Oscar E Moore

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MISERY – Bruce Willis & Laurie Metcalf misfire at Broadhurst

November 21st, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

“If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” speaks Annie Wilkes (Laurie Metcalf) to her unable to walk captive author Paul Sheldon (Bruce Willis) after a pivotal moment that shocks the audience out of its induced stupor while watching MISERY by William Goldman based on a novel by Stephen King.  The same can be said of this unbelievable and sometimes silly production.

If you have the misfortune of attending – hold onto your Playbill as one day it just might be as collectible as the one for Moose Murders.

The producers – Warner Brothers Theatre Ventures and Castle Rock Entertainment are trying to pull a fast one here.  Attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of some theater patrons who should know better than to be fooled by star casting, playing it for laughs, gimmicks and a cheesy script that has more holes than there are in a huge chunk of Swiss.

The good news is that is goes by rather quickly – 90 minutes – no intermission.

Better news is that Laurie Metcalf is incredibly looney, funny, scary, wild, flirty, and crafty as a psychopath who has thought of just about everything to keep the writer that she idolizes from dying after being in a car accident during a mighty snow storm in Colorado.  She somehow rescues him from his smashed up car – she had been stalking him – and has brought him to her cozy cabin home to nurse him back to life.  Sound familiar?  It was a film starring Kathy Bates and James Caan.

She is Paul’s number one fan.  She’s on first name basis to the confused coming out of a coma Paul.  He’s famous for writing a series of eight novels - the main character is Misery.  And Annie connects/identifies with her is an obsessive manner – with the help of God.

Not only has she rescued Paul but she has rescued his newest manuscript Misery’s Child found in his bag that doesn’t ever seem to have been in the same car with him when it crashed.  Upon reading it – after asking permission – she starts to critique it and forces him to start a new Misery book – Misery Returns - by holding out his pain medication.  That’s all you need to know.  More than enough.  The rest is an avalanche of terrible things that befall Paul.

There is not much that we learn about Paul as portrayed by action star Bruce Willis who for the most part is out of action – practically walking through the part.  It’s a pity that it appears that he has never ever been this close to a typewriter ever.  Couldn’t Mr. Willis have made just a little effort to convince?

On a picture perfect post card ideal winter cottage set by David Korins that rotates showing the exterior and interior rooms of the house enabling Paul – in a wheelchair - to investigate and try to do Annie in – the events unfold.  But even the icicles don’t cut the mustard.  And the phone is disconnected.  And all roads are blocked from the storm.

This cinematically series of short scenes is directed by Will Frears as best as can be expected with some mood music by Liberace.

Leon Addison Brown has the thankless role of Buster, a cop who comes a calling to inquire about Mr. Sheldon and has his suspicions as the body has never shown up and Annie has been buying up reams of typing paper at the local store and Paul’s wife and agent are worried.  Oh yes, and Annie has a pet pig that she calls Misery.  Luckily the pig remains unseen.  But not unheard.

There is an epilogue that allows the fans of Mr. Willis to give him the adulation that they believe he deserves for his low key performance.  But the real stars of MISERY are Laurie Metcalf and set designer David Korins.

Photos: Joan Marcus


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ALLEGIANCE – George Takei, Telly Leung & Lea Salonga endure with dignity

November 16th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

Celebrating the harvest with paper wishes hung on trees, all was well on the West Coast in the Japanese communities until Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan.  Not only did the United States enter WWII but 120,000 of these peaceful Japanese-Americans were rounded up and unjustly incarcerated by our government – much like Hitler was rounding up Jews.

This new and original musical ALLEGIANCE – Book by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione with Music & Lyrics by Jay Kuo - tackles this extremely serious and cathartic story head on.

Some might wonder why make this a musical.  This emotionally powerful story stands on its own.  But the emotions are so high that the characters reach a point where mere words aren’t enough.  They must sing.

Much of the dialogue itself is sung with lots of underscoring.  The emotionally draining score is varied with strong anthems and tender love duets and some fun Forties boogie-woogie.

One only wishes that ALLEGIANCE could have some really stand-out memorable songs to lift it to a higher level that the story so wants it to be.  That being said there are some great numbers that probably only need to be heard again to really resonate.

This production is bold and daring.  Fragile and powerful.  Beautifully directed by Stafford Arima, it incorporates original stylized movements and choreography by Andrew Palermo that is quite memorable.

The cast headed by George Takei – who was instrumental in bringing this important part of his life experience to life on the Longacre Theatre stage – couldn’t be better.

Happy to be able to fit into his old Army uniform in 2001 Sam Kimura receives a large envelope from his estranged sister who has died and we flashback to Salinas California 1941 and meet his younger version (Sammy – a passionate Telly Leung) with his stern father Tatsuo (a commanding Christopher Nomura) and his wise, soft spoken and funny grandfather Ojii-chan (George Takei) and his sister Kei Kimura – portrayed with a possible Tony winning performance by Lea Salonga whose voice is crystal clear and filled with love and honesty.

When Pearl Harbor is attacked everything changes for them.  They are divided into where each of their allegiances lie.  And this family discord explodes.

Sammy falls in love with Nurse Hannah Campbell from Nebraska (a quirky Katie Rose Clarke) while his shy old maid sister Kei is wooed by Frankie Suzuki (a strong and charming Michael K. Lee) whose political ideals radically differ from that of Sammy pulling the family in opposite directions as we follow their story to the front lines in Italy and France with the Japanese combat forces created by real life character Mike Masaoka (a conflicted yet strong Greg Watanabe) a top official in the Japanese-American Citizen League who urged cooperation.

ALLEGIANCE is strong stuff.  It is deplorable what happened to these innocent bystanders as a result of a war which they did not create.  Attention must be paid.  Who will be next?

This incredible production proves that one can suffer humiliation and indignities with hope and endurance and survive.  Worthy of a visit.

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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ON YOUR FEET! Una historia de amor con mucha musica

November 14th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

It’s all about the songs!  And Cuban immigrants Gloria Garcia Fajardo (a stunning Ana Villafane) and Emilio Estefan (a macho and sexy Josh Segarra).  A real love story and a real crowd-pleaser.  How they met.  How they became so incredibly famous and how they overcame a near tragic accident.  How they made the Miami Sound Machine’s unique Latino music International by crossing over from Spanish into English and back again.

By the time ON YOUR FEET! comes to its rip-roaring finale one wonders if you are standing and cheering for the actors portraying this couple or the couple themselves.  It’s a fine blurred line drawn between real life and their amazingly talented counterparts on stage.

But where is the list of songs?  You will have to search the program diligently for it is found after all the bios.  But they are listed alphabetically – 26 in all!  Then there are the Music Credits on the following page which is even longer.

All these irresistible songs leave little space for the story that is telescoped by book writer Alexander Dinelaris and awkwardly directed by Jerry Mitchell. The book seems to be an afterthought.  It’s all about their songs.  And so the scenes do their best to get to the next song – infusing some humor along the way.

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  A joke about Emilio’s unfortunate white shorts and his difficulty with English and the three “amigos” with guitars are borderline.  Then there are the two very touching and beautiful scenes – one with her sick dad and the other in the hospital.  But somehow the story comes across as too slick to be real – although it is.

Having such a charmed life and sharing such a deep love personally and professionally isn’t very challenging except for that tragic accident – where Gloria miraculously recovers and Emilio escapes without even a nose bleed.

Strobe lights and bongos and maracas and trumpets and percussion get things going with a strong beat as the onstage band blasts the show off – and then disappears to be heard but not seen for quite a while - allowing us to meet the other characters in flashback:  Gloria’s disapproving mom (an excellent Andrea Burns) who is just a bit jealous as she once had a chance for stardom in Hollywood but family matters mattered more.

Her delightful grandmother “abuela” Consuelo (an outstanding Alma Cuervo) who supports Gloria all the way to the top.  Her sister Rebecca (Genny Lis Padilla) and their son Nayib (Eduardo Hernandez) who manages to steal the spotlight from the show’s two stars with his fancy footwork.

Dancing With the Stars inspired choreography by Sergio Trujillo - swirling skirts and swiveling hips and sexy thrusts becomes a bit repetitive.  It is what it has to be.  Nothing more.

The songs are delivered in Spanish and English and combinations of both languages.  When Emilio and Gloria insist on making their next single in English the guy in charge – Phil – an almost stereotypical caricature by Lee Zarrett refuses - as their money making market is Latino and he doesn’t believe they can make the crossover (and yet in musical comedy land they have been singing mostly in English all along)  In any event they do.

They and the family and the band go about making the song a hit with passion and ingenuity.  Promoting the song at a Bar Mitzvah, an Italian wedding and a Las Vegas Shriners Convention which leads to the fabulous first act finale – CONGA where the cast Conga’s up the aisle inviting the audience to join in.

I imagine that audiences will be doing the Conga for a long time to come at the Marquis Theatre.  As I said - it’s all about the songs.  And las canciones son fantasticas!

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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KING CHARLES III – uneasy lies the head that wears a crown

November 9th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

Sometimes one needs to learn to be patient.  Take for example Prince Charles, heir apparent to the throne of England.  He will be KING when and if his mother Queen Elizabeth II ever abdicates or dies.  One event unlikely; the other inevitable.  But how long must he wait?

In this compelling and challenging drama envisioned by Mike Bartlett as “a future history play” – Queen Elizabeth II has just met her demise and Charles (an amazing and majestic Tim Pigott-Smith) and the rest of the gang are dealing with the funeral that has been arranged by the Queen herself and its aftershocks.

Part Shakespeare.  Part “The Lion in Winter.”  Totally fabricated.  Written in blank verse.   But don’t let that deter you.  Be patient.

On a stark and cold looking stone unit set by Tom Scutt that resembles the interior of The Tower of London with a central red carpeted raised platform of three step levels where the action takes place and lit by four large tapers the gorgeous and majestic requiem composed by Jocelyn Pook begins and the participants of the funeral procession take their places holding candles.  It is a stunning effect that grabs you immediately.  Then the complicated charade begins.

As Charles awaits his coronation he is immediately faced with a new bill “regulating the freedom of the press” from Prime Minister Mr. Evans (Adam James).  The bill has been passed by The House of Commons and The House of Lords and Charles must sign it into law.

But Charles is new to this.  Ill prepared.  Confused and indecisive.  Camilla (Margot Leicester) as is her wont speaks up strongly.  After much discussion with The Prime Minister and the opposition leader Mr. Stevens (Anthony Calf) Charles decides not to sign and all hell breaks loose.  This is where your patience might be sorely tested.

Meanwhile we meet up with the partying Prince Harry (Richard Goulding) – a self-proclaimed “Ginger Joke” and his newest love Jess (Tafline Steen) a socialist art student.  He prefers Burger King to Buckingham Palace and desires to be just a commoner.

Prince William (Oliver Chris) just a regular guy with his shirt sleeves rolled up and stylish and strong willed Kate (Lydia Wilson) both real life lookalikes have their own agenda at stake with surprising results in Act II that really enlivens the plot.  You will be well rewarded for your patience during the long first act.

Charles will again have to make a major decision in Act II that will require him to put his signature on another all important piece of paper.  It’s an eerie glimpse into the characters of Will and Kate that is spellbinding.

Diana (Sally Scott) makes a cameo ghost appearance proclaiming that…well, go see the play.

KING CHARLES III is beautifully staged by Rupert Goold with an ensemble of superb British actors that can actually project – a talent and technique that the new crop of Broadway actors should develop.

At The Music Box.  Limited run through January 31 2016


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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SYLVIA – every dog has its day

November 7th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

Dogs do think.  And love.  And have feelings.  They can be independent.  And playful.  Sniffing and running and thumping and at certain times hot for other dogs.

In A. R. Gurney’s delightful revival of SYLVIA starring the amazing Annaleigh Ashford this frisky part mutt - part poodle mix not only does all of the above but she speaks, picked up in Central Park by Greg (Matthew Broderick) – a guy in full blown mid-life crisis mode.  Or maybe she did the picking up.

In any event they seem to be made for each other.  He is her God!  He needs something more in his unfulfilled life now that his children are out of the nest and he and his Shakespearean scholarly wife Kate (Julie White) have moved in from the suburbs to Manhattan.

Only problem is that Kate does not want a dog.  Especially this one.  One who tries to ingratiate herself, insists on sitting on the sofa and one who leaves a small puddle for Kate to step in.

How can anyone not fall in love with Sylvia?  Especially as portrayed by Annaleigh Ashford who is well on her way to fetching another Tony for her full immersion in doggy behavior and brilliant comedic timing.

Matthew Broderick has managed to land a part that suits him well.  Even with his lame delivery and listless persona.  It works to his advantage here.

Julie White as his scorned wife is perfect.  At first wary she’s willing to let Sylvia stay – for a while - but then declares war when things get entirely out of hand.

Robert Sella – playing a trio of roles is terrific.  Never missing a single laugh.

He is Tom – a fellow dog lover who Greg meets in the Park who offers some worldly dog/wife advice.  Sylvia has a fling with Bowser, Tom’s canine.  Phyllis – an Upper East Side socialite with a sweeping hairdo that nearly steals the show and is the recipient of some hysterical sniffing from Sylvia.  And Leslie a complicated and confused counselor/shrink who is as just as confused as to his/her gender.

SYLVIA is extremely funny.  There is a moment when all three – husband, wife and Sylvia are about to part and sing Cole Porter’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” that is quite touching.

Daniel Sullivan has directed with a steady leash.  The set by David Rockwell is a beautiful depiction of Central Park that allows set pieces to flow in and out for the various locales.  Costumes by Anne Roth are vintage 1995 and her outfits for Sylvia (knee pads included) are appropriate for a dog with such a high opinion of herself.

As they say “Every dog has its day” and Sylvia is the mutt of the moment.  Highly recommended.  At the CORT THEATRE.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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THERESE RAQUIN – Still waters run deep

November 6th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

In this dark and sordid saga of a late 19th century French love triangle plus mama the immense sets by Beowulf Boritt – while impressive - all but dwarf the actors in what is in reality an intimate melodrama based on the novel by Emile Zola.  There is even an all-important upstage moat and rowboat for the climatic Act I murder.

After such an elaborate undertaking in the design department it’s a pity that the boat doesn’t move – even with one of the passengers rowing away - thereby ruining whatever tension had been built up.  What a faux pas by director Evan Cabnet in this latest Roundabout production of ruined love now performing at Studio 54.

On the plus side for Mr. Cabnet he creates some beautiful one dimensional cut-paper silhouette images for the production.  Unfortunately some of the actors are giving one dimensional performances in this new lugubrious adaptation by Helen Edmundson.

As portrayed by Keira Knightley, making her Broadway debut, Therese is a plain woman.  Shy.  Cowering in a corner or staring out of the shutters.  A woman of few words.  Running outdoors towards the sea for some badly needed oxygen - trying to escape the suffocating atmosphere in a household where it has been arranged by the overprotective Madame Raquin (Judith Light) for a terribly repressed Therese to be married to her sickly, petulant and selfish son Camille (an excellent Gabriel Ebert) who happens to be her first cousin.  Not a good idea.

One Thursday night at the weekly domino game with friends – Monsieur Grivet (Jeff Still) Superintendent Michaud (David Patrick Kelly) and his beautifully bonneted niece Suzanne (Mary Wiseman) Camille brings along the handsome and rakish Laurent (Matt Ryan – appearing with the permission of UK Equity)  Another plus.  A childhood friend now an unhappy lawyer and would be painter.

Therese suddenly perks up.  Alone she uses the top of a chair to help alieve her pent up frustrations until she secretly gets the real thing – Laurent in her bedroom between her legs where they mate in a most animalistic way.  They become lovers – although I found it difficult to believe that Laurent would be attracted to such an outwardly unattractive and quiet woman.  Perhaps it was the Raquin family money?

They plot to kill Camille in the infamous moat/boat scene.  What follows is the downward spiral of the affair and the aftermath of what happens when Mama overhears some facts that she shouldn’t hear and has a stroke.  Not of luck but one of the paralyzing kind that hurtles us into melodramatic territory and a tragic conclusion.

The production is visually attractive yet dark.  However, the lighting design by Keith Parham saves the day.  Some of the best I’ve ever seen – beautifully illuminating a show that sorely needs it.  On sale through January 3, 2016.

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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CLEVER LITTLE LIES – a mother knows

November 4th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

The very clever Joe DiPietro has written a very clever play that brings “That Girl” – Marlo Thomas back to the New York stage where she rightfully belongs.  Her distinctive voice is heard off stage in the second scene of this five character comedy - I am including the newly born baby girl of her son Billy and his wife Jane – the sound cues for her are excellent and she is unknowingly the catalyst of much that follows.

Bill, Sr. (Greg Mullavey) and his son Bill (George Merrick) have just had a post tennis match man to man heart to heart face to face talk in the locker room of their health club where Bill has disclosed an indiscretion and begs his dad not to let on with his mom Alice (Marlo Thomas) who somehow has a knack for knowing when all is not right.

As it turns out he is right about his mom who bemoans working in a bookstore while keeping her beige life in the suburbs on an even keel and attempting to do what parents are supposed to do – help their children.

Once she gets a whiff of a problem she does a Miss Marple – searching for clues to unearth what the trouble with her son and his wife is all about.  They are summoned to dinner.  There is an amusing albeit a tad too long drive with wife (Kate Wetherhead) and baby in the rear seat while excellent projections get them to their destination.

Up to now you may be thinking this is your run of the mill sit-com.  All they need are some commercials to fill in this elongated skit but then the clever plot takes a very clever turn resulting in unexpected developments as Alice tries to explain what her son should do – in subtle ways and words that result in her speaking herself into a corner where the only way out is telling the truth about some past events that eventually affects them all.

It’s surprising and fun and heartfelt.   The little lies have an hysterical snowballing effect that leads to a very satisfactory conclusion for the audience.

Two generations dealing with basically the same problems.  What happens after the first child is born.  What adjustments have to be made.  What makes a marriage work.  What is love and what is a simply a detour.

CLEVER LITTLE LIES is deftly directed by David Saint.  The design elements by Yoshi Tanokura are excellent.  And Marlo Thomas is back.  Better than ever – showing us she has more to deliver than just a quirky character with a distinctive look and voice.

At the Westside Theatre/Upstairs.  90 minutes.  No intermission.

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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FIRST DAUGHTER SUITE – under the musical microscope of Michael John LaChiusa

November 3rd, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

You just might want to see this finely crafted and multi textured production at least three times to fully grasp the artistic merits and musical majesty presented at The Public Theater in its intimate Anspacher space where you enter the surreal world of Michael John LaChiusa who has written book, lyrics and music - weaving fact and fantasy in this four part Suite featuring the daughters and mothers and ghosts of first families in a house that can never be a home.

It’s the imagined “inside scoop” of how these women cope with their decision to follow the life of living in the White House.  They are not happy campers.  Even if they pretend to be.  They have made a choice and have to deal with the consequences.

It’s daring.  It’s dishing the dirt on a higher plane.  They are disturbed by their disturbing choices and we get to watch them up close - warts and all.

Mr. LaChiusa has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging his actresses to rise to the occasion and do they ever.  It’s a fascinating – and entertaining look into the pressures and the problems and the psychology of the daughters and mothers in four vastly different vignettes.  Serious.  Sad.  Melancholy.  Bitchy.  Disturbing.  Wild.  Confrontational.

HAPPY PAT.  She is anything but.  Tricia is about to be married June 1972.  Pat prim and tense and trying to keep the calm between the two sisters smokes and sips a martini while dealing with Nixon’s mother Hanna – a ghostlike thorn in addition to the impending rain that might spoil the outdoor ceremony.

Barbara Walsh is at the very top of her game here as Pat.  Caissie Levy as Julie also astounds as Patti Davis.  Betsy Morgan as the impatient bride-to-be Tricia does likewise as Susan Ford and Theresa McCarthy as Hannah Nixon returns as the ghost of Robin Bush.

AMY CARTER’S FABULOUS DREAM ADVENTURE.  Spring 1980.  On deck of the Presidential Yacht.  Cocktails and the Iran crisis.  A calm Rosalynn (Rachael Bay Jones) focused on a book tries to quiet little rambunctious Amy (Carly Tamer) while Betty Ford (Alison Fraser) wants to dance and drink – looking dazzling and doing high kicks and a split while they go off to Iran shooting photos and people alongside Susan Ford (Betsy Morgan).

PATTI BY THE POOL.  November 1986.  Sunning themselves at Betsy Bloomingdale’s pool a frosty Nancy (Alison Fraser)  – in a knock out Reagan Red bathing suit ensemble all but ignores Patti (Caissie Levy) – in full Madonna combat mode who flaunts her best-selling tell all book.  More talk than singing here but powerful stuff as the maid Anita (Isabel Santiago) first ignores Patti and then helps Nancy find a solution.

IN THE DEEP BOSOM OF THE OCEAN BURIED.  Kennebunkport, Maine.  October 2005.  Barbara Bush – a phenomenal Mary Testa steadfastly and stoically refuses to help her son on the 50th anniversary of her daughter Robin’s death.  Theresa McCarthy seemingly floats in and out.  Laura Bush (Rachael Bay Jones) tries to mend fences between mom and George.  A son that Bar believes to be mediocre and misguided.  A huge disappointment.

The entire cast excels dramatically and vocally.  They delve deeply into each character trying to resolve their problems.  Politics and pressure take their toll on the battleground of THE FIRST DAUGHTER SUITE.  It’s horrifying and humorous - melancholy and disturbing.  And vivid.

The creative team – led by the outstanding director Kirsten Sanderson make this the theatrical event of the season:  Choreography Chase Brock - Scott Pask (scenic designer) Costume Design (Toni-Leslie James) Lighting Design (Tyler Micoleau) Sound Design (Ken Travis) Orchestrations Michael Starobin and Bruce Coughlin and Wig and Hair Design (Robert-Charles Vallance).

Welcome to the amazing world of MICHAEL-JOHN LaCHIUSA.  Extended off-Broadway through November 22nd.

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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DAMES AT SEA – too many growth hormones and not enough heart

October 31st, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  So the adage goes.  So why give the delightful DAMES AT SEA an overdose of growth hormones that turns the charmingly tiny 1968 Valentine to 1930’s backstage musicals that had style to spare, ingenious direction and choreography by Neal Kenyon that introduced the lovable and funny star-in-the-making Bernadette Peters into a big Broadway extravaganza of a show that turns into what it is supposedly spoofing albeit with the same small cast of six?

The sets are bigger.  The orchestra is fuller.  The costumes are more day-glow colorful.  And every number becomes a production number with lots of dancing under the guidance of Randy Skinner.  Most routines are just that.  Routine.  There is little in the way of ingenious creativity going on – although the production is enjoyable and entertaining.

The one spark of inspiration is the opening VITAPHONE movie credits introducing the cast.

It’s just not what the original creators had it mind.  A small spoof.  That’s what made DAMES so endearing with a knowing book and clever lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller and music by Jim Wise.  DAMES AT SEA has a terrific score.  Tuneful.  A spot on take-off of the period with witty words that are uplifting and leave one humming and in a fine mood.

It was all so simple then.  Innocent.  An ode to the tap happy Busby Berkeley musicals starring Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell and Joan Blondell.

Young girl arrives by bus from Utah with only a small suitcase wanting ever so much to be in a Broadway show.  Voila!  She’s in making best friends with hoofer Joan and falling head over tap shoes for Dick – a sailor/songwriter.  And he for her.  However…

The star of the show takes a liking to Dick, becomes ill and can’t go on leaving an under rehearsed Ruby to save the day on board a battle ship cause the theatre that was supposed to house opening night is being torn down to make room for a roller rink.

Mr. Skinner however seems to be at sea with his direction.  The book scenes mostly fall flat while racing into the next musical number that become a bit repetitive and more 1940’s than 30’s.

Casting also is questionable.   The diva Mona Kent is portrayed by an overly mugging Lesli Margherita in an over the top cross between Norma Desmond and Ethel Merman.  John Bolton in the dual roles of Hennesey and The Captain mugs his way through the show with not much distinction between the two men.

Mara Davi as the wise cracking Joan comes off best.  She has the style of the period and a powerhouse voice with natural tap abilities that charm down pat.  Her cohort Lucky is also excellent - Danny Gardner is Donald O’Connor opposite Cary Tedder as a Gene Kelly inspired Dick who is smooth sailing all the way.

Then there is Ruby.  A miscast Eloise Kropp.  How unfortunate.  She’s pert.  Sings well and taps up a storm with a frozen smile on her face throughout even while singing “Raining in My Heart” which left me feeling seasick.  At The Helen Hayes Theatre.

Photos:  Jeremy Daniel

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THE HUMANS – A family Thanksgiving stuffed with problems – gabble gabble

October 30th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

An excellent ensemble cast of six brings to life this sporadically amusing and mostly depressing play by Stephen Karam set in downtown New York during the Thanksgiving festivities of the Blake family where strange things begin to take place in the newly moved in basement duplex apartment of youngest daughter Brigid (Sarah Steele) and her live in beau Richard Saad (Arian Moayed) thirty eight year old student awaiting his trust fund which becomes available when he reaches 40 – which will mostly go to repay his student loans.  He’s the cook.

It’s a spacious, mostly void of furniture apartment on two levels designed by David Zinn – although those sitting in the first few rows of the orchestra might leave the theatre with a stiff neck.  Others might leave with a depressing headache.

They all have problems.  Physical ailments.  Money.  Jobs.  There isn’t a problem it seems that Mr. Karam doesn’t touch upon.  He puts a lot on his plate besides turkey for us to digest in this family gathering that has brought Erik Blake (Reed Birney) and his wife Deirdre (Jayne Houdyshell) and his mom Momo (Lauren Klein) wheelchair bound and suffering from dementia to New York from Scranton Pennsylvania.

Brigid’s sister Aimee (Cassie Beck) is suffering from a disease that can lead to cancer, has broken up with her girlfriend and lost her job.  During the course of this intermission-less saga you will find out lots more about what makes the Blake family tick, tick boom!

They may have a problem speaking about important things with each other but wine always loosens the tongue.  And Mr. Karam’s dialogue is natural and enlightening.

However he adds mysterious (perhaps symbolic) things that bewilder.  Extremely loud noises from an upstairs neighbor - a seventy year old Chinese lady.  What could she be doing to cause such a racket?  And then there are the lights that suddenly go out resulting in a Steven Spielberg flashlight sequence from director Joe Mantello as they chase a cockroach as big as a mouse.  And then there is the question of cell phone reception.  Dad has to nearly lean out the window while Aimee has no problem whatsoever.  Then there are the dreams, rather nightmares.

For those of you having to deal with someone suffering from dementia watching this production will prove difficult.  Lauren Klein does an outstanding job – although it is painful and heart wrenching to watch.

Joe Mantello is the master of misdirection as he manages our focus elsewhere while Momo somehow gets herself up off the sofa and into the kitchen without her wheelchair…

THE HUMANS runs through December 27th at the Laura Pels and will be transferring to Broadway next year.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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