BWW Review: Len Cariou Speaks The Speeches and Sings The Songs in BROADWAY & THE BARD
While Broadway fans will primarily recognize Len Cariou for his musical theatre leading man roles in APPLAUSE, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC and, especially, his Tony-winning turn as SWEENEY TODD, the fine Canadian-born actor's earlier career was extensively steeped in Shakespeare.
After two years with Ontario's Stratford Shakespeare Festival, he served as a classical leading man with the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis and made his second Broadway appearance in the title role of the American Shakespeare Theatre's production of KING HENRY V.
So combining the actor's love for and expertise in the two forms is certainly a natural choice for an intimate evening with Mr. Cariou, and BROADWAY & THE BARD serves up the combination in a charming manner that reminds us of how much the two worlds really do have in common.
Directed Barry Kleinbort, the actor is joined onstage by music director/pianist Mark Janas. The simple premise has Cariou begin with a familiar Shakespeare monologue that segues into a Broadway song or two.
So when TWELFTH NIGHT's Count Orsino advises his musicians that, "If music be the food of love, play on," it leads to Stephen Sondheim's innocently romantic "Love, I Hear," followed by the Rodgers and Hart warning against "Falling In Love With Love."
In a wink to his early Broadway success, Cariou suggests that the reason Henry V's troops obediently follow his command of "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more," can be summed up in the Lee Adams lyric, "What is it that we're living for? Applause! Applause!"
Pettruchio ponders the Lerner and Loewe question of "How To Handle A Woman?," Iago releases his thirst for vengeance with Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg's "Down With Love" and Richard II ponders the role of a leader with Cyril Ornadel and Leslie Bricusse's "If I Ruled The World."
Perhaps the only disappointment is that a selection from his one-performance flop DANCE A LITTLE CLOSER is the only song in the evening that was introduced by Cariou. Surely there could have been some connection between Shakespeare and his roles as SWEENEY TODD's demon barber and A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC's sexually frustrated husband.
Nevertheless, the show is warm and delightful. At age 76, the actor's sharp and stinging presence has mellowed a bit and his singing voice has lost a bit of its range, but his aged wisdom and craft as an actor remains of a high caliber.
Len Cariou certainly has more tales worth attending up his talented sleeve.