Oscar E Moore

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THE ELEPHANT MAN – Bradley Cooper - beauty and the beast

December 14th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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Standing straight up in his Victorian Hospital skivvies the handsome and buff Bradley Cooper, sharing the stage with an enlarged photo of the actual Joseph Merrick and Dr. Frederick Treves (an excellent Alessandro Nivola) who is describing in detail the deformities of Mr. Merrick, Mr. Cooper contortions himself into the malformed man he is to portray brilliantly in Bernard Pomerance’s 1977 thin and episodic play THE ELEPHANT MAN at the Booth Theatre.

It is a combination of The Cripple of Inishmaan and Side Show.  A story about a disfigured man who became the meal ticket of Ross (Anthony Heald) who trotted him across Europe charging money to take a peek at his freak.  Flopping in Belgium, Ross sends Merrick back to London where he is befriended by Dr. Treves who believes that he can give Merrick an almost normal life.

Merrick may be deformed but he has a keen sense of humor, is highly intelligent, is willing to learn and most importantly compassion.  He’s like a child growing up, experiencing things for the very first time including religion and seeing a naked woman’s bared breasts.  His enlarged head is full of big dreams but the dreams of sleep come only while sitting up.

Mr. Cooper’s performance is consummate in this highly theatrical and bare bones production exquisitely directed by Scott Ellis.

The stark unit set design by Timothy R. Mackabee allow fluidity of movement.  With the use of curtains and a few set pieces that are moved around by the ensemble we see the emergence of the man that most people couldn’t even look at lest they be disgusted.

Mr. Cooper speaking mostly out of the side of his mouth, with a crippled right hand and limping around with one hip higher than the other allows the beautiful inner Merrick to shine through his highly theatrical imagined horrific exterior balancing himself precariously at times on his cane.

The well intentioned and compassionate doctor introduces Merrick to an equally compassionate Mrs. Kendal (a fine and amusing Patricia Clarkson) – an actress who introduces him to her society friends in Act II where the story becomes a bit derailed and confusing – focusing on the dilemmas that Doctor Treves and Bishop How (Anthony Heald) face in dealing with their patient who is constructing a miniature model of St. Phillip’s church with his one workable hand.

Mr. Merrick fades into the background – unfortunately.  But Bradley Cooper even while not the main focus remains riveting in his portrayal of THE ELEPHANT MAN.  It’s a performance not to be missed making us realize that there are no freaks.  We are one – human beings all and should be treated as such – with compassion.  Through February 15th 2015.

Thanks to the Williamstown Theatre Festival who first produced this production in 2012.

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

www.elephantmanbroadway.com

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IT’S ONLY A PLAY – jokes from Nathan Lane & Co.

December 7th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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Don’t think about it.  Just laugh.  Abundantly.  Terrance McNally (a sort of hit or miss kind of playwright) with patience and persistence, with love, valor and compassion and a wicked wit has penned a farce (not altogether perfect) in the mode of Moliere and Kaufman and Hart – starring six – count them – over the title stars and introducing newcomer Micah Stock - making a dashing Broadway debut as Gus - the naïve, pigeon toed and pouty just off the bus would be actor and coat checker - for the post opening night party of THE GOLDEN EGG - after recently appearing in McNally’s Off-Broadway’s valentine to the theatre AND AWAY WE GO.

Lucky for him this 1978 show that closed out of town and then made it to Off Off Broadway in 1982 (briefly) and then made it to Off Broadway in 1986 (briefly) has been given a new life with updates to the many scathing comments about show biz folk that make for most of the merriment at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre where it is enjoying a mostly sold out limited engagement starring the very profitable combination of Nathan Lane (excellent) and Matthew Broderick (dull).

Directed with a foot heavy on the gas pedal, by Jack O’Brien IT’S ONLY A PLAY plays it for laughs which flow across the footlights from the sumptuous deco inspired bedroom (Scott Pask) of first time solo producer Julia Budder (Megan Mullally) rich but vacuous who knows more about shoes than producing.

It is here that Gus brings the overflow of coats from the downstairs party.  Sight gags to accompany the written gags about such luminaries as Tommy Tune, Daniel Radcliff and Lady Gaga.  There is a blizzard going on outside but nary a snowflake is seen on any of the coats that are not even damp…

What is more important is the storm brewing inside as they all anxiously await the most important New York Times review of the play written by Peter Austin (Matthew Broderick) that was turned down by his best friend James Wicker (Nathan Lane) who is starring in a TV show as has flown in for the opening.  We never meet who replaced him…a case of the new leading man gone missing.

Gathered together are the star of the show – Virginia Noyes (Stockard Channing) – a bit past her prime but still attractive drug addict with an ankle alarm attached to her by her parole officer – Frank Finger (Rupert Grant) the over the top British wunderkind director and critic and closet playwright Ira Drew (a very funny F. Murray Abraham) and an off stage dog.

The funniest of the jokes deal with the names of James Wicker, Harvey Fierstein and Nathan Lane.  Set up beautifully they really pay off big.

What doesn’t really pay off are the monotone monologues delivered by an almost comatose Matthew Broderick about the state of the theatre, critics, unions and the usual soap box rhetoric that Mr. McNally feels that he needs to include.

The “review” arriving at the end of Act I is read in full hilarity in Act II which is funnier than Act I.

Martin Short replaces Mr. Lane starting January 7th 2015.  Katie Finneran replaces Megan Mullally and Maulik Pancholy replaces Rupert Grint as well.  Break a leg kids!

www.itsonlyaplay.com

Photos: Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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THE RIVER – Fishing for love with Hugh Jackman

November 23rd, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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What can Hugh Jackman ever do to impress us more than he already has? I wondered as I arrived at Circle in the Square.  Eighty five minutes later my question had been answered.  Hugh Jackman has chosen to be The Man in The Royal Court production of THE RIVER – written by Jez Butterworth and directed by Ian Rickson and he is terrific.

He has become this character.  Entirely human.  Real.  No singing.  No dancing.  No flashy, charming smiles (he saves those for the after show auction of his red tee shirt and signed posters, raising money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids).

The Man is in his uncle’s cabin.  Near a river where the sea trout are awaiting to be caught. The crickets are chirping.  It’s a magnificent sunset that The Woman (Cush Jumbo with a pitch perfect performance) wants to share with him.  But he’s seen it before and is anxious to fish.  She’s moved a table and it’s her first time there.  He’s upset.  She gets a splinter and he removes it with his knife that he uses to filet trout.  She goes missing.  And The Other Woman (an equally fine Laura Donnelly) enters with a trout that she has caught.  A bit confusing at first.

The play has a fascinating structure as both women enter and exit the cabin seamlessly.  It’s as though The Man has a revolving door into his bedroom that allows them to enter into and out of his life as if he has done this dozens of times before with other women – always searching for love, finding it and then losing it just as quickly.

The constants are the sunset, the lure, the catch, the preparation, the cooking, the eating and a robin that has gotten itself trapped in the cabin.

The Man himself is bewildered at times.  And it is Hugh Jackman’s concentration and full commitment to character that fascinates as he attempts to find a way to make his trout dinner last longer than one night.

But no one is altogether truthful with the other.  Three amazing character studies with a skilled lesson in preparing the perfect trout.  The dialogue is sharp and smart.  Plenty of wit.  Plenty of things happening to keep you alert.  The direction boarders on the balletic – and I mean that as a compliment – precise – fluid - it’s as if we are in the mind of a man remembering, trying to figure what it is he is doing wrong and why so many women pass through this cabin on moonless nights over and over again.

The thrust stage cabin design by Ultz allows the audience an up close and intimate view of the three very interesting performers – especially Hugh Jackman (manly and sensitive) – who has never allowed himself to be this psychologically exposed before.

It’s a haunting experience that has just been extended by two weeks.  Try not to miss it.

www.theriveronbroadway.com

Photos:  Richard Termine

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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SIDE SHOW - Memories die hard…

November 22nd, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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This new production of the 1997 cult musical SIDE SHOW is more than a revival.  It is more than a make-over.  It has had radical surgery – not altogether a good thing.   The original opened and quickly closed.  I saw it three times.  Before I received press seats for reviewing such shows.

I thought it was brilliant and moving, visually stunning, amusing and dark with a great score by Henry Krieger and Bill Russell who also wrote the book.  It was imaginatively directed and choreographed by Robert Longbottom and was one of the best cast shows ever.

Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley were the Hilton sisters – joined at the hip but with individual wants and personalities.  Daisy and Violet respectively.  Unique freaks.  It is almost impossible to erase from my mind their mesmerizing performances.  I tried.  But failed.

In this newly mounted reimagined SIDE SHOW at the too large St. James Theatre - too much tinkering has been brought on board by director Bill Condon who has supplied “additional book material.”  The result is a cut and paste job that blurs what was so original and touching and so very well constructed.  But you will not be paying to see the original, so I will attempt to give you a glimpse into this depressing rather than uplifting, drab looking, melodramatic rendition where Cabaret, Pippin, Phantom and Las Vegas rear their over exposed heads.  Houdini (Javier Ignacio) also appears with a beautifully sung new song that is supposed to be a self-help ditty “All in the Mind.”

The less said about the choreography by Anthony Van Laast the better.  Ditto for the costumes by Paul Tazewell and scenic design by David Rockwell.

Emily Padgett and Erin Davie are the new waif-like Daisy and Violet.  They are different.  Their similar voices blend beautifully and they deliver mightily their two soaring anthems “Who Will Love Me As I Am?” and “I Will Never Leave You” – that makes an ill-advised cameo appearance in Act I – diluting its impact when it is sorely needed as their “eleven o’clock” show stopping number in the second act.

Most of Daisy’s self-deprecating, sarcastic humor has gone missing and Violet seems stronger in her desire to quit the business and be wed and live happily ever after to Buddy – (Matthew Hydzik) a song and dance man (with gay inclinations) brought on board by impresario Terry Connor (Ryan Silverman) who discovers them in a run-down freak show in Texas, signs them up, readies them for Vaudeville and makes them stars. Both men have excellent voices.

The biggest hurdle is that we don’t particularly like or care about them as they are exploiting Daisy and Violet for their own means.

Jake (an excellent David St. Louis) befriends both girls and is truly in love with Violet but she doesn’t believe that marrying a black guy would work for her – even though he has protected them and stood by them through thick and thin and delivers “The Devil You Know” and “You Should Be Loved” magnificently.

There is a new too long flashback scene that doesn’t help or illuminate and takes up time that should have been put to better use – like revive the original intact.

This new SIDE SHOW has its ups and lots of downs.  It has some wonderful performances.  But it does not flow as it should and once did.  Memories die hard.  Luckily I have the original CD with libretto and photos included.  It’s still available.

www.sideshowbroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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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

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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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

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.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

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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