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BWW Reviews: SWIMMING AT THE RITZ is a Hit at NJ Rep

"If Pamela Harrington did not exist, we would have to invent her."

-Al Gore

Swimming at the Ritz is making its US Premiere at New Jersey Repertory Company (NJ Rep) through February 1st and it is a must-see theatrical event. The audience is welcomed into a private suite at the Paris Ritz Hotel to meet Pamela Churchill Hayward Harriman who is being sued by her step-children for forty million dollars. It is 1995 and Pamela, a saucy and vivacious individual, is currently serving as the Ambassador to France for the Clinton Administration.

This smart and entertaining play is written by Charles Leipart and is directed by NJ Rep's Artistic Director, SuzAnne Barabas. The two-hander stars Judith Hawking as Pamela and Christopher Daftsios as Pietro, Pamela's handsome, young Italian valet. Barabas' ingenious direction, Leipart's clever script, and the remarkable talents of Hawking and Daftsios make Swimming at the Ritz a vibrant and totally captivating play.

Hawking masters the role of Pamela as she engages the audience in an evocative journey of romantic adventures, an extravagant lifestyle and her own political prowess. The play brings fascinating insight into her world, that she dubs the "Pamela Club." With an early marriage to Winston Churchill's son, Randolph Churchill, followed by a string of high-profile affairs and subsequent marriages to Broadway Producer, Leland Hayward and wealthy Democratic politician, W. Averell Harriman, her life was anything but boring. Hawking's talent for impersonation brings many of the people in Pamela's life to the stage.

Christopher Daftsios as Pietro is the ideal character to enhance Pamela's story. Whether he acts as her earnest and helpful valet or participates in a reminiscent scene with swanky dance moves, he completes the depiction of Pamela Churchill Hayward Harriman.

Once again, the creative team at NJ Rep has made this play a totally pleasing production with choreography by Georgina Bates, scenic design by Jessica Parks, lighting design by Jill Nagle, sound design by Merek Royce Press and costume design by Patricia E. Doherty and stage management by Jennifer Tardibuono.

Experience a piece of history along with the humor and drama of a real iconic figure in Swimming at the Ritz. And when Pamela takes her nightly swim at the Paris Ritz, metropolitan area audiences should be in the pool.

Swimming at the Ritz is now on a limited engagement through February 1st at New Jersey Repertory Company (179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ). Tickets may be purchased by calling 732-229-3166 or online at

Photo Credit: SuzAnne Barabas

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