Oscar E Moore

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DOCTOR ZHIVAGO – An American in Russia

April 27th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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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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LIVING ON LOVE – An unfortunate serving of Diva Dish

April 25th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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This lackluster and ill-conceived production directed by Kathleen Marshall will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.  Based on the 1985 play “Peccadillo” by Garson Kanin and adapted by the prolific Joe DiPietro LIVING ON LOVE misses the bulls eye by a long shot, In fact it misses the intended target – comedy – almost completely.

The evening belongs to the two butlers Bruce (Blake Hammond) and Eric (Scott Robertson) in the service of Maestro Vito De Angelis (Douglas Sills) and diva Raquel De Angelis (Renee Fleming – making her Broadway debut).  They look alike and share sentences like a long time married couple.

They move the furniture and props about in the gilded penthouse apartment designed by Derek McLane.  They sing some sections of arias during the set changes.  They play four handed piano during the second act while singing “Makin’ Whoopee!”   You just might miss this highlight if you escape after the first act as many in the audience did the night I saw this travesty.  They are the stars of this show.

In reality the star should be Ms. Fleming.   She tries valiantly.  Looking lovely as always.  But she is out of her element here.  Her acting isn’t exactly believable and her comic timing weak.  Her singing glorious.  The meaty part of a demanding diva doesn’t fit her as well as the period gloves she wears complementing her 1950’s outfits designed by Michael Krass.  She is too sweet.  Too nice.

And speaking of costumes - when she is supposed to be Mimi in La Boheme why does she appear looking like Carmen?

The charismatic and dashing Douglas Sills, cavorting in a variety of silk pajamas as Maestro, sports a Sid Caesar-like Italian accent mixing up words (i.e. spooky helper for ghost writer) that wears thin as he attempts to thwart his arch rival Leonard Bernstein and be the charming lothario to his newest collaborator.

Maestro has taken a huge advance ($50,000) that is already gone with the wind to write his memoir with the help of Robert Samson (a miscast Jerry O’Connell) when his wife returns unexpectedly from a failed European tour.   Theirs is a one-upmanship relationship and you half expect them to go into “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better.”  Diva decides to write her own memoir in retaliation.  When Robert is fired and replaced with Iris Peabody (a miscast Anna Chlumsky in a part that Judy Holliday would have been perfect).  Diva hires Robert.  Both writers move in and you know where all this is going…

Unfortunately it’s down the drain.  Diva has a dog that she sometimes carries around.  Puccini is its name and Trixie last appeared in BULLETS OVER BROADWAY.  Give the dog a break and cast her in a hit.

This production reminded me of a summer stock company of yore that did quasi-comedies and brought in a famous star to headline for the week of performances.  Perhaps one day Charles Busch will star as Raquel de Angelis in Fort Lauderdale.  Now that would be a real diva in action!

NOTE:  The curtain call was the funniest sequence in the entire show.  But a little too late to save the day.

www.livingonlovebroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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FINDING NEVERLAND - IMAGINATION TAKES FLIGHT

April 24th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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“Never act with children or animals,” this quote is attributed to W. C. Fields who was rumored to have a strong dislike for children - unless you are Matthew Morrison (playwright J. M. Barrie) and Kelsey Grammer (American producer Charles Frohman/Captain James Hook) who star in this imaginative and thoroughly entertaining new musical that tells the tale of how Barrie was inspired to write PETER PAN when he meets four young boys and their mum in Kensington Gardens, London 1904.

Morrison and Grammer more than hold their own against the darling Llewelyn Davis children.  Not an easy task as the boys are terrific – at the Wednesday matinee performance that was chock full of kids of both genders Christopher Paul Richards (Jack)  Sawyer Nunes (George) Alex Dreier (Michael) and Aidan Gemme (a poised and perfect Peter) were wonderful along with their sheepdog Porthos (Jack) that dutifully enters and exits on cue.

Commencing with the appearance of Tinkerbell on the Victorian show curtain (that garners entrance applause) we briefly meet Peter Pan (Melanie Moore) and Mr. Barrie a famous and wealthy playwright who on this particular opening night isn’t so elated.  Fearing a flop his producer wants Barrie to come up with something new – but not different.

It takes a couple of songs and scenes to get started.  Exposition rearing its necessary head.  But once that takes place, it’s full steam ahead when he meets the kids and their mum Sylvia (Laura Michelle Kelly) with the lively and inspirational “Believe” – that sets Barrie’s imagination churning.

Unhappy at home with his pretentious wife Mary (Teal Wicks) and their amusing servants he gravitates more and more toward the ill-fated widow Sylvia and her brood.  Her philanthropic and ultra-strict mother Mrs. Du Maurier (Carolee Carmello) strongly disapproves of Mr. Barrie.

Little by little inventive director Diane Paulus with the aid of book writer James Graham add bits and pieces of the PETER PAN story that will culminate in an elaborate and exuberant first act finale that sets the audience a buzz at intermission – a sure sign that the show is going swimmingly.

Mr. Morrison is an excellent and serious Barrie – a Scotsman who learns how to regain his childhood imagination with a fine sense of humor.  Mr. Grammer has the meatier roles and he chomps at it with abandon – especially as Hook.  He is a first rate comic with impeccable timing and the two of them are perfect together.

The backstage scenes are done in the style of the period.  Overboard and melodramatic and are very funny.  Especially Paul Slade Smith as Mr. Henshaw who gets to play the dog and Josh Lamon Mr. Cromer who is an unlikely Michael with his teddy bear.

There is a spectacular sequence in Act II that is breathtaking – quite literally that I hope you will go witness firsthand at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre West 46th Street.

FINDING NEVERLAND is a lovely musical (some songs by Gary Barlow & Eliot Kennedy are standouts especially the haunting “When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground”) that is full of warm hearted humor and emotions that bring on the tears.  It’s for the entire family.  The children will love it and the adults might be inspired to rekindle something that they may have lost by growing up.  Something that Peter Pan refused to do.

www.FindingNeverlandthemusical.com

Photos:  Carol Rosegg

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IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU – Wedding Day Surprises

April 20th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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David Hyde Pierce knows from funny.  He has a great track record.  And in his first ever directorial stint on Broadway he brings out every ounce of funny from his expertly assembled cast.  Funny is good.  Audiences love to laugh.  And IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU supplies farcical fun in its whirlwind 100 building-to-a-surprise-climax-minutes of musical mayhem.

It’s the Steinbergs vs. the Howards.  The very pretty Rebecca Steinberg (Sierra Boggess) is about to marry the very pretty Brian Howard (David Burtka) as plus size and also very pretty sister Jenny Steinberg (Lisa Howard) laments the upcoming nuptials that she has been organizing with the assistance of “the one who lives to serve” Albert (Edward Hibbert) wedding planner of the St. George Hotel (a nicely rendered two tier unit set of the hotel with lots of doors by the always dependable and creative Anna Louizos).

It’s their mothers that are at odds with one another.  The outspoken Judy Steinberg (Tyne Daly) who has a knack  for delivering the gleeful putdown and the always-looking-for-a-helpful-drink Georgette Howard (fancy pants Harriet Harris) whose trust fund son Brian is to wed a Jewish girl.  She does her best to stop him from marrying Becca lamenting the fact that she has done everything to do so including trying to bring him up gay.

Murray Steinberg (Chip Zien) and George Howard (Michael X. Martin) do their best to steer clear of their wives.  And there is an unexpected “bonding” song between Brian and his dad that is sweet, old fashioned and says a lot without hammering us over the head.

Best man Greg Madison (Nick Spangler) and Best woman Annie Shepard (Montego Glover) make up the rest of the odd wedding party.

Mama Steinberg has it in for her heavy set daughter continuing to chip at her self-esteem which isn’t very high to begin with.  When Judy inadvertently calls Marty Kaufman (Josh Grisetti – in a brilliant touch answering his cell phone from the audience) he is alerted that the wedding is to take place and frantically proceeds to stop it.  He had been her best friend until he dropped Becca.

And therein lies the title as all the Steinberg’s sing that he is the one that should be marrying Becca.  Will he fulfill their dreams?

The songs are pleasant enough and carry the plot along nicely with some clever lyrics.  Brian Hargrove has written the very funny book and lyrics with Barbara Anselmi coming up with the concept and music.  Mr. Hargrove and Mr. David Hyde Pierce are a couple in real life and they are very in tune with each other in this theatrical coupling.  They seem to bring out the best in each other.

The impeccably cast actors are all first rate comics and comediennes.  IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU is a master class in comic timing and should you be in the mood for non-stop laughter and farcical proceedings I suggest you see this little Broadway musical that could.

The surprises in store for you are not only amusing but are emotionally heartfelt – dealing with sexual identity and self-esteem.  What is truly important in order to be happy with one’s-self.

As the planned wedding disintegrates more and more Albert, the irresistible Hibbert, states that he is glad that he didn’t call in sick that day to witness first hand all that is happening.  Don’t call in sick - see this lovely wedding deception.  At the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

www.itshouldabeenyou.com

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Photos: Joan Marcus

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AN AMERICAN IN PARIS – Simply spectacular

April 18th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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The Greek goddess of dance and song – Terpsichore - is smiling her Greek goddess head off as is anyone else who gets to see this spectacular new Gershwin musical inspired – and I do mean inspired by the 1951 film that was inspired by George Gershwin’s 1928 AN AMERICAN IN PARIS orchestral composition.  Wow!  And double wow!

There aren’t enough superlatives to describe what is happening on stage at the Palace Theatre.  All of the necessary elements for a hit musical have fallen into place under the mighty direction and brilliant and inventive, amusing, jazzy, athletic and love instilled choreography of Christopher Wheeldon.

Had I been invited to invest and had I the resources to do so I would have gladly and immediately written a check with many many zeros to have a piece of this delectable French pastry filled with love.  It is simply scrumptious.  And I recommend that you high tail it to the Palace and book your tickets.  It’s a production that is to be savored over and over again.

A lone piano sits on a bare stage.  In a war torn Paris the Nazis are finally gone and the city slowly tries to recapture its life.  Our narrator is Adam Hochberg (Brandon Uranowitz).  A nebbish with a dark sense of humor and a big heart filled with empathy.  A realist. A composer working on a new ballet who has a limp as a result of the war dreaming of success with his new ballet for the company’s newest star Lise Dassin (Leanne Cope).

Adam befriends Jerry Mulligan, an American soldier (Robert Fairchild) who decides to stay in Paris to pursue his dream of being an artist and Henri Baurel (Max von Essen) who desperately wants to go to America and become a “song and dance” star – keeping his dream a secret from his father (Victor J. Wisehart) and his uptight bourgeois mother (Veanne Cox) who wants him to marry Lise.  All three men unbeknownst to each other fall in love with Lise and sing a wondrous “’S Wonderful.”  It’s sublime!

A chic, rich American woman, Milo Davenport (Jill Paice) is looking to open an art gallery with the help of Madame Baurel (Henri’s mom) and discovers Jerry and his art.  She believes that with her cash she can keep Jerry all to herself.  But money can’t buy love as the saying goes…

Those are the main characters.  All perfectly cast.  All top-notch.  Allowing Mr. Wheeldon and his enormously talented creative team to put them and the plot into action.  And that he does with élan.

Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope are made for each other as the young lovers looking for love.  They are your dream couple.  Natural actors who can sing well and dance with grace and style, enjoying every moment on stage and sharing it with us.  It’s a great gift they send over the footlights.

The sets and costumes by Bob Crowley are magnificent.  His set pieces are integrated so well that they too dance gracefully across the stage with fantastic modern day projections to bring us up to date in the design department.

And then there is the gorgeous music and lyrics of the Gershwin bothers – George and Ira.  What a thrill to hear the songs and how well they have been placed into the book by Craig Lucas.  No shoe horns needed.  They flow as if written specifically for this production with Rob Fisher’s fabulous arrangements to excite and bewitch.

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is a monumental achievement with endless surprises in store for all those who visit to share all the love on stage at the Palace Theatre.  It’s a totally joyous experience.

www.anamericaninparisbroadway.com

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Photos:  Angela Sterling

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GIGI – A mostly charmless reimagined revival

April 16th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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Forget the novella by Colette.  She must be reeling in her grave.  Forget Audrey Hepburn.  Hard to do.  But necessary.  Forget the Oscar winning movie starring Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan and Maurice Chevalier and his wonderful rendition of “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” that has been handed over to Gigi’s grandmother and aunt to be politically correct.  The insinuations are still there.  And while we’re at it you might as well forget this badly cast, beautiful to look at but hard to listen to production at the Neil Simon Theatre that to put it bluntly and to quote one of the songs from the Lerner and Lowe score “It’s a Bore.”

The young Gigi (a miscast shrill Vanessa Hudgens) has been brought up by Grand-mama Mamita - a simple and loving and ravishing Victoria Clark.  She is the only reason to see this production.  Her acting is superb and grounded.  Her voice gorgeous.  Late in the second act she gets to sing the lovely “Say a Prayer” and finally we care.  Her other numbers are also highlights.  The famous duet “I Remember It Well” and “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” sung with a hard working Howard McGillin who portrays Honore – a womanizer who instructs his wealthy and bored nephew Gaston to “have more affairs.”  Women are made to be mistresses and are a centime a dozen in this Paris of 1900.

What’s a young girl to do?  Mamita wants Gigi to follow in her footsteps.  Aunt Alicia (a droll Dee Hoty) – herself a kept woman tries to instill the same values that she believes in.  Finding a rich man or men to give her jewels and money and stability with marriage taking a backseat.

Gaston (a too contemporary Corey Scott) is involved with Liane d’Exelmans (Steffanie Leigh) a chanteuse and when she dumps him he attempts suicide.  He spends lots of time with Gigi – like a sister and brother until her hem drops and her hair is swept up and he sees her in a different light and falls for her and she for him and we don’t really care as they don’t click in the chemistry department unless you are looking for a Disney type coupling.

The scenic design by Derek McLane and sumptuous costumes (and hats) by Catherine Zuber are superb.  Bringing back fond memories of “The Ascot Gavotte” from MY FAIR LADY a far superior score by Lerner and Lowe.

It’s a lopsided affair as rewritten by Heidi Thomas.  The men are more important and those young girls coming to see Ms. Hudgens will find her stage time pretty scant.  There is a satirical slant to boot with “The Gossips” and “The Lawyers” that is at odds with the naturalness of Ms. Clark.

There are some fine moments of choreography by Joshua Bergasse who did a far better job with ON THE TOWN.  Eric Schaefer has directed this uneven production that instead of sparkling simply fizzles.  www.gigionbroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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WOLF HALL – The changing of the wives: Parts One and Two

April 14th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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Bring a pillow.  Not that you will need it to rest your head due to boredom – although boredom does have its moments in this Royal Shakespeare Company production based on the popular novels by Hilary Mantel and adapted by Mike Poulton – but for back support.  Each two act drama runs just under three hours each and if you do a double-header your back may ache and your mind may be running on overdrive to absorb all that is presented on stage at the Winter Garden – even with a dinner break.

There’s plenty of action with its cast of twenty three directed with cinematic fluidity by Jeremy Herrin – the staging is as fast as turning a page in one of Ms. Mantel’s epic novels.

Both for actors and audience WOLF HALL is a dark endurance test with plenty of mist and fog effects (enough to induce coughs) enacted on an open set that appears more Tower of London that opulent Castle with costumes done in a palette of gray and dreary earth tones (designed by Christopher Oram).

Especially for the excellent Ben Miles who in on stage seemingly throughout without a break as Thomas Cromwell.   Son of a blacksmith, lawyer, master negotiator and arriviste.

It is he who is the main focus in this variation on the Henry VIII (Nathaniel Parker) and his wives bit of English history saga.  Henry needs an heir.  A son.  He wants to rid himself of wife number one – Katherine of Aragon (Lucy Briers) after twenty years who has only provided him with a daughter – the fragile Princess Mary (Leah Brotherhead).  Katherine had been married to Henry’s brother and when he died Henry popped into her bed.  Now he wants to replace her with the canny and cunning flat-chested Anne Boleyn (a mean and ruthless Lydia Briers).  With Ms. Briers shrewish portrayal there is little charm involved and one wonders what Henry was attracted to…

I’ll cut to the chase here.  She will not be his mistress she will be Queen and “promises” Henry a son.  She wins.  They wed after a lot of problems with the Pope and Anne’s rumored penchant for spells and charms and young handsome men.   She bears him a child.  Another daughter.  And two still born sons.  And so Henry, despondent and thinking God has somehow put the double whammy on him, espies the simple Jane Seymour (Leah Brotherhead redux) of Wolf Hall.  End of Part One.

After stretching my legs and a wonderful meal at PERGOLA DES ARTISTES on 46th Street we pick up where we left off.  Henry in hot pursuit of Jane and attempting to legally rid himself of Anne by digging up dirt on her by having Cromwell who has managed well up to this point interview the past beaus of Anne including her brother George (Edward Harrison) for their rumored incestuous relationship.  It’s a complicated affair and this is where you might nod off.

Of course we all know she gets her head chopped off – not seen – and Henry marries the ulta shy and simple Jane Seymour.  Cliffhanger here.  Does she have a son?  Perhaps that will be explained in the next three hour installment which I shall gladly skip.

There are some court dances, some bits of humor and a joust that almost kills the King, the very much alive Cardinal Wolsey (Paul Jesson) and his ghost and the rest of the Tudor clan that almost bring this story to life.

You may want to tune in to the PBS version based on the same source material.  It’s much less expensive.  In fact, it’s free.

Limited engagement.

Photos: Johan Persson

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SKYLIGHT – David Hare revival – a dim view of love without a heart

April 11th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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What are we to make of this play?  A wordy play that deals with class differences, pasta with a Bolognese sauce (cooked on stage) and a couple of people (one much older than other) who at one time had a six year love affair that went sour when the wife of the much older man discovered what was happening causing said mistress to suddenly depart the family (she’d been living with them) and make a new life for herself giving up her comfy lifestyle to teach underprivileged children.

It’s been a year since the wife died – propped up on pillows and looking up through a skylight - and three years since the break-up when on a frigid, snowy night in London the much older man – Tom Sergeant (Bill Nighy) a wealthy restauranteur reappears to try to rekindle what they once had in the dreary flat called home to Kyra (Carey Mulligan) where she trots around barefoot.

Unfortunately we cannot accept that they ever had much of anything going on between them.  He is an egoist and used to getting his own way and I believe he doesn’t care very much for women in general.  I guess he’s lonely.  He is also all tics and twitches.  With a pouty lower lip.  Wound up tighter than an alarm clock.  And as portrayed by Mr. Nighy extremely Shakespearean – poses and all.  It becomes annoying.

Prior to his entrance we meet Edward Sergeant (Matthew Beard) who has inherited the tic gene from daddy.  Bringing Kyra some CD’s and wanting to know why she so abruptly departed.  They have more of a relationship that pays off nicely at the end of this drama.

Back to daddy.  He has brought along his own whiskey and his bad and superior attitude – berating Kyra and her small heater criticizing almost everything about her including her newfound ideals – how did she ever fall madly in love with this ogre is beyond comprehension.  Maybe she was lonely?  They argue a lot.  About everything.  Past and present.

In any event the inevitable happens.  At the end of Act I they are hugging and when next we see them it is 2:30 a.m. after the sex – which doesn’t calm either one of them down and Tom who kept his coat on most of Act I is now also trotting around barefoot.

There is much said about the cold and the snow that is falling that we don’t and should see on the set by Bob Crowley.  It is only in the final moments that we see some snow falling.  But it is the audience that is getting the snow job here.  It’s difficult to digest that Stephen Daldry directed this production after doing such an excellent job with THE AUDIENCE.

SKYLIGHT first appeared on Broadway in 1996.  Let sleeping dogs lie.  At the Golden Theatre.

Limited engagement.

www.skylightbwy.com

Photo:  John Haynes

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ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY - Roundabout revival

March 22nd, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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There are some second tier musicals from the past that have been crying out to be revived when all the stars are aligned.  And by stars I mean people stars, not celestial stars.  In this case the entire cast of ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY - starring the brightest star of all Kristin Chenoweth – a beautiful lyric soprano/belter who positively glows, radiating charm and comedy in this excellent production of the uneven, sometimes mad-cap sometimes boring 1978 show written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (book and lyrics) Cy Coleman (music).  Surprising it won a couple of Tony Awards.  It was a so-so season for musicals that year.

Ms. Chenoweth was all of ten years old when this operetta-like screw-ball inspired comedy opened on Broadway and it appears that she was born to play the role of Mildred Plotka (an extremely amusing piano accompanist) who in flashback and within minutes is hired by director Oscar Jaffee (an excellent Peter Gallagher – in his best Barrymore mode with strong vocals) to star in his latest opus as Lily Garland – as in Judy.  They sort of fall in love.  He makes her a star.

Back to the future.  Oscar is fleeing Chicago where he has had another opening another closing (during intermission) and people are after him.  Again.  His other two side-kick Musketeers Oliver Webb (Mark Linn-Baker) and Owen O’Malley (Michael McGrath) are to book Suite A on the Twentieth Century but it is occupied by Congressman Lockwood (Andy Taylor) and his traveling companion Anita (Analisa Leaming).  They are quickly removed.

Traveling in Suite B is Lily Garland who is now a huge Hollywood star and her muscular, sexy and egocentric boyfriend Bruce Granit (the affable/laughable Andy Karl).  Oscar hopes to rekindle their relationship and sign her to do his new Broadway show.  But there is another director after Lily – the successful Max Jacobs (James Moye) – Oscar’s rival.

Adding to the mayhem is Letitia Peabody Primrose (a spry Mary Louise Wilson) a wealthy, elderly lady who is attaching REPENT stickers to all and sundry.  She somehow is taken with Oscar (or is it taken by Oscar?) and his project, becoming the major investor – writing a check with Five Zeros (which is one of the better numbers from the limp pastiche score by Cy Coleman.  Comden & Green’s lyrics are not up to their usual witty standards and are often repeated to the point of being dull - a theatrical no-no.

Now to the good stuff.  The overall production is gorgeous.  Sets by David Rockwell and costumes by the inimitable William Ivey Long are breathtakingly beautiful.  Scott Ellis has done another fine job in directing this farce and keeping the pace break neck when allowed by the book and songs which put ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY in the “not very good” category.

The four porters.  They are excellent.  More than excellent.  Tapping to the choreography of Warren Carlyle and smiling and holding together the plot en route to New York.  Rick Faugno, Richard Riaz Yoder, Phillip Attmore and Drew King.  They open Act II with a show-stopping “Life Is Like a Train.”

The energetic cast does all it can to make this 1978 show bubble like champagne.  Unfortunately they are working with sparkling water.  At the American Airlines Theatre through July 5th.  A Roundabout production.

www.roundabouttheatre.org

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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HAMILTON – Lin-Manuel Miranda’s crash course in history is a hip-hop hit

March 16th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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But will it play in Peoria?  HAMILTON is sold out through May 3rd in an intimate space at The Public Theatre and is moving to Broadway’s much larger Richard Rodgers Theatre in July after some minor nips and tucks - just in time to celebrate July 4th – Independence Day.  The theatre was once home to IN THE HEIGHTS - another Miranda hip hop musical.

HAMILTON deals with the American Revolution as well as many other themes circling around its main character Alexander Hamilton played by Lin-Manuel Miranda the mastermind behind the entire production.

Inspired by the hefty tome Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow - Mr. Miranda has written the music - a blend of hip-hop R&B, ballads, and a great big fat catchy showstopper for mad King George III (a droll and dead pan Jonathan Groff) and lyrics that are ingenious and seemingly endless as the show is sung through over an almost three hour period.  Oh and yes he is co-arranger.

We are bombarded with words.  Words that are cleverly rhymed, amusing and character driven.  Words that tumble out of mouths at record speed.  It is indeed fortunate that the excellent sound design by Nevin Steinberg allows us not to miss one of them.

HAMILTON is a big show – in every sense of the word.   There’s enough rich material for three musicals that necessitates the multi-racial cast of two dozen.  There is the Hamilton/Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.) connection.  The American Revolution, General George Washington (Christopher Jackson) Lafayette (Daveed Diggs who does double duty as Jefferson) Federalist Papers and Secretary of the Treasury connection.

And the most compelling connection of all is that of his relationship with the Schuyler sisters:  the eldest Angelica (the ravishing and extraordinary Renee Elise Goldsberry) in love with Hamilton, Eliza (the beguiling and divine Phillipa Soo who becomes his wife and Peggy (Jasmine Cephas Jones) who acts as backup for them until she gets to strut her stuff as the prostitute Maria Reynolds who beds Hamilton resulting in the sex scandal that brings him disgrace.  And there is a lot more until the final pistol duel.

Like those pesky Prime Ministers over at THE AUDIENCE history keeps getting in the way.

After two and a half hours you are just waiting for it to happen as the muscles in your rear knowing all too well that it going to happen urge it to happen sooner.

The all-purpose double turntable set (David Korins) with its ropes and scaffolds and ladders suits the action and fluid non-stop direction of Thomas Kail to a tee.  The original choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler gives the cast a physical workout that is a wonder to behold.

Costumes by Paul Tazewell bring the past full speed up to the present and nothing can best King George in the royal raiment department.

Mr. Miranda has taken on a herculean task in bringing us this production and there are many moments of true brilliance – genius in fact.  If only that fateful shot would come sooner.

www.publictheatre.org

www.hamiltonbroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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