Author: Phil Neches

Bandstand

You come into the Bernard Jacobs Theatre expecting a nostalgic look back at the late Swing/Big Band era in the euphoria of America’s victory in World War II, before the Cold War set in. Instead, “Bandstand” serves up a cautionary …Read More

Groundhog Day

If the Tony Awards had a category for “Best Stage Magical,” it would go to “Groundhog Day.” They will have to settle for “Best Scenic Design in a Musical,” which is accurate, but not sufficiently poetic. In other words, the …Read More

Attack on Nantucket

In Thad Dupper’s debut techno-thriller “Attack on Nantucket,” terrorists target the family of the US President, who likes to vacation in the jewel of the northeast, Nantucket Island. As a worthy successor to Tom Clancy, Thad has the Mach-2 pace …Read More

A Comedy of Tenors

Ken Ludwig’s 1986 hit “Lend Me a Tenor” (revived on Broadway in 2010) is just not enough madcap farce to go around. So Ludwig gives us a sequel, “A Comedy of Tenors,” complete with four amorous operatics, two exotic girlfriends, …Read More

Iván Fischer, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Beethoven 8 and 9

Ellen and I attended an amazing concert last night (February 6) at David Geffen Hall. Beethoven’s 8th Symphony is my personal favorite. I grew up listening to Bruno Walter’s recording with the Berliner Philharmoniker on a 10-inch vinyl LP on …Read More

Sherlock

Season Four of the Beeb’s “Sherlock” disappoints. In Hollywood-speak, they “jumped the shark” — a reference to the episode of Happy Days in which the Fonz literally jumped over a shark. That episode marked the decline and fall of that …Read More

Mozart in the Jungle

Amazon delivered its Christmas present to classical music lovers early, releasing all 10 episodes of the third season of “Mozart in the Jungle” on December 9. For those of us who usually sit in the audience, it is a guilty …Read More

Lion

The Weinstein name in the opening credits hint that what is about to unspool might be special. Knowing that Nicole Kidman all but demanded her role provides another hint. Knowing that Dev Patel, the runaway star of “Slumdog Millionaire,” auditioned …Read More

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Taking a sliver out of Tolstoy’s epic “War and Peace,” “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” transforms it into a high voltage rock opera à la “Cabaret.” Fortunately, this sliver reduces the plethora of Tsarist Russian aristocrats of …Read More

Seasons (Les Saisons)

French nature film mavins Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud spent four years and 33 million euro to create this gorgeously photographed homage to the animals of the forests of Europe. The stars are the large mammals: brown bears, bison, wild …Read More

The Producers

It may be October in Short Hills, New Jersey, but it’s Springtime for Hitler at the Papermill Playhouse. This production of “The Producers” brings back the full Lane-Broderick-Stroman lalapalooza, replete with the same choreography, sets, and costumes as the Broadway …Read More

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra

Who says 20th Century classical music must be inaccessible? Not the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. Their season-opening concerts featured all 20th Century pieces accented by jazz, tango, gypsy and cowboy influences. Guest conductor Teddy Abrams opened with three dances from …Read More

Viva

“Viva” inverts the premise of “La Cage aux Folles” and moves the story to the not-so-mean, but ever-so-gritty streets of Havana, Cuba. Jesus is a young, gay hairdresser with aspirations to become a female impersonator. Angel is his father, a …Read More

PAPA: Hemingway in Cuba

Denne Petitclerc’s parents abandoned him at age 4, in the depths of the Great Depression. Nevertheless, he grew up to be a newspaper reporter, starting in sports and moving on to cover the Korean War. He learned his craft by retyping Ernest Hemingway’s …Read More

Iolanthe

What does an Ivy League Manhattanite deal with yearnings for high school musical stardom do for an encore? Why, participate in the Blue Hill Troupe, of course. This collection of bankers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and other assorted professionals by day …Read More

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra

Music Director Designate Xian Zhang took New Jersey by storm this weekend. The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra booked the Tchaikovsky-Barber program long before Zhang’s selection to succeed Maestro Jacques Lacombe. So audiences got a taste of what awaits them in …Read More

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

WTF?: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” in military radio jargon. Something like “what the hell?” or “why the hell not?” in American slang. So WTF is a nice girl like Tina Fey doing in the middle of the American military misadventure in …Read More

Symphonie Fantastique and Lelio at NJSO

  What a treat: the familiar and the rare. Jacques Lacombe and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra brought their usual verve to the concert staple “Symphonie Fantastique.” Considered Berlioz’s signature work, this 1830 composition marked the change of eras from …Read More

Rwanda & Juliet

  We were in the audience privileged to see the first screening of “Rwanda & Juliet,” a feature/documentary film that hopefully will be released in 2016. In 2013, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, retired Dartmouth professor …Read More

Grounded

Fresh from saving humanity in Interstellar, Anne Hathaway takes a turn as a female fighter pilot in the recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars. With a drawling Wyoming accent and a titanium backbone, her character is as tough as it comes. …Read More

König and Jackiw at NJSO

Guest conductor Christoph König led the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in a concert of neglected works by familiar composers on April 24. Anchored by Dvorak’s Symphony #5, the program brilliantly illustrated how audiences can hear a lot of music new …Read More

The Seven Five

With all the attention on police misconduct recently, “The Seven Five” is a timely film. But it explores a very different dark back alley than the recent attention to police shootings and ingrained racism. This film shows what happens when …Read More

An Act of God

The Bible tells us that God made man in his own image. However, when comedians take to the stage or screen to play God, they create God in their own images. George Burns was a likable, wry, eternally old man …Read More

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Vanished

    Allan Karlsson, on the verge of his 100th birthday, lets his beloved ginger cat out the window to do his feline business. Unfortunately, a fox murders the tabby. In revenge, Allan makes a treat for the fox: sausages …Read More

Of Horses and Men

Scandinavian settlers brought ponies to Iceland in the 9th and 10th centuries. With no predators and no imports to dilute the breed in 1,000 years, Icelandics are small, strong, calm, long-lived, well adapted for cold, and fertile. Iceland forbids import …Read More

Sweeney Todd at Summit High School

Replace the plastic seats with red velvet, the stark white ceiling with fancy plasterwork, and add a mezzanine and you would think you were on Broadway, not at a suburban high school. Because the talent was every bit worthy of …Read More

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

  Years of following Hollywood teach one to beware of too many stars in one cast, so what to make of a film that starts with Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle and Penelope …Read More

Moriarty

Arthur Conan Doyle did not want to be remembered only for Sherlock Holmes. Doyle thought Holmes was merely a derivative of Edgar Allan Poe’s sleuth C. August Dupin (“Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” and “The …Read More

Mozart in the Jungle

  Recovering oboist Blair Tindall’s 2005 tell-all look into the world of Drugs, Sex and Classical Music comes to the small screen via Amazon Studio’s streaming video service. The pilot episode is up now, and all 10 first-season episodes are …Read More

Much Ado About Nothing

For the final offering of the year, the New Jersey Shakespeare Theatre offers a White Christmas in World War II interpretation of the Bard’s boisterous comedy, “Much Ado About Nothing.” Glenn Miller music ushers the audience in to a stage …Read More

The Better Angels

How did it feel to be 8-year-old Abraham Lincoln in the brand-new state of Indiana? His father had been one of the richest men in Hardin County, Kentucky, but lost all in a court case over faulty land titles. The …Read More

Point and Shoot

“We are the storytelling animal.” — Salmon Rushdie Is the latest film from two-time Oscar nominee Marshall Curry: a documentary? a coming-of-age story? a psychological thriller? a history lesson? a personal journey? an action-adventure romp? a war, and anti-war, tract? …Read More

Carmina Burana

  When Jacques Lacombe led the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” in 2008, the audience was blown away. So was the search committee, seeking a new maestro for the orchestra. In short order, Lacombe became the …Read More

Dick Hyman and Bucky Pizzarelli in South Orange

Jonathan Schwartz would call them “senior citizens of jazz.” They perform with a total economy of motion — allowable since Bucky is 88 years young. But they provide a total generosity and freshness of sound. Seton Hall University brought these …Read More

Force Majeure

There is a catastrophe. The wife grabs the kids. The husband grabs his cell phone. Stand-up comedy would give this scenario about thirty seconds. Seinfeld gave it 22 minutes. Both play it for laughs. But to the Swedes, it is …Read More