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Potted Potter - The Unauthorized Harry Experience - A Parody by Dan and Jeff
When I first heard the title Potted Potter – The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff, my American mind immediately thought of the slang term we use for inebriated and figured Jefferson Turner and Daniel Clarkson’s two-person, 70-minute presentation would be some kind of irreverent adult spoof of J.K. Rowling's septet of Harry Potter novels. But no, “potted,” to our Brit friends, merely means abridged, and the show, which actually doesn't involve much parody, is really more of a wholesome family entertainment; not that there’s anything wrong with that, as we say on the Upper West Side.
I haven’t read any of the books nor seen any of their film adaptations, but despite the insistence of the show’s promotional material that you need not know the difference between a horcrux and a Hufflepuff to find yourself roaring with laughter, as insurance I invited a Harry Potter enthusiast who was very excited to see the show to be my guest, figuring she could fill me in on any insider references I wouldn’t get and to give me her perspective as a fan. However, her educated reaction seemed to mirror my novice one and the biggest compliment she could muster was that the boys were certainly “energetic.” But we both did notice that the children in the audience seemed to be very much into the show.
The evening begins with Turner, wearing those familiar round specs, sitting in a corner of the stage quietly reading while Clarkson glad-hands his way through the audience. It seems straight man Jeff claims to be the world’s foremost authority on all things Potter and plans an extravagant presentation summarizing the entire literary series, averaging ten minutes per book. However Dan, assigned as the goofy one, has foolishly wasted the budged on some less-than-appropriate set pieces and a costly dragon. The crux of the attempts at humor primarily stem from Turner’s frustration in Clarkson’s ignorance of the source material (“Dumbledore... Is he important?”), rather than deriving humor from the books themselves. Instead of cleverness, there’s a lot of frantic silliness as Clarkson plows his way through a multitude of characters, using makeshift props and costumes, while Turner remains the title wizard, a role that he concludes “is so boring!”
The marquee moment comes when a pair of young volunteers is plucked from the audience to assist in a game of Quidditch, which consists of a large inflatable ball being smacked across the auditorium by audience members while Clarkson complains about how poorly we’re playing. And while I did detect some mild enjoyment being had by my fellow viewers, Potted Potter had me wishing I’d stayed home with seven good books.
Photo of Jefferson Turner and Daniel Clarkson by Carol Rosegg.
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Posted on: Monday, June 04, 2012 @ 03:34 AM Posted by: Michael Dale
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 5/27/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week
"I enjoyed the courtroom as just another stage but not so amusing as Broadway."
-- Mae West
The grosses are out for the week ending 5/27/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: MARY POPPINS (14.7%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (6.7%), VENUS IN FUR (4.7%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (4.4%), DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER (4.2%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (4.2%), PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (2.2%), CLYBOURNE PARK (2.0%), WICKED (1.2%), ROCK OF AGES (0.6%), NEWSIES(0.6%),
Down for the week was: GODSPELL (-15.9%), PORGY AND BESS (-10.9%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (-10.3%), MEMPHIS (-10.0%), ANYTHING GOES (-9.6%), WAR HORSE (-8.8%), MAMMA MIA! (-6.2%), GHOST (-5.0%), SISTER ACT (-4.5%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-3.8%), A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (-3.5%), END OF THE RAINBOW (-3.2%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (-2.8%), HARVEY (-2.7%), CHICAGO (-1.8%), JERSEY BOYS (-1.3%), EVITA (-1.1%), ONCE (-1.0%), JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (-0.8%), THE LYONS (-0.6%), THE COLUMNIST (-0.5%), DEATH OF A SALESMAN (-0.4%), OTHER DESERT CITIES (-0.2%),
Posted on: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 @ 04:42 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
My Sinatra & The Naked Truth
“Mensch” is not a word you might immediately think of to describe Frank Sinatra, but the label seems to fit Cary Hoffman quite snugly. And though his solo musical, My Sinatra, has the nice Jewish guy from Long Island singing fifteen Sinatra hits (“One For My Baby,” “”Summer Wind,” “Luck Be A Lady,” “The Lady Is A Tramp”… you know the rest.), it is not a celebrity impersonation show. It’s actually a very warm, enjoyable presentation of his lifelong obsession with the man who many would consider to be definitive male interpreter of American popular music.
Through photo slides and humorous patter, Hoffman tells the story of a boy who lost his father at an early age and was raised by his mom and a trio of professional musician uncles and eventually a step-father. But the biggest male influence in his life was someone he would meet only briefly, as an adult. It was through Sinatra’s voice and the songs he recorded that Hoffman found a role model for being a man. As a boy he copied the crooner’s singing style and discovered his own confidence by emulating his role model.
Joined on stage by music director Alex Nelson at piano (there are also recorded big band arrangements), Hoffman sings with Sinatra’s phrasing and diction but is always his own likeable self on stage; a guy in a tuxedo who found a popular artist he can identify with, who gave him comfort and inspiration throughout his life.
And that’s the universal appeal of My Sinatra. It’s about how celebrities – the ones who really touch us – can be major influences in our lives. So even if your own personal obsession is with someone named Barbra or Judy or Michael, there’s something to relate to in Hoffman’s story.
Photo of Cary Hoffman by Stephen Sorokoff.
One of my favorite aspects of the neo-burlesque movement, which has been around for so long that they may as well drop the “neo,” is the tongue-in-cheek way in which crassness and vulgarity is often portrayed as a commentary on crassness and vulgarity. That seems to be the attitude behind The Naked Truth, the new burlesque game show at The Triad. Or maybe it’s just another gimmick to kick back with while enjoying drinks and watching attractive men and women strip. Either way works for me.
Co-producer Jonny Porkpie, known as the Burlesque Mayor of New York (He actually did run for the city’s highest office once; mostly as a protest against the candidacy of The Naked Cowboy, whose politics, he claimed, was not truly representative of New York’s naked community.), serves as the wise-cracking host. His clever quips are often one-upped by the show’s unseen announcer, Scott Rayow.
The night I attended, the burlesque end of evening included some of the more popular names in Gotham’s burley scene. Jo “Boobs” Weldon, who runs the New York School of Burlesque (where many local performers go to learn their craft), performed a novelty act where her lovely curves were topped by an enormous Godzilla head as she menaced stage kittens Buxom Bunny and Satira Sin while shedding her extra layers. Tigger, a major name in boylesque, performed a wild act as The Traumatized Clown, hesitantly removing the colorful garb covering his well-defined chest while asking the musical question, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”
More traditional strip teases out of evening gowns were elegantly (and a bit bawdily) offered by Tansy and The Maine Attraction. The previously mentioned kittens performed a cute double act where each tried upstaging the other and even Porkpie joined in the flesh exposing with his sardonically macho routine.
But The Naked Truth, as explained by our host, was created to discover, “What’s behind the behinds.” After each of the four guests’ performances, Porkpie wanders into the house to find appropriately enthused and/or drunk audience members to answer a very personal multiple choice question about the people we’ve all just seen twirling their tassels. (How many times a day do they like to have sex?, What is the most unusual place where they’ve had sex?...) Four correct responders get to win valuable sexually oriented prizes by being victorious in competitions like an erotic version of password and a condom-applying race. It’s all very silly and a lot of good-natured fun.
The Naked Truth is co-produced by Gary Beeber, who also brings some of New York’s best burlesque talent to The Triad with Gotham Burlesque; next seen on June 2nd, headlined by Danger Dame Veronica Varlow and featuring two of my favorite burlesque vocalists, Shelly Watson and Broadway Brassy.
Photo of Jo Weldon and Jonny Porkpie by Don Spiro.
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Posted on: Monday, May 28, 2012 @ 02:36 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Judge Me Paris
Snooty Manhattanites such as I generally have a short list of offerings that would lure us all the way out to Brooklyn. For some it’s a steak at Peter Lugar. For others, it’s the Rodins at the Brooklyn Museum. But the quickest way to get me aboard a Gowanus-bound F train is to say that director/choreographer Austin McCormick has got a new theatre/dance piece for his Company XIV.
Their current “Baroque Burlesque Opera” inspired by the mythical events setting off the Trojan War, Judge Me Paris, samples heavily from the 17th and 18th Century work of John Eccles, John Weldon, Antonio Vivaldi, Marin Marais and William Congreve and is produced in association with Morningside Opera and SIREN Baroque.
After being handed complimentary champagne upon entering, audience members observe the ensemble preparing before the performance, stretching and applying makeup touches at one of the mirrored walls. (We also get to take in the sexy period costumes by Olivera Gajic.) A prelude is played by three strings and a harpsichord followed by Jeff Takacs, as the gregariously comical Zeus, narrating the story of how three goddesses – Juno (Amber Youell), Venus (Brittany Palmer) and Pallas (Brett Umlauf) – each claim a golden apple intended for “the fairest.” Zeus sends the apple to the mortal Paris (Sean Gannon) via his messenger Mercury (Cailan Orn) and the two engage in a sensual dance as he learns he must decide who truly deserves it.
The three goddesses, all possessing dramatic soprano voices, individually sing of their worthiness as their images are projected across the wide and deep playing space with live video cameras. They also lure Paris with troupes of enticing dancers performing in steamy pageantry.
Finally, Venus offers the most beautiful of mortals, Helen, played by the most charismatic and dramatically interesting of Company XIV’s actor/dancers, Laura Careless. Unfortunately, the decision to give Helen a rather short and not very flashy dance moment, especially after giving her such a big buildup, ends the piece with a bit of a letdown.
But until that point, Judge Me Paris is full of opulent splendor, soft eroticism and moments of cheery playfulness. A lush and lovely fantasy.
Photos by Corey Tatarczuk: Top: Jeff Takacs, Sean Gannon and Amber Youell; Bottom: Company.
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Posted on: Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 02:28 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
February House: Brooklyn Lodgers
Carson McCullers, Erika Mann and Gypsy Rose Lee are sharing a house in Brooklyn. No, it’s not the theme for a costume ball at Sarah Lawrence. It’s a taste of February House, the heady new chamber musical at The Public (by way of Long Wharf) that may still be in need of some sharpening and editing to match its lofty ambitions, but still offers some refreshingly high-minded moments of musical theatre.
Seth Bockley’s book is based on the true story of how in 1940, Harper’s Bazaar fiction editor George Davis (Julian Fleisher) fell in love with a dilapidated old home in Brooklyn Heights and transformed it into an outer-boroughs artist colony where an eclectic group of prominent talents could cut themselves off from the troubles overseas and create.
The makeshift family, many of whom happened to have been born in February, includes composer Benjamin Britten (Stanley Bahorek) and poet W.H. Auden (Erik Lochtefeld), as they collaborate on writing an operetta about Paul Bunyan. Each is accompanied by his respective romantic partner, tenor Peter Pears (Ken Barnett) and student Chester Kallman (A.J. Shively). Novelist Carson McCullers (a captivatingly wide-eyed Kristen Sieh) is there, struggling through her second novel and also struggling through alcoholism, troubles with her husband (Ken Clark) and the sexual temptation of German cabaret singer and magazine editor Erika Mann (Stephanie Hayes). When money gets tight, strip-tease artist Gypsy Rose Lee (Kacie Sheik, nailing every innuendo), at the height of her fame and pay checks, contributes more than her share to join the retreat in order to finish her book, The G-String Murders.
But aside from the expected sequence of the group being formed, their achievement of notoriety and eventual disbanding, Bockley’s plotless snapshot approach to the characters isn’t enough to sustain the musical for its lengthy span of well over two and a half hours. There are concerns over the war in Europe – particularly distressing to the British characters – some musings about a bohemian paradise and the obligatory sexual openness, but while director Davis McCallum’s production is suitably atmospheric, the musical has its sluggish moments.
Composer/lyricist Gabriel Kahane offers some attractive songs, but his score would benefit from a fuller plot that would help dictate song placement and subject matter. Many of them exist in isolated moments that have little to do with anything that came before or will matter after; the low point being a mock operatic duet for Pears and Britten at their discovery of bedbugs. Faring far better are a confrontation about the purpose of art during wartime, a wistful fantasy of following one’s wanderlust and, for Gypsy Rose Lee, a bawdy performance number about getting turned on by a man’s brains. (It zips along nicely, if you know what I mean.)
Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Julian Fleisher and Kristen Sieh; Bottom: Kacie Sheik.
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Posted on: Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 08:05 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 5/20/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week
"I hold Broadway to a lower standard than I do Off-Broadway. Not in terms of polish but in terms of originality."
-- Ben Brantley
The grosses are out for the week ending 5/20/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING (27.8%), PORGY AND BESS (23.4%), ANYTHING GOES (14.1%), WAR HORSE (13.0%), CHICAGO (12.5%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (12.2%), MAMMA MIA! (12.2%), MEMPHIS (11.2%), WICKED (11.0%), JERSEY BOYS (8.1%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (6.9%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (6.3%), PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (6.2%), VENUS IN FUR (5.6%), SISTER ACT (5.4%), END OF THE RAINBOW (3.8%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (3.6%), MARY POPPINS (3.4%), ROCK OF AGES (3.4%), ONCE (3.3%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (3.3%), EVITA (3.0%), GHOST (2.5%), GODSPELL (2.5%), JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (2.4%), OTHER DESERT CITIES (1.9%), THE COLUMNIST (0.4%), THE LION KING (0.3%), DEATH OF A SALESMAN (0.2%), NEWSIES(0.1%),
Down for the week was: NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-5.8%), DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER (-5.1%), A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (-3.7%), THE LYONS (-1.1%), CLYBOURNE PARK (-0.8%),
Posted on: Monday, May 21, 2012 @ 03:32 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Chlamydia Dell'Arte: A Sex Ed Burlesque & The Broadway Musicals of 1975
The admirable mission of Gigi Naglak and Meghann Williams, writer/performers of Chlamydia Dell'Arte: A Sex Ed Burlesque, is to remove some of the awkwardness in open discussions about human sexuality by treating intimate issues with humor. Their modestly produced show, which just completed a week-long run at Los Kabayitos, is obviously built to travel, coming to Gotham via stints in Philly and DC, and the amiable pair pulls off their mission with endearing enthusiasm.
Twelve quick vignettes – sketches, songs and dance pieces – alternate with video segments of the two as stuffy schoolteachers and others of a group of women individually responding to questions addressing topics like their definition of sex, how they learned about sex and how they, as adults, have taught their children about sex.
With no director or choreographer credited, I would assumed that Naglak and Williams managed those task themselves, and perhaps the show would best be viewed as a promising work in progress that could use further guidance.
Much of their humor is of the sophomoric, one-joke variety. Naglak dances as a ballerina clad in white, who expresses joy and relief when her period visibly arrives. The two of them play cooking show hosts who, after a few too many glasses of wine, start demonstrating on a dildo their favorite way to eat chocolate frosting. Naglak, standing behind an artificial lower torso, discusses birth control options with her talking vagina. Sketches of this nature might seem a little crass coming from men, but perhaps women might find these lowbrow depths refreshing coming from other women.
But lowbrow is actually highbrow in another sketch where they play out Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene as two horny adolescents masturbating, a concept that makes complete sense when you figure that Shakespeare’s youthful lovers are more realistically a couple of kids who barely know each other at the beginnings of their sexual awareness. Another clever sketch begins with a slideshow detailing important information about STDs which is upstaged when the two start performing a strip-tease down to pasties and g-strings; a smart comment on how thoughts of sexual health get shoved to the side when encountering titillation.
Other vignettes include Williams’ monologue about a woman’s obsession with being perfectly shaved for a date, a song explaining the difference between transsexuals and transvestites and a fan dance performed by Naglak. Most were pleasant, but lacking in comedic sharpness beyond their initial ideas.
There was a talkback after the performances I attended, where Naglak and Williams chatted about their experiences regarding sex education and of the evolution of their show. Speaking off-the-cuff, their remarks were far more interesting and humorous than most of the material they performed. If the pair can inject the evening with more of the honest, realistic humor displayed in the talkback, Chlamydia Dell'Arte could prove more worthy of its admirable intentions.
Photo of Gigi Naglak and Meghann Williams by Lauren Schwarz.
Broadway musicals were in a crazy state of flux by 1975. That newfangled idea of attracting new audiences through well-produced television commercials was turning shows that might not have lasted long through traditional publicity into multi-year running hits (That year The Wiz was rescued from a quick closing by its commercial.), but the new audiences attending those shows were venturing into a theatre district overflowing with porno houses, hookers and three-card monte con artists. Those in the know knew it was dangerous to hang around Times Square after the shows let out, but good luck riding the subways at night.
Two of musical theatre’s most notable director/choreographers helmed their greatest achievements, though Michael Bennett’s optimistic salute to the unknowns who chase their dreams, A Chorus Line, was stealing headlines from Bob Fosse’s first post-heart attack creation, the comically cynical Chicago. Rock composers were trying to replicate the success of Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar, but The Rocky Horror Show failed to find an audience and theatre-goers preferred Shenandoah, a traditional book musical with an anti-war message, over The Lieutenant, a rock opera about the My Lai massacre that lasted a week on Broadway but was admired enough to pick up Tony nominations for its book and score. Goodtime Charley tried to replicate the success of Pippin with its stylistic telling of the story of Joan of Arc, but the decision to focus on the less interesting character, the dauphin Charles, doomed the effort of an attractive and clever Grossman and Hackady score.
The days of jukebox musicals were yet to come, but audiences seeking some fine old material were found at the revue Rodgers and Hart and the bio-musical, Me and Bessie (featuring songs made famous by Bessie Smith). And Scott Joplin’s score for his 1910 opera, Tremonisha, only recently discovered at the time, made its Broadway debut and even picked up a Tony nomination.
For the 1975 edition of Town Hall’s Broadway By The Year series, host and creator Scott Siegel concentrated on the more recognizable songs of the day; both those that were being heard on Broadway for the first time and those that were already American Songbook classics that lured audiences into new shows.
A new feature to the series was large chorus of performers made up primarily of talent in the early stages of their careers. The Broadway By The Year Chorus opened the show with two of the indispensible moments of 1975 Broadway, A Chorus Line’s “I Hope I Get It,” segueing into “One,” staged by the evening’s choreographer, Vibecke Dahle.
Speaking of A Chorus Line, there was quite a bit of chucking from the audience when it became apparent that Ashley Brown, known primarily as Broadway’s original Mary Poppins, was about to perform “Dance 10, Looks 3” as her first solo of the evening. Her saucy rendition of Marvin Hamlish and Ed Kleban’s tribute to the career-enhancing benefits of plastic surgery was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, as was her emphatic belting of “I Am My Own Best Friend” and her tender “Be A Lion.”
While I will always be opposed to using the watered-down radio lyrics for Rodgers and Hart’s “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” over the overtly sexual ones written for Pal Joey, if it must be done that way it’s fortunate to have Lari White performing them; replacing the droll lustfulness of the original with luscious waves of lush romanticism. The Grammy-winning country artist – who has a real flair for musical theatre – was, of course, a natural for selections from Shenandoah, including a lovely “We Make A Beautiful Pair” and leading the chorus in a rousing “Freedom.”
Cabaret artist Carole J. Bufford has quickly become a rising star among the nightlife set and her ravishing interpretations of “Blue Moon” and the Bessie Smith standards, “You’ve Been A Good Old Wagon” and “After You’ve Gone” display captivating interpretive skills and a professional polish well above what would be expected for her youth.
The above three ladies united for “At The Ballet,” demonstrating Kleban’s extraordinary character-developing skills.
Bob Stillman’s airy vocals gave a period feel to “All I Care About” and warm sentimentality to “The Only Home I Know.” The difference between his voice and the deep dramatics of Patrick Page’s enhanced the already sharp comedy of Kander and Ebb’s “Class.” Page’s grave earnestness was put to fine use for the year’s most controversial song, Shenandoah’s anti-war anthem, “I’ve Heard It All Before” and the fun campy quality he brings to his current gig as Spider-Man’s Green Goblin cropped up when he donned a corset and feather boa to lead the chorus in a pairing of “Sweet Transvestite” and “Time Warp.”
The concert’s director, Scott Coulter, made a solid guest appearance for an inspiring “If You Believe,” as did Kristin Beth Williams for “All That Jazz” and Nadine Iseneggar, performing Michael Bennett’s original choreography for “The Music And The Mirror.”
With Ross Patterson in his usual position leading his Little Big Band, the evening ended with the full company’s “What I Did For Love.”
Photos by Genevieve Rafter Keddy: Top: Carole J. Bufford; Bottom: Oakley Boycott, Patrick Page and Emily Iaquinta.
Posted on: Monday, May 21, 2012 @ 07:49 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 5/13/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week
"They still had the Lord Chamberlain, so we had this idiotic censorship. We were allowed three Jesus Christs instead of 10. Why three were OK, I don't know."
-- Uta Hagan
The grosses are out for the week ending 5/13/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: GODSPELL (17.9%), MAGIC/BIRD (14.6%), A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (12.0%), HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING (11.1%), SISTER ACT (8.4%), PORGY AND BESS (7.2%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (6.8%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (5.7%), ANYTHING GOES (5.0%), END OF THE RAINBOW (3.8%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (3.8%), OTHER DESERT CITIES (3.2%), GHOST (2.6%), ROCK OF AGES (2.4%), THE COLUMNIST (2.3%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (2.2%), ONCE (2.2%), NEWSIES (1.6%), MEMPHIS (1.5%), LEAP OF FAITH (1.2%), JERSEY BOYS (0.7%), DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER (0.7%), WAR HORSE (0.4%), DEATH OF A SALESMAN(0.1%),
Down for the week was: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-8.9%), MAMMA MIA! (-7.6%), WICKED (-4.8%), MARY POPPINS (-4.2%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-3.1%), CLYBOURNE PARK (-2.4%), PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (-2.0%), EVITA (-1.2%), THE LYONS (-0.8%), VENUS IN FUR (-0.8%), CHICAGO (-0.8%), JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (-0.2%),
Posted on: Monday, May 14, 2012 @ 03:47 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Triumphant Baby & The Columnist
Match.com ain’t got nuthin’ on New York’s cabaret scene, where composers, lyricists and performers are constantly on the lookout for perfect mates; whether for a lifetime commitment or just a brief, but mutually satisfying, fling.
Back in 2006, musical theatre collaborators Joe Iconis and Robert Maddock had some highly successful dates with singer/actress Lorinda Lisitza. And while the trio hasn’t been exclusive in the ensuing years, their affair, a fascinatingly diverse song cycle called Triumphant Baby, was remembered by voters who presented the show with a Nightlife Award (for the performer) and a Bistro Award (for the writers).
And if there were awards for revivals of cabaret shows, I’m sure Triumphant Baby’s return engagement at the Metropolitan Room would be in the running for a couple of more trophies. Iconis’ broad-ranging styles of music and Maddock’s colorful, poignant and character-specific lyrics vividly architect 13 diverse ladies – some comic, some tragic, often maddening – which the chameleon-like Lisitza, under Brad Oscar’s direction, brings to life in a musical theatre acting tutorial that charms and thrills.
Perhaps the signature tune of the show, thanks to YouTube exposure, is “Yolanda At The Bottom Of The Stairs,” a folksy, Eastern-European number where Lisitza plays a woman taking revenge on the tart who messed with her man with goulish expressions and a goulash accent. (“I settled the score with one little shove / And sending you to kingdom come is what I did for love.”) The comic number is perfectly placed at the end of a musical triptych that begins with the singer’s husky country vocals for “Almost,” about a woman’s disappointment in never getting quite what she needed from her relationship and segues into a fragile-to-brassy performance of “One Step Closer To Crazy.”
She switches to the kind of airy head voice typical of ingénues in early movie musicals for the devastating ballad, “The Kind That Falls,” where Lisitza chillingly portrays the 1930s wannabe starlet Peg Entwhistle, who jumped off the Hollywood sign to her death instead of facing her failed movie career.
The show’s title song is an immensely catchy bubblegum anthem where the singer cheerfully tries to pick up the spirits of a loved one (“You’ve got crippled viewpoints and morbid quotes / But I’m coming at ya with root beer floats.”) and while Iconis pens another hummable hook for “Popular Opinion,” Maddock supplies a harsh commentary on the public’s yearning for dirt on the people they’ve lifted into celebrity.
Other highlights include the mischievously sexy “Just As Long As You And I Are In Cahoots,” “Eddie Got A Color T.V.” (a comical ditty about a wife trying to seduce her husband away from the tube) and “Camden County Penitentiary,” sung from the perspective of a woman who suddenly has no idea where her life is going because her husband is never getting out of jail.
With the composer at piano, Mike Perry on guitar and mandolin, Matt Wigton on double bass and background vocals by Tanya Holt and Liz Lark Brown the evening’s spirited arrangements are just as diverse as the material. Triumphant Baby is a classy, ebullient affair matching exceptional material with an exceptional singer/actress.
I guess there’s something about John Lithgow that smells of fresh newsprint. After playing fictional gossip columnists in both Sweet Smell of Success and Mr. and Mrs. Fitch, he now takes a crack at the real thing in David Auburn’s portrait of the powerful Washington journalist Joseph Alsop, The Columnist.
It’s a lifetime thick with newsworthy material. A Washington bon vivant and closeted homosexual, Alsop was a champion of FDR’s New Deal, an enemy of both McCarthy and the Communists and a close friend of JFK, but his support of Nixon’s aggressive policies in conducting the Vietnam War made him seem out of touch by the 1970s. But Auburn’s episodic approach makes the evening more of a highlight reel. Though his dialogue is sharp and his scenes provide punch, they never coalesce into a satisfying play.
But it’s the kind of role that Lithgow can devour with relish and his excellent performance – boastfully dapper and elegant, hiding a fragile, suspicious interior – keeps the evening humming. And electric sparks do fly when his uneasy relationship with his sometimes-partner journalist brother (the also excellent Boyd Gaines, making the most of a second banana role) starts boiling over.
Director Dan Sullivan’s sturdy production has some fine supporting work by Margaret Colin, as the woman who agrees to play beard and be his wife, Grace Gummer as the rebellious stepdaughter he tries to mold in his image and Brian J. Smith as an attractive young Communist whose one-nighter with Alsop threatens the journalist’s career.
Joseph Alsop’s life and career provides enough fodder to make The Columnist interesting, but Auburn adds little more to make it work as drama.
Photo of John Lithgow by Joan Marcus.
Posted on: Monday, May 14, 2012 @ 02:31 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: It's Delightful Down At City Center
Any lingering suspicions that the rarely revived Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is just some dusty old relic with little to offer modern audiences but a few classic songs and the novelty of being the vehicle that turned a little-known Carol Channing into an overnight sensation can be trampled into dust – preferably by choreographer Randy Skinner’s frenetically Charlestoning ensemble – by director John Rando’s simply sensational Encores! concert staging; a dizzy whirl of highly polished musical comedy hijinks packed with show-biz savvy performances.
There were certainly more sophisticated musicals on Broadway when Gents opened in December of 1949 (South Pacific and Kiss Me, Kate to name a pair), but this was an era when talented writers took mindless fun seriously. Based on Anita Loos’ novel chronicling the 1920s gold-digging adventures of Miss Lorelei Lee, the book (presented here in David Ives’ concert adaptation) is collaboration between the source’s author and the prolific Joseph Fields. After making his Broadway debut with the period piece, High Button Shoes, Jule Styne’s sophomore effort was full of the brassy verve the composer would be known for, and Don Walker’s colorful and energetic orchestrations sparkle under Rob Berman’s baton. Leo Robin contributed abundantly clever, sometimes playfully naughty lyrics; not just for evergreens like “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” “Bye Bye, Baby” and “I’m Just A Little Girl From Little Rock,” but for novelty gems like “Keeping Cool with Coolidge,” “It’s Delightful Down in Chile” and the health-nut anthem, “I'm A'tingle, I'm A'glow.”
“How are you going to replace such-and-such?” is the cry heard whenever a show so closely associated with a star performance is planned for a remounting, and anyone starring in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes not only gets (unfairly, of course) compared with Carol Channing’s legendary spoof of kewpie doll cuteness, but with Marilyn Monroe’s steamier version of the character in the film version.
But Megan Hilty, aside from having established herself as a cracker-jack singing stage actress, is also a closer to fit to the Lorelei Lee Loos had written to begin with. While certainly curvier than the classic flapper, Hilty’s diminutive height and sweet, apple-pie looks serve as Lorelei’s weapons of choice for catching presumptuous businessmen off-guard until they’re deluded into thinking it was their idea to shower her with expensive jewelry and tokens of devotion.
The plot, in case such things matter to you, has the lovely Miss Lee on a cross-Atlantic cruise with her dear friend Dorothy, a flirty flapper who doesn’t give a fig for a guy’s bank account. While Dorothy is rather regulated to feeding the star straight lines for much of the show, Rachel York displays irresistible jazz-age ebullience whenever she’s plunked in the middle of Skinner’s dancers to belt out a number while surrounded by some of the best choreography in town; particularly when those dancers are an ensemble of stripped-down fellas playing U.S. Olympic athletes on their way to the games in Paris.
Though Lorelei is engaged to Gus Esmond Jr. (a finely mellow-voiced Clarke Thorell) , the heir to a button-manufacturing fortune, she fears that he’s dumped her after finding out about her semi-sordid past in Little Rock. (Makes you wonder if she ever babysat for little Nellie Forbush.) Using her own twisted logic to conclude she’s been jilted, Lorelei sets her charms on a rising zipper manufacturer and physical fitness fanatic (a hilariously energetic Stephen R. Buntrock).
The simple, uncomplicated plot leaves lots of room for terrific supporting performances. There’s the beautifully singing Aaron Lazar playing a potential mate for Dorothy who unsuccessfully tries to keep his champagne-loving mom (Deborah Rush) sober, Simon Jones and Sandra Shipley as a fun-loving codger and his stern wife and Stephen Boyer and Brennan Brown as thickly-accented French lawyers.
The knockout specialty act comes in the second half in one of those plot twists that leaves the characters watching a nightclub floor show. Phillip Attmore and Jared Grimes exude period Harlem elegance as a tap-dancing pair performing gasp-inducing footwork to “Mamie is Mimi.” When they’re joined by Megan Sikora, as an up-and-coming showgirl, the place goes nuts with excitement.
With so many dynamic supporting turns, a less-than-stellar star could get lost in the shuffle, but Hilty firmly dominates every moment she’s on, playing Lorelei more realistically than Channing and earning big laughs with thoughtful deliveries of lines like, “Arkansas is where I was reared.”
The trick comes when she has moments “in one” and lets her guard down by confiding in the audience as a hip-swiveling, curve-wiggling doll. Costume designer David C. Woolard pours her into a sparkly number for the signature tune, “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” which she delivers with the kind of panache that turns a musical moment into an intimate expression of joy between performer and audience. What Hilty communicates, by solidly taking center stage in determination to “be a star,” is that the song is not just a funny celebration of wealth, but a sincere message that, with a little guts and confidence, a kid from nowhere can reinvent herself as anything she wants. This weekend, Megan Hilty might just be reinventing herself from a dependable musical theatre professional, to a glittering Broadway star.
Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Clarke Thorell and Megan Hilty; Bottom: Rachel York and Company.
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Posted on: Friday, May 11, 2012 @ 07:15 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 5/6/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week
"Laughter is much more important than applause. Applause is almost a duty. Laughter is a reward."
-- Carol Channing
The grosses are out for the week ending 5/6/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: ONCE (9.5%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (4.5%), CLYBOURNE PARK (1.6%), EVITA (1.5%), NEWSIES (1.2%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (0.7%), JERSEY BOYS (0.6%), THE LION KING (0.6%), JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (0.2%), DEATH OF A SALESMAN(0.1%),
Down for the week was: GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (-24.1%), GHOST (-16.9%), DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER (-16.0%), GODSPELL (-14.8%), MAGIC/BIRD (-13.4%), THE LYONS (-13.3%), LEAP OF FAITH (-12.4%), THE COLUMNIST (-11.1%), HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING (-10.3%), ANYTHING GOES (-9.6%), SISTER ACT (-8.8%), CHICAGO (-8.5%), OTHER DESERT CITIES (-6.9%), PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (-5.5%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (-5.3%), MARY POPPINS (-5.2%), PORGY AND BESS (-4.6%), WAR HORSE (-4.4%), VENUS IN FUR (-4.1%), MAMMA MIA! (-3.5%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-2.7%), MEMPHIS (-2.7%), WICKED (-1.9%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-1.8%), ROCK OF AGES (-1.5%), END OF THE RAINBOW (-1.1%), A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (-0.3%), SEMINAR (-0.2%),
Posted on: Monday, May 07, 2012 @ 03:40 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.