Oscar E Moore

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SIGNIFICANT OTHER – The second time around

March 21st, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

Not much has changed for the feel sorry for himself, sad and bewildered Jordan Berman (Gideon Glick) in this production that has transferred from off-Broadway to the larger Booth Theatre.  In the role of Vanessa, Rebecca Naomi Jones has taken over albeit without all the gum chewing.  The rest of the cast remains the same.  And the very hunky John Behlmann impresses with his physique.  However Barbara Barrie who out shown everyone in the original has lost a bit of her glow.  Perhaps she is as tired as I am of hearing about her grandson.  Perhaps it was the weather.  Perhaps she is bored.  And so I am reposting my original review from June 28th 2015.  I haven’t changed my mind about this show one bit.



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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COME FROM AWAY – From Canada with love

March 20th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore


Photo: Kevin Berne

You are on an International flight.  Heading back to the USA.  Suddenly you are being diverted because of an emergency in NYC.  It is September 11, 2001.  American airspace has been closed and you are headed to Gander, Newfoundland in Northeastern Canada somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

This is the basis for COME FROM AWAY a big bear hug of a musical – a true story based on interviews of the inhabitants of Gander and some of the 7000 passengers displaced – 38 planes full of people longing to be home and wondering if they will ever get there.

Just go.  This jet paced musical with a heart of gold will make your spirits soar with its uplifting and gentle message of sharing with strangers and giving a helping hand when needed most.  Including the pets on board.

When bad things happen we all need a helping hand.  No ifs ands or buts.  Just get out there and help.  The people of Newfoundland did just that.  Miraculously finding food and clothing and shelter for the various types of people.  Various religions.  Various tastes in food.  Gay.  Straight.  Old.  Divorced.  Worried moms.  With anxiety growing every minute they took in all.  No questions asked.  Sharing what they had with strangers and making them feel at home while stranded in this odd place.

Canadians Irene Sankoff and her husband David Hein have written the book, music and lyrics of this wonderfully put a smile on your face musical.  A compilation/documentation of true events. The actual tragedy lurks but is never exploited.  A cross section of humanity.  A melting pot of diversity creating a new 5 day community.

What emerges is the graciousness of the townspeople and the getting to know you feeling of the passengers with them.  There are hook ups and break ups.  And a fantastic number that introduces the displaced people to the customs of Newfoundland where you get to kiss a Cod.  It’s beautifully amazing.

As is the score.  With a nod to Riverdance and “My Herat Will Go On” the in the wings band fiddles itself into our hearts with a sound all its own.  You want to get up and dance to celebrate and enjoy life with all of them.

All twelve expert performers who play a variety of parts – switching seamlessly back and forth between townsfolk and passengers.  They deserve an award for BEST ENSEMBLE EVER:  Petrina Bromley, Geno Carr, Jenn Colella, Joel Hatch, Rodney Hicks, Kendra Kassebaum, Chad Kimball, Lee MacDougal, Caesar Samayoa, Q. Smith, Astrid Van Wieren and Sharon Wheatley.

This one hour and 40 minute exuberant, extremely funny, respectful, real and moving musical is cinematically directed with its focus never lost by Christopher Ashley on a natural wooded unit set by Beowulf Boritt with some chairs on a revolving stage and super fantastic lighting by Howell Binkley.

The musical staging by Kelly Devine is spectacular.  Making the mostly ensemble numbers make complete sense.  Exciting and clear.  A mixture of tears and happiness.

Everyone can connect with some aspect of this production.

Go.  You will love COME FROM AWAY.  You will stand up and shout out and support our Canadian friends who have delivered this musical with care and love.  A lesson for us all.  Unless you are, of course, President Donald Trump.

Welcome to the Rock.  At the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.


Photos:  Matthew Murphy/Kevin Berne

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SAM GOLD’S THE GLASS MENAGERIE – Controversial Revival Stuns

March 15th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

What the world needs now is NOT another revival of Tennessee Williams’ THE GLASS MENAGERIE so soon after the excellent Cherry Jones/Zachary Quinto revival of 2013 superbly directed by John Tiffany.  Or so I thought.

This new unexpected avant-garde revival ensconced in the ghostlike Belasco Theatre belongs heart and wounded souls to Sam Gold its director – the creative mind behind this riveting, stark, explosive, controversial and ultimately tragic production starring Sally Field, Joe Mantello, Madison Ferris and Finn Wittrock with Mr. Williams’ text intact.

There aren’t any dead bodies at the end of this swiftly moving two hour plus production – without an intermission – just extremely wounded human beings.  And you will feel for them like you have never felt before.

Not immediately.  There is the rehearsal room like set design by Andrew Lieberman to contend with as you enter.  More a non-set.  A table and some chairs.  A small pile of records.  A metal unit holding some essential props – a telephone, a candelabrum, a year book, dinner plates, a gramophone, a neon sign, a typewriter  among other bric-a-brac that the actors will fetch and use during the show.

The house lights remain up as Joe Mantello, a world weary Tom Wingfield speaks to us – explaining that what we are about to see is a memory.  His.  Not realistic.  The tricks up his sleeve are figurative not literal and we slowly begin our journey into the past.  St Louis.  The depression.

His delusional mother Amanda (a spritely and tormented Sally Field) enters from the audience dragging a wheel chair up a few steps (their fire escape) and then helping her incapacitated and painfully shy daughter Laura (Madison Ferris – a fine actress – who suffers from muscular dystrophy giving a brave and heart wrenching performance) and we are drawn slowly into their tragic tale of survival.

Somehow you will feel that you are hearing Tennessee Williams’ dialogue for the first time.  How alive and vicious.  How wickedly funny.  How fierce.  How sad.  How relevant.

Especially when the “Gentleman Caller” arrives – the handsome, chipper and optimistic Finn Wittrock to bolster Laura’s lack of self-esteem in a candle lit scene that forces you to pay very close attention as rain pummels part of the stage in darkness.

We wonder how the about-to-explode Tom has lasted this long in the household with his demanding and overpowering mother.  He needs, he longs for adventure – something more than just having a job in a factory.  He dreams of becoming a writer.  And to escape.

Amanda is a woman of many faces and moods.  Sally Field doesn’t hold back one iota.  This bitter, frustrated woman whose husband abandoned her relishes in taking it all out on Tom and his sister in the guise of love.  Tough love.  Resulting in a truly tragic outcome in this fierce battle of wills.

Her latent Southern charm emerges along with a frightful Princess Pink gown when Tom’s co-worker arrives for dinner.  Her drawl all but oozes from very pore with unexpected results.

Background musical selections are perfect.

If you have any qualms about seeing this production – set them aside.  Forget any preconceived notions and meet the Wingfields through a new set of eyes.


Photos:  Julieta Cervantes

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SUNSET BOULEVARD – Revival starring Glenn Close – a magic in the making moment

February 18th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

I can’t ever remember witnessing a world famous star or anyone for that matter eliciting such a thunderous and prolonged ovation as Glenn Close did on Thursday (2/16/2017) evening after singing “As If We Never Said Goodbye” as Norma Desmond in The English National Opera Production of SUNSET BOULEVARD – the Andrew Lloyd Webber revival now at the Palace Theatre through June 25th.

Everything clicked.  All the stars aligned as she entered in a stunning black and white outfit (one of many eye popping ensembles designed by Anthony Powell) to meet Cecil B. DeMille (Paul Schoeffler) mistakenly thinking he wants to film her comeback (rather her “return”) in a screenplay she has written starring herself after being absent and mostly forgotten in Hollywood after being the reigning Queen of the Silent Movies – where facial expressions were paramount in telling the story.

She is overwhelmed by her reception once the “extras” realize who she is.  What she was and what she has meant to the industry.  She sits.  She becomes emotional. Slowly one by one the sound stage lights focus on her.  It is truly a magic in the making moment.  She is young again.  She is a star once more as she hesitantly begins what turns out to be the highlight of this production.  The long ovation is well deserved.  It is the reason you should not miss this once in a lifetime performance.

It takes great courage and stamina and extraordinary talent to tackle the demanding role of Norma Desmond.  For the second time.  Glenn Close won a Tony for her performance twenty three years ago.  She has now returned older and wiser and more than spectacular.  Watch her descent into madness with complete fascination.

A bit shaky in Act I receiving star entrance applause and a mini ovation for her performance of the other hit song from the show “With One Look” we tend to overlook that the book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton are not up to the original screenplay by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett upon which they based this almost sung through version.

Her supporting players are all more than adequate without having that certain charisma to make them special.  Norma’s boy-toy Joe Gillis (Michael Xavier) a handsome, broke, down and almost out screenwriter with a great voice is surprisingly bland as narrator of the tale, her butler Max (Fred Johanson) excels with his “The Greatest Star of All” and Siobhan Dillon as Betty Schaeffer who works at the studio and falls for Joe makes the best of what she has to work with which isn’t much.

Director Lonny Price has come up with a Hollywood Sound Stage bare bones concept – Set design (James Noone) with a 40 piece orchestra in full view reminding us of an Encores! Production.  Opulent it is not but it works.   The sound doesn’t.  The lush music sounds recorded.  What a shame.

Some vintage black and white film projections add some nice nostalgic flavor to the mix.

Andrew Lloyd Weber’s score is quite wonderful to hear but certain aspects of a disappointing Act I need to be endured as we await the return to stage center of Glenn Close whose commanding performance is sublime.  We wish she could be in every scene.  After all that’s what the people out there in the dark are paying top price to see.  Just ask Norma Desmond.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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MAN FROM NEBRASKA – Past Pulitzer Prize finalist at Second Stage Theatre

February 16th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

It’s not a traditional play.  More of an odyssey.  A man searching for “something” – a man who has been married, happily it seems until the routine of married life wears thin.  Is he looking for an escape clause or has he lost his faith in God?

The latter is what he asserts after a few very brief cinematic scenes with limited dialogue in Tracey Letts surreal production of MAN FROM NEBRASKA at Second Stage Theatre.

The man is Ken Carpenter (Reed Birney).  His wife Nancy (Annette O’Toole).  Without these two exceptional actors – mostly and beautifully acting the subtext (what is unsaid) under the fine direction of David Cromer this odyssey would simply flake away.

They are seemingly in a rut.  Hardly speaking to one another.  Driving, eating, attending mass.  His extremely sick mother (Cammie – Kathleen Peirce) is wheelchair bound and needs oxygen.  So does he it seems.  Of a different sort.

He visits with his minister Reverend Todd (William Ragsdale) who gives him odd advice.  Which he follows.  His insensitive daughter Ashley (Annika Boras) tries to sort it all out.  Another daughter (unseen) is the smarter one – she steers clear of them all.

He leaves his wife and goes off to London for an unlimited specified amount of time.  Airborne he meets Pat an openly lusty businesswoman (an amusing Heidi Armbruster) who flirts with him.

In London, at his hotel he meets Tamyra (Nana Mensah) the bartender.  He quickly learns to drink one of her alcoholic specialties.  She reads poetry when the bar is slow which is often and they start up a friendship.  Enter Pat who leads him to her bed.  End of Act I.

Returning to the bar after intermission we pick up Ken’s journey.  We meet the boyfriend of Tamyra – Harry (Max Gordon Moore) a talkative bohemian sculptor.  Ken learns the craft.  He’s been in London for about six weeks – how is he paying for all this?  A small unexplained detail…

Meanwhile back in Nebraska staid Nancy has a dinner date with a guy who expects more (Tom Bloom).   The Reverend Todd’s dad.  Will she or won’t she?

Back in London Ken lets loose.  There is a pill popping dance sequence and that’s all I’ll divulge.  Has he found what he’s looking for?  Will he return to Nancy?  Will she greet him with open arms?

The many different locations are lit nicely (Keith Parham) with all the props and furniture in full view – which are rearranged by expert stagehands.  They deserve a final bow with the cast.

Nice incidental music by Daniel Kluger.

The production is intriguing, bizarre, disturbing at times but ultimately unsatisfying.  Through March 12th.

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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THE MOTHER OF INVENTION – Abingdon off-Broadway

February 10th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

What’s it all about Alfie?  A question we should be asking James Lecesne the award winning author of this 95 minute no intermission rambling drama/comedy loosely directed by Tony Speciale that has just arrived at the newly re-carpeted and freshly painted June Havoc Theatre.  New seats too.

What’s not so new is the play itself.  Watching this production, where the acting ranges from barely audible to mediocre to excellent we are reminded of past plays and actors in situations that have been better fleshed out.

What’s more confounding?  That Mr. Lecesne has won multiple awards or that his new play doesn’t support his reputation?

There is an echo of OTHER DESERT CITIES (a family memoir) , THE FATHER (dementia and a slowly disappearing set) LOVE, LOVE, LOVE (an urn of ashes) Chekhov (a gun) and a slightly heightened realism bordering on the absurd (ALBEE)  If you are put off by nudity stay home.  If you are put off by writing that doesn’t sparkle stay home as well.

Dottie (Concetta Tomei) channeling Ruth Gordon supposedly is suffering from dementia.  Her adult children – David (James Davis – a gay writer from California) and his sister Leanne Reed who has a bright and pretty but barely audible daughter Ryder (Isabella Russo) have come to pack her up and off.  Dad has died and mom’s brain is dying somewhere in Central Florida and they must move on.

Next door neighbor Jane (Dale Soules) helps out and portrays a homeless lady later on.  She perks things up quite a bit.

But the perkiest moments are delivered by Frankie Rey (Dan Domingues) – keep an eye out for this one.  Excellent actor.  Great body.  Especially in the all-together.

Mom thought so too as she has written him about 10,000 dollars-worth of checks for services rendered.  His Spanish grave robber character is heavily accented with muscles to match.  But mind you – he is also a fine actor with a sly sense of humor.  Is he a con man as he has seduced mom and daughter and then attempts to do the same to David?  Or what?

Throughout the play Mom speaks to us remembering without the least bit of difficulty.  It’s unclear if she is losing it or if her kids just want to cart her off to a home and sell the one she has willed to the much younger Senor Rey.

The set by Jo Winiarski is just as confounding.  Cardboard cartons are stacked high representing the walls.  They slowly are taken off as they pack up mom and her memories.  Lamps abound doing little to enlighten the play.  The sibs squabble.  Unearthing family secrets.  The little girl does her best to be seen but not heard.  And Mr. Domingues conquers all.

Through February 26.


Photos:  Maria Baranova

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JITNEY – Timely and timeless MTC production soars

January 25th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

When you know your people, when you are so in tune with how they speak, how they react and interact (or not) with one another; when you have something important to say with compassion, insight and humor that is timeless and timely in a play called JITNEY you are Mr. August Wilson.

When the direction is so finely tuned and detailed down to the almost choreographed entrances and exits of its characters who become living and breathing friends – friends that you care for and hope that they will obtain a good and better life you are Mr. Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

And when after the first act curtain the audience has that extra special buzz, a buzz that signals the audience is hooked and wants to know what is going to happen to these people you know that you are seeing something rare and special and should cheer and shout and send one and all to see it.

Set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District circa 1977 we meet a collection of characters that Mr. Wilson has a fondness for and knows deep down inside and out.  He shares their stories with us.  Bringing us in with their idiosyncrasies, their desires and dreams in JITNEY which has recently opened at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre – a Manhattan Theatre Club production that soars and stays with you long after the curtain comes down.

It’s a “car service” overseen and owned by Becker (John Douglas Thompson) in a run-down dump beautifully rendered by David Gallo.  It is a second home to those who work there.  A gathering place where his drivers wait for calls, play checkers, read girlie magazines, share neighborhood gossip and dream of a better life.  And play the numbers with Shealy (Harvy Blanks).

There is the outstanding busy-body Turnbo (Michael Potts) who can’t seem to mind his own business – much to our amusement.  The inebriated and wobbly but wise Fielding (Anthony Chisholm).  Youngblood (Andre Holland) a sexy dude who has a suspicious wife (Carra Patterson) and baby who secretly surprises her with a special gift.  And Booster (Brandon J. Dirden) the son of Becker who has just been released from prison.  They haven’t seen each other for twenty years and are estranged.

And then there is the sword of Damocles over Backer and Company’s collective heads.  The city wants to close their business for some badly needed urban renewal.  Will they fight and stay?  Or give up.  Where will they go?  What will they do?

Will father and son have a peaceful reconciliation?

Will you all just go and see JITNEY and find out.  You will not be disappointed.  This is about the finest production you will see this season.  You will be entertained and moved by the terrific acting of this ensemble of fine actors.  And want to hear more of the jazz score that sets the mood precisely by Bill Simms Jr.

Let’s hear it for August Wilson and Company!  Highly recommended. Through March 12th



Photos:  Joan Marcus

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THE PRESENT – Chekhov with a down under twist

January 13th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

Some prefer their Chekhov straight up or neat as has been the traditional way of performing his classic tragi-comedies in the past.  Not so for Andrew Upton who has taken on Chekhov’s very early and lengthy draft of a play called Platonov – fiddling around with it, updating it to a post-perestroika Russia (mid 1990’s) and honing it down to a mere three hours.

Which brings us to THE PRESENT that is served on the rocks (anything but neat) starring his beautiful and extremely talented wife Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh in the Sydney Theatre Company production now playing at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre through March 19th – although there is plenty of wine and vodka being imbibed on stage – most probably to help the ensemble of fine actors stagger through this overlong and confusing production.

There are two acts consisting of two scenes each.  It deteriorates progressively.  You may spend the first scene of Act I (the longest) trying to figure out who these characters are and what their relationships are to each other or as I noticed a few seats away someone just nodding back and nodding out until the loud music was blasted signaling the change of scene.  It’s quite baffling.

On the way home via subway a couple across from me were chatting about THE PRESENT going back and forth in their program to the faces and the characters they portrayed.  Yes, they were trying to figure it all out.  I asked them.

So I decided to do some research myself.  Time consuming and in reality it didn’t make much of a difference.  It’s not a very good play.  It rambles on and on.  Some characters are never explained – they just show up.  Others go missing.  And so our minds are trying to sort things out while we listen intently as to the plight of Anna Petrovna (just plain Anna in the Playbill – Cate) who is turning 40 and is hosting a birthday party for herself and the aforementioned confusing cast of characters.

Does anyone remember Helen Trent (radio soap opera) who had similar problems coping with turning 35!

Anna has two wealthy older suitors as the estate she is visiting and hosting said party has a cash flow problem.  She inherited it after the death of her husband 7 years ago.  Instead of a cherry orchard there is a weedy lake.  There are guns.  There are long boring speeches.  Anna is bored, preoccupied and anxious.  Who can blame her?

A spark of an old relationship is rekindled.  Mikhail (Mr. Roxburgh) a womanizer with a capital W – who is now married to a frumpy Sasha (Susan Prior with a newborn in the next room) but still pursuing Anna and Sophia (Jacqueline McKenzie) who is married to a meek Sergei (Chris Ryan – Anna’s stepson) and Maria (Anna Bamford) girl friend of Nikolai (Toby Schmitz) AND most probably the cook.

After the second scene of Act I which dissolves into a dance on top of the table, frenzied sexual explosion we have an intermission where some audience members leave never to return.  And so they miss the Act II scene in hell with Mr. Roxburgh meeting up with various characters surrounded by mist or fog or remnants of the fire where there is the worst fight scene I have ever witnessed on stage.  Or is it real?  Or is he having hallucinations?  Do we really care?  And then finally the last scene, staged as a farce.  There you have it.

If you absolutely need to see Cate Blanchett in the flesh be forewarned.  She is lovely but the play itself isn’t.

Mr. Roxburgh does have a charm about him.  But Mikhail is a braggart and a drunk.  And Mr. Roxburgh goes a bit overboard enacting such.  One wonders how Mikhail can get it up so often and for so many in his inebriated state.  The women all seem to fall under his spell or at the very least his body during this birthday bash.

Directed by John Crowley who does little to clarify or enlighten this lumbering production.  Scenic and costume design (Alice Babidge) are serviceable.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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IN TRANSIT on Broadway – a cappella musicianship trumps all

December 15th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore

In October 2010 I reviewed “In Transit” off Broadway at 59 E 59.  It was intimate.  A cast of seven.  All superb singers whose “harmonies were closer than a jam packed subway car during rush hour.”  All sung a cappella – without the accompaniment of any musical instruments.  I really enjoyed it a lot.

It has now opened at Circle in the Square with a larger cast of eleven superb singers.  Their superb musicianship trumps all.  As the slight well-worn stereotypical characters and situations are there solely to showcase the songs and their delivery.

It’s bigger and flashier with stylized choreography by Kathleen Marshall who also directs in three quarter thrust with a conveyor belt, running the length of the stage that keeps the action chugging along at a fast clip.

There is Jane (Margot Seibert) an office temp yearning to star on Broadway.  Nate (James Snyder) who has lost his lucrative job and has to deal with an irate and bossy MTA worker with “ATTITUDE” Althea (Moya Angela) who also portrays the in denial BIG TEXAS MAMA of her in the closet son Trent (Justin Guarini) who has a new lover in this edition Steven (Telly Leung).

Ali (Erin Mackey) a marathon runner who has split with her boyfriend Dave (David Abeles) and rap narrator Boxman (Chesney Snow – from the original production) who holds it all together with his sound effects and rhythmic backup.  Gerianne Perez, Mariand Torres and Nicholas Ward.  At certain performances Steven “HeaveN” Cantor is Boxman.

The creators (book, music and lyrics) Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan & Sara Wordsworth with an assist by Gregory T. Christopher & Karla Lant.  All are responsible for the original concept.

And they have been adding and revising and updating and enlarging the production values that were just fine to begin with.  But this is Broadway.  And an audience needs to get a bigger bang for their bucks.

And so the videos, the larger 2 level almost sterile set (Donyale Werle) and flashing lights.

But it is the extraordinary arrangements by Deke Sharon and Music Supervision by Rick Hip-Flores that are the true stars of this production.  Along with each amazing singer.  You may not remember the songs but you will remember the sound.  So sit back and enjoy the ride.  90 minutes.  No intermission.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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A BRONX TALE – mediocre crowd pleasing coming of age musical

December 11th, 2016 by Oscar E Moore

For anyone who hasn’t heard of WEST SIDE STORY with its Jets and Sharks rival New York gangs or the Damon Runyon characters in GUYS AND DOLLS or the near to closing JERSEY BOYS you now have an opportunity to witness a sort of hybrid of the above musicals at the Longacre Theatre where the recycled A BRONX TALE is entertaining audiences hungry for the sounds of the sixties, stoops, egg creams, baseball, doo-wop, slick hair, crap games, gangsters and guns.

I say recycled because originally this was a one man off-Broadway play (1989) – the autobiographical story of one Chazz Palminteri and his coming of age in the sixties.  Facing a fork in the road of Belmont Avenue life:  follow the sage advice of his bus driving dad Lorenzo or follow the not so sage advice of Sonny the local gangster – which became a film (1993) with Robert De Niro and Mr. Palminteri and again on Broadway as a solo play in 2007.  So there is a built in following.

It is now an entertaining, slick musical with a superficial book by Mr. Palminteri that is co-directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks in broad strokes.  The music is by Alan Menken.  The lyrics by Glenn Slater.  The score has its ups and downs bringing back Doo-Wop with a quartet of likable guys, a few lively numbers that open each act (“Belmont Avenue” – “Webster Avenue”), a couple of fun numbers (“Roll ‘Em” and “Nicky Machiavelli” – a Mack the Knife type spinoff and my all-time favorite “One of the Great Ones.”

But A BRONX TALE somehow comes up less than the sum of its professional parts.  The cast is excellent.  Nick Cordero starring – as he should be – as Sonny the head thug of Belmont Avenue takes a nine year old Calogero (a super talented Hudson Loverro) under his questionable wing advising him not to be like his dad Lorenzo (Richard H. Blake) a well-meaning and honest bus driver while grown up Calogero (Bobby Conte Thornton) narrates with a strange vacant almost hypnotic gaze which disconnects him from the very personal story.  He is good looking, the perfect type, sings well but doesn’t connect fully.

Unfortunately he does connect with Jane (a delightful Ariana Debose) falling for her hard.  Thing is, she is of the rival Webster Avenue and black.  So it’s the (and I quote) “the spooks vs the wops” in this forbidden 1968 love.  Will they wind up together?  Or will more shots ring out in the hood?

The overpowering set of movable tenement buildings with fire escapes – for what amounts to be an intimate story – by Beowulf Boritt – are great looking and create a great atmosphere.  Sergio Trujillo has choreographed the show – not too much dancing but if we include the movable buildings he has done another fine job here.  William Ivy Long does well with the period costumes.  Neither a feather nor a sequin appear.

Mr. Cordero made a name for himself portraying an unlikable thug to great effect in BULLETS OVER BROADWAY and now he is at it again in what might become known as Bullets Over the Bronx.  He has a way with these parts and we like him despite the distasteful character he portrays.

Direct from the Paper Mill Playhouse where it had its World Premiere February 2016.

Two hours with one intermission.


Photos: Joan Marcus

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