Oscar E Moore

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THE REAL THING - Lovers in love…or are they?

November 11th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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Another Stoppard revival.  Another complicated word fest of ideas that is a mere shadow of the original production that ran at the Plymouth from January 84 through May 85 with an all-star cast (Jeremy Irons/Glenn Close) directed by Mike Nichols.  I saw it and I remember that it was wise, witty, sexy and elegant.

This time round it is running at the American Airlines Theatre – a Roundabout Theatre production with an all-star cast (Ewan McGregor/Maggie Gyllenhaal) directed by Sam Gold who has a penchant for shaking things up a bit.

Tom Stoppard pinpoints in his script what pop tunes should be played as underscoring – they comment on the scenes - for example “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” and “Lovers In Love”. Sam Gold has one upped him and has the cast singing the songs throughout while changing set pieces.  It becomes a sort of hootenanny.  Will there be a cast album?

It’s not enough for Mr. Stoppard to have two couples entangled with each other – he has to complicate matters with an anarchist in jail who has written a play, a teenage daughter Debbie (Madeline Weinstein – originally played by Cynthia Nixon) who speaks freely about her sex life and another actor Billy (Ronan Raftery) in another play within a play – “Tis Pity She’s a Whore” - who becomes entangled with one of the women.

Henry (Ewan McGregor) is a vastly intelligent, pompous, charming, jealous, untrusting, witty at times playwright married to Charlotte (Cynthia Nixon) an actress appearing in his HOUSE OF CARDS who wants to help Brodie the anarchist (a very tall Alex Breaux who speaks as if he has a bag of marbles in his mouth) get his play on.  His badly written play - by attempting to enlist the help of Henry for rewrites.

Max (Josh Hamilton) co-stars in HOUSE OF CARDS and is married to actress Annie (Maggie Gyllenhaal).  Henry was in love with his wife Charlotte but is now in love with Annie.  Or is he?  Two years separate the two acts as we see the results of wife swapping.

Be on guard when told you are loved.  “You are the only one, darling – but where have you been?”  Henry (Stoppard) has a very cynical view of love.  He isn’t very happy with either Charlotte or Annie.  But he does love words and how words are put together more than anyone or anything else.

The set is cold (lots of records and books).  The costumes left me colder.  The gimmick of singing the set changes distracting and unnecessary.  Ergo I didn’t believe the characters.

I very much liked Maggie Gyllenhaal but there is little chemistry with Ewan McGregor who at times is a bit too light on his feet.  Lovers in love should be in love.  They don’t seem to be.

I happen to be reading “Lilly – Reminiscences of Lillian Hellman” by Peter Feibelman (AVON BOOKS 1998).  They had a tumultuous but wonderful relationship, he twenty five years younger than she.  I thought of them while viewing THE REAL THING (which says a lot about the production) and I’d like to quote from the text:

Lillian:  I love you.  Whatever that word means.  I’ve come to know less and less what it means…all I know is what one is willing to do about it.  Who you’re willing to take an action for. Who you’re not, that’s all I know – that’s all there is to know about love.  Do you really love me?

Peter:  Yes.

Lillian:  I wonder.

Peter:  Take that back.

Lillian:  I take it back.  I can’t afford to wonder.

SOUND OF DRUNKEN LAUGHTER.

Lillian:  I want to come sit on your lap.

Peter:  Okay.

Love really is complicated.  Read the book.

www.roundabouttheatre.org

Through Jan 4th 2015

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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DISGRACED – 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama tackles Broadway at the Lyceum

October 31st, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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“It’s not easy being green,” according to Kermit the Frog.  In Ayad Akhtar’s compelling, pertinent yet somewhat contrived drama DISGRACED, corporate lawyer “mergers and acquisitions” Amir Kapoor (an excellent Hari Dhillon) discovers that it isn’t easy being Muslim-American in his mostly Jewish firm post 9/11.

Amir, born in Pakistan, who is close to becoming “partner” has been denying and hiding his Muslim heritage – passing for something he is not.  Asked by his nephew Abe Jensen (Danny Ashok) who has changed his name from Hussein Malik to help an imam who has been accused of funding terrorists Amir reluctantly agrees urged on by his wife Emily (a naïve in the extreme WASP Gretchen Mol), an artist who has been influenced by Islamic art and is about to have a showing by her Jewish art dealer Isaac (an arrogant Josh Radnor).  Isaac’s mate Jory (a keen Karen Pittman) – is Afro-American and works at the same firm as Amir.

It’s a mixed bag of interesting characters to say the least.  The plot is a bit too pat for its own good with a last minute martial revelation thrown in to spice things up even more and an always unlocked front door that makes no sense at all.

Amir attends the court proceedings in an unofficial capacity as an observer but an article in the NY Times mentions his name and all hell breaks loose.  He has been exposed.  His comfortable life style on the Upper East Side is suddenly threatened along with his six hundred dollar white shirts.  He tries to make sense of it all as his self-loathing slowly surfaces as he prepares for a dinner party to celebrate Emily’s future art exhibit by getting more and more intoxicated.   She serves pork tenderloin and fennel salad that is the fastest dinner ever on stage.

What transpires is a heated discussion that has been slowly simmering which ignites and explodes for all the parties involved exploring race, religion, racial profiling and identity – facing up to and accepting who you really are.

Directed by Kimberly Senior DISGRACED stumbles a bit running only ninety minutes but it is ninety minutes that will make you rethink how we perceive and present ourselves and how we should think about each other.  Without bias.  Without prejudice. Which is what we should be doing anyway.  Not doing so would be and is disgraceful.

Photos:  Joan Marcus

www.disgracedonbroadway.com

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THE LAST SHIP – Broadway gets stung

October 28th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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It’s all about Sting.  Although he does not appear in the show – Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner better known as STING (singer/songwriter/instrumentalist) wrote its musical score that somehow blends one song into another with a melancholy Celtic lilt here and there.  If you leave the theatre with the tune of “The Last Ship” and “”We’ve Got Now’t Else” firmly imbedded in your mind it’s because they have reprised them over and over until you have been hypnotized by them.

Not that the score hasn’t a highlight or two.  There is a beautiful “What Say You Meg?” sung by Aaron Lazar and “It’s Not the Same Moon” by Michael Esper and the British firebrand Rachael Tucker.  A couple of numbers could be cut without missing them one iota making for a shorter evening at the Neil Simon Theatre.

Sting may not be appearing in this underwhelming, dark, gloomy and quasi romantic folk opera but the echo of his voice resounds throughout.  Especially in the casting of his alter ego Gideon (Mr. Esper) and Jack White (a forceful Jimmy Nail) the foreman of the Wallsend shipyard that is to be shut down.  Lest we forget who wrote the piece and that it is his young life in Northern England that inspired this venture.

Young Gideon (Collin Kelly-Sordelet) wants out even though his dad and his dad and his dad earned their living working in the shipyard.  He leaves.  But not before trying to get the love of his life Young Meg (Dawn Cantwell) to leave with him.  She stays.  Fifteen years later dad dies and a downtrodden and quite unsympathetic Gideon returns (Michael Esper) hoping to hook up again with Meg (Rachael Tucker) who has fallen for and is about to marry the more dependable Arthur (Aaron Lazar) who works for the company that has bought the shipyard and who has been dad to her fifteen year old son Tom (Collin Kelly-Sordelet).  Do the math.  No surprises here.  Maybe a knowing groan.

So there is a love triangle that because of the problematic shipyard turns into a rectangle entangling the plot as the out of work workers vow to build THE LAST SHIP so that we will be hypnotized by the aforementioned tunes.  What IS crystal clear is the sound design by Brian Ronan.

Who will Meg choose?  Will Gideon bond with his son Tom?  Will Arthur help his ex-co-shipbuilders?  Will the last ship be built?  Of course it will with the help of Father O’Brien (a delightful Fred Applegate) a priest who swears and drinks with his flock at the local pub and who misappropriates church funds to fund the building of the last ship – that we never see as it is nigh impossible to show a ship being built on stage.  And once it is built the workers are still out of a job and nowhere to go except board the boat to God knows where as Young Gideon at the onset of his journey.  Closure, of a sort.

The dance movements have been choreographed by Steven Hoggett – who did similar duty for ONCE.  Too similar.  Big mistake.  In ONCE they were fresh and innovative and worked beautifully.  In THE LAST SHIP they just remind us of the much better all-around production called ONCE.  There is still time to catch it before it sails off into the distance in January.

The surprisingly choppy and foggy book is written by John Logan (RED) and Brian Yorkey (NEXT TO NORMAL) – two terrific shows.  Direction is by Joe Mantello (WICKED).  As the saying goes “you are only as good as your last show” in this case THE LAST SHIP or is it The Lost Ship?

Photos:  Joan Marcus

www.thelastship.com

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ON THE TOWN – Bold, brassy and ballsy revival

October 26th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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A strong shot of Botox has been injected into this newest revival of ON THE TOWN to rid it of any wrinkles that may have appeared since its opening in 1944.  Two previous revivals have not passed muster.  This third revival is the charm.  It is vibrant, vital and vivacious.  Fresh and fast paced – with a cast that can sing and dance its heart out – right into the hearts of the audience at the cavernous, newly renamed LYRIC Theatre on 42 Street where it seems an unlikely perfect fit.

Every care has been taken from the creative team to shake off any moth ball residue.  The only remnant from the original production is the rousing rendition of The Star Spangled Banner from the 28 piece orchestra that starts the festivities.  What a treat to hear the sound of a full orchestra from the pit as it should sound for a Broadway musical.

ON THE TOWN started as a ballet by Jerome Robbins – FANCY FREE – about three sailors on a 24 hour leave in New York, New York - choreographed to the music of Leonard Bernstein.  This could be a full-fledged musical Robbins thought.  Enter Betty Comden and Adolph Green with their unique brand of sophistication and low brow wacky sense of humor.

The excellent result was the hit musical ON THE TOWN with its sensational expanded score by Bernstein and off the wall characters created by Comden and Green that enabled Robbins to create dances both balletic and jazzy where the search for love is most important and grounds the zany goings on.

We must thank the Barrrington Stage Company for first producing this incarnation and for the slew of producers who have lovingly brought it to the LYRIC.

Beowulf Boritt has once again contributed scenic and projection design.  Minimalist but apt – allowing the large cast to dance freely and openly – air borne, jaunty and jaw dropping choreography by Joshua Bergasse who has not been intimidated by Mr. Robbins in the least, creating some of the best dance sequences in many a season.  The opening number alone would be worth the price of admission – but what follows tops itself over and over - dramatically lit by Jason Lyons with imaginative costumes with a bright and stylish kaleidoscope of colors by Jess Goldstein.

The three sailors:  Ozzie (Clyde Alves) Chip (Jay Armstrong Johnson) and Gabey (Tony Yazbeck) are superb – dancing magnificently within their individual characterizations and delivering strong vocals.

Gabey has seen a poster featuring with Miss Turnstiles (a dreamy Megan Fairchild) and decides to find her with the help of his buddies allowing them to explore New York’s many tourist attractions – including the Museum of Natural History where Ozzie meets Claire DeLoone (Elizabeth Stanley) who is engaged to Mr. Pitkin (Michael Rupert) a man who “understands.”  Mr. Rupert gives this small role great stature.  Chip from Peoria is hijacked by Hildy (Alysha Umphress) a hot to trot cab driver – their joy ride is a joy to behold.  Many night clubs later they all arrive at Coney Island for a touching “Some Other Time” farewell as the three sailors head back to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and off to war.

Maverick director John Rando has for better or for worse made the women more aggressive than necessary, has thrown is a few gay cameo nods and bare torsos and given free rein to the comedienne’s comedienne Jackie Hoffman.  Quibbles aside this is a magnificently entertaining production that is what a true musical comedy should be and should fill the LYRIC to the rafters for a long time coming.  Highly recommended.

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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www.onthetownbroadway.com

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THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME – Alex Sharp: from Juilliard to Broadway

October 12th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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Based on the 2003 bestselling mystery novel by Mark Haddon of the same title, this challenging play adapted by Simon Stephens and precisely directed by Marianne Elliot (who also directed WAR HORSE) has recently opened to mostly rapturous reviews at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

It is a production of The National Theatre brought over from England and recast with American actors.  First and foremost is the Broadway debut of Alex Sharp a recent graduate of Juilliard who by chance and talent got the role of his thus far young lifetime – that of Christopher Boone.

He is phenomenal as a mathematical genius with Asperger’s syndrome who cannot lie and would love to be an astronaut.  Christopher is 15 years 3 months and 2 days old at the start of this challenging role.  A role where he commands the stage, in fact never leaving it except for the twenty minute intermission.  It is a demanding role and Taylor Trensch appears at the matinee performances Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday which I find a rather strange decision.

Alex Sharp has done his homework and works extremely hard during the first act building a model railway – laying down tracks and adding cars and trees and stations as he deftly exhibits the symptoms of Asperger’s as he relentlessly attempts to discover who killed Wellington – a neighbor’s dog – much to the annoyance of his dad Ed (Ian Barford) and Judy (Enid Graham) his mum who have their own marital discord erupting.

With his repetitive behavior, lack of eye contact, awkward movements and mannerisms, his particular love of everything red and his aversion to social interaction and terrible mood swings he finally discovers who killed Wellington and that leads him on another quest in Act Two when he travelers alone to London with his dad’s credit card and his pet rat Toby in search of the answer to another mystery.

We view the world through Christopher’s eyes and his voice.  He has written it all down and it is spoken aloud by his special education teacher Siobhan (Francesca Faridany) who suggests doing it as a play.  The play that we are seeing.

The technological aspects are stupendous – especially in Act II.  You will be amazed by the lighting effects (Paule Constable) video design (Finn Ross) and the human element movements choreographed by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett on the simple grid-like set by Bunny Christie that bring Christopher’s mind to life.

The entire ensemble works at acting and moving set pieces and making Christopher float through the universe and his mum swimming.  Especially fine is his dad who finds dealing with Christopher challenging as well and eventually coming to beautiful terms with it.

And so I am amazed and bewildered that I didn’t particularly care for the show with all of its incredible pyrotechnic visuals.  Admired it, yes.  Loved it, no.  I found it lacking in something and I have been trying to discover what that is.  Perhaps it’s the alienation factor I felt and/or the abusive treatment that Christopher has to deal with.  Or the math.  It’s still a mystery to me.

www.curiousonbroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU – One big happy family

October 10th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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Wake up and smell the roses.  Be happy.  Follow your dream.  Don’t pay taxes.  Just go for it.  Well the Sycamore family is doing just that in this timeless and ageless revival (by special arrangement with the Roundabout Theatre Company) of the 1936 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU which has lost none of its luster over the years and is now cause for unbridled laughter at the Longacre Theatre on 48th Street.

Messrs. Kaufman and Hart had a lot on their collective collaborative minds – most of it amazingly still pertinent and still very amusing.  Eccentric characters.  Farcical situations so well constructed that there is always a big payoff of laughter.  And laughter is what makes audiences merry.   Makes us feel good.  There is nothing like hearing an audience roar with laughter and laugh they do time after time as the momentum of the zany plot unfurls with the increasingly farcical antics of the characters build to fever pitch.

Penelope Sycamore (a ditsy Kristine Nielsen) is a would-be playwright and painter.  Her spouse Paul (Mark Lynn Baker) putters around the basement making fireworks with Mr. DePinna (Patrick Kerr).  Their daughter Essie (a dead pan, en pointe and very amusing Annaleigh Ashford) is a would-be ballerina who “stinks” as described by her Russian instructor Boris Kolenkhov (a riotous Reg Rogers).  Essie is married to Ed (the elastic Will Brill – a nervous printer who makes masks and plays the xylophone while looking like a human slinky.  Their housekeeper Rheba (Crystal Dickinson) and her beau Donald (Marc Damon Johnson) tend this looney household headed by Grandpa Martin Vanderhof (the great James Earl Jones) who in true Dr. Phil fashion dispenses his wisdom of relaxing and being happy – having given up his job years ago to simply enjoy life – after all the best things in life are free.

An actress that Mrs. Sycamore has met on a bus - Gay Wellington is deftly played by the daffy Julie Halston who manages to get quite drunk and pass out and out and out.

Alice Sycamore (Rose Byrne – looking lovely in her Alice Blue Gown by Jane Greenwood) is the sanest person living under the eaves of the cluttered two story revolving home designed by David Rockwell (one wonders how the Sycamore’s collected all those items during the depression that hang on the walls and fill the shelves.)

Alice works and has fallen for a Wall Street boss’s son Tony Kirby (Fran Kranz - who has reciprocal feelings) and has done everything in her power to keep him from meeting her family but the show must go on and all three show up – on the wrong night – Tony and Mr. and Mrs. Kirby (Byron Jennings and Johanna Day – a perfectly uptight and snobbish couple).  As you can imagine, all hell breaks loose.

Did I mention that Grandpa has been receiving letters from the government for not paying his taxes and is being investigated by Henderson (Karl Kenzler)?  The outcome of this plot line is pure genius.  There’s more.

Making her grand entrance in Act III as the Grand Duchess Olga Katrina – a displaced Russian Royal who now is a waitress at Childs Restaurant is the radiant and comically gifted Elizabeth Ashley in all her glory.  She is the cherry on top of this delicious sundae directed by Scott Ellis with panache and precision.  Original music by Jason Robert Brown adds greatly to the overall enjoyment of this first rate treat that encourages us to see the bright side of everything – belly laughs included.

www.youcanttakeitwithyoubroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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INDIAN INK – Stoppard’s romantic and mystifying journey back to the past

October 6th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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A bit of British imperialism is on view at the Laura Pels Theatre in what started out as a Tom Stoppard “clash of cultures” radio play in 1991 “In the Native State” that morphed into the retitled 1995 production of INDIAN INK that is now being presented by The Roundabout Theatre.  It is long on rhetoric and short on “RASA” – the “it” factor that makes a creative work “pulse.”  After all it is Tom Stoppard who seldom knows when to stop.

It’s a lethargic, complex period, period piece that is set simultaneously in Jummapur India (1930) and England and India fifty years later where Eleanor Swan (the indomitable Rosemary Harris) reminisces over the letters of her older sister Flora Crewe (a fine and refined Romola Garai) – a scandalous poet with a raunchy past when she traveled to India in 1930 for health reasons.

Or was she also looking for an excuse for another romantic adventure – this time with the shy and nervous Indian artist who loves everything British – Nirad Das (an excellent Firdous Bamji) who paints her portrait while she flirts and writes looking ravishing in her frocks designed by Candice Donnelly?

Eldon Pike (Neal Huff) is digging around for information that he wants to include in a biography of Flora – he is obsessed with her – after the publication of her poems and letters.  Her sister isn’t too keen on supplying any further information.  Or does she not know the truth?  INDIAN INK is in part about how we perceive the people we think we know.

The son of the artist, Anish Das (a fine Bhavesh Patel) also shows up at Eleanor’s doorstep.  The plot thickens like the fog in London as we go back and forth with characters from both eras on stage together – it’s a fine job of keeping the traffic moving that director Carey Perloff pulls off superbly.

She is aided greatly by the unit set of Neil Patel and the beautiful lighting of Robert Wierzel.

The ensemble cast is spot on but do we really need that scene at the British Club that opens Act II – prolonging the almost three hour romantic excursion of Flora with the most dapper and more English than English Lee Aaron Rosen as David Durance of the gin and polo set?

Assisting Mr. Pike in his quest for the real Flora is Nick Choksi as Dilip – who reenergizes the stage and longwinded second act that almost derails the journey.  He is marvelous with his sparkling eyes and wit whenever he appears.

Also keep an eye on the servant Nazrul (Omar Maskati) who manages to steal a few brief moments for himself.

In this economical but attractive production of INDIAN INK you may learn something of the history of the Brits in India but Flora Crewe remains an enigma as the plot evaporates in the heat of the British colony striving for independence.  Through Nov. 30th

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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www.roundabouttheatre.org

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ROCOCO ROUGE – COMPANY XIV’s aspects of love with a twist

September 21st, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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It’s like stepping into another world.  A fantasy world created by director/choreographer Austin McCormick, the new Ziegfeld of Off-Broadway.  A world of debauchery, provocative pasties, bejeweled jock straps and bare buttocks where one can celebrate with champagne the inventive, inspired and insane creativity of Mr. McCormick in the intimate salon at 428 Lafayette Street – the new oasis of COMPANY XIV – directly across from The Public Theater.

It is the perfect space for ROCOCO ROUGE.  Where arias meet rap.  Where Handel meets Beyonce.  Where Carmen rocks with Peggy Lee and where the inevitable Can-Can finale causes the packed house to cheer.

After last season’s sensational NUTCRACKER ROUGE expectations were high.  Mr. McCormick and COMPANY XIV mostly do not disappoint.  His is a rare combination of styles and music that somehow come together to entertain without a plot.  Just magnificent voices and beautifully toned bodies on stage strutting the period balletic steps - one of Mr. McCormack’s trademarks - and performing numbers reminiscent of Cirque de Soleil.

Suspended from the rafters is a hoop where two beautiful semi-naked bodies sinuously engage in a semi-sexual encounter that is balletic and ballsy.  One of the highlights of the program SONG TO THE MOON sung by a formidable Shelly Watson - the hostess for the evening and magnificently performed by Allison Ulrich and Steven Trumon Gray.

Other aspects of love include the always riveting Laura Careless dancing to Handel in Endless Pleasure while Brett Umlauf effortlessly adds silken vocals; Cyr Wheel Artist, Courtney Giannone repeating her stand out spinning from NUTCRACKER ROUGE.  And Davon Rainey artistically stripping to “Is That All There Is?” while lip syncing to the live vocals of Shelly Watson – who can sing just about any style and range.

The excellent guitarist Rob Mastrianni adds to the second “Break Interlude” – an excuse to order more drinks served by the cordial and charming wait staff.

The costumes designed by Zane Pihlstrom are spectacular, worthy of a Ziegfeld production.  Lighting by Jeanette Yew is artistically perfect.  My only wish is that the sound could be better so that we could enjoy to the fullest extent the soothing vocals of Katrina Cunningham.

Many more surprises await you – I don’t want to spoil all the fun by divulging them.  Tickets are $55 – 125 through November 2nd. www.COMPANYXIV.COM

Photos:  Phillip Van Nostrand

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THE OTHER MOZART – In her brother’s shadow

June 26th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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There were two Mozarts.  Two child prodigies.  The famous Amadeus (Wolfie) and his older, overshadowed sister Maria Anna (Nannerl).  Maria Anna started playing the harpsichord at eight and by age twelve was an accomplished and acclaimed pianist throughout Europe with a seven year old Wolfgang tagging along – vying for attention and then exploding onto the musical scene with his genius genes that were shared by his set aside and soon to be forgotten sister.  Until now.

Sylvia Milo a Renaissance woman herself has written a fascinating, surreal and theatrical one woman homage to Maria Anna – THE OTHER MOZART.  She is performing this seventy five minute “true and untold” story at the HERE Arts Center 145 Sixth Avenue – based on family letters that are strewn across and concealed inside the period eighteen foot diameter dress that fills the stage.

Itself a work of art by Magdalena Dabrowska and Miodrag Guberinic covered with sheet music and conceling miniature props that cleverly enhance the story.  A metal framework complete with panniers enable Miss Milo to fit herself into the dress when called for – a metaphor for her being imprisoned for being a woman with an enormous talent and not allowed to use it - as women were only supposed to sew and cook and find a husband.  They were not to think, not to perform and not allowed to express their innate talents as Maria Anna’s mother keeps harping on.

Miss Milo is quite mesmerising.  With expressive arms and hands that match her expressive and impressive ability to convey her brother, father and mother – among others - with vocal dexterity.  She is also quite the vixen with a sharp sense of humor.

Almost dancelike she narrates the tale appearing sometimes to be a marionette – the invisible strings being manipulated by her father – not allowing her to blossom while his son (and her younger brother) becomes more and more famous leaving her to languish at home, bored and frustrated.  Sylvia Milo is breathtakingly beguiling as Maria Anna.

Original music by Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen partner with the sublime sounds of Wolfgang.  Great lighting design by Joshua Rose and a wonderful do atop the head of Miss Milo by Courtney Bednarowski are perfect adornments.  Directed by Isaac Byrne – a wonderful collaboration with his creative team is the result that begs to be seen.

Maria Anna Mozart was resigned to her fate as a woman.  She was strong willed.  Talented.  But alas she was a woman.  Just imagine if she had been born a man.  Would she then have eclipsed Amadeus and not been a mere footnote to his illustrious career?  Through July 12th.

NOTE:  At the performance I attended the show started twenty minutes late – without any explanation or apology.  I was not amused.  However, Sylvia Milo and the production itself more than made up for any inconvenience.

Also please note that the understudy Julia Rosa Stockl will appear at certain performances.

www.TheOtherMozart.com

www.here.org

Photos:  Peter Griesser & Charlotte Dobre

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HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME – Hip-Hop RAP at a shrunken Palace

June 20th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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Tupac Shakur.  Palace Theatre.  Broadway’s newest odd couple.  What’s really odd is that the producers of this new hip-hop-rap musical have redesigned the orchestra section of the Palace Theatre – at what must have been a considerable expense – to make it more intimate.  Losing about half the number of seats in the process.  We now have “stadium seating” – the seats are no larger however nor are they more comfortable.  Only closer to what is happening on stage.

And what is happening on the black bare bones stage with a few movable steps standing in as the stoops of the “hood” has some very mixed results.  A bit of background.

For those uninitiated – myself included – Tupac Shakur has sold over 75 million albums.  His rise to fame as a poet and actor (circa 1991-1995) with his very special brand of hip-hop-rap was intensely passionate and political – touching upon the plight of the niggers (the show uses this word freely) in his East Harlem ghetto neighborhood, their trouble with each other and the whites, peace, love, sex, gangs, poverty, violence and hope.  All written while in his twenties.

He was an angry, militant young man who had a high regard for his mother and all that she did for him.  He was shot dead in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas when he was 25.  He was born of June 16th 1971.  HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME opened on June 19th 2014 – a very belated birthday gift from the dedicated creative team.

I suppose he would be honored by this tribute to his soul and his music.  It is claimed that this is not a bio-musical.  But all of the songs used are biographical – coming from the man himself – his passionate beliefs bared in rap.

All of his stories are shoe horned into a new book by Todd Kreidler who has moved the ghetto to MY BLOCK in a Mid-Western industrial city.   With an assortment of characters to voice Tupac’s thoughts.  The time is now.  The songs are from the 90’s - given new arrangements and orchestrations by Daryl Waters.  Unfortunately there is little to be done with gangsta rap.  The rhythms pulsate as the words spew forth.  However Tupac’s themes of entrapment, despair and pain are timeless.

Kenny Leon, a magnificent director who has just received the Tony for the acclaimed revival of A RASIN IN THE SUN (which has just closed) helms this large and very talented cast.  He seems out of his element here directing a musical and does not receive much help from his choreographer Wayne Cilento.

Musical numbers fade out.  The show doesn’t catch fire as we follow John (Saul Williams) who has just gotten out of jail and tries to get back his life in the old hood (that is dealing with the aftermath of a tragic shooting), attempting to reconnect and get a job at the garage that is owned by whites.  Griffy (Ben Thompson) is running the place as his dad is dying in a hospice as a homeless street preacher (John Earl Jelks) wanders around with megaphone and Bible.

John attempts to rekindle the sparks with Corinne (Saycon Sengbloh) a fine “Unconditional Love” - the next best thing that you’ll get to a traditional song.

Christopher Jackson plays friend Vertus who gets to sing the best number “Dear Mama” to Tonya Pinkins.

But the real revelation is Ben Thompson who gives great meaning to the rap number “California Love” strumming on his guitar atop a purple Cadillac newly refurbished at the garage. He puts meaning and emotion behind the words – he doesn’t just rap them out.

As I left the show I had to walk past all those empty orchestra seats that reminded me of the rows of headstones at Arlington Cemetery.  An eerie ending to HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME.

www.hollerifyahearme.com

Photos: Joan Marcus

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