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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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Playing With Fire


The latest addition to the growing genre of stage adaptations of plays by the great masters that scale their sources down to a collection of indecipherable scenes that are just trying their darndest to be erotic is Playing With Fire, The Private Theatre’s environmental/multi-media combo that is rumored to have something to do with August Strindberg.

I could use up a paragraph explaining the plot of the evening’s same-named source – an 1893 comedy of a love and sex triangle – but really, none of it is the least bit recognizable in Royston Coppenger’s clichéd stylized adaptation featuring language that has the actors continually sounding like they’re speaking in italics.

There’s no program, so it’s hard to tell which of the 14 actors is playing who, especially since they all take turns during the performance in playing the piece’s six characters.  Let’s just say there’s a lot of talk about sex and love alternating with scenes of seduction and a good deal of clothes-on dry humping.  For the record, the only nudity I caught was one bare breast, but there are lengthy periods of under-the-clothes fondling accompanied by very heavy breathing. 

But where Playing With Fire succeeds nicely is in creating a fun, atmospheric environment well-suited for enjoying a cocktail or two.  The Box, a venue known for its late night erotic vaudevilles, is a lovely jewel box, looking like a miniature one-balcony opera house.  The least expensive tickets give you one drink and standing room at the back bar and at the higher end there’s table service up front that includes a bottle of champagne.  Although there’s a stage, director John Gould Rubin places the action all over the space so nobody gets a full view of everything, but video designers Ian Brownell and Raj Kottamasu have four camera operators following the actors so that the entire piece is visible on monitors.

With composers Kwan-Fai Lam and Sam Kindel supplying a techno soundscape and Bronwen Carson providing some frenetic, sexed-up choreography, there’s always something to grab your attention, either on the screen or inches away from you.  And at merely an hour long, Playing With Fire manages to sustain a flame bright enough to get you through the closing credits.

Photo by Lilly Charles.

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Posted on: Thursday, August 23, 2012 @ 02:52 PM Posted by: Michael Dale


Kritzer Girl?

So it was just announced that top shelf musical comedy performer Leslie Kritzer will be joining the cast of NEWSical on the same night Perez Hilton joins the cast.  I wonder…  Will this nationally known entertainment blogger be so impressed by the audaciously funny girl with the thrilling belt that he starts mentioning to his countless readers how sublime she’d be starring in a certain Fanny Brice bio-musical?  (With him as Nick, of course!)

Posted on: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 @ 04:31 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Feminine, Without The Mystique

Watching Phyllis Diller on TV when I was a kid, I didn't really get what she was doing (beyond being funny), but in an era when women were required to be of a certain level of attractiveness to be on television, Phyllis Diller embraced the fact that by unrealistic media standards she was unattractive and sexually undesireable and made herself the butt of her humor. She showed herself as a happy person who was comfortable with the way she looked and maybe that helped other women who didn't fit that mold feel happy with their own looks. She didn't hide the fact that she wore wigs and got a face lift; she owned it. And in doing all that she achieved something higher than being considered attractive and sexy. She was beloved.

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Click here for the latest example of how Eve Ensler is, quite simply, one of the most important writers of my lifetime.

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Posted on: Monday, August 20, 2012 @ 10:55 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 8/19/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week

“People came (to Hello, Dolly!) expecting me to do my shtick, but I played it straight.”

-- Phyllis Diller

 

The grosses are out for the week ending 8/19/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: WAR HORSE (14.1%), END OF THE RAINBOW (10.4%), GHOST (5.9%), CLYBOURNE PARK (2.9%), BRING IT ON THE MUSICAL (2.6%), PORGY AND BESS (2.4%), THE LION KING (1.1%), EVITA(0.7%),

Down for the week was: SISTER ACT (-8.1%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (-6.6%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-6.5%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-5.6%), CHICAGO (-4.7%), WICKED (-4.1%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-3.9%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (-3.7%), MAMMA MIA! (-2.6%), ONCE (-2.4%), JERSEY BOYS (-1.5%), ROCK OF AGES (-1.2%), MARY POPPINS (-0.9%), NEWSIES (-0.1%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (-0.1%),

Posted on: Monday, August 20, 2012 @ 07:21 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Harrison, TX: Three Plays by Horton Foote

Has there ever been a father/daughter theatrical combo that sets off sparks like when Hallie Foote acts in the plays of her father, the great Horton Foote?  For Primary Stages, she’s been heartbreaking as the emotionally repressed title character in The Day Emily Married and downright hilariously self-centered in Dividing The Estate.  Now, in the company’s package of three Foote one-acts titled Harrison, TX, she and Andrea Lynn Green open the evening with crackling comic chemistry that’s firmly grounded in reality.

As with most of the playwright’s work, all three pieces take place in Harrison, Texas, a fictional version of his childhood home, Wharton, where he grew up listening to a family full of story-tellers amusing each other with gossip and news.  Set in 1928, Blind Date has Hallie Foote as Dolores, a former beauty queen trying to cure her young niece, Sarah Nancy (Green) of her lack of success with potential suitors, despite the fact that the independently-minded Sarah Nancy clearly has no interest in traditional courtship, or in the boys who come a-calling.  To prepare for a visit from the hopeful Felix (Evan Jonigkeit), Dolores tries coaching her on a list of questions to ask her potential beau, because boys like girls who can have a conversation.  (“Who is going to win the football game next Friday?”  “What is the best car on the market today, do you think?”)

Well-experienced in keeping her spirits up, Dolores remains peppy and upbeat despite her mounting disappointment in Sarah Nancy’s sullen, deadpan disinterest, and the continual interruptions of her helpless and hungry husband Robert (Devon Abner), frustrated that she’s not making his dinner.  The date with Felix is a disaster until the pair winds up ditching conventions and starts being themselves.

Also set in 1928, The One-Armed Man, is a tense drama; not typical fare for Foote.  Alexander Cendese plays a mentally unstable man who worked for a cotton merchant (Jeremy Bobb) until his arm was severed by a picking machine.  He makes weekly visits to the boss’ office demanding his arm be returned.  The annoyed owner offers him $5 a week to stop bothering him with his irrational demand but this time the title character intends to settle the debt his way, once and for all.

The evening ends with the kind of quiet, character study Foote is more known for.  Set in 1952, The Midnight Caller takes us to a boarding home populated by the decidedly girlie “Cutie” Spencer (Green, in a nice reversal from her previous role), the easily-annoyed moralist Alma Jean (Mary Bacon) and the clever and gregarious retired schoolteacher, Rowena (a happily charming Jayne Houdyshell).

The comfortable uneventfulness of their lives is interrupted when the owner (Foote) rents rooms to two new boarders, the divorced Ralph (Bobb) and Helen (Jenny Dare Paulin), a introverted woman disowned by her mother for her relationship with a drunkard (Cendese) who starts desperately calling for her outside the home every evening at midnight.

Ralph’s desire for female company and the scandal created by Helen’s suitor brings up issues of loneliness and morality that affects each character in different ways.

Under Pam McKinnon’s gentle and sensitive direction, the three very different pieces are united by the theme of traditional ideas of class and morality being challenged; sometimes rationally, sometimes not.  The simple elegant design is highlighted by Marion Williams' wood-paneled set that quickly converts into three different interiors.  Graced by an exceptional acting ensemble, Mr. Foote’s modest trio makes for an extremely satisfying time.

Photos by James Leynse: Top: Andrea Lynn Green and Hallie Foote; Bottom: Jayne Houdyshell and Jeremy Bobb.

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Posted on: Saturday, August 18, 2012 @ 05:39 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Into The Woods: Nice Is Different Than Good

When Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s moralistic take on traditional European fairy tales, mostly penned by the brothers Grimm, last hit town in a major production, it was April of 2002.  The city was still very much rattled by the events of the past September, but a positive spirit was growing from our observances of acts of heroism surrounding us.

Still, the question that haunted many Americans at that time was, “Why do they hate us?” as the country grew less confident in the traditional belief that we have always been the world’s good guys.  It was during this uncertain time that Broadway audiences watched a childless baker and an abandoned Cinderella comfort an orphaned pair of children, Red Riding Hood and Jack, of beanstalk fame, with a quiet lullaby that summarized the second act’s theme of the subjectivity of right and wrong.

“Witches can be right.  Giants can be good.  You decide what’s right.  You decide what’s good,” instructs the lyric of “No One Is Alone,” as they prepare to kill an enemy whose only offense is the desire for justice against the boy who stole her property and murdered her husband.

There are many such discomforting moments in the often-brilliant text of Into The Woods.  Little Red Riding Hood is depicted as a precocious child who disobeys her mother’s instructions because the cunning wolf brings out early pangs of pubescent sexual awareness she’s too young to understand or control.  An elderly woman is impulsively killed in an attempt to keep her from acting in a manner that was putting her community in danger and the person who killed her defends himself to those who might have died if not for his actions by saying he was thinking of the greater good.  A wife cheats on her husband when a handsome prince arrives, only to be dumped the next morning and left to debate the morality of stepping out of your vows, just for a moment of fantasy fulfillment.

In America, our fairy tale culture is most familiar as presented by the Walt Disney Company, which tells us that wishes come true.  Lapine and Sondheim caution us that, “Wishes come true, not free.”

The new Delacorte production of Into The Woods is New York’s first high-profile mounting not directed by its bookwriter, Lapine.  Co-directors Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel have based this one on their Regent's Park Open Air Theatre production, though with a new cast and new design elements it’s not exactly a copy of what played in London.  And while it’s always nice to have new ideas and new interpretations injected into old favorites – and New York audiences have learned a lot in recent years about how our British friends like to inject new ideas and new interpretations into our musicals – “nice,” as Sondheim has Red Riding Hood sing, “is different than good.”

In many ways, it is a perfectly nice production, featuring a talented company of actors and several delightful surprises.  Someone who has never seen the musical before, and who appreciates serious-minded and literate musical comedy, would certainly find it a worthwhile evening just for the sake of being exposed to the material.

But “good” would be a production that allows for the intimacy needed for Sondheim’s intricate, razor-sharp lyrics and Lapine’s fantasy-deflating dialogue to pull the audience in. The Delecorte’s large stage and semi-circular arena style seating is not the kind of space designed for rapid wordplay, especially when set designers John Lee Beatty and Soutra Gilmour place a vertical maze of trees – making up stairways, walkways and a tower – so far upstage that the actors lose any connection with the audience during the numerous scenes played there.  And even when playing further downstage, Ben Stanton’s too dim lighting made facial expressions difficult to take in, even from my second row seat, until the brightness was finally turned up for the bows.  In what seems to be an attempt to cover all angles of the stage, ensemble scenes are so spread out that it’s often difficult to tell who is singing or speaking solo lines.  This Into The Woods may be heard, but it isn’t felt.

This is an actor’s musical, but more thought seems to have gone into stagecraft.  It is very impressive stagecraft, though.  The beanstalk created out of green umbrellas is rather fun, as is the puppetry involved in creating the giant (voiced by Glenn Close), though choosing to have the giant wear glasses does raise a question about the feasibility of the story’s ending.  And the technique used to climb up Rapunzel’s hair would probably be quite enjoyable to see, if I could see it.

Sheader and Steel have thrown a hodge-podge of ideas into the text, many of them very entertaining, though not all of them make complete sense.  The most daring move was to change the character of the narrator from a grown man to a contemporary young boy, perhaps around 12, who, by way of a brief prologue, we find has run away from home to some wooded rural area.  Perhaps as a way to alleviate his fears, he takes an assortment of dolls out of his knapsack and begins reciting the story of a baker and his wife who could not bear children because the witch next door placed a curse on their family as punishment for an act of theft.  To lift the curse they must deliver to her, "the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold.”  This task, of course, leads to encounters with Jack, Little Red, Rapunzel and Cinderella, as they lie, steal, double-talk and deceive in order to be blessed with a child.

The second act, which deals with the cost of having wishes come true, is presented as a nightmare the child is having while sleeping outdoors on the wood chips.  Those familiar with the show may question if that choice is consistent with what the book eventually tells us about the narrator character.  Nevertheless Noah Radcliffe, who alternates in the role with Jack Broderick, has a fine stage presence and a strong, clear singing voice.

Costume designer Emily Rebholz, who makes Cinderella’s step-family look like club kids from Boy George’s Taboo, dresses Sarah Stiles’ Little Red Riding Hood as a sort of punked out biker chick.  A very talented and funny performer, Stiles plays the role broadly in a boisterous little girl voice and gets her laughs.  Having the role played by an adult allows for some graphic comedy between Red and the wolf (a lusty and macho Ivan Hernandez, dressed like he’s about to go on a road tour of Hair), such as the scene where the wolf eating Red is presented to mean that he’s giving her oral sex, but not having the role played by an actual little girl, as was done in the musical’s two Broadway productions, takes away Red’s naïve inquisitiveness about her sexual awakening, which is written so charmingly and subtly into her lyrics.

As the baker’s wife, Amy Adams shows some strong singing pipes but she’s barely playing a character, reducing a role that’s loaded with witty moments into a bland, humorless cipher.  As her husband, Denis O’Hare seems almost too grounded in a grim reality, though he does play his familiar pattern of flatly speeding through lines sprinkled with sudden blasts of emotion.

Donna Murphy’s witch is designed to look like a human tree, but her impressive costume pretty much leaves one of Broadway’s top comical leading ladies unable to perform, buried under a concept. 

Fortunately, Chip Zien’s Mysterious Man costume allows the ingratiating actor free reign to work his gently humorous charms.  The original baker in the musical’s initial run, Zien captures the spirited mixture of urban sophistication and innocence that makes Into The Woods work.  His skillful touch with the material will make you believe the magical kingdom is an upper west side apartment with a view of the Hudson and within the delivery range of Zabar’s.

Photos by Joan Marcus:  Top: Donna Murphy and Tess Soltau; Bottom: Sarah Stiles and Ivan Hernandez.

Posted on: Thursday, August 16, 2012 @ 08:09 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 8/12/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week

 

"I am no more humble than my talents require."

-- Oscar Levant

 

The grosses are out for the week ending 8/12/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: EVITA (13.9%), BRING IT ON THE MUSICAL (8.8%), GHOST (7.8%), PORGY AND BESS (5.6%), JERSEY BOYS (4.9%), MAMMA MIA! (4.5%), SISTER ACT (4.1%), WAR HORSE (3.7%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (2.4%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (2.0%), CHICAGO (1.7%), WICKED (1.4%), HARVEY (0.9%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT(0.8%),

Down for the week was: FELA! (-22.6%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (-5.6%), END OF THE RAINBOW (-5.1%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (-3.8%), MEMPHIS (-3.1%), MARY POPPINS (-3.0%), CLYBOURNE PARK (-1.9%), ONCE (-1.5%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (-0.8%), ROCK OF AGES (-0.8%),

Posted on: Monday, August 13, 2012 @ 03:13 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


The Mobile Shakespeare Unit's Richard III

Before a frustrated New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses grumbled, "Well, let's build the bastard a theater," and designated city funds to build the Delacorte, Joseph Papp’s dream of bringing free Shakespeare to everyone was being achieved by mobile units of actors that toured the city in small scale productions.  Now in its second year, the Public Theater’s Mobile Shakespeare Unit has been recreating that experience for audiences that free Shakespeare In The Park cannot reach.

Director Amanda Dehnert’s greatly abridged 90 minute production of Richard III, now playing The Public for a limited run at the bargain price of $15, is the same show that has been touring prisons, homeless shelters, centers for the elderly and other community support centers in the five boroughs for the past three weeks.  And while it’s certainly not being presented as a substitute for a fully mounted production of the complete text, it does provide an excellent theatrical experience on its own terms.

It's a bit like watching an indoor, air-conditioned version of one of the city’s numerous no-frills outdoor Shakespeare productions that are presented with youthful zest throughout the warm months.  There is no set, save for some moveable blocks that set scenes from time to time.  The audience is seated around a 14 x 14 foot playing space with actors – costumed by Linda Roethke in contemporary clothes styled to suggest 15th Century England – seated among them, making for quick entrances and exits.  Most of the minimal props are stashed under the actors’ seats and there is no lighting design; actors and audience are all seen under the room’s normal lighting.

The most prominent set piece on display - a brilliant, darkly humorous idea - is a banner diagramming the complicated royal line of succession following the reign of Edward III; a scoreboard, you might say, where names are blotted out in bloody red ink as each obstacle between the title character and the throne is gruesomely eliminated.

As the scheming Duke of Gloucester, who butchers his way to the crown held by his brother, Edward IV, Ron Cephas Jones is certainly worthy of a full-length production.  Not a hunchback, as is typically played, his Richard wears braces on one arm and a leg.  His lean figure and drawn face suggest a man who is weary of life’s hardships, and his manner of addressing the audience for many of his longer speeches establishes a sympathetic intimacy.  He’s even convincingly sincere when trying to woo Lady Anne (a fine Michelle Beck) over the corpse of her husband, who he himself has killed.

Aside from Jones, the company’s nine members all play multiple roles, highlighted by Suzanne Bertish’s viciously hateful turn as the banished Queen Margaret, riveting as she curses the royal family with tragic prophecies.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this production is the context in which we’re seeing it.  How would the inmates at Riker’s react to Richard’s violent plots?  How would the residents at a shelter for abused women respond to Anne spitting in the face of her intended seducer?  How would a resident of a senior center, perhaps one who was once a regular theatergoer but has not been able to attend for many years, feel to once again be able to enjoy this level of acting?  Sometimes the thing is much more than the play.

Photos by Joan Marcus:  Top:  Michelle Beck and Ron Cephas Jones; Bottom: Suzanne Bertish and Myriam A. Hyman.

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Posted on: Sunday, August 12, 2012 @ 07:06 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Bullet For Adolf: Summer Of My German Soldier

Once upon a summer of ’83, a young aspiring actor named Woody Harrelson became close pals with a Harlem-raised fellow named Frankie Hyman while they both worked a construction job in Houston.  Eventually, they went their separate ways; one becoming famous for doing something other than playwriting and the other pursuing a career in writing, although these many years later he apparently hasn’t written anything he would care to mention in a Playbill bio.

But when reunited, they decided to put their experiences into play; a comedy with characters based on themselves and all the colorful people they encountered that summer on the job.  As Harrelson has mentioned to the media on more than one occasion, they had characters and they had their dynamics and relationships, but they just didn’t have a plot.

After last night’s opening, I’d advise them to keep looking for one.

Oh sure, there’s a first act curtain line in Bullet For Adolf that hints that the two-and-a-half-hour muddy mess of an evening is going to indulge in a narrative, but clearly it must take a back seat to the numerous gags and detours into subjects like the cause of pedophilia, the consumption of human placenta, white guys acting like black guys, gay guys acting like straight guys and even a quick dig at Judy Garland.  (“Unless that chick is skipping down a yellow brick road, I don’t want to hear from her.”)

Fortunately for our two aspiring scribes, there was a theatre production company named Children At Play, owned by a fellow named Woody Harrelson, which seemed happy to give their shoddy work in progress a go at a prime Off-Broadway house, and give the show a big publicity boost by hiring a well-known celebrity to direct; a guy named Woody Harrelson.

Filling in for Woody Harrelson, at least on stage, is Brandon Coffey as the easy-going slacker, Zach, who invites the new guy at his construction gig, Frankie (Tyler Jacob Rollinson), to share his apartment along with his current roommate, Clint (David Coomber), a handsome lad with well-defined muscle tone and the vocal and physical mannerisms of 1983 sitcom heterosexual Jm J. Bullock.  When Clint is eventually seen making out with Zach’s ex-girlfriend, Batina (Shannon Garland), it’s suggested that he may be doing it to experience a sexual connection with his roomie.

Lee Orsorio plays a white guy nicknamed Dago-Czech (a tribute to his lineage) who prefers acting like a stereotypical black guy from the streets.  Dago-Czech is so hung up on his appearance that he even wears a suit while digging a ditch.  Eventually joining the mix are “angry black woman “ Jackie (Shamika Cotton) and “crazy black chick” Shareeta (Marsha Stephanie Blake).

Somehow, this crew consists of the entire guest list for Batina’s 18th birthday party, hosted by her Nazi-sympathizing German father (The fine stage actor Nick Wyman keeps the character from being a total cartoon.) whose pride and joy is a Lugar pistol said to be used in an assassination attempt against Hitler.  And yes, the gun is fired before the final blackout.

Bullet For Adolf certainly tries hard to be edgy and offensive, in a hip, casual way, but there are only so many times you can listen to tepid vulgarities such as, “Does your ass ever get jealous of all the shit that comes out of your mouth?”

Though the play has no strong connection to nostalgia for the early 80s, Imaginary Media provides clever and entertaining video montages of news events and pop culture of the day between the numerous scenes.  Particularly enjoyable was the one clip showing a pretty and prim young woman in a Boston watering hole asking a loveable elderly bartender if they can use a new waitress.

 Photos by Carol Rosegg:  Top: David Coomber and Nick Wyman; Bottom: Tyler Jacob Rollinson and Lee Osorio.

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Posted on: Friday, August 10, 2012 @ 12:15 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


The Best Man: Change We Can Believe In

Two days after the death of its author, I had the pleasure of taking in director Michael Wilson’s outstanding revival of The Best Man – one of the best evenings Broadway had to offer last season – for the third time.  Gore Vidal most certainly went out with a landslide victory.

His 1960 comedy/drama permits us a peek at the seedier side of presidential politics before giving us some hope that decency may stand a chance.  Set during the convention of an unnamed major American party, the tense and juicy story is embedded in a time when delegates gathered into town, not to perfunctorily declare a pre-determined winner, but to debate through multiple votes, late night deals and maybe a few protest rallies to come up with a nominee.  But every so often a timeless thought flies out of the elegant and insightfully witty text that, if you didn’t know better, you’d swear must have been added to give the play a contemporary jolt.

While many of the major players have been recently recast, the rich center of the production remains the interplay between John Larroquette and James Earl Jones; both of them giving knockout performances at the beginning of the production’s run, now even more striking in subtlety and subtext.

A stately and sardonic Larroquette portrays William Russell, a liberal candidate and former Secretary of State who heads into the convention leading the race over conservative adversary Senator Joseph Cantwell.  Russell could win on the first ballot unless the ex-president he served under, Arthur Hockstader decides to throw his support in Cantwell’s direction.  And while an unseen third candidate stands little chance of victory, his delegates, if released, could also become a deciding factor.

As Hockstader, a robust and commanding Jones makes it clear that, despite quickly deteriorating health, he’s thoroughly enjoying what is mostly likely his last moment in the public spotlight, savoring the backroom dealings of presidential politics and the power he wields.  The scene where the two of them meet to discuss the conscientious intellectual’s shortcomings as a candidate contains some of the best acting you’re apt to see on Broadway these days.

Both Russell and Cantwell have skeletons in the closet; issues that would be more acceptable to many Americans today, but would certainly keep a candidate out office fifty years ago.  When one candidate threatens to release evidence against his opponent, the other must consider if he should counter with newly discovered knowledge about a long-ago event – a real doozy for 1960 – that could sink the man’s entire career.

John Stamos replaces Eric McCormack as the sharply groomed Cantwell, whose strength as a leader lies in his capability to hold off definite opinions until the polls determine what the public wants.  His performance plays up the lusty moments between the senator and his wife (a sexy and manipulative Kristin Davis) but there’s a bit too much “playing the bad guy” in his sneers and leers.

While Candice Bergen played Russell’s wife as a shy and socially awkward woman trying her best to be the supportive wife despite difficulties in her marriage, Cybill Shepard, as is more typical for her, is cool and cautious; confident in her role as the candidate’s wife.  It’s a different, but equally effective approach.  Also a lateral move is the switch from the chirpy elegance of Angela Lansbury’s performance as the party’s grand dame of influence to the more businesslike drawls of Elizabeth Ashley, repeating her performance from the 2000 Broadway revival.

Also returning from the previous revival is Mark Blum, who replaced Michael McKeon when his leg was broken in a traffic accident a few months ago.  As Russell’s campaign manager he does a fine job showing the character’s professionalism in keeping his nerves in check while surrounded by attention-grabbing politicos.

Solid support is delivered by Jefferson Mays, continuing in his role as a nervous citizen whose word could affect the entire election and Dakin Matthews, whose one significant scene as a hard-drinking, good old boy senator, has grown into a real highlight.

The Best Man remains one of the best nights on Broadway and with presidential conventions coming up, its satire is both funnier and scarier.

Photos by Joan Marcus:  Top: Cybill Shepherd, John Larroquette; Bottom: Kristin Davis and John Stamos.

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Posted on: Wednesday, August 08, 2012 @ 12:40 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


It's Good To Know...

...we'll still be playin' his songs.

Posted on: Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 01:19 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.
 
   
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