Oscar E Moore

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FUNNY GIRL – a mediocre, cut and paste patchwork quilt revisal

April 29th, 2022 by Oscar E Moore
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For this we waited 58 years to see back on Broadway?!  Summer Stock is alive and faltering at the August Wilson Theatre where this extremely disappointing revisal of FUNNY GIRL has recently opened.

OK.  Beanie Feldstein (age 29) is not Barbra Streisand the original Fannie Brice when she was twenty two and instantly became a STAR. The only thing they have in common is that they are both Jewish.  Had I never seen the original production in 1964, had I never heard Streisand sing, I would still wonder how in the world this newest two and a half hour with one intermission adaptation came into being.

When Beanie Feldstein whose previous claim to fame is portraying Monica Lewinski in Impeachment:  American Crime Story and Minnie Fay in Bette Midler’s 2017 HELLO DOLLY is chosen for an important classic role made famous by Streisand producers should have looked beyond popular ticket sales.

Beanie does have a following as evidenced by the audience’s wild reaction to her cavorting and mugging on stage.  But can she handle this starring role? Nope.  It is far beyond her capabilities.  Especially in the singing department.  She works very hard – in overdrive.  Enjoying every single moment on stage.  But she is simply not believable as Fanny Brice.  She isn’t natural.  We see the technique working.  Belting and holding a note does not a singer make.

She isn’t helped with the sound design (Brian Ronan) which is hurtful to the ear drums.  Nor by the garish Las Vegas looking costumes (Susan Hilferty).  Ditto on the eyes.  Nor the set design (David Zinn) whose centerpiece of a circular brick wall that opens to reveal other locations reminded me of the Tower of London.

And the entire production is handicapped by its in and out meandering direction by director Michael Mayer.

Is there anything I admired you may ask?  Yes.  The score by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill is still one of the best.  It would be hard to ruin People, and Don’t Rain on My Parade and The Music That Makes Me Dance but Beanie comes close.

Harvey Fierstein has done his best to rearrange and make sense of the original libretto by Isabelle Lennart.  But it becomes a hodgepodge of quick scenes and short reprises with eye popping flashing neon lights every so often.

Jane Lynch does a good job with Fannie’s mom.  Funny.  Great timing.  We see that she would much rather be performing on stage like her daughter than playing poker with her neighborhood chums.

Ramin Karimloo as Fannie’s love interest the gambler Nick Arnstein sings well and thanks to Harvey Fierstein has been given a lot more to do.  Highlight:  Duet with Beanie – Who Are You Now?  But…

Finally, Jared Grimes as Fannie’s buddy Eddie Ryan almost stops the show with his star turn tap dancing number courtesy of Ayodele Casel – a most welcome relief.

Favorite musical number – Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat.

Now what’s with the large golden bow atop Beanie’s I mean Fannie’s head shown on Playbill’s cover that never appears on stage?

Photo ID.  Proof of vaccination.  MASK UP.  www.funnygirlonbroadway.com

NOTE:  Ramin Karimloo has tested positive for COVID and will be out for 10 days

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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PLAZA SUITE: BITTERSWEET AND SOUR – hold the anchovies

April 5th, 2022 by Oscar E Moore
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There is a good reason why Neil Simon was known as The King of Comedy.  And one prime example is on view at the resplendent Hudson Theatre where a slew of his theatrical posters – plays and musicals – are displayed in the lobby where PLAZA SUITE which originally opened in 1968 has taken over in a limited run.

Three acts.  Three couples.  Marital woes.  One hotel suite.  Bravo John Lee Beatty!  One intermission.  One pause.  Plenty of laughs.

And live and in person.  One married couple.  Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick.

Two Broadway Babies.  All grown up.  Married to one another and their careers.  And very famous.  Not exactly Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.  More like Sid Caesar (with all due respect to Mr. Caesar) and Imogene Coca from Your Show of Shows where Neil Simon sharpened his wit.

Sarah Jessica Parker is a trouper; hubby…a party pooper.  His trademark boyish charm is still there but waning.  Somehow inappropriate.  She is phenomenal.  A blast from comedy heaven past.  Honest, straight forward with perfect timing and delivery.  Looking as stylish as one can look in 60’s retro outfits by Jane Greenwood.  She surpassed my expectations.  He did not disappoint, turning in yet another lackluster, blasé, I couldn’t care less yet adequate performance.  Best as the slimy Hollywood producer attempting to seduce his years ago high school sweetie from Tenafly who knows how to handle her bottomless vodka stingers.

Beneath the laughter which is almost nonstop and madcap shenanigans (adroitly directed by John Benjamin Hickey) there is an underlying sadness, loneliness and seething anger in this marriage on the rocks threesome.  No one is happy.  Or content.  Still looking for the magic pill called happiness.

Infidelity, excessive drinking, lying and that nasty thing that somehow grows over the years between married couples – the blame game.

Whether they are from Mamaroneck or Hollywood or Tenafly, New Jersey or Forest Hills the inhabitants of Suite 719 at The Plaza share the same malaise.  With great relish.  And plenty of laughs.

I recommend taking this historical and hysterical time capsule journey – a fond memory for some and an informative look into the past for newcomers.

Thanks for the memories!  www.plazasuitebroadway.com

Photo ID.  Proof of vaccination.  MASK UP!

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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EVERYBODY LOVES BERNIE

March 21st, 2022 by Oscar E Moore
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As in Bernadette Peters who starred as Dot in Sunday in the Park with George in 1984 at the Booth Theatre.  We shared the same vocal coach.  I remember arriving at James Gregory’s studio early and sitting on the staircase just to hear Bernie sing.  That’s what I called her.  Bernie.

And so I decided to adapt, to personalize Everybody Loves Louis a song from Sunday to Everybody Loves Bernie.  I was brave back then.  Delivering my lyric backstage at the Booth.  One could do such things back then.

And so, with the publication of James Lapine’s book PUTTING IT TOGETHER featured recently on CBS Sunday Morning I bravely share it with you.

https://youtu.be/jj9qsMBZUHs

THE SONG OF BERNADETTE – September 8, 1984

Dear Bernie,

I’ve a surprise – here!  With all due respect and complete admiration for Mr. Sondheim’s lyrics I hereby submit to you – the following – I simply had to do it…

 

Everybody loves Bernie

Bernie’s sexy and kind

Everybody loves Bernie

Bernie’s huggable.

 

Why go on a long journey?

Turn the corner and find

That Bernie the soubrette

Is all that we had in mind – and – (change orchestration)

 

Bernie sure is a singer

Bernie sings from the heart

Bernie never does linger

Bernie’s punctual

Everybody loves Bernie

Bernie brings us French art

 

It’s said Greg

Her father’s bread Greg

I think I read Greg

He really kneads it

As no one has Greg

LAZZARA

 

Bernie’s face is so flawless

Bernie’s face is so bright

Bernie makes you feel lawless

Bernie’s sensuous

That’s the thing about Bernie

Bernie’s got her Dot right

 

Bernie’s hips are an act to follow

Bernie’s lips allow her to swallow

 

Not that Bernie’s perfection

That’s what makes her ideal

Hardly anything worth objection

Bernie flirts a bit

Bernie hurts a bit

Bernie makes a connection

That’s the thing that you feel

 

She weighs parts

And then she plays parts

And there are Rubys

And there are Mabels

But never Tonys

Nor Oscars won

 

But still we

Adore Bernie

 

Everybody loves Bernie

And the magic she makes

Everybody loves Bernie

She has captured us

 

Not afraid to be sweeter

Peters knows what it takes

 

Everybody gets along with her

She’s no trouble

Life’s a song with her

 

Bernie has to be that way

Bernie ALWAYS be that

Bernie is it!

As ever

Oscar

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THE MUSIC MAN – As fresh and as sweet as new mown hay

February 18th, 2022 by Oscar E Moore
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I’d like to propose a toast!  To celebrate!  Here’s to the entire cast, from superstars Hugh Jackman & Sutton Foster to ensemble players to understudies; to all those backstage helpers, “mask up” ushers, designers, musicians and most of all director Jerry Zaks and choreographer Warren Carlyle that make this rejuvenated and  reinvigorated revival of Meredith Willson’s THE MUSIC MAN one of the most joyous experiences in musical comedy folklore.  Ever.

This is not your run of the mill carbon copy revival.  This revitalized MUSIC MAN has an identity all its own.  It is simply sensational.

July 4th, 1912.  Professor Harold Hill, traveling salesman/con man extraordinaire, arrives via train in River City, Iowa pretending to be a band instructor; attempting to convince its citizens to contribute funds for instruments and uniforms by spreading the word that their young boys are being seduced into sin and vice by the town’s new pool table – and then vamoose with the funds.

But then a certain Miss Marian the librarian/piano instructor has caught his eye and he decides to woo her.  However, they do not see eye to eye.  They are more like Shakespeare’s bickering Beatrice and Benedict whom we know will eventually wind up together.

From the Grant Wood Americana inspired scenic backdrops by Santo Loquasto who also designed the many simple down home costumes to the colorful garish gowns worn by certain gossipy ladies fond of elaborate hats, Mid-West America is shown in its best or rather its natural period light.

THE MUSIC MAN is the perfect panacea for these deeply troubled times albeit an expensive one.  Tickets can go for over five hundred buckaroos.  Each.

But this splendid, exciting, romantic, beautifully paced and amusing show is chock full of memorable melodic music and athletic eye-popping choreography.  From a simple “Gary, Indiana” to a Barbershop Quartet “Lida Rose” to the tongue twisting “Ya Got Trouble” to the lilting “Till There Was You” to the rousing “Seventy Six Trombones” the large ensemble shines and delivers its best seemingly enjoying every moment on stage alongside its two gracious stars that deliver what the audience has come for.  A grand old fashioned good time.

From the onset the audience was literally abuzz with excitement.  And when Hugh Jackman makes his entrance they went wild without him speaking one word.  Shortly after Sutton Foster got the same reaction.  How wonderful to hear all that applause for them.  And they both do deliver the goods.

Backing them up are some of Broadway’s best:  Jefferson Mays, Jayne Houdyshell, Shuler Hensley, Marie Mullen and newcomer – the adorable Benjamin Pajak who plays Marian’s shy ten year old brother.

To my pleasant surprise the name Garrett Long caught my eye.  She had been Bonnie in a MTC workshop production of “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde” that I had written with Dana Rowe and Michael Aman.  Seeing her these many years later as Ethel Toffelmier was an extra special pleasure for me.

Try your best to get a ticket to THE MUSIC MAN.  You will see what we’ve been missing with some of these new-fangled musicals.

 

At the Winter Garden Theatre.  www.musicmanonbroadway.com

Photo ID.  Proof of vaccination.  MASK UP.

2 hrs. 30 min.  One intermission

Photos:  Bruce Glikas/Getty Images & Julieta Cervantes

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COMPANY – reinterpreted revival revisited – a mixed bag of tricks

December 15th, 2021 by Oscar E Moore
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2021 is the year of SONDHEIM.  Broadway: COMPANY.  Off B’way: ASSASINS.  Film: WEST SIDE STORY.  And his untimely, sudden, unfortunate death.

Flashback to 1970.  After an extremely successful summer at Canal Fulton Ohio’s summer stock theater company where I was “resident juvenile” and having just finished a run of DAMES SEA in Washington D.C. there I was at the Alvin Theatre watching the original production of COMPANY directed by Hal Prince.

Within a year I was runner-up as Young Ben in FOLLIES which changed my life forever for the better.

Little did I know as a bright eyed actor/singer/dancer that one day I would be reviewing this revamped revival directed by Marianne Elliott at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.

A revival starring Katrina Lenk and Patti LuPone.  With a supporting cast of excellent actor/singer/dancers, ubiquitous on stage cell phones and a gimmick.  You gotta get a gimmick, right Mr. Sondheim?

The main character Bobby, a single “he” is now Bobbie a single “she” – an alcoholic whose friends are celebrating her 35th birthday.  A birthday she would rather forget.

As she wanders about the neon lit cubicles designed by Bunny Christie, like Alice down the rabbit-hole, she travels through Sondheim and Furth’s wonderland of marriage, imperfect relationships, divorce and one night stands.

Bobbie is the third wheel in her married couple’s lives.  Their baiting and bickering.  Their sharing and squabbling.  Their teasing and tempting.  Does she want this?  The question is really – what does she want?  With Katrina Lenk we never really know.  This part seems to be beyond her capabilities.  I never cared about her as Bobbie.  Bobbie’s inner core was never revealed nor conveyed.

In Act II as the company sings “What would we do without you?” a little voice is my head shouted – “a hell of a lot better!”

The master’s score is still tremendous as played by an above stage orchestra.  Lyrics are totally amazing.  Some refitted to retrofit the new sexual identities of some characters.  All well and good.

The best is Matt Doyle’s “Getting Married Today” with its rapid tongue-twisting brilliant lyric and his spot on delivery as he pulls out of his same sex marriage with Paul an equally strong Etai Benson.  It’s a certified show-stopper!

“You Could Drive a Person Crazy” now sung by three hot men to a very lukewarm Bobbie is less successful.

The lengthy book by the late George Furth is still a problem making an almost 3 hour show seem longer.  Even more so with the tinkering of Ms. Elliott.

Great comic timing by two chaps named Christopher – Fitzgerald and Sieber, a joyous Jennifer Simard and the martini swilling Patti LuPone who knocks “The Ladies Who Lunch” out of the stratosphere liven up the proceedings.

Bobby Conte’s version of “Another Hundred People” is too scattered directorial wise, yet he bravely survives it.

And Claybourne Elder!  His delicious physique will have everyone standing in line to get to Barcelona with him drooling all the way.  Great voice and comic delivery to boot.

The biggest disappointment is Katrina Lenk’s delivery of “Being Alive” which she barely seems to be.  It’s really a shame with an otherwise excellent production to end with such an unfortunate low.  The less said the better.

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

www.companymusical.com

Proof of vaccination.  Photo ID required.  Masks required in theatre.

One intermission.  2 and a half hours.

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MRS. DOUBTFIRE – marriage on the rocks: musical-comedy style

December 8th, 2021 by Oscar E Moore
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Bringing the 1993 beloved film to Broadway now starring an equally incandescent Rob McClure as an out of work actor, facing divorce who loves his three kids so much that he manages to become a Scottish nanny so that he can spend more time with them will tickle many a funny bone.  It’s hilarious.  And he sings and dances, works puppets and cooks a mean chicken while all the time being sincere.

For young and old and everyone in between as witnessed by the roars of approval from its audience Saturday matinee – December 4. 2021.

The Kirkpatrick brothers, Wayne and Karey, along with John O’Farrell have rescued an almost lost and what once was truly a revered art form – musical COMEDY – along with director Jerry Zaks, choreographer Lorin Latarro and a stupendous star – Mr. Rob McClure who turns in a marathon man/nanny Tony worthy winning performance in a role that showcases his many incredible sparkling talents.  Bless them all!

To see how many magic, unexpected, joyous rabbits Mrs. Doubtfire pulls out of its hat one must see this musical ASAP.  It is a feel good family friendly romp dealing with divorce, child custody, cross dressing and above all – “love” without getting the least bit sappy.

Special mention must be made of the make-up & prosthetics design by Tommy Kurzman as costumed by Catherine Zuber with hair by David Brian Brown without whom Mrs. Doubtfire would not exist in all her glory.

Jerry Zaks keeps the show bouncing along at a fast clip.  The book is very funny as are the lyrics to the very tuneful and get your feet tapping catchy melodies.

Jake Ryan Flynn as Christopher Hillard is a real find.  Quirky and funny.  A teen with true comic instincts.

Peter Bartlett as Mr. Jolly!  I start giggling uncontrollably just thinking about his uproarious portrayal.  As will you.  That’s a promise.

Excellent production numbers abound but almost topple the show from its lofty aspirations in Act II.  But nothing in life is perfect.  We must enjoy the near perfect and gobble it up.

Word of mouth – excellent word of mouth will surely get Mr. and Mrs. Average Theater-goer and extended families cheering from their hearts in support of this terrific lovable, laughable Mrs. Doubtfire and Co. production.  It’s a breath of freshly recycled air.

At the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. Two and half entertaining hours.  One intermission.

www.mrsdoubtfirebroadway.com

Proof of vaccination.  Masks required.

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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NIX on SIX – the kvetching wives of Windsor

November 6th, 2021 by Oscar E Moore
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I wondered while watching this quite expensive extravaganza if those ten year old boys sitting on their make-me-higher cushions in the audience were wondering “what do I make of all this female anger being celebrated on stage?”

A mix-up of Tudor history as heard through the over-amplified voices of the six dearly departed wives of Henry VIII channeling pop icons Beyoncé, Shakira, Adele, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna to name but a few – all sounding alike in this rock style concert.

Each Queen works very hard at trying to convince us who was the worst treated by his Royal Highness Henry VIII.  And if you care for this type of singing (carping) this could be for you.  I am in the minority.  SIX is a worldwide phenomenon no question about that.

The writers have come up with a clever conceit that the audience eats up.  Force fed as it were.  Women should rule the roost.  Women should not have to put up with male barbaric behavior.  Even if it means rewriting or ignoring how some of these Queens deserved what they got.

Oh well, congratulations to creators Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss.  I am not jealous of their success.  Merely sad at what musical theater used to be like.  Congrats to choreographer Carrie-Anne Ingrouille for her ingenious robotic military type precision staging.

SIX goes by in a flash of lights and sound.  One hour twenty minutes of kvetching so loud as to be undisguisable to my ears.  I do wonder what message those ten year old boys received from SIX and how it will affect their future relationships with whomever.

Proof of Vaccination.  Photo ID.  Mask up!

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Premium seat $499.00

www.sixthemusical.com

 

 

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A COMMERCIAL JINGLE FOR REGINA COMET – a missed opportunity

October 19th, 2021 by Oscar E Moore
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Seriously?!  At the DR2 Theatre this “new musical in the making” is more like an amateur Fringe Festival workshop production.  And in need of a doctor suffering from a weak plot and forgettable tunes.  I rate it 4 and a half yawns.  A must see for all those interested in learning what not to do and how to do it in writing a musical – and please do not pick out “a must see” as a quote.

Where do I begin?  It’s all an ear-splitting baffling blur.  There are over twenty sung dialogue numbers devoid mostly of melody – a couple more than the 18 listed producers who should be voted into the musical hall of shame.

The glitzy golden Mylar show curtain reminding us of the fabulously satiric FORBIDDEN BROADWAY greets us.  And its downhill from there.

The story line is ridiculous.  A once famous (worldwide no less) pop singer Regina Comet (Bryonha Marie Parham) is on the skids.  To boost her self-esteem, career and pocketbook she enlists the talents of two unknown writers to create a “jingle” for her new perfume – no make that her new fragrance “Relevance” to appeal to a new and younger and hipper teenage fan base.  The “jingle” is a no show!

They are straight Man 2 (Ben Frankhauser) and gay Other Man (Alex Wyse).  For easier identification Man 2 wears a green shirt and has dark hair.  Other Man wears tight shorts and has great legs.

They are also the brains behind the music, book and lyrics in this fortunately only eighty minute extravaganza.  Have they never heard of Rodgers and Hammerstein or Jerry Herman or Stephen Sondheim?

It seems not BUT they have heard of Barry Manilow – the idol of our two leading men whose portrait is displayed prominently on the cluttered set (Wilson Chin) of post it notes (we never see them post one), piles of note books and furniture on wheels to keep the actors and plot spinning so that we don’t notice all the holes in said plot.

One can always check out the distracting on-stage right and left Madame Orchestra who seem to be enjoying the show more than I did.

There is some humor (after all they met at a Jewish music camp), break-away costumes (Sarita Fellows), a most disgusting feeble magic sight gag (we get to see this twice), lasers (don’t ask) and some polite applause and chuckling from the very sparse audience in attendance.

The entire concoction is directed by Marshall Pailet in a keep the actors in motion and singing as loudly as possible style.  His previous stints as director of “Who’s Your Baghdaddy?” And “Triassic Parq” (which I sadly saw) gives you a glimpse into what to expect.  Musical mayhem.  Scheduled through November 14, 2021.

Proof of vaccination.  Photo ID.  Masks.

www.reginacomet.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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LACKAWANNA BLUES – extended through November 7th – make every effort to see it

October 17th, 2021 by Oscar E Moore
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Was there anyone in your past who was instrumental in guiding you through your youth, teaching you how to treat others with respect and dignity and at the same time expecting you to be treated likewise that still resonates with the person you are today?

If so, you will immediately connect with Ruben Santiago-Hudson the author, actor, and director of his autobiographical memory play LACKAWANNA BLUES now extended through November 7th at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre – a Manhattan Theatre Club production.  I urge you to make every effort to see it.

And do not miss a single important word of this remarkable work.  Listening devices are once again offered for use.  So please do.

Despite several cancellations due to a back injury.  Despite the COVID lockdowns, Mr. Santiago-Hudson beautifully channels the perseverance and love instilled in him by Ms. Rachel Crosby (Nanny) his surrogate mother who rescued and raised Ruben in her boardinghouse establishment for strays – both human and animal.

Portraying a multitude of characters from a tobacco farm in Virginia to the 1956 steel mills of Lackawanna New York where drinking and gambling and carousing were rampant in this ninety minute, no intermission production Mr. Santiago-Hudson has got the whole audience not only in the palm of his hands but in his grip.  Never letting go.  You cannot help but be enthralled by his storytelling.  With an abundance of period details.

And his cast of odd characters.  Ol’ Po’ Carl – a 79 year old former Negro Leagues baseball player who was told by his doctor to give up whiskey as he had “roaches of the liver” and Sweet Tooth Sam.  And many others.  Young and old.  Male and female.  Quite an array.

All the while Nanny explaining in her easy going but tough way to be strong, generous and kind with her philosophy of an open home and an open heart.  Soft-spoken most of the time her signature look could freeze the Erie Canal.

Anyone who has had such an important person in their life will certainly be touched and most probably tear up at their remembrance.

Mr. Santiago-Hudson shares the stage and his life with excellent guitarist Junior Mack.

The accompaniment is just right.  A soft bluesy background that can punctuate the narrative when necessary.  Oh, and Ruben plays a mean harmonica to boot.

Special thanks to lighting designer Jen Schriever and scenic designer Michael Carnahan for the cozy and most appropriate atmosphere.   The original music by Bill Sims Jr. – a close associate of Mr. Santiago-Hudson who played the show and dozens of other projects with him until his death.  LACKAWANNA BLUES is dedicated to his memory.  Along with Nanny who always said “It’s gonna be alright.”  And it was.  And it is.  Just go!

Originally produced by the Public Theater April 2001.

Photos:  Marc J. Franklin

Proof of vaccination.  Photo ID.  Mask.  Thank you.

www.manhattantheatreclub.com/…/lackawanna-blues

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GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY – Hope and heartbreak with a double dose of Dylan

October 14th, 2021 by Oscar E Moore
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A somber, melancholy atmosphere is set as one enters the Belasco Theatre by the shadowy lighting and vacant musical instruments on a bare stage as the actors slowly enter to tell their stories; baring their souls and exposing their feelings in a most beautiful production of a not so beautiful time in American history in GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY.

A hybrid patchwork quilt utilizing the lyrical and heartfelt songs of Robert Allen Zimmerman – otherwise known as Bob Dylan with an original book by the Irish playwright and director extraordinaire Conor McPherson without whom this entire production would not exist.

He is assisted greatly by Lucy Hind – movement director who manages to create some integral character driven group dance sequences and appropriate scenic & costume design by Rae Smith beautifully lit by Mark Henderson.

1934 -Duluth Minnesota (birthplace of Dylan 1941) – the depths of the depression. Jobs are scarce.  Everyone is on edge.  We meet a cross section of its inhabitants in a dilapidated boarding house barely eking out its existence run by a ready to explode Nick Laine (Jay O. Sanders) who must tend to his off kilter wife Elizabeth (Mare Winningham) who at times is as wise as a fox and supplies some humorous asides.

Along with their son Gene (Colton Ryan) who dreams of a writing career but whose bout with the bottle does him in and their adopted black pregnant daughter Marianne (Kimber Elayne Sprawl) whose talent shines throughout the production.

Nick and his wife no longer are in love with one another.  He has replaced her with Mrs. Neilson (Jeannette Bay Ardelle) a widow who expects to inherit three thousand dollars to help Nick as Elizabeth looks on, sometimes attentively – sometimes into space appearing to be out of it completely.

Unexpectedly love finds its way of interacting with most of the people you will meet – “Tight Connection to My Heart”  “Make You Feel My Love” “Sweetheart Like You” “True Love Tends to Forget” “Is Your Love in Vain” and the gorgeous “I Want You” – sung as a duet between Gene and his girlfriend Kate (Caitlin Houlahan) – all beautifully arranged by Simon Hale who has done a masterful job in creating harmonies and choral numbers that make use of gospel,  soul, big band and a simple yet very effective harmonica.

The ensemble is magnificent – with glorious soaring voices.

Nick has plans for the 19 year old Marianne.  To be wed to an old geezer, Mr. Perry (Tom Nelis) but she falls for Joe Scott (Austin Scott) a boxer with a shady past who arrives with Reverend Marlowe (Matt McGrath) a con-man selling bibles and spewing the words of the Lord.

Another couple at odds with one another are Mr. and Mrs. Burke (a short tempered Marc Kudisch) and his soused spouse (an excellent Luba Mason) who doubles on drums.  Their mentally challenged son Elias – an excellent Todd Almond – tugs at our heartstrings.

The “hope and heartbreak” book is reminiscent of OUR TOWN and Saroyan’s THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE and works wonders at keeping all the various characters in line seamlessly with their hopes and dreams and conflicts.

Our narrator Dr. Walker (Robert Joy) fills in vital information seguing from songs to scene, from violence to tenderness that make us hold our applause until the uplifting finale “Pressing On” that gets the audience to their feet with cheers of Bravo! – echoing up to the rafters.  GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY is a truly special emotional journey.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED especially for those who are tired of razzle dazzle scream fests.

NOTE:  Performance reviewed Wednesday matinee March 11, 2020

www.northcountryonbroadway.com

Photos:  Matthew Murray

2 hours 30 minutes – One Intermission

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