is challenged to phone some-one they once loved, the results are sad, revealing and sometimes hilarious.

Laurence Luckinbill is a schoolteacher who, when he realized he was homosexual, left his wife and family; Cliff Gorman is a flamboyant interior designer who flings campy jibes at Reuben Greene, a soft-spoken book-store clerk. Frederick Coombs, (who was on Broadway in “A Taste of Honey” and I toured with in that show) is Donald, a self-described “underachiever” who has fled New York. The party is thrown into turmoil when sexy “Cowboy” Robert La Tourneaux arrives as a present for the Birthday Boy!

The play was never recorded, but in 1970 William Friedkin directed a movie version that stays true to the original production. With screenplay by original playwright Mart Crowley, this film conveys with singular brilliance the way “Boys” played on stage. The nine actors in the film, who by then had performed together onstage a thousand times, give performances so bold and fearless that it captures the original dynamic that I remember from so long ago. On You Tube: and Amazon.


This beautiful show, with music by Elton John and book and lyrics by Lee Hall, won 10 Tony Awards in New York and, after it closed on Broadway in 2012, the London West End production was filmed live for worldwide distribution. In case you missed the movie version, it’s about a young boy from a coal mining village in England who wants to become a ballet dancer. This is during the 1980’s miner’s strike that created tension and poverty throughout the country. As his coal-miner Dad is against the idea, the boy takes his boxing lessons money and uses it secretly for dancing lessons. Realizing that Billy is a prodigy, his dancing teacher gets him an audition with The Royal Ballet School in London. The confrontation with his disapproving father, and the outcome of the contest, makes for a highly emotional yet persuasively honest revelation about artistic passion and family love that will bring tears to your eyes. On BroadwayHD, Google Play and iTunes.


On the anniversary of the original West End production of this dynamic musical, based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, an ensemble of over 300 performers and musicians, that had appeared in its various incarnations worldwide, came together to perform. Tenor Alfie Boe is the noble Jean Valjean; Norm Lewis is the relentless Javert, and Lea Salonga is the tragic Fantine. For a surprise encore, four stars sing “Bring Him Home” – Colm Wilkinson from the original London and Broadway cast; John Owen-Jones from the touring company; Simon Bowman from the current London cast, and Boe. Producer Cameron Mackintosh introduces composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and librettist/lyricist Alain Boublil. The concert was shown live across the UK, Ireland and around the world, and, on March 6, 2011, aired on United States television as a PBS special. Available on BroadwayHD and DVD.

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