Oscar E Moore

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HARRY POTTER and the CURSED CHILD – J.K. Rowling’s magic show

May 4th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Are you up to the challenge?  Are you willing to commit both time and that all important commodity, money, into seeing this once in a lifetime theatrical experience?

This is a stunner of a play.  Actually two plays.  Part one, 2 hours and 20 minutes.  Part two, 2 hours and 35 minutes.  Plus 2 twenty minute intermissions.  And if you see them both in one day, as I did, a dinner break.

I have just recovered from “Potter Fatigue” after viewing this British import in all its glory that is still running in London and Melbourne.  Its New York City home, The Lyric Theatre on West 43 Street, has been beautifully refurbished.

HARRY POTTER and the CURSED CHILD is a banquet of words.  You sometimes feel that they are about to sing.  But no.  They talk.  Lots of exposition.  From an original new story from J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne (who is credited with writing the play) and John Tiffany its director who has done an amazing job along with movement director Steven Hoggett.  Both perfect choices to helm this production.

It’s also a feast for the eyes.  Monumental set design (Christine Jones) Costumes (Katrina Lindsay) and brilliant lighting design Neil Austin will leave you feeling stuffed and satisfied and somewhat bewildered at times.  Yet full of wonderment and awe from witnessing some of the most incredible illusions and magic created by Jamie Harrison.

J.K. Rowling is the genius mind behind the Harry Potter franchise.  Seven books, the first published in June 1977 after being rejected numerous times by publisher after publisher, breakthrough cinematic versions, a theme park and numerous other money magnet enterprises connected to her Wizard.

She created not only memorable characters, but universal themes about friendship, parenting, growing up, destiny and the forces of evil.  Most of our favorite characters are present.  They have grown up physically while retaining some of their younger characteristics.

It is nineteen years after the seventh book and Harry is 37.   An amazing performance by Jamie Parker has him back at Platform nine and three quarters as he sets his son Albus (an excellent Sam Clemmett) off to Hogwarts where Harry was considered to be the best wizard there ever was.  A problem that Albus has to contend with which leads to troubling issues between him and his dad.

Harry is married to Ginny – a more than fine Poppy Miller.  Her brother Ron Weasley, still my favorite character, is with the clever Hermione – Noma Dumezweni who is excellent but a rather odd choice to play this character that takes a bit of adjustment for traditional Potter fans.

Having Albus bond with Scorpius, the son of Draco Malfoy (Alex Price) who was the arch enemy of Harry is a brilliant idea that sets us off on this new, lengthy and convoluted journey.  He too has daddy issues.

Anthony Boyle portrays Scorpius with wry humor and occasionally unintelligible speech.  This a combination of the original music by Imogen Heap that can overshadow the dialogue, his British accent and the sound system.

I was seated in the fifth row and had trouble hearing him and others.  The large speakers above flushed the sound out to the auditorium and laughter could be heard behind me at the jokes while the front orchestra section remained silent.  I note this only because the rest of the production is so good that it is a shame that these prime seats have a problem with the sound.

Swirling capes, flights of castle stairs, surprises galore, talking portraits, a back to the future “time turner” – fine video design by Finn Ross & Ash Woodward,  a wonderful cameo by Lauren Nicole Cipoletti as Moaning Myrtle and the sudden friendship between Delphi Diggory (a great Jessie Fisher) and Albus and Scorpius as they try to save…

I have been sworn to “keep the secrets” – so it is up to you to take the challenge to find out what happens.

As I mentioned, this is a once in a lifetime theatrical experience that must be seen to be believed and you may still find it hard to believe what you see!

www.harrypottertheplay.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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THE ICEMAN COMETH – Eugene O’Neill, Denzel Washington & George C. Wolfe

May 3rd, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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How wise was director Mr. George C. Wolfe in this long night’s journey into a bar – to cut it down somewhat, quicken its pace, mine it for its humor and to cast terrific supporting barflies, alcoholics, and tarts – drunk and delusional losers one and all – in this revival starring Denzel Washington.

The set design by Santo Loquasto helps a lot by varying the perspective of the bar with each act.  The subtle lighting design by Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer heightens the eerie reality of their universe.   Costumes by Ann Roth are appropriately seedy.

Even so, Eugene O’Neill’s classic play first produced on Broadway in 1946 that is set in 1912, clocks in at over four hours.  And spending four hours with this group of losers with their “pipe dreams” might even make a teetotaler desperate for a drink.

Admittedly Mr. Washington is a star that can fill the seats at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre where THE ICEMAN COMETH is running with his devoted fan base who always support him whenever he steps out on a Broadway stage.

But it is all those special character actors, with their eye on the spotlight, that keep this sad and tragic story moving swiftly along until Theodore Hickman, salesman extraordinaire (known as Hickey) makes his star entrance about an hour into this too long, repetitive and verbose script to celebrate the birthday of Harry Hope (Colm Meaney) owner of the bar with its upstairs rooms to let.

Hickey comes on like gangbusters, like Harold Hill of The Music Man.  He has given up the booze and it is now his mission to reform his friends and help them to see the light.  Is it for real or is it just another pipe dream?

The wonderfully seedy supporting ensemble includes David Morse as Larry Slade (a former anarchist), Austin Butler (making an exceptional Broadway debut as Don Parritt), Bill Irwin (sneaking a drink whenever he can), Reg Rogers (Jimmy Tomorrow), Neal Huff (shaking off his DT’s), hooker Cora (Tammy Blanchard) and her soon to marry pimp Chuck (Danny Mastrogiorgio) and porter Joe Mott – an excellent Michael Potts whose character is referred to repeatedly with the N word.  This is extremely jarring.  Considering.

They are mostly happy drunks – all with a story or two to tell, dreaming of realizing their dreams that will never happen.

Hickey has a final confessional monologue that he relates directly to the audience as if we are the patrons of Harry’s Bar that is the best part of Mr. Washington’s performance.

But it’s a sorry lot to spend four hours with.

Limited run through July 1st only.

www.icemanonbroadway.com

Photos:  Julieta Cervantes

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SUMMER – the Donna Summer musical – It takes three to boogie, disco style

May 2nd, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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On April 26, 1977 Studio 54 opened.  On April 26, 2018 I attended the new musical based on the life of the most famous Disco Queen that reigned supreme at Studio 54 – Donna Summer – in SUMMER – the Donna Summer musical.  How appropriate or how ironic I wondered not ever having been at Studio 54.  Those were the days of vinyl LP’s, silver lame, disco balls, drugs, sex, booze, poppers and the new androgynous look.

Perhaps that was what triggered the ill-conceived and bizarre concept of casting mostly females who dress as men, dance as men, act as men and also as women as backup chorus and individual characters.  There are however three male leading men (Aaron Krohn, Ken Robinson and Jared Zirilli) who do an outstanding job at standing up for their gender.

The many incidents of Donna Summer’s life are simplified here (Book by Coleman Domingo, Robert Cary and Des McAnuff) and glossed over with a lot of sequins to make room for the 23 famous musical numbers by Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder, Paul Jabara and others performed by a trio of Summers:  LaChanze (Diva Donna), Ariana DeBose (Disco Donna) and Storm Lever (Duckling Donna) who give it their all in this entertaining nostalgic songbook.

Des McAnuff has directed at a fast clip that attempts to explain her life through her songs.  And the songs are everything.  That is what all her fans want to hear.  They champ at the bit at every musical intro and are sometimes disappointed when the songs are shortened or they do not have a big ending that will enable them to stand up and cheer and boogie along with the cast.

Indeed, it is LaChanze, early on in her narrative, who encourages the audience to sings along and dance if the spirit moves them.  I have to admit that the musical numbers are terrific.  They are briskly choreographed by Sergio Trujillo.  He has given Ariana DeBose some amazing moves to highlight her talent as a dancer as well as a singer.

But the sometimes preachy book might as well have been jettisoned.  Just get on with the songs.  When that happened, magic happens.  Voices soar and we are brought back to the sounds of the 70’s that truly are boogie inspiring.

The songs are what sell this show.  Along with the performances of our trio of Donnas who are dressed most always in blue.  Was it her favorite color or is it a subtle reference to her being sad beneath her disco happy exterior?

The many costumes by Paul Tazewell are worth special mention.  Lighting by Howell Binkley shines down on the sparse but functional set by Robert Brill.  The now ubiquitous projections are by Sean Nieuwenhuis.

Bruce Sudano is credited with Story Consultant.  They should have had more consultations as she really had a fascinating life.  But you can google all that information on the internet.

Just go to SUMMER for the songs.  Be entertained by “MacArthur Park”, “Heaven Knows”, “On the Radio”, “Bad Girls”, “Hot Stuff” and “Let’s Dance” to name just a few, and have a fun time at this intermission-less (One hundred minute) production at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.  Or better yet, listen to an old LP.

www.thedonnasummermusical.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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MY FAIR LADY – 9 well deserved Outer Critics Circle Nominations

April 26th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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After seeing a matinee performance of the sumptuous Lincoln Center Theater revitalized revival of MY FAIR LADY I can only say one thing – that I wish I could have seen it again.  Immediately.  That night.  This ravishing production is that good.  All around.  In every single department.  Casting.  Acting.  Singing.  Direction.  Set and costumes.  Lighting, sound and choreography.

Coincidentally, the original production of MY FAIR LADY opened in 1956, the same year that the film version of CAROUSEL opened which is also being revived and playing on Broadway as well.  Each has its own merits but MY FAIR LADY is the ultimate victor so far having received 9 Outer Critics Circle nominations and CAROUSEL 6…

MY FAIR LADY is a badly needed tonic for an anemic theatrical season.  And for that we must thank Bartlett Sher its director who has created brand new memories to supplant any deeply held fond memories of the original production and film version.

It helps tremendously that the source material is George Bernard Shaw’s play and Gabriel Pascal’s motion picture “Pygmalion” which has been beautifully adapted by Alan Jay Lerner (Book and Lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (Music) with a fresh new approach to the lead character Eliza Doolittle by the surprise-of-the-season actress/comedienne Lauren Ambrose who sings beautifully and instills life into her character from moment to moment in her journey from Cockney feral guttersnipe to protégé and experiment of confirmed bachelor Henry Higgins (a marvelous Harry Hadden-Paton) to her attempts at changing her vocal quality to that of a “lady” to her initial debut into society to her complete triumph at the Embassy ball and ultimately to her discovery of who she is and what she really wants out of life.  It’s a tremendous and detailed journey that is wondrous.

As Higgins friend Pickering, Allan Corduner hits all the right notes – especially during “The Rain In Spain” trio that manages to seem completely spontaneous as does the flamboyant Professor Zoltan Karpathy (Manu Narayan) and the strict and dour head housekeeper Mrs. Pearce – Linda Mugleston.

Norbert Leo Butz brings down the house as Eliza’a spendthrift and drunken dad Alfred “With a Little Bit of Luck” and “Get Me Too the Church on Time” (with creative choreography by Christopher Gattelli) that balance nicely the scenes in the grand manor that is Higgins home – which is a marvel of design by Michael Yeargan whose various other settings are one swirling surprise after another especially the Ascot Gavotte (with eye popping costumes by Catherine Zuber) and the Embassy ball.

Diana Rigg makes an elegant mother to Henry Higgins and gives Eliza a bit of insight into her egotistical and spoiled son.

Freddy Eynsford-Hill (Jordan Donica) who follows Eliza around like a sad eyed puppy dog gives a handsome rendition of “On the Street Where You Live” and where Higgins sings in the same location later on “I’ve Grown Accustomed to her Face” – before the final denouement that leaves the audience cheering Eliza on as our hero’s journey continues.

All the maids and butlers have their own little stories going on in the household as the sets rapidly change which is just another special added treat to this elaborate and most cared for production.

At the Vivian Beaumont in association with Nederlander Presentations, Inc.  2 hours and 55 minutes.  One intermission.

Highly relevant and highly recommended.

www.lct.org

Photos: Joan Marcus

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CAROUSEL – a brave new revival of a classic

April 19th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Back to basics.  Strong story.  Gorgeous melodies.  Smart lyrics.  Uncomplicated sets.  No projections.  I’ve just about had it with projections.  Incredibly creative choreography.  Believable characterizations.  Careful and detailed direction.  A well-constructed and taught libretto.  And best of all a supporting cast of superb singers, singing a score that was written in 1945 that still wows and resonates today.

CAROUSEL has one of the best scores ever written for the musical theatre and everyone, young and those of a certain age alike should see this production at the Imperial Theatre to remember or be introduced to what real theater songs sound like.  How sung dialogue can be beautifully melodic.

What makes a song memorable?  Makes a song a classic?  A standard?  The God given gifts of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II that enabled them to make heavenly music together that they have shared in so many ground breaking musicals.

That enabled director Jack O’Brien and choreographer Justin Peck to reimagine and reawaken the more interesting, darker aspects of this love story between a young and naïve mill worker Julie (an innocent and totally believable Jessie Mueller) who falls in love with an arrogant, insecure and magnetic Carnival barker (an all of the above Joshua Henry) who is always teetering on the wrong side of the law and can at times become violent.

To bravely open this production in a carnival sideshow version of Heaven, where the characters are silently introduced as the orchestra sweeps us up in “The Carousel Waltz” and where we are immediately introduced to the excellent Justin Peck dancers who become a most original carousel and where the ever lurking Starkeeper (John Douglas Thompson) is hovering.  It’s a fantastic opening.

Especially since Billy Bigelow is now a man of color which adds just another layer to the love story and race relations, then and now.  His “Soliloquy” is truly a powerful and moving experience.

Julie’s best friend Carrie (a superb Lindsay Mendez – who manages to deservedly steal every scene she is in) has also fallen in love in short order with, Mr. Snow (Alexander Gemignani) a fisherman who has big plans and impresses all with his incredible voice.  Both have wonderful chemistry together and expert comic timing.

Julie’s cousin Nettie, who has the ultimate tear inducing song from the show “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is portrayed beautifully by Renee Fleming.

Owner of the carnival, Mrs. Mullin (Margaret Colin) and sometimes lover of the womanizing Billy takes charge of the stage in a great portrayal of this woman scorned.

Amar Ramasar, a great ballet dancer is Jigger – the guy who talks Billy into a robbery that turns tragic.

Which brings us back to heaven and the Starkeeper giving Billy a second chance to make amends.  To watch from above his daughter Louise (the graceful Brittany Pollack) dance barefoot on the beach with the hope of a reconciliation.

Only you can decide if you agree or not with me BUT believe me, it would be worth your while to see and hear this brave new classic version of CAROUSEL.  Eagerly awaiting the cast album.

2 hours, 20 minutes one intermission

www.carouselbroadway.com

Photos:  Julieta Cervantes

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MEAN GIRLS the musical – Is Tina Fey the new Queen of Mean?

April 15th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Somewhere in the middle or I should say the muddle of the first act of the overly long, much too loud, pulsating and bombastic two act MEAN GIRLS, while being distracted by two twenty-something guys directly in front of me who were in each other’s ears throughout, whispering and pointing to the stage at the August Wilson Theatre where this musical based on a 2004 movie of the same name based on a book (in part) a non-fiction self-help book QUEEN BEES AND WANNABEES, I fleetingly thought that I wanted to escape to Margaritaville.  I must have been hallucinating as I didn’t much care for that musical either.

In answer to my query – Is Tina Fey the new Queen of Mean?  I think not.  No doubt she is smart and funny (at times) but I found that in this foray into musical-comedy land Ms. Fey has bitten off a bit more than she could chew.  The real Queen of Mean was and still is the late Leona Helmsley whose tyrannical behavior merited the title.  These girls are not mean enough, they are simply annoying.

MEAN GIRLS comes across as a series of stereotypical characters in a series of stereotypical television skits with stereotypical punch lines, when you can catch the punch lines emanating from the awful over amplified-cover-your-ears sound system by Brian Ronan and directed at the speed of teen-speak by Casey Nicholaw who also has choreographed the series of athletic production numbers that begin to look and sound alike.

Somewhat like the characters.  Particularly the “Plastics” – the in group/clique of three lost but most popular souls at North Shore High in Chicago where the action on wheels takes place.  Everything is on wheels to keep the action rolling along.

They are Regina (a shrill Taylor Louderman, the Queen bee – who screeches and screams in true American Idol fashion) the insecure Gretchen (a better Ashley Park) and Karen (Kate Rockwell) the bimbo of the pack who is quite amusing.

Cady (Erika Henningsen) a smart and home-schooled transplant from Kenya returns to the States and wants desperately to fit in with this new pack of animals.  And so she dumbs herself down and gets the “plastics” to befriend her while her true friends the very fey, I mean very gay Grey Henson (Damien) and his goth girl buddy the alleged lesbo Janis (Barrett Wilbert Weed) watch her infiltration from the side lines.

Then Cady meets Aaron – the mathematician heart throb (Kyle Selig).  Only Aaron was hooked up with Regina and then split and now Regina gets him back and Cady is ready for war and so gives her a power bar that makes her butt the butt of jokes as it gets bigger and bigger – have you heard enough?  I have.

No wait, Kerry Butler plays three characters.  One looks very much like Tina Fey lest we forget she birthed this property – both movie and musical.  Another, the mother of Regina with a puppet dog that has an affection for her left breast and one other who helps deliver the moral of this cautionary tale.

Oh, did I forget to mention the score by Jeff Richmond (music) and Nell Benjamin (lyrics)?  Well you may as well forget it too as it is instantly forgettable.  As a matter of fact, I left the theater humming “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from HAIRSPRAY…

The multitude of spiffy costumes are by Gregg Barnes.  But the real star of this production is the projection and video design by Finn Ross & Adam Young.  Brilliance personified.  It used to be that an instantaneous costume change would awe an audience.  This magic act has been surpassed by instantaneous set changes with projections that are awesome.  Particularly when the bus hits…

From the onset we see yearbook photos with added snarky comments that set the tone of the entire show:  “I suck all the way”  “Freak/Loser club” “Crotch Sweat” “Never had real friends” and “Masturbated with a frozen hot-dog” framed in neon pink.  Pink because the “Plastics” wear pink on Wednesdays.  It’s fetch.  Fetch?  Look it up.  I had to.  And MEAN GIRLS isn’t.

2 hours 30 minutes of my life that I want back.   One intermission.

www.meangirlsonbroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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THREE TALL WOMEN – ALL ABOUT “A”

April 6th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Like the proverbial old gray mare, A isn’t what she used to be.  She is worse.  A is wealthy and ailing.  A is 92 insisting that she is 91.  A is disgruntled and demanding.  A is incontinent, independent and irascible.  A still attempts to stand tall despite her shrinking spine.  A’s thoughts are muddled.  A’s memory is failing and yet A is what some might call a bitch.

A is holding court in her luxurious bedroom.  It is neat and clean.  The bed has beautiful linens and pillows.  The lampshades are silk.  The furniture French.  And yet A rambles on about her horses and husband and the estrangement of her homosexual son and the Jews and everything else that has made her life unbearable.  Or has it been so terrible after all?  When all is said and done and one stops what does it matter?

A is embodied by the incomparable Glenda Jackson and it is a performance not to be missed.  A is cared for by the 52 year old B (Laurie Metcalf) who is eternally at A’s beck and call.  She has seen and done it all and her frustration is just about to reach its peak.  Shuffling cards and reading a book calm her but both her eyes and ears have to be on 24/7 alert to A’s demands.  Also attending is C (Alison Pill) a 26 year old feisty lawyer sent to help with unpaid bills and such.

A is based on the adoptive, socialite mother (in name only) of Edward Albee, the author of this two act, no intermission 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning drama that at times is a deeply funny comedy in the hands of director Joe Mantello.  Be especially eager to hear A’s story about her naked husband and a piece of expensive jewelry that is priceless.

A suffers a stroke at the end of the first part when unseen theatrical magic takes place.  First by the very clever Albee and second by the very clever set designer Miriam Buether, making THREE TALL WOMEN one and the same person – each reflecting on their life at different stages.  Each reflecting back on the past.  Each beautifully dressed in shades of lavender by Ann Roth.

The adjustment to the set startles at first, but it is brilliant – enabling a mysterious figure to visit A through the looking glass.

A wonderful theatrical production with superb acting by Glenda Jackson.  Through June 24th at the Golden Theatre.  www.threetallwomenbroadway.com

Photos:  Brigette Lacombe

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ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE – Belly up to the bar guys

April 4th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Sometimes it takes a volcanic eruption to open your eyes to love and sometimes it takes a shower of beach balls to make memorable a rather silly musical.  The musical in question is ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE where “escape” is the key word.  Escape “to” or escape “from” – that is the important question.  It depends on your love of Jimmy Buffett’s calypso/country rock/easy listening, similar sounding “song stories” and highly suggested lifestyle that beckons one to relax, let go and fly high!

There are many avid fans of this man who has created an empire based on this lifestyle.  His many fans unfortunately were not in attendance on the night I endured this inane musical.  Even though drinks can be purchased ($16.00-$20.00) to ease the pain there was a sea of empty seats, with a few attendees dressed in brightly colored parrot shirts who roared at some of the lamest jokes/puns ever uttered on the musical stage.

In this golden age of puppetry I was most disappointed not to see at least one parrot puppet on stage.  A golden opportunity missed.  There is a chorus of dead insurance salesmen who tap, a couple of dancing clouds and an underwater scuba scene but no parrots.

It seems that the creative team of Greg Garcia & Mike O’Malley (book) with music and lyrics by the aforementioned Jimmy Buffett that are alphabetically listed in the program (there are about 27 numbers which include “Cheeseburger in Paradise”  “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere”  “My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink and I Don’t Love Jesus” “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and SCREW” and the title song “Margaritaville” ) have haphazardly thrown these elements together in a blender resulting in one big alcoholic Slurpee mess.

I give full credit to the excellent cast for believing in their one dimensional characters and implausible sit-com situations as they go about singing and dancing with gusto.  They do their best to entertain and at times they pull off the nearly impossible feat of having a good time.

It is a sorry combination of Fantasy Island, Gidget, Love Boat and Beach Blanket Bingo played for real.  Perhaps taking a satirical take on the story would have made it work better but then you have to fit in all of Buffett’s songs which are real and not satirical.

The plot if one can call it that revolves around guitar strumming Tully, the buff Paul Alexander Nolan with strong vocals and an even stronger desire to bed and romance his woman of the week as partygoers arrive for a week-long vacation at this run down Caribbean outpost.  Bartender Brick (Eric Petersen) and J.D. a one eyed aging Hippie (Don Sparks) and Marley (Rema Webb) owner of the dance bar are in attendance.

Back in Cincinnati Tammy (Lisa Howard) is about to wed a loser – in six days – that her best friend Rachel (Alison Luff) does not think suitable and whisks her away to a Bachelorette Party in the Caribbean.  Rachel is an uptight serious scientist developing a potato powered something or other that the ash from the Island’s volcano might help.  Guess who falls in love in a single week?  Three couples are involved.  Oh and after the eruption Tully goes to Ohio and is discovered by a talent scout in the bar and has the fastest rise to stardom ever.

If all this sounds like your cup of Margaritas you probably would like this show that is running at the Marquis Theatre.  But this belly up to the bar production unfortunately goes belly up.

Directed by Christopher Ashley and choreographed by Kelly Devine.

www.escapetomargaritavillemusical.com

Photo:  Matthew Murphy

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AIDS, ANGST AND ANGELS IN AMERICA – 25th anniversary production imported from London

April 3rd, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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An almost perfect alignment of writing, casting, design and direction have resulted in a monumental eight hour, double bill theatrical marathon.  It is a fantastical achievement.

First produced on Broadway in 1993 Tony Kushner’s epic MILLENNIUM APPROACHES was soon followed by PERESTROIKA.  Last year both were presented in tandem at The National Theatre helmed by the brilliant director Marianne Elliot who also directed WAR HORSE and THE CURIOUS INCIDENT…

Both parts are being performed in repertory at the Neil Simon Theatre for a limited engagement through June 30th.  Brave souls can see both in one day with a short dinner break to give theatergoers a chance to catch their breath and refresh their brain to take in and digest part two.  It is well worth the effort.

Quibble all you want about its length but Tony Kushner has a lot on his very intelligent and clever mind and a lot to say about a lot of things.  And he is not shy about sharing his intense thoughts in his GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES.  Although at times it can be confusing and in need of a trim.

AIDS is no longer a death sentence as it once was.  But in 1985 when this epic begins little was known about this plague and Prior Walter (a phenomenal Andrew Garfield) a very gay and very scared drag queen has discovered a lesion on his chest indicating Kaposi’s sarcoma.  He has a lover Louis (an excellent James McArdle) who is even more scared and abandons him.

We meet the odious, vicious and self-important Republican Roy Cohn (Nathan Lane) while he is being his nastiest on the telephone.  He will eventually die of AIDS that he insists is liver cancer.

This closet queen is attempting to groom his protégé Joe Pitt (Lee Pace), a Mormon lawyer to move to Washington D.C.  But his valium addicted wife Harper (Denise Gough) does not want to go.  They have marital problems as he grapples valiantly and unsuccessfully with his homosexual urges.

You will meet Belize (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) a no nonsense, compassionate nurse who marches to his own tune and is not afraid to confront Mr. Cohn or to pilfer some of his hard to get medications for those who need it and cannot afford it.

And the versatile Susan Brown who plays a variety of characters including Ethel Rosenberg who sits beaming as Roy Cohn suffers an agonizing death.

All is not doom and gloom as Mr. Kushner has a sharp and wicked wit.  Mr. Nathan Lane is at his best when slinging the barbs that shoot out of Cohn’s mouth.  But he is Nathan Lane.  The personality and the voice and the perfect comic timing that is unmistakable.  Whereas all the other actors become their characters, living and breathing and honest and human Mr. Lane remains Mr. Lane.  In his more quiet scenes he kind of fades into the woodwork.  It is a shame as everyone else is first rate.

And the Angel.  Amanda Lawrence soars as the frightening almost prehistoric bedraggled apparition that visits Prior, announcing that he is to be the messenger.  She is held aloft by humans that help operate her wings that have seen better eons.

The direction is superb by Marianne Elliott.  Part one makes use of turntables in isolated cubicles lit by colored neon that make for a fluid cinematic transition to the many locations.  Part two opens up as do the characters.  No turntables but a group of helpers scurrying around moving set pieces that is quite eerie.   As eerie as the second part is dreamlike theatrical.  Sensational set design by Ian MacNeil.

All this has some fabulous incidental music – symphonic and portentous with appropriate lighting by Paule Constable.

What one remembers most are the many truly important themes presented that somehow inter-connect with Mr. Kushner’s intellect and humor:  Republicans, Mormons, abandonment, guilt, religion, McCarthyism and above all his humanity in dealing with AIDS.

Andrew Garfield’s sensitive yet fierce performance will be talked about and will be remembered forever.  From his Norma Desmond’s shock at seeing his new diseased ridden self to his slow and painful decline from the disease to his fright and bewilderment of the Angel he gives us courage to go on.  Whatever cards we are dealt.

Totally intriguing and vastly entertaining.

www.angelsbroadway.com

Photos:  Brinkhoff & Mogenburg

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FROZEN – Disney on Ice or Finding Elsa

April 2nd, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Call me a Mouseketeer.  Call me a kid.  Call me a boob.  Whatever.  I am a fan of Disney’s new musical FROZEN on Broadway at the St. James Theatre.  In the great old tradition of Tinkerbell, Snow White and Cinderella the creators of FROZEN have melted all the snow and ice of our previous four Nor’easters and come up with a wonderfully entertaining musical based on the animated film of the same name which if you haven’t heard made an amazing 1.2 billion dollars in 2013 and had that hit song LET IT GO that you could only escape if you were buried under an igloo in Siberia.

Starring not one Princess but two.  Sisters as in “there were never such devoted sisters” – thank you Irving Berlin!  Ice cold Elsa (Caissie Levy) the elder with magical powers literally at her fingertips and Anna (Patti Murin) the more animated (no pun intended) of the two.  Elsa sings that well-worn ditty by Mrs. And Mr. Lopez.  Anna steals the show and our hearts and perhaps some awards at seasons end.

What a surprise then to fall madly in love with a reindeer.  An amazing bigger than life puppet operated by Andrew Pirozzi who without uttering a single word or singing a single note charms and beguiles with his movements and puppy dog eyes.  His name is Sven.  Buddy to Kristoff (Jelani Alladin) a mountain guide who aides Anna in finding Elsa after Elsa has unleashed her magical powers after a tiff with Anna at her Coronation and frozen all of Arendelle and its surrounding hinterlands.

We first meet Elsa (Brooklyn Nelson) and Anna (Mattea Conforti) as young girls romping around their castle bedroom building a snowman who later reappears as Olaf (Greg Hildreth) speaking and singing and operating the puppet attached to his feet.  He has a great number “In Summer” with a clever pop up mini set by Christopher Oram who has done a bang up job with all the settings and costumes that bring back the vintage Disney look that brings back wonderful vintage Disney memories.

There are six musical numbers in a montage of the opening scene that sets up the characters and situation.  It is at the Coronation of Elsa (the King and Queen have been lost at sea) where Anna meets the dashing and deceptive Hans of the Southern Isles (a terrific John Riddle) falls in love at first sight and is swept off her feet in a waltz.  They seem destined to be together after “Love is an Open Door” until Elsa refuses their marriage and uses her magical powers to put a freeze on things.  This does sound silly but just go see the show and enjoy it.

It is briskly directed by Michael Grandage.  Beautifully lit by that wizard of lighting Natasha Katz and has some fun choreography by Rob Ashford.  For instance the opening of Act II at the Trading Post where Oaken (Kevin Del Aguila) enters from the audience and proceeds to do a wild and zany number with the chorus in flesh colored body stockings as they burst forth from a Sauna and cavort to that well known standard to be “Hygge” – you may want to get back to the main story – the Trading Post is a brief stopover for Anna and Kristoff and my true love Sven – it does soon enough after you stop laughing and cheering.

There is also an almost show stopping quick change of costume for Elsa that is truly magical.  But the show belongs to Patti Murin as Anna.  She is charming and oafish and athletic and has a powerhouse voice.  Matched only by Caissie Levy’s brilliant rendition of “Let It Go” that seems as if we had never heard that tune before.  Quite an accomplishment.

I almost forgot there is one other standout.  With a strong voice and even stronger body who dances up his own storm.  Timothy Hughes as Pabbie – King of the Woodland Creatures or whatever they are.

Will the icy cold spell be broken by Anna finding true love and be reunited with Elsa?  That’s a rhetorical question folks.  FROZEN is a delightful show that pleases the eyes and ears and is for Mouseketeers of all ages.  I had a wonderful time with the wonderful world of Disney.

To quote Mr. Irving Berlin once again “Lord help the Mister who comes between me and my sister and Lord help the Sister who comes between me and my man.”

With a book by Jennifer Lee and music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

www.frozenthemusical.com

Photos:  Deen Van Meer

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