Oscar E Moore

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THE KING AND I revival – It’s a puzzlement

May 10th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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Under the tutelage of the usually perfect Bartlett Sher this revival is a really big production with one really big problem.  There is a big orchestra (29).  A big cast (51) on a big stage.  Big hoop skirts (Catherine Zuber).  A big Buddha.  Big sets (Michael Yeargan) including the arrival of a very big boat that threatens not to stop in time bringing the British widow and future schoolmarm to the children of the King of Siam Anna Leonowens (Kelli O’Hara) and her young son Louis (Jake Lucas).

It is apparent that the budget is also big. No expense has been spared. THE KING AND I is a really big production that would all but be impossible were it not for Lincoln Center Theater.

So now, the big question. Why cast someone who obviously has a problem with the spoken English language as the King of Siam? A man who can be heard but not understood most of the time. A man bellowing phonetic sounds. Not clear words. Garbled sentences. It’s a puzzlement.

I am afraid that this all but ruined the show for me. Straining to understand I finally gave in and zoned out. To boot there is next to zero electricity between the King and Kelli O’Hara who gives a fine performance with her beautiful presence and exceptional vocals.

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II tackled successfully some mighty big themes in musicalizing the novel “Anna and the King of Siam” by Margaret Landon in 1951 that are still pertinent today. Polygamy. Misogyny. And the demeaning of anyone thought to be one’s inferior.

Mr. Hammerstein wrote a magnificent libretto that is wise and touching and brave and lyrics that develop character and move the complex plot forward with ease. Mr. Rodgers matched every word with gorgeous, romantic melodies that linger on to this date and rightfully made them a fortune.

It’s a clash of cultures. He wanting not to budge an inch. And she desiring to educate. Especially the women - not to bow down to their Lord and Master. To challenge authority. Two people equally matched fighting for what they each believe in. Too bad we only get half of the battle most of the time.

The supporting players are wonderful. Especially Ruthie Ann Miles as Lady Thiang – the King’s head wife. All his children (it’s a big family with many wives) are introduced in a delightful manner – they each have their own individual personalities as they are presented in “The March of the Siamese Children” that is quite refreshing. As the heir to the throne Jon Viktor Corpuz finally comes into his own at play’s end.

As the young, secret lovers Tuptim – a “gift” to the King of Siam from the King of Burma (Ashley Park) and Lun Tha (Conrad Ricamora) bring romance and passion to their famous duets. When Anna gives Tuptim a copy of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” the plot takes off culminating in the famous ballet choreographed by Jerome Robbins and tweaked by Christopher Gattelli – “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” – the highlight of the production due to the charismatic dancing of Xiaochuan Xie as Eliza speaking nary a word.

Respectfully, I only wish that Ken Watanabe, said King, would make more of an effort to be understood. Why spoil an otherwise perfectly wonderful production? It’s a huge puzzlement.

At the Vivian Beaumont. Open run.

www.lct.org

Photos:  Paul Kolnik

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SOMETHING ROTTEN! – Methinks I doth detect the sweet smell of success

May 3rd, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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Oh to be an usher at the St. James Theatre.  Oh to be able to relish over and over again the “song and dance, romance and happy ending” of SOMETHING ROTTEN!  Not to mention the hilarity and show stopping numbers.  The wondrous and witty lyrics.  The sing along tunes.  The thespians.  The fair maidens, tap dancing eggs and hefty cod pieces.  Everything catches the eye and ear.  And one better be quick and attentive or else you will miss the endless satirical theatrical references to everything musical comedy-ish, Shakespearean and naughty.

We must bow down to or stand up and cheer the brothers Kirkpatrick – Karey and Wayne and John O’Farrell who have concocted this truly original non-stop laugh fest that combines the names of many of Shakespeare’s characters (and Shakespeare himself), the skewered wit of Forbidden Broadway and the smart and clever lyrics reminiscent of Cole Porter to some very memorable tunes. It’s an all-around hoot. A cartoon come to life in living color.

The Bottom brothers Nick (a robust Brian D’Arcy James) and Nigel (a shy but determined John Cariani) need to come up with a new idea for a play for their theatrical troupe to outdo their arch rival Shakespeare (an amazing rock-star influenced Christian Borle) whose “Will Power” has the audience begging for more.

Nigel wants to be true to himself and write from the heart. Nick is more practical and seeks the advice of a soothsayer – Nostradamus (a delirious Brad Oscar) who foretells that the next big thing in theatre will be actors singing songs which leads to the Act I showstopper “A Musical.”

Along the way Nigel falls for Portia (Kate Reinders - the look alike/sound alike Kristin Chenoweth – a brilliant touch done on purpose I’m convinced) the daughter of the Puritan Brother Jeremiah (the not very subtle Brooks Ashmanskas) whose sexual innuendo jokes are delicious and never gross.

Along the same way Nick’s trying to be liberated wife Bea (the always dependable Heidi Blickenstaff) attempts to earn some money doing a man’s job while tending their newborn baby and singing up a storm and being funny to boot.

Peter Bartlett just has to appear as Lord Clapham as a Patron of the Arts to induce giggles and then guffaws as he goes into his act. And Gerry Vichi as Shylock is as convincing a token second banana Jew as one can get.

There are disguises. Romance. Frivolity. And another show stopping number “Make an Omelette” (not to be confused with Hamlet) with a chorus of dancing eggs tap dancing their way into theatrical history. See the show for details.

Not only is SOMETHING ROTTEN! an avalanche of laughs but it is beautiful to look at thanks to set designer Scott Pask, costumes by Gregg Barnes and lighting by Jeff Croiter recreating jolly old London.

Direction and choreography is spot on by Casey Nicholaw. What a master he is! Once the show begins with Michael James Scott as the Genie inspired Minstrel SOMETHING ROTTEN! barrels forward to its heartfelt and glorious ending. It’s an absolutely funtastical entertainment.

www.rottenbroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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THE VISIT - Remembrance of things past

May 2nd, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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Claire Zachanassian’s (Chita Rivera) entrance is eagerly awaited by both the downtrodden townspeople of Brachen Switzerland – thinking she will save them - and New York audiences anxious to see their beloved legend at the Lyceum Theatre in this “artsy” one act musical of the 1956 play by Friedrich Durrenmatt by Kander & Ebb with a new book by Terrence McNally.  She doesn’t disappoint.  Mostly.

With a sweep of her arms, with a kick here and there, with a swish of her skirt we remember Chita.  We remember what a marvelous dancer and entertainer she was and continues to be.  We are seeing her through our eyes of the past.  With her raspy but distinctive voice she talk/sings her songs.  She is a riveting presence but she falls a bit short in delivering the inherent nastiness that Claire ought to have in spades.  Does it matter?  Not really.

She’s a trouper.  A real honest to goodness Broadway Baby.  Looking elegant and regal in her white gown designed by Anna Hould-Ward.  Her bejeweled neck dazzles and she indeed looks the part of the wealthiest woman in the world (half Jewish/half Gyspy who has had six husbands) returning to her homeland seeking revenge on the love of her life – her first love – Anton Schell (an excellent Roger Rees) a lowly shopkeeper who abandoned Claire when she was pregnant with their child to marry Matilde (Mary Beth Peil) whose father owned the shop he now runs.

Claire was forced to flee Brachen and has been plotting ever since to retaliate for Anton’s abandonment, arriving in town with a coffin, her butler Rudi (Tom Nelis) and eunuchs Louis Perch (Matthew Deming) and Jacob Chicken (Chris Newcomer) wearing the as yet to become fashionable and best-selling (on credit) yellow shoes.  Over the years she lost a leg and an arm but made up for it by concentrating on amassing wealth.

Director John Doyle and company haven’t really decided if this production should be expressionistic, Brechtian or mainstream.  McNally’s book at times is pure musical comedy with not enough sting.  There is a little bit of everything which makes for an uneven presentation.  All those “yellow” props become distracting as “symbols.”

But the addition of a young “wild-cat” Claire (Michelle Veintimilla) and a young “panther” Anton (a striking John Riddle) is a brilliant touch throughout.

Claire will help the town financially but they must murder Anton so that she can take him away to Capri.  Will greed win out?  Is Chita the reigning Queen of Broadway?

The score is serviceable with a beautiful and memorable “You, You, You.”  We are hearing the best past strains of Kander and Ebb and so we make do.  The score has been expertly arranged and orchestrated by David Loud and Larry Hochman respectively and the graceful choreography by Graciela Daniele keeps the show moving along romantically with a touch of the macabre.

Over the years (fourteen to be exact) this musical has had a series of face lifts resulting in this uneven production that sports some magical moments and some wrinkles along the way.  www.thevisitmusical.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus & Thom Kaine

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DOCTOR ZHIVAGO – An American in Russia

April 27th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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Virginia Beach, Virginia is a long way from Siberia.  One wonders why Kelli Barrett a girl from said location and as American as apple pie was cast in the pivotal role of Lara – the love interest of popular poet and married doctor Yuri Zhivago (Tam Mutu), passionate revolutionary Pasha Antipov/Strelnikov (Paul Alexander Nolan) and the lecherous Victor Komarovsky (Tom Hewitt).

The men are excellent but Ms. Barrett supplies little chemistry with Yuri and Pasha - and in the case of Victor (controlling rapist) one can’t imagine what allure she has for them to be so wildly enamored of her.

She is the second weakest link in this epic, meandering, visually beautiful (with the exception of all those stacked chairs), relentless, spanning three decades, bland attempt at recreating the passion and excitement of Les Miz Russian style.  The weakest link award going to Lucy Simon credited with writing music.  Wait!  It’s a tie - with lyricists Michael Korie & Amy Powers.

A musical needs a score to survive and this score stops it in its tracks.  It’s not what the doctor ordered.

Like the Mississippi River the songs just keep rollin’ along in this almost three hour production directed by an uninspired Des McAnuff who has forsaken intimacy for crowd control.  For some odd reason all the songs begin to sound alike.  That can also be said of the singers.  Are they all in the same key?  At times, it’s difficult to distinguish one voice from another which doesn’t help matters at all.  Ho hum…

Not for a minute do we believe we are in Russia despite the overhead projections of the year and location or “three weeks later” and the mammoth, imperial/battle field sets by Michael Scott Mitchell and period costumes by Paul Tazewell.   And the exceptional lighting design of Howell Binkley.

Small things, unintentionally funny things keep popping up to take us out of Russia.  Like Lara.  Like a ridiculous “sheet waltz” danced by the nurses at the front to the tune of “Somewhere My Love” - Lara’s Theme written by Maurice Jarre and Paul Francis Webster.

There is one song “Now” that catches the ear.  In fact it reminded me of another.   It took me a while to figure it out.  It’s the Marvin Hamlisch/Carole Bayer Sager “Through the Eyes of Love.”  Perhaps I’m mistaken.  In any event both songs are lovely.  But the score just doesn’t do it.  You just might come out of Doctor Zhivago shell shocked and humming the chairs.

At the Broadway Theatre.  www.doctorzhivagobroadway.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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LIVING ON LOVE – An unfortunate serving of Diva Dish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.livingonlovebroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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FINDING NEVERLAND - IMAGINATION TAKES FLIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.FindingNeverlandthemusical.com

Photos:  Carol Rosegg

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IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU – Wedding Day Surprises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.itshouldabeenyou.com

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Photos: Joan Marcus

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AN AMERICAN IN PARIS – Simply spectacular

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.anamericaninparisbroadway.com

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Photos:  Angela Sterling

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GIGI – A mostly charmless reimagined revival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Limited engagement.

Photos: Johan Persson

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