Oscar E Moore

From the rear mezzanine theatre, movies and moore

Oscar E Moore header image 4

OKLAHOMA! Groundbreaking revival of the groundbreaking 1943 original

April 24th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
Respond

 

The genius behind this totally exciting, engrossing, entertaining and country western infused revival of OKLAHOMA! is director Daniel Fish.  Of course he was working with the material of the original two masters:  Richard Rodgers music and the still pertinent and outstanding book and lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II.

It’s no wonder this show still packs a wallop at the Circle in the Square that has been appropriately transformed into an old time Oklahoma community hall ready for a hootenanny only through September 1st.  Hurry and get yourself some tickets to this most amazing production which deserves to run much longer.

Lots of illumination and raw plywood.  The ceiling decorated with multi-colored streamers and picnic lights.  A long table with lots of corn cobs piled high.  Slow cookers simmering chili served during intermission with cornbread, if so desired.  Racks of rifles adorn the walls as well as the cowboys who wear chaps and stubble with their holsters on the ready for whatever might happen.  And a mighty lot does happen here.

Daniel Fish has pared the show down to its vital statistics.  Eleven speaking parts and one dancer.  New country western style orchestrations (Daniel Kluger) are perfectly rendered by the small on stage pit band with guitars, bass, cello, banjo, drums and accordion in tow.  What a glorious accompaniment they provide.  Sound design by Drew Levy A-OK.

The openness of the scenic design (Laura Jellinek) is as open as the prairie and allows the director to keep most actors on stage even when not in the scene proper so that we see their reactions and relationships develop without them even having to speak to one another.

Daniel Fish has dug down deep into the motivations of his characters, unearthing the dreams and desires (yes sexual!) of the men and women of this new Oklahoma territory that simmer along with the cooking chili and eventually explode as loud as a shotgun on stage.

Laurey Williams (Rebecca Naomi Jones) has the right temperament – conflicted and confused with her attraction to guitar strumming cowboy Curly McLain (Damon Daunno) and to Jud Fry (understudy Chris Bannow) the quietly malicious hired hand who lusts after Laurey.  Aunt Eller (Mary Testa) sees through her niece’s hard veneer and tells it like it is.

Gertie Cummings (Mallory Portnoy) is after Curly and determined to have him take her to the picnic.  Toting her private hip flask she is dead serious and her laugh is enough to send shivers up and down your spine.

The abundant comic relief is also supplied in full by Ado Annie (an exceptional Ali Stroker) who rides her wheelchair like a dervish across the stage and back as she is pursued by the dim witted but altogether charming Will Parker (James Davis) who truly loves Ado who loves everyone, especially the one she is with at the time namely the Persian peddler con man Ali Hakim (Will Brill).  What a delightful threesome they are.

The opening of Act II has the traditional “dream ballet” turn into a nightmare choreographed by John Heginbotham and danced by understudy Demetia Hopkins-Greene – barefoot she gallops around the stage, crawls and slithers as boots drop from the ceiling dreaming herself as Laurey about Curly and Jud and where and how it will all end.  A combination of Ingmar Bergman, Mark Morris and Martha Graham.  The country guitar has been replaced with an acoustic rock guitar and is really something.  A far different interpretation than Agnes De Mille’s original work.

Lighting designer Scott Zielinski has created lighting fast changes to fit each of the many moods. Especially noteworthy is the eerie scene in complete darkness between Curly and Jud where Curly feeds into the insecurities of Jud planting some seeds for his death.  A hand held camera projects a black and white video of the spooky darkness in a very erotic scene.

From the opening notes of “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” sung quietly by Curly with only his guitar and his twang we are in the newly found territory created by Daniel Fish that is a wonder to behold.

I strongly urge you to visit.  Be adventurous and you will not be disappointed.  Or maybe you will be if you expect this OKLAHOMA! to be what you’ve always known.  New territory is always exciting to explore.

This is my Critic’s Choice for most imaginative and creative musical revival.  Beautifully acted and sung.  Perhaps the cast album might win at the Country Music Awards.  Now that is something I think Rodgers and Hammerstein never would have expected.

2 hours and 45 minutes including intermission.

*6 Outer Critics Circle Nominations including OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL

www.oklahomabroadway.com

Photos: Little Fang Photo

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

Tags: No Comments.

BURN THIS – a compelling, whirlwind, romantic revival

April 23rd, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
Respond

Love may pierce your heart at the most unexpected times with a most unexpected partner.  Some may have love taken away and some may never experience it at all.  Such is the case in Lanford Wilson’s beautifully written and constructed 1987 play BURN THIS which is having a just about perfect revival at the Hudson Theatre through July 14th.  I recommend that you see it.

With an excellent cast of four that delves beneath its characters to expose feelings that have remained stowed away we find ourselves eavesdropping in on the lives of Anna a ballet dancer (Keri Russell) and her boyfriend Burton an independently wealthy writer pondering his sci-fi movie (David Furr) and her gay roommate Larry (Brandon Uranowitz) an advertising copywriter (who supplies much of the humor) in the fall of 1987 in a loft-cum-dance studio in lower Manhattan as they mourn the death of Robbie their brilliant gay best friend dancer who was killed in a freak boating accident who lived with Anna and Larry.  Larry doesn’t mind spending a lot of time with Anna and Burton whom he has his subtle yet hungry eyes on.

Into this triangle of sorts arrives Pale.  Like a whirlwind blown in from New Jersey.  The brother of Robbie.  To pick up the deceased belongings.  Three months after being notified.  Pale is anything but as portrayed by Adam Driver.

There is something overpowering about him.  His size.  His charisma.  His talent.  His look.  His way with words.  At first off-putting and then later on as the relationship between he and Anna develops despite Pale being a married guy with kids and a cocaine habit things unexpectedly get out of hand we see a softer and more mature person emerge.  It’s quite a performance.  Especially his first shot out of a canon entrance.  And no one wears a mini silk Kimono as does Adam Driver.

Act II begins on New Year’s Eve.  A time when unexpected things can come to a boil.  And they do.

The final outcome is beautifully rendered and the title BURN THIS becomes apparent.

All four actors are superb.  They are skillfully directed by Michael Mayer who also directed one of my favorite musicals this season HEAD OVER HEELS.  Something in common with each other.  No?

Definitely yes.  This is one production that is a must see.  With wit and a huge heart.  All the elements come together to make a most satisfying journey through the land of love – from Derek McLane’s set design to the costumes of Clint Ramos that define character without a word being spoken that are beautifully lit by Natasha Katz.  BURN THIS is a breath of fresh air wafting through this most mediocre season.

www.burnthisplay.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

Tags: No Comments.

Sam Gold’s KING LEAR starring Glenda Jackson

April 22nd, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
Respond

The Ides of March has come and gone.  Now is the springtime of our discontent.  And…

‘tis the season to be different:  new plays, old revivals, star vehicles, three hour plus productions, “strictly” limited engagements (that sometimes extend), bizarre choices, all-inclusive and colorblind casting, British imports and ludicrous concepts all vying for the almighty TONY.

Director Sam Gold has outdone himself this time.  And that isn’t a compliment.  In his conceptual extremely confusing “theater of the absurd” version of KING LEAR we ponder if this classic work from Shakespeare is a tragedy or a travesty starring none other than 82 year old Glenda Jackson as Leer.

No that isn’t a typo.   Jackson as the overpowering title character leers, sneers, snarls, insults, pontificates, points with his still strong hands, intimidates, commands, bellows and uses an infinite number of facial expressions as if it was made out of silly putty.

One does admire the stamina of Glenda Jackson.  But her Lear is of the grandiose old school of acting that doesn’t quite jibe with the hit and/or miss renditions of her supporting players.

As if the poetic and long and winding road language of the Bard of Avon is hard enough to understand we have a string quartet to drown out the words.  A quartet of wandering minstrels that pop up here and there throughout this very long full of plot production.  Basically situated upstage in formal wear they serenade us with the not very dulcet tones of Philip Glass.  Not necessary and completely intrusive.

This old egotistical King that is headed down the road to dementia insists that his three daughters profess their love for him before dividing his kingdom.  Let the phoniest one win.

For the record they are the eldest Goneril (Elizabeth Marvel – who will have outrageous simulated quickie sex with Edmond (Pedro Pascal) who is not her husband the Duke of Albany (Dion Johnstone) – Regan (Aisling O’Sullivan) who screams her speeches not so trippingly on the tongue who is wed to the Duke of Cornwall who is played by the deaf Russell Harvard wearing a kilt and needing Aide (Michael Arden) who signs and speaks for him.  Lastly sweet Cordelia (a refined Ruth Wilson) who doubles as the Fool looking very much like Charlie Chaplin, cavorting and singing with a cockney accent.  All three boast different accents.  I would love to meet their mum.

Then we have the loyal to Lear, Duke of Gloucester and his two sons.  He is portrayed by a she.  Jayne Houdyshell who eventually gets his eyes gouged out and is led around by Edgar his legitimate son (Sean Carvajal) who seems to have wandered in from The Tempest.  The aforementioned Edmond is Gloucester’s illegitimate son and a charmer.  Speaking to the audience he seduces us and is one of the only actors aside from Ruth Wilson that we can believe to be human beings.

John Douglas Thompson makes for a stalwart Duke of Kent.

It’s quite a mixed bag of types and colors on stage at the CORT THEATRE.  Odd choices all around.  It’s quite a lot of styles of costumes (Ann Roth) – from formal tuxedos and evening gowns to boot camp camouflage.  Lots of accents.  Lots of fake blood.  In fact, it’s a bloody mess.

As Lear goes mad, one sitting and watching and listening while awaiting the end may grow madder.  I did.  If rosemary is for remembrance this KING LEAR should be forgotten.

Through July 7th.  Act I – 2 hours followed by a 20 minute intermission when my guest fled like a bat out of hell.  Act II – 1 hour and 10 minutes.  I survived, but barely.

www.kinglearbroadway.com

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

Photos:  Brigitte Lacombe

Tags: No Comments.

HADESTOWN on Broadway

April 21st, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
Respond

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something bluesy.   This about sums up the sometimes exciting, sometimes repetitive, sometimes off the track lavish sweaty and sultry production of HADESTOWN now at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

I first saw its off-Broadway incarnation at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2016.  In the round.  Well, three quarters.  With uncomfortable chairs.  But a leopard can’t change its spots.

Despite a new big budget production that really does impress with its full-of-surprises proscenium set design (Rachel Hauck) re-imagined costumes (Michael Krass) and superb lighting by Bradley King with a truckload of producers, HADESTOWN remains a pseudo-poetic, melodramatic, edging toward pretentious story looking for a score that satisfies.

The music is a combination of New Orleans jazz, blues, calypso and ragtime that is performed by on stage band that is excellent.  The lyrics are mundane when you can understand them.  Sound design by Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz could be improved upon.

The slight plot ambles along aided by narrator Hermes (a game Andre De Shields) who is slick and gets the job done along with three Fates – a Greek Chorus combo:  Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer and Kay Trinidad who are excellent weaving in and out, teasing and beguiling somewhat akin to The Pointer Sisters.

Loosely based on the borrowed Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice Anais Mitchell has supplied us with Music, Lyrics & Book that along with director and co-developer Rachel Chavkin have kept this train chugging along since its birth as a sixty minute album in 2010.

Here we have some improvement in the casting of the title characters.  Reeve Carney is the naïve guitar strumming poet Orpheus who falls head over heels in love with Eva Noblezada as the “hungry” Eurydice.  They at least connect with one another in this doomed love affair.  Her voice is strong and Mr. Carney does well with the high almost counter tenor notes he is called forth to emit in an almost other worldly voice.

But then Hades, ruler of the Underworld has to interfere and screw up everything.  Literally and figuratively.  Patrick Page – he of the basso profundo voice that may bring to mind the guy that did the voice overs for many a movie trailer of the past has the hots for Eurydice despite being married to Persephone (Amber Gray) Goddess of the seasons and has built a WALL (that has ears) to keep out the enemies and to keep him totally in charge.

Persephone, long suffering wife of Hades, is understandably unhappy.  And so she drinks a lot and hams it up at times gyrating in the extreme.

David Newman has created new choreography that is more masculine primal movement that is very exciting to watch especially headed by Atlas lookalike Timothy Hughes.  You can add sexy and hot into the brew.

Fast paced it is except when what story there is bogs down in Act II and HADESTOWN begins to be a noticeably long day’s journey into hell and almost back as Orpheus attempts to bring his beloved Eurydice up from the dark to a better world.

2 hrs 30 minutes. One intermission.

www.hadestown.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

Tags: No Comments.

WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME on Broadway

April 1st, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
Respond

How about ditching our old Constitution for a new one?  A Constitution that was created by the all too powerful, all too privileged and all too white men who owned property – some being slave owners that doesn’t protect the rights of women.

That’s a proposition set forth near the end of this almost one woman ninety minute no intermission production that Heidi Schreck (author and performer) has been at work on since she was fifteen years old in the abortion free zone where she grew up in Washington State.

Where she made enough money for her college tuition by making speeches and winning debates based on the Constitution and how she felt about it.  Patience and persistence and passion have paid off.  She is on Broadway.

Last year it was produced off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop where it opened smack in the middle of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination proceedings (perfect timing) and became the New York critics’ darling:  #1 Play of the Year and Best Play of the Year by almost one and all.  It is now housed at the Helen Hayes Theater for a limited 12 week engagement where you can see for yourself and make your own decision.  Somehow she lost me along the way despite her charm and intelligence.

You will hear about how this all began.  How she was coached by her dad.  How she won enough money to finance her aforementioned education.  I think she was a pretty smart cookie to begin with, now looking like a stand in for Kate Hudson doing stand-up comedy.

Heidi Schreck is quite funny and engaging and verbose and smart and a clever storyteller with an agenda in her American Legion Veteran’s look alike set by Rachel Hauck with dozens of dower Vets looking down on her from behind as she speaks as her 15 year old self behind the podium to us the audience, asking us to pretend that we are the all-white males from which she seeks to win her funds for college.

She then becomes her present age and goes back and forth in the process of explaining her take on the all-important Fourteenth Amendment.  And how it has not protected women in particular.  You will hear of her great great grandmother who was purchased from a catalog as a mail order bride and some of her other female relatives and their being beaten and raped and treated like a piece of property.

You will hear about abortion.  Penumbra.  And you will hear an audio clip of Supreme Court Justices that is eye opening.

Your vocal prowess will be tested in the audience participation section where you will cheer on or boo the debate on whether we should abolish or keep the Constitution as is.  A debate between Heidi and a young student (either Rosdely Ciprian or Thursday Williams) depending on the performance schedule.

Mike Iveson is the onstage moderator.  Handing over notes to Heidi as need be and holding up cards to alert her of the time left to speak.  There are certain strict rules set up that she not surprisingly veers off from.  Speaking of which his character plays a similar role as he removes part of his clothes and becomes her older friend who has his own set of problems.

Finally, you will receive a complimentary pocket sized edition of The Constitution of the USA from the ACLU for your reading pleasure, if you so desire.

Directed by Oliver Butler.

No intermission. 90 minutes.  EXTENDED Through July 21, 2019.

www.constitutionbroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

Tags: No Comments.

AIN’T TOO PROUD the life and times of THE TEMPTATIONS

March 30th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
Respond

For the dedicated fans of the “Classic 5” Temptations it’s all about the music.  The Motown sound of the 60’s.  On this point AIN’T TOO PROUD the life and times of The Temptations really delivers.  And delivers.  And delivers.  With a sensational cast.  Their style, their sound, their smooth moves and their unique look is on view at the Imperial Theatre for all to cheer.

But don’t look too deeply for much of an insight into their lives in this Readers’ Digest condensed and abridged version of their back story that takes a back seat to all their glorious sounds and songs.  There is a lot to digest as the group goes through the classic pitfalls of success.  The clash of personalities, drugs, alcohol and being on the road touring over the decades.

We get sound bites of over 30 top tunes including “My Girl” “Shout” “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” and “Poppa Was a Rollin’ Stone”  just to name a few.  You may find yourself bouncing along in your seat and singing along, the presentations being so infectious.

Moving along at a speed much faster than a vintage LP recording thanks to a turntable and conveyor belt that seem appropriate for this well-oiled assembly line product.

Almost all of the creative powers that be for this latest juke box musical are identical to those of JERSEY BOYS, a phenomenal success:  Director Des McAnuff, choreographer Sergio Trujillo whose vigorous high octane motorized dance moves begin to become repetitive, sound designer Steve Canyon Kennedy and lighting designer Howell Binkley.

The new addition is Dominique Morisseau as the writer of the straightforward and at times melodramatic book.  It seems her distinct style should have had more of a chance of success as she hails from Detroit where the group started.  But alas her wings seem to have been clipped.  Perhaps for lack of time.

For the record, the “Classic 5” Temptations include Otis Williams (Derrick Baskin) our low key narrator ingratiating himself throughout; humbly praising himself as the leader of the pack.  In fact, the production is based on his 1988 memoir THE TEMPTATIONS by Otis Williams with Patricia Romanowski.

Then there is Paul Williams (James Harkness) who has trouble dealing with fame and fortune becoming an alcoholic and ultimately committing suicide.  Melvin Franklin (Jawan M. Jackson) he of the deep bass voice that is used to add some badly needed comic relief.  Eddie Kendricks (Jeremy Pope) he of the sweet falsetto and charming smile who wows us in Act II when he takes over as lead singer in a duet with Diana Ross (Candice Marie Woods).

And finally David Ruffin (Ephraim Sykes) who has an ego to surpass all egos and a jump split that is gasp inducing as the lead singer of the group in Act I.  He thinks he is a star and he is indeed a star and even when fired from the group will come back to take over the mic even when barred from the theater.  David’s story is the most interesting with the group and I only wish that the leading up to it were quicker as it is a long evening at the Imperial.  But AIN’T TOO PROUD is about the group; not their individual egos.  It’s about the music.  Still going strong.

As Otis Williams relates to us in the terrific grand finale The Temptations became the number one Rhythm and Blues Group – having had 24 different guys in the group over the years – keeping this famous Brand Name alive and well.

NOTE:  Eagerly awaiting the cardiovascular TEMPTATIONS exercise tape by Sergio Trujillo and original cast album.  Two and half hours.  One intermission.

www.ainttooproudmusical.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

Tags: No Comments.

NANTUCKET SLEIGH RIDE by John Guare – a talent to amuse and confuse

March 27th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
Respond

A superb cast spearheaded by a befuddled and dead pan John Larroquette who only leaves the stage briefly during a brief intermission or to change his pants at the Mitzi E. Newhouse in this wild romp through the memory of his character Edmund Gowery – a venture capitalist who once wrote a hit play “Internal Structure of Stars” – the one and only play he ever wrote awaits you – if you are adventurous.

If you have ever had a long ago memory triggered by an event in the present and try to go back in time, in thought and perhaps in denial you may find NANTUCKET SLEIGH RIDE intriguing, amusing and sometimes confusing as Edmund relives the summer of 1975 in Nantucket where an amateur production of said play has involved most of the other characters in said play at one point or another.  Very six degrees of separation-ish.

In fact, one might call this production “a fine kettle of fish” quite appropriately as his memory is a fish stew of sorts that begins with a puzzle.  A crossword puzzle where the answer to 57 across is our hero.

Poe (Adam Chanler-Berat) and his sister Lilac (Grace Rex) have forgotten what happened that summer of ’75 and need Edmund Gowery to reboot their memory and so we all go on this skewered ride through the past when they were 9 and 7.

They are both bizarrely brilliant.  You’d win a bet that they are actually related.  Looking very much like cousins from the Addams family tree when they were 9 and 7…

…In the house that Edmund bought from his royalties of said play at the suggestion of his agent/lawyer Gilbert (Jordan Gelber) whose wife Antonia is fooling around with Edmund on the side.  I think.  He is also involved with Alice.  Tina Benko portrays both flames.

The house once belonged to poet Jorge Luis Borges (German Jaramillo) who weaves in and out as does his accented voice.  His daughter Elsie (Clea Alsip) mother of Poe and Lilac sold the house to Edmund without his knowing that a mail order kiddie porn outfit was using it as their headquarters.  That brings a stern police woman Aubrey Coffin (an excellent Stacey Sargeant – she also plays Edmund’s secretary and has some choice vocal cameos) ready to arrest him.  She played the grandma with TB in said production and demonstrates.

We also meet McPhee (Will Swenson) a wild Vietnam vet who carries around – in a cooler – a large lobster.  After all it is Nantucket.  He is in love with Elsie despite her being married to a shrink – Dr. Harbinger (Douglas Sills) who portrays two other roles including a dead Walt Disney on ice.  I think.

JAWS is featured throughout.  As is Hitchcock.  SUSPICION.  Roman Polanski.  And a conga line.  This I am sure of.

Unfortunately Act II goes down stream into more bizarre waters.

NANTUCKET SLEIGH RIDE has been given an A-1 production that is ingeniously staged by Jerry Zaks on an equally impressive set by David Gallo.  Are we in an office with three tiers of doors (30) or a morgue?

As the panels slide open the various characters are revealed and the set opens up in Edmund’s memory in swift succession.  You might not know exactly what’s going on at all times but you will relish the terrific performances of one and all.

Costumes by Emily Rebholz define characters down to their socks.  Lighting by Howell Binkley is spot on.  An hour and fifty minutes worth of absurd farce.  One intermission.

www.lct.org

Photos:  T. Charles Erickson

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

Tags: No Comments.

BE MORE CHILL makes it to B’way – I’m glad I’m not young anymore

March 25th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
Respond

 

Still trying to “chill out” after seeing the social media cult sensation sci-fi cautionary teenage tale of woe musical BE MORE CHILL at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway.  Not altogether ready to give the production the cold shoulder but extremely close to it.

Based on a 2004 young adult novel by Ned Vizzini this overlong and kinetic energy infused production boasts over forty producers above its title, last of which is “and Two River Theater” in Red Bank New Jersey where it all began in 2015.

Lackluster interest led somehow to a cast recording.  The pop rock score is by Joe Iconis, no Cole Porter he.  Nor should he be.  I know, the times they are a-changin’ and Mr. Porter didn’t compose for teens.  I am aware of that.  BUT…back to the recording…

That led to a gazillion teens discovering it; spreading and bursting the score into the teen musical comedy scene on social media which in turn led to an off-B’way production this past summer which in turn has landed at the Lyceum with questionable results.

BE MORE CHILL is for teens.  I am not a teen.  I am happy not to be a teen.  However teens or their parents are scooping up tickets and by their reaction in the audience one would think the cure for acne has been discovered.  The discovery would be better if it was for teenage angst.  Of which there is plentiful amounts on view.

Case in point.  Our hero.  Jeremy Heere.  Portrayed by a wonderful actor Will Roland who is a cross between Arnold Stang (google him) and Kermit and Seymour Krelborn from LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.  He feels inferior.  He doesn’t know what to do.  So he secretly masturbates.  He is bullied.  Wants to fit in.  Has a best friend, Michael for 12 years.  Ah Michael…everyone knows who Michael (George Salazar) is from the most popular song from the show “Michael in the Bathroom” where he has locked himself – lamenting his inability to join in the Halloween festivities.  He just doesn’t fit in too.

Speaking of which is love interest of sorts Christine (Stephanie Hsu) a theatre nerd.  It seems that all misfits gravitate towards the theater in teen comic book land and she is no exception.  She along with all the other one dimensional characters will be mounting a Shakespeare inspired production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM (which is no KISS ME, KATE) rechristened A MIDSUMMER NIGHTMARE.  You get the tone of the show.  But wait.

The tattooed Rich (Gerard Canonico) has a cure for Jeremy.   It’s a pill with a computer.  From Japan.  To be taken with Mountain Dew.  Called a Squip.  Personified by a seductive Jason Tam as The Squip.  Could easily be mistaken for a used car salesman or the devil or someone who wants to control all the minds of all the people who take it thinking it will improve their lives and help them…not be cool…but to be more chill!

Other characters in this concoction include a couple of Mean Girls – Chloe (Katlyn Carlson) and Brooke (Lauren Marcus) who seem to have wandered in from the musical of the same title.

Jake (Britton Smith) a jock who goes from one mean girl to the other and Jenna (Tiffany Mann) who wails away in typical American Idol fashion.  The kids loved her.

The squip gets them all to take a dose of his cure somewhat akin to the mass Jonestown massacre although not with such disastrous results.

Last but not least is Jeremy’s refusing-to-wear-pants dad Mr. Heere (Jason Sweettooth Williams).  Ever since mom left them.  I guess she wore the pants in the family.

Enough.  Will they all suffer the consequences of the quick Squip easy fix to their lives, or will they suffer the consequences?

The choreography (Chase Brock) is mostly stylized synchronized movements (hand and feet and head) that reaches its zenith with a goose stepping squad of Squips.

However there is a kaleidoscope of bizarre and colorful costumes in the aforementioned Halloween opening second act number that stun the eyes by Bobby Frederick Tilley II.  Superb neon lighting by Tyler Micoleau.  Quick changing set designs by the ever brilliant Beowulf Boritt that keep up with the frantic pace of director Stephen Brackett.  It’s unfortunate that the book by Joe Tracz doesn’t quite make the grade.  BE MORE CHILL just tries too hard.

www.bemorechillmusical.com

Photos:  Maria Baranova

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

Tags: No Comments.

KISS ME, KATE! – Timeless revisal where “so in love” says it all

March 23rd, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
Respond

 

Finally!  A necessary and extremely well put together magical musical.  With wit and charm and sex and style, a dose or two of the double entendre, some slapstick and a couple of gangsters.  All set during a musical version of Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.

Great choreography by Warren Carlyle and beautifully directed by Scott Ellis.  The bickering battle between its two leading players (ex-husband and wife) takes place backstage, on stage and off.

The original book by Sam and Bella Spewack has had some additional material by Amanda Green to make it more up to date and politically correct.  No spanking allowed!

After a steady diet of insipid, lean, teen angst-ridden productions posing as musicals with mostly unmemorable music and lyrics arrives the cream of the crop from the mind and supreme talent of Cole Porter.  He’s clever with words.  He’s romantic to a fault.  He’s arrived just in time to delight the tired-of-the-mediocre masses.

It’s Lent.  Why not give up all those wannabe and pretending to be musicals and scurry over to the Roundabout Theatre’s superb feast of a show at Studio 54.  It’s just been extended through June 30th.

No matter that it was first produced in 1948.  KISS ME, KATE!  is a classic.  It is timeless.  And it has been given a wonderfully attractive production (set design:  David Rockwell; costume design:  Jeff Mahshie; lighting design:  Donald Holder) with a first rate cast that has spruced up KISS ME, KATE and brought it into the 21st century where this damsel in distress can sure take care of herself with a smile and/or a sneer whenever called for with a quick one two kick for good measure.

The damsel in question is Lilli Vanessi (a radiant Kelli O’Hara – glorious voice intact) once married to lothario Fred Graham (Will Chase) in his best John Barrymore mode. They toured together.  They sang together.  They loved one another.  She is now engaged to an Army General.  Fred has wooed her back to the theatre with a co-starring role in a musical version of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW that he has “created, produced and directed.”  He is Petruchio to her Katherine.  They are simply made for one another with voices that soar in Porter’s score.

Corbin Bleu is Bill Calhoun and Lucentio.  A tap dancing gambler in love with Lois Lane who portrays Bianca.  Lois is a flirt with some military connections.  Bill as Lucentio has a great dance number with Bianca and Gremio (Will Burton) and Hortensio (Rick Faugno) “Tom, Dick, or Harry” with an emphasis on the Dick.  Suggestive and hilarious.

Bill’s written a false I.O.U. which brings the two gangsters (John Pankow & Lance Coadie Williams) to the star dressing room of Fred.  Lilli threatens to leave the show after a floral misunderstanding and the two gangsters stick around to make sure she doesn’t, to protect their investment of sorts.  It’s all crazy and fun and very easy to enjoy.

The singing is spectacular.  Kelli O’Hara even has a brief duet with a bird.  The acrobatic dancing with splits and slides and tap upstages the singing at times and the Act II “Too Darn Hot” is sensational.

So what are you waiting for?  Get thee hence to Studio 54 and luxuriate in the music of Cole Porter who is on a par with Shakespeare as a master of words.  “So in Love” says it all.  Very highly recommended.

Note:  Understudy Christine Cornish Smith went on for Stephanie Styles as Bianca and did everyone proud.

www.roundabouttheatre.org

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

Tags: No Comments.

HARPER LEE’S “TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD” on Broadway

February 28th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
Respond

Worthwhile.  Adjective.  Worth the time, effort or money spent; of value or importance.  And it is this word that describes beautifully this compassionate and memorable memory play TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD that might (and should) run forever at the Shubert Theatre.

Harper Lee rightfully gets top billing in this re-imagined and brilliant theatrical production based on the characters and story she created in her Pulitzer Prize winning 1961 novel of the same name that dealt with racism and injustice in the Depression era of the South.

It’s the best of folks and the worst of folks – featuring the good the bad and the truth.  An unflinching look at race relations that is as relevant today as it was then.

Unfortunately false accusations are still rampant.  Racism is still rampant.   And few theatrical productions face these problems head on.  So lyrically.  So honestly.  So eloquently.

This “new play” by Aaron Sorkin is just that.  A new, re-imagined, re-structured look at a classic story that is in itself riveting without losing the essence of Harper Lee’s timeless creation.

Add to that the superb, fluid staging, pacing and sensitive direction of Bartlett Sher and you get a fresh new look at the trial of Tom Robinson (Gbenga Akinnagbe), a black handyman and family man who has lost the use of his left arm and is accused of raping the fragile, timid and white Mayella Ewell (Erin Wilhelmi) – allegedly caught in the act by her dad Bob Ewell, who only has one thing in mind and that is to get this “savage sub-human nigga” one way or another.

Ewell is the prime witness for prosecutor Horace Gilmer (Stark Sands) who faces off against Atticus Finch while Judge Taylor (Dakin Matthews) with a not very subtle humor steals each one of his scenes – adding levity to a very serious trial.

The story unfolds as Scout Finch (a bright, sassy, always questioning and remarkable Celia Keenan-Bolger with an observant eye well beyond her years) remembers and brings us back to her tomboy days in Maycomb, Alabama 1934.

She is our narrator along with her brother Jem Finch (a reliable Will Pullen) and visiting pal Dill Harris (a quirky Gideon Glick).  This trio lurks in the foreground and background.  Always present.  Running or playing or bearing witness to the proceedings.  It’s a fabulous feat of writing and structure by Mr. Sorkin manifested by Mr. Sher.

Atticus Finch (a strong, crafty yet compassionate Jeff Daniels) defends Tom Robinson the accused, as we seamlessly go back and forth to the trial and meet the various colorful townsfolk that fill the stage at the Shubert.

Calpurnia (LaTanya Richardson Jackson) the Negro cook, not afraid to talk back with her wry comments, the elderly acid tongued gardener Mrs. Henry Dubose (Phyllis Somerville), Link Dees (Neal Huff) the town drunk, and quiet, house bound Boo Radley (Danny Wolohan) who in his silence becomes most important.

Stylish and accurate costumes (Ann Roth).  Appropriate lighting (Jennifer Tipton).  Perfect scenic design (Miriam Buether).  The exterior faded red clapboard wall filling the proscenium with its single door allows Scout to lead us into the world of Maycomb.

On either side of the stage a guitarist (Allen Tedder) and pump organ (Kimberly Grigsby) unobtrusively add atmospheric background music by Adam Guettel.

Atticus is a kindhearted and generous widower who tries to teach his children to see the best in even the worst of people and that there is a right way to accomplish things.  Perhaps not better, but right. Accompanied with the realization that the wrong answer can sometimes be right and that the truth can have multiple meanings.  Oh, precious truth, rise above all.

2 hours and 35 minutes.  One intermission.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

www.tokillamockingbirdbroadway.com

Photos:  Julieta Cervantes

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

NOTE:  Throughout the run, the production from Rudin and Lincoln Center Theater will partner with the New York City Department of Education to offer tickets priced at ten dollars to groups of middle and high school students throughout the New York City public school system.

Tags: No Comments.