Oscar E Moore

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THREE DAYS TO SEE – Helen Keller jokes and quotes and lots of music

July 28th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

7 rectangular tables.  7 plastic chairs.  Some potted plants.  7 microphones and a large acoustically challenged space (THEATRE 79) normally home to the New York Theatre Workshop greet you as you await the 7 actors (male and female) that will portray Helen Keller in this bizarre concoction conceived by Jack Cummings III for The Transport Group - THREE DAYS TO SEE - “a devised exploration of Helen Keller - in her own words” that literally runs through August 16th.

7 is usually considered to be a lucky number. Not this time. Director Jack Cummings III in an attempt to make Helen Keller’s life more interesting than it already is has his troupe of Helen Kellers running hither and yon, moving the tables and sometimes throwing the chairs (and food and forks) while quoting from the many published works and lectures of this incredible woman who overcame blindness and deafness to lead an incredibly fulfilled life – learning to master Braille and sign language, learning to speak and to listen to others speak by reading their lips with her hands. If only this was brought to light it may have helped clarify the production.

As is it, it’s a jumble. The importance of Helen Keller’s words and thoughts are undermined by all the movement and pre-recorded music. It’s a battle with the soundtrack that all but derails this concept.

The actors quickly pace back and forth asking questions or spewing thoughts; there is a prolonged segment that brings back The Miracle Worker material when Annie Sullivan got Helen to recognize the word “water” and learned to eat properly as they battle with each other (each actor taking turns at being Helen) to the strains of, I think, Gene Krupa’s mastery of the drums in the swing version of Sing! Sing! Sing! This garnered much applause as the actors clean up the mess of thrown food and water as thoughts continue.

This after a manic opening of tasteless Helen Keller jokes using the aforementioned microphones. They are then removed. The remainder of the too long show (almost two hours without intermission) is a repetition of Ms. Keller’s thoughts on various subjects such as Gone With the Wind, death, racism, socialism, vaudeville, Chaplain, censorship, Sam Clemens and Alexander Graham Bell all at odds with the intrusive musical score. Name That Tune came to mind.

It doesn’t help that some voices are ill-suited to project in the echo chamber of a stage. The result appears to be a collegiate exercise of theatrical excess - to be different for the sake of being different. The words and thoughts and feelings of the intelligent and gifted Ms. Keller suffer. Helen Keller “cultivated the art of silence” and that is nowhere in evidence in this production.

The most interesting aspect – although it too is too long – are the thoughts from Helen Keller about what she would do if she had three days to see. Nice.

It seems to be staged for “in the round” although it’s presented in proscenium. In the past I have admired Transport Group. Its choices and its direction. The success of THREE DAYS TO SEE remains to be seen.

The energetic actors portraying Helen Keller (and sometimes others) are Ito Aghayere, Patrick Boll, Marc delaCruz, Theresa McCarthy, Chinaza Uche, Barbara Walsh and Zoe Wilson.

Sound design:  Walter Trarbach   Musical Staging:  Scott Rink   Dramaturg:  Kristina Williams

Photos:  Carol Rosegg

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AMAZING GRACE – the end almost justifies the means

July 25th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

This ambitious and epic original musical will be remembered for three things:  the Act I faux underwater finale where anti-hero John Newton (Josh Young) is saved by his slave/friend/confidante Thomas aka Pakuteh (Chuck Cooper) in a spectacular Cirque-du-Soleil type rescue – the Act II Hurricane where in its aftermath John Newton after many trials and tribulations finds Thomas and God and the inspiration for the title song which is the third and most amazing thing about this production – the epilogue - where the entire large cast sings an exceptionally stirring and memorable rendition of AMAZING GRACE.

The show has been cast with terrific singers who unfortunately get to voice the monotonous, unmemorable score by Christopher Smith (music and lyrics) and act the melodramatic script by Mr. Smith with the assistance of Arthur Giron.

AMAZING GRACE is a beautiful production to behold.   The late 18th century gowns by Toni-Leslie James are sumptuous.  The nautical sets (Eugene Lee/Edward Pierce) with its rigging and sails and pulleys allow director Gabriel Barre to travel quickly from England to Sierra Leone to beneath the sea with dexterity.  All beautifully lit by Ken Billington and Paul Miller.

But the story treads water for most of the first act.  It fails to engage despite the fine performance of Josh Young as John Newton – a headstrong young man at odds with his headstrong father Captain Newton (Tom Hewitt) who runs a business that imports and auctions off slaves from Africa.  A very lucrative business both for them and the African Princess Peyai (a headstrong Harriet D. Foy) who just about chews up the Palm trees and anyone else who gets in her way.

John loves Mary (an excellent Erin Mackey) who frowns upon the family business but adores John and the poems he has written to her.

She becomes an activist against slavery and sets out to obtain information from Major Gray (Chris Hoch) – a buffoon who wants to woo her as Captain Newton has had his son abducted into the Royal Navy as punishment for his wayward ways which leads to the grand under water rescue which leads them to believe John is dead which leads us to Sierra Leone where John becomes enslaved by the evil Princess Peyei which allows choreographer Christopher Gattelli to create gyrations which remind us of a far superior Disney show about African lions.

Did it happen this way?  Or have the creators taken great poetic license with the source material?  Read the fabulous A RESPECTABLE TRADE by Philippa Gregory to be further enlightened on this very interesting topic – the horrors of slavery and the selling of humans as merchandise – sometimes two for one in the case of a very pregnant captive.

BUT one cannot fail to be moved by the epilogue – the excellent choral arrangement of Amazing Grace, words by John Newton with music by William Walker - that says it all:





Most of what precedes this song is merely superfluous.  At the Nederlander Theatre.

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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SHOWS FOR DAYS – Better to forget

July 12th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

I was there.  Thursday July 9th, the night after the “snatching of the cellphone scandal” when Patti LuPone strode on stage before the start of the ill-fated SHOWS FOR DAYS enunciating clearly “Anything you want to ask me?” to thunderous applause and whoops and whistles from her loyal fans regarding said incident.  More applause and shouts of approval after her short but intense curtain speech.

Then the show officially began. The delightful, adorable and downright huggable Michael Urie arrived on the prop infested stage of The Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center as “Car” the alter ego of playwright Douglas Carter Beane in this quasi semi-autobiographical stillborn opus in an OUR TOWN like presentation as he sets up the piece.

He will be our narrator. And furniture mover. Looking back fondly through lavender tinted glasses. Removing said glasses he becomes the fourteen year old (this is not a typo yes he is supposed to be a fourteen year old naïve/precocious youth – use your imagination - who has fallen upon this amateur acting troupe in Reading PA. - 1973.

William Ivey Long has hit the target dead center with his tasteless and tacky costumes of that tacky and tasteless era. He must have been watching re-runs of The Match Game for inspiration.

Back to the play. Or whatever. It’s directed with an extremely heavy hand by Jerry Zaks who attempts to find and highlight whatever humor lies lurking in the script. He’s still looking.

Patti LuPone is the star diva Irene who runs the show. Married to a husband we never see. Taking her meds when needed that we do see. Often. She’s your typical diva queen that typical theater queens adore. No matter what. She could just stand there and ask a simple question like “Anything you want to ask me?” and they’ll go wild. Simply wild.

Her troupe includes Maria (Zoe Winters) the ingénue. The young leading man Damien (Jordan Dean – Mr. AC/DC), the bull dyke stage manager Sid (Dale Soules) and Clive (Lance Coadie Williams - the black and gay older leading man) with a voice suited to portray Othello or Captain Hook. Irene is an equal opportunity employer.

All the characters are one dimensional. Sketchy. And at times deliver their “jokes” straight out. You can almost hear the cymbals clash as an exclamation point. What you will hear – often - is the sound of the wrecking ball – destroying the theater that Irene is trying to save – even going so far as to blackmail - to get what she wants – an official not-for-profit theater!

We get the history of Reading and its environs. Their local reviews. Their attempt to lure in subscribers. Their rival company. Costumes from their production of Peter Pan. And the sexual awakening and initiation to the act (behind a screen – use your imagination) between Car and Damien who has also been doing the deed with Irene. When you remember that Car is all of fourteen – jail bait – funny somehow doesn’t come to mind.

Perhaps that infamous cellphone offender was texting the box office demanding a refund.

For the record I am all for the banning of cellphones during performance.

Even after Ms. LuPone’s speech and widespread brouhaha over said incident don’t you think late in Act II I heard that all too familiar ring tone nearby that was quickly shut down before Patti could muster the militia. Imagine that if you will!

Limited engagement.

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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June 28th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

About the only redeeming feature of the lonely, annoying, whining and very out gay-boy/man Jordan Berman (Gideon Glick) in SIGNIFICANT OTHER is his Grandmother Helene Berman (a twinkling Barbara Barrie) who is suffering from the onset of dementia, has a predilection for various means of suicide, old photos and is absolutely charming.

She is the only aspect resembling anything remotely charming in this newest play by Joshua Harmon which goes on a bit too long with some diarrhea of the mouth monologues and melt downs by Jordan as his three best girlfriends – one by one – waltz down the aisle – leaving him in the lurch, wondering if he will ever be so lucky.

They party often. Drinks flow as well as private and intimate thoughts. They are best friends…until they find someone to help them get through life. Not necessarily happily. It reminded me of COMPANY – where Bobby surrounds himself with married couples while trying to find the girl of his dreams - but with a lot less finesse and a lot less insight.

The three girlfriends are your typical trio of New York go-getters. Kiki (Sas Goldberg) is the most outspoken and vibrant. Vanessa (Carra Patterson) is a more mellow, gum chewing editor. Laura (Lindsay Mendez) is a good listener who likes her food as well as men despite being a bit “schoolmarm-ish.” They take turns advising their good friend Jordan as to what he should or shouldn’t do when he obsessively falls for hunky Will (John Behlmann) at work with his size twelve green converse sneakers.

He doesn’t even know if Will is gay. Will is a history buff with a buff body as well. They go to a movie. There is little face to face conversation. Little connection. That is left to e-mails and texts and laptops in today’s theatrical offerings. What a sad commentary.

We are put in the position of bystanders as each of their sagas unfold at Laura Pels Theatre. At one point in Act II – yes there is a second act. I wanted to jump up and scream at Jordan – who was having his second melt down of the evening and shout at him –“Get over yourself!” It was too much as he berated Laura for abandoning him. It was her marriage but his funeral.

Why anyone would even think of dating this guy let alone spending two hours with him and company is questionable. He really has nothing going for him and he must be zilch in bed as well.

When things get tough he phones Grandma who despite her failings is honest and still wise from the old school. But does he learn from her? Don’t ask.

The affable John Behlmann along with the agreeable Luke Smith play the various other men in all their lives exceedingly well.

Director Trip Cullman with a keen eye for detail has done a great job in bringing the character’s quirks and this episodic play to life – with a glance or a pause that fills in where the sometimes amusing dialogue runs short.

Nice contemporary costumes by Kaye Voyce and an interesting set by Mark Wendland provide a spark of originality that is missing in this oft told tale of an unhappy gay guy who only has females to fall back on. A ROUNDABOUT production.

Photos: Joan Marcus

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AN ACT OF GOD – Less bang for your bucks

June 6th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

I never imagined myself having to critique God but here I am reviewing the Almighty in this ninety minute one act stand-up comedy routine starring the droll and personable Jim Parsons who delivers most of God’s schtick sitting down on his white sofa accompanied by two angels with enormous wings:  Gabriel (Tim Kazurinsky) reading and quoting from his Gutenberg Bible and Michael (Christopher Fitzgerald) roaming the audience and asking obviously prepared questions by the playwright David Javerbaum who has won multiple Emmys adapting this “act” on his book – The Last Testament:  A Memoir by God and his Twitter account @TheTweetOfGod which has 1.94 million followers that should keep Studio 54 full for its entire run.

That is if you like this sort of stuff, remember your Bible stories from Sunday School and adore the man in charge - Jim Parsons aka Sheldon Cooper of THE BIG BANG THEORY.

Holding forth on a heavenly set designed by Scott Pask (with a grand MGM type stairway to Heaven) and divinely lit by Hugh Vanstone, Jim Parsons greets his flock of faithful Sheldon followers with some corny jokes and some up-to-the-minute celebrity barbs with his “off-beat” charm that mostly holds our attention but is certainly not worthy of the cost.

It’s an update on The Ten Commandments, the nature of existence, the Creation, Evolution, masturbation (with a small “m”) as seen through rainbow colored eyes with a very gay agenda.

Late comers will be admonished with a great line and a cell phone (planted) gives God the opportunity to take a “selfie” with his two angels. There is even a bid at selling some AN ACT OF GOD merchandise to help fill out the production’s allotted time slot.

An overlong rendition of the Abraham and Job sagas makes one hungry for the very funny barbs and observations of this particular Almighty. Jim Parsons handles himself well, is in full control and is as funny as his material will allow. But when death is dealt with – what’s funny becomes uncomfortably questionable.

Joe Mantello directs as he did in Bette Midler’s riff on Sue Mengers - I’LL EAT YOU LAST. It appears that he has a penchant for his stars sitting on sofas while dishing.

Only here there is a lot of Thee and Thine and Thou’s thrown in. And a song for good measure.

All in all AN ACT OF GOD is pure Parsons. If you love the man you’ll adore his self- deprecating, imperfect Almighty who will leave you with that oft quoted adage “to have faith in yourself.”

At that old den of iniquity Studio 54. Through August 2nd ONLY

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

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CAGNEY the bio-musical hits and misses at the York Theatre

May 29th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

Robert Creighton, the star of CAGNEY - an ambitious, superficial biographical musical of the legendary stage and screen star James Cagney - has a fine tenor voice, nimble feet and at times an eerie resemblance to Mr. Cagney but without the “it factor” charisma that made “the tough guy who tapped” exceedingly memorable.

The amiable Mr. Creighton along with his five fellow actors (who portray an assortment of stock characters) work valiantly to make this musical entertaining but get bogged down by the sluggish book by Peter Colley, uninspired direction of Bill Castellino and poor score provided by Christopher McGovern.

Mr. Creighton has provided the music and lyrics to “Falling in Love” – a duet with Willie (Ellen Zolezzi) his soon to be wife that he had met while performing as Lola Fandango in 1923. Along with “How Will I Be Remembered?” and a rousing tap dance off between Bob Hope and Cagney. More on Hope later…

Jack Warner (an excellent Bruce Sabath) may have been a louse but he knew how to make a star out of a no-body. Their relationship was tempestuous to say the least. Two strong headed bucks locking horns. They parted ways often but Cagney always came back to Warner Brothers where he made 28 money making gangster films, famously improvising a button for a scene he filmed with Mae Clark – THE PUBLIC ENEMY - with half a grapefruit smashed in her face.

It is at the 1978 SAG Lifetime Achievement Awards that we see Cagney and Warner reminiscing and then in flashback the hits and misses of Mr. Cagney’s long life.

His Ma (Danette Holden who bears a striking resemblance to a young Jane Curtin) whom he adored and helped financially, his gracious brother Bill (Josh Walden) who produced some of Cagney’s cinematic flops and Bob Hope (Jeremy Benton – a fine singer and dancer who doesn’t look or sound a bit like Hope which is extremely detrimental to the overall production).

Taking a short Act II detour into the assumed political “Commie” proclivities of Cagney is interesting but skimmed over to get to the songs the audience has been eagerly awaiting: The USO Medley with many of Cohan’s greatest all-American toe tapping hits that excel with fine-tuned choreography by Joshua Bergasse.

Bruce Sabath (Jack Warner) has a brief scene as a GI fan come to see Cagney that is extremely touching and overshadows many of the less convincing moments of CAGNEY the musical that runs through June 21st at The York Theatre.

The surrounding walls of the York stage have been covered with the many subdued black and white movie posters of Cagney’s film career. They frame the multi paneled stage designed by James Morgan that allows for some nifty projections by Mark Pirolo and the excellent five member band to play both the hits and misses of the score.

From THE PUBLIC ENEMY to WHITE HEAT and THE SEVEN LITTLE FOYS the hoodlum that would be a hoofer holds court eventually winning an Oscar for YANKEE DOODLE DANDY. Unfortunately CAGNEY doesn’t live up to its legend.

Photos:  Carol Rosegg

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THE KING AND I revival – It’s a puzzlement

May 10th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

Under the tutelage of the usually perfect Bartlett Sher this revival is a really big production with one really big problem.  There is a big orchestra (29).  A big cast (51) on a big stage.  Big hoop skirts (Catherine Zuber).  A big Buddha.  Big sets (Michael Yeargan) including the arrival of a very big boat that threatens not to stop in time bringing the British widow and future schoolmarm to the children of the King of Siam Anna Leonowens (Kelli O’Hara) and her young son Louis (Jake Lucas).

It is apparent that the budget is also big. No expense has been spared. THE KING AND I is a really big production that would all but be impossible were it not for Lincoln Center Theater.

So now, the big question. Why cast someone who obviously has a problem with the spoken English language as the King of Siam? A man who can be heard but not understood most of the time. A man bellowing phonetic sounds. Not clear words. Garbled sentences. It’s a puzzlement.

I am afraid that this all but ruined the show for me. Straining to understand I finally gave in and zoned out. To boot there is next to zero electricity between the King and Kelli O’Hara who gives a fine performance with her beautiful presence and exceptional vocals.

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II tackled successfully some mighty big themes in musicalizing the novel “Anna and the King of Siam” by Margaret Landon in 1951 that are still pertinent today. Polygamy. Misogyny. And the demeaning of anyone thought to be one’s inferior.

Mr. Hammerstein wrote a magnificent libretto that is wise and touching and brave and lyrics that develop character and move the complex plot forward with ease. Mr. Rodgers matched every word with gorgeous, romantic melodies that linger on to this date and rightfully made them a fortune.

It’s a clash of cultures. He wanting not to budge an inch. And she desiring to educate. Especially the women - not to bow down to their Lord and Master. To challenge authority. Two people equally matched fighting for what they each believe in. Too bad we only get half of the battle most of the time.

The supporting players are wonderful. Especially Ruthie Ann Miles as Lady Thiang – the King’s head wife. All his children (it’s a big family with many wives) are introduced in a delightful manner – they each have their own individual personalities as they are presented in “The March of the Siamese Children” that is quite refreshing. As the heir to the throne Jon Viktor Corpuz finally comes into his own at play’s end.

As the young, secret lovers Tuptim – a “gift” to the King of Siam from the King of Burma (Ashley Park) and Lun Tha (Conrad Ricamora) bring romance and passion to their famous duets. When Anna gives Tuptim a copy of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” the plot takes off culminating in the famous ballet choreographed by Jerome Robbins and tweaked by Christopher Gattelli – “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” – the highlight of the production due to the charismatic dancing of Xiaochuan Xie as Eliza speaking nary a word.

Respectfully, I only wish that Ken Watanabe, said King, would make more of an effort to be understood. Why spoil an otherwise perfectly wonderful production? It’s a huge puzzlement.

At the Vivian Beaumont. Open run.


Photos:  Paul Kolnik

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SOMETHING ROTTEN! – Methinks I doth detect the sweet smell of success

May 3rd, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

Oh to be an usher at the St. James Theatre.  Oh to be able to relish over and over again the “song and dance, romance and happy ending” of SOMETHING ROTTEN!  Not to mention the hilarity and show stopping numbers.  The wondrous and witty lyrics.  The sing along tunes.  The thespians.  The fair maidens, tap dancing eggs and hefty cod pieces.  Everything catches the eye and ear.  And one better be quick and attentive or else you will miss the endless satirical theatrical references to everything musical comedy-ish, Shakespearean and naughty.

We must bow down to or stand up and cheer the brothers Kirkpatrick – Karey and Wayne and John O’Farrell who have concocted this truly original non-stop laugh fest that combines the names of many of Shakespeare’s characters (and Shakespeare himself), the skewered wit of Forbidden Broadway and the smart and clever lyrics reminiscent of Cole Porter to some very memorable tunes. It’s an all-around hoot. A cartoon come to life in living color.

The Bottom brothers Nick (a robust Brian D’Arcy James) and Nigel (a shy but determined John Cariani) need to come up with a new idea for a play for their theatrical troupe to outdo their arch rival Shakespeare (an amazing rock-star influenced Christian Borle) whose “Will Power” has the audience begging for more.

Nigel wants to be true to himself and write from the heart. Nick is more practical and seeks the advice of a soothsayer – Nostradamus (a delirious Brad Oscar) who foretells that the next big thing in theatre will be actors singing songs which leads to the Act I showstopper “A Musical.”

Along the way Nigel falls for Portia (Kate Reinders - the look alike/sound alike Kristin Chenoweth – a brilliant touch done on purpose I’m convinced) the daughter of the Puritan Brother Jeremiah (the not very subtle Brooks Ashmanskas) whose sexual innuendo jokes are delicious and never gross.

Along the same way Nick’s trying to be liberated wife Bea (the always dependable Heidi Blickenstaff) attempts to earn some money doing a man’s job while tending their newborn baby and singing up a storm and being funny to boot.

Peter Bartlett just has to appear as Lord Clapham as a Patron of the Arts to induce giggles and then guffaws as he goes into his act. And Gerry Vichi as Shylock is as convincing a token second banana Jew as one can get.

There are disguises. Romance. Frivolity. And another show stopping number “Make an Omelette” (not to be confused with Hamlet) with a chorus of dancing eggs tap dancing their way into theatrical history. See the show for details.

Not only is SOMETHING ROTTEN! an avalanche of laughs but it is beautiful to look at thanks to set designer Scott Pask, costumes by Gregg Barnes and lighting by Jeff Croiter recreating jolly old London.

Direction and choreography is spot on by Casey Nicholaw. What a master he is! Once the show begins with Michael James Scott as the Genie inspired Minstrel SOMETHING ROTTEN! barrels forward to its heartfelt and glorious ending. It’s an absolutely funtastical entertainment.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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THE VISIT - Remembrance of things past

May 2nd, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

Claire Zachanassian’s (Chita Rivera) entrance is eagerly awaited by both the downtrodden townspeople of Brachen Switzerland – thinking she will save them - and New York audiences anxious to see their beloved legend at the Lyceum Theatre in this “artsy” one act musical of the 1956 play by Friedrich Durrenmatt by Kander & Ebb with a new book by Terrence McNally.  She doesn’t disappoint.  Mostly.

With a sweep of her arms, with a kick here and there, with a swish of her skirt we remember Chita.  We remember what a marvelous dancer and entertainer she was and continues to be.  We are seeing her through our eyes of the past.  With her raspy but distinctive voice she talk/sings her songs.  She is a riveting presence but she falls a bit short in delivering the inherent nastiness that Claire ought to have in spades.  Does it matter?  Not really.

She’s a trouper.  A real honest to goodness Broadway Baby.  Looking elegant and regal in her white gown designed by Anna Hould-Ward.  Her bejeweled neck dazzles and she indeed looks the part of the wealthiest woman in the world (half Jewish/half Gyspy who has had six husbands) returning to her homeland seeking revenge on the love of her life – her first love – Anton Schell (an excellent Roger Rees) a lowly shopkeeper who abandoned Claire when she was pregnant with their child to marry Matilde (Mary Beth Peil) whose father owned the shop he now runs.

Claire was forced to flee Brachen and has been plotting ever since to retaliate for Anton’s abandonment, arriving in town with a coffin, her butler Rudi (Tom Nelis) and eunuchs Louis Perch (Matthew Deming) and Jacob Chicken (Chris Newcomer) wearing the as yet to become fashionable and best-selling (on credit) yellow shoes.  Over the years she lost a leg and an arm but made up for it by concentrating on amassing wealth.

Director John Doyle and company haven’t really decided if this production should be expressionistic, Brechtian or mainstream.  McNally’s book at times is pure musical comedy with not enough sting.  There is a little bit of everything which makes for an uneven presentation.  All those “yellow” props become distracting as “symbols.”

But the addition of a young “wild-cat” Claire (Michelle Veintimilla) and a young “panther” Anton (a striking John Riddle) is a brilliant touch throughout.

Claire will help the town financially but they must murder Anton so that she can take him away to Capri.  Will greed win out?  Is Chita the reigning Queen of Broadway?

The score is serviceable with a beautiful and memorable “You, You, You.”  We are hearing the best past strains of Kander and Ebb and so we make do.  The score has been expertly arranged and orchestrated by David Loud and Larry Hochman respectively and the graceful choreography by Graciela Daniele keeps the show moving along romantically with a touch of the macabre.

Over the years (fourteen to be exact) this musical has had a series of face lifts resulting in this uneven production that sports some magical moments and some wrinkles along the way.  www.thevisitmusical.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus & Thom Kaine

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DOCTOR ZHIVAGO – An American in Russia

April 27th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore

Virginia Beach, Virginia is a long way from Siberia.  One wonders why Kelli Barrett a girl from said location and as American as apple pie was cast in the pivotal role of Lara – the love interest of popular poet and married doctor Yuri Zhivago (Tam Mutu), passionate revolutionary Pasha Antipov/Strelnikov (Paul Alexander Nolan) and the lecherous Victor Komarovsky (Tom Hewitt).

The men are excellent but Ms. Barrett supplies little chemistry with Yuri and Pasha - and in the case of Victor (controlling rapist) one can’t imagine what allure she has for them to be so wildly enamored of her.

She is the second weakest link in this epic, meandering, visually beautiful (with the exception of all those stacked chairs), relentless, spanning three decades, bland attempt at recreating the passion and excitement of Les Miz Russian style.  The weakest link award going to Lucy Simon credited with writing music.  Wait!  It’s a tie - with lyricists Michael Korie & Amy Powers.

A musical needs a score to survive and this score stops it in its tracks.  It’s not what the doctor ordered.

Like the Mississippi River the songs just keep rollin’ along in this almost three hour production directed by an uninspired Des McAnuff who has forsaken intimacy for crowd control.  For some odd reason all the songs begin to sound alike.  That can also be said of the singers.  Are they all in the same key?  At times, it’s difficult to distinguish one voice from another which doesn’t help matters at all.  Ho hum…

Not for a minute do we believe we are in Russia despite the overhead projections of the year and location or “three weeks later” and the mammoth, imperial/battle field sets by Michael Scott Mitchell and period costumes by Paul Tazewell.   And the exceptional lighting design of Howell Binkley.

Small things, unintentionally funny things keep popping up to take us out of Russia.  Like Lara.  Like a ridiculous “sheet waltz” danced by the nurses at the front to the tune of “Somewhere My Love” - Lara’s Theme written by Maurice Jarre and Paul Francis Webster.

There is one song “Now” that catches the ear.  In fact it reminded me of another.   It took me a while to figure it out.  It’s the Marvin Hamlisch/Carole Bayer Sager “Through the Eyes of Love.”  Perhaps I’m mistaken.  In any event both songs are lovely.  But the score just doesn’t do it.  You just might come out of Doctor Zhivago shell shocked and humming the chairs.

At the Broadway Theatre.  www.doctorzhivagobroadway.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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