Elysa Gardner

Freelance writer

Location icon United States

Elysa currently reviews theater for New York Stage Review, covers cabaret for the New York Times and hosts the podcast "Stage Door Sessions" for Broadway Direct. She has also written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today,Town & Country, Harper's Bazaar, Vibe and numerous other publications, and contributed to VH1, NPR and the BBC. She was on the drama jury for the Pulitzer Prize in 2015 and chaired it in 2017. She can be reached at [email protected]

Portfolio
Nytimes
02/05/2019
Charles Busch's New Phase Isn't Drag. It's Green Paisley.

Perched on a stool on the stage of Feinstein's/54 Below, Charles Busch eased into the first bars of Diana Ross's torchy 1973 hit "Touch Me in the Morning," his voice soft and husky, his delivery relaxed but rueful.

New York Stage Review
04/25/2019
Ink: Springtime for Murdoch - New York Stage Review

Long before Fox News was a twinkle in his eye, an ambitious Australian named Rupert Murdoch set out to remake a British newspaper for fun and profit. He wound up forever changing the media landscape abroad and, eventually, here-and not, most readers of this review would likely agree, for the better.

Nytimes
10/05/2018
Mandy Patinkin Has Found a 'New Life Partner in Music'

"You know how people stand around and sing show tunes at parties?" Mandy Patinkin asked recently. "I hate it. Can't stand doing it." He noted, unnecessarily, "You can see the irony" in that confession - coming from a performer whose fire-and-honey voice made him one of the biggest musical theater stars of his generation in shows like "Evita" and "Sunday in the Park with George."

New York Stage Review
01/23/2019
Eddie and Dave: Running with the Devil, in Drag - New York Stage Review

It's not often that I start a review by nodding to a hair and wigs designer, but truly, the ever-reliable Cookie Jordan, currently represented on Broadway by The Cher Show, deserves the shout-out for her new work downtown, where she's summoning the tonsorial splendor of other late-20th century pop stars.

New York Stage Review
02/08/2018
Is God Is: Twisted Sisters Serve a Vengeful Goddess - New York Stage Review

They are curious furies, the two women who stand before us at the start of Aleshea Harris's electrifying new play, Is God Is, now running at Soho Rep. Twin sisters Racine and Anaia are young and black and would be beautiful were it not for the hideous scars they bear, souvenirs from a long-ago house fire.

Nytimes
05/27/2019
Chita Rivera Is Happy to Look Back. But She Never Stops Marching Forward.

The musical theater veteran, 86, will nod at her signature roles in new performances at Feinstein's/54 Below. The young man, maybe in his early 30s, pretended not to stare at the striking woman who had just stepped into the elevator. She beckoned, teasingly, when he exited - "We're coming with you " - making him blush like a schoolboy.

USA TODAY
10 ways that Frank Sinatra changed the world

CLOSE With the centennial of Frank Sinatra's birth approaching (Dec. 12), USA TODAY's Elysa Gardner counts the ways - a few, at least - in which the Chairman of the Board made his mark. 1. He made the popular song immortal. Before Sinatra, notes Will Friedwald, author of Sinatra!

Nytimes
01/19/2017
A Playwright Who Puts Her Demons, and Family, to Work

At 28, Ms. Lázaro is as effervescent as her wit is sometimes morose, and she sees no contradiction in that. "The pain comes in through my back," she explained. "I'm always questioning: How do my characters stay sane? How do I stay sane in the world?

New York Stage Review
02/08/2018
Is God Is: Twisted Sisters Serve a Vengeful Goddess - New York Stage Review

They are curious furies, the two women who stand before us at the start of Aleshea Harris's electrifying new play, Is God Is, now running at Soho Rep. Twin sisters Racine and Anaia are young and black and would be beautiful were it not for the hideous scars they bear, souvenirs from a long-ago house fire.

New York Stage Review
04/21/2019
Gary, A Sequel to Titus Andronicus: Bloody Brilliant - New York Stage Review

At just over 90 minutes, Taylor Mac's first Broadway play, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, is roughly one-fifteenth the length of A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, the brilliant, epic performance piece that made him a Pulitzer Prize finalist a couple of years ago.

Usatoday
07/22/2017
USATODAY.com - Springsteen's 'Rising'

Springsteen's 'Rising' By Elysa Gardner, USA TODAY NEW YORK - For more than 25 years, Bruce Springsteen has examined the promise and the price of American dreams through the eyes of some of the most vivid characters in popular music. In a new...

EW.com
05/17/2016
Indecent: EW stage review

Don't worry if you've never heard of The God of Vengeance; Sholem Asch's controversial play, originally written in Yiddish in 1906, had only a blink-and-you-missed-it Broadway run nearly 100 years ago that ended with the cast and producer being arrested for obscenity.

Out
09/07/2016
Revisiting the Jellicle Ball: Forget 'Memory,' Let's Give 'Cats' a New Life

It seems impossible, in retrospect, that I managed to avoid seeing Andrew Lloyd Webber's as long as I did. A drama critic for 16 years and a lifelong musical theater fan, I came of age in the 1980s, a decade in which commercial musical theater was dominated by Lloyd Webber and the bombast that characterized his shows (and those of a few fellow spirits), right down to their ad campaigns.

EW.com
12/01/2016
'A Bronx Tale': EW stage review

Beware the show that questions too plainly your grasp of the obvious. "This is a Bronx tale," a young man sings at the beginning of A Bronx Tale, based on Chazz Palminteri's semiautobiographical one-man play that inspired the Robert De Niro-directed 1993 film adaptation.

Nytimes
06/20/2017
Diana Krall on Handling Grief, and 'Finding Romance in Everything'

"Turn Up the Quiet" is also her last album with her champion, the producer Tommy LiPuma, who died at 80 in March. Mr. LiPuma, who first worked with Ms. Krall on her 1995 sophomore album, "Only Trust Your Heart," produced "Quiet" with her, and was indefatigable to the end, she said; his death was completely unexpected.

USA TODAY
09/24/2002
Appreciation: David Bowie, a man of many ch-ch-changes

CLOSE Pop music lost its most enduring chameleon Sunday, when David Bowie died of cancer just days after his 69th birthday. Bowie was a transformative figure and an ever-evolving one, a shape-shifter who remained constant in his dedication to exploring, and defining, new forms of expression.

USA TODAY
An enduring Eric Clapton affirms 'I Do'

Rock fans have become keenly aware of the mortality of their idols lately. So, it seems, have the idols themselves, including 71-year-old Eric Clapton. "A lot of pals around my age seem to be kicking off," says Clapton, speaking from his home in England.

USA TODAY
Miranda eyes life after 'Hamilton,' and it's busy

CLOSE NEW YORK - So the little musical you've written becomes the hottest thing on Broadway, and in pop culture, capturing the Pulitzer Prize, 11 Tony Awards and the hearts and minds of a nation. What do you next? Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of Hamilton, and a famously ferocious multi-tasker, has no doubt given this question some thought.

AMERICAN THEATRE
10/07/2016
Is This Any Time for Nuanced Politics?

"When did the rich people become Democrats?" a middle-aged woman asks in What Did You Expect?, the second installment in Richard Nelson's new trilogy of plays The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family.

EW.com
04/14/2017
'Oslo': EW stage review

It may seem like a strange time for a play about diplomacy. For those who haven't made a career of it, the concept isn't very much in vogue right now, with politicians and pundits preaching loudly to their separate choirs under a president who, even his supporters would admit, hasn't made getting along well with others a top priority.

BBC News
08/17/2017
Harold Prince: Celebrating the Prince of Broadway - BBC News

It's impossible to survey 20th Century American musical theatre without coming across one name over and over again: Harold "Hal" Prince. As a producer and a director, he has been attached to a greater range of critically and commercially successful Broadway musicals than any other individual, with a record 21 Tony Awards as testament.

USA TODAY
Ronan, Whishaw make Broadway bows in a 'Crucible' for our times

NEW YORK - There couldn't be a better time for The Crucible, Arthur Miller's stinging account of character assassination at its purest and most twisted, to return to Broadway. Set in Salem, Mass., in 1692, during the witch trials, Crucible first arrived in 1953, as the kind of mass hysteria that had rocked our colonial ancestors was revisiting the country, once again sanctioned by the powerful.

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