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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, Report for March & April 2015
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
THESE WERE THE MONTHS THAT WERE… *
BIG NEWS FROM THE FRIARS CLUB: Annual OCC Awards Nominees! *
PASSING GLANCES AT SHOW SCENES SEEN: At The Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row: Andrew Lippa & Tom Greenwald’s JOHN & JEN [*****] *
At The Mitzi Newhouse Theatre of the Lincoln Center Theatre Complex: Bathsheba Doran’s MYSTERY OF LOVE & SEX [**] *
At The American Airlines Theatre--No In Flight Snacks: Cy Coleman, Betty Comden, & Adolph Green’s ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY [*****] *
At BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House: Georg Frideric Händel’s SEMELE [*****] *
At The Pershing Square Signature Theatre: Naomi Wallace’s THE LIQUID PLAIN [*****] *
At The Public Theatre: Lin Manuel Miranda’s HAMILTON [*****] *
At The Atlantic Theatre: Doug Wright’s POSTERITY [***] *
At Joe’s Pub in The Public Theatre: Cush Jumbo’s JOSEPHINE & I [*****] *
At The Music Box Theatre: Wendy Wasserstein’s THE HEIDI CHRONICLES [****] *
At The Ades Performance Space of the Manhattan School of Music: Franz Lehár’s DAS LAND DES LÄCHLENS [*****] *
At The Winter Garden Theatre: Mike Poulton’s Adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s WOLF HALL--PARTS ONE & TWO [*****][*****][*****] *
At The Neil Simon Theatre: Lerner & Loews’s GIGI [****] *
At The Palace Theatre: George Gershwin’s AN AMERICAN IN PARIS [***] *
At The Brooks Atkinson Theatre: Barbara Anselmi & Brian Hargrove’s IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU [*****] *
At The [Alfred] Lunt & [Lynn] Fontanne Theatre: James Graham, Gary Barlow, & Eliot Kennedy’s FINDING NEVERLAND [****] *
At Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre : Rodgers & Hammerstein’s THE KING & I [*****] *
At The Longacre Theatre: Joe DePietro’s LIVING ON LOVE [****] *
At The St. James Theatre: Wayne & Karey Kirkpatrick & John O’Farrell’s SOMETHING ROTTEN [*****] *
At The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre: Lisa D’Amour’s AIRLINE HIGHWAY [**] *
At The Broadway Theatre: Michael Weller, Lucy Simon, Michael Korie, & Amy Powers’ DR. ZHIVAGO [****] *
At The Lyceum Theatre: Terrence O’Malley, John Kander, & Fred Ebb’s THE VISIT [***] *
At The Anspacher Stage of the Public Theatre: Julie Taymor Stages Anne Hathaway in George Brant’s GROUNDED [*****] *
At The Peter J. Sharp Theatre of the Juilliard School: Wolf Mozart’s THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO [*****] *
At The Cort Theatre: Larry David’s FISH IN THE DARK [***] *
At The Borden Theatre of The Manhattan School of Music: Wolf Mozart’s DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE [***] *
At New World Stages: Paul & Michael Hodge’s CLINTON: The Musical [****] *
March--as the Saying Goes--came in Like a Lion, but it went Out much the Same Way.
As for April, TS Eliot once famously said that it is The Cruelest Month…
Certainly for all the Outer Critics Circle & Drama Desk Nominators, April was not only Cruel, but also Time Consuming.
That’s because no less than Nineteen New Broadway Shows Previewed or Opened, leaving hardly an Evening Free for Movies at MoMA.
As for Global Warming, it must be Happening Elsewhere…
Outer Critics Circle 65th Annual Awards: The 2014 15 Season OCC Nominees Are The First Broadway/Off Broadway Awards Nominations!
Something Rotten! Heads the List with 12 Outer Critics Circle Nominations--
With 9 for On the Twentieth Century, 8 for An American in Paris, & 7 for Wolf Hall
The Outer Critics Circle--composed of Critics, Reviewers, & Commentators covering New York Theatre for Out of Town Newspapers, National Publications, & Other Media--in Mid April announced Names of Nominees for the 2014 15 Season, both On Broadway & Off, in 24 Categories.
Broadway Stars Raúl Esparza & Katie Finneran read the Nominee Names in a Special Ceremony at Manhattan’s Friars Club.
Celebrating its 65th Season of Honoring Excellence in the Professional Theatre, the Outer Critics Circle includes Members who are affiliated with more than Ninety Newspapers, Magazines, Websites, & Blogs, as well as Radio & TV Stations & Theatre Publications in America & Abroad.
The OCC Awards Winners will be announced on Monday, 11 May 2015.
The Annual OCC Gala Awards Dinner & Awards Presentations will be held on 4 PM, Thursday, 21 May 2015, at the legendary Sardi's Restaurant.
Outer Critics Circle
2014 2015 Awards Nominations
OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY PLAY
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY MUSICAL
An American in Paris
It Shoulda Been You
The Last Ship
OUTSTANDING NEW OFF BROADWAY PLAY
Between Riverside & Crazy
The City of Conversation
The Village Bike
OUTSTANDING NEW OFF BROADWAY MUSICAL
A Christmas Memory
The Fortress of Solitude
OUTSTANDING BOOK OF A MUSICAL
[Broadway or Off Broadway]
It Shoulda Been You
The Last Ship
OUTSTANDING NEW SCORE
[Broadway or Off Broadway]
It Shoulda Been You
The Last Ship
OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A PLAY
[Broadway or Off Broadway]
The Elephant Man
Fashions for Men
The Heidi Chronicles
You Can’t Take It With You
OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
[Broadway or Off Broadway]
Into the Woods
The King & I
On the Town
On the Twentieth Century
OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A PLAY
Stephen Daldry The Audience
Marianne Elliott The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
Scott Ellis The Elephant Man
Scott Ellis You Can’t Take It With You
Jeremy Herrin Wolf Hall
OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL
Scott Ellis On the Twentieth Century
Thomas Kail Hamilton
Casey Nicholaw Something Rotten!
David Hyde Pierce It Shoulda Been You
Christopher Wheeldon An American in Paris
Joshua Bergasse On the Town
Andy Blankenbuehler Hamilton
Warren Carlyle On the Twentieth Century
Casey Nicholaw Something Rotten!
Christopher Wheeldon An American in Paris
OUTSTANDING SET DESIGN
[Play or Musical]
Bunny Christie The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
Bob Crowley An American in Paris
Scott Pask Something Rotten!
David Rockwell On the Twentieth Century
Michael Yeargan The King & I
OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN
[Play or Musical]
Gregg Barnes Something Rotten!
Bob Crowley The Audience
William Ivey Long On the Twentieth Century
Christopher Orem Wolf Hall
Catherine Zuber The King & I
OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN
[Play or Musical]
Paule Constable The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
Jeff Croiter Something Rotten!
Rick Fisher The Audience
Natasha Katz An American in Paris
Japhy Weideman The Visit
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Reed Birney I’m Gonna Pray For You So Hard
Bradley Cooper The Elephant Man
Stephen McKinley Henderson Between Riverside and Crazy
Ben Miles Wolf Hall
Alex Sharp The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Greta Gerwig The Village Bike
Jan Maxwell The City of Conversation
Helen Mirren The Audience
Elisabeth Moss The Heidi Chronicles
Tonya Pinkins Rasheeda Speaking
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Christian Borle Something Rotten!
Brian d’Arcy James Something Rotten!
Robert Fairchild An American in Paris
Peter Gallagher On the Twentieth Century
Tony Yazbeck On the Town
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Kristin Chenoweth On the Twentieth Century
Leanne Cope An American in Paris
Tyne Daly It Shoulda Been You
Kelli O’Hara The King & I
Chita Rivera The Visit
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Paul Jesson Wolf Hall
Richard McCabe The Audience
Alessandro Nivola The Elephant Man
Nathaniel Parker Wolf Hall
Bryce Pinkham The Heidi Chronicles
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Annaleigh Ashford You Can’t Take It With You
Patricia Clarkson The Elephant Man
Francesca Faridany The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
Julie Halston You Can’t Take It With You
Lydia Leonard Wolf Hall
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
John Cariani Something Rotten!
Josh Grisetti It Shoulda Been You
Andy Karl On the Twentieth Century
Paul Alexander Nolan Doctor Zhivago
Max von Essen An American in Paris
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Heidi Blickenstaff Something Rotten!
Victoria Clark Gigi
Megan Fairchild On the Town
Ruthie Ann Miles The King and I
Mary Louise Wilson On the Twentieth Century
OUTSTANDING SOLO PERFORMANCE
Joe Assadourian The Bullpen
Jim Dale Just Jim Dale
Tom Dugan Wiesenthal
Cush Jumbo Josephine and I
Benjamin Scheuer The Lion
JOHN GASSNER AWARD
[Presented for an American Play--preferably by a New Playwright]
Ayad Akhtar The Invisible Hand
Halley Feiffer I’m Gonna Pray For You So Hard
Elizabeth Irwin My Mañana Comes
Markus Potter Stalking the Bogeyman
Benjamin Scheuer The Lion
Nominations Talleys for Three or More:
Something Rotten!--12; On the Twentieth Century--9; An American in Paris--8; Wolf Hall--7; It Shoulda Been You--6; The Audience--6; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time--6; Hamilton--5; The Elephant Man--‘5; The King & I 5; The Visit 5; On The Town 4; You Can’t Take It With You 4; The Heidi Chronicles 3; The Last Ship 3.
Disgraced, Fun Home & Hand to God received Nominations or Awards from the Outer Critics Circle previously, so were not considered this year.
2014 15 Outer Critics Circle Executive/Nominating Committee:
Simon Saltzman [President]
Mario Fratti [Vice President]
Patrick Hoffman [Corresponding Secretary]
Stanley L. Cohen [Treasurer]
Glenn Loney [Historian & Member at Large]
Aubrey Reuben & Harry Haun [Members at Large]
Magic Time with Jen & John: Loving Siblings--Loving Mother & Striving Son: Keen Keen Show!
Conor Ryan is an Absolute Charmer as John, as well as a real Music Theatre Pro.
Thus, It’s even more amazing to discover that he is a 2014 Graduate of the Musical Theatre Program at the U of Michigan!
His Onstage Sister & Mother--Yes, this is an Oddment of a Musical--is the wonderful Musical Pro Kate Baldwin, who has a List of Credits in Film, Theatre, & TV as long as that Proverbial Arm.
Andrew Lippa needs an Even Longer Arm to List All His Achievements, but he & Tom Greenwald have crafted a Two Hander Show that shows a Sister & Brother as Best Friends, told entirely in Stunning Songs.
This Musical Fable is tinged with Sadness, for Sailor John is killed in one of America’s Military Engagements.
Sister Jen soldiers on, redirecting All That Love toward her Son, John, who is, of course, embodied by Conor Ryan.
This is another keen Keen Theatre Production, inventively directed by Jonathan Silverstein, who is also Keen’s Artistic Director.
Designed by Steven C. Kemp, this handsome production features Fractured 3 D Geometrics, wonderfully illuminated by Josh Bradford.
The Central Panel of this Cubistic Landscape looks like a Baroque Vision of Magical Lands, lying far beyond the American Reality of the Thoroughly American John & Jen.
This Production--with These Talents--deserves an Extended Run, but the Musical itself will surely have many other productions Across America.
At The New York Theatre Workshop: David Grieg & John Browne’s THE EVENTS
Time Warp Alert! Troupe of 1960s Hippies Brings Peace & Love to East Fourth Street…
Commissioned by the Actors Touring Company, this Retro Salute to the Spirit of the Summer of Peace & Love has been Touring the World for Two Whole Years.
Its "Community Choir" is called "The Stop Shopping Choir" & Each of its Members looks like an Individual Hippie Type.
Nonetheless, they are all eager to share their Boiler Plate Beliefs with the Very Senior Audiences at the NYTW.
Director Ramin Gray believes that they are somehow Channeling Ancient Greek Theatre--which may be an Historical Stretch…
The Story Line is spun out by Neve McIntosh & Clifford Samuel, but it was inspired by that Horrendous Massacre in Norway, when Anders Breivik murdered 77 at an Island Youth Camp.
It has been developed in Vienna at Schauspielhaus Wien & in London at The Young Vic.
In 2013, it won a Fringe First at the Edinburgh Festival.
Before coming to East Fourth Street, The Events had already been working with 160 Different Choirs & more than 4,000 Community Singers.
The Aged Audience was encouraged to Join In during the Performance, following the Cast/Choir over to Moonstruck for more Constructive Interaction.
Unfortunately, Outside it was Snowing & Slushy, so it was all I could do to make it back to Home Base.
Deep Fried Southern Family Drama Features Gay & Lesbian Love Problems: Do We Care?
Remembering the Biblical Fable of the Erotic Encounter of King David & the Bathing Bathsheba, is it any Wonder that a Playwright with a Bathsheba First Name would want to Explore Erotic Mysteries?
At least that’s what I thought when I first read about the Impending Premiere of The Mystery of Love & Sex.
As it turns out, it would seem that you can really Love Someone without having Sex with Him, Her, or It.
You can certainly have Sex Without Love, but you don’t need to see a Play to know that…
Charlotte [Gayle Rankin] discovers that she has Gay Longings when she becomes a Teen Ager.
Her Best Friend, Jonny [Mamoudou Athie], who has been Like Family since they were Nine Years Old also discovers that he has Gay Longings.
So Marriage is Out of the Question, but not because she is White & he is African American.
Charlotte’s Dad [Tony Shaloub] is a Jewish American Author of Detective Novels. But he has married a Southern Belle Shiksa [Diane Lane] with a Drinking Problem.
Jonny does a Thesis on the Content & Biases of the Detective Novels, which lands on the Internet, angering Charlotte’s Dad.
Tolstoi once said Something Trenchant about Families, but it doesn’t really apply here because these Characters seem more like Kooky Dramatic Constructs than Real People--Southern, Jewish, or Otherwise.
Sam Gold staged on the Semicircular Thrust of the Newhouse, with some Strange Wispy Curtains behind the Desultory Stage Action.
Nonetheless, it is good that Lincoln Center Audiences are learning more about the Lives & Dreams of the Gay & Lesbian Sector of the American Public.
But will Charlotte’s Wedding--in her Mother’s Wedding Gown, apparently retrieved from a Clothing Collector by Her Doting Father--guarantee Wedded Bliss to a Butch Femme?
The Entire Cast worked very hard to make these Troubled Southerners seem Worthy of Our Interest…
All Aboard, Lovers of Art Deco & Great Broadway Musicals!
David Rockwell’s Magnificent Metallic Deco Drop for On The Twentieth Century is itself worth the Price of Admission for this All Awards Winnable Musical Revival!
But there’s also the Dynamite Performance of the Very Blonde Kristin Chenoweth as the Major Hollywood Star, Lily Garland, being wooed & tricked back to the Great White Way by her Former Lover, Broadway Producer, & All Round Svengali, the Currently Bankrupt & Out of Ideas Oscar Jaffee.
Oscar has No Script, No Credit, & No Backers, but everyone on the Art Deco Twentieth Century seems to have a Play ready for him to read.
Initially, Oscar also has No Concept, but he soon collides with a Millionaire Religious Nut Case, Letitia Peabody Primrose, wonderfully activated by Mary Louise Wilson, who can do Hand Springs with Olympic Champions.
Primrose--who sits on a Pharmaceutical Fortune--has been slapping REPENT Stickers all over the famed Super Train from LA to NYC, as well as on its Celebrity Passengers.
But she has an Open Checkbook for Oscar, if he will produce a Religiously Oriented Broadway Show, starring Lily Garland.
How about Mary Magdalene for a Broadway Comeback after a Hollywood Oscar?
The Hilarious Book & the even more Hysterical Songs are among the Best that the Famed Team of Comden & Green ever generated for Broadway.
The Jazzy Art Deco Score is also one of Composer Cy Coleman’s Most Fabulous!
But Designer David Rockwell has given Broadway Audiences an Art Deco Masterpiece in recreating the Super Streamlined Twentieth Century Limited on stage, both its Sleek Exterior & its Elegant Interiors.
Not only that: Rockwell also has constructed a Steel & Glass Chicago Station that would compare with any Great European Railway Station--even those designed by Gustav Eiffel, who invented that Famous Tower.
Rockwell’s 1930’s Vision of Art Deco is Especially Enchanting for me.
For some Seasons, I was the Creator/Editor/Writer/Photographer of The Art Deco News, which I later transformed into The Modernist, as Everyone was getting Sick of Art Deco all over again.
Once again, William Ivey Long has created a Riot of Colorful Costumes--Quintessentially Art Deco--except for those in that Fantastic Franco Prussian War Choreography of Warren Carlyle.
The Ingenious Scott Ellis has encouraged all his Actor/Singer/Dancers to Over Act in the Grand Manner.
What’s even more amazing about Ellis’ Work with his Amazing Cast is that the Supercharged James Moye--who was almost an Oscar Winning Oscar--was Not The Male Lead…
Moye is the Understudy for Peter Gallagher, but he Looks & Sounds like This Is His Role!
Usually Moye plays Max Jacobs, Oscar’s former Office Boy, now also a Major Producer. Ben Crawford was a Flamboyant Replacement.
Mamie Parris is listed as Understudy for Kristin Chenoweth’s Over the Top Lily Garland. If she is as Good as James Moye’s Oscar Jaffee & Ben Crawford’s Max Jacobs, she must be Terrific.
I’d love to see her as Lily, but I love this Maniacal Period Production so much that I’d like to see it again & again, no matter who is the Ivey Long Deco Decorated Garland…
Talk about Coincidence or Serendipity!
As I write these Deco Raves, I’m looking at a Vintage Photo which shows Betty Comden & Adolph Green seated at a Grand Piano, with Gwen Verdon grasping Adolph’s Left Arm.
Also on the Piano Bench & at the Keyboard is Broadway Composer Charlie Strouse.
Behind Strouse, Comden, Green, & Verdon are standing Broadway Designer Oliver Smith & Broadway Choreographer Joe Layton.
In the Background, on the other side of the Grand, stands the Modest Panel Moderator who assembled this Star Studded Company: Prof. Dr. Glenn Loney.
This was a Co op Chat about Creating Musical Theatre that I chaired for the Annual American Theatre Festival out at CW Post College on Long Island, long years ago.
These Broadway Musical Greats had all become Personal Friends, so it was a Great Joy to me to Explore the Mysteries of Broadway Musical Success with them…
Semele! Semele! Take It Easy with Jupiter! Don’t Get Yourself All Burned Up!
In an Odd Way, this Canadian Opera Company Production is not so much about reviving the Handelian Baroque Opera Semele as it is about that 450 Year Old Ming Dynasty Temple that fills & dominates the Gilman Stage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Although this Imposing House of Worship weighs 17 Tons--the Heaviest Ever Setting at BAM--it is made entirely of Wood.
Fortunately, the Radiant Performance of Coloratura Soprano Jane Archibald as Semele is anything but Wooden!
Nonetheless, there is a certain Hardwood Formality to some of the Monkish Movements early on, when Semele is to be Betrothed to the Handsome Young Prince, Athamas [Lawrence Zazzo].
Even though they are in a Sacred Shrine, this is an Earthly Wedding that will not take place.
The Ambitious, Vain,& Foolish Semele is already the Mistress of Jupiter, Father of the Gods.
Thanks to Ovid & his famed Metamorphoses, we know how often Jupiter/Zeus/Jove transformed himself into Earthly Entities, including that Famous Swan who snuggled up to Leda.
Jupiter [Colin Ainsworth] appears to Semele as kind of Baroque Superman. In this Zhang Huan designed & directed Incarnation, Jove even looks like an Heroic General with Golden Wings.
Jupiter’s Jealous Wife, Juno [Hilary Summers], detests his Sexual Forays & knows how to Get Even.
[In Nordic Myths, Wotan & Fricka have similar Marital Problems, but their Opera Librettos were drafted by Richard Wagner, whereas Handel had the Brilliant Playwright, William Congreve, for his Book Author.]
Juno transforms herself into Ino, Daughter of Old Cadmus & Sister of Semele.
She urges Semele to seek Immortality with Jupiter & to behold him in All His Divine Radiance.
No Human can survive such an Encounter: His Flaming Magnificence will instantly create Female Fast Food--Semele Fries, perhaps?
Chairman Mao would surely hate what has happened to the Performing Arts in China.
Zhang Huan’s Semele is a Long Way Off from Red Detachment of Women. Or, for that matter, Nixon in China…
There is a Contemporary Doomed Love Triangle conflated with the Handel/Congreve Semele, but who would notice, when the Stage is occasionally dominated by Immense Sumo Wrestlers or a Charming Red Donkey with an Erection?
Semele’s Tragic Destruction is, nonetheless, beautifully accompanied by an All White Chinese New Year Dragon, whose Serpentine Sections undulate sensually throughout that Ancient Temple.
The Often Lavish Chinese Inflected Costumes were confected by Han Fang--from the Finest Silks & Brocades.
But why did she elect to give Semele’s Sister a Dutch Boy Blonde Wig & an Outsized Blue Beret?
Christopher Moulds deftly conducted the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra & Chorus.
They used to say: Go For Baroque.
Now, thanks to Zhang Huan, we can have Handel with Chopsticks & Fortune Cookies from Mount Olympus!
Plus Two Sumo Wrestlers from Column A…
At The Manhattan Theatre Club’s NY City Center Stage 1: Frances Ya Chu Cowhig’s THE WORLD OF EXTREME HAPPINESS [*****]
Chairman Mao Exterminated Millions: Now The Chinese Elite Just Brain Wash The Peasants…
When you are working in a Chinese Factory, churning out Stuff for Sale to Far Off Americans, you need Something Special to keep you from Total Despair.
How about Public Speaking, with Eye Contact?
How about Maximizing Your Potential?
How about really Believing in Yourself?
The Intractable Problem that the Almost Indentured Factory Workers face is that Modern China’s Updated Version of Dale Carnegie Self Help is not, in fact, going to help them at all.
Their Dreams of a World of Extreme Happiness are only that: Dreams…
If these Unfortunate Wage Slaves are Peasants from the Rural Countryside--forcibly resettled in the Big City--they will always be Treated with Contempt by the Get Up & Go Movers & Shakers.
As staged by Eric Ting, The World of Extreme Happiness originated in London at the National Theatre, after which it was shown at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre to General Acclaim.
Despite its Desperate Undertones, this World is also often Hilarious--a Virtual Comic Kaleidoscope, in which a Genius Cast of only Six Actors animates a Score of Characters.
Central is Sunny--Unwanted when Born, as are most Female Children in Modern China--who is determined to Change Her Fortune through Positive Thinking.
Chairman Mao Murdered Millions outright, but the Sleek Achievers of Beijing & Shanghai are enriching themselves while destroying Their Own People.
Along the Way, in The World of Extreme Happiness, we are introduced to the One Child Policy, the Monkey King & the Journey to the West, Coal Mining & Epic Pollution, Self Help Gurus, & The Great Hall of the People…
Wal Mart may have given Sunny a Raise, but she will always be a treated like a Peasant…
Many Historic Passages, Many Mangled Lives: So Called Slaves & Ragged Sailors in Rhode Island Help Build the Atlantic Economy…
The Poet/Visionary/Artist William Blake in 18th Century Rhode Island?
Not Really--More of a Metaphor…
But the Port of Bristol, in Rhode Island, was a Nexus of the Slave Trade with West Africa, whose Ships could Never Sail Empty.
As emphasized in that Revolutionary Musical Comedy, 1776, Molasses, Rum, & Slaves formed an Economic Triad.
Naomi Wallace created The Liquid Plain as a Commission from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, including some Real Historical Incidents, as well as some Revolutionary Imaginings.
The Result is a Multi Layered Exploration of the Foundations of the Atlantic Economy--Fueled by Slavery, but also a Harbinger of the Current Corporate Exploitation that has generated a new kind of Wage Slavery…
Stage Director Kwame Kwei Armagh has ingeniously deployed Ten Talented Actors to animate the Wallace Vision.
Backed by Riccardo Hernandez’s All Purpose Canvas & Rope, we are often Inside, then Outside, a Generic Ship, with ingenious Projections by Alex Koch.
In fact, the Historic Progressions of The Liquid Plain are a Series of Passages…
We are watching a Nation being Born!
Nowhere is it noted, but Naomi Wallace’s Liquid Plain owes something to August Wilson’s Ghosts of the Middle Passage--in which the Skeletons of Slaves, who died during the Cruel Crossing lie deep in the Atlantic, a Silent Testimony to Forgotten Lives…
Naomi Wallace has certainly come a Long Way from The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, seen long, long ago at the Humana Festival…
At The Paper Mill Playhouse at Millburn, NJ: Walt Disney’s THE HUNCH BACK OF NOTRE DAME [*****]
Julie Taymor, Eat Your Heart Out! Disney Found a Different Way To Do Bells & Gargoyles…
Ring Out, Wild Bells!
Boldly Booming Bells ring out from Millburn, NJ, in one of the most Be Belled & Be Gargoyled Visions of Medieval Notre Dame ever imagined.
Even by Victor Hugo, the Original Imagineer of The Hunchback of Notre Dame…
Hugo--who loved the Strong Contrasts of the Hideously Grotesque with the Miraculously Beautiful that are best exemplified by Beauty & The Beast & Hunchback--would surely be astonished by the Great Bourdon Bells that are cramming the Great Wooden Belfrey of the Paper Mill Playhouse over in Far Off New Jersey.
This New Incarnation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is so Stunning, so Astounding, so Altogether Wonderful that it should soon move across the Hudson Waters to Broadway!
Seldom has such an American Musical Staging achieved such a Vivid Realization & such Serious Overtones that its essentially Hokey Disney Origins fade away…
When Hunchback of Notre Dame first appeared as a Disney Cartoon Feature, it seemed Shallow, even Silly.
Its Allan Menken Inflected Score floated along gently down the stream, with No Sense of the Carl Orffian Weight that it now boasts: it is a Mini Carmina Burana…
Its Gray Clad Come To Life Stone Saints chant in a Thrumming Rhythm that Carl Orff would have loved.
In fact, most of Peter Parnell’s Book is Sung or Chanted, rather than Narrated: in a Minor Way, it is Through Composed--if not quite to the Level of Richard Wagner.
As Staged by Scott Schwartz & Choreographed by Chase Brock--despite its Obvious Comedic Elements & Romantic Inclinations--it becomes far more than just another Conventional Broadway Musical.
Patrick Page is Dom Claude, a Tormented Cleric, Unwilling Uncle of Quasimodo, the Unfortunate Hunchback of Notre Dame, strongly played by Michael Arden.
Ciara Renée is the Sinuous & Enchanting Gypsy Girl, Esmeralda. But she’s even More Flamboyant than that other Famous Gypsy Girl, Carmen…
This Hunchback of Notre Dame comes to New Jersey from the La Jolla Playhouse in Far Off Southern California--not too distant from Disneyland.
Perhaps I love the Paper Mill Playhouse Hunchback of Notre Dame more than most of New Jerseyans now flocking to Millburn because I saw the First Stage Version of Hunchback in Former East Berlin, after the Berlin Wall came tumbling down & a Purpose Built Theatre was positioned at Potsdamer Platz so that Julie Taymor could Do Her Thing.
On one level, it was Pure Astonishment: a Magic Box of Complicated Stage Machinery & Contrived Apparitions.
But it was so Technically Over Built, that I knew it would never make it to Broadway: No Broadway Theatre could accommodate those Set Devices…
Compared with the rich, vibrant Paper Mill Playhouse Staging, Taymor’s Vision was too Mechanistic, too Sterile.
Not another Lion King, alas…
Award Nominations for the Magnificent Notre Damian Setting of Alexander Dodge: How about that Rose Window?
Beg the Shuberts or the Nederlanders to bring The Hunchback rapidly to The Great White Way!
Help The Hunchback Handicapped!
Today, the Historic Alexander Hamilton Couldn’t Get a Visa, Let Alone a Major Military Command; But He Ought to Win Lots of Awards for His Rapper Genius: A Revolutionary War of Words…
Considering how Donald Trump & the Tea Party Crazies won’t give up on the Un American Ness of Barak Obama, have they ever given a Passing Thought to the Curious Caribbean Origins of one of Our Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton?
Not only was Alexander Hamilton the Founder of the New York Post & of our Banking System, but he was also one of George Washington’s Most Trusted Fellow Officers, rapidly rising to the Rank of General!
Quite a Meteoric Trajectory for a Male Mulatto whose Mother way well have been a Whore…
Previously, the best known American Revolutionary Musical was 1776, but Lin Manuel Miranda’s brilliantly conceived Hamilton leaves those Wrangling Philadelphians far behind in the Dust of History.
What is especially amazing is not only that Miranda--already famed for his Award Winning In The Heights--has created Book, Music, & Lyrics in a Most Revolutionary Manner, but that he has also Honored Hamilton’s Caribbean Ancestry with Ingenious Rapper Lyrics.
They race rapidly along, but some are so Intricately Clever that they almost distract attention from the Tremendous Thrust of the Choreographed Narrative.
Andy Blankenbuhler is the New Jack Cole, with a Clockwork Precision Choreography that leaves no room for one Misstep or Mistake.
But that would not work so well, had not Thomas Kahl staged this Supercharged Cast so powerfully & resourcefully.
Even Chorus Liners seem to have their own Special Moments.
As King George III--when he was not Chorus Lining--Jonathan Groff was both Imperiously Hilarious & Mock Regal.
Of course, when you have already created Book, Music, & Lyrics, why would you want to entrust the Performance of Alexander Hamilton to Donald Trump or Anyone Now Serving in our Constipated Congress?
So Lin Manuel Miranda is the Ill Starred Star of His Show!
Ill Starred, in that he is Killed by a Poisonously Jealous Aaron Burr in a Disastrous Duel over on the Jersey Side of the Hudson River.
As Stephen Vincent Benet wrote about this Fatal Encounter in Ballads for Americans: Burr! Burr! What have you done? You’ve killed Great General Hamilton…
If you missed Hamilton at the Public Theatre, where it was Sold Out, Not to Worry!
It will open soon again--On Broadway!
The Historic Henrik Ibsen Is Dying--Mutton Chop Whiskers & All! Will Vigeland Cast the Bust?
What can Doug Wright have been Thinking?
Why would Anyone want to write & direct--at This Point in Time--an Historicist Vision of Gustav Vigeland scrabbling for Ready Cash to create his Gigantic Family of Man Multi Faced Sculpture in Frogner Park in what used to be Christiania, when Norway was still a Province of Denmark?
Well, we do not actually get to see the Extent of His Vision, which is Conveniently Offstage.
But we do see a Mother & Son Clay Model of that Vigeland Astonishment, now somewhat Upstaged by the Genius of Edvard Munch, not to overlook the Sonja Heinie Museum…
John Noble plays an angry, outraged Vigeland, who may get some Funding from the Aged Ibsen--Hamish Linklater, as a Copper Plate Ibsen in Old Age, whose Bust must be Cast for Posterity.
Thanks to the Design Skills of Derek McLane [Super Realist Sets] & Susan Hilferty [Super Period Costumes], we could be in Downtown Oslo over a Century Ago…
But Why? In Service of What Historic Vision?
It is True, however, that Ibsen spent most of his Working Life in Munich & in Rome, Disdaining his Native Norway & Mocking its Puritanical Fundamentalists, while Writing Home for More Money.
The Admired Author of Peer Gynt, Hedda Gabler, & Little Eyolf preferred to Summer in Bertschgaden, where I used to go every summer to admire his Rented Rooms.
Only when Ibsen was Very Old did he return to Norway, complete with Medals, Frock Coat, Cane, & Top Hat.
Where Are Josephine Baker’s Bananas? Ostrich Feathers OK, But Yes, We Have No Bananas?
London’s dynamic Cush Jumbo is a Sizzling, Sultry Singing Dancing Stylist who Charmingly Channels that Jazz Age American in Paris, Josephine Baker.
But Cush Jumbo makes no attempt to Imitate the Inimitable Miss Baker.
Instead, she builds on her Own London Life & Original Performance Experience to suggest What It Was Like Way Back When.
But she doesn’t do Bananas…
Baker used to thrill Jaded Parisites by dancing with a Bouncing String of Bananas around her waist.
This Great One Woman Show came to Astor Place from London’s Bush Theatre.
It should have Stayed Longer!
Historic Videos & Viral Visuals Steal The Show from Art Historian & Love Lorn Heidi--
Those Were The Days: Women’s Issues! Understanding Ourselves! Forgiving Others!
Can the Scenic Designs of John Lee Beatty ever be Too Much of a Good Thing?
Recalling the Political Fevers & Personal Anguish of Survivors of the 1960’s in Vivid Color on the otherwise Bare Walls of the Music Box’s Box Set was almost the Best Thing about the Current Revival of Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles.
Actually, John Lee is not entirely to blame, for the Production Design is the Inspiration of Peter Nigrini.
The Fundamental Problem is not in the Performance of Elisabeth Moss as Heidi Holland, although it does become a bit Wearing & Repetitious.
Wendy Wasserstein is the Real Culprit--as a Playwright of the Period.
Frankly, I never much admired Heidi’s Chronicles when they were first unveiled in Manhattan.
Possibly, I more admired Wendy’s Rich Brother Bruce, who had Made a Fortune in Wall Street…
Nonetheless, when the Beatty/Negrini Images have faded away, this Male/Female Mating Duel seems entirely Too Long.
This, despite the Valiant Efforts of Jason Briggs as a Smart Jewish Guy who really loves Heidi & Bryce Pinkham, as a Gay Guy who really understands Heidi.
If you are a Fan of Camp, Bryce is Your Man: he is Hilarious & Snippy in all those Antics that Matinée Ladies love.
While Heidi’s Female Friends are Moving Through Life--Some making Major Efforts to achieve Kiss Kiss Success--Heidi keeps her Eyes Focused on Full Color Slide Images of Historical Paintings of Interesting Women by the Few Female Artists who won any Major Attention before Judy Chicago Conquered the World.
Curiously, however, Angelika Kauffmann didn’t Make the Cut for either Heidi or Wendy…
In case you didn’t already know, Angelika Kauffmann--Painter of Poets & Popes--was born in Egg, Austria!
Pam Mackinnon staged with her admirably Intuitive Sensitivity.
Lushly Romantic Melodies Bring Austro Hungarian Vienna Back To Vibrant Life--
With a Chinoiserie Viennoise Side Trip to Imperial China for Hopeless Heartbreak…
From the First Swelling Chords of Franz Lehár’s Land des Lächlens--powerfully produced by the Student Orchestra of the entirely admirable Manhattan School of Music--it was clear that the Eager Audience was in for a Retro Viennese Treat, complete with Schlagobers & Dim Sum.
This Intimate Revival of Lehár’s Land of Smiles--one of his Major Operetta Triumphs--tunefully demonstrated why Lehár was such a Master of Music, with Land des Lächlens continuing to have an Ardent Public long after Lehár had definitively Left the Scene.
Under the Deft Direction of Dona D. Vaughn, the Senior Opera Theatre of MSM performed Wonders on the Improvised End Stage of the Ades Performance Space.
Imperial Vienna was evoked with Two Small Chandeliers & some Silvery Furniture.
But MSM’s Elegant Cast didn’t need Lavish Settings nor Rosenkavalierisch Costumes to create the Hofburg Essence of Primal Lehár.
Military Hussarisch Uniforms & Svelte Twenties Gowns worked wonderfully, with the Love Lorn Lisa looking for Mr. Right, only to discover him in a Chinese Nobleman, temporarily posted to the Habsburg Court.
Lisa was thrillingly sung by Maria Brea, with Dominick Corbacio heartbreakingly intense as Prince Sou Chong.
But All of the Cast--variously attired & deployed in Vienna & China--were Excellent, which makes me wonder what the Alternate Artists were like, as this was Double Cast.
Curiously, the Spoken Dialogue was all in Amerikanisch, with Lehár’s lovely, lilting Lieder all in Wiener Deutsch.
But you do not have to be an Operetta Expert to know that the Marriage of Occident & Orient--at least in Jarhhundert Wende Wien--cannot experience any Good Outcome.
So it is that the Unfortunate Lisa soon discovers that her Beloved Prince is obligated to marry a Designated Bride, as befits the Honorific Wearer of the Centuries Old Quing Dynasty Yellow Jacket!
If the First Act seemed Severely Spare, the Second Act involved the Installation of a Backwall of Chinese Key Lattices.
But what really mattered was the Total Involvement of the MSM Seniors: at times I found myself almost in tears as the Prince was having his Heart Torn Out, desperately divided between Dynastic Duty & True Love.
To say that "They Sang as Though They Really Meant It" Hits the Mark!
Of course, one of the Major Elements in the Long Life of Land des Lächlens is its own Hit Song: Dein Ist Mein Ganzes Herz.
I first heard this sung by Richard Tauber: on Shellac, on our Old Victrola, up in the High Sierras of Northern California.
Somehow, I fell in love with Operetta & Opera, helped by the Texaco Saturday Broadcasts from the Old Met Opera on Broadway & 39th.
But, in these Latter Days, Operetta has increasingly become Problematic in Production & Performance.
The Melodies are Marvelous, but the Librettos are Antediluvian: When was the Last Time you saw Der Evangelimann?
How about Der Ziegeunerbaron or Die Zirkussprincessin?
Well, yes, you could have seen Zirkussprincessin Suddenly Last Summer in Munich in an Actual Circus--Cirkus Krone--presented by the Gärtnerplatz Theater.
It’s all too easy to Mock Operetta as: Pretty Mitzi, or, The Ways of Love.
If only we could find ways to Save the Songs but License New Librettos?
In fact--influenced by Rudolf Friml, Sigmund Romberg, Emmerich Kalman, & Franz Lehár--that is what Oscar Hammerstein partly achieved.
But Leonard Bernstein--with West Side Story--swept that all away.
Nor is Sound of Music really Alt Wien enough…
For the Record: Just returned from Saudi Arabia, I have to tell you that Lisa is not the Only Western Girl to face that Two Worlds Problem.
Unfortunately--whether you are an American Teen or a Wiener Mädl--if you Fall in Love with a Saudi Prince & Marry, you won’t be singing up on stage any time soon…
There is No Theatre at all, ever, in Saudi Arabia--also: No Liquor!
Nor do Saudi Women & Wives flaunt themselves about.
No, indeed! They stay quietly at home, dressed in Sober Black Abiyahs, Forbidden to Drive Automobiles, let alone Sing & Dance about Doomed Loves…
Tom Cromwell Survives & Thrives in Chaotic Court of Heir Hungry Henry VIII--
Stunning RSC Production Power Packed, Dynamically Choregraphed, & Tony Worthy in Spades!
How many times has the Fall from Royal Grace of Tudor England’s Cardinal Wolsey been Related, Reviewed, Revised, & even Celebrated by Historians, Novelists, & Playwrights?
Certainly enough for even the Most Drowsy of Playgoers to be able to Keep Score during the Furious Progress of the Magnificent Pageant that is Wolf Hall, now warming up the Winter Garden in Midtown Manhattan.
Seldom has even the Most Dedicated Designer attempted such an Astounding Historical Reconstruction of so many Suits of Armor, so stunning an Array of Wimples, so many Stuffed Doublets, not to overlook the Variety & Profusion of Regal & Clerical Attires.
The Desperate Desire of King Henry VIII to Sire a Son & Heir--as has been All Too Well Known for Four Hundred Years of Song & Story--leads him into Dubious Boudoirs & Marital Disasters he would have done well to avoid.
Nathaniel Parker looks Every Inch a King as a Portrait Painterly "Defender of The Faith."
Curious, that King Henry--in repudiating the Pope of Rome & Catholic Dogma--would choose to retain that Papal Honorific, as he led England into Uncharted & Dangerous Waters, even discarding his Legal, Regal Wife, Queen Katherine of Aragon.
As Vibrantly Recreated Onstage--thanks to RSC Director Jeremy Herrin--it’s all Too Clear that the Pleasure Loving Monarch never met a Pretty Face he didn’t Fancy…
But His Royal Favor is not shown alone on Anne Boleyn--who loses her Handsome Head for all Her Intrigues.
Henry not only Needs an Heir. He also needs a Temporal & Spiritual Advisor that He Can Trust!
Initially, Wise Old Cardinal Wolsey [Paul Jesson] fills that Role--until he is Dropped, Disgraced, & Definitely Terminated.
Hovering in the Tempestuous Tudor Background, however, is the Silently Observant Figure of Thomas Cromwell, a Blacksmith’s Son, who is never allowed to Forget That Fact when he is Usurping Power among King Henry’s Wrangling Nobles.
Tom Cromwell--compellingly embodied by Ben Miles--has Learnt His Lessons from Wolsey--who haunts him when he is himself Among the Wolves.
In a Court of Endless Intrigues--where No One says No to King Henry--Sir Thomas Cromwell Dares to Disagree, thereby earning the Royal Trust--as well as Access to the Royal Purse & the Power of Life & Death over his & Henry’s Enemies.
Even though Cromwell has imbibed Scholastic Wisdom from Wolsey--to whom he is still Strangely Loyal, even after Death--he is absolutely Cold Blooded when In Action.
As furiously enacted by Lydia Leonard, the Notoriously Amorous Anne Boylen is certainly a Piece of Work!
You Get in Her Way--or In Her Face?
You could soon be Floating in the Thames…
If you are in the Winter Garden Audience--with a Bare Minimalist Setting jutting out into the Lavishly Decorated Auditorium--you could also Sustain Substantial Bruises if you get in the way of the Rampaging Nobles & Lovelorn Ladies charging through the Aisles.
If you Cannot Get Tickets for this RSC Limited Run, you can Check It Out on PBS or the Internet.
You could even go back & read what Hilary Mantel initially imagined!
If you have seen that Famous Painting of the Gouty Old Goatish Henry--flanked by Katherine Parr & Katherine Howard--you probably know that Two Wives Outlived this Merry Monarch.
I take a Personal Interest in this Historic Scene because it was painted by my Distinguished Academic Relative, Sir Edward Armitage, RA.
Considering the Resounding Success of Wolf Hall--as Novel, as Stage Drama, as TV Special--possibly Hilary Mantel will consider Extending the Royal Franchise?
In the Event, Henry’s Royal Son did not live long, so he was Resoundingly Succeeded by Elizabeth, the Fabled Virgin Queen.
Or do we already have a Superfluity of E the Q Dramas?
Charming Choreography & Colossal Costumes Recreate Fin de Siècle Paris,
Celebrating both Fantastic Art Nouveau Architecture & High Level Human Sex Traffic…
When Nazi Collaborator & Pop Parisian Chanteur Maurice Chevalier sang Thank Heaven for Little Girls, it had a somewhat Ominous Meaning for Informed Insiders.
Fritz Loewe--who wrote the Score for Gigi--was himself something of a Ladies Man, so his Complicit Librettist & Book Author, Alan Jay Lerner, knew how to Make Him Happy.
Now--in an Era in which many American Women are striving to put a stop to Illegal Sex Traffic--the Randy Dandy Sexual Antics of a Parisian Man About Town like Honoré Lachaille [a debonair Howard McGillin] or his Entitled Nephew, Gaston Lachaille [a somewhat stormy, imperious Corey Cott], do seem rather Retro…
In case you have never read the Story Treatment of Colette--who knew Very Well of What She Wrote--Gigi is a Delightful Young Girl who is being Groomed by her Demi Mondaine Grande Dame Auntie for a Richly Rewarding Career as the Elegant, Bejeweled, Befeathered, & Handsomely Clad Mistress of Young Gaston, who has Too Much Money & Time on His Hands for His Own Good…
Fortunately, Gaston has an Admirable Interest in providing Combustion Engines for Hot Air Balloons, so he can’t be All Bad.
Also, Gaston is Not Completely Stupid, which cannot be said of most of the Handsomely Clad Denizens of the Infamous Parisian Bôite, Maxims…
So, if you do not already know Colette’s Gigi, you may very well know Gigi from her Incarnations on Stage & in Film by Audrey Hepburn & Leslie Caron?
Now--in an altogether Handsome Broadway Revival--we have the Youthfully Clad Persona of Vanessa Hudgens as an Ebullient Gigi.
Fortunately for Broadway Audiences & US Female Opponents of Illegal Sex Traffic, Gigi/Vanessa is basically a Good Girl at Heart, who can surely Get Interested in the Development of Manned Flight over the Bois de Boulogne, when Gaston finally realizes that He Loves Gigi & will Marry Her, instead of Treating Her Like a Thing!
Along the Champs Elysées to this Happy Ending, we are all treated to some of the most Fanciful Art Nouveau Architecture to be seen outside Paris & the Musée D’Orsay…
The Altogether Ingenious Derek McLane should reap Multi Nominations for those Splendid Settings, not to be outdone in Kudos for the Costumière Supréme, Catherine Zuber, whose Glitteringly Beaded & Ostrich Feathery Confections look almost Good Enough To Eat!
Add to All That the Impressive Interpretations of Victoria Clark--as Mamita, & Dee Hoty--as Aunt Alicia, & you can almost Forget About Sex Traffic & think about Good Manners & Table Settings instead…
Actually, Fritz Loewe could be a Lot of Fun & he could well afford to Entertain Lavishly.
Alan Jay Lerner, however, could be a Bit of a Prig--not exactly Stuck on Himself, but still…
But, when you remember--had you already forgotten--that Lerner & Loewe gave Broadway & The World at Large such Beloved Hits as My Fair Lady, Camelot, Brigadoon, & Paint Your Wagon, what’s a little Sex Traffic along the way?
In any case, I Bless & Thank Choreographer Joshua Bergasse & Stage Director Eric Schaeffer for a Magical Evening in the Theatre!
Essentially Empty of Basic Human Values as those Jahrhundert Wende Parisites were, they nonetheless now provide a Period Fashion Week Parade at the Neil Simon Theatre to make you regret the Shuttering of Juicy Couture on Fifth Avenue.
Phorgotten Phacts: Did you know that the Neil Simon Theatre used to be called The Alvin?
Parisian Overkill? Gigi on Tuesday, American on Wednesday!
What’s Going On Here? We Just Can’t Get Enough of the Eiffel Tower?
Somebody over at the Palace Theatre made a Big Mistake!
George Gershwin’s American in Paris [France] doesn’t Need a Narrative.
In fact, there are now So Many Strands in its Multi Threaded Tapestry that--to Switch Metaphors--you can’t see the Forest for All Those Talking Trees.
Nonetheless, most of the Production Numbers are Knockouts!
The Radio City Music Hall Spectacular was a Show Stopper--almost as Good as The Real Thing!
Even the Traditional Paris Visual Clichés are Ingeniously Inventive, rather than Recycled Kitsch.
Some of Bob Crowley’s Astounding Images are almost Shows in Themselves!
This is not to say that Christopher Wheeldon’s Hard Working Cast don’t Give Their All.
Any Broadway Gypsies might well be Envious of their Energy, Focus, Talent, & Dedication.
Were Hal Prince still in the Business of Show Doctoring, he’d call an Emergency Rehearsal Tomorrow Morning.
First Order of Business: Scrap All That Tortured Post War Palaver.
Forget about All Those Characters & Their Chaotic Crises…
Restructure all those Dynamic Musical Numbers, to Build to a Smashing Climax!
I’d pay Good Money just to see Crowley’s Amazingly Abstracted Modern Dance Sequence again!
Even some Small Visual Details are Memorable: How about all those Skittery Yellow Lines, outlining Parisian Architectures, then melting rapidly away?
How about that precious Mini Opera Stage that was a Rococo Fantasy, almost eclipsing Palais Garnier--which was, unfortunately, a Blurry Projection.
At times, the Producers seemed almost Desperate to find Odd Ways to Sandwich into the already Bloated Book almost Every Single Song that Gershwin wrote in this Parisian Period.
Not Necessary: in fact, Some Songs seemed Out of Place…
Following the Previous Evening’s Gorgeous Gigi, Gershwin’s City of Light looked Low on Wattage.
It’s Good that George Gershwin didn’t get to see Germany after World War II
We might have had An American in Frankfurt!
Bottom Line: Love cannot buy Money!
Gay Weddings Galore! Marital Mixups! Laff Riots! Dynamic Performances! Blockbuster Songs!
Brooks Atkinson--the Scholarly Drama Critic for the New York Times, for whom this Handsome Theatre is named--would surely be surprised to discover that both the Handsome Young Groom & his Beautiful Bride in this Broadway Musical are Gay!
That wasn’t the way they wrote Broadway Shows in Olden Times…
But the Real Shocker for the Matinée Ladies of Yesteryear would be to discover that this Health Care Benefits Wedding would be Jewish!
If you can believe Tyne Daly as a Domineering Matriarch--with a Talent for Arranged Marriages--you will Love This Show!
But there’s so much more to Like & Love: Barbara Anselmi & Brian Hargrove’s Show Stopper Songs; David Hyde Pierce’s Precision Direction; Josh Rhodes’ Creative Choreography; Anna Louizos’ Lavish Setting; & William Ivey Long’s As Always Fabulous Costumes!
But Best of All are the Hilarious Performances of Tyne Daly, Lisa Howard, Harriet Harris, Sierra Boggess, Montego Glover, Chip Zien, David Burtka, Josh Grisetti, & Edward Hibbert, among Others.
How does it happen that a Handsome Gay Man is marrying a Gay Jewish Princess?
It’s Complicated, but the Need for Health Benefits down the road are part of the Plotting…
Book your Front Row Seats now! Avoid the Rush!
In any case, you’ll Get a Rush just from watching all those Terrific Talents storming around that Wedding Palace Stage!
The Truly Loving Couples do not need any of those Gey Themed Indiana Wedding Cakes that cannot be Baked & Decorated by Decent, Honest, God Fearing, Right Thinking, White Christian Americans…
Judging from the Hilarious Hoots, Hollers, & Guffaws from the Standing Ovation Audience, Everyone would like to take a Spatula in Hand & help Decorate This Cake!
The Good Old Days of the West End Edwardian Musical Revived on Broadway:
All Singing, All Dancing Barrie Biography Also Honors Producer Charles Frohman…
Not having looked at the Playbill Program beforehand, as I saw the Astounding Production of Finding Neverland unfold, I thought it must be Another Import from London’s West End Theatres.
But No! This Musical Historical Biography of Broadway/London Producer Charles Frohman & James Barrie & the Creation of the Peter Pan Legend is not British!
No, Indeed! It comes to Broadway--which Barrie’s own Beloved Peter has done so many times--not from the Royal Shakespeare nor the National Theatre, but from far off Harvard University, where it was developed by ART, the American Repertory Theatre.
Diane Paulus--who gave Broadway its Beloved Award Winning Revival of Pippin--is Artistic Director of ART & she has mounted Another Tony Contender, with All Stops Pulled Out…
Seldom has a Broadway Show had such Ferociously Felicitous Dynamism: Direction, Design, & Performances are all Pushed To The Limit.
My Absolute Favorite Element of this Paulus Gospel is the Projection Design of Jon Driscoll: He gives us Wonderfully Evocative Snapshots of an Edwardian London that has Not Entirely Vanished, even today.
Not to Overlook the Evocation of Vanished Famous Names like Du Maurier, Frohman, & Llewelyn Davies!
Broadway Regulars could be Forgiven if they had No Idea who Charles Frohman was or why he had such a Major Role in the Peter Pan Legend.
The Frohman Brothers all came from San Francisco, as did David Belasco, who constructed the Belasco Theatre on 42nd Street, before moving it over to West 44th.
Dan Frohman built his own theatre, The Lyceum, on West 45th.
But Charles Frohman had Playhouses both on Broadway & in London’s West End, so he could produce in New York & move his Hit Shows to London & Vice Versa.
As Recreated in Finding Neverland, Peter Pan might not exist, were it not for Charles Frohman.
But this Production Focus helps fatten the part of Kelsey Grammer, who plays both Frohman & Captain Hook.
When you go to see Finding Neverland--which you certainly should!--you will find all the Historic Elements of the Pan Fable in place, including Nanna, the Shaggy Dog.
Matthew Morrison impersonates a troubled James Barrie, with Carolee Carmello as Mrs. Du Maurier--related to Sir George Du Maurier, another West End Great.
The Loving But Dying Mother of Peter & the other Lost Boys is played by the lovely Laura Michelle Kelly.
In fact, the Entire Cast was Admirable, especially considering the Frenetic Pace of this Pauline Musical Circus.
Great Settings by Scott Pask; Delightfully Confected Costumes by Suttirat Anne Larlarb, & Sometimes Stunning Lighting by Kenneth Posner, with Jonathan Deans’ Subtle Balances of Sound Design…
Frohman should be Satisfied, but what about Barrie?
In Essence, Finding Neverland is about an Epic Author’s Block…
Look Where It Comes Again!
Why Did the King & Anna Ever Leave Us?
Dazzling Dancing, Chromatic Costumes, Mysterious East Meets Enlightened West, Heart Break…
If it’s Fabuluos Pageantry you are looking for on Broadway, the Lincoln Center Revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King & I is an Absolute Must See!
But the Radiant Performance of Kelli O’Hara as Anna Leonowens, enlightening the All Powerful King of Siam, Vigorously Embodied by Ken Watanabe, is Not To Be Missed!
You will not see such a Lavishly Designed & Colofully Costumed Show anywhere else on Broadway this Season.
Nor will any other Broadway Score come even close to the Lilting Lyricism of Richard Rodgers’ Sonic Vision of Historic Siam & its Troubled Monarch, threatened by Western Colonial Powers.
But when the Hoop Skirted Anna arrives to teach the Many Children of the King’s Many Wives, a quaint but delightful Culture Clash occurs, enchantingly outlined in the Lyrics of the Culture Clash Conscious Oscar Hammerstein II, extending a Theme from South Pacific--also previously revived at the Vivian Beaumont.
Bartlet Sher--also a Major Presence across the Plaza at the Met Opera--has staged splendidly, aided & abetted by the Shifting Settings of Michael Yeargan, the Kaleidoscopic Costumes of Catherine Zuber, & the Asian Accented Lighting of Donald Holder.
Accused of Being a Barbarian by Western Enemies, this Embattled Monarch--with a Huge Harem of Lovely Lady Wives--imports the Importunate Widowed Anna to bring the West to the East.
With Often Astonishing Results, not least a Growing Affection between the King & Mrs. Anna…
His Enlightened Son, Prince Chulalongkorn, went on to be a Truly Great King, leaving a Long Tradition of Western/Eastern Enlightenment in what is now Thailand.
Of course it’s Great to have Rodgers & Hammerstein Back on Broadway, even if The King & I is a Long Way Off from Oklahoma! & The Sound of Music.
I take a Personal Interest in The King & I because, long, long ago--in a One Room School, in what was once Gold Rush California--I found a Gold Stamped Volume titled An English Governess in the Siamese Court.
It had been written by Anna Leonowens, a Welsh Widow who became a Contract Teacher in Asia, in order to raise her Beloved Son--who is also in The King & I.
Author Margaret Landon must also have found a copy of An English Governess in the Siamese Court, for it was she who made the Published Adaptation, Anna & The King of Siam, on which The King & I is based.
Another Opera Star Debuts on Broadway! Renée Fleming Has Husband Problems…
In the Past, when Met Stars began to Fade, they occasionally Transitioned to Broadway.
This didn’t work so well for Cesare Siepi, but it was the Right Move for Ezio Pinza, who famously starred opposite Mary Martin in South Pacific.
For Renée Fleming--who has just Made a Move to Broadway, in Living on Love--this is not a Career Saving Operation at all.
Renée’s Glorious Voice is still Rousing & Radiant!
What’s more, she is a Born Comedienne: Renée Fleming should have been on Broadway long before Joe Dipietro’s Hilarious Show Biz Farce, Living on Love.
Of course, Renée couldn’t do that, being In Demand at Opera Houses all over the Known World.
But now at the Longacre Theatre, she is On Stage in Two Dimensions: She plays an Opera Diva who is having Hubby Problems with her Famous Conductor Husband, who has a Famously Roving Eye.
Douglas Sills flamboyantly inhabits the Conducting Corpus of Vito De Angelis, who is having his [Auto] Biography Ghost Written by an Aspiring Great American Novelist [Jerry O’Connell] who is frustrated both by the Maestro’s Frequent Absences & Falsifying Memories.
So he Changes Courses to Autobiographize the Famed Opera Diva, Raquel De Angelis, who is, of course, Renée Fleming--in Opulent Costumes by Michael Krass.
Vito has Switched Autobiographers to the Pert Young Iris Peabody [Anna Chlumsky], who is not only a Ghost Writer for Hire, but also an Editor at a Major Publishing House, which is always On the Lookout for the Next Great American Novelist…
Got The Picture?
Raquel De Angelis is also much given to Inventing Events in her Fabulous Career, which is soon to include performances in Fort Lauderdale & other Less Than The Met Venues.
She is often accompanied by her Darling Doggie, played by the Tiara Topped Trixie, under the Stage Name of Puccini…
The Over Dressed Suite [Designed by Derek McLane] of the Less Than Angelic De Angelis Duo is served by the Gay Butler Duo of Bruce & Eric [Blake Hammond & Scott Robertson], who also play Duo Piano…
The Song Savvy Kathleen Marshall staged with Brio.
Bottom & Shylock in the First Ever Elizabethan Musical: Omelette!
But Not By The Bard of Stratford Upon Avon--Because Something Got Lost In Translation…
Forget about all those Prophecies of Nostradamus!
If he couldn’t Get It Right outside the Globe Theatre, how could he really Foresee the Future in Central Europe?
Nonetheless, Nostradamus [Brad Oscar] does provoke a Laff Riot over at the St. James Theatre, including some Foot Stomping Show Stoppers!
Insanely Jealous of the Iambic Successes of Will Shakespeare [a Sexy & Self Satisfied Christian Borle], a desperate Nick Bottom [an Hilarious Brian d’Arcy James] begs Nostradamus for Previews of Will’s Coming Attractions.
What appears on the Psychic Radar Screen looks a lot like an Omelette…
As Rehearsals reveal, this is a Riotously Wrong Concept--but it’s not entirely Eggscessive when Bottom’s Hyper Troupe scramble up some Shakespearean Couplets & celebrate the Forthcoming Premiere when Bottoms will be Tops!
Bottom has lost his Fusty Old Doubleted Patron, but Shylock [Gerry Vichi] appears on the Tudor Scene, eager for an Entry into Elizabethan Show Business.
He thinks it will be More Fun than Money Lending. Little does he know about the Costs of Producing a Renaissance Show, especially one as Wrong Headed as Omelette.
Thanks to Nostradamus’ Fuzzy Connections to the Future, the Audience gets Samples of a Wide Range of Broadway Musicals, frenetically danced & sung by this Dynamite Cast.
Actually, Shakespeare did have Iambic Musical Interludes in both his Comedies & Tragedies, but the Ingenious Creators of Something Rotten also make his Sonnets Sing!
But how about a Show Opener like Welcome To The Renaissance?
Soon followed by The Black Death…
Those Nasty Black Robed Puritans want to Pull Down the Theatres, but their Tyrannical Leader [Brooks Ashmanskas] is especially eager to prevent Portia [Kate Reinders], his Lovely Daughter, from Reading Poetry & Making Love with Bottom’s Brother, Nigel Bottom [John Cariani]--who is scribbling Globe Worthy Verses that Shakespeare Steals.
Sam Wanamaker--who recreated Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on London’s South Bank--would surely have loved this Blockbuster Show.
Shakespeare? Maybe Not So Much, especially if the Bardic Dramas were actually penned by Chris Marlowe.
Not only are The Globe & that Other Theatre wonderfully Re Tudored by Designer Scott Pask, but Gregg Barnes’ often outrageous Overstuffed Doublets & Codpieces even exceed the Historic Tudorism of the Royal Shakespeare’s Wolf Hall, currently just a few blocks up Broadway from Something Rotten.
This Show Title may be Off Putting for those Out of Towners who do not know about the State of Denmark in Hamlet’s Historical Time Period.
So, For The Record: There is Nothing Rotten about Something Rotten!
In fact, it should soon become the Hottest Ticket in Town, thanks to the Foot Stomping Choreography & Manic Staging of Casey Nicholaw--whose Show Biz Credits include Aladdin & Book of Mormon.
Traditionally, Awards Nominators see Broadway Shows in Previews, so their Voting Colleagues can see them in time for the Tony’s & the Lucille Lortels, as well as for the Drama Desk & Outer Critics Circle Awards.
Occasionally, those of us who are Awards Nominators are invited back before the Official Voting, just to remind us How Great That Show actually was.
I’d love to see Something Rotten at least One More Time…
Huey P. "Kingfish" Long Built the Airline Highway for Himself--But It’s Now in Total Disrepair!
At The End of The Line, Losers Hang Out at a Shabby Motel, Celebrating Miss Ruby’s Funeral…
Just returned & recovering from New Orleans, I didn’t expect to have Another Encounter so soon, but Steppenwolf’s NOLA Vision is even more Depressing than The Real Thing.
In NOLA for both the Annual ATCA Conference & the Annual Tennessee Williams Festival, Our Queen City Hosts took us Out for a Spin along Huey’s Airline Highway.
Now, Lynn Meadow & Barry Grove’s MTC has brought the most Decayed & Dissolute Dump along the Entire Freeway to Broadway, thanks to Chicago’s Steppenwolf & The Williamstown Festival.
This Motel/Gas Station Complex on the Airline Highway is crammed with Desperate Denizens, noisily assembled--Post Mardi Gras--for the Pre Death Funeral of Miss Ruby, once a Lively Red Haired Lady, presiding over Sex Shows & subsequent Sexual Surprises up in the Second Floor Rooms.
The Special Quality of this Shabby Section of the Airline Highway--which is what must have Brought It To Broadway--is that Almost All Actors Shout at the Top of Their Lungs & across Each Other.
Everyone Talks, but No One Listens…
In the Midst of all this Turmoil, there is a Female Teen Ager with a Cell Phone & an iBook, who seems to be Writing a Thesis about all these Goings On.
There actually was an Intermission. The Surprise was How Many Came Back!
The Ordinarily Outstanding Joe Mantello staged, with Scott Pask providing Motel Scraps…
Without Boris Pasternak, Would Dr. Zhivago Ever Have Found His Singing Voice?
Acres of Russian History rush past Broadway Audiences at the Broadway Theatre, thanks to the Black & White Dates flashed onto Overhead Screens
White Guards? Red Guards?
Kautsky? Kerensky? Trotsky? Tolstoy?
You really do Need a Scorecard to keep up with the Rapidly Unrolling Chain of Events that lead to the Final Formation of the Stalinist Soviets…
Along the Route of March, we pause now & then so Lara & Dr. Zhivago can sing some songs suggested by the famed Pasternak Novel.
Amazing--considering the Dates Involved--that Some of the Score sounds rather like Recycled Rodgers & Hammerstein!
Those who have already Read the Book will know that Dr. Zhivago is not only a Medical Doctor, but also one of Modern Russia’s Greatest Poets: certainly Something to Sing About!
As staged by Des McAnuff & designed by Michel Scott Mitchell [Settings], Paul Tazewell [Costumes], Howell Binkley [Lighting], & Sean Nieuwenhuis [Videos & Projections], this Visually Complicated Production is often at its most interesting when Historic Russian Scenes are Silhouetted in the Upstage Area.
As Musicalised by Michael Weller [Book], Lucy Simon [Score], & Michael Korie & Amy Powers [Lyrics], Dr. Zhivago isn’t so much about the Triumph of the Russki Revolution over the Corruption of the Romanov Regime, as it is about the more or less Doomed Love of Yuri Zhivago [Tam Mutu] & Lara Guiashar [Kelli Barrett], who are unfortunately Married to Others…
It is also Unfortunate that--in Classic Russian Architecture of the 19th Century--Corinthian Columns, which tend to scoot around a lot in this show, are always set off by Walls of a Dark Forest Green.
This makes an already fairly dark Stage Picture seem even more Gloomy & Depressing.
Of course, Siberia is really Nothing to Sing About!
Dr. Zhivago is lucky that Lara is married to the Murderous Bolshevik, Strelnikov [an electrifying Paul Alexander Nolan].
This Strange Strained Relationship helps him Stay Alive, even when the Bolshies are hanging Doomed Poets--whose Slavic Verses & Flowery Sentiments do not Measure Up to the New Standards of Soviet Socialist Realism.
With the Ordained Ascension of Vald Putin--without even a Shred of Leninist Ideology or Stalinist Political Boilerplate--it may seem to Broadway Audiences that both Lara & Dr. Zhivago Lived in Vain…
Nonetheless--as Choreographed by Kelly Devine--the Zhivago Cast does move briskly & purposefully about the Broadway Stage of the Broadway Theatre!
At least Dr. Zhivago is not as Long in Performance as was the Cinema Version of War & Peace--which ran for Four Plus Hours when I saw it in Paris, on the Champs Elysées, way back in 1956…
Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s Die Besuch der Alten Dame-- Transformed into a Kander & Ebb Musical--Revisits Broadway!
If you already Knew Nothing about Post War Swiss Pessimism, about Friedrich Dürrenmatt, or about the Original Text of Die Besuch der Alten Dame, you could be Forgiven for also Not Knowing what this Bitterly Satiric Play was Originally All About.
But, as Redone at the Lyceum Theatre--as an Artfully Designed Staged Musical--all the Original Meaning & Satirical Intent has been drained out of it.
Friedrich Dürrenmatt--along with the Equally Sardonic Swiss Playwright Max Frisch--had Little Respect for the Traditional Swiss Virtues of Numbered Bank Accounts & Rigid Neutrality during the Nazi Holocaust that was going on Right Next Door
So it is, when the Fabulously Rich Claire Zachanassian returns to a Shabby Swiss Spa Town--where she grew up & was reviled & expelled, betrayed by her Local Lover, now a Beloved Merchant--the Upright Citizens are eager to accept Her Offer of Millions & Millions, if only they will give her the Terminal Revenge she has come to claim, Silver Mounted Casket at her side.
In Dürrenmatt’s Original Text, this Unfortunately Doomed Man, Anton Schell, is increasingly horrified as his Friends & Neighbors denude his Shop, buying freely with Claire’s Cash.
He knows it is Only a Matter of Time before someone plunges in the Fatal Knife…
Now--thanks to the Adaptive Skills of Terrence McNally & the Melodic Tunes of John Kander & the Lilting Lyrics of Fred Ebb--The Visit has been transformed into a kind of Mystical Musical Romantic Tragedy, with Llngering Shadows & the Young Lovers reborn in Snow White Garments on an Elegant Revolving Coffin.
But when The Visit was first presented on Broadway--as a Satiric Drama, many, many Years Ago--it starred Broadway’s Beloved Alfred Lunt & Lynn Fontanne, who played it for all the Hate, Spite, Bile, Viciousness, Fear, & Terror that are lurking inside Dürrenmatt’s Poisonous Plot.
This Time Out--with the Musical Charms of Kander & Ebb--it has become a Starring Vehicle for the Triumphal Return to Broadway of the Indomitable Chita Rivera, resplendent in the Designs of Ann Hould Ward.
Chita/Claire is still accompanied by those two White Faced Eunuch Factotums & that Expressionistically Odd Major Domo that Dürrenmatt had Originally Imagined.
Colleagues who had never seen the Original Play--even in Translation, rather than in the Original Swiss/German--were metaphorically Blown Away by Scott Pask’s Haunting Production, as well as by the Vision of Chita, all in White, all ready for a Deadly Revenge…
They also responded to the Graceful Choreography of Graciela Daniele & the Stark Staging of John Doyle.
Truth to Tell, I was initially also Blown Away by the Looming Image of what looked like a Cloud Shrouded Curved Section of the Paris Metro Elevated.
In Silhouette, it was both Romantic & Terrifying, but when Dimly Illuminated, it proved to be only a Decaying Remnant of what must once have been a Handsome Art Nouveau Spa Colonnade…
You want a Real Operatic Version of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s Die Besuch der Alten Dame?
Google for German Composer Gottfried Von Einem’s The Visit.
Drone Killings in Nevada Desert: Soul Killing in Service of What?
Flight Ready Anne Hathaway knows how to Obey Orders, but Killing America’s Enemies in the Middle East from the Safe Range of a Sandy Patch of the Far West isn’t quite what She Signed Up For…
An American Drone killed an American Hostage only days before I saw Anne Hathaway’s remarkably Muscular Performance as One of Our Troops doing the Remote Control Killings.
Thanks to Joe Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park, we know that Anne Hathaway can sing a Bardic Song with the Best of Them.
But who knew that she is also a Gut Wrenching Realist, more Manly & Action Ready than most Men?
Not only is Hathaway an All Stops Out Drone Pilot--leading to a Major Burn Out--but she is also a Not So Silent Witness to the Devastating Fall Out suffered by those of Our Troops who are involved in Our Never Ending Middle Eastern Wars.
But, in addition to Hathaway in Action, Public Theatre Audiences are treated to State of the Art Projection & Lighting Programs!
Seldom has Desert Sand been so Innovatively Illuminated, including Backwall Mirrorings & Glowing Ground Plans of Drone Targets.
Awards Nominations for Riccardo Hernandez [Scenic Design], Christopher Akerlind [Lighting Design], & Peter Negrini [Projection Design].
Julie Taymor has moved on from that Broadway Spiderman Misfire: Grounded provides a more Modest Launching Pad. Her Musical Mate, Elliot Goldenthal, has provided both "Original Music" & "Soundscapes."
Grounded was first produced--in a "Rolling World Premiere’--by the SF Playhouse, based in SF; the Borderlands Theatre, based in Arizona, & the Unicorn Theatre, based somewhere in Unicorn Free Missouri.
This Shattering Exposé is part of the National New Play Network’s Continued Life Program.
That’s a Lot of Semantic Rhetoric for One Drone Payload…
But Just Imagine!
Drone Pilots operate out of Creech & Nellis AFBs, so they can Cool Off in Las Vegas, somewhat to the South of the Killing Fields
Once Upon a Time, I taught Mormons in Las Vegas, but when I went up to see Creech & some White Sands, I was surprised to find a Sign that Memorialized the Training there of Saudi Arabian Airmen!
Makes You Stop & Think…
At The Duke on 42nd Street: John Ford’s ‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE [*****]
Red Bull Fills the Parmesan Stage with Dead Actors: Incest & Revenge Are Strange Bed Fellows!
Considering the Shakespearean Quality of John Ford’s Poetic Passions in ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, it is Unfortunate that this Revengers Tragedy is not often performed.
Certainly it will not be performed anytime soon--in Manhattan or in Las Vegas--with the Passion & Pageantry that Red Bull brings to this Quixotic Tale of a Brother/Sister Version of Romeo & Juliet.
Red Bull is better known as an Energy Drink, but its Namesake Theatre Ensemble is also very much Into Energy.
If you see this Stunning Staging, you might well want to take along some Insulin to avert an Energy Overdose.
Not that this Body Strewn Vision of Renaissance Parma is Sugar Sweet, but it certainly Packs a Wallop.
The Passionate Giovanni [a handsome & intense Matthew Amendt] is madly in love with his Beautiful Sister, Annabella [a radiant Amelia Pedlow].
But, in Priest Ridden Parma, they will have to marry Suitable Non Relatives…
As Magisterially Mounted by Director Jesse Berger, No Detail of John Ford’s Complex Plot is Neglected.
There is Mockery, Mayhem, Madness, & Mortality enough to Glut even the Most Thirsty Gullet
What’s More: You will get to see such Manhattan Living Legends as Rocco Sisto & Everett Quinton, who is now a Long Way Off from Charles Ludlam & the Playhouse of the Ridiculous…
Figaros Hochzeit or Le Nozze di Figaro: A Mozartian Masterpiece by Whatever National Name!
Mozart himself conducted the World Premiere of Figaro at the Burg Theater in Vienna.
This delightful Viennese Confection went on to Conquer the Opera World.
But it soon became Visually Overloaded with Baroque Windows & Rococo Decors, plus Acres of Sculpted Plaster & Gold Leaf Everywhere…
Finally, at the Salzburg Festival, it achieved its Apotheosis of Decoration.
So, what an Amazement to savor an Elegantly Simple Staging of Marriage, passionately performed by Opera Ready Juilliard Talents.
Figaro began his Fictional & Stage Life as The Barber of Seville, but his Impending Marriage is to take place--unless the Randy Count Almaviva can prevent it--on a Country Estate, where the Count is the Absolute Master.
The Almost Bare Bones Designs of the Juilliard Staging preserve the 18th Century Outlines of Baronial Elegance, but they also help Focus Attention on the Embattled Characters & the Strange Situations in which Mozart’s Ingenious Librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte has placed them.
Ex Cathedra Confession: I have seen Le Nozze di Figaro, Figaros Hochzeit, & The Marriage of Figaro in most of the Major Opera Houses of Europe & The Americas, but the Juilliard Figaro was The Best!
Unfortunately, as usual, there were Only Three Performances of this Masterful Performance of one of the World’s Musical Masterworks.
Young Musical Talents from all over the Known World--the Stars of Tomorrow!--seem to have been Enlisted for this Hilarious, if Rocky Romp, through the Rural Iberian Landscape. You can check out their Names & Bios online…
Nonetheless, Rosina’s Heart Broken Dove Sono was one of the Most Moving that I’ve ever Heard--or Seen. Thank You, Alexandra Razskazoff!
Many, Many Thanks also to Stage Director Stephen Wadsworth, Choreographer Daniel Pelzig, & Conductor Gary Thor Wedow.
As a Long Ago Techie, I also Much Admire the Design Savvy of Charlie Corcoran [Settings], Camille Assaf [Costumes], & David Lander [Lighting].
Among the Fine Print Credits was a Nod to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Did Juilliard borrow a Costume? Or a Wig…
At The Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row: Agatha Christie’s THE UNEXPECTED GUEST [****]
It Was a Dark & Foggy Night in South Wales, When a Murder Most Foul Occurred Near the Bristol Channel…
Audience Members were given Yellow Slips in their TBTB Programs so they could Fill in the Blank: I believe that the Murderer is…
Because this Handsomely Mounted Production was Vintage Christie, it took almost an Eternity to Fill in the Blanks in the Vintage Plotting, before any real Stage Action could commence.
I had seen The Unexpected Guest centuries ago in London’s West End, where Christie’s The Mouse Trap threatened to Run Forever.
As TBTB’s Valiant Thespians concentrated on Getting the Plot Going, I feared that this might be--not Christie’s Death on The Nile, but Death on The Aisle…
Fortunately, All Onstage honored both Christie & their Admiring Audience, although some Wound Up Performers were in danger of Acting, instead of Being.
Just in case you cannot stand the Strain of Waiting, until you can get down to the Clurman Theatre, on Theatre Row, that Crazy Kid--who got into the Gun Cabinet & was waving that Potential Murder Weapon wildly around--didn’t kill the Drunken & Abusive Gun Fanatic Richard Warwick, who was His Brother, an Ammo Lover who had often threatened to send him off to a Home where they know How To Deal with Crazies.
No, Indeed! It was Someone Else, for Agatha Christie dearly loved to strew her Literarily Polite Plots with enough Red Herrings to provide a Fish Feast.
Aside from being a Major Gun Lover--as well as a Big Game Safari Veteran--the Cruel & Despicable Richard Warwick liked to sit by the French Windows in his Wheelchair & Shoot any Stray Bird, Squirrel, or Cat that ambled up the Country Lane.
In fact, Richard Warwick loved Shooting for Sport so much that his Luxuriously Appointed Sitting Room was festooned with the Severed Heads of Various Horned Beasts…
It was clear from the Stage Picture--as well as from the Stagey Dialogue--that Richard Warwick was Wheelchair Bound with No Hope of Divine Reprieve.
But Richard Warwick was not the Only Character Onstage who was Wheelchair Bound…
In fact, All of the TBTB Ensemble are Disabled/Handicapped in some way or other.
As I was sitting down front--trying to keep my Handicapped Cane out of the way of the Other Handicapped Oldies--I had to Admire the Courage & Dedication of these Theatre Focused Actors, who obviously Love the Theatre so very much that they do not want to sit back & watch Others Do It.
TBTB is an Anagram for Theatre Breaking Through Barriers.
Only when I returned Home--but not to one of those Homes that Richard Warwick envisioned for his Baby Brother--did I realize that I already knew TBTB when it was Theatre By The Blind.
Way back, when I was Interviewing & Reporting for Theatre Crafts, After Dark, & The Educational Theatre Journal, I made a point of recording the Varied Theatre Activities of the Theatre of the Deaf, as well as of TBTB.
Kudos for the Entire Cast, with a Period Interiors Nod to Bert Scott, Amanda Jenks, & Charles Bowden--who must have fun finding all those Stuffed Heads…
The Unexpected Guest was artfully staged by Victoria Rauch Lichterman.
Can this be the Vikki Lichterman I once knew, years ago, at Brooklyn College?
Yes! Yes! She was there in the Glory Years of the Department of Speech & Theatre.
Brooklyn College was then widely regarded as "One of the Best Small Colleges in the Country."
It was also then Tuition Free: No Financial Handicaps…
Vintage Larry, Distilled from Seinfeld & Curb Your Enthusiasm-- But Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea, Considering the Strong Language & the Flat Out Mugging Fest…
Fuck, Cunt, Dick, Asshole, Penis, Shit…
There Was a Time on Broadway when Polite Audiences could expect fairly Polite Comedy from their Matinée Favorites.
Katherine Cornell was Not Much of a Comedienne, but you would never have heard her say Asshole to a Dramatic Adversary…
Alfred Lunt & Lynn Fontanne were a Famed Comedy Duo, but you would never have heard Alfred call Lynn a Cunt, even though he was a Closeted Gay & might have had Cause during Family Spats.
Larry David & his Riotous Cast of Certifiable Crazies make a Death in the Family an Occasion of Not So Innocent Merriment, with Lethal Insults & Definitive Put Downs the Order of the Day.
Teaching Theatre Students in Brooklyn College Evenings & Going to the Theatre somehow prevented me from exploring Seinfeld in depth or even seeing One Installment of Curb Your Enthusiasm, so I was not among those David Fanatics who were Laughing Their Heads Off at the Cort Theatre.
The Crammed Jam Packed Auditorium resounded repeatedly to Gusty Guffaws & Snorts of Snarky Laughter.
Why Not? Yiddish Second Avenue Comedy is Long Dead, but Larry David Brings It Back to Hilarious Life!
What’s Not to Like about a Dynamite Cast featuring Jane Houdyshell, Glenn Headly, Rosie Perez, Marylouise Burke, Jerry Adler, & Louis J. Stadlen?
Only Jackie Mason was missing…
There were State of the Art Hospital Interiors, as well as State of the Art Kitchens & Living Rooms, thanks to Todd Rosenthal, not to Overlook the Generally Fashionable Costumes of Ann Roth!
From her Artistic Director Post at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, Anna D. Shapiro again descended on Broadway--most recently seen here with This Is Our Youth, but long remembered for her staging of Motherf**ker with The Hat…
Obviously, Larry David has His Loving Public--they were Out in Force at the Cort--but his Meretricious Mugging was Too Much for Me.
He Milked every Grimace, every Frantic Hand Waving, every Shard of a Bad Taste Joke, until all the Comedic Cows were in Danger of Running Dry.
Also, Old Fashioned Fart that I am, I still do not find Fantastically Funny a Litany of Fuck, Cunt, Dick, Asshole, Penis, Shit…
As for Old Jews dying in Hospital Beds, I still prefer The Lyons, with Linda Lavin planning New Décors at Bedside, waiting for her Dying Hubby to Give Up the Ghost.
Forget About Fanciful Fantasy, Menacing Monsters, & Magical Masonry--Mozart Updated at MSM!
President Obama! Please Call a Halt to all those North Atlantic Trade Agreements!
Do Not Permit Any More Imports of Trendy Post Modern German Opera Stagings!
Actually, the Bizarre & Misfired Magic Flute up at MSM was not borrowed from Munich, Berlin, or Frankfurt--or even Salzburg--where Avant Garde Stage Directors & Ambitious Stage Designers now Seek to Subvert the Librettos & Scores of both Verdi & Wagner with New Visual Landscapes & even New Plottings that are often Agonizingly Alien to Old Opera Hands.
Not only is the Hexagramic Stage Framework of MSM’s Modernized Mozart Dark & Heavy, but the Potential Stage Magic--including those Trials by Fire & Water--is Scanted, Subverted…
Instead of a Fire Breathing Dragon or some similar Stage Monster, Stage Director Jay Lesenger offers up a Shiny Silver Robot, who is OK, but not Life Threatening.
As for those Quasi Masonic Wisdom Seekers in Sarastro’s Sacred Temple--which is Nothing To Wonder At--they look like the Dresden or Hamburg Rotary Club in Similar Suits at their Annual Get Together, assembled to Award Scholarships to Tamino & Pamina Look Alikes.
Modern Dress does not really suit Mozartian Magic: It reduces it to the Ordinary, the Banal, the Boring.
But All Was Not Lost: As the Queen of the Night, Jane McIntyre was Thrilling in her Voice Defying Major Aria.
This is Fiendishly Difficult: You do not even consider staging Magic Flute unless you have a Consummate Queen!
Mozart not only had his Star Flaming Queen, but he wrote that Magical Midnight Music with Caterina’s Magical Vocal Talents in mind.
Fortunately--as One Always Expects at MSM’s Spring Opera Stagings--both Student Soloists & Choristers were Excellent.
What Manny Schikaneder--Mozart’s Librettist & Stage Clown Papageno for the Magic Flute Premiere at Vienna’s Theater auf der Weiden--may have thought of a Magic Glockenspiel transformed into a Colored Light Blinking Silver Box is Anyone’s Guess…
But Schikaneder may well have been Astonished at the Through the Audience & All Over the Stage Rompings of the Tall Gangly Papageno of Paull Anthony Keightley.
For The Record: Stage Director Jay Lesenger--now retiring from his Long time Direction of the Chautauqua Opera--has Important Opera Staging Credits--including the [Now Defunct] New York City Opera, as well as in Atlanta, New Orleans, San Diego, Norway, & a Madama Butterfly for the Volkstheater Rostock.
[Your Roving Arts Reporter must be One of the Very Few NYC Based Music Critics who has ever been to Medieval Rostock, Eastward from Hamburg on the Lonely Baltic Sea.]
Bill Clinton Is a Split Personality! Hillary Holds The Fort! Kenneth Starr likes S&M! Monica Sings!
For those Young Americans who were, in fact, Too Young to have lived through White Water Gate, Trooper Gate, Travel Gate, Flowers Gate, Health Care Gate, & Monica Gate, Clinton: The Musical may well seem a Musical Mystery.
Who Were These People? Kenneth Starr? Monica Lewinsky? Linda Tripp? Trent Lott? Newt Gingrich?
Quite aside from the Two Bill Clintons--one of whom is the Former President’s Itchy ID, called Billy--the Central Character really seems to be Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Were Hillary not now seen as the Front Runner--in a Field of No Other Contestants--for the Democratic Nomination for the Presidency of the United States, this Hilarious New Political Musical would not Exist.
But, She Is & It Does…
For those Dyed in the Wool Democrats who lived through Bill Clinton’s Impeachment--William Jefferson Clinton may well have Lied To Congress!--this Lively & Colorfully Choreographed Show may Bring Back Memories!
But it’s not exactly Déjà Vu all over again, for at the time when Monica’s Semen Stained Blue Dress was a Center of Republican Attention & Loathing, the Clinton Sex & Real Estate Scandals were Nothing to Sing About…
Now, however, The Clintonian Saga returns, reworked as a Pre Election Teaser & Treat.
If it’s not Too Late for Awards Nominations, Director/Choreographer Dan Knechtges certainly deserves a Nod: His Choreography is a Wonder of Dancing Satire: Red White & Blue, through & through.
The Entire Ensemble should merit a Group Award for being Fast Change Artists, as well.
One Thing Is Clear: The On Stage Hillary Really Loves President Bill, even if his Sexual Alter Ego, Silly Billy, is a Bit of a Pill…
Beowulf Boritt has done Wonders with a Central Revolving Stage, flanked by Portraits of Former Presidents who had Affairs, augmented by a Come to Life Eleanor Roosevelt who has some Good Advice for Hillary.
This is Not a Show for Tin Hat Tea Partiers…
But if you are Looking for a Good Time, Bill, Hill, Ken, & Monica have Something to Show You!
Copyright © Glenn Loney 20015. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney Arts Rambles." Reproduction rights please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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