Oscar E Moore

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ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY - Roundabout revival

March 22nd, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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There are some second tier musicals from the past that have been crying out to be revived when all the stars are aligned.  And by stars I mean people stars, not celestial stars.  In this case the entire cast of ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY - starring the brightest star of all Kristin Chenoweth – a beautiful lyric soprano/belter who positively glows, radiating charm and comedy in this excellent production of the uneven, sometimes mad-cap sometimes boring 1978 show written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (book and lyrics) Cy Coleman (music).  Surprising it won a couple of Tony Awards.  It was a so-so season for musicals that year.

Ms. Chenoweth was all of ten years old when this operetta-like screw-ball inspired comedy opened on Broadway and it appears that she was born to play the role of Mildred Plotka (an extremely amusing piano accompanist) who in flashback and within minutes is hired by director Oscar Jaffee (an excellent Peter Gallagher – in his best Barrymore mode with strong vocals) to star in his latest opus as Lily Garland – as in Judy.  They sort of fall in love.  He makes her a star.

Back to the future.  Oscar is fleeing Chicago where he has had another opening another closing (during intermission) and people are after him.  Again.  His other two side-kick Musketeers Oliver Webb (Mark Linn-Baker) and Owen O’Malley (Michael McGrath) are to book Suite A on the Twentieth Century but it is occupied by Congressman Lockwood (Andy Taylor) and his traveling companion Anita (Analisa Leaming).  They are quickly removed.

Traveling in Suite B is Lily Garland who is now a huge Hollywood star and her muscular, sexy and egocentric boyfriend Bruce Granit (the affable/laughable Andy Karl).  Oscar hopes to rekindle their relationship and sign her to do his new Broadway show.  But there is another director after Lily – the successful Max Jacobs (James Moye) – Oscar’s rival.

Adding to the mayhem is Letitia Peabody Primrose (a spry Mary Louise Wilson) a wealthy, elderly lady who is attaching REPENT stickers to all and sundry.  She somehow is taken with Oscar (or is it taken by Oscar?) and his project, becoming the major investor – writing a check with Five Zeros (which is one of the better numbers from the limp pastiche score by Cy Coleman.  Comden & Green’s lyrics are not up to their usual witty standards and are often repeated to the point of being dull - a theatrical no-no.

Now to the good stuff.  The overall production is gorgeous.  Sets by David Rockwell and costumes by the inimitable William Ivey Long are breathtakingly beautiful.  Scott Ellis has done another fine job in directing this farce and keeping the pace break neck when allowed by the book and songs which put ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY in the “not very good” category.

The four porters.  They are excellent.  More than excellent.  Tapping to the choreography of Warren Carlyle and smiling and holding together the plot en route to New York.  Rick Faugno, Richard Riaz Yoder, Phillip Attmore and Drew King.  They open Act II with a show-stopping “Life Is Like a Train.”

The energetic cast does all it can to make this 1978 show bubble like champagne.  Unfortunately they are working with sparkling water.  At the American Airlines Theatre through July 5th.  A Roundabout production.

www.roundabouttheatre.org

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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HAMILTON – Lin-Manuel Miranda’s crash course in history is a hip-hop hit

March 16th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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But will it play in Peoria?  HAMILTON is sold out through May 3rd in an intimate space at The Public Theatre and is moving to Broadway’s much larger Richard Rodgers Theatre in July after some minor nips and tucks - just in time to celebrate July 4th – Independence Day.  The theatre was once home to IN THE HEIGHTS - another Miranda hip hop musical.

HAMILTON deals with the American Revolution as well as many other themes circling around its main character Alexander Hamilton played by Lin-Manuel Miranda the mastermind behind the entire production.

Inspired by the hefty tome Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow - Mr. Miranda has written the music - a blend of hip-hop R&B, ballads, and a great big fat catchy showstopper for mad King George III (a droll and dead pan Jonathan Groff) and lyrics that are ingenious and seemingly endless as the show is sung through over an almost three hour period.  Oh and yes he is co-arranger.

We are bombarded with words.  Words that are cleverly rhymed, amusing and character driven.  Words that tumble out of mouths at record speed.  It is indeed fortunate that the excellent sound design by Nevin Steinberg allows us not to miss one of them.

HAMILTON is a big show – in every sense of the word.   There’s enough rich material for three musicals that necessitates the multi-racial cast of two dozen.  There is the Hamilton/Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.) connection.  The American Revolution, General George Washington (Christopher Jackson) Lafayette (Daveed Diggs who does double duty as Jefferson) Federalist Papers and Secretary of the Treasury connection.

And the most compelling connection of all is that of his relationship with the Schuyler sisters:  the eldest Angelica (the ravishing and extraordinary Renee Elise Goldsberry) in love with Hamilton, Eliza (the beguiling and divine Phillipa Soo who becomes his wife and Peggy (Jasmine Cephas Jones) who acts as backup for them until she gets to strut her stuff as the prostitute Maria Reynolds who beds Hamilton resulting in the sex scandal that brings him disgrace.  And there is a lot more until the final pistol duel.

Like those pesky Prime Ministers over at THE AUDIENCE history keeps getting in the way.

After two and a half hours you are just waiting for it to happen as the muscles in your rear knowing all too well that it going to happen urge it to happen sooner.

The all-purpose double turntable set (David Korins) with its ropes and scaffolds and ladders suits the action and fluid non-stop direction of Thomas Kail to a tee.  The original choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler gives the cast a physical workout that is a wonder to behold.

Costumes by Paul Tazewell bring the past full speed up to the present and nothing can best King George in the royal raiment department.

Mr. Miranda has taken on a herculean task in bringing us this production and there are many moments of true brilliance – genius in fact.  If only that fateful shot would come sooner.

www.publictheatre.org

www.hamiltonbroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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THE AUDIENCE – Helen Mirren captivates as Elizabeth II with a parade of Prime Ministers

March 13th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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She isn’t cheap.  She’s thrifty.  She does her homework.  She is confident, charming, composed, and at rare times impatient.  She allows her Prime Ministers (twelve in all - eight seen here – not in chronological order) twenty minutes of her valuable time once a week in a private meeting to bring her up to speed on matters of state in this intriguing new play THE AUDIENCE by Peter Morgan who also wrote THE QUEEN.  Same Queen.  Same actress.  Both a class act.  She is Helen Mirren portraying Queen Elizabeth II.  And doing so brilliantly with a droll sense of humor, ram rod posture and her infamous handbag.

Costumes and wigs are magically changed as the different men and one woman visit.  As do her figure and stance.  She listens.  Has no power.  Must support her Prime Minister at all costs.  But she is smart and well-read and has a few papers up her own sleeve to question her sometimes shy, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes overbearing PMs.

It’s a fascinating glimpse into what makes Queen Elizabeth tick as she reveals that she “loathes the palace” and is “happiest on the water” – Hail Britannia!  Or having a picnic in the rain with her corgis at Castle Balmoral.

The scenes between her younger self (a very special Sadie Sink who alternates with Elizabeth Teeter) are quite clever, tender and theatrically brilliant.  One of the fine details supplied from director Stephen Daldry.

The military precision of the two handsome and young white gloved footmen who add or subtract certain pieces of furniture as the scenes change contribute to the glamor of royal pageantry that the excellent Geoffrey Beevers (who is our guide through the 6o years of Elizabeth’s reign) has set up.

The spectacular sets and costumes by Bob Crowley are award winners to be.  As is the lighting design by Rick Fisher.  The coronation scene at the end of Act I is sumptuous and majestic.

The entire cast is quite good.  Churchill (Dakin Matthews) and Margaret Thatcher (Judith Ivey an odd choice) are the two most obvious PMs.  There is a handy reference guide of the inhabitants of 10 Downing Street to assist in identifying the others (who are not distinctive enough):  John Major (Dylan Baker) Anthony Eden (Michael Elwyn) Harold Wilson (Richard McCabe) Gordon Brown (Rod McLachlan) and Rufus Wright who portrays both David Cameron and Tony Blair that leads to a bit of confusion.

The imagined dialogue at these tete-a-tetes include the Suez crisis, sanctions for South Africa, Charles and Diana, holiday houses in the country and a delay tactic of using a photo shoot to delay her scheduled meeting and her desire not only to be a great Queen but a great mother and wife.  There was always a war or crisis pending and Elizabeth always asks – “Well what will be the outcome?”

It has indeed been very good for Queen Elizabeth as she is still on the throne and has no intention of leaving.  She is rarely ill and in good spirits outwardly.  THE AUDIENCE shows a bit of her inner turmoil and determination.  At the Schoenfeld Theatre 45th Street.

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

www.TheAudienceBroadway.com

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FISH IN THE DARK – Written by and starring Larry David – Fool’s gold

March 10th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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Did you hear the one about the two Drexel brothers (Norman – Larry David and Arthur – Ben Shenkman) arguing in the hospital over who is going to honor dad’s final wish to take care of mom (Gloria - Jayne Houdyshell) as dad (Sidney – Jerry Adler) lies gasping for air on his deathbed after squeezing the boob of Arthur’s date Michelle (Jenn Lyon) who is also a notary?

Neither brother wants mom. Especially Norman – especially after the three a.m. call that awakened him about dad’s condition and who couldn’t get back to sleep so he gave himself the famous five finger exercise.  Neither does his wife (Rita Wilson) – who gets lost in the shuffle.

Thus begins FISH IN THE DARK – written and starring Larry David.  His first play on Broadway and his Broadway debut.  Flip a coin as to which is the winner.

Mr. David is a self- proclaimed jerk who has zero belief in himself and is fond of chewing gum and being crass and outspoken.  A co-creator of Seinfeld has made him a very wealthy jerk.  Larry David:  Curb Your Enthusiasm has increased his fan base by the busload.  Fans that show up to see this production at the Cort Theatre to welcome him as he steps from his limo, watch him cavort onstage and then stand and cheer for him as if he is the Messiah of Broadway.  Which in a way he is.  FISH has a 14 million dollar advance.

Producer Scott Rudin and his team of producers didn’t smell fish when they opted to produce this elaborate production (five sets and 18 actors) they smelled money.  And money it is they are making by the bucket load.  Hopefully Larry David stays in good health and can manage the eight shows a week schedule.  He has no understudy.  He gets sick.  No show.

His fans what to see Him.  Live and in person.  On stage with his hands either in his pockets or feigning mock disbelief or flaying his long arms about as if he has gotten a Boy Scout Merit Badge as a semaphore expert.

So it doesn’t matter that the play is not very good or well-structured and populated with a dysfunctional extended family that are from the old school of stock characters.  They include Mary Louise Burke, Lewis J. Stadlen and Joel Rooks who do their “Borscht Circuit” best.

Some lines and situations are worthy of the chuckles they induce.  But a plot twist involving mom and the ghost of her husband - played by an excellent Jake Cannavale - the son of the housekeeper Fabiana (Rosie Perez) becomes tasteless and vulgar just to set up the denouement.  But that’s Norman/Larry - rude and able to say what no one else would dare.

Todd Rosenthal’s five sets are large and it takes time to change.  And so I believe director Anna D. Shapiro along with the design team came up with a “Death Certificate” computerized show curtain which becomes an eyesore.  The “Swingle Singers” type music (David Yazbek) is just odd.  Like those interludes between the short scenes of a sit-com.  Which FISH IN THE DARK most resembles.  A sixties sex farce is a close second.  Potty humor comes in third.

It’s a matter of taste.  If you love Larry David you’ll love Larry David with his distinctive brand of humor.

High-brow is isn’t.  Raking in the dough it is.  Some seats are reportedly going for $425.00.  Not so bad for a jerk.  Major balls in play here.

Photos:  Joan Marcus    Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

www.fishinthedark.com

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HONEYMOON IN VEGAS – a goofy. gaudy and giddy romantic odyssey

January 23rd, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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From the opening notes of the overture of the wonderful score by Jason Robert Brown played by the large on-stage orchestra with a Big Band Sound reminding us of Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa with sax and trumpet solos we are immediately transported to you-know-we-are-about-to-have-a really-good-ring-a-ding time theatrical experience.

Based on a 1992 film of the same name by Andrew Bergman who wrote the sometimes very funny, sometimes satirical and sometimes preposterous book for this production that wowed New Jersey audiences at the Paper Mill Playhouse we meet the true star of the show – Rob McClure (Jack Singer) who dazzled in the title role in CHAPLIN.

Here the versatile McClure is a hapless happy-go-lucky guy with mommy problems and a fiancée who has been waiting around for five years to get hitched.  She is a teacher.  So she is smart.  But not with Jack.  He promised his mom (the always outrageous Nancy Opel) who has been dead for ten years that he would never get married although he is madly in love with Betsy (a sweet Brynn O’Malley) and she is madly in love with him.  Mommy pops up every so often at the most inopportune times to our delight.

So they decide to escape to the swinging Vegas of the 60’s “where dreams come true” to be married at The MILANO Hotel where they bump into goomba Tommy Korman (Tony Danza) who falls immediately for Betsy a dead ringer for his recently dearly departed wife Donna who developed cancer while sipping drinks and basking too long in the Vegas sun.

So Tommy sets to work on stealing Betsy from Jack setting up a crooked poker game – a very prolonged musical poker game that is nicely staged by director Gary Griffin.  Complications arise and Betsy finds herself whisked away for a weekend in Hawaii by Tommy with Jack in pursuit where he is side tracked to “The Garden of Disappointed Mothers” by henchwoman Mahi (a delightful Catherine Ricafort) who sings a very clever “Friki-Friki” as in Coochi-Coochi.

Wait.  There’s more.  It’s a long show.  Funny but long.  On the way to the inevitable happy ending Jack falls in with The Flying Elvises which is the highlight of this production.

David Josefsberg is Roy Bacon (head Elvis) and Buddy Rocky the lounge singer goomba – a dead ringer for Tony Orlando - at The Milano and he is absolutely terrific and quite frankly overshadows Danza.  In fact he would be a better Tommy as Danza although quite game and obviously enjoying himself is stiff and takes all the air out of the show with his first entrance.  He does however improve.

Tommy’s sidekick Johnny Sandwich (Matthew Saldivar) gives a noteworthy goomba performance.

Anna Louizos has designed creative and mobile sets enabling the pace to hardly ever slacken.  The use of the set pieces that come up from below the stage are terrific.

Jason Robert Brown’s lyrics are exceptional.  Fun and smart and move the characters along on their goofy, gaudy and giddy romantic odyssey.

At the NEDERLANDER THEATRE

www.honeymoonbroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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CONSTELLATIONS – Star gazing, an exercise in futility

January 18th, 2015 by Oscar E Moore
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Two major stars – Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson – make for a minor CONSTELLATIONS.  This fresh opus by Nick Payne – who last brought us the annoying IF THERE IS I HAVEN’T FOUND IT YET (where the stage was flooded with water and furniture also starring Mr. G off Broadway) has the stage at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre figuratively flooded with a batch of balloons.  White balloons. Hanging over the acting arena (same director:  Michael Longhurst).

The kind of balloons that a visitor might bring to a patient in a hospital.  Or are they molecules?  Or enlarged ping pong balls representing the repetitive back and forth banter between our bearded hero – a beekeeper and our pony-tailed heroine – a Cambridge University physicist?

No.  They are most definitely balloons.  Filled with hot air.  Keeping them afloat.  Pity the sometimes robotic dialogue can’t do the same for the play.  But is it a play?  No.  It is a series of quick scenes traversing the Multiverse – in the Past, Present and Future.

Too bad we never are clued in as to which is which or when and where we are on this intellectual blind date created by Mr. Payne between Roland and Marianne as we follow along with great difficulty their budding relationship – friendship – proposal of marriage with thoughts about mortality, sickness and death.  Not a fun evening.

SPOILER ALERT:  You might want to rent one of those hearing devices.  Between the British accent and the acoustics of the Friedman it is hard to decipher what is being said.  Perhaps it is ROW N that is the culprit.  In any event if you miss words you will not know what is going on as it’s all in the dialogue.  Quick.  Fast paced.  Scenes changing with the speed of light and sound as the actors take on new positions – standing or sitting or finger pointing.  And finally silently “signing”.

From the abrupt entrance of the two stars with her tongue twisting “lick the tip of your elbow” business through their ballroom class and his lengthy bee speech and proposal to the abrupt ending a mere 70 thankful minutes from its start CONSTELLATIONS is a lot less than the sum of its parts sounding more and more like a broken record – the needle stuck in a grove of repeating the same theme over and over – with slight variations.

For the record Jake Gyllenhaal just has to stand on stage to be commanding.  And that’s just what he mostly does here – when he is not sitting on the floor.  He oozes charm and sexuality and endows Roland with a simplicity and honesty and quirkiness.  His other half – Ruth Wilson needs to learn how to project.  I missed too many of her words.  I kept imagining Kristin Johnston from 3rd Rock from the Sun.  Maybe it was all those balloons and other worldly music.

A Royal Court Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club presentation.  Through March 15th.

www.manhattantheatreclub.com

www.constellationsbroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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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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