title

title

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Skylight

I've only seen one other British playwright David Hare play, The Vertical Hour, and ironically it stared the same leading man.  This must mean something.  This play, Skylight, like the last one, is also basically a 2 hander.  Last time around it was Julianne Moore who graced the stage with Bill Nighy.  This time it is Carey Mulligan.

Mr. Nighy is certainly a consummate actor, a master of his craft, a blindingly brilliant leading man. This time around - no change to that description.  Ms. Mulligan was equally powerful and together they grab the audience (and each other) by the balls and do not let go for a good 2+ hours (including a real fresh cooked meal on stage!).

My only concern with this play is the interest factor.  It is great, high drama.  It's acting at its finest.  But is the story compelling enough to hold the American audience's attention?  Being a British playwright, Mr. Hare imbues the script with excessive language.  On and on he goes in classic British style.  Now, don't get me wrong, it certainly is high-brow and intelligent.  It's just that the American audience is different than the British audience.  I'm sure that Mr. Nighy's draw will pull in the American audiences, but I'm not so clear they will be walking out as happy as they were going in with their $100 ticket.  Mr. Nighy likely could read the phone book to many in the audience so my fears may just be overblown and I'm being too picky over British plays.

Interestingly enough, I was compelled after the show to discuss something about the show after all - the need to write in a part for the son, Tom Sergeant (Matthew Beard).  While he provided exposition at the beginning, the character really had limited meaning to the overall story.  This show really could have been a true 2 hander, but in the end I also admit that this part provides great exposure to a young talented actor - and Mr. Beard takes full advantage of the opportunity demonstrating his fine looks and skills.

If it's a compelling, exquisitely acted dramatic story you are looking for - look no further than Skylight now playing in a limited run over at the John Golden Theatre on West 45th.

(And Kudos to whoever is responsible for the throwback Playbill cover).

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hand to God

By my calculations this is the 5th worst play I've ever seen... And I've seen a LOT of plays.  Trust me.  What makes this the 5th worst and not the 3rd worst is the fact that #1,  I stayed past intermission (i considered leaving, yes) and #2, the tremendous talent of one single cast member.

This was probably the most childish, immature, and infantile play I have seen that ever graced a Broadway stage.  It seems to appeal to the kids (the ones that have enough money to afford a ticket, that is) that like to laugh at mean jokes and cheap lines about bad situations.  Throw in plenty of "fucks" and I guess you have a Williamsburg hipster hit (until the 500 of them who can afford tickets are all cycled through anyway).

























Why didn't I leave at intermission?  One simple answer - Steven Boyer.  His subtle and nuanced performance against his diametrically opposite sock puppet was outstanding.  He has not only mastered the art of puppetry, but he has mastered a 2 person dialogue all within himself!  His timing, facial expressions, puppet movement, and general skit-zo attitude on stage provided the much needed relief from the actual material of Robert Askins' awful new American play.

Were it not for Mr. Boyer, my evening would have ended after 60 minutes.  Because of him, I did get to see the other 60 and digest Mr. Askins' point of view about religion, society, good, and evil.  I get it, Mr. Atkins.  I actually don't disagree with the theory that evil and good were invented to "keep the masses in line" and that perhaps there is some truth to the idea that we were better off in some ways when we are all alone instead of bound together in society and groups. Food for thought yes.  But the material you chose to present on stage was a crude and crass way of getting your point across.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

It Shoulda Been You

Fasten your seat belts because David Hyde Pierce's directorial debut on Broadway is going to be a wild ride.  Prepare for hilarity, mix ups, and mayhem, in what just might be the funniest original musical on the boards right now.

Helmed by the incomparable Tyne Daly (Judy Steinberg) and the zany Harriet Harris (Georgette Howard), the show revolves around the marriage of their two children Rebecca Sternberg (Sierra Boggess) and Neil Patrick Harris' husband a.k.a David Burtka (Brian Howard).   Although below the title, the real workhorses of this show were Edward Hibbert (Albert, the wedding planner) and Lisa Howard (Jenny Steinberg) sister of the bride.

The show has a real heart and as it turns out, a real message too.  At the same time funny, and tender, Brian Hargrove's (husband of Mr. Pierce) book and lyrics bring this 105 minute, no-intermission show to a joyous celebration of life.  Barbara Anselmi's music is serviceable with a few high notes but we're not going to see any Tonys come out of this one.   But make no mistake, the comedic skills of the two leading ladies - Ms. Daly and Ms. Harris as well as those of Mr. Hibbert are most of what makes this show a smashing success.  The good looks of Ms. Boggess and Mr. Burtka are just icing on the cake.

One under-the-radar and certainly under-promoted stars on the bill is Josh Grisetti (Marty Kaufmann).  From his debut in the audience to his silky smooth voice and the emotional conclusion, Mr. Grisetti imbues a nebbish yet sexy and powerful persona in Marty.  His significance to the plot is paramount and by the end of the show you've changed your entire opinion of him.

This show has a lot of doors and a fair amount of physical comedy to which timing is the key.  It reminded me of Noises Off.  The entire cast works really hard and climbs and descends the two story set throughout the show.  I must assume they'll shave about 5-10 minutes off the show as they perfect the timing and tighten up the scene changes and the curtain call.  

Bravo Mr. Hargrove and Mr. Pierce.  You've got a top notch cast singing and acting their heart out every night to what I can only suspect will be to thunderous applause and a feel-good exit from the theatre.  Isn't that exactly how it shoulda be?  :-)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Audience

In what might be heralded as the show of the season, Dame Helen Mirren graces the stage at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre bringing Queen Elizabeth II to life right here on West 45th Street here in the USA.  What is not as evident is that this play is not only about her, it is about her Prime Ministers and how history and their personalities shaped her life.

This production is written and presents her in a very soft light.  Her youth interrupted by the duties of Royalty;  Her upbringing influenced by wars, world events, and the British culture.  Her steadfast dedication to Britain even today is a testament to her perseverance  and steadfast dedication to her calling.

Peter Morgan's book which has changed ever so slightly for the US audiences presents her story as told through glimpses into the private meetings she holds with her Prime Ministers.  Lightly narrated by Geoffrey Beavers (Equerry) to give it an "insider feeling", it was funny, touching, heartfelt and endearing and this portrait of the queen does not dwell on any one event or family tragedy. On the contrary - it flows as effortlessly as her on-stage costume changes throughout the long span of her reign.

Equally diverse were her prime ministers over the years as portrayed by fine actors who all looked and sounded like their real-life role models.  From Winston Churchill (Dakin Matthews) and Margaret Thatcher (Judith Ivey) to John Major (Dylan Baker) to Gordon Brown (Rod McLachlan) and Tony Blair all the way up to the current David Cameron  (both Rufus Wright)- they all brought a political bent and a touching tale to the stage to help frame the life and experiences of the queen.


Life apparently isn't all tea and crumpets and Dame Helen Mirren brings the majesty as well as the normalcy of having lived a life in a castle straight to the stage.

A first class production all around which looked, sounded, and felt like they spent King's ransom on it behind the scenes.  There are even two of the queens guards in full regalia standing at attention guarding the stage at intermission.  Run.  Don't Walk.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Posterity

Perhaps the only downside to writing and directing a play is that you don't get enough valuable feedback.  When Doug Wright penned this gem, he should have turned the direction over to someone else - to get that independent perspective - to achieve even greater greatness.  Instead what we ended up with is a play that is a bit too long and a bit over-played by the actors.  Indeed it has a great story - two artists engaged in a debate over  their legacy, what will they be remembered for.  In the case of one - art took precedence over family.  In the other, poverty, obscurity and principles seem to rule the day over actually doing work and getting paid.

Despite this - we find these two artists engaged in a battle of wills.  Who will succeed?  What will happen in the end?  I will give away nothing except to say that both actors give astonishingly brilliant performances.  It's a based on real people and real art so it's both educational and entertaining at the same time.

The ever-dashing Hamish Linklater (Gustav Vigeland) plays the young budding sculptor and the great John Noble (Henrik Ibsen) plays the world famous literary genius with aplomb.

The language in this play is smart.  Very smart.  Very intellectual.  Lofty, some might say.  The level of language was maintained throughout, but the effect was occasional drift and loss of content as you were trying to figure out what they were saying/meaning.  If nothing else, one could simply say this is a smart man's play.  If you're not, maybe think twice before going but at the prices at the Atlantic, think hard because seeing actors this fine for such a price is well worth it.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Heidi Chronicles

Wendy Wasserstein certainly had something to say.  An now her bold play is back on Broadway to the delight of feminists everywhere.  There's a sense that it is just as timely as ever.  Others think it's a tired episode re-hashed on stage that needs to be made current.  Heidi is not a technology genius.  She's not a power-hungry executive of 2006.  What she is is a feminist and what Ms. Wasserstein does so brilliantly and powerfully is to showcase a proud and true woman in her journey through the years.  What someone needs to have done, however, is to shorten the play.  Heidi and her companions always grade things.  Here i find it an A+ for effort, C- for brevity and content.

Elisabeth Moss (Heidi Holland) was an interesting choice for Heidi.  Not quite as dynamic as I would have expected her to be.  Kind of a doormat.  Moments of brilliant acting interlaid with a lot of hum-drum. Jason Biggs (Scoop Rosenbaum) is the dashingly successful boy she never married.  He's dashing alright.  But more of the hum-drum thing going on.  The bright spots in this production are Bryce Pinkham (Peter Patrone) as her gay foil for life and Tracee Chimo (Fran, Molly, Betsy, and April) as a multitude of funny, biting, bold, and hysterical characters that pass through Heidi's life.

The design of the set  (John Lee Beatty) is clever - a rotating platform that transforms the stage over the decades - sort of an homage to as time spins on and on.  By the size of the audience at the performance I attended the show is off to a slow start - which is surprising with the high profile names attached to the show.  Despite being too long, this show achieves a passing grade, it's just felt it's not quite as powerful or succinct as it could be.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Honeymoon in Vegas

In what might be one of his smoothest moves yet - the always slick and sexy Tony Danza seems to have been a part of bringing a show to Broadway starring.... well, none other than himself!  Honeymoon is delicious fun and a delightful escape from a cold and snowy New York City night.

Modeled after the movie, Andrew Bergman and Jason Robert Brown have penned an entertaining evening in the theatre.  Colorful, Vegas-style costumes and lighting fill the theater, while the large cast fills the stage with dancing, frivolity, and a whole lot of heart.   Don't get me wrong - the show ain't gonna win a Pulitzer price for literature or drama in any stretch of the imagination.  It's simply pure, unadulterated entertainment for just about 2 ½ hours.  And why didn't anyone think of this sooner - Vegas show girls, gangsters, a mad-cap plot, and a couple you know - right from the start - have got to end up together.

If Mr. Danza is selling the tickets with his name (and still handsome looks), the secret weapon this show wields is Rob McClure.  When he graced the stage in Chaplin, I believe it was the wise Newsday journalist who penned "Welcome to the show that's going to make you a Broadway star". And a star he is indeed.   Mr. McClure is both nebbish and infectiously adorable.  He can sing to the rafters, dance, and of course act the pants off this rom-com that graces the Nederlander stage 8 shows a week.  While another Tony nod wouldn't be out of bounds, this show may not carry as much weight being a silly movie remake and all but if talent rules the day, he's a shoe-in.

I had a slightly difficult time thinking that Brynn O'Malley (Betsy Nolan) was actually the age they claim in the show, but that minor detail aside, she was a terrifically talented on-stage pawn in the game of Mr. Danza and Mr. McClure.

With a fine ensemble cast including Raymond J. Lee, George Merrick, Zachary Prince, and Nancy Opel (Bea Singer), if this show can sustain the winter blues, it just might make a splash this spring in the fun department in what is already lining up to be strong in the musical department.

 This is a show that will tour well even if it doesn't succeed on Broadway.  Des Moines - look out!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Events

In what might be the most bizarre, unique, immersive, and interesting performance I have ever seen, The Events, an event all unto itself - part play, part documentary, part musical interlude - is unfolding down at the New York Theatre Workshop.   With text by David Greig, music by John Browne, and direction by Ramin Gray, this rather unusual show is beyond categorization.  It is vague, it is enthralling, and it is maddening all at the same time.

Generally speaking, a show without a linear plot line is tough to follow.  No difference here.  While the story is moving and evokes a sympathetic and emotional response you are always on your toes trying to figure out who the next character is and what they are trying tell you.

The two characters not have names - they are Neve McIntosh, a female minister of undetermined faith who has had the unfortunate fate of being involved in a mass murder's rampage and Clifford Samuel who plays a multitude of characters, the most significant being the young man who committed an unspeakable mass murderer.

The play is best categorized as experimental.  My take on this experiment, which employs a choir on stage (a different choir each night!) to add to the feeling of mystery and bewilderment, is that is it can't get out of its own way and is more confusing and frustrating than entertaining.  There's a potpourri of music and songs which do relate to the story unfolding but due to the non-linear story line that you need a road map to discern, it doesn't take too long before you are bored, frustrated, and lost.

While the idea is audacious, I fear that the endlessly rotating choir routine will only yield marginal success and the overall production will be universally panned by even the most liberal and generous audiences.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Brooklynite

There's a little slice of Brooklyn invading Manhattan at the Vineyard Theatre near Union Square in Manhattan.  Fear not.  The invasion is merely a riff on chemistry, superheroes and saving the world.  (Spoiler Alert:  Brooklyn survives).

It's an energetic, endearing, engaging, and enthusiastic undertaking by Michael Mayer and Peter Lerman.  Serious, not a chance.  Lively, funny, silly - all that and more.  Steven Hoggett's choreography  keeps the performers on their toes and moving all over the stage from beginning to end.  Mr. Mayer's additional role of director makes much sense.  He tells us his story, his way.

Helming the production is the deliciously nerdy and uber-talented Matt Doyle (Trey Swieskowski).  Supporting him are the suave and handsome Andrew Call (el Fuego) and the hunky Gerard Canonico (Kid Comet).  Stunning beauties Nicolette Robinson (Astrolass) and Grace McLean (Blue Nixie) both showcase their star powers and both blow the roof off the theater nightly.   Rounding out the cast is the stalwart Ann Harada (Professor Whitman) and powerhouse "goomba" Nick Cordero (Avenging Angelo).

There are plenty of riffs on Brooklyn - perhaps a few too many given the fact that nobody outside NYC would even know what the jokes mean (read a tour or regional theater is not in the cards for this one).  El Fuego awkwardly even says "I put the wick in Bushwick". (get it?  he's a flame and he's talking about a candle....ok).   The show runs 2 hours which isn't too bad, but I'd say maybe another 10-15 minutes could be shaved off the show to punch it up to the max.  Maybe cutting one too many of the ballads might work in this area.

It's not too easy to make a silly show based on superheroes work but this team has, at least the best they can given the subject matter.  In the end it's a love story,  a comic book like caper,  and a save-the-world story all rolled up in one.   For an off-Broadway, Not-For-Profit theater it's a bit of a coup to get such heavy talent to don capes and tights for 2 hours 8 shows a week (seeing Andrew Call in them and ripping open is shirt was worth the price of admission alone).  But he heart and soul of this show is inherently good and audiences will ultimately appreciate it - if not love and rave about it.  After all - saving Brooklyn is high on everyone's list - right?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Placebo

There's a new play over at Playwrights Horizons that in 100 minutes gets you thinking about life, decisions you make, and what those decisions are based on.  While the play is well acted by all 4 of its fine actors, it's writer hasn't put enough meat on the bone to make it compelling.  She leaves paths unexplored, ideas unexplained, and frankly leaves the audience wondering was there a story here or not?

For sure it's filled with the idea of decisions make and the facts and non-facts that lead us to those decisions.   Was it real?  I'm left to guess that she had to throw in the source of the term placebo from way back in time to the fake mourners that were hired to attend and cry at a funeral just to link her material to the idea.  By coincidence one of the characters is a medical researcher doing a trial of a new drug.  Her boyfriend is a PhD candidate at the very end of his thesis.  They have a strained and awkward relationship.  She has a weird but cute co-worker.  It's all very superficial and we never really get to know the characters in any depth yet we are made to sit 100 minutes to observe all these goings on with little to no explanations or conclusions to the entire affair.

Carrie Coon (Louise) is a magnificent neurotic and lost soul despite the fact that we never learn her character's name till about ¾ the way through the play.  William Jackson Harper (Jonathan) is a pro at the serious academic with a focused mind and serious outlook.  Alex Hurt (Tom) is superb at being aloof and weird all with a sexy and alluring edge.  Florence Lozano (Mary) might have the most fun role in the play as a research candidate in a sex pill study.

All thing considered, it's the lack of focus and depth in the material that damages this play's impact which does have a compelling baseline idea.  It provides food for thought but it's only a snack and you leave the theater wondering if you got the real thing or not.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard

Off-Broadway plays, in my humble opinion, will always be a more visceral, poignant, and biting experience than their bigger siblings on the Great White Way.  Why?  Because they can take more risks, be bolder, and cover those topics that a white-washed, milquetoast Broadway production with it's high-priced tickets in coldly vacuous theaters simply can't.   And I think I like it that way.  Nothing beats a riveting play in an intimate downtown black box theater - and Halley Feiffer's potent new work, I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard, hits this nail squarely on the head and sinks it deeply into the wood beam much like a bullet penetrating a skull.

Reed Birney for whom this fan has noting but praise, once again raises his game and stretches his boundaries with David, a bitter, opinionated, acerbic, highly damaged playwright who maintains what one might categorize as an, abusive, domineering, and permanently corrosive relationship with his impressionable young actress/daughter, Ella (Betty Gilpin).  Up to this point I would never have pegged Mr. Birney for such an aggressive, bear-it-all role but his performance here has placed him in an entirely new category in my book.  For his next role, I can clearly see him playing Roy Cohn in Tony Kushner's Angels in America.  If I were a Tony nominator (and this play were actually eligible), Mr. Birney would get my vote hands down.

In this intimate two-hander at the Atlantic Theater Company - Stage II, we find David clearly dominating the conversation around his Upper West Side kitchen table in Act I.  When the smoke clears for Act II (quite literally), we find a once shy and awkward Ella all grown up and coming into her own in a dark downtown black-box theater mostly holding one-sided conversations on her cell phone.  While she has blossomed in her looks and confidence, what we quickly learn through her actions is a simple, timeless, and chilling lesson  - Like Father - Like Daughter.  

Don't expect a happy reunion between these two in the end.  Like the old phrase goes - What comes around, goes around.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The World of Extreme Happiness

When a play succeeds in telling a political and social history of another people, you leave the theater with a deeper appreciation of the world around you.  Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig has penned a stinging yet touching portrait of China emerging from the old-world countryside into the big urban cities - dirty laundry and all.  

The World of Extreme Happiness is anything but happy in the end.  Jennifer Lim (Sunny) is the country-to-city dreamer of generation X.  She's navigating the tricky class structure and economics of how rapidly China is emerging onto the world stage as an economic powerhouse and provides us a poignant look at her life.  She and her brother (Telly Leung) Pete escape the country and their traditional old-world father (James Saito) to follow their dream of money, power, and the elusive happiness the modern city and the world around them purports to offer.  The tale that unfolds is not unexpected, but nonetheless shocking and sad in its stark reality.  

The play is accompanied by an insert in the playbill which describes the major themes of the play including China's one child policy, The Monkey King, coal mining in China, factories in Shenzhen, The Great Hall of the People, and the self-help craze taking root in the culture.  With a list like this you know the play is going to be smart.  While there are a lot of topics to cover, I believe the fine direction of Eric Ting has focused the play down to an intense and satisfying 95 minutes without intermission.  a wise choice for a very serious story.

In the end, this is a tale of how rapidly a generation has transformed a country and yet how much further they have to go to achieve that elusive dream of happiness and peace.  Theatre is one way to get this message out.  Only time will tell if it helps to change the world.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Between Riverside and Crazy

As its namesake suggests - Second Stage Theater has given a second chance to a first rate off-Broadway production, Stephen Adly Guirgis' Between Riverside and Crazy, originally seen last season at the Atlantic Theater just a few blocks south.

Aptly directed once again by Austin Pendleton and acted by almost all the original cast in it's debut production, this incarnation seems to pick up just where it left off - even growing and gelling as it ages.  The ingenious rotating disk set by Walt Spangler transforms a small stage into an entire apartment plus a rooftop off to the side.  I d not know the history of the production at the Atlantic but would assume, after experiencing it first hand (the second time around), that there was likely much interest in this work and the Atlantic just couldn't house it under its own roof.  I applaud 2ST for snatching it up and extending its life.

Pops (Stephen McKinley Henderson) helms the ensemble piece like a old pro.  The aging retired and injured black police officer navigates his tumultuous life (The Riverside part) after the force with his less-than-stable family situation (The crazy part) ever-present in his life.  Supporting his fine performance are Oswaldo (Victor Almanzar), Detective O'Connor (Elizabeth Canavan), Lieutenant Caro (Michael Rispoli), Church Lady (Liza Colon-Zayas), Lulu (Rosal Colon), and his son, Junior (Ron Cephas Jones).

Mr. Guirgis' characters are real and present.  Most are complex rather than one-dimensional.  The story he weaves is both specific and modern.  However, because Pops is complex, he is able to weave an air of mystery into Pops' motivations and actions which mostly succeeded.  If I had to point out one thing which may need to be improved it is the speed at which the ending comes out of nowhere and concludes the show.  Somehow this probably needs to be slowed down an backed up into the show with a bit more so the effect is smoother.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Delicate Balance

When I returned home from this play I was satiated.  However, In order to not feel like an idiot, I had to something I almost never do - read the other reviews.  Why you might ask?  I was both amazed and confounded at the same time.    This play is a doozy.  Acerbic dialogue.  Seemingly simple characters and one of the most absurd plots I have ever seen is such a seriously dramatic play.   After reading the various reviews, my soul was assuaged.  I had indeed not read too much into the plot and taken away, I think, what was intended despite the absurdity.  I think.

Agnes and Tobias (Glenn Close and John Lithgow) are the Queen and (albeit emasculated) King of their luxurious suburban domain.  They have their issues.  Indeed we get some insight into their issues.  Some of everything about them is a part of all of us.  They are uncomfortably familiar.   Claire (Lindsay Duncan) is the drunk sister living seemingly untethered to money and job for free at home (doesn't everyone have one of these?).  Julia (Martha Plimpton) is the clearly over-privileged 36yo daughter coming home after her 4th marriage has failed to inevitably butt heads with her parents.  Edna and Harry (Claire Higgins and Bob Balaban) are the neighbors/best friends who really throw the whole thing into the shitter when they arrive and announce that out of an undefined fear - they are moving in.  Literally moving in.  Queue to absurdity.

Acting was superb all around although because the story takes an absurd turn you are always reminded that this is acting.  How could this really be natural?  It's not.  But that issue aside (you'll have to take that one up with Mr. Albee) the plot moves along swiftly and with biting purpose a whole lot of love, disappointment, and plenty of vitriol all wrapped up in one 3 act play.

This play has been done before and this cast will inevitably be compared to the past.  While I don't think this cast surpasses the bar set by its predecessors, it certainly succeeds in living up to the high expectations of the author.

The single set by Santo Loquasto is grand, except for the placement that at least ⅓ of the audience can't see - the grand staircase  - as it is set too deep on stage left (hint: if you're in the orchestra, sit center of left).

Left itself is indeed a delicate balance.  Take care not to disturb it.  Your neighbors just might move in.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Into The Woods

With a blockbuster holiday movie on the horizon in just a few days, I am once again bewildered by Roundabout Theater Company's decisions to put plays on the stage.  But despite the much hyped anticipation of the movie, I hope this parallel stage show is going to get its due praise.  The Fiasco Theater Production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's epic musical as interpreted by this artful company is triumphant, theatrical, and simply entertainment at its best.

Fairy tales woven into discordant, staccato music, intelligent and witty lyrics, and artful staging simply dazzles in this two part musical theater lesson on life.  Subscribers and non-subscribers alike should head over to West 46th Street to the Laura Pels Theater to catch a performance by this supremely talented cast.  Ben Seinfeld and Jessie Austrian (Baker and His Wife) anchor the story of their quest for items to be given to Jennifer Mudge (The Witch) in exchange for a child.  They encounter a potpourri of fairy tale characters including Little Red Riding Hood (Emily Young), Cinderella (Clarire Karpen),  and Jack -think bean-stalk- (Patrick Mulryan).

The cast mostly does double and triple duty with characters all the while a few of them play instruments on stage and create sound-effects too!

The show is really a two part tale - is every so slightly long - and wraps up one story in Act I and tells a very different tale in Act II.  Overall - The show is clearly a deeply rich Sondheim work that has a lot to say - both musically and dramatically.

I wonder if anyone will mistake the stage musical for the movie.  If they did, I guarantee they would walk out happily ever-after!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cafe Society Swing

A rockin' live Jazz band on stage, cool-as-cats vocalists, and a wildly true story about the first un-segregated Jazz club in New York City are the ingredients in this impressive walk down memory lane at 59E59 Theaters this month.

Creator Alex Webb takes us on a tour of the talents and musicians who pass through the doors of this magical club at #1 Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village in the early 20th century when it wasn't fashionable for blacks and whites to mix, wasn't fashionable to be a liberal (read "red") but it was a time of incredible music and musicians to make their debuts and first grace the world's stage.

All that said, there are some adjustments I think need to be made here.  The musicians and vocalists are magnificent - embodying every character they are there to showcase - such as Billie Holiday, Sara Vaughn and many more.  Unfortunately, the show takes the form of a narrator walking you through the history (as a few different characters).  The script is thin and the actor who portrays this narrator is even thinner. It certainly detracted from the speed, the energy, and potency of the show.  Re-cast with a much more dynamic individual and punched up execution, I think this show as the potential to WOW audiences from beginning to end.

If you like Jazz and want to hear a little-known true story about an incredible club at an historic time in NYC - don't let the narrator issues sway your decision.  Most certainly you'll enjoy the musical performances and learn a tad bit too!

Musicians Alex Webb (Piano/Creator), Mimi Jones (Bass), Shirazette Tinnin (Drums), Allan Harris (Guitar), Camille Thurman (Tenor Sax), Bill Todd (Alto Sax/Clarinet) Benny Benack III (Trumpet), and Brent White (Trombone) - will all knock your socks off.

Vocalists Cyrille Aimee, Allan Harris, and Charenee Wade will transport you back in time with their silky smooth voices.