Photo by Don Kellogg

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

It has a cult following.  It's a mix of glam-rock and drag queen.  It's got heart and is rather in-your-face about the whole affair.

Neil Patrick Harris takes the reigns of this monster and reels it in for a big Broadway pay-off.  Hedwig (Harris), by all accounts is a mess, yet she manages to fill your heart with warmth and your belly with laughter. With his unique mix of charm, good looks, (check out the body on this fine 40-something specimen!), and a true entertainer, Mr Harris' gamble on this show truly pays off in what some might consider a spectacle of lights, song, and love.

Unlike the movie, this version is told much like a one-night only concert at the Belasco Theatre - current day.  Hedwig regularly breaks the 4th wall to chat with the audience and banter with a man in the box seat where Mr. Belasco's ghost may often may be seen, thus indicating a successful run of a show, and even kiss a lucky boy in the front row!

Throughout the evening the stage show never ceases to impress.  Outrageous costumes and makeup, concert style lighting to whip the audience into a frenzy, and a cadre of tunes simply rock the house down.  The lovely Lena Hall also does double duty as a man (Yitzhak) who blossoms in the end.

I'm pretty sure there will never be a performance - tourists included - that doesn't end in a raucous standing ovation for Mr. Harris, Ms. Hall, and the entire band.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Just Jim Dale

The Roundabout Theatre Company strikes (out) again.  Jim Dale is an extraordinary song and dance man  He's likable, flexible, and talented - even at this ripe old age of 79 - he's a powerhouse of energy and enthusiasm on the stage!  He's a treasure to behold with talents beyond just the theatre - including music, television, film, and voice work.  One small problem.  Roundabout is not the Cafe Carlyle.

Jim is, perhaps, most well known for his portrayal of P.T. Barnum in the 1980 Broadway musical Barnum.  More recently, however, cult followers of J.K Rowling all over the world would know his voice as the narrator of all 7 of the audio books for the Harry Potter Series.

Notice that I have only great things to say about this talented gent.  However, in another epic fail of the Roundabout Theater Company, we subscribers have been subjected to yet another cheap excuse for a show.  While Jim Dale is a treasure of the American and British culture, this show is yet another example of Artistic Director Todd Haimes' fledgling budget.  This "show" is nothing more than a cabaret act.  Roundabout is stretched very thin and simply cannot afford to put on 6 quality shows any longer (even if 3 of them are off-Broadway).

Shame on you (again) Roundabout.  I hope you wake up ad shake things up.  If you hold onto the pipe dreams of somehow producing the next big hit to fund your coffers all the while financing the rest of your seasons cheaper and cheaper on the backs of your subscribers, you are doomed to extinction.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bullets Over Broadway

I was moderately entertained.  Indeed, I was.  However, knowing what I know, I feel a bit cheated.  If I didn't know any better (as most of the out-of-towners who attend these sorts of big productions), I guess nothing would seem to of place.  In his new musical this season, Woody Allen chose to not create any original music for the stage adaptation of his film by the same name.  Seems odd to me.  Such a prolific and arguably successful director, actor, and writer - why would he omit such a core ingredient from a new "musical".  Oh yes, there was music, but it was all existing and just carefully selected, recycled, re-arranged, and plopped into the story.   It frankly hit a sour note in my book.  That aside, the music chosen seemed stylistically appropriate.  Nothing too bad.  Just not original.  Not fresh.

If music were the only problem with the show, I'd be inclined to overlook the issue mostly.  However, when you combine it with the problem of casting - Houston, we've got a problem.  Don't get me wrong, Zach Braff turned in a decent performance and I can honestly say that even for a Wednesday evening performance (after a matinee) it seemed he gave it his all.  But it just wasn't enough.  His character, playwright David Shayne, cries out for a performance by none other than the goof-ball Matthew Broderick.  The entire performance, from beginning to end, was delightful, but not excellent.  It was as if Zach himself invested in the show, so they felt obliged to give him the lead over much more appropriate choices (you'll get the reference once you see the show).  I don't really even know if the part was even offered to Mr. Broderick, but it certainly seemed to me that it should have been.

Nick Cordero turned in a tortured and hysterical performance as Cheech the gangster with a penchant for writing - including one steal-the-show number.  Vincent Pastore may have appeared as goomba Johnny on The Sopranos, but his stage presence is about as engaging and entertaining as a wet sponge.  Marin Mazzie's (Helen Sinclair) star power out-shinned just about everyone else in the production except, perhaps, for Karen Ziemba, whose talents seemed utterly wasted on Eden Brent, the adorable dog-carrying actress to whom that had to give a solo number in Act II just to make sure she didn't quit.   Helene Yorke (Olive) turned in a great performance, but once again, you felt the part was perhaps written for someone else - maybe, let's speculate, Katie Finneran.  Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't.  The show had a spectacular chorus of male dancers (think gangsters) and female dancers (think The Rockettes) both sets of whom dazzled throughout the entire show.

Uneven casting and poor choices by Woody with respect to music detract from what would otherwise have been another smash hit just like The Producers.  Maybe next time Ms. Stroman.  Given these challenges, this show is destined for mediocrity.