Oscar E Moore

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FIDDLER ON THE ROOF – revival minus Mostel and Robbins

January 23rd, 2016 by Oscar E Moore

On the one hand FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is a timeless classic.  On the other hand FIDDLER’s revival isn’t.  Directed by Bartlett Sher who has beautifully and successfully helmed The King and I and South Pacific revivals - his golden touch is in short supply here at the Broadway Theatre where this lethargic and disjointed production limps along without much life.

Missing also is the genius of Jerome Robbins.  Whatever you may think of him personally he knew what worked and what didn’t and could create a total show – an entertaining entity where all the pieces fit together perfectly.  Not so here.

Mr. Robbins has been replaced by choreographer Hofesh Shechter whose wild arm waving dances have been inspired by Mr. Robbins work – sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.   Most memorable is the bottle balancing on-top-of-hat number created by Mr. Robbins.

The storybook sets (Michael Yeargan) are also problematic as pieces fly in and out and actors carry on or wheel off chairs and carts and trees (horrible trees) distracting and prolonging scene changes.

Beginning on the cavernous bare stage we hear a train and see a single chair and a sign that tells us we are in Anatevka as Danny Burstein (Tevye) – a humble and poor dairyman with five daughters enters wearing a modern red parka.  He begins to read from Sholom Aleichem’s stories that bore FIDDLER.  Removing said parka he segues into the past come alive with the company singing a rousing TRADITION.  It’s downhill from there.

The casting of the extremely talented Danny Burstein was a bold and odd choice.  Who could erase the memory of Zero Mostel in the original production?  No one.  And so we have a more naturalistic interpretation.  Smaller, more quiet more human.  But the role requires someone with more vitality - more bravado – a larger than life force to deal with the “changes that are on the way.”

As his wife Golde, Jessica Hecht strives and succeeds at being shrewish.  How five daughters resulted is a question I’d rather not ponder.

Of the five daughters – who are remarkably dull only Melanie Moore impresses as the studious Chava who has the nerve to fall in love with a non-Jew Fyedka (Nick Rehberger) - Adam Kantor as Motel – the shy tailor is excellent - loving Tzeitel (Alexandra Silber) more than his longed for sewing machine.

Ben Rappaport succeeds as Perchik a radical student wooing, dancing and getting engaged to Hodel (Samantha Massell).  In these “love matches” the men outshine the women.

Am I kvetching too much?  Perhaps.  But I was so disappointed with the production and its slow pace and the appearance that the characters really couldn’t care less about each other that I became disinterested.  Even Tevye’s talks to God didn’t work.

A highlight was Yente, the matchmaker portrayed with skill and humor by Alix Korey who deals with the cards she is dealt with great attitude.

Children, marriage, love, superstitions, traditions, and faith will survive as will FIDDLER with its lush and gorgeous score by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein.

Please have the fiddler fix his bow string.


Photos: Joan Marcus

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NOISES OFF / NOTHING ON – Two farces for the price of one

January 19th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore

There’s some very funny business going on at the American Airlines Theatre where the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of NOISES OFF is keeping audiences guffawing full out from the antics of some very first rate actors appearing in a farce called NOTHING ON with some very third rate actors in some very third rate theatres.

It’s a three act 1982 farce within a farce that has been intricately and expertly crafted by Michael Frayn and just as expertly directed by Jeremy Herrin – late of Wolf Hall – slapstick et al.

As the saying goes – “the show must go on” and this troupe just can’t seem to get anything right during the dress rehearsal - frustrating their director Lloyd Dallas (Campbell Scott) as he unsuccessfully attempts to guide them towards a successful tour and balance his love life between assistant stage manager Poppy (Tracee Chimo) and bumbling bombshell Brooke (Megan Hilty) who cavorts around in her undergarments desperately memorizing her lines and blocking much to our amusement.

Dotty (a sublime Andrea Martin) reeks bewilderment as she goes about her business of answering phones and keeping track of the many plates of sardines called for on the two tiered set of Derek McLane with its many doors that will be slammed and opened and cause missed cues and missed entrances.

The house is for rent as its owners Philip and Flavia Brent (Freddy – Jeremy Shamos and Belinda Blair – Kate Jennings Grant respectively) - To help sort out this confusion there is a separate very clever program of NOTHING ON within the program for NOISES OFF.

The Brents are away to avoid paying tax.  But they are not.  Arriving on the scene just in time to further confuse Mrs. Clackett (Dotty our dear Andrea Martin) Also arriving is Garry (a wonderful David Furr) who is Roger with Vicki (Brooke/Megan) and a missing actor Selsdon who is with his bottle of booze (Daniel Davis) who is the burglar – Rob McClure is his understudy as well as that of Freddy.  Is that everybody?  Let me double check!

In Act II we see the show from backstage.  Some terrific sight gags and miming and almost every possible simulated sexual position possible make merry although the pace slackened a bit until being absolutely and hysterically revived in the Act III as the actor’s private lives collide with the play well into its tour.

Doors slam.  Cues are missed.  Ad-libs must suffice.  Sardines fall.  Actors slip.  A nose bleeds - again.  A contact lens is lost – again.  David Furr has a masterful tumble down a flight of stairs and Rob McClure – having to go on suddenly gets the shakes unlike any shakes seen before.  It’s as though he has a vibrator up his vertebrae.

High praise is also due to the comedic stunt coordinator Mr. Lorenzo Pisoni.

It is an extremely exuberant and hilarious production.  A volcanic eruption of humor - physical, verbal and farcical. What a wonderful thing it is to share so much laughter and joy.  Highly recommended.  Through March 6th 2016


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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SCHOOL OF ROCK - Dewey Decibel System

January 16th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore

What a predicament the poor privileged kids at the private Horace Green Elementary School find themselves in under the staid, stuffy and strict rule of Principal Rosalie Mullins (Sierra Boggess) and the misplaced interest of their parents until Dewey Finn (a remarkable Alex Brightman) a forever late, shabby and hung over recently fired rock musician with passion and exuberance galore shows up as their substitute teacher with his original system of education that ultimately leads them to the Battle of the Bands.

After answering a call intended for his wannabe rockstar/teacher roommate Ned (Spencer Moses) and his shrew of a girlfriend Patty (Mamie Parris) to whom he owes lots of back rent he ambles into the school pretending to be Ned and proceeds to shake things up.  A lot.

Learning that the students have some musicality after Ms. Mullins sings the Queen of the Night Aria (Mozart) he then creates his dream rock band with these majorly talented minors in one of the better numbers “You’re in the Band” and eventually after many obstacles succeeds in winning over the parents and Ms. Mullins with a lot of high decibel rock tunes by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Lyrics by the skilled Glenn Slater suffice.  They are mostly dependent on memorable “hooks” and sometimes difficult to hear because of the high decibel level.  But the kids win us over.  Over and over again.  It’s in some of the adult scenes that the show slackens.

Because of the heavy load of exposition it takes a while for the action to start.  But once those skilled youngsters take up their instruments all is forgiven.  Book writer Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame channels his inner rock persona to tie up the sometimes obvious and sometimes implausible plot points successfully so that by the finale I was completely taken in and cheered along with the rest of the adrenalin infused audience.

The fluid sets by Anna Louizos, as always, help immensely to keep the rapid fire rhythm of the show directed by Laurence Connor on its express track.  The hip hopping choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter is also in sync with the overall vision as is the expert lighting of Natasha Katz.

But the show belongs to those ultra-talented and cool kids.  Brandon Niederauer as Zack riffing frantically on his guitar.  Dante Melucci as Freddy on drums.  A poker faced Evie Dolan as Katie on bass.  Jared Parker on keyboard as Lawrence.  The silent up to a point Tomika (Bobbi Mackenzie) who startles with “Amazing Grace” and Isabella Russo as Summer – (I have nick-named her “Princess Rapunzel”) whose turnabout is expected but welcomed.  And a Tim Gunn in the making Luca Padovan as the stylish Billy.

I only wish they would never grow up.  All of them.  They are perfect just as they are. Their song to their parents “If Only You Would Listen” is poignant and delivers a wonderful message and happens to be one of the best songs in the show – other than the one written by Mozart.

Leading the troops is the indefatigable Alex Brightman who will certainly be rewarded come Tony time.  What a performance.  Along with him is the surprising Sierra Boggess who absolutely glows after her Eve Arden like take blossoms.  It is her Mozart aria that you will be humming after the show.

Based on the Paramount movie written by Mike White.  At the Winter Garden Theatre where another Andrew Lloyd Webber perennial CATS! almost ran forever.


photos:  Matthew Murphy

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A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE – Ivo Van Hove’s avant garde primal revival

December 22nd, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

For those expecting just another straightforward revival of Arthur Miller’s classic 1955 play A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE this newest incarnation from the creative and out-of-the-box thinking director Ivo Van Hove may not be for you.  But if you are willing to expect the unexpected you will be thrilled by The Young Vic Production now running at the Lyceum Theatre.

Even the theatre has undergone some new seating arrangements.  Flanking the intimate and bare acting area reminiscent of a boxing ring encompassed by a low plexiglass bench are bleachers where audience members can get an up-close view of the terrific ensemble sparring with each other in this tragic tale of Eddie Carbone - a man who desperately wants respect and is destined to become a victim of his demons – a magnificent Mark Strong.

The Arthur Miller dialogue is intact.  The situations and characters remain the same.  But Mr. Van Hove has put his most original stamp on the proceedings.

There are no props.  No furniture.  Just a sparse acting area – a primal setting designed by Jan Versweyveld where we first hear a beautiful religious sounding chorus as Eddie and a fellow longshoreman from Red Hook Brooklyn circa 1950 are washing up – rather cleansing themselves after a hard days labor – grabbing our attention at once.

The actors are barefoot.  And bold.  We are in another world.  Red Hook but not really Red Hook.  We are in some other land.  A land that Mr. Van Hove has brilliantly imagined to tell this tragic story where the tension is felt from the very beginning and slowly simmers and escalates to the point of explosion in a cascade of blood showering down at the awesome finale.

Eddie’s seventeen year old orphaned niece Catherine (Phoebe Fox) lives with him and his wife Beatrice (Nicola Walker) a wife whom he has forsaken for the attentions of a blossoming Catherine.  When cousins Marco (Michael Zegen) and Rodolpho (Russell Tovey) as illegal immigrants arrive from Italy they are welcomed into the Carbone household.

When Catherine and Rodolpho begin to fall in love, an overprotective and unnaturally jealous Eddie targets him for destruction thinking he only wants to marry Catherine to stay in America.

We know where all this is headed but it is getting there that is so compelling.

Michael Gould is our narrator.  A lawyer who has helped Eddie in the past and to whom Eddie seeks advice as to how to handle the situation.  He comments on the story and at times is in the story – sometimes with shoes and sometimes barefoot as well.

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE is a tragic tale and under the astute direction of Mr. Van Hove becomes a timeless and gripping descent into hell.


Photos:  Jan Versweyveld

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THE COLOR PURPLE – scaled-down revival meeting revival disappoints

December 20th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

Wednesday evening December 16th, sitting in Row C Mezzanine seat 106, gazing down at the barn-like unit set (John Doyle) with a multitude of what looked like left over straight backed chairs from the debacle Dr. Zhivago hanging on wooden pegs I felt an ominous pall set over me even though I had seen Fantasia as Celie in an earlier revival and I loved her and admired the show and was looking forward to this scaled down version directed by the aforementioned John Doyle.  Unfortunately it left me cold.

Immediately I had trouble hearing what was being said on stage.   In fact, I got about fifteen lines of clear dialogue and some lyrics – straining throughout to concentrate.  What’s going on with the sound designed by Gregory Clarke?

Almost impossible to figure out who was speaking and what they were saying.  Luckily not everyone.  Harpo (a put upon Kyle Scatliffe) and Sofia (a tough and dynamic Danielle Brooks) stood out as being comprehensible.

I spoke with friends who were seated in another part of the mezzanine at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre the next night at A View From The Bridge and they too had problems - as did other patrons around them.  During intermission one went to speak with the mixer at the rear of the orchestra and was told point blank “There’s nothing I can do about it.”  Really?  Well something ought to be done about it as it absolutely ruined the production for me.  That and a few other things.

The episodic book by Marsha Norman based on the novel by Alice Walker and the score by a trio of folks:  Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray isn’t first rate.  But the story is.  And I believe that three quarters or more of the women in the audience identified with the downtrodden Celie - who is abused and treated like dirt enacted here by the diminutive, contained and sympathetic Cynthia Erivo until she discovers her true self and rises far above her dire circumstances with the help of Sofia and her sister Nettie (Joaquina Kalukango) and Shug Avery (a less than stellar Jennifer Hudson whom she falls in love with) - as they hooted and hollered when she finally experiences her breakthrough moment in one of the many American Idol moments of the show that cover’s forty years.  Could’ve fooled me.  Time stood still in this production.

Getting back to the sound issue.  It seems that the mezzanine is the most difficult section of the house to get the sound perfect.  This tidbit from an expert in the field.  Perhaps the producers should sit up there to have a listen first hand.  Or perhaps it was just an off evening.  In any event it did not help me enjoy this ultra-stylized production.

Despite my carping THE COLOR PURPLE is a life lesson of faith – of never giving up, of standing up for yourself and never letting someone beat you down.  It’s a complicated epic story that can be extremely moving and ultimately uplifting.  Under different circumstances.


Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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December 10th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore



NETM Productions is proud to release it’s cast recording of Non-Equity The Musical! from writers Danielle Trzcinski and Paul D Mills. The album will be available on itunes and Spotify December 11th 2015.

NON-EQUITY THE MUSICAL! is a funny and heartwarming new musical about the life of non-union actors in New York City.

In the face of rejections, degrading survival jobs, and 5 a.m. open calls, Wendy, Felicity, Beonika, Ezra, Luke, and Charlie learn that “living the dream” is not what they thought it would be.  Amid infectious songs and witty lyrics, see passion turn into results as we witness main character Wendy refuse to give up on her dream and find her own way of achieving it!

NON-EQUITY THE MUSICAL! holds a passionate energy that every person possesses when it comes to going after their dreams teaching us it’s not necessarily getting-the-card, so much as the hard work, support, and experiences you have getting there.

This hilarious musical has a talented cast of eight; six hopeful actors and two quirky characters who play several different parts ranging from mundane monitor to crazy choreographer. It was part of the 16th annual New York International Fringe Festival and voted “Top Ten Shows That Stand Out At The Fringe Festival!”

Since it’s original production in 2012 many of it’s cast members have now received their equity card and have gone on to greater fame, from Broadway shows to National tours. Nichole Turner (Book of Morman, Ghost) Pierce Cassedy (Kinky Boots, Book of Morman), Danielle Trzcinski ( Spank! The Fifty Shades of Grey Parody, Nickelodeon’s Storytime Live!) Antonio Addeo (Academy) Lindsay Morgan (Siren), Dominic Sellers (The Mystery Of Irma Vep), Rickens Anantua, and Emily Swan.


“Melodic compositions, truthful lyrics, and refined harmonies. They inflect the audience with their spirit” -

Theatre Reviews Limited, Joseph Verlezza

“Ten shows that stand out at the Fringe Festival”- Ken Davenport, Broadway Producer

“Non-Equity is a delight. Songs that are terrific, satiric, and melodic which come with a huge dose of

heartfelt sentiment.” - Talk Entertainment, Oscar E Moore

“Funny, delightful, witty, and inspirational. Non- Equity The Muscial! does for actors what The 25th

Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee did for spellers - laugh.”- The Artsy Fartsy Show

“Enjoyable 100 minutes, thanks to its breezy humor and gamely enthusiastic cast. Certainly it will

resonate with any actor just starting out and working hard to gain that elusive union card -

Backstage.com, Erik Haagensen

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk Entertainment.com  ORIGINAL REVIEW

Actors who are not yet members of the “Union – AEA” are considered non-equity. And the actors will do just about anything to get into the union – play cows, go out of town, stay at seedy hotels and pretend to be what they are not all the while smiling.

They have to if they want that all important card. But before they get their big break and their Actors’ Equity Card they spend hours and hours walking dogs, looking for an agent waiting tables and waiting to be auditioned – sometimes waiting for naught.

One such actress is Danielle Trzcinski. She has gotten so fed up with this system that she has written an exciting and savvy new musical about the trails and tribulations of such actors – NON-EQUITY the musical along with Paul D. Mills (at the piano) and they will most probably never have to worry about such problems again.

NON-EQUITY is a delight. A hybrid of FORBIDDEN BROADWAY and a prequel to A CHORUS LINE done in the format of a revue akin to THE UPSTAIRS AT THE DOWNSTAIRS harking back to traditional musical comedy songs that are terrific, satiric and melodic which come with a huge dose of heartfelt sentiment.

Ms. Trzcinski plays Wendy Gibson (her alter-ego) and there is not a bitter bone in her body. Well maybe one or two tiny ones but most of her bones are funny. As she explains through her characters in song what it is like to live the life of a non-equity actor you will be enlightened and thoroughly entertained.

Helping her is her talented company of distinctive non-union characters: Felicity (Lindsay Morgan) Ezra (Keith Antone) Luke (Pierce Cassedy) Charlie (Joe Donnelly) and Beonika (Nichole Turner). All fine, either singly or together as they chart the harmonious territory with the able direction of Christian Amato and choreography by Sam Doblick.

Playing a series of “Monitors” wearing an assortment of wigs and having a lithe body reminiscent of an Ibis, Emily Swan is an absolute dead pan riot. As we see the actors preparing and auditioning experiencing great difficulties along the way carefree Stephen (Dominic Sellers) pops in here and there and immediately is auditioned because he has some connection with the Monitor herself or with someone she is connected with. It is a great running gag.

One stand out song from the excellent score is “Phenomenal” – and it is just that sung by Wendy. We learn that the reason they go through such muck – humiliation and discrimination - is because they love what they do and have to follow their dreams in order to be happy.

The cast seems to be reveling in performing this show which surely will have an extraordinary future. If only they could cut about 15 minutes. I know it’s difficult when all the material is so good, but as they saying goes “leave them wanting more.”

At The Players Theatre 115 MacDougal Street



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LAZARUS – In a word: Intoxicating

December 9th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

Try to imagine having the world’s worst hangover.  A major Gin Fuzz.  Thoughts and images banging around your almost comatose brain.  Thoughts - past and present.  Loving thoughts.   Romantic thoughts.  Sexy, violent and horrific remembrances running simultaneously, racing helter-skelter through your mind.

You would give anything to die but you aren’t allowed to.  Nor are you allowed to go home to that far off planet from whence you came – building up a lucrative business enabling you to loll around drinking gin, eating Twinkies and having all those – for want of a better word “people” around you and all those relentless eye popping images unable to help.

This is how we discover the incandescent Michael C. Hall laid out on stage - a stark and neutral beige set with a bed a fridge and a turntable.  And a band behind a glass wall as in an aquarium.  Is he dead?  Not a muscle twitches from his bare feet until LAZARUS begins shocking both him and us into the incredibly heady, vibrant and confusing story of Newton’s journey home to Mars.  His portrayal is nothing short of magnificent.

You might not be able to easily follow the narrative of this other-worldly David Bowie/Enda Walsh juke-box musical directed by Ivo van Hove - with his distinctive style stamped firmly on this production – based on the novel by Walter Tevis – The Man Who Fell to Earth.  Here it works perfectly.  One cannot imagine anyone else creating such an exhilarating production.

Visually it is a stunner.  Effects never seen before.  Combining video and Cinemascope-like projections with live action that will keep you attentive throughout.  Scenic and lighting by Jan Versweyveld and Video design by Tal Yarden are breathtaking in this two hour show without intermission.

Then we have the incredibly beautiful score by David Bowie which was a revelation for me.  It is curious how the director has segued into and out of the songs seamlessly leaving no room for applause to interfere with the story – until the end, of course, where all of our pent up adulation flows across to the actors from the audience.

Everyone will have their own interpretation of its meaning.  Many questions will go unanswered.  No matter.  You will be awed by each performance without exception.  Especially that of Sophia Anne Caruso – Girl.  Is she his beloved daughter come to rescue him from Earth?  Is she real?  Imagined?  No matter – she is fantastic.

Nicholas Christopher, Michael Esper, Bobby Moreno, Charlie Pollock and Cristin Milioti are all perfectly cast and deliver knock-out vocals.  Great sound design by Brian Ronan.  Krystina Alabado, Lynn Craig, Krista Pioppi and Brynn Williams round out the cast of LAZARUS – a musical whose haunting images and sounds are not easily forgotten.

If you are lucky enough to a secure a ticket to this intoxicating sold-out production you will indeed be lucky.

At The New York Theatre Workshop. www.NYTW.org

Photo credit:  Jan Versweyveld

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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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