Oscar E Moore

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FRANKIE & JOHNNY in the CLAIR de LUNE – Taking a chance on love

June 1st, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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Some believe in love (or is it lust?) at first sight and others do not.  So, why not take a chance on love?  One never knows.  For skeptical Frankie (Audra McDonald) a middle-aged actress with a tough veneer turned waitress (to earn a living) it isn’t so easy.  For Johnny, a charming, persistent short order cook who works in the same Greek greasy spoon and can quote Shakespeare (sort of) it’s a no brainer. He is hooked immediately.  He knows for sure.  She doesn’t.

He only has eyes for her.  She has noticed his sexy wrists.  He has noticed how kind she is to an elderly man with a cane who comes every day at the same time and couldn’t help but notice her prominent, shapely breasts.  And so here they are.  After a date that has taken some time to arrive.  Connecting.  Circa 1987.  Naked.  In bed.

Two unique and unforgettable characters brought together by who knows what.  Circumstances?  Physical attraction?  Loneliness?  Fate?  Or the full moon that shines through a window of Frankie’s walk up apartment in Hell’s Kitchen on the West Side of Manhattan where Bach’s Goldberg Variations is softly playing on the radio as these two characters toss and tumble in the darkness having wild, uninhibited, uncontrollable, audible sex; their nakedness blurred by the soft lighting by Natasha Katz and the spellbinding claire de lune.

It’s a raw and romantic evening.  Full of disclosures and discoveries.  And coincidences.  A master class in acting and directing.  Honest and extremely amusing dialogue supplied by Terrence McNally in this superb revival of FRANKIE & JOHNNY in the CLAIRE de LUNE originally produced by The Manhattan Theatre Club in 1987.

The guarded Frankie doesn’t quite know what to make of Johnny.  No sooner have they done it that he is talking marriage and kids.  She is just plain hungry.  Promising to make meat loaf sandwiches if he will soon after leave.  And thus we get to know them both, slowly revealing their deep rooted selves.  Including some very blunt sexual references that are very amusing.  The Great Dane story for one.

We are voyeurs.  Intruding into their lives courtesy of Mr. McNally.  It’s a pleasure to watch them develop before our eyes.  Listening to their back and forth banter.  And remembering that one could call into an all-night radio station and make a request “for the most beautiful music ever written” and have your wish granted.

See this wonderful production and don’t be afraid to take a chance on love whenever it may unexpectedly appear.

Finely directed by Arin Arbus on, at first look, a too large set by Riccardo Hernandez for this intimate examination of Frankie and Johnny.  However the terrific acting by Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon more than adequately fill the space with their talent to unearth their character’s desires.  We wish them well.

2 hours 15 minutes one intermission.  Broadhurst Theatre.  Limited 16 weeks engagement through August 25th.

www.frankieandjohnnybroadway.com

Photos:  Deen van Meer

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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HILLARY AND CLINTON – The art of the almost deal behind closed doors

May 8th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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A momentous moment in the life of Hillary (Laurie Metcalf) – January 8, 2008.  New Hampshire Democratic Primary.  Also for Clinton (John Lithgow) and Mark (Zak Orth), campaign manager for Hillary’s run for President against her rival Barack (Peter Francis James).  Last but not least the United States of America.  It’s cold.  A coldness that also permeates HILLARY AND CLINTON’s imagined private relationship in this peek behind closed doors.

Captured by Lucas Hnath, an original thinking out of the box playwright.  Master of terrific dialogue, conflict, humor and setups.  Character studies that reveal the essence of the characters without imitating real life.

As we are informed by a wanting-to-win Laurie Metcalf as she steps up to a free standing microphone that someone somehow forgot to place a mic (a bit of theatricality here) so that she goes and gets one to give as a bit of bizarre, almost twilight zone setup – that there are infinite universes and that the Hillary in this play although named Hillary is a Hillary in an alternate universe although she sounds a lot like the Hillary that shares her life with the ex-President of the United States, Bill Clinton.

She then switches on the lights and we are in a cube of a hotel room (Chloe Lamford) where we will see the before Act I straight into the Act II goings on between the participants with a black backdrop that accentuates the characters as they enact the tactics that went into her run for the presidency to finally emerge from the shadow of her man Bill.

Bill the charmer who wants to be in charge.  As usual.  After Mark warns Hillary not to call him.  She does.  She needs funding.  Funds that Bill has plenty of but they will come with certain conditions.  He is at odds with Mark.  Hillary is confused and exasperated and fed up with having to deal with Bill but you know how it is when you can’t live with someone and you can’t live without that same someone…

Before the results she is ready to accept an offer from Barack.  After she unexpectedly wins she gives Barack a counter offer.  It’s the first time we see her smile.  The first time we see the personality she need to summon to win.

Well, we all know what happened.  But it is the fine acting of all that keeps us enthralled and the expert craftsmanship of the playwright that holds our attention.

There is no intermission.  It runs an hour and a half.  Just right.

It is finely directed and coached by Joe Mantello – he who is a fine actor himself.  Taking the time.  A look.  A pause.  Or do nothing.  Details that make all the difference in this universe or any other.

It’s bizarre seeing Hillary prone of the floor as Bill and Mark go at each other as if she is the net in a tennis match.

There isn’t much meat on the bones here but what meat there is, it is fun to chew on and completely digestible in this most original theatrical exercise.

Their coldness thaws a bit towards tenderness.  Feigned or not, they remain together in this other imagined universe at the Golden Theatre through July 21, 2019

Photos:  Julieta Cervantes

www.hillaryandclintonbroadway.com

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GARY A SEQUEL TO TITUS ANDRONICUS – Blood, guts and a bucket full of belly laughs

May 6th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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Titus who?  General Titus Andronicus was a fictional character in Shakespeare’s first and only fictional revenge tragedy that takes place during the fall of the Roman Empire.  He returns from battle only to discover that most of his sons have been slaughtered.  And just about everyone else.  The bloody battles might be over but the bodies have been piling up in the streets and must be disposed of.

Enter Taylor Mac an intensely intelligent playwright with a wicked sense of dark humor who takes up where Titus left off with three clowns and a massive pile of make-believe life size cabbage patch doll-like casualties of war with a slew of body parts: arms, legs, decapitated heads and the almighty Roman schlongs now flaccid, who relate in a low-brow comedic style – think Marx brothers – the consequences of what has happened and what might follow.

In 90 minutes.  Give or take how many laughs pile up during the performance.  And there are many.

First up is Carol a midwife, not rich; not poor but somewhere in the middle who has had her throat slashed.  This zany midwife, who carries a great guilt as she couldn’t save a baby, is portrayed by the inimitable Julie White in full comic command.  She fills us in in front of the blood red and gold show curtain while blood spurts from either side of her neck splashing her hands and stage with the rose colored liquid.

There has been a massacre.  She has only been fatally wounded.  We discover that the baby belonged to Lavina, the daughter of Titus (remember him?) had with Aaron the Moor (I have had some help from Wikipedia) and the curtain rises on all those bodies with Janice (Kristine Nielsen) a no-nonsense maid that no one ever noticed in all her spastic glory is tending the pile and mopping up Carol’s blood as her new assistant Gary arrives with more bodies and a Cockney accent.

As a mere clown he has been upgraded “maid” with the hope of becoming a fool.  For only a fool can save the world.  He’s the optimist.

Gary was a minor character in Titus – a “cameo” but a clown nonetheless and here Nathan Lane can be crowned Prince of Clowns with his incredible performance.

The stage is set and what follows is hysterical, gross, instructional (prepping the bodies – ridding the bodies of left over cadaver gasses and bodily fluids) a mad hatter tea party (that detours into territory that attempts to sustain the momentum of the play, here and there a fart or two, a very unexpected and surprising finale and some very serious issues snuck in between all the tomfoolery which enacted by any other clowns would not be as successful.

The play, as it turns out, is very serious highbrow stuff disguised in rhyming couplets and very funny dialogue.  Gussied up in the guise of low comedy.  It works until it gets repetitive and begins to run out of gas.

The woman and children corpses are covered up.  The men exposed for what they are.  Gary and Carol tend to only the men for as Carol states –“There has never been a female Emperor and so the men must be held responsible” – or something like that.  It’s just another rough day on the job, cleaning up the mess that those in power have created.

Briskly and slyly directed by George C. Wolfe with movement by Bill Irwin.  Set by Santo Loquasto with costumes by Ann Roth.

If this sounds like your cup of tea by all means go and partake in all the lunacy onstage at the BOOTH THEATRE.  I rather enjoyed it.

www.garyonbroadway.com

Photos:  Julieta Cervantes

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TOOTSIE is FAB-U-LOUS – manna from musical comedy heaven

May 3rd, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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Breaking News:  Hot on the heels of receiving 11 Tony Award Nominations TOOTSIES’ Dorothy Michaels aka Michael Dorsey is basking in the glow of her newly found stardom, quickly becoming the toast of Broadway and the hinterlands of New Jersey and tristate area where patrons are flocking into Manhattan (despite the new higher tolls) to see this newly discovered star.

They are willing to do just about anything and will probably have to, to get to see this phenomenal, fabulous star-is-just-born sensation who is the cause of a what has been hailed as “a tsunami of out of control laughter” from those lucky enough to catch her performance.

Tourists are warned that tickets are “mighty tough” to come by and to scoop them up ASAP to see TOOTSIE.  That is the title of her hysterically funny musical comedy.  Dorothy Michaels (which she prefers to be called) stars in this star vehicle that has just opened at the appropriately named Marquis theatre where Dorothy Michaels has been anointed its new Queen.  Respectfully, Michael Dorsey has been appointed new King in residence for what seems to be a “mighty long reign” according to close sources related to the production.

If it is possible to get double Tony Awards for portraying Dorothy Michaels and Michael Dorsey then Santino Fontana should be the one to get them.

Based on the hit 1982 film certain adjustments have been incorporated into the story of a 40 year old downtrodden, unsuccessful actor Michael Dorsey whom no one particularly likes, including casting directors, writers and producers.  Not the best recipe for success for an actor.

So with the help of a pair of falsies and a pair of glasses, a wig and a pair of sensible pumps Michael has the courage and gumption to audition for the very same director who previously threw him out as Dorothy Michaels.  And faster than you can say William Ivey Long – Voila!  A star is born.

Starring in a musical version of Romeo and Juliet, sort of.  It’s called “Juliet’s Curse.” But not for long.  Everyone is so smitten with Dorothy that it is soon retitled “Juliet’s Nurse” giving director Scott Ellis ample opportunity to lampoon musical theater’s auditions, rehearsals, wealthy producer Rita Marshall (Julie Halston), agent Stan Fields (Michael McGrath), choreographer cum director Ron Carlisle (Reg Rogers), a tall, lithe and hunky guy Max Von Horn (John Behlmann) with a minimum of talent but maximum abs hot off his win on Race to Bachelor Island and what goes on backstage leading up to the eventual, eventful opening night.

The book by Robert Horn is absolutely to die for – from laughing.  Not since THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG have I laughed so much, so hard, so often.  And TOOTSIE has songs.  Songs by David Yazbek.  Songs with very clever lyrics (almost patter songs) with tunes that fit in just right moving everything swiftly along.  To wit MAX’s heartfelt adoration song to Dorothy “This Thing” that is a showstopper.

Speaking of which.  I was fortunate enough to see TOOTSIE the night the Tony Award Nominations were released when a once in a lifetime moment occurred.  There is a point in Act II where Michael’s agent discovers the sham and says to him that he had heard that Dorothy was being considered for a nomination for a Tony and he was ready to vote for her until…Well, the audience erupted into SPONTANEOUS, LOUD AND PROLONGED APPLAUSE.  I HAD NEVER EXPERIENCED THE LIKES BEFORE.  It was real life stopping the make-believe life of the show.  Santino Fontana reacted in character and it was at least five minutes before the show could continue.  Bravo! Or should it be Brava!?

Here I will mention the other wonderful cast members:  Michael’s writer friend and roommate Jeff Slater (a terrific Andy Grotelueschen) in on the scheme, Sandy Lester (Sarah Stiles) a constantly depressed actress who’s song is repeated three times to great effect (“What’s Gonna Happen”) and Lili Cooper as Julie Nichols the Juliet of the show within the show whom Dorothy falls head over heels for as Michael and where Max falls head over heels for Dorothy and Sandy falls for…JUST SEE THE SHOW!

Costumes by William Ivey Long are perfect as usual.  Quick changes are incredible.  Along with set design David Rockwell, Lighting (Donald Holder), Hair and wig design (Paul Huntley), inspired choreography by Denis Jones and finally the sound design Brian Ronan – music to my ears.

Dorothy Michaels sings “I Won’t Let You Down.”  And she doesn’t.  None of them do.  It’s a tour de force production that will have the producers laughing all the way to the you-know where.

Bless all the creative people who have met with obstacles along the way to success and have overcome them with great ingenuity.  Dorothy Michaels being a prime example.  Long may she reign!

Be sure to pick up your 8×10 glossy autographed head shot of the unstoppable Dorothy upon leaving the Marquis! Something to remember her by, although you won’t soon forget her.

2 hours 30 minutes.  One intermission

www.tootsiemusical.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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ALL MY SONS – a timely 1947 Arthur Miller original revisited

April 30th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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Director Jack O’Brien immediately grabs our attention with a fierce thunderstorm erupting at the American Airlines Theatre as a projection of a fighter aircraft going down, against what will be the backyard property of Joe and Kate Keller, shows through the scrim, circa 1947.  It’s clean-up time.

Lights up on the house and trees.   A small covered arbor.  It’s a hot August day in a rural Midwestern American town.  Sunday as usual.  But not for long.  Joe (an excellent Tracy Letts) is reading the paper and talking to a neighbor, Dr. Jim Bayliss (Michael Hayden). All is calm after the previous night’s storm that struck a valued tree, breaking off a limb – a premonition of things to come.

Arthur Miller’s post World War II confrontational 3 act family drama is played to the hilt.  Based upon a true story which Arthur Miller’s then mother-in-law pointed out in an Ohio newspaper about a company that knowingly shipped damaged aircraft engine cylinder heads from a factory to the military causing the deaths of 21 pilots.

Joe Keller owned such a factory.  Still does.  But now they produce a variety of products including pressure cookers.  This drama simmers along as it heads towards an obvious tragic outcome.

The Keller’s two sons went off to fight the war.  Only one returned.  Chris – Benjamin Walker does a fine job as one who is conflicted and confused and trying to find his own way despite loving both his parents – AND in love with his brother’s ex-girlfriend who has decided that she must also move on.

His brother Larry hasn’t been heard from in three years and is presumed dead.  Only his mother Kate (Annette Bening – giving an award winning performance) refuses to accept his death.  Keeps his room as it was expecting any moment to have him come walking into the yard.  She is strong, delusional and can say horrible things to people with a charming demeanor.

She has even asked Frank Lubey (Nehal Joshi) another neighbor to work up Larry’s horoscope for the day he died hoping to prove that is was a favorable day and therefore he is still alive.  Somewhere.  Some superstitions are worth believing in.

Coupled with the fact that the tree damaged was planted in honor of Larry.  Proves it’s a sign. In addition his ex-girlfriend Ann Deever (Francesca Carpanini) has arrived from New York and is staying in his old room as Chris prepares to ask for her hand in marriage.

I won’t describe further what happens as Arthur Miller is extremely clever in keeping the plot close to his chest with many humorous observations surfacing as he dishes out the drama bit by bit as we discover the multiple motivations of each character and their inter-relationships.  As we discover what it is that makes this family tick until it explodes like the thunderstorm that opens the drama.

A master of dialogue and construction.  Slyly incorporating how money rules the roost; how dishonesty and corruption, covering up and blaming someone else for your actions results in the ruination of those around you – unnecessarily.

I will however, make note of one jarring factor.   Ann’s brother George, who arrives to prevent her from marrying Chris is of a different color.  She is white.  In this day of color blind casting sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  Don’t ask me why it’s just like that.

Despite Hampton Fluker’s fine performance it was just jarring to see him arrive.  As we never see their father who is in jail serving time for what Joe has done and covered up – (he was the partner of Joe in the faulty aircraft cylinder heads scandal) he could also be of another race.  That’s neither here nor there.  Just accept the casting choice and be emotionally moved by this fine, tight, beautifully acted production.

I am sure that in twenty years ALL MY SONS will still be performed as it deals with timeless topics that every family goes through in one form or another.  It’s an extremely emotional experience and well worth a visit to the Keller’s back yard.  Through June 23rd.  3 acts.  2 hours 15 minutes.  One intermission.

www.roundabouttheatre.org

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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BEETLEJUICE on Broadway – a real horror

April 28th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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The dead have arrived at the Winter Garden Theatre in this almost dead on arrival so-called musical comedy called BEETLEJUICE based on the 1988 cult favorite movie of the same title by Tim Burton.  I am in deep mourning.  My love for musical comedy has just been stabbed to death.

BEETLEJUICE left me stunned into silence.  It left me with a splitting headache.  It left me never wanting to see another film adaptation musicalized.

Musicalized?  There isn’t even a song list in the Playbill program.  That was my first clue.  Second clue was that the so-called songs are by Eddie Perfect.  In his dreams perhaps he imagines them as being perfect.  This score from the same person who inflicted his music and words on that other forgettable horror called KING KONG.

The only song you will remember is THE BANANA BOAT SONG “Day-O” that has not been penned by Mr. Perfect.  It is featured in an engagement party scene that boasts a singing boar (as in pig) who is indeed a highlight.

BEETLEJUICE desperately needs a transfusion.  Of music.  Of lyrics.  Some smart humor.  As opposed to gross.  Full bodied characters.  A plot.  Instead of flashy (appropriately) tacky costumes (William Ivey Long) a magnificent off-kilter haunted house set (David Korins) blinding lighting effects (Kenneth Posner) and ear piercing sounds masquerading as songs in this insanity foisted upon us by its creators.

For the record – the aforementioned Eddie Perfect (music and lyrics).  Scott Brown & Anthony King (book).  Brown and King also penned Gutenberg!  The Musical! An off-Broadway two character opus where in my review I warned readers to beware of too many exclamation points.

This weird madhouse of cartoon characters and puppets (Michael Curry) and ridiculous goings-on has been directed by that mad-cap director Alex Timbers.  Seeking to fill in the missing plot points with whatever sandworm was handy it seems.  What choreography there is can be blamed on Connor Gallagher.

Also in mourning is Sophia Anne Caruso as Lydia who deeply misses her recently deceased mom.  Dressed in Gothic widow’s weeds she wails away at her loss.  We soon encounter our narrator and chief mischief maker Alex Brightman as cocaine snorting Beetlejuice incarnate.  He of the raspy voice that quickly becomes grating wearing his Jail House Rock striped uniform wishing he could come back to life if only he could find someone alive to say his name three times in a row.  I only wanted to say Be Gone! Be Gone! Be Gone! Sorry for the exclamation points.

Alex Brightman is zany, manic, weird, frenzied and freaky and if that’s what you like.  Go.  The production is exhausting, eye-popping and ear drum bursting loud.

The only person to come out alive is the wonderful Leslie Kritzer who makes a silk purse out of that boar’s ear with her portrayal of Lydia’s soon to be step mom and a dead Senora – Miss Argentina in the second act where production numbers take the place of the gone to the Netherland plot.

For the record Rob McClure and Kerry Butler are wasted away rather quickly as the owners of the house that…it’s just too difficult for me to go on…

After the intermission I didn’t think it could get any worse.  But it did.   And it does.  Ending with a Game Show contest – Life or Death…the final nail in the coffin.

For the record this inflated nothingness pleased many in attendance.

www.beetlejuicebroadway.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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INK – SMUT SELLS

April 27th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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Fleet Street, London.  Center for print journalism.  1969.  A 38 year old, brash newspaper mogul, already wealthy Australian, Rupert Murdoch (Bertie Carvel) takes over a struggling London paper the SUN for fun.  Or is it ego?  Or ambition?

He’s bought it well below its value because it is failing from Hugh Cudlipp (Michael Siberry) owner of both the SUN and the MIRROR.  Enter the lead character in this David and Goliath story that has shades of THE FRONT PAGE written all over it – Larry Lamb (Jonny Lee Miller) who formerly worked for the MIRROR as his new henchman, giving him exactly one year to overtake and destroy the competition and set a new norm in journalistic history.

In exactly 2 hours and forty five minutes with one intermission at the Manhattan Theatre Club – the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre you can see the outcome if this docu-drama history lesson YOU ARE THERE presentation appeals to you.

Director Rupert Goold (King Charles III and AMERICAN PSYCHO) has pulled out all the stops to keep this high energy production aloft written by James Graham and imported from across the pond.  But it rarely soars.

As Larry Lamb enlists a whole new staff (mostly men with the exception of Joyce Hopkirk – an excellent Tara Summers) for THE SUN in a very entertaining music hall flavored montage, director Goold has enlisted a great creative team to mount this not very exciting story.  Piano on stage throughout.

Bunny Christie has designed a magnificent jumble of steel desks and filing cabinets reaching towards the sky and the stars.  Somewhat akin to what Murdoch is attempting to do.  She has also designed the period 60’s costumes.  The hazy lighting design by Neil Austin recreates the smoke filled air in the office.  Projection design by Jon Driscoll includes blow-ups of Page 3 – the page that became controversial for its naked ladies feature and caused the SUN to fall.  Stephanie Rahn (Rana Roy) is the brave young girl talked into posing for the pic by Larry Lamb who happens to be the lead character in this opus – not Murdoch.

The photographer is winningly played by Andrew Durand who also doubles as the spokesman in a TV commercial that garners applause for his incredible ultra-speedy spiel.

Fast talking, high octane energy performance by Jonny Lee Miller as he gathers his new staff and comes up with new ideas to make the SUN a paper for the masses.  A popular paper.  Something real people want.  Coaching his team of reporters along to create what is now known as a tabloid.  Pop music.  Weather.  Horoscopes. Gossip.  Photos.  Bingo.  Prizes.  Sex.  Pussy Week. Et al.

A montage of what goes into the process of printing the newspaper, while interesting up to a point goes on forever albeit showing in theatrical terms all the complicated steps it took back then to get a paper published before digital technology took over.

Plus Union problems.  Plus a kidnapping.  All in a day’s work to do whatever needs to be done to get to the top of the heap.

Bertie Carvel is Murdoch.  It’s a mannered performance and he is not often on stage.  We get to know him over dinner with Larry in a couple of scenes where he speaks with his mouth full and points with his fork ignoring manners for his true purpose of killing the competition.  There is not a lot of story here.  It is all in the presentation.  As entertaining and theatrical it is – it isn’t enough.

The show belongs to Jonny Lee Miller and he does a fantastic job but we don’t really care for any of them.  Murdoch lives on.

2 hours 45 minutes – one intermission.  Through June 23rd.

www.manhattantheatreclub.com

www.inkbroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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OKLAHOMA! Groundbreaking revival of the groundbreaking 1943 original

April 24th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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The genius behind this totally exciting, engrossing, entertaining and country western infused revival of OKLAHOMA! is director Daniel Fish.  Of course he was working with the material of the original two masters:  Richard Rodgers music and the still pertinent and outstanding book and lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II.

It’s no wonder this show still packs a wallop at the Circle in the Square that has been appropriately transformed into an old time Oklahoma community hall ready for a hootenanny only through September 1st.  Hurry and get yourself some tickets to this most amazing production which deserves to run much longer.

Lots of illumination and raw plywood.  The ceiling decorated with multi-colored streamers and picnic lights.  A long table with lots of corn cobs piled high.  Slow cookers simmering chili served during intermission with cornbread, if so desired.  Racks of rifles adorn the walls as well as the cowboys who wear chaps and stubble with their holsters on the ready for whatever might happen.  And a mighty lot does happen here.

Daniel Fish has pared the show down to its vital statistics.  Eleven speaking parts and one dancer.  New country western style orchestrations (Daniel Kluger) are perfectly rendered by the small on stage pit band with guitars, bass, cello, banjo, drums and accordion in tow.  What a glorious accompaniment they provide.  Sound design by Drew Levy A-OK.

The openness of the scenic design (Laura Jellinek) is as open as the prairie and allows the director to keep most actors on stage even when not in the scene proper so that we see their reactions and relationships develop without them even having to speak to one another.

Daniel Fish has dug down deep into the motivations of his characters, unearthing the dreams and desires (yes sexual!) of the men and women of this new Oklahoma territory that simmer along with the cooking chili and eventually explode as loud as a shotgun on stage.

Laurey Williams (Rebecca Naomi Jones) has the right temperament – conflicted and confused with her attraction to guitar strumming cowboy Curly McLain (Damon Daunno) and to Jud Fry (understudy Chris Bannow) the quietly malicious hired hand who lusts after Laurey.  Aunt Eller (Mary Testa) sees through her niece’s hard veneer and tells it like it is.

Gertie Cummings (Mallory Portnoy) is after Curly and determined to have him take her to the picnic.  Toting her private hip flask she is dead serious and her laugh is enough to send shivers up and down your spine.

The abundant comic relief is also supplied in full by Ado Annie (an exceptional Ali Stroker) who rides her wheelchair like a dervish across the stage and back as she is pursued by the dim witted but altogether charming Will Parker (James Davis) who truly loves Ado who loves everyone, especially the one she is with at the time namely the Persian peddler con man Ali Hakim (Will Brill).  What a delightful threesome they are.

The opening of Act II has the traditional “dream ballet” turn into a nightmare choreographed by John Heginbotham and danced by understudy Demetia Hopkins-Greene – barefoot she gallops around the stage, crawls and slithers as boots drop from the ceiling dreaming herself as Laurey about Curly and Jud and where and how it will all end.  A combination of Ingmar Bergman, Mark Morris and Martha Graham.  The country guitar has been replaced with an acoustic rock guitar and is really something.  A far different interpretation than Agnes De Mille’s original work.

Lighting designer Scott Zielinski has created lighting fast changes to fit each of the many moods. Especially noteworthy is the eerie scene in complete darkness between Curly and Jud where Curly feeds into the insecurities of Jud planting some seeds for his death.  A hand held camera projects a black and white video of the spooky darkness in a very erotic scene.

From the opening notes of “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” sung quietly by Curly with only his guitar and his twang we are in the newly found territory created by Daniel Fish that is a wonder to behold.

I strongly urge you to visit.  Be adventurous and you will not be disappointed.  Or maybe you will be if you expect this OKLAHOMA! to be what you’ve always known.  New territory is always exciting to explore.

This is my Critic’s Choice for most imaginative and creative musical revival.  Beautifully acted and sung.  Perhaps the cast album might win at the Country Music Awards.  Now that is something I think Rodgers and Hammerstein never would have expected.

2 hours and 45 minutes including intermission.

*6 Outer Critics Circle Nominations including OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL

www.oklahomabroadway.com

Photos: Little Fang Photo

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BURN THIS – a compelling, whirlwind, romantic revival

April 23rd, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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Love may pierce your heart at the most unexpected times with a most unexpected partner.  Some may have love taken away and some may never experience it at all.  Such is the case in Lanford Wilson’s beautifully written and constructed 1987 play BURN THIS which is having a just about perfect revival at the Hudson Theatre through July 14th.  I recommend that you see it.

With an excellent cast of four that delves beneath its characters to expose feelings that have remained stowed away we find ourselves eavesdropping in on the lives of Anna a ballet dancer (Keri Russell) and her boyfriend Burton an independently wealthy writer pondering his sci-fi movie (David Furr) and her gay roommate Larry (Brandon Uranowitz) an advertising copywriter (who supplies much of the humor) in the fall of 1987 in a loft-cum-dance studio in lower Manhattan as they mourn the death of Robbie their brilliant gay best friend dancer who was killed in a freak boating accident who lived with Anna and Larry.  Larry doesn’t mind spending a lot of time with Anna and Burton whom he has his subtle yet hungry eyes on.

Into this triangle of sorts arrives Pale.  Like a whirlwind blown in from New Jersey.  The brother of Robbie.  To pick up the deceased belongings.  Three months after being notified.  Pale is anything but as portrayed by Adam Driver.

There is something overpowering about him.  His size.  His charisma.  His talent.  His look.  His way with words.  At first off-putting and then later on as the relationship between he and Anna develops despite Pale being a married guy with kids and a cocaine habit things unexpectedly get out of hand we see a softer and more mature person emerge.  It’s quite a performance.  Especially his first shot out of a canon entrance.  And no one wears a mini silk Kimono as does Adam Driver.

Act II begins on New Year’s Eve.  A time when unexpected things can come to a boil.  And they do.

The final outcome is beautifully rendered and the title BURN THIS becomes apparent.

All four actors are superb.  They are skillfully directed by Michael Mayer who also directed one of my favorite musicals this season HEAD OVER HEELS.  Something in common with each other.  No?

Definitely yes.  This is one production that is a must see.  With wit and a huge heart.  All the elements come together to make a most satisfying journey through the land of love – from Derek McLane’s set design to the costumes of Clint Ramos that define character without a word being spoken that are beautifully lit by Natasha Katz.  BURN THIS is a breath of fresh air wafting through this most mediocre season.

www.burnthisplay.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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Sam Gold’s KING LEAR starring Glenda Jackson

April 22nd, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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The Ides of March has come and gone.  Now is the springtime of our discontent.  And…

‘tis the season to be different:  new plays, old revivals, star vehicles, three hour plus productions, “strictly” limited engagements (that sometimes extend), bizarre choices, all-inclusive and colorblind casting, British imports and ludicrous concepts all vying for the almighty TONY.

Director Sam Gold has outdone himself this time.  And that isn’t a compliment.  In his conceptual extremely confusing “theater of the absurd” version of KING LEAR we ponder if this classic work from Shakespeare is a tragedy or a travesty starring none other than 82 year old Glenda Jackson as Leer.

No that isn’t a typo.   Jackson as the overpowering title character leers, sneers, snarls, insults, pontificates, points with his still strong hands, intimidates, commands, bellows and uses an infinite number of facial expressions as if it was made out of silly putty.

One does admire the stamina of Glenda Jackson.  But her Lear is of the grandiose old school of acting that doesn’t quite jibe with the hit and/or miss renditions of her supporting players.

As if the poetic and long and winding road language of the Bard of Avon is hard enough to understand we have a string quartet to drown out the words.  A quartet of wandering minstrels that pop up here and there throughout this very long full of plot production.  Basically situated upstage in formal wear they serenade us with the not very dulcet tones of Philip Glass.  Not necessary and completely intrusive.

This old egotistical King that is headed down the road to dementia insists that his three daughters profess their love for him before dividing his kingdom.  Let the phoniest one win.

For the record they are the eldest Goneril (Elizabeth Marvel – who will have outrageous simulated quickie sex with Edmond (Pedro Pascal) who is not her husband the Duke of Albany (Dion Johnstone) – Regan (Aisling O’Sullivan) who screams her speeches not so trippingly on the tongue who is wed to the Duke of Cornwall who is played by the deaf Russell Harvard wearing a kilt and needing Aide (Michael Arden) who signs and speaks for him.  Lastly sweet Cordelia (a refined Ruth Wilson) who doubles as the Fool looking very much like Charlie Chaplin, cavorting and singing with a cockney accent.  All three boast different accents.  I would love to meet their mum.

Then we have the loyal to Lear, Duke of Gloucester and his two sons.  He is portrayed by a she.  Jayne Houdyshell who eventually gets his eyes gouged out and is led around by Edgar his legitimate son (Sean Carvajal) who seems to have wandered in from The Tempest.  The aforementioned Edmond is Gloucester’s illegitimate son and a charmer.  Speaking to the audience he seduces us and is one of the only actors aside from Ruth Wilson that we can believe to be human beings.

John Douglas Thompson makes for a stalwart Duke of Kent.

It’s quite a mixed bag of types and colors on stage at the CORT THEATRE.  Odd choices all around.  It’s quite a lot of styles of costumes (Ann Roth) – from formal tuxedos and evening gowns to boot camp camouflage.  Lots of accents.  Lots of fake blood.  In fact, it’s a bloody mess.

As Lear goes mad, one sitting and watching and listening while awaiting the end may grow madder.  I did.  If rosemary is for remembrance this KING LEAR should be forgotten.

Through July 7th.  Act I – 2 hours followed by a 20 minute intermission when my guest fled like a bat out of hell.  Act II – 1 hour and 10 minutes.  I survived, but barely.

www.kinglearbroadway.com

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Photos:  Brigitte Lacombe

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