Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Suddenly Last Summer

Mrs Venable and Miss Holly rule the stage in a battle of wills at the Laura Pells Theater on West 46th. Blythe Danner and Carla Gugino weave Tennessee Williams' scandalous tale originally written in the early 20th century.

Violet and Sebastian - mother and son. What dark secret does this relationship hold? Why will Violet, the very rich and protective mother, go to the extreme of sending her niece to a mental hospital for a lobotomy?

Of course the answer lies in the fact that Sebastian was gay. His mother hid the secret all his life, but let him live his life in secret at home and through their worldly travels. But when he travels with his cousin Catherine instead of his mother this past summer things unravel. He's not able to deal in the same way he would have under the protective wing of his mother and ultimately that change is the cause of his horrific death on the street while traveling. The elderly Violet refuses to let this story get out and ruin her son's (and her) reputation, but her niece is "blabbing" the story all around. Violet's remedy is to seek out (and bribe) a doctor - (played rather stiffly by Gale Harold) who has a new procedure - the Lobotomy - to shut her up.

We learn about all the characters in Act I, and in Act II, when the doctor arrives, we ultimately hear the long, dramatic story of this past summer's vacation taken by Sebastian and Catherine in a poetic, dramatic, and poignant monologue. The crescendo, highlighted perfectly by a dramatic lighting effect, is, of course, the horrible death of Sebastian.

In what could only have been a shocking ending in its day - is the doctor's simple admission that perhaps the whole story could indeed be true, that Catherine is indeed not crazy, and not a candidate for the extreme procedure. (Lights Out).

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Antoinette Perry - get ready for this one! Company - Best Revival of a Musical- 2007 Season!! Hands down, a top notch performance all around. Raul Esparza - Best Actor in a Musical. A classy, elegant, sophisticated and entertaining look at marital bliss (and not so bliss) through the eyes of a friend and bachelor.

John Doyle - fresh off another Sondheim piece - Sweeney Todd - has pulled off another total re-creation of a musical. Actors on stage with musical instruments - this time a shiny black grand piano center stage with all the complementing instruments carried by the cast. It's similar in concept, but different enough in delivery and content from to be fresh. Doyle didn't have to sacrifice (as he did in Sweeney) any key stage elements in this already "concert-like, ensemble piece.

Sondheim's music is fast-paced, witty, often discordant (lots of sharps and flats!) and it's wordy and full of story. Bobby's (Raul Esparza) vocal performance could not have been better. He finally blossoms at the end of the story, symbolically by taking up an instrument for the first time and singing the 11 O'clock number - "Being Alive" like no one I've ever heard before.

Just as you would suspect, it's the same music, but all done with a unique flair - never sounding like the original - just like a pop star who re-makes an old cover tune. Joanne puts a clever spin on "The Ladies Who Lunch" (by the way - i didn't mention who was actually sitting next to me in the audience - none other than Elaine Stritch, the original Joanne!). Amy flawlessly fired off "Getting Married Today" (it's sung in triple time- meaning it sounds like the disclaimer at the end of a car advertisement). Robert and the entire cast ushers in Act II with a rousing rendition of "Side by Side" - showcasing their vocal, instrumental, dancing, and acting abilities!

Despite it's 1970's origins- you'd never know it in this performance. It's relevant and current and fresh - get your running shoes on... cause this one's a "run don't walk" over at the Ethel Barrymore Theater on West 47th! I think Miss Perry is going to like this one next July!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Big Voice: God or Merman?

Oh boy, this one really is a cocktail party story - best left to be told over 3 or 4 (or maybe more) gin and tonics.

Catholic boy from Brooklyn who thinks he should be a priest - or maybe in musical theater like his idol (Ethel Merman!) either way - he's gay - meets southern baptist boy who is not sure there are actually any other boys who feels like he does (read, gay). They meet on a cruise ship (um, yes) and move in together for 20 some odd- years.

The good times... and bad times (and there are plenty) ... but they're here... well, at least until the temple they have temporarily taken over on 47th street realizes they aren't getting an audience and hence any profits!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Mimi Le Duck

Eartha Kitt still has that razzle dazzle!! Can you believe it? She's still got the legs, the eyes - and of course that cat-woman purr- grrrrr!

This is a rather contrived story of a frustrated Mormon housewife, Miriam (later to be known as Mimi) from Ketchum, Idaho who decides she needs to see life in color rather than her current black and white (read boring) version. This is all brought about by the vision of Ernest Hemingway (Allen Fitzpatrick was a solid "old, yet dead, man). Once in Paris, she takes up residence in the same hotel that Ernest Hemingway had his visions. Well - of course what follows is a mad-cap adventure - where she meets an aging night club owner (Tom Aldridge) and gets a job as Mimi le Duck (the costume that goes along with this one is hysterical!); befriends an street cart -oyster shucker come cross dressing Miss Marple wanna-be detective (Robert DuSold); compares life stories with another "street artist" (Candy Buckley); and, of course, mixes it up with the lady of the house, herself, Madame Vallet (Eartha!).

What was supposed to be 2 hrs and 20 minutes turned out to be a little under 2. Thank God they cut some dialogue and a song or two. This is another one that should be 90 or 100 minutes - no intermission. Mr. Director - do some more tightening here. Actually, the stage and scenery was coordinated very nicely. With little room in the wings, they used every inch of the stage to block out the scenes and set changes. And last but not least, the music - I wish we could have seen the live orchestra! Not even a peak at the end... but Brian Feinstien's music was delicious and quite appropriate for the story. Kudos!

Not sure that Mimi will be a candidate for a Broadway Transfer - but certainly entertaining and worth the TDF ticket price of $25 bucks just to sit in the 2nd row and watch the legend Eartha Kitt draw that glamorous red dress up and show you her fabulous legs and purr at you!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The American Pilot

A country torn up by a long civil war - somewhere, you are led to believe, in the middle east. A small village. The local tribe of freedom fighters. A local farmer and his family just looking to eek out a living. In crashes an American Pilot and the whole place explodes - brimming with hope, with fear, and possibilities.
The story was well told on a small intimate stage at City Center (Manhattan Theater Company). I'm not one for these political plays. You can only imagine how this one ends. The Americans rescue one of their own in the grand finale erasing all the hope and innocence that may have once existed.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

The Vertical Hour

David Hare opened his new play, The Vertical Hour, directly on Broadway. That takes guts... and talent. Casting Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy sealed the deal.

The title of the play comes from the world of combat medicine and refers to the period directly after a disaster where one can be of the most help. Well, this play is certainly not a disaster. This is one of those play written by a very intelligent man. Early on, Iraq was a quagmire. Julianne Moore's character felt she could help. She went to the White House to advise President Bush. She was a liberal voice of decent, but went to try and influence the course of events - at the time she felt it would do the most good -- The Vertical Hour. Hence the theme of the play is established. And rings true in many ways in the several other relationships in the course of the play.

The play is about complex individuals. And it draws parallels to government and politics. It deals with how parents meddle in their children's lives; how a teacher gets drawn into her students' lives; and need you guess - how a government meddles in foreign affairs (i.e. Iraq).

Seems there are quite a few political play on Broadway this year. More than ever before. But you have to imagine it was bound to happen with the current world political environment.

I'm a sucker for a play with meaning, depth, and intelligence. At the same time, I know i didn't "get" probably half of what David Hare would intend me to have gotten. But that's OK - what i did get was that Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy were magical on stage. The intrigue and the tension were palpable. The dialogue, flawless. You feel the sense of attraction, of intellect and desire. I do think that Julianne needs to adjust to stage acting a bit, however. (and i did see it on the it's first preview - the world premire). With time, let's hope she moves into a more comfortable place because she does seem to fit the character quite nicely.

Kudos to David Hare for a magnificent (and intelligent) evening of theater.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Regrets Only

Christine Baranski and George Grizzard - what a delight! This one came out of left field - really it did. Not the part about the two leads being delightful - that I assumed was going to be the case. It was the part about how if all the gays in New York City went on strike - it would cripple the city!

Ok - so that might actually not happen, but the message behind the farce is that there are gay people everywhere - and of all kinds. And some of them could be your very best friends.

What could be more delightful than Christine Baranski, George Grizzard and Jackie Hoffman (you'll know her from Hairspray and Kissing Jessica Stein) in an upper-crusty comedy about Manhattan, an wedding, and the gays! Eat your heart out Cybil.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

The Little Dog Laughed

One last Taboo - who's gay in Hollywood - or at least - who's willing to admit it?! This smash hit off Broadway transfer seems to be right at home on Broadway. 

Written by Douglas Carter Beane, the show is a witty, biting commentary on one of the last taboos in Hollywood today.

Julie White steals the show as the overbearing, neurotic, power-broker agent, Diane, for the not yet out of the closet actor, Mitchell - played by Thom Everett Scott. Johnny Galecki plays his hot little rent-boy (plenty of shirt off scenes and one full frontal to verify this all around!) but with a twist - he and Mitchell fall for each other - So much so that Mitchell wants to come out of the closet! But how can he do so without hurting his Hollywood acting career?! Herein lies the dilemma.

Oh yeah - another twist - the rent-boy's girlfriend gets pregnant... (girlfriend? yes!)... But here's the catch - the agent must save the day! And does she ever with her non-stop energy and drive - not to mention her omni-present cell phone!

Done in little vignettes, the action could be a bit faster - but I think that will come as they grow into their new cast members... and new home at the Cort Theater.

OK - did I say enough good things about dreamy-boy Johnny to warrant a date?! (Somehow, I doubt it.).

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Heartbreak House

You have to know George Bernard Shaw, i guess. Well, I didn't. So I spent the entire act 1 and some of act 2 trying to figure out what was going on!

You really should read the following article before attending. http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117931831.html?categoryid=33&cs=1

After you do - you will be much more informed. As far as performances go - this was top notch! Swoozie Kurtz was a gem - sarcastic, hilarious, never missed a beat. Philliip Bosco, who sometimes is hit-and-miss, was firmly the commanding patriarch of the house.

In the Roundabout tradition, the sets and lighting were magnificant. Top notch on Broadway as usual. Just read the review first!! Be informed!

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

The Coast of Utopia - Voyage

It's big. It's Complicated. Russian history on broadway. Only Tom Stoppard could pull this off. 'Tis an agressive production of Lincoln Center Theater. Voyage is part 1 of 3 parts. 3 hours each - oh my. Packed with stars, but will it pull the audience in? I doubt it will. Theater afficianados, yes, but beyond that, i doubt. There are plenty of stand-out performances, but overall, too complex for this theater-goer.

 The verdict is still out, but I hold little hope that it will catch much more of my attention.