Oscar E Moore

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A SOLDIER’S PLAY – the madness of racism in America

February 1st, 2020 by Oscar E Moore
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At 80 years of age, playwright Charles Fuller is finally seeing his 1982 Pulitzer Prize winning drama A SOLDIER’S PLAY on Broadway.  At the American Airlines Theatre – a Roundabout Theatre Company production.  ONLY through March 15th.  I highly recommend a visit.

Originally premiering Off-Broadway by the Negro Ensemble Company in 1981 this powerful, raw and still pertinent play that resonates like a tsunami is done proud by director Kenny Leon, his creative staff and the casting of an excellent ensemble of actors.

Sometimes, most times unfortunately, the authors of fine work have to be extremely patient to reap their rewards.

And so here we are at Fort Neal, Louisiana, 1944 a U.S.A. segregated Army base where a company of black baseball players/soldiers await deployment overseas under the leadership of Sergeant Vernon C. Waters (David Alan Grier) a loud-mouthed, tyrannical, drunken lout who in the opening scene is murdered by an unknown assailant.

Captain Richard Davenport (a calm, confident and persistent Blair Underwood) has been summoned to investigate the murder much to the dismay of Captain Charles Taylor (a hyper Jerry O’Connell) who is shocked that a Negro could also be a Captain and does his best to thwart Davenport’s investigation.

Who killed Sergeant Waters?  In a riveting and tense two acts we get the surprising answer.  But not before Davenport, as our narrator, investigates and interviews the other soldiers who all had good reason to get rid of Waters.  Particularly the smiling guitar strumming Private C. J. Memphis (a fine J. Alphonse Nicholson) who Waters has a particular disdain for.

Mostly in flashback with some beautiful staging and singing of the blues by the soldiers in their bare bones barracks (Derek McLane) where they joke around and display their admirable bodies we are faced with racism not only of the whites for the blacks, but the vicious and vindictive black Waters for his black soldiers.

Originally deemed too revolutionary for Broadway because of its prophetic last line – “You’ll have to get used to Black people being in charge.” A SOLDIER’S PLAY has finally arrived in all its glory.  Fierce acting from everyone.

1 hour 50 minutes including one intermission.

www.roundabouttheatre.org

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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GRAND HORIZONS – Divorce Sit-Com Style

January 31st, 2020 by Oscar E Moore
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The more I think of this newest offering by playwright Bess Wohl at 2nd Stage – The Helen Hayes Theater – the less I like it.  The underlying themes are easy enough to digest but the premise is hard to swallow.  Perhaps it might help if were subtitled – a fable.

Taking place in the here and now.  In a retirement community Grand Horizons – where all the house are alike – Monopoly cubes reminiscent of Levittown Long Island.  Where the walls are paper thin and the plants artificial.  Realistic breakaway set design by Clint Ramos.

Nancy and Bill have been married for fifty years. Their life together has become routine.  As they prepare their breakfast and set their table director Leigh Silverman has staged it as though they could do this with their eyes closed; in their sleep.  The most excellent and elegant Jane Alexander in wonderful dead pan delivery asks for a divorce.  James Cromwell agrees.  Fadeout.

It’s mostly downhill after that.

We meet their two offspring:  The hyper/gay unable to commit dramatic instructor Brian (Michael Urie) and his more rooted brother Ben (Ben McKenzie) whose very pregnant wife Jess (Ashley Park) a therapist, have come to the rescue to forestall the inevitable divorce.

Dad will soon face the audience to tell of his desire to be a stand-comic whose jokes to not amuse his soon-to-be-ex-wife.  And have never amused her it appears.  She also has never had her own bank account.  Really?  She is an intelligent, well informed woman and this is 2020.  It’s impossible to believe that she has never heard of Women’s Lib of the late 60’s early 70’s nor has ever seen the terrific Virginia Slims ads featuring women “free from oppression” – Nancy still has a long way to go and so now she wants out.  Finally.

As the ad campaign continued – “Used to be every man’s wife was entitled to an opinion.  His.”  Man ran the world.  Women ran the household.  And so it has been for Nancy and Bill.  But that is about to end according to Bess Wohl in what used to be called a Boulevard Comedy a la Neil Simon.  Ms. Wohl is no Neil Simon – although there are lots of jokes and some amusing situations and monologues – that border on the raunchy and/or ridiculous.

Nancy’s confession to her gay son about her tryst with a guy named Hal and Carla’s instructions on how to order a vibrator on the internet are borderline cringe worthy.

Carla shows up in Act II (which fares much better than the first after its absurd cliffhanger) – Carla is the secret girlfriend of Bill whom he has sex-texted to and is portrayed by the still wonderful Pricilla Lopez who has a tete-a-tete with Nancy (who views this mistress as her salvation from Bill) regarding the aforementioned vibrator.  Audience chuckles all around.

The gay son, at one moment, brings back to the home a casual would be sex partner.  A trick into role playing that fizzles faster than Alka-Seltzer.  A scene better off cut.  This thankless role of Tommy is played by Maulik Pancholy who does his best under the circumstances.

Take away:  Tell it like it is.  Be honest with each other.  Be open.  No secrets.  This is how it should be in the real world.  Then maybe people, couples could communicate with each other and their children.  Being stuck in a relationship would not be so prevalent.  Do it, before it’s too late.  And have your own bank account.

2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission.  Through March 1st.

www.2st.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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ROMEO & BERNADETTE – Delightful! Shakespeare and gangsters like you have never seen

January 24th, 2020 by Oscar E Moore
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Imagine Romeo (a spectacular Nikita Burshteyn) if you will (as in William Shakespeare) finding himself in 1960’s Brooklyn chasing a girl he believes to be his beloved Juliet.  Actually the girl he thinks is Juliet is dead ringer Bernadette Penza (Anna Kostakis) – a spoiled rotten, potty-mouthed, always late albeit beautiful shopaholic daughter of crime boss Sal Penza (Carlos Lopez) who along with his trying to be more sophisticated wife Camille (Judy McLane) are vacationing in Verona with body guard Lips (Viet Vo) when Romeo first lays eyes on her after he awakens from the famous double death potion scene that wasn’t a double death scene at all – it just put him to sleep – for centuries.

This is hilariously explained by Brooklyn Guy (Michael Notardonato) to his date Brooklyn Girl (Ari Raskin) at a performance of Romeo & Juliet by the Brooklyn Community Players as he tries to stop her from crying over the very elongated demise of Romeo (he just wants to get her in bed) so he comes up with this nutty version that Romeo didn’t die and continues to sporadically narrate their saga throughout.

Actually this nutty and very funny mashup – which is like a breath of fresh air – a smart, melodic breath of fresh air is the brainchild of Mark Saltzman who wrote the book and lyrics.  The character driven and plot driven (oh, what a plot!) lyrics have been brilliantly fitted into some of the most lovely pre-existing Italian melodies – a little Rossini, a little Bellini and lots of Francesco Paolo Tosti – all brought up to date by Steve Orich (arrangements and orchestrations) and sung to the hilt by the entire ten member cast.

All this fast paced tomfoolery is exceedingly well directed and choreographed by Justin Ross Cohen who somehow makes this unbelievable love story with gangsters – believable.

And that’s just for starters. There’s more.  Lots more.

Romeo saves the life of Dino Del Canto (Michael Notardonato aka Brooklyn Guy) son of Don Del Canto (Michael Marotta) – a dapper John Gotti type.  Dino is attacked by Tito Titone (Zach Schanne) who is engaged to Bernadette whom he treats like a doormat.

Dino and Romeo become buddies and I won’t spoil this delicious show by explaining it any further you have to go see it for yourself.  Probably twice so that you catch all the jokes and details you might have missed the first time around.

One more thing Bernadette’s best friend Donna Dubachek aka Brooklyn Girl is a riot.  She and Dino might remind you of Andy Karl and Orfeh!

One last item.  Troy Valjean Rucker plays Usher, Bellhop, Enzo Aliria, Father Keneely, Arden (a florist) Viola (wedding gown designer) and Roz – cha cha cha instructor.  Each one a master cameo.  What a find he is!

Your face will ache with smiles and laughter.  And that’s a good thing.

Another terrific discovery is Nikita as Romeo.  He is handsome with a strong lyrical voice.  He speaks his Shakespearean lines trippingly on the tongue with a European charm and is very amusing as he tries to incorporate a Brooklyn accent into his comic delivery.  His regal bow is quite memorable as is his codpiece.

The pitch perfect vintage period costumes are by Fabio Toblini & Joseph Shrope.  Lighting by Ken Billington and set by Walt Spangler are first rate.  All in all it’s a wonderful entertaining evening where you don’t have to know any Italian – just enjoy the Brooklyn accents and Romeo & Bernadette.  In a word, delightful!

2 hours.  One Intermission.

At A.R.T./New York Theatres 502 West 53rd Street through February 16th.  For tickets 212 352 3101 OR www.amasmusical.org. Produced by Amas Musical Theatre in association with Eric Krebs.

Photos:  Russ Rowland

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON – Laura Linney remembers

January 21st, 2020 by Oscar E Moore
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O ye of little patience.  Ye who do not appreciate the written words of Rona Munro who has adapted Elizabeth Strout’s 2016 bestseller My Name is Lucy Barton featuring two extremely complicated characters – Mother and daughter Lucy.

Both portrayed by the outstanding Laura Linney who seamlessly with a change of voice or mannerism creates the illusion of becoming one and then the other.  It’s a fascinating and complex performance, beautifully directed by Richard Eyre.

O ye of little faith in what theater can accomplish with a simple set (Bob Crowley) consisting of a hospital bed, an empty chair and some projections (Luke Hall) of some corn fields in Amgash, Illinois and the Chrysler Building in New York City – be forewarned.  This may not be for you.  You may find it slow.  Even boring.

How this is possible I do not understand.  It is an in depth examination via Lucy’s scattered memory of the relationship or lack thereof between herself – a successful writer – and her opinionated and full of what-she-thinks-of-everyone-else stories mother.  It’s the “Old lack of communication” bit told beautifully.

Lucy had to get out of her abusive environment with her dad – who suffered from war trauma.  She had to deal with a friend with AIDS.  Her brother liked to dress up in mom’s dress and heels and she hated the cold.  So much so that she had to stay at school to read and to keep warm.

These memories float around and it’s a wonder that Laura Linney could learn all her lines and learn to jump around from one idea to another.  And make it all real and believable.  She is alone onstage for 90 nonstop minutes.  Not really.  There are some audience members seated onstage to make it more intimate.

Does she remember exactly how things happened or did not happen?  Should she have questioned – connected more with her mom?  What is most important, however, is that she escaped.  Escaped from Illinois and made a new life for herself in New York developing a ruthlessness necessary for being a successful writer.

Estranged from her parents and relatives – especially her mom until mom shows up at the hospital where Lucy eloquently describes it all – over her nine week stay (infectious complications arise) – her poverty, her trying to understand her mom and her loneliness.  Her longing for love despite being married with two daughters of her own.

Her mom’s stories are bitter, resentful and amusing.  But they both still can’t talk honestly with one another.  As the lyric from Superstar states “Loneliness is such a sad affair.”  We listen.  Some with empathy.  Some without.

At the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre – a Manhattan Theatre Club presentation and The London Theatre Company in association with Penguin Random House Audio that will soon be releasing an audio version of this production with Linney who is at the top of her game.  Live through February 29, 2020

www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com

 

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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SING STREET – Beyond the sea Off-Broadway at NYTW

December 24th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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Were they just lazy or simply in a rush to adapt John Carney’s 2016 motion picture “Sing Street” into a stage musical that has just floated into the New York Theatre Workshop on East 4th Street via the Irish Sea?  Both Mr. Carney and Enda Walsh (book) – were partially responsible for the huge success of ONCE.

But being connected to ONCE is not enough.  This production is a good first draft.  There’s lots to develop here.  It’s just not there – yet.  Can it be salvaged?

Even with the fine director Rebecca Taichman helming the musical, whose credentials are superb, it seems that there are two shows at odds with one another.  The plot is scattered and unfocused.  The characters sketched in.  Act I about the formation of the band.  Act II (the better act) focusing on the back story of the family and the developing love between the two leads.

It somehow falls short and is disappointing.   Despite some catchy tunes and excellent portrayals.  Especially Brenock O’Connor who is the frustrated 19 year old musically inclined rebel living with his family in a depressed Dublin circa 1982.  He is Conor.  He is adorable.  And wildly talented.

Forced to leave his private school because of the economy he is bullied by an abusive, arrogant, chain smoking Christian Brother on Synge Street who has this rule of wearing only black shoes in the all boy’s school.  And poor Conor has only a pair of brown shoes.  This so infuriates Brother Baxter (Martin Moran) that we wonder why he just doesn’t supply Conor with the requisite black shoes.  Much stage time is wasted on this detail.

Conor notices Raphina (a bland Zara Devlin) as she awaits a phone call from her older boyfriend at a pay phone seductively posing for Conor with bright red dark glasses.  He is immediately infatuated with her.  He asks her to be in a music video with his band even though it does not yet exist.  And writes a song in his notebook and faster than you can say Blarney Stone we see the formation of the band and her involvement.

The band members, conveniently from school, are an odd assortment right out of central casting and SCHOOL OF ROCK with outfits and makeup to match.  They play the instruments that hang on the side walls.  Exceptionally well.  The drums roll on.  On a set piece.  Everything is on wheels.  Even the video cam is attached to a double skateboard.

Director Taichman and choreographer Sonya Tayeh keep up a frenetic pace.  Although there are some poignant quiet moments.

Meanwhile Conor’s sister Anne (Skyler Volpe) who wants to be an architect like her now unemployed dad Robert (Billy Carter) sulks and fumes.  Older brother Brendan (Gus Halper) dispenses his pot infused advice while getting stoned – having given up; opting to sleep his life away as his mom Penny (Amy Warren) argues with dad, drinks lots of wine and has an affair.

As our two would be lovers kiss at the end of Act I we wonder where this is all going.

Act II fares much better and we get to know these characters and their desires.  Breathing space at last.

All this on a bare stage with the dark and gloomy omnipresent Irish Sea projected on the back wall (Bob Crowley) – the sea that has isolated them all and yet could be their route to freedom – and the fulfillment of their dreams beyond the confining and dreary sea.

There is a long awaited uplifting ending “GO NOW” that sort of erases much of the lesser aspects of the production.

A video of the film is supposedly available for free at IMDBTV.  I hear it is far superior to the stage presentation.

2 hours 15 minutes One Intermission.  Through January 26, 2020

www.nytw.org

Photos:  Matthew Murray

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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JAGGED LITTLE PILL – a new hybrid musical beset with problems

December 15th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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You think you’ve got problems?  Meet the Healys in what is billed as “our new musical” – a hybrid of songs written by Alanis Morissette from her skyrocketing 1995 album of angst and pain and pills with an original story culled from the songs by Diablo Cody creating characters and a plot to sort of fit Morissette’s lyrics with music by co-composer Glen Ballard with additional music by Michael Farrell & Guy Sigsworth.

Back to the Healys.  From Connecticut.  The perfect family.  Or so it seems as they pose for their annual Christmas photo.  All smiles.  But lurking beneath all the joy their problems are simmering.  Waiting to explode.

Steve Healy (an extremely likable Sean Allan Krill) is a very successful lawyer.  A workaholic.  He has come to rely on porn to fulfill his sexual needs that his wife Mary Jane (a phenomenal Elizabeth Stanley) no longer supplies.  She has had a car accident and because of the excessive pain she relies more and more on excessive amounts of pain medication.  She is in denial of a past event and a perfectionist.  And wants everyone else to follow suit.  They can no longer communicate with one another – something that Steve longs for.  It is only in Act II when she agrees to “marriage therapy” that the production gets on the right track.

Their son Nick (Derek Klena) is the “golden boy” and pride of the family.  Early admission to Harvard.

Everything seems to be going his way until the “inevitable” party scene where he is the sole witness of the rape of his semi-unconscious friend Bella (a compelling Kathryn Gallagher) by Andrew (Logan Hart) – Think Supreme Court Justice…

Then there is Frankie (a terrific Celia Rose Gooding) – the adopted black daughter trying to find her way in the lily white land of Connecticut and her attraction to Jo – (a show-stopping powerhouse LAUREN PATTEN) a smart and very droll lesbian until Frankie finds herself in bed with Phoenix (Antonio Cipriano) rising.  Resulting in Jo seeing them.  Resulting in Phoenix escaping said bed across the first row of the theatre and up the aisle.  Resulting in Jo’s gut wrenching number “You Oughta Know” in Act II which is far better than Act I.

Problems.  Problems.  Problems.  Do we really need to be darkly entertained with a family (and friends) so troubled with deep set problems, anxieties, addictions and confusion?

It’s ironic that the final number is “You Learn” – we obviously haven’t as the same problems still plague us today:  Racism, white privilege, opioids and date rape et al.

I would attempt to describe the music but I cannot remember any of it.  It’s loud.  Very loud.  And similar sounding.  Almost to the point of being monotonous.  But you either love Morissette’s tunes or you don’t.  And there was a full house of fans obviously relishing each number as the many storylines untangle under the strong and unique direction of Diane Paulus and terrific synchronized body movement/choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

Everything but the actors are on rollers.  The sets.  The desks.  The church pews.

Twisting and turning in every direction giving us the feeling of being high and dizzy on drugs.  With blurred projections aiding and abetting by Lucy Mackinnon.

The lighting by Justin Townsend is more than outstanding and should be rewarded at Tony time if he doesn’t win for his lighting design for Moulin Rouge!

Back to the Healys.  Elizabeth Stanley’s downward spiral is incredibly sad to witness climaxing in the most memorable number in the show – when MJ overdoses on black market pills and duets with herself (the dancer – Heather Lang – slithering around as MJ sings) winding up in a hospital bed.  It is quite special.

Will she recover?  That’s a rhetorical question.  It’s a musical!  At the BROADHURST THEATRE  – an American Repertory Theater production.

www.jaggedlittlepill.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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THE INHERITANCE – In for the long haul

December 8th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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Matthew Lopez certainly has a lot to say.  Too much in fact.  Almost seven hours’ worth of words.  In two parts.  With 28 characters portrayed by 15 onstage performers in his sprawling tangled gay web saga woven around his inspiration from E. M. Forster’s HOWARDS END with a dose of Angels in America, Love! Valor! Compassion! And The Normal Heart thrown in for good measure.  Oh, and Boys in the Band.  I suggest not seeing both parts in one days’ sitting as THE INHERITANCE – uncensored and uncut – is a lot to digest.

Your head might be spinning, as mine was, from this intense, emotionally draining, cramp inducing gay history overload: self-hate, self-pity, unnatural acts graphically described, the searching for love and acceptance, AIDS, Fire Island, tops and bottoms and discarded young men – even with several intermissions and a dinner break.

Nothing new is exposed here.  From the restrictive times of Edwardian England to the Summer of 2015-Spring 2017 (Part One 3hrs 15) to Spring 2017 to Spring 2018 (Part Two 3hrs 10) New York City and its environs.  However, lots of bare feet are.  It’s a foot fetishist’s dream come true.

A good friend suggested that I should read HOWARDS END before seeing the show.  I declined.  It is up to the playwright to make clear what his intentions are and he cannot expect the viewer to do research to help him clarify his work.  What you see is what you should get.

After the fact, I think that reading Forster’s novel would just have confused me more.  As is, I went home to make a chart of the characters and their relationship to one another.  Yes, it is a tangled gay web woven by Mr. Lopez.

Verging on the cusp of being a soap opera.  With a lot of highbrow intelligence, campy humor and raunch.  But much too long.  If you decide to see this production I highly recommend PART ONE.  With the exception of a monologue by Lois Smith PART TWO has diminishing returns as it ventures off into Clinton’s loss and Trump’s triumph with the main thrust of the story losing its way until a series of false endings.  PART ONE is very good and that should suffice.  Date of closing 3/1/2020.

I am offering my chart to help decipher the characters and their connection to one another.  Some actors double.  There is a gay man’s Greek chorus that helps narrate the story along with Morgan (E.”M” Forster – Paul Hilton) who is also Walter Poole – the long-time companion/lover of the bi-sexual wealthy businessman Henry Wilcox (John Benjamin Hickey).

Eric Glass (Kyle Soller) lives with his lover Toby Darling (Andrew Burnap).  Toby is a writer and Eric is a busy bottom who pays $575.00 in his rent controlled (grandparent’s) apartment that the landlord wants to evict him from.  Toby writes a successful novel that becomes a hit Broadway play.  But Toby does martinis and drugs and is self-destructive.

Into their arms arrives Adam, a naive actor (Samuel H. Levine).  But not for long.  He gets to star in the show.  Now Toby splits from Eric and pays for sex with look-alike Leo (Samuel H. Levine) who will show up at the wedding of Henry and Eric.  Henry and Eric?  Yes.  Walter had died and wanted to leave his and Henry’s home in the country with an infamous cherry tree to Eric.  No dice.  As it turns out – Henry has also paid for Leo’s services.  I told you it was a tangled web.

At the height of Toby’s success and from the depth of his drug induced despair he writes a new very lengthy play, submitting it to his agent who tells him that no audience should be expected to have to sit through a seven hour play to which the audience who has been doing just that explodes in ironic laughter.

To make a too long story shorter I’ll cut to the chase.  The Cherry Tree Manor (as I refer to it) becomes a haven/hospice for AIDS victims as Walter intended.  Margaret (Lois Smith) is its caretaker.

The conclusion of PART ONE is a very moving tearjerker and beautifully directed by Stephen Daldry – as is the entire production that is presented on a stark platform unit set by Bob Crowley.  All the actors are exceptional.

I hope this helps.  I think that I want to read Forster’s MAURICE – a homosexual love story published after his death.

At the Ethel Barrymore Theatre 243 West 47 Street – The Young Vic Production

www.theinheritanceplay.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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A CHRISTMAS CAROL – a dickens of a production

November 26th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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If you are dreaming of a white Christmas but fear the cold blustery wind or hate to shovel snow, head on over to the Lyceum Theatre where “The Olde Vic production” of a very new A CHRISTMAS CAROL (In prose.  Being a ghost story of Christmas) adapted by Jack Thorne and directed by Matthew Warchus will warm the cockles of your heart, bring back your inner child and spread cheer and good will to all – enacted by an exceptional ensemble with a perfectly lovely snow shower to boot!

Not being overly optimistic about seeing this production I was immediately engaged in the proceedings.  From the moment one enters the beautiful and appropriately old fashioned Lyceum Theatre – a perfect fit as it turns out to house this dickens of a production – one is beguiled by the multitude of lanterns hanging from above and surrounding the space in a golden glow as some actors/musicians in period costume start to play some lovely tunes; fiddling away on stage while others distribute lots of aromatic clementines and small packets of chocolate chip cookies – for free! – mingling and chatting with the audience members.

In the true spirit of giving that puts a smile on everyone’s face and prepares them for the NICHOLAS NICKLEBY type story-theater telling of the tale of the miserly and miserable Ebenezer Scrooge in this old chestnut of a novella that first arrived in 1843.

A very festive and congenial atmosphere has been created (set & costume design Rob Howell – expert lighting Hugh Vanstone and excellent sound design Simon Baker) and it pays off in this cornucopia of treats for the holiday season.

You cannot help but be pleased by the transformation of Scrooge (a fine Campbell Scott) from a bitter man who hates “those singing creatures” – a man who treats his employee Bob Cratchit (Dashiell  Eaves) quite badly – a man whose father (Chris Hoch) bullied him – a man whose future dreams and love for Belle (a stalwart Sarah Hunt)

were squashed when the lust of making money overtook all other desires – by hooking up with his departed business partner Marley (Chris Hoch redux) who arrives in a nightmare to warn Ebenezer that he is about to be haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Past (Andrea Martin) the Ghost of Christmas Present (LaChanze) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Rachel Prather) – to help him change his ways and to open his eyes as to what a miserable creature he has become.

In this dark and dreary tale there is much uplifting music and dancing.  Christopher Nightingale has done an excellent job as composer, orchestrator and arranger of the soundscape.

A bountiful feast is created to celebrate Scrooge’s redemption that must be seen to be appreciated.  In which all of the audience unexpectedly participates.  It is quite joyous.  Especially the arrival of the brussel sprouts.

That and the ringing of the bells.  The singing of Christmas Carols.  And of course the presence of Tiny Tim – here portrayed alternately by two actors that each have cerebral palsy.  To see the happiness on the young Sebastian Ortiz’s face as he speaks his famous last lines made everything very worthwhile.

One last item.  There is a glorious magical snowfall – not confetti – a new type of snow that is moist and white and disappears quickly – no clean-up necessary.

Please make an effort to take the kids, the grandkids and perhaps your parents to this delightful theatrical experience with a meaningful message that we all need to hear once again.  To open our eyes and become kind and caring to what is truly important in our lives.  Oh, ring those bells!

There is a terrific video on the show’s website.  www.achristmascarolbroadway.com

Watch it and then go purchase some joy!  Rekindle the spirit of the season!

2 hours 15 minutes – one intermission LIMITED RUN THRU Jan 5th

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainmment.com

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TINA The Tina Turner Musical starring doppelganger Adrienne Warren

November 19th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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This fearless, extraordinarily talented firecracker named Adrienne Warren ignites this long-winded jukebox journey of the still very much alive Tina Turner (executive producer) who graced the opening at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre a few nights ago resulting in Adrienne Warren being sanctified into that special select category called superstardom.

She is amazing.  As is Tina Turner.  Tina who survived the abusive and egocentric Ike Turner (Daniel J. Watts) who discovered Anna-Mae, changed her name and beat her more often than not.  Tina who after getting a divorce from Ike and losing everything found the strength to reinvent herself and her music to become a major star; finally finding her long-standing soulmate Erwin Bach (Ross Lekites) – but don’t blink as you might miss him.

And it is truly amazing that her most perfect doppelganger has been found to tell her tumultuous story – Adrienne Warren.

But do not expect to see her performing Wednesday and Saturday matinees.  That difficult task belongs to Nkeki Obi-Melekwe.  I hope she is as sensational as Adrienne Warren.

It has taken three writers (Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins) to come up with the chock-a-block superficial book that sometimes is as limp and boring as a Wikipedia summary.  It is only when the songs take center stage with our illustrious star that this musical soars.  And it does.  Intermittently.

Even when the songs don’t exactly fit the plot (as it is) or the songs are not given enough time to breathe and build – they sometimes just segue into yet another scene with more characters.  Even when due to the sound design (Nevin Steinberg) the words are unintelligible.  Even when die-hard fans start to applaud the first intro notes of whatever song is going to be sung.  Cheering it merrily along.

And it is the fans who are paying to hear her music.  And there is a lot of it to be heard.  The best being an après-curtain call coda, a mini-concert that shakes the rafters as Adrienne Warren, dressed in a typical Tina outfit and bewigged in a typical Tina wig and ascending and descending up and down a flight of stairs in typical stiletto heels after almost two and a half hours of being beaten and downtrodden and fighting for her career we see and hear a survivor who deserves all that she has achieved.

What’s love got to do with it?  As it turns out.  An awful lot.

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd who let the genie out of the bottle – let loose the genre of jukebox musicals with the mother of them all MAMA MIA!

Perhaps it’s time to simply do a concert of the music and forego any attempt of making songs fit the life of whomever.  They seem to come and go.  One after another.  Only the strongest survive.  Perfect example: Tina Turner.

www.tinaonbroadway.com  2hrs 40 minutes – one intermission

Photos:  Manuel Harlan

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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THE LIGHTNING THIEF – a misfit on Broadway strikes out

November 1st, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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I survived the matinee performance on October 30th, 2019.  Barely.  Resulting in what was called in the 60’s – an Excedrin Headache Number so and so.  It is deafening loud.  So loud that one cannot distinguish one word from another.  The sound mixer must have abandoned his board.

Balance between the instantly forgettable music (Rob Rokicki) and the screeching singers is non-existent.  You will get snippets of dialogue every now and then.  Forget the lyrics (Rob Rokicki).  I seriously thought of writing this review IN ALL CAPS to overpower the noise battle still echoing in my head.

For many reasons this young adult, tween, teenybopper musical THE LIGHTNING THIEF, the Percy Jackson musical simply should have stayed off-Broadway or continued on its lucrative tour across America – maybe not even that.

First and foremost, the astronomical cost of tickets.   Off-Broadway the TheaterWorksUSA production was a trim one hour and FREE.  The bloated, bare bones show now at The Longacre Theatre runs over two hours with a top price of almost two hundred dollars each.

Coming in at a close second is the hawking of water (SIX DOLLARS) and candies (FIVE DOLLARS) before the show starts.  A circus sideshow in itself.

The hawker, with his patience waning, told the rambunctious kids that the high prices were due to capitalism.  Did they get it?  Whatever.  I found it criminal.

Even more confusing is the Olympian convoluted plot that follows – engaging the cast of seven to spread themselves way too thin playing gods and demi-gods and humans as Percy (Chris McCarrell) looking like a young Michael Urie without his requisite charisma is expelled from school in this Mythology 101 chock-full-of-characters surrounded by noise, flashing lights, frenetic sword fights, falling confetti and toilet paper being blown in our faces.  Throw in a trip to Hades and to California; add an informative squirrel into the mix and you’ve got an Excedrin Headache.  Lucky Medusa gets her head chopped off.

Perhaps this Poseidon disaster can be partially explained by the fact that the director (Stephen Brackett) book writer (Joe Tracz) Ryan Rumery (sound designer) and Vocal Coach (Amanda Flynn) were also responsible for that short-lived BE MORE CHILL similar looking and sounding show that evaporated quickly on Broadway not so long ago.

Under all this over-the-top business lurks a story of sorts.  One that isn’t new at all.  These poor kids are angst ridden.  Even as demi-gods.  Parents absent.  The gods just have too many kids!  Feeling that they don’t belong.  Not feeling normal.  Until we are told “normal is a myth.”  Perhaps better parenting is the answer.  Not expensive substitutes.

There is one bright spot however, that saved the day for me.  Ryan Knowles making his Broadway debut.  Playing a variety of roles including Chiron (a centaur) to the max.  That’s a good max.  With his terrific voice and diction nary a word was missed.  Great comedic timing.  And believable in this mythological frenetic fantasy.

Sad to say the theater was a sea of empty seats.  THE LIGHTNING THIEF is supposed to run through January 5th.  But that could just be another myth.

www.lightningthiefmusical.com

Photos:  Jeremy Daniel

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www.TWUSA.org

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