Oslo on Broadway & Motown the Musical at The Shubert in New Haven

 “Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.

Broadway’s Best Play winner earlier this month was ‘Oslo,’ the story of how the Oslo Peace Accords came to be and how close they came to achieving peace in the Middle East.

It’s directed by Bartlett Sher and, though his play won, intriguingly, he did not win Best Director. That went to Rebecca Taichman- and deservedly so- for ‘Indecent.’

But ‘Oslo’ is a true ensemble play based on the historic Oslo Peace Accords, and all its behind-the-scenes machinations, starting from a Norwegian married couple, played by Jefferson Mays and Jennifer Ehle (both nominated), who were its improbable initiators by reaching out to both the Israelis and the Palestinians to create the back channel negotiations which developed over a couple of years.

Michael Aronov won Best Featured Actor for his passionate portrayal of the Israeli diplomat.

Though, like ‘Doubt’ or ‘Copenhagen,’ physically there isn’t much action onstage as the power of the performances comes from the characters’ shared passionate pursuit of peace.

And, what really makes this play work is the mutual respect the opposing negotiators forge with each other- in spite of their hard fought negotiations. In fact, they even become friends.

And therein lies the hope that gives this play its real meaning today.

Director Bartlett Sher realizes that is the essence of the work here and he makes it connect relevantly.

I give ‘Oslo’ 4-and-a-half stars. Do I think it’s Best Play? Well, it’s right up there with ‘Indecent’ and ‘Sweat’- the other Best Play nominees I’ve seen- all 3 are excellent and worthy of winning.

But, while ‘Oslo’ has extended its run to July 16th, ‘Indecent’ and ‘Sweat’ will both close June 25th. Because of that, I’d encourage you to see ‘Indecent’ before it closes; one of the best directed plays I’ve ever seen.

   Locally, the Shubert in New Haven just had ‘Motown the Musical’ for a short run last week. It’s the story of Motown records founder Berry Gordy- and Gordy wrote it himself, which explains why it glossed over several unflattering moments in his history. But if you just wanted to see it for the great music- it delivered! Broadway and TV star Chester Gregory was solid as Gordy and Allison Semmes as Diana Ross had a perfect voice for her role. Also, Raymond Davis, Jr.- as young Michael Jackson- was terrific. Packing 60 Motown hits in, this show was a crowd-pleaser- as long as you don’t mind hearing just a few verses of most songs.

The projections, sets and orchestra all succeeded in bringing the show to life. I give ‘Motown the Musical’ 3-and-a-half stars out of 5.

Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com.

This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”