Oscar E Moore

From the rear mezzanine theatre, movies and moore

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PRETTY WOMAN the musical – finding some pleasure with a prostitute

August 24th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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In happily-ever-after neon lit Hollywood, circa late 1980’s just about anything plausible and implausible can happen, especially in a musical, from this unique perspective – looking down from high above and behind the famous HOLLYWOOD sign, part of the sparse but effective set design by David Rockwell, in this adaptation of the extremely popular 1990 romantic-comedy movie PRETTY WOMAN, best known for its stars Julia Roberts and Richard Gere and its most popular theme song “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison & Bill Dees, which for whatever reasons has been jettisoned in lieu of a mediocre and odd pop-rock/country western musical score by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance that is ear-deafening bombastic (credit John Shivers, appropriately named) from its onset to its happily-ever-after ending some two and a half hours later at the Nederlander Theatre.  One intermission.

After some deep and intensive research I have discovered that the musical covers almost verbatim the plot of the movie, with famous scenes intact as originally created by J.F. Lawton and directed by the late Garry Marshall who had co-authored the book for this current production with Mr. Lawton before his demise in 2016.

I am probably one of the only members of this sold-out audience of mostly women of a certain age (there were many canes and walkers in evidence) who has never seen the film.  And so I can’t compare.  Are all these women hoping once again to be bewitched and saved by the swaggering, money focused corporate raider Edward Lewis now played by the charming and hunky Andy Karl who has inherited the role from the charming and hunky Richard Gere…

Now Andy Karl is a man with a monumental talent.  But he does not get to use about 90 % of it until late in this production.  He appears, as the part requires, to be a successful stuffed shirt waiting to explode.  To find his “freedom” in a series of forlorn ballads that do not suit the character at all.  In fact his suit does not suit the character unless it is purposefully confining.  But I digress.

Gregg Barnes has once again come up with some knockout costumes especially for the very pretty Vivian.  Her infamous “red gown” as she goes off with Edward to hear La Traviata wears well.  This sequence is also a stand out with Allison Blackwell and Matt Farcher brilliantly voicing Violetta and Alfredo respectively.

Edward has come to Hollywood to close a deal and accidentally meets up with prostitute Vivian Ward (Samantha Barks – also appropriately named as she belts out in her best American Idol mode her 11 o’clock number ”I Can’t Go Back” holding the last money note for all it’s worth.  But I digress.

He winds up hiring her for a week of companionship and in the process, with the magical use of his unlimited credit card, she lives out her fantasy and he unexpectedly loosens up, but not before a few well directed foreplay sex scenes where the lights dim at just the right moment.  Despite this they have very little chemistry percolating between them.

The story is actually two stories:  A – the hookers of Hollywood and their dreams led by the fabulous Orfeh who takes command of the stage as only a charismatic star, with wit and powerhouse vocals can – and B – the Cinderella/Pygmalion saga of Vivian and Edward.  Because storyline A is more entertaining allowing director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell to break out in dance more often it almost, but not quite, takes over the more important B storyline.

Although Mr. Mitchell does come up with a rather odd teaching-Vivian-to-dance routine by using the Manager of the Beverly Wilshire’s Mr. Thompson as instructor (a terrific and memorable performance by Eric Anderson who also portrays our Hollywood narrator Happy Man – his transition from one character to another is a highlight) with another standout performance by Tommy Bracco (Giulio, a Bellhop) who the audience rightfully adores.

PRETTY WOMAN is at times pleasurable at best.  With some fine performers having to plod through a very mediocre and much too loud score.  Proceed with caution.

www.prettywomanthemusical.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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HEAD OVER HEELS – an opus delirium-hysterium

August 4th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Ah!  Love!  What is love but a four letter word?  A word much used and oft abused.  It can mean a multitude of things and comes in all kinds of combinations and varieties.  Everyone at one time or another has been in or out of this simple yet terribly complicated word.

It can lead to bliss or a serious case of the blahs.  It can be quite expensive.  Demeaning.  Demented.  In tennis “love” means zero.  Something to think about…

And so, dear reader, we arrive to experience love in all its magnificent and all-inclusive glory.  Bursting forth at the Hudson Theatre in a most enjoyable new musical HEAD OVER HEELS in the Kingdom of Arcadia.  Get thee hence quickly to see this boisterous, bawdy and beautiful production.  In plain English GO!

Fear not the archaic Elizabethan language that has been updated to easily understandable witticisms by Jeff Whitty (original book) and James Magruder (adapter).  I hesitate to mention that it is based on an Elizabethan “pastoral romance” The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia by Sir Philip Sidney as it might further make you hesitate to see this inspired, most perfect blend-ship of the Elizabethan age and our age of total acceptance impeccably directed by Michael Mayer.

No detail, of which there are too many to count, is glossed over.  All the details – verbal and visual (Costumes by Arianne Phillips and Set Design by Julian Crouch are magnificent) – add up to an evening of mad-cap lunacy that beguiles.

HEAD OVER HEELS is balanced exquisitely by the songs of the GO-GO’s.  Lest you be unfamiliar as I was, dear reader, fear not again as the songs somehow fit the plot as easily as the foot of Cinderella eased into that infamous glass slipper.  Written by an all-female pop band in the 1980’s:  Charlotte Caffey, Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine and Jane Wiedlin, these songs will certainly get your heart pumping.

Do I dare say that HOH is a Valentine to all lovers?  Especially “We Got the Beat” that picks up the throbbing heartbeat of all those lovers on stage with the terrific arrangements and orchestrations of Tom Kitt.

The choreography by Spencer Liff is totally original and perfect for the intermingling of the two distinct periods.  For once we do not see the ubiquitous tap/show stopping number.  His unique movements, executed by expert dancers are all eye popping WOW inducing show stoppers.   All brilliantly lit by Kevin Adams.

Now, dear reader I have not yet spoken of the plot as it is a bit convoluted.  But I have faith that you will fully grasp all the humor presented by this group of excellent thespians.

There is the stubborn King (a charming Jeremy Kushnier) and his equally headstrong Queen (a radiant Rachel York).  Their marriage is on the rocks and so is their Kingdom due to a doomsday prophesy by Pythio (The Oracle of Delphi – a viper – brilliantly portrayed by Peppermint, who just happens to be the first transgendered woman to create a principal role on Broadway.

Two daughters:  Pamela the Vain in a star making performance by Bonnie Milligan who all but stops the show twice (once with a recitation of some poetry and then with a jealous hissy diva fit in song) and Philoclea the Plain (Alexandra Socha) who is in love with a lowly shepherd Musidorus (Andrew Durand – another standout) as he is with her.  And this is where things can become complicated as in all relationships.

The shepherd is banished and returns as an Amazon woman to woo his love, the Plain sister.  The Vain falls for him/her as do the Queen and the King.  Act II has a brilliant shadow play of a jolly simulated sex scene in silhouette…it has to be seen.

To complete the court of Arcadia are Dametas (Tom Alan Robbins) the King’s viceroy and his daughter Mopsa (Taylor Iman Jones) who falls in love with…

Dear reader, I have already said too much.  You must now buy your ticket and bring along a loved one or two.  If what I have described is not to your liking I suggest you try to widen your vistas; embrace and celebrate one another with hearty laughter and the heartbeat of the Go-Go’s.

Believe me, you will have one hell of a good time as evidenced by the loud and positive buzz of the audience during intermission.  I myself have seen the show twice and would gladly revisit Arcadia again and again.

www.headoverheelsthemusical.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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STRAIGHT WHITE MEN – Boys will be boys

July 28th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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On view at the Helen Hayes Theater is STRAIGHT WHITE MEN written by Young Jean Lee who has the distinction of being the first Asian-American woman to be produced on Broadway.  A Second Stage production in a very limited run through September 9th after its initial foray at the off-Broadway Public Theater in 2014.

It stars Armie Hammer, making his Broadway debut.  He recently made headlines for his appearance in the film CALL ME BY YOUR NAME alongside a peach.  He is handsome, tall and charming.  He is quite good as one of the three sons spending Christmas with their dad in a family room in the Midwest that looks surprisingly like Levittown circa 1955.

Tall, charming and funny.  He is given an opportunity to let loose in a dance similar to that dance in the aforementioned movie.  But this is hardly a stretch for him.  One wonders what made him want to appear in this “slight three scene sit-com” with “superfluous curtain raiser” featuring low key Native American performer Ty Defoe and 70 year old transgender pioneer Kate Bornstein as our guides.

After being assaulted by the extremely loud rap music for almost 30 non-stop minutes they explain why.  Why I ask antagonize the audience to begin with?  They explain.  At least the noise has stopped and they are somewhat amusing standing before a Mylar Disco/Cabaret curtain that ascends to reveal the true set that is framed like a diorama in the Museum of Natural History.

Person in Charge 1 and Person in Charge 2 (our guides) place the actors and change set pieces during the performance.

And now to the play.

Fond memories of MY THREE SONS bubble up to the surface.  A widower raising his three young boys.  But in STRAIGHT WHITE MEN these boys are adult men acting like adolescents visiting their dad (Stephen Payne) for Christmas.  Ho Ho Hum….

Drew (Armie Hammer) a successful writer – the youngest – promotes therapy for his older brother Matt (Paul Schneider) who has moved back in with his dad for financial reasons.  He is happy with his temp job and cleaning up and taking care of the household.  Witness the elongated scene of him (1) vacuuming and (2) clearing up the empty beer bottles.  Jake (Josh Charles) is a divorced banker who loves video games.

They play a board game PRIVILEGE that their late mother adapted from MONOPOLY to teach them tolerance.  Perhaps that is why Jake married a black woman.  They jostle and tease and poke one another and eat popcorn and Chinese takeout and drink beer and sort of decorate the forlorn artificial half lit tree.  They dance.  They sing.  Dad sort of plays a guitar.  They wear sort of matching flannel PJ’s and eventually try to help Matt who unexpectedly ends the first scene in tears.  Matt doesn’t want their help.  He wants to help others.  Will he give in before we do?

By this time we just want them all to leave Matt be.  He’s happy.  Except for that crying jag.  And if these were my brothers and my father I’d be crying too.  There are some funny lines.  The best one dealing with the eggnog.  It’s a not so merry Christmas.  Directed by Anna D. Shapiro.  90 minutes.  No intermission.

www.2st.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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CLEAR DAY at IRISH REP – Nostalgia is not enough

July 11th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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I’ll make this short and unfortunately not so sweet.

You will most probably leave this most recent reincarnation of this mostly problematic musical humming a few of its wonderful songs (music by Burton Lane); maybe even singing some of the almost-too-clever lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner who also wrote the befuddled book for ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER that is slugging along for dear life at the Irish Rep on West 22 Street through August 12th.

This valiant production “adapted” and directed by Charlotte Moore appears to bring back the good ol’ summer stock days of yore.  Ms. Moore’s adaptation has cut and pasted and rearranged without making the more than necessary improvements to Alan Jay Lerner’s book which was first produced in 1965.

Its scaled down cast of eleven strives to instill some life into this tale of addicted smoker Daisy Gamble (Melissa Errico) an unemployed “kook” who sings charmingly to flowers to make them grow faster, can locate lost keys and knows before it happens that a phone will ring.

She is inadvertently hypnotized by Dr. Mark Bruckner (a well-intentioned albeit cold Stephen Bogardus) a psychiatrist interested in ESP and regresses to 18th Century England as Melinda Welles where we meet her artist/lover Edward Moncrief – a dashing John Cudia – he alone being right for the role.  His rendition of “She Wasn’t You” is sublime.

The Dr. falls in love with Melinda and courts Daisy to learn more about her past.  Treating her as an experiment.  Daisy falls for the Dr. believing he is growing fonder of her until she discovers the truth and belts out “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have” awakening some interest in an audience member (me) who was finding the proceedings without much spark.

You might have been to a child’s elementary school Drama Club’s year end production of a musical at some point where their fellow students did their best but somehow were just not believable – performing on a simple set with a bit of lackluster choreography.  As good as the tunes were, it really wasn’t enough.  In a word, amateurish.  And so it is with CLEAR DAY.  Nostalgia is not enough.

2 hrs – one 15 minute intermission

Photos:  Walter McBride

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www.irishrep.org

 

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Dramatists Guild Criticizes Marginalization of Writers at the 2018 Tony Awards

June 14th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Dramatists Guild Criticizes Marginalization of Writers at the 2018 Tony Awards

by BWW News Desk

BroadwayWorld.com Jun. 14, 2018

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Dough Wright, president of the Dramatists Guild of America, has issued an open letter to the CEO of the CBS Network, Les Moonves, criticizing the omission of categories honoring playwrights and composers from Sunday’s Tony Awards telecast.

Many fans on social media had already taken note of the omission, bemoaning the network’s decision not to air these central categories on the live show.

Read the full Dramatists Guild statement below:

“Dear Mr. Moonves,

Congratulations on the 2018 Tony Awards Telecast. As president of the Dramatists Guild, I applaud CBS for continuing to champion live theater on national television.

That said, we remain dismayed that the awards continue to marginalize the roles of playwrights, composers, and lyricists in forging the American theater. This is especially ironic because without dramatists, there would be no theater to celebrate. Before there can be a festive opening night, rave reviews, skyrocketing receipts, and nationally televised awards shows, a few brave writers must tackle the lonely task of scribing words in an effort to tell the stories that fill their hearts and minds. When they do so, they create thousands of jobs for their fellow professionals in the field, enrich the cultural life of the nation, and pump millions upon millions of dollars into our economy.

A list of great theater writers includes some of the most enduring names in popular culture: George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Arthur Miller, Lillian Hellman, August Wilson, and Stephen Sondheim. Exciting new writers are joining their ranks every season on Broadway. But, by failing to grant them visibility, CBS is erasing them from the historical record. This is a shame not only for the telecast, but also for our national musical and literary heritage.

We understand that your mission is two-fold: to honor our art form, but also to create entertaining television. Nevertheless, the omission of writers is patently arbitrary. Surely the names of many Broadway actors, directors, and producers are no more familiar to the average viewer than those of our members.

This year, by excluding authors, the telecast arguably shot itself in the foot. Many of the songwriters of the year’s hit musicals are already bold-faced names, beloved all across the country. Aerosmith, Cyndi Lauper, David Bowie, Lady Antebellum, John Legend, and cohost Sara Bareilles are just some of the composers responsible for SpongeBob SquarePants. The songwriters for Disney’s adaptation of Frozen, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, won an Oscar for the chart-topping anthem “Let It Go.” This year’s Tony winner, David Yazbek, is a three-time Tony nominee. Audiences would find this information educative and dramatically engaging; these figures are titans on Broadway and elsewhere. Shockingly, on the broadcast, their honors were supplanted by commercials.

Plays fared no better than musicals. In fact, the playwrights may have suffered even more. At least scenes from the musicals and the Tony for Best Book were presented on air, but this year there was no attempt to present the plays on the broadcast in any manner whatsoever. Last year, the playwrights were given a moment to describe their plays. Regarding the award itself, the Tony for Best Play is supposed to be awarded to both the producer and the author, yet in the broadcast, the nominated authors were not even mentioned (Ayad Akhtar, Lucy Kirkwood, John Leguizamo and Claire van Kampen). Adding further insult to injury, when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child won the trophy, the two producers used up all the allotted time without allowing the playwright to speak. Regrettably, CBS drowned out playwright Jack Thorne with incidental music, favoring time strictures over meaningful content and basic fairness.

Every year, the Academy Awards faithfully includes screenwriters in not one but two categories. And it’s not just the Oscars; the Grammys, Emmys, and Golden Globes all award the writers in their respective industries on the air. And yet it’s the theater that most esteems writers; we are generally recognized as the principal artistic force behind new work, and we even retain ownership and control over the material we create. Yet on the very awards show intended to celebrate our craft, we are effectively negated.

Please note, Mr. Moonves, that Dramatists Guild presidents past and present have been forced to write some version of this letter almost annually. The ongoing failure by CBS and the Tony committee to act on this matter has been noticed by dramatists everywhere; the day following the Awards, my in-box was filled with notes from understandably irked theater writers, and social media was alive and crackling with indignation. It is worth noting that these same dramatists own the words and music that are performed on the broadcast.

The Dramatists Guild strongly urges you to reconsider this policy in future years and, instead, make the Tony Awards truly reflective of the artists who create the magic that fills American stages.

Respectfully,
Doug Wright
President, Dramatists Guild of America”

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HARRY POTTER and the CURSED CHILD – J.K. Rowling’s magic show

May 4th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Are you up to the challenge?  Are you willing to commit both time and that all important commodity, money, into seeing this once in a lifetime theatrical experience?

This is a stunner of a play.  Actually two plays.  Part one, 2 hours and 20 minutes.  Part two, 2 hours and 35 minutes.  Plus 2 twenty minute intermissions.  And if you see them both in one day, as I did, a dinner break.

I have just recovered from “Potter Fatigue” after viewing this British import in all its glory that is still running in London and Melbourne.  Its New York City home, The Lyric Theatre on West 43 Street, has been beautifully refurbished.

HARRY POTTER and the CURSED CHILD is a banquet of words.  You sometimes feel that they are about to sing.  But no.  They talk.  Lots of exposition.  From an original new story from J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne (who is credited with writing the play) and John Tiffany its director who has done an amazing job along with movement director Steven Hoggett.  Both perfect choices to helm this production.

It’s also a feast for the eyes.  Monumental set design (Christine Jones) Costumes (Katrina Lindsay) and brilliant lighting design Neil Austin will leave you feeling stuffed and satisfied and somewhat bewildered at times.  Yet full of wonderment and awe from witnessing some of the most incredible illusions and magic created by Jamie Harrison.

J.K. Rowling is the genius mind behind the Harry Potter franchise.  Seven books, the first published in June 1977 after being rejected numerous times by publisher after publisher, breakthrough cinematic versions, a theme park and numerous other money magnet enterprises connected to her Wizard.

She created not only memorable characters, but universal themes about friendship, parenting, growing up, destiny and the forces of evil.  Most of our favorite characters are present.  They have grown up physically while retaining some of their younger characteristics.

It is nineteen years after the seventh book and Harry is 37.   An amazing performance by Jamie Parker has him back at Platform nine and three quarters as he sets his son Albus (an excellent Sam Clemmett) off to Hogwarts where Harry was considered to be the best wizard there ever was.  A problem that Albus has to contend with which leads to troubling issues between him and his dad.

Harry is married to Ginny – a more than fine Poppy Miller.  Her brother Ron Weasley, still my favorite character, is with the clever Hermione – Noma Dumezweni who is excellent but a rather odd choice to play this character that takes a bit of adjustment for traditional Potter fans.

Having Albus bond with Scorpius, the son of Draco Malfoy (Alex Price) who was the arch enemy of Harry is a brilliant idea that sets us off on this new, lengthy and convoluted journey.  He too has daddy issues.

Anthony Boyle portrays Scorpius with wry humor and occasionally unintelligible speech.  This a combination of the original music by Imogen Heap that can overshadow the dialogue, his British accent and the sound system.

I was seated in the fifth row and had trouble hearing him and others.  The large speakers above flushed the sound out to the auditorium and laughter could be heard behind me at the jokes while the front orchestra section remained silent.  I note this only because the rest of the production is so good that it is a shame that these prime seats have a problem with the sound.

Swirling capes, flights of castle stairs, surprises galore, talking portraits, a back to the future “time turner” – fine video design by Finn Ross & Ash Woodward,  a wonderful cameo by Lauren Nicole Cipoletti as Moaning Myrtle and the sudden friendship between Delphi Diggory (a great Jessie Fisher) and Albus and Scorpius as they try to save…

I have been sworn to “keep the secrets” – so it is up to you to take the challenge to find out what happens.

As I mentioned, this is a once in a lifetime theatrical experience that must be seen to be believed and you may still find it hard to believe what you see!

www.harrypottertheplay.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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THE ICEMAN COMETH – Eugene O’Neill, Denzel Washington & George C. Wolfe

May 3rd, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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How wise was director Mr. George C. Wolfe in this long night’s journey into a bar – to cut it down somewhat, quicken its pace, mine it for its humor and to cast terrific supporting barflies, alcoholics, and tarts – drunk and delusional losers one and all – in this revival starring Denzel Washington.

The set design by Santo Loquasto helps a lot by varying the perspective of the bar with each act.  The subtle lighting design by Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer heightens the eerie reality of their universe.   Costumes by Ann Roth are appropriately seedy.

Even so, Eugene O’Neill’s classic play first produced on Broadway in 1946 that is set in 1912, clocks in at over four hours.  And spending four hours with this group of losers with their “pipe dreams” might even make a teetotaler desperate for a drink.

Admittedly Mr. Washington is a star that can fill the seats at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre where THE ICEMAN COMETH is running with his devoted fan base who always support him whenever he steps out on a Broadway stage.

But it is all those special character actors, with their eye on the spotlight, that keep this sad and tragic story moving swiftly along until Theodore Hickman, salesman extraordinaire (known as Hickey) makes his star entrance about an hour into this too long, repetitive and verbose script to celebrate the birthday of Harry Hope (Colm Meaney) owner of the bar with its upstairs rooms to let.

Hickey comes on like gangbusters, like Harold Hill of The Music Man.  He has given up the booze and it is now his mission to reform his friends and help them to see the light.  Is it for real or is it just another pipe dream?

The wonderfully seedy supporting ensemble includes David Morse as Larry Slade (a former anarchist), Austin Butler (making an exceptional Broadway debut as Don Parritt), Bill Irwin (sneaking a drink whenever he can), Reg Rogers (Jimmy Tomorrow), Neal Huff (shaking off his DT’s), hooker Cora (Tammy Blanchard) and her soon to marry pimp Chuck (Danny Mastrogiorgio) and porter Joe Mott – an excellent Michael Potts whose character is referred to repeatedly with the N word.  This is extremely jarring.  Considering.

They are mostly happy drunks – all with a story or two to tell, dreaming of realizing their dreams that will never happen.

Hickey has a final confessional monologue that he relates directly to the audience as if we are the patrons of Harry’s Bar that is the best part of Mr. Washington’s performance.

But it’s a sorry lot to spend four hours with.

Limited run through July 1st only.

www.icemanonbroadway.com

Photos:  Julieta Cervantes

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SUMMER – the Donna Summer musical – It takes three to boogie, disco style

May 2nd, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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On April 26, 1977 Studio 54 opened.  On April 26, 2018 I attended the new musical based on the life of the most famous Disco Queen that reigned supreme at Studio 54 – Donna Summer – in SUMMER – the Donna Summer musical.  How appropriate or how ironic I wondered not ever having been at Studio 54.  Those were the days of vinyl LP’s, silver lame, disco balls, drugs, sex, booze, poppers and the new androgynous look.

Perhaps that was what triggered the ill-conceived and bizarre concept of casting mostly females who dress as men, dance as men, act as men and also as women as backup chorus and individual characters.  There are however three male leading men (Aaron Krohn, Ken Robinson and Jared Zirilli) who do an outstanding job at standing up for their gender.

The many incidents of Donna Summer’s life are simplified here (Book by Coleman Domingo, Robert Cary and Des McAnuff) and glossed over with a lot of sequins to make room for the 23 famous musical numbers by Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder, Paul Jabara and others performed by a trio of Summers:  LaChanze (Diva Donna), Ariana DeBose (Disco Donna) and Storm Lever (Duckling Donna) who give it their all in this entertaining nostalgic songbook.

Des McAnuff has directed at a fast clip that attempts to explain her life through her songs.  And the songs are everything.  That is what all her fans want to hear.  They champ at the bit at every musical intro and are sometimes disappointed when the songs are shortened or they do not have a big ending that will enable them to stand up and cheer and boogie along with the cast.

Indeed, it is LaChanze, early on in her narrative, who encourages the audience to sings along and dance if the spirit moves them.  I have to admit that the musical numbers are terrific.  They are briskly choreographed by Sergio Trujillo.  He has given Ariana DeBose some amazing moves to highlight her talent as a dancer as well as a singer.

But the sometimes preachy book might as well have been jettisoned.  Just get on with the songs.  When that happened, magic happens.  Voices soar and we are brought back to the sounds of the 70’s that truly are boogie inspiring.

The songs are what sell this show.  Along with the performances of our trio of Donnas who are dressed most always in blue.  Was it her favorite color or is it a subtle reference to her being sad beneath her disco happy exterior?

The many costumes by Paul Tazewell are worth special mention.  Lighting by Howell Binkley shines down on the sparse but functional set by Robert Brill.  The now ubiquitous projections are by Sean Nieuwenhuis.

Bruce Sudano is credited with Story Consultant.  They should have had more consultations as she really had a fascinating life.  But you can google all that information on the internet.

Just go to SUMMER for the songs.  Be entertained by “MacArthur Park”, “Heaven Knows”, “On the Radio”, “Bad Girls”, “Hot Stuff” and “Let’s Dance” to name just a few, and have a fun time at this intermission-less (One hundred minute) production at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.  Or better yet, listen to an old LP.

www.thedonnasummermusical.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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MY FAIR LADY – 9 well deserved Outer Critics Circle Nominations

April 26th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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After seeing a matinee performance of the sumptuous Lincoln Center Theater revitalized revival of MY FAIR LADY I can only say one thing – that I wish I could have seen it again.  Immediately.  That night.  This ravishing production is that good.  All around.  In every single department.  Casting.  Acting.  Singing.  Direction.  Set and costumes.  Lighting, sound and choreography.

Coincidentally, the original production of MY FAIR LADY opened in 1956, the same year that the film version of CAROUSEL opened which is also being revived and playing on Broadway as well.  Each has its own merits but MY FAIR LADY is the ultimate victor so far having received 9 Outer Critics Circle nominations and CAROUSEL 6…

MY FAIR LADY is a badly needed tonic for an anemic theatrical season.  And for that we must thank Bartlett Sher its director who has created brand new memories to supplant any deeply held fond memories of the original production and film version.

It helps tremendously that the source material is George Bernard Shaw’s play and Gabriel Pascal’s motion picture “Pygmalion” which has been beautifully adapted by Alan Jay Lerner (Book and Lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (Music) with a fresh new approach to the lead character Eliza Doolittle by the surprise-of-the-season actress/comedienne Lauren Ambrose who sings beautifully and instills life into her character from moment to moment in her journey from Cockney feral guttersnipe to protégé and experiment of confirmed bachelor Henry Higgins (a marvelous Harry Hadden-Paton) to her attempts at changing her vocal quality to that of a “lady” to her initial debut into society to her complete triumph at the Embassy ball and ultimately to her discovery of who she is and what she really wants out of life.  It’s a tremendous and detailed journey that is wondrous.

As Higgins friend Pickering, Allan Corduner hits all the right notes – especially during “The Rain In Spain” trio that manages to seem completely spontaneous as does the flamboyant Professor Zoltan Karpathy (Manu Narayan) and the strict and dour head housekeeper Mrs. Pearce – Linda Mugleston.

Norbert Leo Butz brings down the house as Eliza’a spendthrift and drunken dad Alfred “With a Little Bit of Luck” and “Get Me Too the Church on Time” (with creative choreography by Christopher Gattelli) that balance nicely the scenes in the grand manor that is Higgins home – which is a marvel of design by Michael Yeargan whose various other settings are one swirling surprise after another especially the Ascot Gavotte (with eye popping costumes by Catherine Zuber) and the Embassy ball.

Diana Rigg makes an elegant mother to Henry Higgins and gives Eliza a bit of insight into her egotistical and spoiled son.

Freddy Eynsford-Hill (Jordan Donica) who follows Eliza around like a sad eyed puppy dog gives a handsome rendition of “On the Street Where You Live” and where Higgins sings in the same location later on “I’ve Grown Accustomed to her Face” – before the final denouement that leaves the audience cheering Eliza on as our hero’s journey continues.

All the maids and butlers have their own little stories going on in the household as the sets rapidly change which is just another special added treat to this elaborate and most cared for production.

At the Vivian Beaumont in association with Nederlander Presentations, Inc.  2 hours and 55 minutes.  One intermission.

Highly relevant and highly recommended.

www.lct.org

Photos: Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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CAROUSEL – a brave new revival of a classic

April 19th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Back to basics.  Strong story.  Gorgeous melodies.  Smart lyrics.  Uncomplicated sets.  No projections.  I’ve just about had it with projections.  Incredibly creative choreography.  Believable characterizations.  Careful and detailed direction.  A well-constructed and taught libretto.  And best of all a supporting cast of superb singers, singing a score that was written in 1945 that still wows and resonates today.

CAROUSEL has one of the best scores ever written for the musical theatre and everyone, young and those of a certain age alike should see this production at the Imperial Theatre to remember or be introduced to what real theater songs sound like.  How sung dialogue can be beautifully melodic.

What makes a song memorable?  Makes a song a classic?  A standard?  The God given gifts of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II that enabled them to make heavenly music together that they have shared in so many ground breaking musicals.

That enabled director Jack O’Brien and choreographer Justin Peck to reimagine and reawaken the more interesting, darker aspects of this love story between a young and naïve mill worker Julie (an innocent and totally believable Jessie Mueller) who falls in love with an arrogant, insecure and magnetic Carnival barker (an all of the above Joshua Henry) who is always teetering on the wrong side of the law and can at times become violent.

To bravely open this production in a carnival sideshow version of Heaven, where the characters are silently introduced as the orchestra sweeps us up in “The Carousel Waltz” and where we are immediately introduced to the excellent Justin Peck dancers who become a most original carousel and where the ever lurking Starkeeper (John Douglas Thompson) is hovering.  It’s a fantastic opening.

Especially since Billy Bigelow is now a man of color which adds just another layer to the love story and race relations, then and now.  His “Soliloquy” is truly a powerful and moving experience.

Julie’s best friend Carrie (a superb Lindsay Mendez – who manages to deservedly steal every scene she is in) has also fallen in love in short order with, Mr. Snow (Alexander Gemignani) a fisherman who has big plans and impresses all with his incredible voice.  Both have wonderful chemistry together and expert comic timing.

Julie’s cousin Nettie, who has the ultimate tear inducing song from the show “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is portrayed beautifully by Renee Fleming.

Owner of the carnival, Mrs. Mullin (Margaret Colin) and sometimes lover of the womanizing Billy takes charge of the stage in a great portrayal of this woman scorned.

Amar Ramasar, a great ballet dancer is Jigger – the guy who talks Billy into a robbery that turns tragic.

Which brings us back to heaven and the Starkeeper giving Billy a second chance to make amends.  To watch from above his daughter Louise (the graceful Brittany Pollack) dance barefoot on the beach with the hope of a reconciliation.

Only you can decide if you agree or not with me BUT believe me, it would be worth your while to see and hear this brave new classic version of CAROUSEL.  Eagerly awaiting the cast album.

2 hours, 20 minutes one intermission

www.carouselbroadway.com

Photos:  Julieta Cervantes

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