BWW Review: Chromolume Theatre Revives an Intriguing HELLO AGAIN
La Ronde is a play written by Arthur Schnitzier in1897. It scrutinizes the sexual morals and class ideology of its day through a series of encounters between pairs of characters (shown before or after a sexual encounter). By choosing characters across all levels of society, the play offers social commentary on how sexual contact transgresses boundaries of class.
With this concise Wikipedia description in mind let's say that Michael John LaChuisa has taken liberties in composing his musical version of La Ronde called Hello Again. The musical first premiered off-Broadway in 1993. Liberties taken primarily are placing 10 scenes and characters in different time periods of the 20th century in a non-chronological order...and utilizing simulated raw sex in many of the scenes. When the whore (a very enticing Michelle Holmes) gets her hooks into the soldier (Cesar Cipriano), it is 1900. In the next scene the soldier comes onto the nurse in 1940. Mores changed with the times and sexual practices diversified, particularly in the 60s and 70s with Woodstock an open haven for hippies and rampant sex, and then later homosexuals coming out of the closet. Within these varying time periods, LaChuisa introduces a variety of musical styles that somehow manage to tie the stories together, making them more colorful and exciting. Now in a rare revival at Chromolume Theatre, Hello Again is receiving a fine production with even direction by Richard Van Slyke and a fantastic cast of 10 actors.
I have seen many different productions through the years including a gay-themed La Ronde called F***ing Men at the Celebration Theatre. Hello Again. apart from the rest, has a lot of examples of simulated foreplay, intense sexual contact and climax and their consequences on the emotional state of both men and women in the aftermath. The actors must be up to the challenge of going all the way with both physical and emotional dexterity to convince the audience. Director Richard Van Slyke has insisted on its authenticity and his cast of Hello Again are all outstanding and certainly up to it: Michelle Holmes as the whore, Cesar Cipriano as the soldier, Allison Lind as the nurse, Bretten M. Popiel (also choreographer) as the college boy, Sarah Randall Hunt as the young wife, Corey Rieger as the husband, Keven Corsini as the young thing, Joe Hernandez-Kolski as the writer, TAl Fox as the actress and Michael Corbett as the senator. They are all great singers, not a stringent or offkey sound amongst them. I must congratulate Michelle Holmes once more for setting the tone at the very top with her knockout sensual interpretation in look, voice snd movement. From Count Orlok in Nosferatu to the whore, this actress manifests sublime versatility.
I'm hardly a prude, but this type of classic is not at the top of my list of favorites. Nevertheless, ... as I was following the action of the various scenes opening night, what overwhelmed me were Michael Mullen's gorgeously detailed costumes down to the tiniest sequin from all of the various time periods of the 20th century ... and the different styles of Michael John LaChuisa's music, everything from pop to disco to swing to opera. I was so entertained that I almost forgot I was reviewing a play. What a treat for the eyes and ears! Yes, the nonsexual, purely audio/visual moments are sheer delight in this production. And if you are looking for flesh, well...yes, for sure, it's there in several alluring packages.
Of course, the book is full of funny as well as serious scenarios. For example, the overly disgusting humor is nothing short of amazing as a young wife (Hunt) goes down on the college boy (Popiel) in the darkened movie theatre, lips smeared with lipstick and calling herself "the most likely to succeed ...and morally bankrupt", or in a more serious vein the husband (Rieger) aboard the Titanic, knowing it is about to sink and not telling the young boy (Corsini) with whom he is about to share a sexual tryst, to get out and try to save his life. Instead he selfishly clings to that moment, trying to keep him there all to himself - to fulfill that deep homosexual desire that has been consuming him his entire life. Nothing like comedy and tragedy to clash up against each other in the stories and they do indeed more than once in Hello Again.
Go see the show at the Chromolume through May 28 and delight in the actors/beautiful singers and the costumes by Michael Mullen.
Hello Again/book, music and lyrics by Michael John LaChuisa/directed by Richard Van Slyke/musical direction by Brenda Varda/Chromolume Theatre at the Attic/through May 28