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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, June 2011.
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
PASSING GLANCES AT SCENES SEEN:
•Reality Challenged Male Has Affair with Fantasy Girl friend in Love Song!
•Angry Old Brooklyn Commie Wants Out of Life: Tony Kushner's Latest…
•Alzheimers Is No Fun: A Disoriented Julia at 59E59…
•Banned Belarus Free Theatre at La MaMa: State Terror & Harold Pinter.
•Molière's Misanthrope Transmuted into School for Lies, by David Ives…
•The Ex First Lady of New York City--Donna Hanover--Is in Picked at the Vineyard!
•The Soul Leaves The Body in Tremendous Farts: Hannoch Levin's Winter Wedding!
•Lynn Nottage's Newest: Blacks in the Movies--Do Meet Vera Stark.
•Down at the Public Theatre: Knickerbocker, in Which Bob Dishy Returns!
•Target Tempest Not in a Tea pot, but at HERE, in a Candle lit Victorian Theatre!
•Derek Jacobi's Lear at BAM: Every Inch a King!
•Irish Villains Foiled Again by Irish Heroes: The Shaughraun, at Irish Rep!
•George Bernard Shaw Sings Again! Candida Transmuted into A Minister's Wife.
•Newsical the Musical Brings You Recycled TV Newscasts & More…
•Lucky Guy: This Hilarious Show Is The Book of Mormon for Country & Western!
•Improve Your Yiddish with Fiddler on the Roof Sound Alike: Hershele Ostropolyer
•Rally Round Herne's Oak! Charming Mannes College Falstaff at the Kaye Theatre.
•Kurt Weill & Lotte Lenya: Together Again on [Upper] Broadway in September Songs.
•Boys Made of Cheese May Have Some Survival Problems…
•Karen Kandel Deserves a Tony©! for Her Remarkable Role in Peter & Wendy!
•Avant Garde Down in the Vaults at 14 Wall Street: Monk Parrots' Gay Rodeo By Laws
•First It Was the Jersey Boys, But Now, It's Jersey Girls: Loose Screws…
•Tovah Feldshuh, David Dinkins, & Scott Siegel Help Town Hall Celebrate Ninety Years!
•Town Hall Celebrates Broadway Musicals of 1982 with the Mark Stuart Dance Theatre!
•Linda Eder Almost Back on Broadway--Two Blocks Away, at Town Hall, in Concert!
End of Month Summary:
Time was, when 31 May arrived, The Season was at an end. Not Now.
During the Months of Summer, Play Openings diminish, but do not entirely disappear.
That means some Summer Shows cannot be covered by Show Notes.
It is often said--but not by the Professionally Virtuous--that There Is No Rest for the Wicked!
Even before this May Report is entirely closed, Your Roving Arts Reporter is off the to The Spoleto Festival in Charleston. Followed by a brief Excursion to Historic Savannah, for some echoes of Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil.
This will be followed by an Expedition to San Francisco, where the Music Critics of North America are having their Annual Conference, with the SF Opera RING scheduled.
This will be an exceptional pleasure, as the Met Opera Press Office wouldn't give me even a single ticket to see either Das Rheingold or Die Walküre, the first two Installments of their Multi Million Dollar Robert Lepage Spectacle.
From some reports, the clanking Mechanized Scenery sometimes Malfunctions. We hope for smoother Valkyrie Flying in the Bay Area!
Later, the American Theatre Critics Association will be having its Annual Conference at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, in Ashland.
The Dance Critics of America are later to be congregating in Seattle.
But the Festivals of Bayreuth, Bregenz, Edinburgh, Munich, & Salzburg are already booked.
Nonetheless, there's Good News for this Summer in Manhattan!
Cirque du Soliel will soon open ZARKANA at the famed Radio City Music Hall!
The New York Press recently was given a foretaste of the Acrobatic Wonders of the forthcoming show.
No Live Animals, as usual…
Over on West 44th Street, at the Historic Helen Hayes, 2econd Stage is preparing to make this stage into its New Broadway House! It joins the Manhattan Theatre Club in establishing a Tony Award™ Outlet for Institutional Theatre.
MTC, it should be recalled, now preps for the Tonys™ at the Samuel J. Friedlander [Memorial] Theatre. Formerly the Biltmore…
For that matter, the Helen Hayes of today was once Winthrop Ames' Little Theatre. That name is still above the Portals!
The former Helen Hayes was trashed to make possible the towering Marriott Maquis Hotel.
But before this Herts & Tallants Jewel was destroyed, it had been previously called the Fulton. It was originally named the Folies Bergère…
Also demolished--to make way for more places to sleep in Midtown, in addition in snoozing in costly Theatre Seats--were the Historic Morosco, the Bijou/Toho, the Astor, & the Victoria…
The Lion King now roars supreme over the Ghosts of those Forgotten Theatres.
Last Minute attempts at Land marking could not save the Morosco nor the Helen Hayes.
For that matter, The Rockefellers at one point considered destroying the Radio City Music Hall.
How quaint that name now sounds! What ever happened to Music Halls, anyway?
Rush Limbaugh has given New Life to Radio. But who needs anything as Old Fashioned as a City for Radio?
When Radio City was in its long, long heyday, Major Motion Pictures were booked for its Giant Screen, with the Contractual Understanding that they could not be shown anywhere else in the United States until they had run their Course in Midtown.
That, of course, could not continue, when Major Hollywood Studios were itching to open Big Budget Films all over the United States--now, even all over the Known World!--on the Same Weekend.
This soon spelled the Death of the Seven Days a Week Stage Shows with the famed Rockettes.
Only the Christmas Show & the Easter Shows remained, but even these offended some who demanded not only the Separation of Church & State, but also the separation of Christian Religious Festivals from more Public & Proletarian Entertainments.
The Rockefeller Interests proposed to build Warrens of Offices inside the Cavern that an Aborted Music Hall would provide. The neighboring Roxy had long since been reduced to Rubble. Followed by the nearby Ziegfeld--which is, indeed, now Offices…
The Center Theatre--intended to complement Radio City--seated some 4,000, but those seats could not be long be filled, even with Sonja Heinie Ice Revues. Today, its fomer caverns are filled with Scribners' Offices…
In its Glory Days, the Music Hall played daily, from 10 am to Midnight. On Weekends, you could watch the Feature Film as many as five times. The Live Stage Show--sandwiched in between--could play as many as four times!
New Show Change Overs took place on Sundays at Midnight. There was never a Day Off for Rehearsals!
But--with some 6,000 Plus Seats to be filled, how could it survive Television!
Radio City--The Showplace of the Nation!--was too Famous & too Fabulous to be destroyed. But for what has it been saved?
Endless Rock & Hip Hop Concerts? NYU Graduations? Words of Wisdom from the Dalai Lama?
It would be Wonderful if Cirque du Soliel can find an audience, not just for this summer, but Round the Year. Obviously, Zarkana cannot run forever, unlike some Cirque du Soliel shows in Las Vegas.
But those clever Guys & Gals up in Montreal can surely devise More Wondrous Shows…
The Madison Square Garden Annual Cirque du Soliel Christmas Show wasn't in the Right Venue, anyway.
•Link to Outer Critics Circle [OCC] Awards: http://www.outercritics.org/News.aspx
•Link to Drama Desk [DD] Awards: http://dramadesk.com/press113.html
•Link to Antoinette Perry [Tony™] Awards:http://www.tonyawards.com/en_US/nominees/index.html
John Kolvenbach's LOVE SONG [★★★]
Tony Kushner's THE INTELLIGENT HOMOSEXUAL'S GUIDE TO CAPITALISM & SOCIALISM
WITH A KEY TO THE SCRIPTURES [★★★★]
Vince Melocchi's JULIA [★★]
Belarus Free Theatre's DISCOVER LOVE & HAROLD PINTER [★★★★]
David Ives' THE SCHOOL FOR LIES [★★]
Christopher Shinn's PICKED [★★★]
Hannoch Levin's WINTER WEDDING [Three Farts!]
Lynn Nottage's BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK [★★★★]
Jonathan Mark Sherman's KNICKERBOCKER [★★★]
Old Plays in Revival:
Wm. Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST [★★★★]
Wm. Shakespeare's KING LEAR [★★★★★]
Dion Boucicault's THE SHAUGRAUN [★★★★]
A MINISTER'S WIFE [★★]
NEWSICAL THE MUSICAL [★★★]
LUCKY GUY [★★★★★]
Old Musicals in Revival:
THE ADVENTURES OF HERSHELE OSTROPOLYER [★★★]
Other Entertainments/Other Venues:
Nights at the Opera:
Mannes College Opera at the Kaye:
Giuseppe Verdi's FALSTAFF [★★★★]
At the Manhattan School of Music:
Kurt Weill's SEPTEMBER SONGS [★★★★★]
At the New Victory:
THE TRAGICAL LIFE OF CHEESEBOY [★★]
Mabou Mines' PETER & WENDY [★★★★★]
Down in the Vaults at 14 Wall Street:
Monk Parrots' GAY RODEO BY LAWS [★★★]
Cabaret on New Forty Two:
Andrea Wolff's LOOSE SCREWS [★★]
At Town Hall, Now Celebrating Its 90th Birthday:
TOWN HALL AT 90: A CELEBRATION [★★★★]
Scott Siegel's BROADWAY MUSICALS OF 1982 [★★★★]
Town Hall Presents LINDA EDER [★★★★]
SHOW NOTES OVERVIEW:
Love Song Is a Play Without Much Music, But with a Fantasy Friend!
Beane is discovered in an All White Room--which could be re used in many, many shows--sitting in a battered chair.
Above him is a battered shade, shielding an Overhead Light. This seems to have a Life of Its Own, threatening poor lank haired Beane [Andrew Pastides].
Beane lacks Social Graces. He also seems to have No Friends. Possibly, he cannot hold a Job.
But he does have a sister, Joan [Laura Latreille], who worries about him.
She is a Motor Mouthed Female Executive whose Management Style is Tough Love, with emphasis on the Tough, as she is fond of firing people, especially Interns.
Her Marriage to the long suffering Harry [Ian Barford] seems to be Fraying.
Then Beane finds a Fierce Female Thief in his bare bones room. Her name is Molly [Zoë Winters], but she's Imaginary!
This inspires some S&M Chitchat which arouses Beane. Later, its Overflow seems also to stimulate the the Long Marrieds…
John Kolvenbach both wrote & directed Love Song.
But the Set--by Ji Youn Chang--could be used for other shows at 59E59…
Mary Baker Eddy's Great Work Plundered for Title of Tony Kushner's New Epic Drama!
After his epic Angels in America, where was Genius Playwright Tony Kushner to go? Homebody/Kabul, anyone?
Kushner has won the Pulitzer, two Tonys, three Obies, two Evening Standard Awards, one Emmy, one Olivier, & the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award.
Also: an Oscar Nomination…
That's a Lot to Live Up To. Rather like Tennessee Williams trying to top Streetcar & Glass Menagerie: He called this the Catastrophe of Success.
This season, Signature Theatre chose Kushner for its Annual American Playwright Series. But it is in the throes of creating a new Venue, designed by Frank Ghery, so production of the latest Epic is being shared with Oscar Eustis at the Public Theatre.
Aside from requiring a lot of Key Strokes, Kushner's Title seems designed to Provoke Comment & Stimulate Interest: THE INTELLIGENT HOMOSEXUAL'S GUIDE TO CAPITALISM & SOCIALISM WITH KEY TO THE SCRIPTURES. One critic refers to it as iHomo…
The Key to the Scriptures is cribbed from Mary Baker Eddy, Founder of Christian Science, who--if she even knew about Homosexuality--would surely have Condemned it.
[At least, the Keepers of the Flame in Boston--the Christian Science Board of Lectureship--have long regarded Homosexuality as a Disease, but treatable in Christian Science.]
For me, the Center of Kushner's new extended drama is the Old Commie Labor Organizer Gus Marcantonio [a fascinatingly irascible Michael Cristofer].
The Ancestral Name of New York's Vito Marcantonio--a constant Thorn in the sides of Bosses & Conservatives--must certainly have Resonance for Older Members of the Audience at the Public.
Gus feels he's Lived His Life. Time has passed on: he has nothing more to live for… Especially living in the Old Family House in Brooklyn!
He wants to End It All. But the Family is horrified at the thought. He's already been unsuccessful with Wrist Slashing & now wants someone in the Family to help him leave.
Gus rants & rages, but he has decided to Sell the House & divide the Proceeds among his Sister, Sons, & Daughter, Empty [Linda Emond, who once was Homebody in Homebody/Kabul], who was married to Adam [Matt Servitto], but has since become a Lesbian, with Maeve [Danielle Skraastad] as her Partner, who is now Pregnant, inseminated by her Lover's Brother & Gus's younger son, V.
There are several Kushner Veterans in this cast, including Stephen Spinella, who was Prior Walter in Angels in America. He plays Gus's older son, Pill, who is a Homosexual, but apparently not so Intelligent.
He is nominally "married" to an intelligent African American Gay Man, Paul [K. Todd Freeman]. But he Gets Off paying Big Money to a Hustler, Eli [Michael Esper].
Eli--with whom Paul thinks he is Falling in Love--charges $3,000 per hour session. This is right up there with the $4,000 per session our Former Governor, Eliot Spitzer, was paying Ashley Dupree!
[What this suggests is that some Hustlers are better paid per hour than New York City School Teachers--better than Adjunct Professors, certainly!]
But Paul is not from the Millionaire/Billionaire Fifth Avenue Banker Class.
So he has borrowed $30,000 from his sister to finance this Sexual Folly.
Actually, this rather involved story could be a play in itself. It would make this three acter seem more centered, with more powerful impact. Also, shorter!
Finally, Gus is going to pay the Hustler to help him Commit Suicide. Not as much fun as Sex, but still…if you're getting Paid for It!
Mark Wendland's moveable settings were a Marvel. Michael Greif directed this complex Family Drama.
From Venice--Southern California, not Italy--Comes Julia, from the Pacific Resident Theatre.
Entering the rather small Theatre B, at 59E59, I was surprised to see so many seats Empty. Had the Word Got Out?
We waited a while, after the announced Curtain Time--in a theatre without a curtain--but no one came to join us.
The stage set looked like it had been pieced together from some Construction Site Left Overs. This was apparently a Failed Coffee Shop: Idelson's, if you could read the window legend backwards…
The shop itself--complete with refuse strewn tables & malfunctioning equipment--was presided over by an Angry Man, who seemed to be running the Numbers, as well as dealing in Lotto Tickets.
A bent, croaking, possibly dying Old Man entered, left, then re entered. He wanted to see Julia, the Mother of the Proprietor, who was not about to Oblige Him.
Later, on an Upper Level, we saw the Old Man as a Young Man, about to depart for the Korean "Police Action," with his friend, Young Julia. Afraid, confused, his affection for Julia overcame him & he attacked her. Fortunately, no Rape was seen to have occurred.
Now, after all these years & before he definitively Croaks, he wants to apologize to Julia.
Unfortunately, she is suffering from Alzheimer's, in a Senior Home. She has no idea where she is. Or why…
He makes a Breakthrough & The Past Is Healed…
But some of the very small audience had already fled at the Intermission of this two hour plus drama. Including a Fellow Critic, though I always stay to the Bitter End of misjudged shows…
Actually, changing the Coffee Shop Set for the Home Set was perhaps the most interesting event of the evening: Very Complicated & Time Consuming!
But why did Pacific Resident Theatre bring all that Shabby Furniture all the way from Venice?
Or did they rent it locally?
Couldn't Norman Scott have designed this, essentially, three set show more ingeniously?
For me, the play was not effective: too long for what it has to share.
Apparently, the Scores of So Cal Supporters of this production--listed by name in the program--do not agree.
In & around Venice--as the program notes--there seems to be a feeling that Venice is "California's burgeoning Arts District!"
In fact, the LA Times cites Pacific Resident Theatre as one of the best theatres operating in Southern California! Whatever happened to the Mark Taper Forum? Or South Coast Rep?
Nonetheless, the actors were generally admirable in discharging their duties. I especially admired the Aged Julia of Roses Prichard, baffled by that part of the world she still saw around her.
For the Record: Julia's Senior Home is located in McKeesport, PA, near Pittsburgh. The Year is 2004…
I know something about Senior "Homes." Not in Pennsylvania, but in Southern California, for my own Mother was in a Home in Santa Paula, a middling drive from Venice & Pacific Resident Theatre.
She had been legally certified as Incompetent, then known as Senile, as Alzheimer's didn't yet have a name.
As a New York "Stringer" for the LA Times, I came out twice a year to see my Mother, the Mark Taper, & my Editors at the Times.
My Mother lived in a Dream World of the Distant Past. But I was the only person she immediately recognized.
My Cousin Bernice--who taught in Santa Paula & looked in on her twice a day--was a Mysterious Stranger to Mother.
I felt awkward & embarrased about not Being There more often for my Mother.
But Bernice let me off the Hook: "You are always with her. Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner!
"When I drop by after school, she's always so excited: 'Glenn & I both won Bananas in the Morning Bingo!' But she doesn't know who I am. She has No Idea…"
At the Home, everyone won Bananas, every Morning. They keep the Innards Moving…
The Belarus Free Theatre Is Not Free To Return To Belarus!
If you are one of those Patriotic Americans who believes that we Defeated Communism when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in November 1989, do not imagine that Soviet Style Terrorism & Torture came to an End then.
Dissidents protesting the Draconian Authority of the Megalomaniacal Rule of Post Soviet Tyrants in Belarus are still being made to Disappear!
The young & very talented Ensemble of the Belarus Free Theatre cannot return to its Homeland. They are banned, but they are now here, performing at La MaMa, in a co hosting with the Public Theatre.
Discover Love--by Nicolai Khalezin--innovatively chronicles the tragedy of the Kidnapping, Torture, & Killing of Irina Krasovskya's dissident husband, Anatoly.
In production, it is wonderfully, artfully, & terrifyingly performed by Oleg Sidorchik, Marina Yurevich, & Pavel Gorodnitski. A series of quilts or covers on a bed signal changes in the on going horror.
Both of the plays seen were elegantly & elementally Simple, with few Props.
The Fatal Tale of Irina Krasovskya's heart breaking Loss is echoed in the production with film clips & photos of other women around the world who have lost husbands & sons through Savage, Soulless Political Disappearances.
Discover Love, as a kind of Passion Play, can stand by itself. But the added Visuals help make the Point that people are being made to Disappear in other lands. Not just in Eastern Europe…
Being Harold Pinter is an unusual kind of Meditation on the Working Methods & the Passions of the late Playwright Harold Pinter.
Adapted from Pinter Texts such as Old Times, The Homecoming, The New World Order, & Mountain Language, it also reinforces the Belarus Message about Political Oppression. In Mountain Language, people are forbidden to speak their own Native Language.
This recalls the long Tyranny of the Soviet Union, in which Russian was the Official Language, even if one lived in Soviet Dominated Asia or in the Baltic Republics of Latvia, Lithuania, & Estonia.
The cast was augmented for Pinter. One scene--with people trapped inside a semi transparent piece of shower curtain plastic--well conveyed the Sense of Desperation, of living inside such a Political Cage.
The play began with Harold Pinter himself talking, his head gashed from a Bad Fall. He was explaining how he gets his ideas for his plays, which then led into explorations of ways in which some Humans Come to Torment & Dominate Other Humans.
For the Record: The last time I saw Harold Pinter up close--he graciously permitted me to take a photo of him in a front row seat in Turin--he had just flown in from Dublin, where he'd slipped & fallen at the Airport & got the gash shown in the Video.
The Occasion was the awarding of the European Theatre Prize, where Pinter was Signally Honored!
Stunning & Historically Accurate Costumes Distinguish Ives' School for Lies--After Molière…
The remarkable William Ivey Long has Done It Again!
The Costumes he's designed for David Ives' re working of Molière's Le Misanthrope are not only like Costume Plates of Court Garb in the time of King Louis XIV but they are also wonderfully constructed, in striking colors & fine fabrics!
The radiant Celimène--who wears her gowns with the Certitude of one born to Position & Place--looks like a Young Meryl Streep! As well she might, being the Totally Talented Mamie Gummer!
The bare, spare stage is Whitened Wood, with a simple white wood Secretary/Bureau upstage. Designer John Lee Beatty adds chairs & stools as needed.
But what has David Ives here wrought?
As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a Man with Seven Wives…
As I was seeing David Ives,
I found a Plot with Seven Lives…
Well, actually there are more than Seven Lives involved in David Ives' curious Verbal Modernization of Jean Baptiste Poquelin's amusingly insidious Indictment of the Social Hypocrisy of the Versailles & Paris of King Louis XIV.
Ives' own Ingenuity in finding all kinds of Unusual Rhymes for his Couplets initially dazzles, but one's Delight soon frazzles…
Perhaps taking his Cue from this season's Motherfucker with a Hat & other down scale Linguistic Adventures, he has salted his otherwise ingenious--even fausse élégant--Dialogue with too many Coarse, Common, & Vulgar Words & Phrases.
They don't Sound Right for Characters so set & costumed.
Molière would not have recognized his Misanthrope--now named Frank, for he is Frank to a Fault--nor his Philinte, Oronte, Arsinoé, Eliante, or Clitandre.
This is owing, not to their Costumes, but to their Bumptious Behavior.
The Verbal Formularities of Polite Conversation are more or less preserved--with the occasional Turd thrown in, to set the Audience guffawing--but the director, Walter Bobbie, has most of the Cast behaving as if they were in a Knockabout Farce.
Molière did indeed write some Bumptious Farces, but Le Misanthrope was not one of them…
In Shinn's Picked, Unlucky Actor Is Metaphorically Kicked in the Shins: Producers Ignore Him!
See, there's this Manipulative Hollywood Director, who casts this bland young Would be Actor in an Experimental Film, inspired by his Mental Emotional Reactions in an MRI.
Now in a Major Motion Picture, the Good Guy Role that's been developed--balanced with a Bad Guy Robot--should make Blandness into Stardom.
It doesn't work. Nobody calls…
Unfortunately, the Actor is totally without Charisma. Even at Post Film Parties, where he should be Networking, he's standing alone on the Sidelines.
So he enrolls at UCLA.
His formerly supportive Actress Girlfriend--who had No Roles while they were together--now Scores a Leading Role with the Manipulative Hollywood Director!
Christopher Shinn's new drama is slickly produced down at the Vineyard Theatre & slickly directed by Michael Wilson.
Unless the Director was supposed to be a Stand In for James Cameron & we were watching Pre Production Moves for Avatar, I couldn't imagine why we were watching this Two Hour Plus rehash of Hollywooditis…
Couldn't the Bland Guy have tried out for some TV Shows?
Why did he think he should be Starring in the Movies, when there are Other Options. Even in Hollywood & Burbank…
Why should we Care?
The Problem--from the Outset--was that both the Actor & the Role, as written, were Not Interesting. No Energy, No Empathy. No Interest…
Shinn's Cast, however, was generally good, especially John, the Director [a Hyper Hypocritical Mark Blum].
But it was interesting to have the former First Lady of New York City--the former Anchorwoman, Donna Hanover--cast as a TV Personality!
Odorless Farts Permeate Theatre for the New City: Hannoch Levin Imagines Israeli Deaths…
As a once upon a time Grieving Son, Your Arts Reporter could certainly sympathize with Latshek Boobitchek [a desperate Tony Greenleaf].
He has promised his long suffering, now dying, Mother, Alteh Boobitchek [as in BOOB: an agonizing in death Beth Bailis] that there certainly will be All The Relatives at Her Funeral!
When I tried to round up all the Surviving Cousins--way back in 1991--for a Memorial Service in San Francisco in June--after my Mother had Died & was reduced to Ashes, in January, in a Home in Southern California--No One wanted to come all that way up from Salinas…
Latshek, however, has a rather different Problem. It's Winter & he cannot--Under Orthodox Jewish Law--wait until June…
He has to notify the Relatives of Alteh's Death immediately, as--in accordance with Ancient Jewish Law & Tradition--the Body has to be buried the very next day. [We Methodists get to wait Three Whole Days for the Interment!]
But the Relatives have an even more Compelling Problem: They are marrying off their Daughter on the very next day & so do not--Ritually Legally--want to know about the 4pm Funeral that would Wreck Their Plans.
"Four Hundred Guests, Eight Hundred Roast Chickens--In The Garbage!"
So they Flee.
They even fly off--apparently Under Their Own Power--to the Summit of the Himalayas. But even there they are pursued by Latshek…
This is the sort of Post Absurdist Comedy that might have been the result of John Guare--after a few tokes of Acapulco Gold--trying to Translate a hitherto unknown Chekhov Short Story, with the late Tom O'Horgan turning it into a La MaMa Adventure…
But these are not really the kinds of Problems that most Gentiles have, so it was not easy to understand why this all should be so Funny. However, it is so regarded, at least by Israelis, where the Playwright, the Late Hannoch Levin, is regarded as a National Treasure!
The Press Release attempts to Explain: "Every Human Foible, Stupidity, Vanity, & Cruelty is found in the Characters on stage & we laugh heartily as we find ourselves reflected in Every One of Them." [Italics added for Emphasis!]
Well, Sorry, but I didn't see myself among this noisy kvetching Crew.
The Repeated Nastiness shown to Latshek reminded me of that noted Jewish Commentator's query about the Monika Lawinsky Business: "Is this good for the Jews?"
[If you want Lovable Jewish Stereotypes--without a hint of Anti Semitism--you might want to see Herschele over at the Folksbiene/Yiddish National Theatre at Baruch College…]
The Press Release explains that the Situation in Levin's Farce "implicates all Humankind."
Also: "The Characters are Wild, Stupid, Vain, Mean Spirited, Brutal, Cruel, & Frightening, but we laugh because we recognize in them something familiar: They mirror Elements of the Human Soul."
Wow! That's a very Big Mirror!
In Israel, the play was called Winter Funeral. But as translated by Laurel Hessing & David Willinger, it underwent a Name Change. Funerals sound like Downers. Not Ticket Sellers…
Nonetheless, Director David Willinger worked very hard with his large cast, who also worked very hard: Climbing down off the Himalayas is not something you'd want to do every day…
Aside from my Newfound Knowledge about Jewish Burial Customs, I was also surprised to discover that the Soul leaves the Human Body through the Anus, being exhaled in great odorless Farts!
Some of the Cast seemed to smell them on stage, but not in the audience.
The Angel of Death summons forth both the Soul & the Farts.
Martin Luther would have loved to have known about that!
Didn't he get Divine Inspiration while seated on the Crapper…
Hattie McDaniel, What Have You Done? Blacks in Films: Meet Vera Stark--Analyze Her Career!
Yes, Virginia, there was a time when the only work Talented Black Performers could get in Hollywood Movies was playing "Yessum" Maids & "Shufflin'" Chauffeurs & Servants.
Think of Hattie McDaniel's Big Black Negro Mammys. Think of Jack Benny's Chauffeur Rochester, aka Eddie Anderson.
How about Butterfly McQueen: "Lawsie, Missy Scarlet, I knows all about birthin' babies…"
Now Lynn Nottage takes us back to those Golden Days of Yesteryear, when People Knew Their Place.
Lounging in a Luxurious Boudoir, the beloved Hollywood Star, Gloria Mitchell, is Running Her Lines with her pert Negro Maid, Vera Stark.
She's hoping to be cast as the Heroine in a new Major Motion Picture, The Belle of New Orleans.
In the future film, she has a Dreadful Secret!
Although she looks like a Lovely White Southern Beauty, SHE IS REALLY AN OCTOROON!
What we gradually learn--in bits, pieces, & hints--is that she really is an Octoroon.
Vera--who is desperately hoping that Gloria can get her a role in The Belle as well, even as a Stereotypical Maid or House Servant--is actually Gloria's Cousin!
One White. One Black. But the Twains do meet.
In the "actual" 1933 Black & White Movie, made by Noted Foreign Director Maximillian Von Oster--of which we see some Archival Footage--Vera does play Gloria's Maid, with others of Gloria's own household on board as well.
But the flamboyant, almost "High Yaller" Anne Mae has been able to pass herself off as a glamorous Exotic Brazilian, so she gets a Crinoline Skirt & Jewel Wearing Role in the film.
Then we move on--to 2003--when a Panel of Experts has convened to Analyze Vera Stark's Great Breakthrough in the now Classic Film, Belle of New Orleans.
In order to do this--as well as to Promote their Recent Books & their Individual Academic Agendas--they refer back to the 1973 TV Talk Show Interview the fatuous Brad Donovan made with the now Alcoholic & Flamboyant Vera.
Donovan confronts her with Gloria, now happily married to the Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra or LSO. A long way off from Burbank & Beverly Hills…
There's also a super skinny, extra fatuous Brit Rock Star on the show.
Well, Virginia, as you can see--that is, if you get a ticket for this handsome High Tech Production over at the 2econd Stage--we have Come A Long Way.
You do not see Samuel L. Jackson shufflin' much on screen these days, do you?
Jo Bonney has deftly directed Lynn Nottage's intriguing exploration of Our Developing Cultural Morés, from 1933 to 2003, doubling back to 1973.
But even with an excellent cast--including the admirable Sanaa Lathan, as the Unsinkable Vera Stark & Stephanie J. Block, as America's "Cutie Pie," or whatever--the play is Longer Than It Needs To Be. To Make Its Point!
The Flash Back to a TV Talk Show of Yesteryear certainly goes on too long. Who is Brad supposed to be: Phil Donohue? Certainly not Johnny Carson or Jay Leno…
Have a Drink at the Knickerbocker! Have a Chat with Jerry, Who Is About To Become a Father…
It is wonderful to see Bob Dishy again, this time as an ageing Dad, who is Relating to his Problematic Son, Jerry [Alexander Chaplin]. His Honesty & Fondness are touching…
In quite a different way, Chester [Zak Orth], a Best Friend--who can't quite give up the occasional Toke--is hilarious as he contemplates the Wreck of their Longstanding Friendship, if Jerry goes through with fathering a Son.
The essential Problem with Jonathan Marc Sherman's Knickerbocker--aside from being set in a kind of Banquette in this Historic Village Restaurant--is that Jerry, who is revealed in a series of Dialogues, isn't really very interesting. He's too bland: no really provocative Quirks or Foibles.
So why agonize with him through all those Drinks & Conversations that often seem to be Going Nowhere?
Sherman does offer his Characters some Thoughtful Insights to share with Jerry, but they would work more effectively in a Real Play.
Pippin Parker staged.
Target Margin's Unusual Tempest Production: A Jacobean Masque in an Historic Theatre!
There is One Rule of Contemporary Stagecraft that you violate only at Your Peril: Never Have Open Flames On Stage!
But Target Margin's innovative, imaginative Artistic Director, David Herskovits, has Never Let Convention Get In His Way!
His Camino Real would have delighted--possibly even shocked--its author, Tennessee Williams: "Oh! Is that what I meant?"
Target Margin Stagings have evoked the World of Toy Theatres, as well as the Ornate Fantasies of the Baroque Theatre.
Now, at HERE, he has created a Period Theatre--Georgian or Victorian--in which both Footlights & Wing Lights are thick, guttering Candles, with those dangerous Open Flames!
[There can be few Onstage Mishaps more daunting than the Sets Catching Fire from Candles or Torches! Unless it was when Hildegard Behrens, as Brünnhilde, nearly fell through the floor, after she was nicked by a falling piece of Valhalla…
[Your Roving Arts Reporter still remembers--with Horror--the awful spectacle of a Soprano's Flowing Hair Catching Fire from a Live Candle! She leaned back on the table where she was sitting & into the Lit Candle.
[The Tenor threw his Cloak over her head--just in time!
[This happened in A Village Romeo & Juliet, a NY City Opera Production in what is now The David H. Koch Memorial Theatre.]
Director Herskovits & Scenic Designer David Birn have not recreated The David H. Koch Memorial Theatre in the intimate space at HERE. Though I'm sure they'd be glad of a David H. Koch Memorial Subsidy…
Instead, they have constructed IN VERY SOLID WOOD the Stage & Boxes of what could be an 18th Century Georgian Theatre or a Victorian Theatre in London!
In fact, once this wonderfully Masque Like Vision of Shakespeare's The Tempest begins, the Walls & Proscenium of this Period Theatre Unroll & Unfold to engulf the Amazed Audience!
Always a Foe of Boring Old Realism in the Theatre, Herskovits & his Costume Designer, Carol Bailey, have devised Fantastic Garments & Accessories that would do Credit to 19th Century British Pantomimes!
Kate Sinclair Foster's Props are also suggestive of Panto & Toy Theatre!
But all this Ingenuity & Effort would go for Nothing, if the Action on stage were not also Of a Piece…
Fortunately, Herskovits' ready for anything Cast strikes the Artful Poses of the Penny Plain & Tuppence Colored Costume Plates of the Victorian Theatre.
They also Move, Dance, & Declaim with a somewhat fevered Victorian Fervor. Forget about Shakespeare for Our Times. Forget about Realism!
Enter a Magic World down at HERE, just off Sixth Avenue, near the Spring Street Subway.
The Entire Cast wonderfully enters into the Spirit of the Production, which is, itself, full of the Spirits of Prospero's Enchanted Island.
As Prospero, Steven Rattazzi is a Magisterial--but not Untouched--Master of Revels. As the Wronged, Deposed Duke of Milan, he has Scores to Settle & a Daughter to Marry.
Fortunately, the Heir to the Crown & Throne of Naples is available & more than willing…
Shakespeare, Thou Shouldst Be Living in This Hour!
Oh, Brave New World…
The Role for the Summit of Every Great English Actor's Career: King Lear! Jacobi Triumphs!
As Lear, the Great King of Ancient Britain--rashly dividing His Kingdom for an Early Retirement & then descending into Madness--Derek Jacobi is Definitive in this demanding role.
Lear is the Summit of the Careers of most famed English Actors.
Fortunately, not necessarily the End of their Lives on Stage, but certainly the most challenging Shakespearean Role, toward which their earlier work has long been moving.
First, the Hill top of Macbeth. Then the Mountain top of Hamlet. Finally, the Peak of Lear!
In this role, Derek Jacobi is Majestic. Magisterial! Every Inch a King…
Sir Laurence Olivier once told me that one needed the Wisdom of Age to play Macbeth most effectively, but it was customary to be Macbeth when one was still young & strong. In Age, the Physical Demands of the role would be too much.
Hamlet was fine for Mid Career. But Lear needed the wisdom & experience of a Long Life on Stage. The Problem was that it also required the Strength of Youth--which was now long gone…
Jacobi rises magnificently to All the Challenges of the Role. But he does not--as do so many would be Lears--begin his Passionate Rant on the stormy open Heath in a Towering Rage. Where does an Actor have to go, when he begins at his Top?
Jacobi's Lear begins very softly, the Madness creeping up on him. He's almost whispering, but the Passion rises & takes over. He is, finally, terrifying!
He is ably supported by the stalwart Kent of Michael Hadley & the much abused Gloucester of Paul Jesson.
The Gruesome Scene of the Blinding of Gloucester in his own Castle, by his Royal Guests--a daughter & son in law of Lear--is often made less horrible by tipping him backward in his Great Chair, so the audience doesn't see the Full Horror.
In Michael Grandage's Donmar Warehouse production from London, however, he is pinned against the central wall, as the Duke of Cornwall & Regan gouge out his Eyeballs. Blood everywhere…
Out, Vile Jelly!
Trusting & Foolish as both Gloucester & Lear are, they finally generate tremendous Empathy.
This comes not only from the Words they speak--or the ways in which the Bard has developed his Plot--but also in the wonderful intuitions with which the Actors Inhabit & Live these roles. Night after Night…
The rest of this strong cast are mostly admirable, but Goneril & Regan are always Problematic.
If Actresses begin by telegraphing their essential Wickedness & Cruelty, the Drama soon becomes a kind of Grand Guignol, a more sophisticated Titus Andronicus, perhaps…
A bit more Humanity here & there--even in those Possessed by Evil--can make Lear a more complicated, more fascinating play.
Alec Newman's sexy, vigorous Edmund provides a kind of Mainspring Energy that the Young Royals lack. But the Fool of Ron Cook is mordantly amusing & ultimately Heart breaking.
Instead of trying to "set" each Succeeding Scene in a suggestive Locale or Chamber, Designer Christopher Oram has elected the Effect of the Open Stage of an Elizabethan Theatre, without any of the Architectural Flourishes.
The BAM Audience--in the Harvey Theatre--is confronted by a semi circle of tall rough whitened Boards, standing behind a floor of thick Boards. Through the cracks in the floor boards, both light & smoke can filter up to heighten the sense of the Stormy Heath.
Neil Austin's subtle changes of Lighting also define Spaces & limit Locales.
This remarkable production--notably for Derek Jacobi's Definitive Lear, should be filmed for HD Presentation in Cinemas, just as major Met Opera stagings now are. If that has not already been accomplished, it must be done soon…
This Lear Must Not Be Lost!
Conn, The Shaughraun, Saves the Day in County Sligo, Charmingly Re created at the Irish Rep!
Given the Perfidy of the Occupying & Oppressive English in 19th Century Ireland, how could an Irishman have falsely accused an honest, heroic Fellow Irishman, only to get his hands on that poor man's Inheritance & the Girl He Loves?
Well, that one's easy to answer: Because Corry Kinchela [Sean Gormley: hiss, hiss!] is a Dion Boucicault Stereotypical Villain.
Playwright/Actor/Manager Dion Boucicault knew what his Bowery Boys Audiences loved: Melodrama!
They also loved Irish Rascals, like Conn, The Shaughraun [a volatile Patrick Fitzgerald], who foils the Evil Plots of Kinchela.
Boucicault--who had already Made His Name as a Playwright/Performer in Dublin & London--triumphed in New York, where Down trodden Irish loved dramas that evoked the Green & Lovely Land they'd left behind them. As well as their Traditions, Rituals, Songs, & Dances…
With signs like NO IRISH NEED APPLY in many windows, New York's Irish Immigrants needed some Cheering Up. A Proud People, they needed Affirmation of their Heritage & their Own Worth as Individuals.
The Irish Rep produced Boucicault's Conn, The Shaughraun some seasons ago, but Charlotte Moore's new staging--with a wonderful all purpose set piece by designer Klara Zieglerova--is even more lively & hokey.
Despite the almost Universal Despising of England, the English, & the Officers & Soldiers sent over to Suppress & Control them, there were some Good English.
Boucicault has included one, an Officer of the Crown--Captain Harry Molineaux [a noble, but somewhat baffled Mark Shanahan]--smitten with the beauty, wit, charm, & spirit of the Sister of the Denounced Heir, Robert Ffolliot [a noble Kevin O'Donnell].
Both his Sister, Claire Ffolliot [Allison Jean White], & Robert's Beloved, Arte O'Neal [Katie Fabel], are Beautiful, Lovely, & Loyal Irish Lasses!
Bowery Audiences loved this Melodrama. Audiences at the Irish Rep still do!
To Be Perfectly Candid, It Was Not a Good Idea To Make a Musical of Bernard Shaw's Candida…
Why can't eager would be Musical Comedy Creators leave the plays of George Bernard Shaw alone?
Not every Shavian Drama has the seeds of another My Fair Lady hidden at its core.
Does anyone now remember that Musicalization of Shaw's Caesar & Cleopatra?
For potential Trivia Contestants, it was called Her First Roman!
Starring Leslie Uggams, who would surely hope that most Theatre goers had, long ago, forgiven her for appearing as Cleopatra?
The Fun Idea in the Title was that Julius Caesar was Cleo's First Roman, followed, of course, by Marc Antony!
Now--on the Lincoln Center Theatre's Mitzi E. Newhouse stage--Shaw's Candida has been re Christened A Minister's Wife.
Unfortunately, Candida is not another Eliza Doolittle. Nor is Marchbanks, the Young Poet Lover, another Freddie. Candida's pompous husband, the Rev. James Mavor Morell, is definitely Not another Henry Higgins…
Nor did Bernard Shaw intend them to be…
Perhaps it's the Pernicious Influence of Lehman Engel's BMI Musical Theatre Workshops, but why do hopeful Librettists & Composers believe plundering already Famous Plays is the Yellow Brick Road to Success?
Everyone in the Newhouse Candida Cast worked Very Hard. But it showed. Nowhere more so than in the performance of Rev. Morrell, who seemed to be a very Muscular Christian.
I had the feeling that I was watching Mel Gibson flail about the stage, so Hands On was the performance: even Lapel Grabbing…
What the Conceptor & Director David Halberstam seems to have misunderstood is Who These People Really Were. As Shaw understood them & called them into Life…
The Essence of Good Behavior & Edwardian Manners would have required All Concerned--especially Marchbanks & Morell--to keep their Passions Under Control.
This was, finally, not Candida set to music, but some sort of almost Violent Parody of a Shavian Play.
Even before the Action Commenced there were Empty Seats in the intimate Newhouse Auditorium. As the show progressed--90 minutes, without Intermission--some Disappointed Seniors were struggling up the darkened aisles, trying to escape…
Making Fun of TV Newscasts & The News Itself: Newsical the Musical.
It's a terrible Admission to make, but Your Arts Reporter is so busy seeing Shows, attending Museum Press Previews & then Writing about them, that he has No Time to watch Television!
Truth to Tell, I don't even own a TV!
Thus it was that a lot of the Parodic Fun in Newsical the Musical was lost on me.
The talented & attractive Cast, however, is so good with their often hilariously disrespectful Impersonations of TV & Movie Personalities & Celebrities that the Jokes were fairly easy to Decode.
The Musical Foursome are: Christina Bianco, Christine Pedi, Michael West, & John Walton West. They make a lot of Quick Costume Changes!
Of course, this show is not really a Musical. It's more like a Cabaret Revue. Something on the order of Capitol Steps…
Actually, the News was less mocked than the On Camera Anchors who deliver the News.
President Obama is always Good for a Laugh. Especially when his Avatar is wearing a Pair of Huge Prince Charles Ears!
Some News Items are so grotesque or ridiculous that they don't need Parodic Treatment to make them seem funny.
Politics & Politicians are always Fair Game. There could have been more deftly humorous Political Critiques in this show.
But a Tsunami or a Nuclear Meltdown is not easy to make fun of…
What The Book of Mormon Is To Salt Lake City, Lucky Guy Is To Nashville & Country & Western!
Initially, I thought Lucky Guy might be something like a Low Budget Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
After all, the Queen of Nashville, Country & Western, & The Grand Ol' Opry is none other than Jeannie Jeanine, played by the Towering Blonde Varla Jean Merman, aka Jeffery Roberson!
The ingenious & busily revolving set pieces looked really Low Budget, but that's part of their tatty Charm.
Even the Lavishly Ornate Costumes of Miss Jeannie Jeanine--she has Ten Outfits & Gowns!--have a certain Tatty Tastelessness that you'd expect from someone who lives in a 28 Room House Trailer…
The fact that all the Character Appropriate Costumes have been created by the remarkable William Ivey Long should be reason enough to rush down to the Little Shubert Theatre for this hilarious Send Up of the World of Nashville & Country & Western.
Even the Corps de Ballet--as it were--is Low Budget: just four limber limbed Male Dancers. But they can be your favorite Fantasy Cowboys, or even an Angelic Chorus, whose wings sprout out wonderfully wide…
The Major Dramatic Question in Willard Beckham's Plot--he's also the Genius who created the Music & Lyrics!--is: Will Jeannie Jeanine & the rascally, pint sized, but Outsized Egoed Big Al Wright wrest control of a simple Country Boy's potentially Big Hit Song, Lucky Guy, from him, so she can once again be On Top of the World of Nashville & Country & Western & Big Al can get a Prime Piece of Property away from his would be Hit Record Producer Relative & create a Very Large Used Car Lot!
Big Al is raffishly played by the four foot plus Leslie Jordan. William Ivey Long has given him the Biggest Silver Belt Buckle this side of Vegas…
Kyle Dean Massey is a charmingly ingenuous Billy Ray Jackson who has won a Matchbook Contest for Best New Country & Western Song, with his ditty, Lucky Guy.
But that's only one of Will Beckham's great songs: How about Blue Jean Blues? Or Trailer Park Romance?
All the Cast are Outstanding.
Great Fun is Jenn Colella as Chicky Lay, in I'm Doin' Hair Today.
As Hairdresser to the Queen, she has a right to sing, for all the wonderful wigs have been created by Paul Huntley, the King of Broadway Wig Makers!
As this delightful Parody of the Fevers of Nashville unfolded, I realized it was not only like Priscilla, but also a bit like The Book of Mormon. It does for Nashville what BofM has done for Salt Lake City!
Initially, when I saw the Lucky Guy sign go up outside the Little Shubert--knowing nothing about the actual Show--I feared the Worst. Most shows shown there are Duds: Viagra Falls, anyone?
As for a show about Nashville & Country & Western, well, we already have another Musical about Music down South: it's called Memphis…
But Lucky Guy looks & sounds like a Palpable Hit, to quote Will Shakespeare. No Relation to Will Beckham…
At Baruch, the Folksbiene/Yiddish National Theatre Revives Hershele, with Mike Burstyn…
If you've been waiting impatiently for a Broadway Revival of Fiddler on the Roof, you may still have to wait a while, for it is not a Juke Box Musical, Today's Favorite Show Format…
But you can see the Next Best Thing right now--through 26 June!--down at Baruch College.
It's called The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer & it teems with Tunes & Dances that will surely remind you of Fiddler. If I Were a Rich Man seems stitched into the seams of its charming narrative fabric.
The versatile Mike Burstyn is the irresistible Hershele, a Poor Man--in fact, a Ragged Vagabond!--but rich with clever ideas for Making Things Right for other Poor People in the Polish Shtetls.
The entire cast is delightful, playing Yiddish Theatre Stereotypes but with a sense of their innate Truth To Life. They also sing & dance up a storm!
One of the Stereotypes could almost be viewed as Anti Semitic: a Rich Old Money Lender is trying to cheat two Young Lovers out of their Savings, effectually preventing their impending Marriage.
Fortunately, Hershele's deft trickeries reform this Stingy Man & All Ends Happily!
This jolly show is performed in Yiddish, but there are Super titles both in English & in Cyrillic.
If you already know German, you can also easily follow the Dialogue. Yiddish is almost like a Dialect of German…
Eleanor Reissa ably adapted, directed, & choreographed Hershele Ostropolyer.
This production was shown last season by the Folksbiene, but Your Reporter missed it, so it's not unfair to call this a Revival. Brought back this season by Popular Demand!
Recently, the Folksbiene also presented Gimpel Tam, a Musical in Yiddish created & directed by Moshe Yassur, my friend & former Grad Student at Brooklyn College.
Moshe revived the moribund Yiddish Theatre in his native Romania.
In fact, he's there right now, looking after his various directorial achievements, playing in Rep at leading theatres in Bucharest. Such fare as Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw & The Belle of Amherst, introducing Emily Dickinson to Romania!
Windsor Great Park at Hunter College: Mannes' Falstaff Like a Children's Book Illustration!
Set Designer Roger Hanna & Costume Designer Helen E. Rogers were Minor Stars--if Unseen until the Curtain Call--of Mannes College Opera's recent Falstaff production.
They environed & garbed the Merry Wives of Windsor & that foolish Old Gallant, Sir John Falstaff, in a very Shakespearean Manner, but with a hint of Childhood Dreams…
As Sir John, Dongkyu Oh looked like a great Bearded China Doll, perched in a great High Chair, a veritable Lord of Misrule. He was comically seconded by Luis Alvarado as Pistola & Adam Bonanni as Bardolfo. His chubby Bardolph was almost as rotund as Falstaff…
Mistresses Alice Ford & Meg Page--in billowing Elizabethan skirts--were charmingly embodied by Emily Duncan Brown & Kiri Parker.
Ricardo Rivera was a furious, frenetic Ford, trying to foil both Falstaff's Romantic Schemes & the marriage of his daughter, Nannetta [Zulimar Lopez Hernandez], to young Fenton [Paul Han].
I was especially taken with the warm Mezzo of Karolina Pilou, as Mistress Quickly.
But all the Principals sang strongly & well. The Question Is: Where will they--as well as the next evening's double cast of Falstaff--find Work on the Opera Stages of America?
They are all in Competition with the fine young American Voices recently heard in the Spring Operas at Juilliard & the Manhattan School of Music.
Unfortunately, the Metropolitan Opera now seems to favor Debuts by admittedly excellent Talents from Eastern Europe…
Laura Alley ingeniously deployed her cast on the Kaye Theatre, at Hunter College, for Mannes doesn't have a theatre of its own. Joseph Colanieri--Artistic Director of the Mannes Opera--conducted with brio…
He also saluted the beloved Met Opera Soprano, Regina Resnik, Mannes' Master Artist in Residence, who won rounds of applause. She had worked closely with both the Falstaff casts.
It's Only May Now, But We Need Kurt Weill's September Songs on Broadway!
Many Fans of American Musical Theatre remember Kurt Weill as one of Broadway's most intriguing Composers, with such shows as Knickerbocker Holiday, One Touch of Venus, Love Life, Lady in the Dark, Street Scene, & Lost in the Stars.
Connoisseurs of Musical Theatre, however, know that Weill had an Entire Career in Weimar Germany before Adolf Hitler came to Power.
Weill's ingenious collaborations with Bertolt Brecht yielded the now beloved Dreigroschen Oper--or Three Penny Opera--as well as Happy End, The Seven Deadly Sins, & Der Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny.
Recently, Weill's German & American Careers, along with his Long Relationship with his Muse, Lotte Lenya--whom he married not once, but twice--were celebrated in his own songs at the Manhattan School of Music: September Songs.
Hal Prince once tried, on Broadway, to recap the Weill Lenya Affair, but it unfortunately Did Not Work, although Prince's Intentions were Of The Best…
Now, September Song has all the Makings of a Broadway Hit!
As Conceived & Staged by Carolyn Marlow--with Arrangements & Orchestrations by Warren Helms--plus a terrific cast of already professional singers, topping up their Talents at the Manhattan School, it could delight audiences all over America.
Not only on Broadway…
It takes its Title from that beautifully sad song Peter Stuyvesant sings in Knickerbocker Holiday: He's ageing, but in Love. But the Years are dwindling down to a Precious Few…
As Kurt Weill, Daniel Schwaitt proves strong, thoughtful, stalwart. But the more mercurial & impulsive Lotte Lenya of Lacey Connell--in a series of delightful Art Deco Outfits--is an excellent Foil & Inspiration for him.
Others in this excellent cast included Blair Abene, Randy Jeter, Meghan Picerno, Matthew Montana, Rachelle Pike, John Myers, Sarah Smith, & Brian Wahlstrom.
This Totally Melodic--but also Musico Politico Historic--Show played only three evenings up on Claremont Avenue. Only three…
Now, it deserves a Run on Broadway. With all these wonderful Young Singer/Actor/Dancers!
We've had enough of Juke Box Musicals! Even though Kurt Weill had his day on some Juke Boxes…
Slingsby Theatre Needs More Light on Its Cheeseboy Fantasy!
It's a Good Thing there are no Puppet Rats or Mice in The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy. They'd make Short Work of a Boy made out of Cheese, sailing the Universal Void with a Boat made out of Cheese…
With some charming Visual Effects, this show is essentially Toy Theatre. It was even supported by Puppet Master Jim Henson's Foundation.
Conceived by Andy Packer & scripted by Finegan Kruckemeyer, it was performed by Stephen Sheehan, Samuel McMahon, & Rory Walker.
The Principal Problem was that it was Under Lit. At times, one couldn't really see what was going on.
Also, when a Very Young Audience begins to wriggle & rustle, it may be time to Wind Down.
In the Elevator--going down from the Duke Theatre to 42nd Street Level--I noted: "Well, it needs work…"
To which an Aged Oldster nodded: A Lot of Work!"
Karen Kandel Lights a Candle To Illuminate a Naughty World: Mabou Mines' Peter & Wendy!
One of the most wonderful performances I've seen this season--or any other season, for that matter--is Karen Kandel's, as the Narrator of Peter & Wendy!
She should get a Tony©™ & all the other Awards destined for Best or Outstanding Actress!
But she won't.
Because Tonys™© are only given to Broadway Stars. Not to Performers Off & Off Off Broadway.
Especially not to an Actress who is appearing in what is essentially a Touring Show, now delighting both Children & their Parents at the New Victory Theatre.
This fantastic, hauntingly beautiful evocation of Sir James Barrie's beloved Peter Pan has only one Visible Human in it: Karen Kandel, who gives voice to Peter & the many other ingenious Puppets that people Peter's World of Neverland.
Led by Master Puppeteer Basil Twist, the rest of the cast--animating a variety of Barrie Characters--including a hilarious/ferocious Crocodile!--are garbed all in White, with white veiled hats that give them the appearance of some long forgotten Order of Albino Nuns.
This is an Inversion of the Japanese Bunraku Puppet Theatre Tradition of garbing the Puppet Handlers all in Black. They are there, on stage, but we Do Not See Them…
Many of the Novel Effects Director Lee Breuer, Kandel, Twist, & the Cast have devised are achieved with the Simplest of Means: white cloths waving on sticks in the air, a patterned cloth rising slightly to form the Prow of Captain Hook's Ship…
Clever as were the Scenic Effects in the recent Peter & The Starcatcher down on East Fourth Street, at the New York Theatre Workshop, Mabou Mines' Peter & Wendy has them Outclassed by Leagues.
But then, that charming & hilarious show is the Pre Story for Peter Pan & Peter & Wendy…
Watching Peter & Wendy fascinated--even transfixed--I had the dreamy sensation that I'd seen this show long ago. Somewhere else? In Dreams, perhaps?
No! I must have seen it in Charleston, at the Spoleto Festival, where it had been commissioned for the 1996 Edition of the Festival, founded by Gian Carlo Menotti!
May Mabou Mines, Karen Kandel, & Basil Twist go on & on & on with this Magical Show!
Down in the Empty Bank Vaults at 14 Wall Street: Brokeback Mountain on Crack?
Who now remembers Happenings?
They were once Very Big down at Judson Church.
Robert Rauschenberg & others made names for themselves in this odd new form of Performance Art.
Allan Kaprow even wrote a definitive book about Happenings.
You could see them not only at Judson, but also at La MaMa & even the basement of the Guggenheim Museum!
Then, like The Theatre of the Absurd, they just seemed to Fade Away…
Still--as with those earlier Surrealist Absurdists in World War I Zurich--Young Artist Revolutionaries in every Era have to re invent the Metaphoric Wheel.
Not so long ago in New York City, Target Margin--under the inspired leadership of David Herskovitz--began creating Absurdist Events. Or making difficult Modern Classics, like Camino Real, seem something else entirely…
Les Freres Corbusier, with Alex Timbers, tried out their own Oddities at the Ohio Theatre. They even made it to Broadway, with Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson!
Down in Brooklyn's Dumbo, GAle GAtes --GaGa, for the Mainspring's Grandma--worked its own Production Magic, using entire floors of an empty building.
This had the unfortunate result of Raising the Rents all over Dumbo. Artists--who made Dumbo happen--were priced right out of their Studios & Performance Spaces. But St. Ann's Warehouse remains…
Now that there's No Money & No Gold Ingots down in the Vaults of 14 Wall Street, will this space become a New Dumbo? It's called Swing Space, with Luke Leonard & his Monk Parrots in residence.
My First Encounter with Leonard & the Monk Parrots was on the Sunday Evening of 22 May. Just one day after the World was supposed to be destroyed, by Biblical Prophecy…
If the Monk Parrots' show, Gay Rodeo By Laws, intrigues you, it's unfortunately Too Late to see it. There were Only Three Performances. After ours, most of the Scenic Effects seemed to be trashed in a corner.
Get on their Mailing List for the next Surreal Adventure.
Ordinarily, I'd say that Words Cannot Describe this unusual production.
But that's Not Entirely True. I could do it, but it would require Thousands of Key Strokes. For which I am neither Paid nor Thanked…
I Subwayed down to 14 Wall primarily to see my friend Nathan Baer--a remarkably resonant Bass Baritone! Met Opera Casting Directors, Take Note!--as one of the Eponymous Cowboys.
Nathan, with a very Green Face, played the Cowboy, Frog.
With his long streaming Red Hair, against the Green, he was a Figure to Behold. He's also tall & lanky, but moves with a grace & elegance that remind one of his Opera Training back in Bloomington, Indiana.
His Cowboy Mates were Bleeder, Milkshake, & On the Muscle.
At one point, I inadvertently muttered: "Brokeback Mountain on Crack…"
This drew a giggle from the guy at the Sound Controls, who was mixing a wicked Mélange of Music & Sounds, like a crazed DJ.
This proved to be none other than Luke Leonard, the Conceptor, Director, & Production Designer.
The Costume & Makeup Concepts, alone, would be worth some Key Strokes!
As this delightfully bizarre Affair proceeded--involving some State Legislature Voting on something to do with Riparian Rights--scene followed scene by having curtains or drapes removed in sequence, moving from the middle of the long Stage Space toward its Back Wall.
The Beatific Face of Michael Jackson was one such Scenic Barrier…
How about a Sudoku Convenience Store!
Well, You Really Had To Be There!
So don't miss the next Monk Parrot's Show…
But--would you believe this!--there's No Contact Number listed in the Program! So you may just have to write Luke Leonard, %Swing Space, 14 Wall Street, NYC.
The Program does, however, reveal that Luke has a BFA in Acting from Brooklyn College.
This is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of, as I taught in the Theatre Dept. at BC for many years. BLL, or Before Luke Leonard.
Among Other Subjects, I taught what I then referred to as Remedial Acting…
Loose Screws from New Jersey Not Quite the Same as Jersey Boys!
Downstairs from the West Bank Café & across 42nd Street from Playwrights Horizons & Theatre Row is the Laurie Beechman Theatre. It's not really so much of a theatre as an End Stage Venue with tables for patrons to have a Drink & a Nosh while enjoying Cabaret Turns.
Andrea Wolff opened there for a Limited Run--Fridays, Saturdays, & Mondays--on 9 May. The show is called Loose Screws. Wolff is backed by two able singers, Leisa Mather & Jeanne Montano.
The Entire Cast must be from New Jersey, as Credits for both Hair & Nails--as well as the Website & Costumes--carry a New Jersey Imprint…
This is not just another Collage of Broadway Songs, although there are Echoes.
No! "Loose Screws has Adult Content & is recommended for Mature Audiences only."
Wolff--who can be easily heard, even without a mike--is focused & energetic. She parodies an Entertainer called Chelsea Sutton Place, who begins as a 14 year old Porn Star: "You have to be Bad to be Good!"
She's also Annie, who ultimately marries Daddy Warbucks. There's some business about his Huge Cigar…
Well, some of this was just Too Adult for little old me.
She even "does" Dolly Parton, as Miss Pixie Dickler. What is this about Dicks, Pricks, & Penises?
Oh oh! The Title of the Show! Loose Screws? Does Screw refer to Copulation?
Maybe that's what happens when you get both your Hair & your Nails done across the Hudson?
Town Hall at Ninety! Tovah Feldshuh Sings… David Dinkins Doesn't…
During the Great Depression, Town Hall Tonight! was broadcast all over America. Leading Topics of the Day were discussed & debated by Acknowledged Experts & also by Politicians.
For many Americans, this was their Only Exposure to Enlightened Discussions of Major Concerns that were hardly addressed in their local newspapers: What was FDR's New Deal all about anyway?
Designed by the famed Architectural Firm of McKim Mead & White, Town Hall was created in 1921, essentially to provide Informative Forums for Women, who had just won the Right To Vote!
That's Right! Women could not Vote until after The Great War…
Admission to any & all events at Town Hall was always inexpensive, so all New Yorkers & even Out of Towners could learn & enjoy.
Town Hall also has Excellent Acoustics & it has more Seats--it is wider--than a number of Broadway Theatres.
This made it immediately popular as a site for New York Debuts of many Artists who would later become World Famous.
Carnegie Hall was larger, but also more expensive, both for Artists & Audiences…
Marian Anderson made her debut at Town Hall. In Washington, DC, she was not permitted to sing in Constitution Hall--because she was Black!
Other debutants include Billy Holiday, Bob Dylan, & Miles Davis. Its capacious stage has also hosted, over the years, such talents as Vanessa Williams, Robin Williams, Jay Leno, Woody Allen, & Billy Joel.
For the 90th Anniversay Gala, scripted & narrated by Scott Siegel--who has, for over a decade, provided Town Hall's Broadway by the Years© Series--an array of Outstanding Performers, who owe Town Hall for early Outlets for their Talents, dazzled the Audience.
Tovah Feldshuh charmed with a dynamic Salute: Town Hall Medley, with her own lyrics, closing the evening with Never Never Land.
Liz Callaway delighted with You There in the Back Row, but initially puzzled as she couldn't seem to remember the snappy lyrics of Steve Sondheim's Another Hundred People, from Company.
This was, however, a Ruse, to permit her to interpolate a fiendishly difficult, high speed Lyrical Critique of Sondheim's own Verses & Tonal Challenges.
Jeffry Denman & Noah Racey danced & sang up a storm with Necessity.
Bucky Pizzarelli was joined by his son John, with some high powered Guitar Mayhem!
The Program was also graced by Jason Robert Brown & Emily Skinner, both Town Hall Veterans.
Some members of the audience--who may have been as Old as Town Hall itself--began sneaking out before the show was over, possibly because the "Remarks" of some of the Veterans tended to go on & on.
As these Fond Memories were Spontaneous, not scripted, not rehearsed, it could not have been Otherwise. Unless Scott Siegel had used a Hook…
The Performances were prefaced by The Man Who Saved Town Hall--President Marvin Leffler--introducing such Notables & Trustees as former Mayor David Dinkins & Anita Durst, whose love of Theatre helped save the Henry Miller's Theatre, when the Durst Organization was tearing down half the block on 42nd St. & Sixth Avenue, to construct the Bank of America Tower.
What was once AP Giannini's Bank of California--now the Nationwide Bank of America, also an across the street Neighbor--generously supports Town Hall & its varied attractions!
There was a time, long ago, when New York University controlled Town Hall. Its Faculty Club was on an Upper Floor. But things were not going well. Town Hall was threatened with Destruction.
Marvin Leffler Saved It!
Scotty Siegel Strikes Again at Town Hall: The Broadway Musicals of 1982!
Scott Siegel's Broadway by the Year© series--now Eleven Years Old!--have long had some Dance Movement, thanks to Jeffrey Denman & others.
But the Latest Edition of Scott's Song Surveys--Broadway Musicals of 1982--was distinguished by the Debut of the Mark Stuart Dance Theatre.
Even given the cramped Forestage Space at Town Hall, the Dynamic Troupe of strong men & lovely women performed with Vigor, Joy, & Abandon!
Also making her Town Hall Debut was the emotive Kenita Miller, singing When Your Lover Has Gone & Blues in the Night, from that very show.
Liz Callway--who was Grisabella on Broadway for five years, in Andrew Lloyd Weber's CATS--opened with her Signature Song, the heartbreaking Memory…
Callaway, looking lovely as ever, came first, for she had another Engagement, almost waiting in the wings. She was devastating, recalling a Cat's Past.
If Sir Andrew--Lord Lloyd Weber of somethingorother--had never written another song, Memory would be enough to get him into Musical Heaven!
[Don't Cry for Me, Argentina is also outstanding, but that's in another show, in another year… Even Madonna couldn't spoil it.]
It was great, however, to have some more Hits from Cats, especially with Stephen Mo Hanan recreating his Broadway Role as Gus, The Theatre Cat.
Macavity: The Mystery Cat came to vibrant life with the Mark Stuart Dancers.
Scott Siegel's charming Narrations for the Series not only put the Songs in Context, but they also savor the Season in which the Musicals made their Broadway Bows.
Frankly, before seeing this show, I had not recalled the 1982 Season as especially interesting.
Even while enjoying immensely many of the interpretations of individual songs, the Program confirmed my own Memory of that rather disappointing Season.
I was not--at that time--especially excited by Is There Life after High School? It left me Cold…
Even as revived at Town Hall by Composer Craig Carnelia himself--aided by Kerry O'Malley, Barbara Walsh, & Kevin Earley--I'm still not going to get the Sheet Music for such songs as Nothing Really Happened…
Never a Great Fan of Composer Larry Grossman--although Director Hal Prince seemed very taken with his Talents in that Era--I thought it was an especially Bad Idea to turn Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House into a Musical.
It didn't Work, even with the adaptive abilities of Betty Comden & Adolph Green. But Kerry O'Malley reprised for us Learn To Be Lonely. Hal Prince's Investors were certainly left lonely, without the Money they'd sunk in the show…
As for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the Movie was better, but the re working of the old Roman tale of the Sabine Women, as Sobbin' Women, was ingenious. Kevin Earley & Ron Bohmer made it work.
Lloyd Weber's Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat--Sir Andrew twice in one season!--was recalled with Close Ev'ry Door to Me. What had begun as a School Play became a Hit worldwide!
Mario Fratti & Maury Yeston won the Richard Rodgers Award--I think it was some $75,000--for their Book & Score for Nine. Fratti had made the deal with Federico Fellini to musicalize his film, 81/2.
The Team was in Lehman Engel's BMI Workshop, where the Musicals of Tomorrow were, hopefully, being developed.
Your Roving Arts Reporter was invited to LaMaMa--on a snowy February day--for the Awarding of the Award. Barbara Tuchman had made coffee! Edward Albee gave Fratti & Yeston the check…
Yeston played some of his Melodies, while Fratti sketched in the Scenes. I thought they'd made an excellent Adaptation of the Film.
But, in the event, that's not the show everyone saw on Broadway. Or even in the recent film…
Somehow, Lehman Engel--who was painfully dying of Cancer--convinced Yeston that Fratti's Book wasn't right. So Fratti was replaced with Arthur Kopit…
A rather different show, visually, but with powerful songs. Karen Akers & colleagues reprised such staples as My Husband Makes Movies, Be On Your Own, & Guido's Song.
As for Rock n' Roll: The First 5,000 Years… Well, way back in 1982, it was Not My Thing.
Nonetheless, the Mark Stuart Dancers brought one year of it back to life with Summer in the City.
Thanks & Congratulations to Scott Siegel, his Great Performers, & Town Hall for this show & the entire Series.
Looking forward to more Seasons in the Sun, singing…
The Town Hall Presents Linda Eder!
The lovely Linda Eder obviously has lots & lots of Fans.
They noisily thronged Town Hall for her recent & Totally Dynamic Concert, repeatedly applauding the Titles of her Songs as she announced them. Even before she actually sang them!
Linda Eder won many new fans when she starred on Broadway in Frank Wildhorn's Jekyll & Hyde. But she'd already amazed many by winning for 12 consecutive weeks on Star Search!
She has just made a new Album called Now, with Wildhorn Songs: twelve tracks of them!
Many in the excited audience must already have the Album, as cheers often greeted some of the songs, now sung Live in Town Hall!
Some song stylings by Linda Eder in this lively Concert: In the Heat of the Night, Mad Hatter, No Finer Man, Ordinary People, Someone Like You, Blue Skies, More Than Heaven, &, of course, NOW, that Album's Title Song!
Linda Eder had a very open, frank, & friendly rapport with her audience. Some she greeted, even dedicating a song to a Soon to be Married.
What was amazing to me--as I know her work only from Broadway--was the range & facility of her Powerful Voice. She can sing a Sad Ballad so softly & sweetly that it's a big surprise when she Opens Up with a really Big Sound.
Show Music favorites mingled with Country & Western. Then there's Pop & Rock.
Linda Eder obviously knows how to style her songs, not only appropriate to the distinctive music, but she also makes them Personal, Individual…
You get the feeling she's singing for You…
She's wonderfully accompanied by a strong ensemble, led by Billy Jay Stein, her Tour Music Director.
There are Three Keyboards. One Stein plays one handed, with his left hand on the Concert Grand.
Peter Calo, Eder's dynamite Guitarist, also plays Keyboard.
But the third Keyboard belongs to the remarkable Allison Cornell, who also plays a haunting viola & sings enchanting duets with Eder.
Then there's Zev Katz on bass, Jerry Marotta on drums, Tony Kadleck on trumpet, John Fedchock on trombone, & Charles Pillow on both flute & sax.
If you missed Linda Eder at Town Hall, get her latest Album--Now. Or catch her On Tour. She may be on her way to Your City!
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