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Showtime! features reviews, commentary and assorted theatrical musings from Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld.com's Chief Theatre Critic. To submit amusing backstage banter, absurd audience observations or noteworthy links to Showtime!, click here. Anonymity's guaranteed. My not taking credit for your clever remark isn't.


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Harvey & Triassic Parq


Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Mary Chase was advocating alcohol addiction with her 1944 Pulitzer-winning comedy, Harvey, she sure makes it seem an attractive alternative.

Who can resist giving a silent cheer – or, heck, even a completely audible one – when our hero explains to the man who is determining if he’d be better off in a sanatorium, “I wrestled with reality most of my life, doctor, and I am happy to state that I finally won out over it.”

Even to those who have never seen the play, or Jimmy Stewart’s turn in the movie version, the title character of Harvey, a six-foot, three and a half inch rabbit that is only seen by the amiable and polite Elwood P. Dowd, is as recognizable an image in American pop culture as the notion that the dangerously crazy ones are actually the people who would repress someone’s indulgence in absurdity.

Director Scott Ellis’ handsome and appropriately folksy production is grounded by Jim Parsons, a soft-spoken and somewhat timid Dowd who exudes comforting warmth when in the presence of those who trust him.  If not for the mentions of his pookah pal, you’d never suspect him of being alcoholic until he starts describing his regular evenings of bar-hopping (bunny-hopping?).  Maybe not the town nut to his fellow Denverites, he’s perhaps more of a curiosity, as evidenced by his description of how complete strangers tend to gravitate to him and Harvey for impromptu conversations.  Seems having Harvey around combats his loneliness in more ways than one.

Jessica Hecht is suitably high-strung and haughty as his sister, Veta, who wishes to both clear the family name and acquire her brother’s inherited home and wealth by having him sent away.  Her marriage-minded daughter, Myrtle Mae (a very funny and giddy Tracee Chimo), is all for the plan, as her uncle’s influence on the family reputation has left her suitor-less.

Charles Kimbrough, who plays befuddled authority figures as well as anybody, is just delightful as the gradually confused Dr. Chumley, as is Carol Kane doing her familiar off-beat ditzy routine as his wife.

Photos by Joan Marcus:  Top: Charles Kimbrough, Jessica Hecht and Jim Parsons; Bottom: Carol Kane and Jim Parsons.

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The tall white guy who narrates the show with his imposing voice introduces himself as Morgan Freeman.  For the next eighty minutes, characters will keep confusing him with Samuel L. Jackson.  This is pretty much the height of cleverness achieved by Triassic Parq, the terribly uninspired musical spoof of a certain Michael Crichton novel and the film adaptations that followed.

The effort of the bookwriting/lyricist trio of Marshall Pailet (who also composed the score and directs), Steve Wargo and Bryce Norbitz includes all the campiness, broad sexual innuendo and gags regarding low-budget production values that has become standard in such ventures, but the intended comedy of their version of the Jurassic Park story – told from the point of view of the all-female herd of scientifically created dinosaurs whose peaceful world runs amuck when one of them starts growing a penis – thuds along, aggressively unfunny.  (“The ‘s’ in science is for ‘Suck my dick,’” goes one of their well-crafted bon mots.)

Pailet’s music includes a fun moment when the company sings “We are dinosaurs!  We are dinosaurs!” to a pop-infused version of the film score’s main theme, but the rest of the score is a generic collection of theatre rock, pop and hip-hop.

But despite the weak material, the production is extremely strong.  Pailet and choreographer Kyle Mullin remarkably keep the action fluid and energetic in the cramped quarters of the SoHo Playhouse, especially when Mullin has the company humorously hip-hopping.  Dina Perez’s costumes, suggesting dinosaurs without going literal, and Caite Hevner’s jungle-inspired scenic design add fun visuals.

Lindsay Nicole Chambers, hilarious as the angry slam poet in the underappreciated Lysistrata Jones, steals every moment she’s on stage as the urban diva-ish Velociraptor of Science and the talented cast includes a charmingly naïve Alex Wyse as the Velociraptor of Innocence and a comically authoritative Lee Seymour as Morgan Freeman, but despite its winning production features, Triassic Parq is loaded down with too much ineffective material.

Photo of Lindsay Nicole Chambers and Alex Wyse by Carol Rosegg.

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Although I tend to be a bit old-school in my choice of venues for pre- and post-Broadway theatre tippling, I happily accepted an invite to indulge in a cocktail or two at the Copacabana when I heard about their 4th floor rooftop lounge overlooking 47th Street and 8th Avenue.  If you’re like me, you get a little thrill out of watching the excitement of thousands of playgoers rushing to their evening’s entertainment or, a few hours later, venturing back into the real world while discussing the pros and cons of the production.  (I’m told it also provides a fine view of 4th of July fireworks over the Hudson.)  The retractable room insures protection from any sudden showers in 55 seconds.

I’m sure I took the piped-in music of Barry Manilow singing of “the hottest spot north of Havana” a bit more tongue-in-cheek than was intended but the comfy, spacious lounge with a dark wood floor and black and white décor provided a nicely civilized atmosphere.  And with the Copacabana already becoming known as a place to celebrate Broadway openings (Streetcar, Leap of Faith) it might become an old-school theatre hangout yet.

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Posted on: Monday, July 02, 2012 @ 05:56 PM Posted by: Michael Dale


Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 7/1/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week

"Only playwrights can ensure the well-being of playwrights. No one else will do it for us."

-- Peter Stone

 

The grosses are out for the week ending 7/1/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (23.5%), MAMMA MIA! (8.0%), ANYTHING GOES (7.6%), CHICAGO (4.7%), SISTER ACT (3.4%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (3.2%), MARY POPPINS (3.0%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (2.6%), A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (2.2%), GHOST (1.7%), THE COLUMNIST (1.7%), HARVEY (1.2%), EVITA (1.0%), THE LYONS (0.7%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (0.6%), JERSEY BOYS (0.5%), NEWSIES(0.3%),

Down for the week was: NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-14.5%), PORGY AND BESS (-9.1%), END OF THE RAINBOW (-8.4%), WAR HORSE (-2.9%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (-2.0%), MEMPHIS (-2.0%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-0.3%), ONCE (-0.2%), ROCK OF AGES (-0.2%), WICKED (-0.1%),

Posted on: Monday, July 02, 2012 @ 03:30 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Rapture, Blister, Burn: Lashing Back

When the houselights went up for intermission at Gina Gionfriddo's  provocative comedy of gender issues, Rapture, Blister, Burn, my immediate impulse was to ask my guest – a 1980s Columbia University Women’s Studies graduate who, like myself, remembers the days when an Upper West Side liberal’s coffee table was considered incomplete if not graced by a heavily earmarked volume of Susan Faludi’s latest and simply saying the name “Phyllis Schlafly” at certain cocktail parties would trigger the same venomous reaction the name “Haman” would receive from the most Manischewitz-soused participants at a Lower East Side Purim spiel – if it all seemed realistic to her.

Her reaction was intriguing; that it’s been so long since she’s heard people talking about these subjects.  Certainly, Gionfriddo’s plot contains a perfectly balanced formula of contrivances and coincidences to help spark such conversation (Look how many generations of women just happen to be in the same room together!), but her dialogue is too clever, insightful and entertaining to complain.  And perhaps in this era of “I’m not a feminist, but…” it’s a refreshing twist to hear dialogue from the standpoint of “I am a feminist, but…”

Taking its title from a line in Courtney Love’s wound-licking anthem, “Use Once And Destroy,” the play concerns two contemporary women in their 40s regretting their life choices; one that followed Betty Friedan’s inspiration to “have it all” and the other accepting the special privileges Schlafly insisted women enjoyed by not being equal to men.

Catherine (Amy Brenneman) is a celebrity author and television talking head who got famous for being the hot chick who wrote academic texts on feminism as it applies to pornography and horror movies.  Never married and without children, she still clings to her feelings for her grad school boyfriend, Don (Lee Tergesen), who she left to pursue career opportunities.  Don was quickly nabbed by Catherine’s roommate, Gwen (Kellie Overbey), who quit school to fulfill her dream of being a wife and mother.

Today, Don might not seem like quite the catch.  A New England college dean with little interest in advancement, his main pleasures in life are drinking beer, getting high and watching Internet porn.  Gwen is a recovering alcoholic who feels that staying sober betrays her WASP upbringing.  She’s lost any interest in sex and feels trapped by her life of being a mother and wife.

What reunites them is when Don arranges for Catherine to teach at his school while she’s on sabbatical from a loftier institution to take care of her pre-liberation mother, Alice (Beth Dixon), while she recovers from a recent heart attack.  A summer workshop that Catherine leads from her mother’s home attracts only two students:  Gwen and her recently fired babysitter, Avery (Virginia Kull), an outspoken hipster who shows signs of having an abusive boyfriend.

Guided by director Peter DuBois’ light, peppy touch, the meat of the play is the spirited talk and debate that goes on during classes, where discussions of second and third wave feminism bring out Catherine’s longings for comfortable mediocrity and Gwen’s misgivings about not seeing what life could offer aside from marriage.  Their attempt at a mutually beneficial solution is right out of sitcom 101 (Yeah, Gionfriddo actually tries that route.) but the play and the performances are good enough to inspire curiosity to see where it’s going.

The cast is excellent, with Overbey giving Gwen a detached acerbic manner that shows she’s surviving her horrendous marriage by emotionally separating herself from it, and Brenneman subtly hinting at the dissatisfied cracks beneath Catherine’s sexy confidence.

You may not find yourself empathizing with the characters, as they are presented as such extremes, but Gionfriddo makes solid points about the women they represent, and the emotional wall that separates us from them allows Rapture, Blister, Burn to be a very funny play that can inspire further post-theatre debate.

Photos by Carol Rosegg: Top: Kellie Overbey and Virginia Kull; Bottom: Beth Dixon and Amy Brenneman.

Posted on: Friday, June 29, 2012 @ 09:34 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 6/24/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week

 

“If there is a single driving force which characterizes the New York Shakespeare Festival, it is its continual confrontation with the wall that separates vast numbers of people from the arts."

-- Joseph Papp

 

The grosses are out for the week ending 6/24/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: GODSPELL (18.8%), PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (17.5%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (12.8%), THE LYONS (4.6%), CHICAGO (4.0%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (3.7%), MEMPHIS (2.7%), ANYTHING GOES (1.7%), JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (0.9%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (0.8%), ROCK OF AGES (0.7%), JERSEY BOYS (0.4%), THE COLUMNIST (0.2%), HARVEY (0.1%), A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE(0.1%),

Down for the week was: PORGY AND BESS (-17.2%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (-6.2%), GHOST (-3.5%), WAR HORSE (-3.2%), CLYBOURNE PARK (-1.6%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-1.6%), MAMMA MIA! (-1.4%), SISTER ACT (-1.4%), END OF THE RAINBOW (-1.3%), MARY POPPINS (-0.7%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-0.5%), ONCE (-0.4%), WICKED (-0.3%), EVITA (-0.3%), NEWSIES (-0.1%),

Posted on: Monday, June 25, 2012 @ 04:18 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Closer Than Ever: Opening Doors

Though the team of Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics) and David Shire (music) hasn’t had much luck when it comes to book musicals (Baby and Big, despite their admirers, struggled through disappointing Broadway runs.) when it comes to Off-Broadway musical revues, the boys are two-time champs.  Their 1970s hit, Starting Here, Starting Now, was topped in 1989 by a 300+ performance run of Closer Than Ever, which is now getting a sparkling revival at the York.

Like its predecessor, Closer Than Ever is an intimate revue; a bookless collection of sharp, witty and incisive songs that stress strong storytelling and vivid characters.  Though no specific location is mentioned, in spirit and tone you might find yourself reminded of the late 80s/early 90s middle-class urban landscape (For our younger readers, think less Seinfeld reruns and more Mad About You reruns.) as the evening takes a hip, literate look at getting through being a grown-up, with a focus on the big events we expect to change our lives and the little events that unexpectedly do the same.

Directed by Maltby and with music direction by on-stage pianist Andrew Gerle, the brisk evening features four familiar musical theatre faces, all sporting fine voices and intelligent lyric interpreting skills.

Christiane Noll beautifully handles the show’s more introspective and dramatic moments with textured performances of “Life Story,” about a woman who fought in the trenches for gender equality, later to find doors slammed in her face by the younger women who owed her their chances to succeed, and “Patterns” (cut from Baby, but put back in when the show was revised), where a wife musses over the mundane routines putting stress on her marriage.

Jenn Colella is at her steamy best when flirting with bassist Danny Meyer in “Back On Base,” a vampy number about a woman finding the perfect antidote for her case of the drearies, and gets to stretch her generally underutilized comic chops in “Miss Byrd,” a song that reminds us that the ordinary person you see every day may be a tigress when she's out of her office cubical, and "You Wanna Be My Friend," an angry retort at a lover's attempt to let her down easy.

The richly-voiced George Dvorsky brings the evening to an emotional height with “If I Sing,” a son’s heartfelt tribute to the gifts he received from his musician dad, and is charmingly comic in “What Am I Doin’?,” where a would-be lover stops to consider if his actions constitute stalking.

Sal Viviano gives an endearing performance of “One Of The Good Guys,” where a happily married man ponders what he might have missed by turning down offers to be unfaithful, and in duet with Colella, “Another Wedding Song,” where a couple consider the special joys of second marriages.  A terrific comic number, “Fandango,” has Viviano and Noll performing the morning dance of a married couple of corporate go-getters when the sitter cancels and each needs the other to watch the baby.

James Morgan’s set features numerous doors and a pretty blue sky with fluffy white clouds, indicative of an optimistic view of life’s numerous opportunities.  The right door can always be closer than ever.

Photos by Carol Rosegg:  Top: George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll, Sal Viviano and Jenn Colella; Bottom: Jenn Colella and Danny Meyer.

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Posted on: Monday, June 25, 2012 @ 02:40 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


As You Like It: Into The Backwoods

Backwoods 1800s America proves an unlikely, but ideal setting for Shakespeare’s As You Like It in director Daniel Sullivan’s enormously entertaining Delacorte production that mixes dexterous wordplay with rowdy comedy.

The audience enters to the sight of the exterior of a tall wooden fort with a rifle-toting lookout standing guard.  Below is a boisterous bluegrass band plucking and bowing out twangy tunes by Steve Martin.  Foreshadowing the wresting aspect of the plot, a poster tacked to a tree displays a hulking fellow grappling with a bear.

The complicated story of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy involves family rivalries, banished lovers, highbrow banter, lowbrow antics and the obligatory leading lady who, for some reason or another, must disguise herself as male in order to win her mate.

That obligation is met triumphantly by Lily Rabe, intoxicatingly masterful at verbal wit and subtle reaction, who, as Rosalind, ventures into the forest with her cousin, Celia (a perky and game Renee Elise Goldsberry) in search of her beloved Orlando (nobly played by David Furr), who she first laid eyes on while watching him getting pummeled in a wrestling match.

Although Orlando’s match against the brawny brute Charles (a terrific Brendan Averett) is choreographed by Rick Sordelet with all the fake-violent humor of a good WWE event, I do have to quibble who whoever made the decision to have Orlando win by kicking his opponent in the groin several times, as the move is traditionally considered a villainous cheap shot; especially after Charles is shown to be the kind of gentlemanly sportsman who chooses not inflict further punishment on his opponent when he is defenselessly battered.

Andre Braugher ably doubles as a ruthless duke and the kindly brother he has banished into the forest; thick with trees that set designer John Lee Beatty cleverly provides with hiding places.  When Stephen Spinella, hilariously dour as the melancholy Jacques (pronounced “Jake” for this version), beautifully recites the “All the world’s a stage…” speech, it’s done as a campfire story on a peaceful evening.

Oliver Platt is suitably wry as the jester, Touchstone, and Donna Lynne Champlin, who gets a chance to demonstrate her clogging skills, is very funny as the dumb but lusty goatherd who captures his attention.  Beloved character actor MacIntyre Dixon is touching as an elderly servant and Will Rogers and Susannah Flood add humor as a love-struck shepherd and the snarky shepherdess who continually rejects him.

With catchy tunes throughout and a hoedown finale, this As You Like It is a merry romp from start to finish.

Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: David Furr, Renee Elise Goldsberry and Lily Rabe; Bottom: Jordan Tice and Stephen Spinella.

Posted on: Saturday, June 23, 2012 @ 07:32 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Love Goes To Press

By the third act of Martha Gellhorn and Virginia Cowles’ 1946 romantic comedy, Love Goes To Press, one of the play’s leading characters, a female war correspondent considered tops in her field, begins discussing marriage with the handsome soldier who has captured her heart.  When the stuffy British Major speaks romantically of how his love will, naturally, give up her career and go to Yorkshire to stay with his mother until they get married, the 2012 audience members around me, naturally, smirked and guffawed at the absurdity of his antiquated assumptions.

To his credit, Bradford Cover, the actor playing the stiff upper-lipper, spoke with the utmost of noble sincerity, as though he were Prince Charming granting Cinderella the life she had always dreamed of, making the scene that much funnier.  But was it all that comical when Love Goes To Press premiered as a West End hit, when the women who had taken on nontraditional roles in the workforce during World War II were now faced with the assumption that they’d automatically go back to being housewives?

Part of the fun of attending Mint Theatre Company productions is getting immersed in the world of the audiences from long ago.  The treasured Off-Broadway company specializes in plays that achieved some substantial degree of popularity – usually from the first half of the 20th Century – but became forgotten with the passing of time.  Despite its London success, the only playwrighting effort of Gellhorn and Cowles, who based the work on their own experiences as respected war correspondents, lasted only four performances on Broadway.

Intended by the authors to be little more than a lark, Love Goes To Press, proves an enjoyable museum piece that cruises on its snappy dialogue but stumbles a bit because the story’s most interesting moments either take place in the past (showing up to cover a battle in a smart Schiaparelli number) or off-stage (a dim-witted entertainer being mistaken for a reporter and taken to the front lines).

Heidi Armbruster and Angela Pierce make for a swell pair of smart-talking adventurers as Annabelle Jones and Jane Mason, who are both revered for their skills at getting dangerous stories and resented for being women.  They share the kind of camaraderie that comes with being the only people who know what each other is going through.  Arriving separately at a battered Italian home serving as a press camp while Allied troops advance on Germany, both are plotting dangerous missions while being surprised by romantic encounters; Jane being courted by the British Major as bombs cause the building to shake and rain rubble on them and Annabelle being reunited with her ex-husband, Joe, the kind of writer whose idea of journalistic inspiration is to get drunk and write a think piece.  (Their relationship was no doubt inspired by Gellhorn’s 5-year marriage to Ernest Hemingway.)

The colorful characters surrounding them include Joe’s ditzy fiancée, Daphne (Margot White in a good comical turn), and Jay Patterson and Curzon Dobell as a pair of reporters on the lookout for stories to steal between games of gin rummy and indulging in liquor rations.

Director Jerry Ruiz makes some odd shifts in tone, playing for realistic laughs most of the time but overplaying some of the romance, but it’s a handsome production, thanks to the excellent work of Steven C. Kemp (sets), Andrea Varga (costumes), Christian DeAngelis (lights) and Jane Shaw (sound).  A frisky and entertaining evening that is, indeed, a lark.

Photos by Richard Termine: Top: Heidi Armbruster (above) and Angela Pierce; Bottom: Rob Breckenridge and Heidi Armbruster.

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Posted on: Thursday, June 21, 2012 @ 02:44 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 6/17/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week

"Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly."

-- Mae West

 

The grosses are out for the week ending 6/17/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: OTHER DESERT CITIES (15.0%), GODSPELL (12.7%), VENUS IN FUR (11.8%), PORGY AND BESS (5.8%), MARY POPPINS (4.6%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (3.9%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (3.4%), PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (3.3%), A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (2.8%), DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER (2.2%), ANYTHING GOES (2.0%), HARVEY (1.7%), JERSEY BOYS (1.5%), ONCE (1.5%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1.0%), NEWSIES (0.5%), ROCK OF AGES(0.3%),

Down for the week was: END OF THE RAINBOW (-13.4%), EVITA (-9.5%), GHOST (-5.9%), CHICAGO (-3.3%), MEMPHIS (-2.2%), MAMMA MIA! (-2.1%), CLYBOURNE PARK (-2.1%), THE COLUMNIST (-2.0%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-1.4%), WAR HORSE (-1.2%), WICKED (-1.0%), JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (-0.7%), SISTER ACT (-0.6%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (-0.4%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (-0.2%), THE LION KING (-0.1%),

Posted on: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 @ 01:55 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


The Broadway Musicals of 1987 & Zarkana

The words, “Once upon a time…,” were followed by that familiar Sondheim vamp, and Danielle Ferland skipped onto the stage just as she had 25 years ago as the original Little Red Riding Hood in Into The Woods.  Sure enough, there was a wolf there to greet her, but instead of encountering Granny, The Baker’s Wife and The Witch, Little Red found herself in a forest inhabited by a young French revolutionary, an elderly Holocaust survivor, a roller-skating duo and a former President of The United States.

The 1987 edition of Town Hall’s Broadway By The Year closed out Scott Siegel’s 12th season of concerts presenting a year-by-year analysis of Broadway’s songs, placing them in both historical and theatrical context.  This was a year dominated by two musicals in particular, and naturally they dominated the evening’s program.

Aside from having Ferland on hand to present her more mature performances of ”I Know Things Now” and “No One Is Alone,” Kerry O’Malley brought back memories of her stint as The Baker’s Wife in the 2002 Into The Woods revival with “Moments In The Woods” and Marc Kudisch (who directed the concert) and Jeffrey Denman lent their robust voices and clowning skills to the princely duet, “Agony.”

Les Miserables was the year’s major blockbuster and with the newly formed Broadway By The Year Chorus – made up of recent college and music school graduates under the leadership of Scott Coulter – stirring renditions of full choral pieces like “One Day More” and “Do You Hear The People Sing?” were able to be included.  There was superior dramatic solo work provided by O’Malley (“I Dreamed A Dream”), Kudisch (“Stars”), Ron Bohmer (“Bring Him Home”) and Janine DiVita (“On My Own”).

While the songs from Stardust certainly weren’t new in 1987, that revue of the lyrics of Mitchell Parish was, allowing for the inclusion of standards like “Moonlight Serenade” (romantically sung and danced by Denman and DiVita), “Volare” (Kudisch camping a mock seduction with the female ensemble) and the show’s title song, sung with airy tenderness by Coulter.  The novelty number, “Syncopated Clock,” better known as the theme to television’s The Late Show, was an amusing instrumental for Ross Patterson’s Little Big Band.

The underappreciated Teddy and Alice, about President Roosevelt’s stormy relationship with his strong-willed daughter, was represented grandly by Bohmer’s “Can I Let Her Go?,” a sentimental ballad whose melody is an soft rendering of John Phillip Sousa’s “Washington Post March.”  And though Roza had its troubles on Broadway, O’Mally’s hearty “Happiness Is” demonstrated the score at its best.

Stepping Out was a play about an amateur dance class and Denman, joined by Anna White and Kelley Sheehan, displayed some snazzy tapping in its title song.

At one point during the evening, Siegel referred to O’Malley, Denman and Kudisch as three of the finest entertainers you’ll see on New York’s stages.  While Broadway audiences frequently pack theatres to see lesser-skilled celebrities try their hands at starring in Broadway musicals, for 12 years the Broadway By The Year series has been showcasing some of the highest caliber performers you’ll find in the demanding field of musical theatre.

Photos by Genevieve Rafter Keddy:  Top: Danielle Ferland; Bottom: Jeffry Denman and Marc Kudisch.

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Does anybody ever really pay attention to the plots of Cirque du Soleil productions?  Or the songs?  Sure, their collection of world-class jugglers, balancers, acrobats and daredevils always provide eye-popping and gasp-inducing entertainment, but all too often the evening is loaded down with attempts to connect everything with some convoluted story about a search for serenity or world peace or whatever.

Last year’s 2-act extravaganza, Zarkana, has returned to Radio City Music Hall just in time to push the Tony Awards to the Beacon Theatre once more and, thankfully, the storytelling aspect of writer/director Francois Girard’s "surreal acrobatic spectacle” – something about a magician, his lost love and a doggy duo named Hocus and Pocus – has been trimmed down considerably, allowing the show to clock in at a slick and entertaining 90 minutes.  Even the bland English lyrics of the songs have been exorcised, replaced with a made-up language called “Cirquish,” which seems to emphasize dramatic vowel sounds.

But nothing upstages the troupe of aerialists, trapeze flyers and high-wire balancers when they let loose.  A more meditative feature, and a real showstopper, is artist Erika Chen, who works from a glass table above a video camera so that the audience sees a projection of her swift hands creating ever-evolving portraits and scenes out of blue sand. Her time on stage is serenely captivating.  Hand balancer Anatoly Zalevskiy wears a midriff-baring outfit that makes lovers of the male physique swoon and displays body-bending skills that no doubt set a few fantasies in motion.

But the most eye-popping act on display is Carlos Marin and Junior Delgado seriously seeming to risk their lives on the appropriately named Wheel of Death; two circular cages placed on opposite ends of spokes which spin on an axis thirty feet above the ground. The boys are continually in motion as they pop inside and outside the wheels even skipping rope while in perpetual motion.  When finished, they take their bows like they’re the most macho guys in town and I, for one, wouldn’t argue the point.

Photos by Jeremy Daniel, Richard Termine: Top: Erika Chen Bottom: Wheel of Death.

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Posted on: Sunday, June 17, 2012 @ 05:05 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 6/10/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week

 

"I've been dieting all week.  I can't wait to eat some freakin' pizza!"

-- Audra McDonald after winning her 5th Tony Award

The grosses are out for the week ending 6/10/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: VENUS IN FUR (17.8%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (15.5%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (14.4%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (14.2%), END OF THE RAINBOW (12.7%), OTHER DESERT CITIES (11.3%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (11.1%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (8.8%), GHOST (8.3%), PORGY AND BESS (8.0%), HARVEY (6.7%), SISTER ACT (6.2%), DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER (5.9%), MARY POPPINS (5.6%), WAR HORSE (5.3%), JERSEY BOYS (4.7%), MAMMA MIA! (4.5%), JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (4.5%), MEMPHIS (4.4%), ROCK OF AGES (4.1%), CLYBOURNE PARK (3.6%), EVITA (3.3%), THE LYONS (3.0%), CHICAGO (2.3%), ONCE (1.5%), ANYTHING GOES (1.0%), WICKED (0.2%), THE LION KING(0.1%),

Down for the week was: GODSPELL (-5.7%), PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (-3.5%), THE COLUMNIST (-3.5%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-3.5%), A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (-1.5%), NEWSIES (-0.2%),

Posted on: Monday, June 11, 2012 @ 03:26 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Food and Fadwa

Fadwa Faranesh, a bright, engaging Palestinian woman living in Bethlehem, hosts a cooking program from her home kitchen, where she prepares delectable dishes like tabouli and baba ghanoush in the traditional manner the women of her culture have been preparing them for centuries.  To her, food is an important connection between the past and the present.

However, the television cameraman she chats with isn’t really there.  Neither is the camera or the loyal viewers tuning in every day.  No, the central character of Lameece Issaq and Jacob Kader’s Food and Fadwa is not delusional.  She just needs an occasional escape from the realities of her West Bank life, which includes being delayed at numerous checkpoints wherever she goes, enduring sudden announcements of curfews where no one is allowed to leave their home and caring for her dementia-stricken elderly father.

As warmly and humorously portrayed by Issaq, Fadwa is a single woman who, with her mother deceased, has pushed her own needs aside become the sturdy support system for her extended family.  Aside from her father, Baba, played with sincere pathos by Laith Nakli, there’s her sister Dalal (Maha Chehlaoui) excitedly preparing for her wedding to Emir (Arian Moayed).

Fadwa’s long distance boyfriend is Emir’s brother Youssif (Haaz Sleiman), who has been living in New York.  He arrives for the wedding with her American cousin, Hayat (Heather Raffo), a successful restaurant owner and cookbook author.  Hayat is quite oblivious to the conditions this side of the family lives under (Her complains that she was held at customs for a whopping 15 minutes is met with little sympathy.) and, among other things, Fadwa is particularly irked at Hayat’s practice of creating non-traditional variations of classic recipes.

The wedding ceremony is threatened when a suddenly announced curfew, where everyone is confined to their homes for an indefinite amount of time, has Emir unable to return from a trip to Jerusalem and, after many days, leaves the family running out of food, water and Baba’s medicine.

While the issues of Food and Fadwa might suggest a heavily political piece with angry speeches denouncing the Israeli government, Issaq, Kader and director Shana Gold take a lighter approach that might remind older viewers of the Norman Lear sitcoms of the 1970s like All In The Family and Good Times.  Like those landmark programs, Food and Fadwa indirectly approaches controversial topics by using dark humor to show how the family is accustomed to dealing with oppressive restrictions.  A comical highlight has Emir and Youssif smearing dollops of leftovers on the dinner table to create a map explaining the various restricted areas of the city, liberally shaking salt all over to represent the numerous checkpoints.  Fadwa’s cooking show begins addressing subjects like food rationing and fasting.  There’s even a nutty neighbor; Fadwa’s chain-smoking Aunt Samia (Kathryn Kates), whose lives for watching television episodes of Arab Idol.  ("That girl from Kuwait was voted off last week. So sad.”)

With Andromache Chalfant’s large and highly detailed unit set looking not so different from a suburban American home, Food and Fadwa successfully emphasizes the similarities between the on-stage characters and the New York Theatre Workshop audience members; boiling down deeply complicated conflicts to how they affect perfectly nice people just trying to live their lives and preserve their culture. It’s a sweet and tasty evening.

Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Lameece Issaq; Bottom: Maha Chehlaoui, Arian Moayed, Haaz Sleiman and Heather Raffo.

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Posted on: Sunday, June 10, 2012 @ 01:30 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback




About Michael: After 20-odd years singing, dancing and acting in dinner theatres, summer stocks and the ever-popular audience participation murder mysteries (try improvising with audiences after they?ve had two hours of open bar), Michael Dale segued his theatrical ambitions into playwriting. The buildings which once housed the 5 Off-Off Broadway plays he penned have all been destroyed or turned into a Starbucks, but his name remains the answer to the trivia question, "Who wrote the official play of Babe Ruth's 100th Birthday?" He served as Artistic Director for The Play's The Thing Theatre Company, helping to bring free live theatre to underserved communities, and dabbled a bit in stage managing and in directing cabaret shows before answering the call (it was an email, actually) to become BroadwayWorld.com's first Chief Theatre Critic. While not attending shows Michael can be seen at Shea Stadium pleading for the Mets to stop imploding. Likes: Strong book musicals and ambitious new works. Dislikes: Unprepared celebrities making their stage acting debuts by starring on Broadway and weak bullpens.