Oscar E Moore

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ALL THE WAYS TO SAY I LOVE YOU – starring Judith Light

September 29th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore
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At the Lortel.  A new monologue by Neil LaBute.  Lasting about one hour.  About the same time a psychiatrist would allot a patient to spill ones heart out.  In this case Mrs. Johnson.  A high school English/Drama teacher and guidance counselor of thirty years alone with her memories in her office someplace in the Midwest.

Nervous.  Tentative at first.  Looking back.  Talking to the audience.  Baring her innermost thoughts and deepest feelings about teaching, her husband Eric, her student boyfriend Tommy and “What is the weight of a lie? as if she were speaking with her shrink.  Attempting to sort out her life.  Her complicated life.  Played superbly by Judith Light.  This is a must see performance.

The monologue is extremely well written with detailed direction by Leigh Silverman – leaving no nuance unexplored.  Excellent lighting design by Matt Frey acts as a silent soundtrack adding atmosphere with haunting effects.  The subdued gray and burgundy outfit by Emily Rebholz for Mrs. Johnson is a perfect cover-up for what will boil to the surface as she recounts her past indiscretion and its aftermath.

Mrs. Johnson is torn.  She is tortured and trapped with her feelings for both her husband – a lawyer and the affair she had with Tommy – her student.  She is white.  They are not.  She loves them both in different ways.  Why did it happen?  How did it happen?

You must see this show produced by MCC to feel its full and long lasting effects.  And be quick.  It is only scheduled to run until October 16th.

Not much else can be divulged in this review except for the fact that the vivid, emotional and truly honest performance of Judith Light as the tormented and otherwise normal Mrs. Johnson is phenomenal.

You will be drawn into her story immediately.  Riveted to every revelation to the very end.  Which is handled with loving care.

www.mcctheater.org

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MARIE AND ROSETTA – a match made in heaven

September 19th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore
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Tucked away in Chelsea in the 150 seat Linda Gross Theater that arose from a converted church two extremely talented performers Rebecca Naomi Jones as Marie Knight and Kecia Lewis as Sister Rosetta Tharpe reenact their beginnings as a rockin and rollin pop gospel duo in a showroom for coffins where they are having their first rehearsal together in Mississippi 1946.

There was no room at the inn for black folks then.  So they rehearse where no one can be bothered.  Among empty coffins.  Rehearse to sing in warehouses and barns for other black folks who want to hear music bursting with joy.

Sister Rosetta – already a star is on the outs with the Church because she has appeared in clubs.  Looking to make a comeback she plucks Marie out of a Quartet as her protégé.   She sees something in this naïve young girl.  More importantly she hears something.  Her voice and her piano playing.

Marie has been a fan.  Listening to Sister Rosetta’s recordings and cannot believe her good luck.

In a rather surface telling of their similar backstories by George Brant they test their musical comradery and at times it’s difficult to believe how they harmonize so beautifully – in the moment.  The songs are the show.  The performers make the songs.

They have a beautiful rapport.  The powerful voiced and confident Sister Rosetta and the shy wide eyed too serious Marie who voice is clearly a gift from above.  As her confidence grows, she surprises even herself in the music they make together allowing Sister Rosetta to teach her how to loosen up and put a bit of boogie into her life.

Tucked away behind a scrim are two equally talented musicians Felicia Collins  (Guitar) and Deah Harriott (Piano) who will play for the aforementioned Marie and Sister Rosetta as they mime the music (on piano and guitar) to the songs they so expertly sing.

Sometimes softly.  Sometimes loud enough to raise the dead.  It’s a special music.  Churchlike with a hip swaying rhythm that is both beautiful and rousing.

Neil Pepe has staged the show simply emphasizing the songs.  In a bizarre epilogue that you might see being foreshadowed in the opening moments we sadly say adieu to these two gifted women.

 

www.AtlanticTheater.org

Through October 2nd.

Photos – Ahron R. Foster

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PRIVACY – starring The Internet and Daniel Radcliffe

August 3rd, 2016 by Oscar E Moore
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WARNING:  Using your cell phone may be hazardous to your “privacy” and well-being.   Seeing PRIVACY will open your eyes wide as to the numerous pitfalls and so called advantages of said cell phone use – which we are instructed to keep on during the performance of this sold out event at the Newman Theater through August 14th – a co-production of The Public Theater and London’s Donmar Warehouse co-created by playwright James Graham and director Josie Rourke.

It’s not a play in the true sense of the word.  It’s more of a seminar.  A lesson in what the internet has wrought.  A happening.   A series of skits.  A very smart, well researched, sometimes amusing, technically proficient, full of surprises, elongated scary gimmick.

Staring with the bios.  And continuing on with the laminated “in flight” instructions secured behind each seat.  Instructions to the use of the cell phone that will be used by the audience members and cast during this two act production which quite frankly after 45 minutes we “get it” and have perhaps had enough of its cleverness.

Mr. Radcliffe is a speed-speaking, bearded British writer who has immediately regretted sending an email to his ex – attempting to un-send it which results in a visit to a shrink (Reg Rogers) who advises him to visit New York to open himself up and to learn along with us what the invasion of the internet means to one and all.

It’s not just games and selfies and texting.  It’s the potential of being hacked – embarrassing photos being leaked.  You can however buy a burial plot or peruse some porn privately in the comfort of your bedroom in your PJs. HOWEVER.  BEWARE.  You are being watched and followed and recorded every minute you are on line.

It’s not all doom and gloom.  Terrorists are also targets and can sometimes be stopped before their main event occurs.

In keeping the surprise elements of PRIVACY – private – not much more can be divulged here.  The audience – you – will be the guinea pigs in discovering what your “security blanket” aka “smart phone” has in store for you.  It’s only the tip of the iceberg.  Smart phones are way smarter than we could ever have imagined.

The cast is exceptional.  Including a video visit by Edward Snowden.  Mr. Radcliffe must be commended for allowing himself to be upstaged by all the technology bombarding him and us.

www.PublicTheater.org

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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OSLO – Profiles in courage

July 26th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore
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You.  Are.  There.  Oslo, Norway.  April 1992 – September 1993.  Behind closed doors. The characters are real.  The situation fraught with intrigue and champagne and egos in this smart, theatrical, longish but never boorish lesson in history.  Eavesdropping on the fragile, secret negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians hosted by the Norwegians.

Namely Terje Rod-Larsen (the excellent as usual Jefferson Mays) and his wife Mona Juul (an incredibly accomplished Jennifer Ehle) who is also the narrator.  Together they have hatched a plot to bring the two opposing sides together in the hope that they can bring about a peace accord.  He to fulfill his ego and she to hold everything together when all seems lost.  To facilitate – not meddle.

Act I sets the stage and eventually brings the Israelis and the Palestinians to talk on either side of a table.  One of the many pieces of furniture on casters enabling the director of this sometimes extremely amusing documentary-like theatrical excursion – Bartlett Sher – to have three hours whiz by.

It is a masterful accomplishment.  As is the casting of this large ensemble.  Each and every actor as near to perfection as is possible delivering the dialogue that is a barrage of verbal bullets that ricochet off the whiskey glasses and waffles as these uncomfortable diplomats attempt to loosen up and negotiate that seemingly elusive prize called “peace.”

Act II brings in the charismatic Uri Savir, (an outstanding Michael Aronov) Director-General of the Foreign Ministry of Israel who takes the words of playwright J.T. Rogers to new heights colliding head-on with Ahmed Qurie (Abu Ala) Finance Minister for the Palestine Liberation Organization – an equally impressive Anthony Azizi.  And then we’re off!

Act III gets more complicated with details but is never unclear thanks to Mr. Sher and his expert actors culminating in the video projection in the White House Rose Garden on September 13, 1993 of the iconic image of President Bill Clinton presiding over a handshake between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Yasser Arafat – signifying Peace!

Unfortunately, as it turns out, more of the same continues.  On and on it goes.  We can only hope for a better outcome one day.  Call me a cockeyed optimist.

At the Mitzi E. Newhouse – Lincoln Center Theater.  Through August 28th

Photos:  T. Charles Erickson

www.lct.org

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OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES – Requiem for a randy Frenchman

June 20th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore
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Israel Horovitz is at it again.  After some seventy plus plays – a new sit-com cum sex farce of sorts – a throwback to the days of avant-garde off Broadway when a slight play could be mounted for a pittance and provide some laughs while supplying a paper thin plot.  No questions asked.  Just a fun time with some able bodied actresses with some ridiculous situations to deal with.  And so we have OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES – now at The Cherry Lane Theatre.

These BABES have been around the block.  Circling each other for years.  They have all at one time or another and sometimes at the same time been involved with the same 100 year old randy Frenchman who has just died thus enabling them to reunite in Paris for his funeral.

His most recent and youngest conquest, the heavily accented Marie-Belle (Francesca Choy-Kee) still senses his presence in the art filled apartment overlooking a canal in Paris.  The corpse in question must have had something really special.

Each of these women met said corpse at The Sorbonne.  Each loved the charming cad dearly.  Three married him.  One simply lived with him.  The most recent still feels him “tickling” her.  References are made to his teaching abilities, his tinkling of the ivories, his prowess with his tongue and his many other trysts.

It’s The Golden Girls meets Blithe Spirit.  They compare notes. We get their back stories.  They are sleep deprived.  Jet lag.  One is suicidal.  Again.  Janice (Angelina Fiordellisi) who appeared in ZORBA and is the Producing Artistic Director at The Cherry Lane is the weakest link.

Holding down the fort are Estelle Parsons (Evelyn) and Judith Ivey (Evvie).  Both are fine with what little they are given to play with.  They deserve better.  So do we.

There are not too many new plays written for the older actress.  And this one allows them to spread their wings.  They do not exactly soar but provide enough enjoyment to overlook the inane proceedings as we reach the end of the second act.

The pace thankfully is fast thanks to director Barnet Kellman.  The attractive set by Neil Patel is filled with a collection of art work from A to Z.  A detailed guide is enclosed.  Are they for sale?

There is no mention of a will.  And one wonders why they are so civil to one another.  One would think there would be more animosity over the pate and wine served.

One wonders a lot about this guy who was a collector of women who now haunts his Paris apartment and is hopefully chuckling over the silly goings on.  Tune is next week to see if he seduces someone from the beyond.

www.cherrylanetheatre.org

Photos:  Carol Rosegg

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HADESTOWN – long day’s journey into hell

May 31st, 2016 by Oscar E Moore
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If you are going to reimagine the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice – a poor poet guitar strumming musician with a voice to die for and his ravishing but hungry counterpart as a sung-through folk opera (that originally was a sixty minute album in 2010) you must at the very least cast actors that appear to like each other and have an iota of chemistry sizzling between them.  These two characters are madly in love with one another.  And “without love life has no purpose” – a quote from Charity Hope Valentine.

Damon Daunno (Orpheus) and Nabiyah Be (Eurydice) hardly fizzle.  Singing their way to hell and almost back on a variety of microphones.  He of the wobbly falsetto and she of the vacant stare who wails we hardly care for either one as they wander through the reconfigured New York Theatre Workshop space that last time round was a gymnasium with lap pool and now is a three quarter in the round tiered space with quite uncomfortable seats – even with a provided cushion.

Responsible for this busy pseudo-poetic edging towards pretentious production is the imaginative and theatrical director Rachel Chavkin who has helped Anais Mitchell – composer/lyricist – develop her work for the stage that is now a seemingly endless two hours plus with intermission.

Thank the gods for small favors.  Here we have as our narrator and charming guide Chris Sullivan as Hermes who can sing and move and beguile.  He alone makes this trip worthwhile.

Down below we have the basso profundo Patrick Page (who at times reminds one of that voice-over guy for movie trailers of the past) as that demonic King Hades who has built a Trump like empire and wall – (to keep out the enemy) and will seduce Eurydice into experiencing what he has to offer leaving Orpheus to walk all the way down into the depths of depravity to rescue his beloved.

Persephone (Amber Gray) long suffering wife of Hades and goddess of the seasons gets to spread her charm each spring escaping from below with her basket of flowers and a full flask.

The music is a combination of New Orleans jazz, blues and ragtime that is mostly enjoyable performed by an on stage band that is excellent.  The lyrics are mundane.  The plot ambles along with three Fates (Lulu Fall – Jessie Shelton and Shaina Taub) a Greek chorus combo of The Andrew Sisters and The Supremes.

If only Orpheus and Eurydice were believable lovers who could enchant us we might care what befalls them as fog annoyingly envelops the arena and fellow actors scurrying around and up and down in and out.

Through July 3rd www.NYTW.org

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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SHUFFLE ALONG – or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed – Tappin’ their troubles away

May 13th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore
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The “buzz” (social media) way back when in the 20’s was that composer Eubie Blake (Brandon Victor Dixon) and lyricist Noble Sissle (Joshua Henry) would not be remembered.  They were black.  And to be dismissed.  To be forgotten.

Director George C. Wolfe has attempted to put that “buzz” to rest with his hybrid production of SHUFFLE ALONG – or the making of the musical sensation of 1921 and all that followed – a show that runs much longer than its title.

It’s a case of trying to tell too much in one fell swoop.  Part documentary and part pure and exciting entertainment.  Choreographer Savion Glover is its savior.  With his exceptional tap routines with an ensemble of exceptional dancers.

One production number quickly following another thankfully giving you little time to consider the story line about the attempt to raise enough money, rehearse and tour a show called SHUFFLE ALONG – with all its trials and tribulations along its bumpy road until it reaches the 63rd Street Music Hall in Manhattan and opens to glorious reviews for its original jazz and syncopated score.  That is only Act I.

There is an insert to the regular program.  A program with vintage photos.  It is a time capsule of the show and its creators and stars.  SHUFFLE ALONG was a “political” musical/revue about a mayoral race.  We see very little of it here.  Except for the terrific first act finale – “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and an almost forgettable ballad “Love Will Find a Way.”

This SHUFFLE ALONG depicts how it almost didn’t get produced.  It is not a replica of the original production.  An almost entirely new show per se using the entertaining songs of Sissle and Blake.  Mostly performed by the team of F.E. Miller (Brian Stokes Mitchell) and Aubrey Lyles (Billy Porter).  Two excellent performers.

Then there is Audra McDonald as Lottie Gee.  The dragon lady diva with a powerful and majestic voice and an enormous smile who falls in love with Eubie despite his being married – hoping that love will find a way as she taps her troubles away.

You must be quick to catch her however as she is pregnant and will leave the show – temporarily – July 24 through the fall of 2016.   Rhiannon Giddens making her Broadway debut will be her temporary replacement.  Savion Glover is also being added to the cast – somewhere, somehow.

The dourer by the hour Act II relates what happened to one and all after the show became a hit.  It’s an up and downward spiral ending with a list of obits.

In a series of comic relief roles is the incomparable Brooks Ashmanskas – he of the mobile face and expert double take and perfect comic timing.

The costumes by Ann Roth are elaborate and colorful and there are tons of them.  One wonders how the original production with its enormous cast could afford such finery with ticket ranging from .50 to 2.50 – somehow they did with enough profits to by furs and watches and cars.

If it’s spectacular dancing that you crave that sparkles along with the smiles and the costumes SHUFFLE ALONG is the show for you.  At The Music Box Theatre.

www.shufflealongbroadway.com

Photos:  Julieta Cervantes

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AMERICAN PSYCHO – The Best of Everything

May 8th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore
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There is no escaping Donald Trump.  He is everywhere.  Including being referenced many times over in the mesmerizing psychological bloody musical adaptation of the 1991 novel by Bret Easton Ellis AMERICAN PSYCHO that was made into a film noir in 2000 and hit the London stage in 2013.  It is now ensconced at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre and I strongly advise you to see it.  It is a fantastic production.

It is not about Donald Trump but an indictment of the times in which men like him became synonymous with the type of confident, money loving, extravagant, pampered and charming guy that might be hiding a knife in his designer suit pocket while giving you a killer smile in a fashionable downtown club.  The women were no better.

It is 1989.  Reagan is President.  Wall Street is booming.  Some people are homeless.  Some people are dying to get into the best restaurants.

Having the best bodies.  The best designer outfits.  The best apartment.  The best water.  A home in the Hamptons.  Wanting and getting and exhibiting the best of everything.

Conspicuous consumption is what life is all about for these shallow folk.  Until someone named Patrick Bateman a sensational Benjamin Walker – takes it all away with that killer smile of his and a gleeful, satisfied twinkle in his eye.

If you have to be seduced and slashed by someone it might as well be Patrick Bateman who is wealthy and charming with a body to die for.  Arriving stage center in his tight jockey shorts looking like an Adonis he embodies what that culture was all about – what that culture still worships.  The surface look.  Trying to hide the emptiness of their lives.

This production of AMERICAN PSYCHO has the best of everything.  The cast is chock full of beautiful people oozing talent.  The direction by Rupert Goold is extraordinarily precise and exciting.  The book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa skewers these people with just the right amount of biting satire.  The songs by Duncan Sheik throb and pulsate with an underlying spookiness.  His lyrics are crisp, concise and cynical.  Costumes by Katrina Lindsay – perfect.  Ditto for the scenic design by Es Devlin, Sound Design by Dan Moses Schreier and Video Design by Finn Ross and most importantly the incredible Lighting Design by Justin Townsend.   All capture the horrible essence and extravagance of the period.

The choreography by Lynne Page is simply sensational in its depiction of the club scenes and the disintegration of the psyche of Patrick Bateman – a man who has everything – a man who relaxes by renting horror videos, is engaged but fools around, is stalked by a closet homosexual friend and has an adoring secretary – a man who wants it all and gets it.  And then some.  He begins to kill.  One after another.  Or does he?   Funny how the mind works.

www.AmericanPsychoTheMusical.com

Photos:  Jeremy Daniel

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TUCK EVERLASTING – Happiness is not a thing called living forever

May 4th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore
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Meet the Tucks.  A family that once drank water from a secret stream in Treegap, New Hampshire circa 1800 that made them immortal.  To sip or not to sip?

That is the question facing a bored and precocious eleven year old Winnie Foster (Sarah Charles Lewis – making an impressive Broadway debut) as this most imaginative and magical new musical TUCK EVERLASTING unfolds at the Broadhurst Theatre on a beautiful set designed by Walt Spangler.

It’s a bit FINDING NEVERLAND, a bit THE SECRET GARDEN and a bit PIPPIN.  With a lot of charm and unexpected humor supplied by book writers Claudia Shear & Tim Federle (Better Nate than Ever – read this one!  It is hysterical) and Celtic inspired tunes by Chris Miller and lyrics by Nathan Tysen.  Their “Story of the Tucks” is the best song of a rather unexceptional score.

Having just lost her dad Winnie is lonely and seeks adventure.  Her only friend is a frisky frog.  Winnie is smart and sassy and prone to asking lots of questions.  So she runs off into the woods owned by her family where she meets Jesse Tuck (a delightful Andrew Keenan-Bolger) – the lonely seventeen year old son of Mae (Carolee Carmello) and Angus (Michael Park).  Actually he is 102.

They become friends and the adventure of a lifetime for Winnie begins when she is kidnapped by the Tucks and brought home as they try to figure out what to do with her as she now knows about the magical water and its power.   Jesse wants her to wait until she is seventeen to take a “sip of forever” so that they can grow ageless together.

The Tucks are having a family reunion of sorts having not been together for ten years.  Older brother Miles (Robert Lenzi) wants them to remain as inconspicuous as possible as they never age and people do gossip.

Enter the villain.  Man in the Yellow Suit (a suitable Terrance Mann) who seeks to find Winnie, and the secret stream so that he can sell the water before Constable Joe (Fred Applegate) and his sidekick detective Hugo (an excellent Michael Wartella) solve their first missing person case.

But not before a visit to the Fair.  Giving director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw ample opportunity to spread his wings.

Mr. Nicholaw now has four shows on Broadway.  That says a lot right there.  But he keeps the best for last in his “Circle of Life” inspired folk ballet that ends this fine production that might confuse the younger members of the audience but is nonetheless the cherry on top.

Kudos to Brian Ronan – sound designer.  Thank you for making it possible to understand everything spoken and sung.

Based on the classic 1975 novel by Natalie Babbitt that I look forward to reading.

Life is an adventure – enjoy it with each and every wart along the way.

www.TuckEverlastingMusical.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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WAITRESS – powered by women and sugar

April 30th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore
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Starring Jessie Mueller whose talents far exceed the predictable material by Jessie Nelson whose book cannot decide if it is an old fashioned musical comedy or a serious discourse dealing with an abused woman in an ugly marriage looking for an out and an equally confusing score by Sara Bareilles (a female friend calls it “women in pain” music) and directed by Diane Paulus whose imaginative magic touch has been strangely muted WAITRESS could be subtitled PIE-O-MANIA.

Recently opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre this production is frankly extremely disappointing.  Most glaringly it is the sound design by Jonathan Deans that threatens to ruin what good there is in the production.  Even the usually sublime Ms. Mueller comes across as garbled.  Many of the lyrics are impossible to hear.  There is a tinny sound throughout.

The Tony’s no longer award “Sound Design” which is one of the most important factors in the enjoyment of a production.  Hearing it!  Are these designers retaliating by deliberately sabotaging their own productions?  Doesn’t the director and/or the producers fix these problems before the show opens?  I am at a loss in trying to figure this out.  There have been many instances this season of this rampant and growing problem.

The stock character cast however is excellent and they all get their moment to shine.  Reminiscent of TV’s ALICE starring Linda Lavin, WAITRESS takes place in a small-town homey diner – run by Cal (Eric Anderson) and owned by Joe (Dakin Matthews) where Jenna (Jessie Mueller) thinks up and bakes up pies with most original names (The Pursuit of Happiness Pie, White Knuckle Pie etc.)  Her two waitress friends – tart tongued Becky (Keala Settle) and mousey Dawn (Kimiko Glenn) are eking out a living in typical sit-com fashion and looking for mates.  Although Becky already has one.

Jenna’s arrogant and abusive hubby Earl (Nick Cordero) takes all of her tips and treats her roughly and badly.

She discovers she is pregnant.  And meets Doctor Pomatter (an excellent Drew Gehling looking and acting and sounding very much like Ben Aaron).  The doctor is married but that doesn’t stop him from starting an affair with Jenna who is desperately seeking affection.  It gets a bit distasteful.

Nurse Norma (Charity Angel Dawson) provides some laughs.  As do the pies.

A pie baking contest offering a 20,000 dollar prize to the winner makes Jenna hopeful that this is how she will rid herself of mean-spirited Earl.

Meanwhile Dawn meets Ogie (Christopher Fitzgerald) late in Act I and the show finally sparks to life.

What will happen?  Will Jenna win the contest?  Will Jenna get to enter the contest?  Will the doctor and Jenna live happily ever after or have recurring bouts of heartburn from ingesting all those pies?  Will Jenna dump Earl?  Will the set pieces never stop rolling around the stage?  Will we ever understand what they are singing?  Will the onstage band stop popping up willy-nilly?   And all those pies.  I think I’ll skip dessert.  I’ve lost my appetite.

www.WaitressTheMusical.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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