Oscar E Moore

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THE FRONT PAGE – starring an ensemble of legendary comedic actors

October 26th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore

Frozen in time.  And that’s how Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s THE FRONT PAGE begins under the precise and rapid fire direction of Jack O’Brien who keeps this old war horse alive and kicking.  Each of the three acts begins and ends with a “tableau vivant” captured by a photographer’s startling flash.

And then all comes to life in the Press Room of the Criminal Courts Building, Chicago 1928 where a bunch of tabloid reporters on the police beat play poker, kibitz, smoke, eat and wait.  Wait, for their tickets to witness the hanging of condemned white anarchist Earl Williams (John Magaro) on the gallows next door for killing a black cop.

The many phones are kept busy with the reporters calling in their stories and trying not to trip over the cords while we meet a wild assortment of people that work there – or just happen to drop in.

On a smart, detailed set by Douglass W. Schmidt that includes a Chicago Cubs pennant and risqué girlie pictures plastered on the inside door of the bathroom we await the entrance of the real star of the show Nathan Lane.

We must be patient.  We have to get through lots of exposition and setting up of characters and jokes.  Set-ups that all beautifully pay off.

There is the human interest reporter Bensinger (Jefferson Mays) who is petrified of germs and might be mistaken by some as Nathan Lane as he makes his entrance.  Twice.  Garnering applause as the eager audience awaits Mr. Lane.  Not that Mr. Mays doesn’t deserve it as well.

We meet Hildy Johnson (a debonair and charismatic John Slattery) who is ready to quit, get away from his tyrannical boss Earl Williams (Nathan Lane) and marry his sweetheart and move to New York and enter the world of advertising.

There is the wonderfully dense cop with a strange accent Woodenshoes Eichhorn (Micah Stock). Mollie Malloy (Sherie Rene Scott) the gal of the alleged murderer who has one of the best exits ever witnessed.  Robert Morse as Mr. Pincus – a delayed and somewhat intoxicated messenger who can still steal a scene and Holland Taylor as the mother-in-law-to-be whose hat almost manages to upstage her.  A subdued John Goodman as a crooked Sheriff Hartman seems to be suffering from heartburn.

The list is endless of the legendary and up-and-coming masters of comedy in this incredible ensemble.

Finally towards the end of Act II Mr. Lane arrives like a tornado.  In a role that fits him like a glove.  A boxing glove.  And delivers the goods like a roaring inferno in Act III.  The authors Hecht and MacArthur knew how to plot and write great dialogue.  They start off slowly.  Letting us get accustomed to the newsroom and its inhabitants. Then add delicious bits here and there bringing it up to a simmer and then to an overflowing boiling point of great farce – trying to find and capture the escaped convict.

THE FRONT PAGE is an all-around historical and hysterical document of a bygone era that still resonates today and great for a good many laughs.  The ensemble is truly an ensemble and they are each and every one superb in their individual characterizations.  Go and enjoy.  At The Broadhurst Theatre through January 29th 2017.  2 hours 45 minutes 2 intermissions

Photos:  Julieta Cervantes

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THE CHERRY ORCHARD – is the pits – a waste of time, talent and money

October 22nd, 2016 by Oscar E Moore

In Anton Chekov’s tragic-comedy THE CHERRY ORCHARD aristocratic spendthrift Madame Ranevskaya (a carefree albeit uncomfortable Diane Lane) returns from Paris jilted by her lover only to face foreclosure and some rather large unwanted changes to her lifestyle.

Her beloved cherry orchard and home are to be sold at auction to pay off her debts, which continue to mount.  She resists change.  If only the Roundabout Theatre Company had followed suit.

A blight has befallen this ill-conceived cherry orchard represented by a grouping of Calder-like mobiles (set design:  Scott Pask) hovering over this classic play like a series of modern day sabotaging vultures.  Confusion reigns.  Actors do not connect with one another.  Running hither and thither.  Trying to escape?

Why fiddle with Chekov?  There is no need for a New Version (as opposed to adaptation) by playwright Stephen Karam that meanders all over the place at the American Airlines Theatre.  Unclear.  Tedious.  And yawn inducing.

With a trio of live musicians.  Outlandish costumes (Michael Krass) that morph from period to modern in the course of two acts – the second of which is worse by far than the first.

At the performance I suffered through there was a continuous alarm like sound from backstage that was more disconcerting than the multiracial cast which brings slavery into the forefront resulting in a tribal-like dance of celebration when Lopakhin (Harold Perrineau) a successful businessman buys the property so that he can sub-divide it for summer homes.

And then there is Joel Grey as Firs – the aged, steadfast and loyal servant.  When he first scampers onto the stage he stops dead center – and awaits – and waits – and finally gets – entrance applause.  This really got everything off on the wrong foot.

John Glover as Gaev, Madame’s brother, over emotes in the extreme.  Her two daughters the elder adopted one Varya (Celia Keenan-Bolger) and Anya (Tavi Gevinson) are there reminding us of past performances.

Chuck Cooper (Pischik) a neighbor always looking for a handout from the too willing Madame Ranevskaya appears to be auditioning for the genie in Aladdin.  Tina Benko an overly energetic Charlotta – a governess who does card tricks supplies other distractions as well.  The maid – a klutzy Susannah Flood annoys.  The casting by Jim Carnahan with I assume the approval of British director Simon Godwin is bizarre.

However, Kyle Beltran (Trofimov – a student) is grounded, honest and out of place in this entourage of characters.  As is Quinn Mattfeld – Mr. Misfortune – strumming his guitar and wearing a chicken costume at the musical chairs party scene straight out of Cirque du Soleil.  Through December 4th.

I think it might be interesting to leave you with the Lew Brown lyrics to the song “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”

Life is just a bowl of cherries
Don’t take it serious; it’s too mysterious
You work, you save, you worry so
But you can’t take your dough when you go, go, go

So keep repeating it’s the berries
The strongest oak must fall
The sweet things in life, to you were just loaned
So how can you lose what you’ve never owned?
Life is just a bowl of cherries
So live and laugh at it all

OR as the wonderfully gifted artist Mary Engelbreit put it “Life is Just a Chair of Bowlies”


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER – 18th century classic comedy droops to the occasion

October 19th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore

With all due respect my funny bone failed mightily to be tickled by this 18th century classic comedy of manners from the plumed quill of Oliver Goldsmith – adapted and directed by Scott Alan Evans – now cavorting at the Clurman Theatre a TACT production through November 5th.

With limited resources and excellent actors The Actors Company Theatre usually presents first- rate productions.  This time out they have bitten off more than they can chew.  It’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  A merry band of actors presenting this play in a carefree manner.

We first hear birds chirping, dogs barking and cows mooing.  Then the company sings an original song touting TACT and mugs for sale and introducing SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER playing instruments – and we are off.  With lots of exposition that falls flat.

Prop pieces are set to the sides of the acting area.  Actors when offstage are visible watching the preposterous goings on by their fellow actors whose accents are uneven.  The plot at times is ludicrous.

Mr. Hardcastle (John Rothman) has invited Charles Marlow (Jeremy Beck) the son of his best friend Sir Charles Marlowe (James Prendergast) and Charles’ friend Hastings (Tony Roach) to his home.  Charles is to meet his chosen intended Kate Hardcastle (Mairin Lee).

At an inn they meet Tony Lumpkin (Richard Theiriot) the son of Mrs. Hardcastle (Cynthia Darlow) by her first husband who misdirects them to the Hardcastle home telling them it is a wonderful inn.  And nearby.  When they arrive they act in an awful manner.

Mrs. Hardcastle wants her son Tony to wed her ward and his cousin Constance (Justine Salata) to keep her jewels in the family.

The ultra-shy Charles meets Kate and just about vibrates with fright.  Near the end of Act I “SHE” (Kate) decides to “STOOP” to conquer Charles by disguising herself as a barmaid (with an apron!). He then treats her lovingly.

Tony won’t marry Constance – he is “not of age” and dislikes her.  She has fallen for Hastings.  Got all that?

Act II fares better.  Except for the embarrassing moment when an audience member is chosen for a bit part.

What is absent is a consistent style.  And any semblance of elegance.  Speaking “Asides” to an audience takes a special talent that is hard to master and difficult for today’s audience to accept and follow.  Especially with the dysfunctional family and friends of what is also known as THE MISTAKES OF A NIGHT.

Enough said.  Except for the “not of age” business of Tony.  Mr. Thieriot is a rascal and charming and full of mischievous life.  However, it is difficult to accept that he becomes of age – a man – over twenty one – in the course of this evening.  That alone is a big mistake hard to swallow.  A rare revival indeed.


Photos: Marielle Solan

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HEISENBERG – not much meat on the bone

October 18th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore


Two chairs.  Two tables.  Two actors.  80 minutes.  No intermission.  Additional tiered bleacher onstage seating added.  Long narrow acting area.  Is this a table tennis match we are about to see at the MTC production of HEISENBERG at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre?

Perhaps.  The intriguing title by its author Simon Stephens who is best known for his hit play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night” refers to German physicist Werner Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle.”  There is a “fuzziness in nature” about how things will behave.

In this instance 75 year old low key Alex Priest (Denis Arndt) and 40 something hyper Georgie Burns (Mary-Louise Parker) the oddest of odd couples in an odd play – or rather character study of an English butcher and an American in England who may or may not be what she says she is.  An assassin?  A waitress?  A photographer?  A woman in search of her son?

As she chatters away in a series of short vignettes do we really care?  Ominous music and abrupt light cues signal the scene changes.

Starting in a train station (use your imagination) where quirky Georgie has seen and kissed Alex on the neck (we do not see this) she proceeds to confuse him and us as she prattles on in a somewhat reminiscent style of Diane Keaton.  She baits.  She flirts.  She curses.  I wondered why he stays as long as he does with this odd woman and then he abruptly leaves.  Good.

Next we find him in his butcher shop (imagine again) when she arrives having discovered where he works.  Is she a stalker as well?  This continues for a while and we wonder why there are no customers – and then this is summarily addressed by Mr. Stephens.

For some odd reason Alex becomes interested besides being bewildered by her.  She draws him out and into bed.  I will stop here with their developing affair.  There is a bit more here than meets the eye but it is pretty slim pickens.  At best it’s interesting.

In my review of “The Snow Geese” I berated Mary-Louise Parker for her lack of projection.  She has been hard at work it seems and her vocals are A plus.  Mr. Arndt doesn’t fare as well.

His part is less flashy but we miss lots of what he has to say – perhaps due to the odd staging by director Mark Brokaw who has his actors contorting themselves to be fair to the members of the audience both on stage and in the house.

It’s an odd choice.  All around.  Perhaps HEISENBERG would be better served off-Broadway where it originated.  And less expensive for a pound of would-be steak where there isn’t much meat on the bone.


Photos: Joan Marcus

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HOLIDAY INN – a bonanza of good cheer and talent

October 13th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore

Just when you think HOLIDAY INN, the new Irving Berlin Musical can’t possibly get any better – it does.  With an affectionate and respectful wink to the original 1942 film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire book writers Gordon Greenberg & Chad Hodge have given the story a fresh facelift and revitalized the incredibly wonderful songs of Irving Berlin with new and inventive orchestrations by Larry Blank and vocal and dance arrangements by Sam Davis and Bruce Pomahac.  The songs seem brand new.  At least they sound brand new.

And are delivered by a young and ultra-talented cast headed by Bryce Pinkham (Jim Hardy) whose strong tenor has an echo of the past and Corbin Bleu (Ted Hanover) whose stylish dancing doesn’t mimic Mr. Astaire but pays homage to his finesse while making the numbers his own.  The “firecracker” sequence is spectacular.

This terrific Roundabout production at Studio 54 is no slap-dash remake of its source material but a well thought out, clever, reverential valentine to the movies of the period and Irving Berlin’s brilliant musicianship.

The attractive, colorful and fast moving mobile sets by Anna Louizos set the scenes perfectly – appearing magically in all their holiday finery – and know enough to get out of the way when the young and equally attractive multi-racial singers and tappers raise the roof with their precise and exuberant execution of the show stopping choreography by Denis Jones.

I do believe that “Shaking the Blues Away” will become a classic number.  It’s a perfect pearl.  Centered on a necklace of matching pearls created by Mr. Denis Jones – each placed to perfection by director Gordon Greenberg.

The story.  I almost forgot.  Jim and Ted have a club act with Lila Dixon (Megan Sikora).  Jim (Bryce) wants to marry Lila and settle down in a farm that he has bought in Connecticut.  Although she loves him she loves show biz more and goes off with Ted (Corbin) a fine excuse for “Heat Wave.”

Back at the farm that is falling apart Jim meets Linda Mason (Lora Lee Gayer) the former owner and would be performer and her handywoman Louise (Megan Lawrence) who leads the will-become-a-classic “Shaking the Blues Away” production number that I wanted to see repeated immediately.

To save the farm from foreclosure they have hatched the idea that the INN will produce shows only for the holidays – a fine excuse for all those Berlin standards that he wrote for the holidays:  “Easter Parade” “White Christmas” and “Happy Holiday” and a slew of others that will have you humming and bouncing in your seats with glee.  And drooling over the fabulous Easter bonnets.

Needless to say there are complications usually announced by the young Charlie Winslow (Morgan Gao) who commands the stage with his every entrance of impending news.   Love is the other as Lila goes off to Dallas to marry money and Ted tries make a name in Hollywood with the help of his agent Danny (Lee Wilkof).  There is a pitch perfect filmed coda that surprises.

The numerous costumes of the stylish and eye-popping sort are designed by Alejo Vietti.  Sound design by Keith Caggiano couldn’t be better.

HOLIDAY INN is sure to please.  Sure to sprinkle stardust in everyone’s eyes.  This exceptionally entertaining production will have you leaving Studio 54 in a much better mood than when you entered.  Guaranteed.  Through January 15, 2017

2 hours 15 minutes.  One intermission.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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OH, HELLO on Broadway – One man’s trash is another man’s treasure

October 11th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore

Nick Kroll and John Mulaney met in college.  They bonded – obviously having something in common.  Something that some people might consider a bizarre sense of humor.

Soon after they created their alter egos – Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland (supposedly after seeing two old men at the Strand Bookstore buying two copies of Alan Alda’s recently published book and then following them to a diner where their fondness for tuna fish most probably surfaced.

This led them to Comedy Central’s KROLL SHOW – featuring said alter egos – Gil (a novelist of sorts) and George (an actor of sorts) – two seventy something Jewish bachelors living on the Upper West Side.  The show was hugely successful.

As evidenced by the ovation they receive at the Lyceum Theatre where their ten year old routine has been tweaked by director Alex Timbers with the addition of a surprise nightly guest star and is now being hailed by their adoring fans and confounding many others.  Including myself.  But I have to admit that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

They are stand-up comics in the tradition of Weber and Fields, Stiller and Meara and Statler and Hilton with a lethal dose of Larry David thrown in.  An appreciation of their delivery is necessary to enjoy their Saturday Night Live skit-like and drawn out routines.

If you do not know them you might as I did feel like an alien who has landed in some far off planet where what is supposedly hilarious falls flat IF you are not a hip young person whose sense of humor never graduated from the frat house.  Their comedy is an acquired taste.

And there is no accounting for taste or lack thereof.  The T-shirt, poster and mug concession stand has a long line and their stuff is selling like hot cakes – or rather overstuffed tuna sandwiches.

Personally I prefer chopped liver.

Through January 8th.  One hour 40 minutes without intermission.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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THE ENCOUNTER – we’re all ears – Simon McBurney’s surround-sound technological wonder

October 9th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore

Well, it sure is different.  And eerie.  And fascinating.  And much too long.  Perhaps as long as the mighty Amazon River where Mr. McBurney – who has co-conceived this oddity with Kirsty Housley has us imagine along with him as he tells the rambling philosophical tale of Mr. Loren McIntyre a photo journalist who in 1969 was kidnapped in the Amazon Jungle while on a photography expedition for National Geographic Magazine as we listen along on our very own headphones.

Testing right input.  Testing left input.  We are instructed to make sure we are correctly wired for takeoff into the surreal world of Simon McBurney who is the sole actor and director of this theatrical event that veers into pretension-land.

THE ENCOUNTER gives new meaning to the expression “a captive audience” – there is no intermission in this almost two hour opus and we have to wear the headgear to hear the production.  Sound design by Gareth Fry & Pete Malkin.

And hear it we do – everything from the crunching of a cheez doodles bag, to a mosquito buzzing sweet nothings in our ear to the clicking of a camera to the deep resonant American voice of the captive diarist Mr. McIntyre alternating with Mr. McBurney’s higher somewhat accented tones.

It is indeed ironic that in 2014 the Tony Awards decided to no longer recognize sound design.  And here it is as the star of the show.

THE ENCOUNTER is inspired by the book Amazon Beaming by Petru Popescu and Mr. Mc Burney puts his heart and soul and feet and cell phone and water bottles into his bravura Shakespearean King Lear like performance.  Robin Williams would have had a field day up there.

But the technological gimmick of headphones despite its brilliance overshadows the play as such or rather this live action in your ear audio transmission which after its initial novelty wears a bit tiresome.

It is difficult to care for the character.  We feel alienated despite the closeness of the words in our ears.  And it does ramble on.  The set (Michael Levine) is bare bones – basically a desk and microphones and water bottles and a back drop that resembles the inside of a gigantic speaker where projections back up the physical and verbal descriptive travelogue.

Mr. McBurney passes this endurance test with flying colors.

But be forewarned he does not appear eight times a week.  His standby Richard Katz appears at Tuesday evening and Wednesday matinee performances while Mr. McBurney understandably gears up for the others – at the Golden Theatre through Jan 8th 2017.



Photos:  Joan Marcus

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THE ROADS TO HOME – Horton Foote artifact revisited

October 6th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore

Take a trip back to the past with Primary Stages production of Horton Foote’s pleasant and homey play at the Cherry Lane Theatre featuring six excellent actors bringing an honesty and real life to the nine characters that inhabit this trio of interconnected vignettes.

It is the men who have double duty here as they portray others in the last and shortest scene:  Spring Dance.  The three women are what the play is about.  Great character studies all.  With little action and a plot that is nearly nonexistent.

It is 1924 in the Houston Texas kitchen of Mabel Votaugh (a delightful Hallie Foote) where her best friend and neighbor Vonnie Hayhurst (the always reliable-for-a-good-laugh Harriet Harris) having just returned from a trip gossip and chatter away about the trolley, shopping and movie matinees over coffee when Annie Gayle Long (a superb Rebecca Brooksher) pops in.

She has problems.  She is a nervous lady so wound  up she rattles away, finding it difficult to deal with her two young children after witnessing the murder of her father.  Pow!  Pow! Pow! Reliving the horrible deed as the other two ladies try to put her at ease.  She appears to be on the verge as she attempts to understand her life while breaking into song now and then.  Her distraught albeit calm husband Mr. Long (Dan Bittner) arrives to take her home.  This is scene one:  A Nightingale.

Six months later and we are in the parlor of Mabel’s home.  A reverse set from the kitchen.  Both beautifully detailed by designer Jeff Cowie.

Mabel’s husband Jack (Devon Abner) is in his easy chair taking it easy.  Asleep.  Only to awaken briefly when Vonnie visits to be consoled as her husband Eddie (Matt Sullivan) has asked for a divorce.  It gets a bit melodramatic here in The Dearest of Friends – scene two.  Even though the two ladies stage whisper we can hear them well.  Congratulations.

Intermission.  And then we are taken to Spring Dance in Austin.  In a lovely garden.  It is four years later and Annie we soon realize is in an asylum.  With our three male actors portraying fellow patients.  They are just as confused as Annie but it is sad and poignant as they try to cope without much understanding.  They are clothed in formal wear and appear normal except for their disorientation and confusion.  It is an unexpected and unsettling turn that leaves us a bit confused ourselves.

But the beautiful performances of the six actors overshadow any deficiencies in the structure of the script as we head for home ourselves, glad to have met these quirky characters that we care for.

What could have been static and boring isn’t due to the natural and amusing dialogue of Horton Foote, the detailed characterizations and the subtle and refined direction of Michael Wilson.  It’s a soft and lovely production.  Through Nov 27th.

Photo:  JamesLeynse



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

September 29th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore

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.


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MARIE AND ROSETTA – a match made in heaven

September 19th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore

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.



Through October 2nd.

Photos – Ahron R. Foster

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