Oscar E Moore

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GROUNDHOG DAY – the unsinkable Andy Karl

April 25th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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Knee brace comes to the rescue.  Andy Karl brave heart that he is should be awarded a medal for performing above and beyond the call of duty despite a torn ligament in his left knee.  Making lemonade out of this lemon of an injury does have its advantages.  For knee braces.  Andy Karl single-handed will make them sexy and fashionable and the producers might want to add them to their souvenir stand.  Mr. Karl even creates an almost show stopping laugh while displaying it to his costar while making a suggestive invite wearing boxer shorts and a fur coat…

Only one of the many highlights in this delightful, imaginative and wacky fantasy with a heart of gold that is running on all cylinders at the August Wilson Theatre with a nifty score by Tim Minchin and book by Danny Rubin based on the cult 1993 movie classic GROUNDHOG DAY.

With a gracious nod to Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

It is one surprise after another.  Phil Connors (Andy Karl) is the egotistical, sarcastic and smarmy weatherman reporting on the moronic tradition of celebrating Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania on February 2nd.  Ironically enough the groundhog’s name is also Phil.

Somehow this reporter’s fate is sealed when he has to relive the day over and over again.   This might prove monotonous but the creative team under the brilliant direction of Matthew Warchus sees to it that subtle variations with wildly imaginative staging takes you on a whirlwind journey with laughs aplenty and a pull out all the stops performance of Andy Karl.  With the sexy and therapeutic aforementioned knee brace.

He also meets his match with his co-star Rita (Barrett Doss) the TV producer of the newscast of weatherman Phil Connors who has to put up with his superior attitude while skirt chasing not only her but anyone that will say “Yes.”  She meets his challenge song for song.  Laugh for laugh.  Tenderness for tenderness.

Phil is smart and he cleverly makes the dull routine of reliving this day by adapting his knowledge of what is going to happen and he in turn has a change of attitude and heart which is endearing.

Helped by an old school chum turned insurance salesman, Ned Ryerson (John Sanders) who gets to sing a beautiful “Night Will Come.”

There is a hoot of a scene in a bar with two townsfolk Gus (Andrew Call who is Andy’s understudy) and Ralph (Raymond J. Lee) that segues into a pickup truck being assembled around them resulting in one of the most manic and Mack Sennett inspired car chases in miniature.  You will love it.

The sets are a fantastic technological wonder designed by Rob Howell who also designed the colorful costumes.  Peter Darling has choreographed with the same amount of energy and imagination.  Head scratching illusions are by Paul Kieve.  The sound design by Simon Baker is excellent.  You can hear every clever and sometimes gross dick head albeit funny lyric of which you will be grateful.

It’s a wonderful production.  I loved it!  This is for you Ariel.  Highly recommended.

www.groundhogdaymusical.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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COMIC RELIEF – two versions of comedy tonight

April 10th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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From the ridiculous to the sublime.  Two shows have recently opened on Broadway.  Both are very funny.  Both are completely different.  They are THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG and PRESENT LAUGHTER.  I recommend both – highly – and for different reasons.

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG is an unbridled ridiculous farce in the extreme.  Pushing the boundaries of logic with slapstick, physical dexterity and outrageous shenanigans as the Cornley University Drama Society attempts to stage The Murder at Haversham Manor without a single mishap.  Lucky for us anything that can go wrong does – and more.

There are no well-known stars.  Not yet.  The entire company from across the pond excels in this type of farcical humor.  Especially Dave Hearn portraying Max portraying Cecil Haversham in this play within a play – a riotous rendition of an Agatha Christie type mystery.

From the onset when cast members search the audience for a missing dog and recruit someone to help put the finishing touches on the set we are at their mercy.

If you love to laugh.  If you hate to laugh.  If you haven’t laughed in ages.  If you have a weak heart.  Stay home.  Otherwise race to the Lyceum Theatre immediately.

It’s not the words by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields that the actors speak but the actions directed with marksmanship precision by Mark Bell that makes every bone in your body a funny bone go a-twitter with the mishaps that befall this troupe of superbly bad actors.

The self-destructing set by Nigel Hook is one if not the best of the season.  The dog is never found but his leash becomes just another hysterical bit of business.  It’s a non-stop treadmill of guffaw inducing nuttiness.  And no stunt doubles!

I will admit that the paint thinner replacing whiskey is a bit much.

2 hours – a gazillion laughs – one intermission

www.theplaythatgoeswrong.com

Photo:  Jeremy Daniel

 

Now onto the sublime PRESENT LAUGHTER starring the most welcome return of Kevin Kline to the New York stage written by that wit of wits Noel Coward who originally played the role in 1942.

This is a relic that has been given a breath of fresh air and life with its brilliant casting and quick paced direction by Moritz Von Stuelpnagel in the too large venue called the St. James Theatre.

Lots of exposition to get through before it really takes off.  However it breezes along nicely with Kevin Kline as the egocentric and aging lothario who is a terrified of being alone star – with charisma and kisses to spare – Garry Essendine looking dapper in his silks and checking himself out often in the mirrors that are omnipresent preparing for his African tour to escape the lot of them.  Little does he know…

His producer Henry Lyppiatt (Peter Francis James) and his wife Joanna (a seductive and ultra- chic Cobie Smulders) who has her eyes set on her next conquest – Garry Essendine) and his best friend a besotted Reg Rogers as Morris who is having an affair with Joanna.

He is properly taken care of by his almost ex-wife – a superb Kate Burton looking properly chic in costumes by Susan Hilferty and his used-to-his lifestyle secretary Monica – a scene stealing Kristine Nielsen.

There is a dedicated valet (Matt Bittner) A cigarette hanging from her mouth maid Miss Erikson (Ellen Harvey) a would be manic playwright with a forceful handshake (Bhavesh Patel) and a young would be actress Daphne Stillington (Tedra Millan) who starts this comedy off pretending to have lost the key to her flat so that she conveniently gets to stay over with Essendine.

There are many laughs but it is not until the farcical elements take hold in Act II that hilarity truly ensues.  But not to the extent of the above mentioned inane THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG.

Here we have a plot and more developed characters and most importantly the words and wit of Noel Coward.  Some physical humor of which Kline is King.  With just one look he says a thousand words in this two act comedy that takes place in London 1939 and still holds up in 2017.  That says it all.

These two plays offer a respite from our dreary most difficult times and are cause for great laughter on the Great White Way.  Please do attend.  Put a lot of laughter in your life, try one or better yet both.

The set by David Zinn does not self-destruct.  It remains intact as a lovely backdrop for the period costumes by Susan Hilferty and the many entrances and exits of the terrific ensemble assembled.

2 hours 30 minutes one intermission.  Through July 2nd.

www.laughteronbroadway.com

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

 

 

 

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AMELIE – the musical that goes wrong

April 9th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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I did not see the 2001 movie of the same title that has been adapted to the stage of the Walter Kerr Theatre by Craig Lucas (book) and score by Daniel Messe (rambling unmemorable background music) and Nathan Tysen/Daniel Messe (simplistic lyrics).  No comparisons here.

This whole seemingly well-intentioned but misbegotten one act project has been directed by Pam MacKinnon of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? fame with musical staging that amounts to stylized movements by Sam Pinkleton.

How did this overblown bland children’s show get to Broadway?  Phillipa Soo of the lovely voice and her co-star Adam Chanler-Berat of the quirky charm are the obvious answer. Both are excellent but they do not actually start up a relationship until the end of the show.  And so AMELIE doesn’t catch the gold ring but meanders along in short vignettes with various narrators to urge the absence of a plot along slowly and unsurely.

Is it a fantasy?  Is it a metaphor?  Perhaps a bit of everything that never ignites our imaginations.

This supposedly takes place in Paris.  Could have fooled me.  There is nothing French about this working-too-hard to be charming show except a menu.  Not even a “Bonjour.”

Amelie starts off as a young girl played by a shrill Savvy Crawford belying her name.  Her parents are so concerned about her racing weak heart that they home school her.  Her only friend is a goldfish she names Fluffy – Paul Whitty) that is quickly set adrift in the sea – as is the audience.

Amelie escapes to Paris to work in a café.  Friendless again.  Her mother is killed by a tourist represented here by a Thanksgiving Day Parade like balloon who jumps off of Notre Dame.  Her dad then creates a Gnome Memorial (David Andino) to his wife.  Still thinking of going?

Princess Diana is killed in a car crash giving new meaning to Amelie’s life.  She will help others.  Anonymously.  She’s still friendless except for a neighbor (Tony Sheldon) who has been painting a reproduction Renoir for a very long time – longer than the 1 hour fifty minutes it takes to slog through this unmusical musical.

The all types, all shapes and sizes ensemble portray the other characters.  Not much is developed or develops.  Until Amelie meets Nino (Adam Chanler-Berat) – who collects discarded photos from one of those photos booths of the past still found in Paris.

He works in a porn shop PEEP-O-RAMA and he wants to connect with Amelie but she has deep rooted fears of connecting with anyone.  Fears going back to her mom teaching her a Zeno’s Paradox – two objects can never meet.  Could this be the first Freudian unmusical?

I was fearful that’s Amelie’s weak heart would be her undoing as she scampers up and about and across David Zinn lackluster set where armoires stacked high remind one of Disney – we half expect them to come to life and enliven the proceedings.

Bonne chance!  Please keep in mind that no good deed goes unpunished.

www.ameliebroadway.com

Visit:  www.TalkEntertainment.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM – the return of Harvey Fierstein

April 8th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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Can a 62 year old gay expatriate ex-cocktail pianist lounging around in a book lined London flat find true love – finally find his soul mate – again – after so many heartbreaks along the gay love canal of life via the internet?

That is the question investigated by playwright Martin Sherman in this three character genteel and romantic/historical menage a trois fairy tale that has recently opened at The Public Theater directed by Sean Mathias (with some odd choices) and featuring the versatile eccentric Gabriel Ebert and Christopher Sears.

The show curtain is a lovely green velvet and fringed old fashioned artifact with draw-strings with foot lights casting a soft enveloping glow.  Preparing us for who knows?  Looking very much like a British Music Hall.  But this is not a musical although the recordings of Mabel Mercer nicely permeate the production.

Harvey as Beau (with a Louisiana drawl and his well-known voice of gravel) makes his entrance to warm applause.  Gabriel as the 28 year old bi-polar lawyer Rufus (mergers and acquisitions) enters in his black undies and warms our hearts.  He is quick to embrace and fawn over Beau.  He adores older men.  He knows Mabel Mercer.  He acts like a teenage puppy dog.  And before you know it he is moving in.  He has merged and acquired.

That’s when Beau takes center stage to relate some of his past history and past loves in the first of many monologues describing what it was like to be a gay man way back when in the dark ages.  A very different more serious Harvey than we are accustomed to.

Harvey is a master story teller and these monologues are the highlight of the evening.  James Baldwin.  Larry Kramer.  Judy Peabody.  Mabel Mercer.  The YMCA.  Aids.

The years pass by quickly.  Rufus meets another.  Younger than himself.  A performance artiste named Harry (Christopher Sears) – a charismatic chap with a sparkling earring and lots of tats.

Beau understands.  They all remain friends.  He is even best man at their nuptials in this meandering patchwork quilt of love in the gay world of 2014 as opposed to the gay world of 2001 when the play begins.  More surprises ensue.

Lots of territory is covered.  Maturity for Rufus.  A walker for Beau.  Harry gets to sing “The Man I Love” but I wasn’t much moved by all the goings on except for Mr. Fierstein’s monologues.  He sure knows how to relate a good lesson in gay history.  Harvey has lived through it all.

Is there a happy ending in this upstream battle for open acceptance and equal rights?  I hope so.  I believe so.  But it sure ain’t easy.

Through May 14th.

www.publictheater.org

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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SWEAT – Blood, threats and fears

April 3rd, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage along with her longtime director Kate Whoriskey did extensive research in 2011 traveling to Reading Pennsylvania interviewing locals – especially factory workers – for what would become her newest “torn from the headlines” episodic, often preachy docu-drama SWEAT.

And it shows.  Sometimes a bit too much especially in the back story monologues spoken by the characters on stage at Studio 54 in a production that has transferred from its sold out run at The Public Theater.

SWEAT deals with the “forgotten blue collar Americans” and their tragic plight which eventually was tapped into by Donald Trump resulting in his being elected President of these not so United States.

He promised them jobs.  Keeping their jobs and creating new ones.  And jobs are of the utmost importance to these citizens of Reading in the years 2000 and 2008 where the play jumps back and forth.  Jobs and drugs and race and drinking to release some of the tensions brewing among its citizens both black and white.

Mostly taking place in a local bar (finely detailed by set designer John Lee Beatty) run by Stan (James Colby) who worked at the factory until an accident disabled him.  A bar where everybody knows your name, your habits (good and bad), your favorite brew, your birthday, and who is supplying the drugs and using.

Unfortunately some are not paying too much attention to what is happening at the factory where they all work.  Where generations of their families worked.  Feeling secure with their jobs and salary and benefits.  Until the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) threatens their very existence.

Cut backs loom.  The Union offers a large reduction in wages.  Picket lines divide them. The locals begin to take sides in the neutral territory of the bar after Cynthia (Michelle Wilson) applies for and gets a new position as manager.  A position that her longtime friend Tracey (Johanna Day) would have liked to have gotten.  Their sons are best friends.   Jason, the hyper energetic Will Pullen and the more serious son of Cynthia Chris (Khris Davis) who has aspirations of going to college.

The third barfly is Jessie (Alison Wright) who is mostly out of it albeit amusing.

Then there is Brucie (John Earl Jelks) dad of Chris and sort of estranged husband of Cynthia – because of his drugs.  And Oscar (Carlo Alban) a Columbian born in America who helps out at the bar and is one of the best characters in the production who is the catalyst for the climatic ending.

Starting in 2008 Evan (Lance Coadie Williams) a parole officer is interviewing both sons separately about an incident that will take you a while to put all the pieces of this tragic puzzle together – as we go back in time to the year 2000 to witness the destruction of the people of Reading and their livelihood.

 

www.SweatBroadway.com

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Photo:  Joan Marcus

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ARTHUR MILLER’S THE PRICE – devious tactics in the attic revived

March 28th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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Who knew that Arthur Miller could be so funny?  Leave it to Danny DeVito making his Broadway debut at 72 in this Roundabout production of THE PRICE to pull the rug out from under his co-stars in a revelatory performance as a charming yet shrewd and completely amusing 90 year old antique appraiser Gregory Solomon – with his Yiddish accent and dapper and forlorn looks (for sympathy) his stories (for sympathy) his cane (perhaps for sympathy – wouldn’t put it past him) and his compliments and attitude to get exactly what he wants from the Franz family as he circles and peruses the artifacts and furniture that belonged to the long ago deceased father in this verbose 1968 drama artfully arranged in their attic by set designer Derek McLane.

Daddy died sixteen years ago and his two sons – Victor the cop (Mark Ruffalo) and Walter a successful surgeon (Tony Shalhoub) now divorced haven’t been in contact since that happened.  Until now. 1968.  New York.  They both made choices and now must pay the piper.

Buildings are being torn down to make room for the new.  The ready to retire cop has tried to reach the doctor who hasn’t responded and so along with his frustrated yet loving wife Esther (Jessica Hecht) they await the arrival of Mr. Solomon the appraiser that by accident the cop found in an old phone book hoping to unload everything that is hanging around the attic, everything that brings back the past’s unwanted memories, everything that people no longer want especially the Franzs.  If they get the right price.

The old radio, an oar, a golden harp, some fencing equipment, a too large dining room table and a Victrola that still works – playing a “laughing record” and chairs that appear as covered up ghosts of the past.  A couple of chandeliers mysteriously light up when the past is spoken and argued about between the two siblings.  But that is in Act II.

Then we get the real Arthur Miller at his loquacious best.  The sibs have a big bone to chew on with each other.  The very smart cop sacrificed his studies to take care of their ailing manipulative dad who lost almost everything in the stock market crash.  But did he?  The doctor charged full speed ahead and became rich (something that the cop’s wife truly wants to be) and refused the cop a small loan when needed.  Then we find out about the daddy.

It’s a long way to the payoff by Mr. Solomon who is about to do so at the end of Act I when the doctor makes his eagerly awaited house call and the real fun begins.

Tony Shalhoub is oily and devious.  All smiles and agenda.  Mark Ruffalo, calm at first reaches his breaking point when the revelations spew forth.  They are all very good actors and bring heart and soul to their characters.

The cop is sort of content but rightfully resentful.  His wife wants his to take a job offer from his brother.  The doctor is trying to wipe the slate clean.  Or is he?

THE PRICE is not one of Miller’s greatest plays.  For instance:  Why have they waited 16 years to get rid of this stuff?  Who has been paying for the upkeep of this white elephant of a home for 16 years?  Why no mention of the mother?  And why is Mr. Solomon relegated to an offstage adjoining room in the attic for speeches on end only to make Detective Columbo-like reentrances when needed?

In the end it is Mr. Solomon however who has and gets the last laugh.  Well directed by Terry Kinney.  Through May 14th at the American Airlines Theatre.

www.roundabouttheatre.org

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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SIGNIFICANT OTHER – The second time around

March 21st, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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Not much has changed for the feel sorry for himself, sad and bewildered Jordan Berman (Gideon Glick) in this production that has transferred from off-Broadway to the larger Booth Theatre.  In the role of Vanessa, Rebecca Naomi Jones has taken over albeit without all the gum chewing.  The rest of the cast remains the same.  And the very hunky John Behlmann impresses with his physique.  However Barbara Barrie who out shown everyone in the original has lost a bit of her glow.  Perhaps she is as tired as I am of hearing about her grandson.  Perhaps it was the weather.  Perhaps she is bored.  And so I am reposting my original review from June 28th 2015.  I haven’t changed my mind about this show one bit.

 

SIGNIFICANT OTHER – 3 WEDDINGS & A FUNERAL OF SORTS

About the only redeeming feature of the lonely, annoying, whining and very out gay-boy/man Jordan Berman (Gideon Glick) in SIGNIFICANT OTHER is his Grandmother Helene Berman (a twinkling Barbara Barrie) who is suffering from the onset of dementia, has a predilection for various means of suicide, old photos and is absolutely charming.

She is the only aspect resembling anything remotely charming in this newest play by Joshua Harmon which goes on a bit too long with some diarrhea of the mouth monologues and melt downs by Jordan as his three best girlfriends – one by one – waltz down the aisle – leaving him in the lurch, wondering if he will ever be so lucky.

They party often.  Drinks flow as well as private and intimate thoughts.  They are best friends…until they find someone to help them get through life.  Not necessarily happily.  It reminded me of COMPANY – where Bobby surrounds himself with married couples while trying to find the girl of his dreams – but with a lot less finesse and a lot less insight.

The three girlfriends are your typical trio of New York go-getters.  Kiki (Sas Goldberg) is the most outspoken and vibrant.  Vanessa (Carra Patterson) is a more mellow, gum chewing editor.  Laura (Lindsay Mendez) is a good listener who likes her food as well as men despite being a bit “schoolmarm-ish.”  They take turns advising their good friend Jordan as to what he should or shouldn’t do when he obsessively falls for hunky Will (John Behlmann) at work with his size twelve green converse sneakers.

He doesn’t even know if Will is gay.  Will is a history buff with a buff body as well.  They go to a movie. There is little face to face conversation.  Little connection.  That is left to e-mails and texts and laptops in today’s theatrical offerings.  What a sad commentary.

We are put in the position of bystanders as each of their sagas unfold at Laura Pels Theatre.  At one point in Act II – yes there is a second act.  I wanted to jump up and scream at Jordan – who was having his second melt down of the evening and shout at him –“Get over yourself!”  It was too much as he berated Laura for abandoning him.  It was her marriage but his funeral.

Why anyone would even think of dating this guy let alone spending two hours with him and company is questionable.  He really has nothing going for him and he must be zilch in bed as well.

When things get tough he phones Grandma who despite her failings is honest and still wise from the old school.  But does he learn from her?  Don’t ask.

The affable John Behlmann along with the agreeable Luke Smith play the various other men in all their lives exceedingly well.

Director Trip Cullman with a keen eye for detail has done a great job in bringing the character’s quirks and this episodic play to life – with a glance or a pause that fills in where the sometimes amusing dialogue runs short.

Nice contemporary costumes by Kaye Voyce and an interesting set by Mark Wendland provide a spark of originality that is missing in this oft told tale of an unhappy gay guy who only has females to fall back on.  A  ROUNDABOUT production.

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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COME FROM AWAY – From Canada with love

March 20th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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Photo: Kevin Berne

You are on an International flight.  Heading back to the USA.  Suddenly you are being diverted because of an emergency in NYC.  It is September 11, 2001.  American airspace has been closed and you are headed to Gander, Newfoundland in Northeastern Canada somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

This is the basis for COME FROM AWAY a big bear hug of a musical – a true story based on interviews of the inhabitants of Gander and some of the 7000 passengers displaced – 38 planes full of people longing to be home and wondering if they will ever get there.

Just go.  This jet paced musical with a heart of gold will make your spirits soar with its uplifting and gentle message of sharing with strangers and giving a helping hand when needed most.  Including the pets on board.

When bad things happen we all need a helping hand.  No ifs ands or buts.  Just get out there and help.  The people of Newfoundland did just that.  Miraculously finding food and clothing and shelter for the various types of people.  Various religions.  Various tastes in food.  Gay.  Straight.  Old.  Divorced.  Worried moms.  With anxiety growing every minute they took in all.  No questions asked.  Sharing what they had with strangers and making them feel at home while stranded in this odd place.

Canadians Irene Sankoff and her husband David Hein have written the book, music and lyrics of this wonderfully put a smile on your face musical.  A compilation/documentation of true events. The actual tragedy lurks but is never exploited.  A cross section of humanity.  A melting pot of diversity creating a new 5 day community.

What emerges is the graciousness of the townspeople and the getting to know you feeling of the passengers with them.  There are hook ups and break ups.  And a fantastic number that introduces the displaced people to the customs of Newfoundland where you get to kiss a Cod.  It’s beautifully amazing.

As is the score.  With a nod to Riverdance and “My Heart Will Go On” the in the wings band fiddles itself into our hearts with a sound all its own.  You want to get up and dance to celebrate and enjoy life with all of them.

All twelve expert performers who play a variety of parts – switching seamlessly back and forth between townsfolk and passengers.  They deserve an award for BEST ENSEMBLE EVER:  Petrina Bromley, Geno Carr, Jenn Colella, Joel Hatch, Rodney Hicks, Kendra Kassebaum, Chad Kimball, Lee MacDougal, Caesar Samayoa, Q. Smith, Astrid Van Wieren and Sharon Wheatley.

This one hour and 40 minute exuberant, extremely funny, respectful, real and moving musical is cinematically directed with its focus never lost by Christopher Ashley on a natural wooded unit set by Beowulf Boritt with some chairs on a revolving stage and super fantastic lighting by Howell Binkley.

The musical staging by Kelly Devine is spectacular.  Making the mostly ensemble numbers make complete sense.  Exciting and clear.  A mixture of tears and happiness.

Everyone can connect with some aspect of this production.

Go.  You will love COME FROM AWAY.  You will stand up and shout out and support our Canadian friends who have delivered this musical with care and love.  A lesson for us all.  Unless you are, of course, President Donald Trump.

Welcome to the Rock.  At the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

www.comefromaway.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy/Kevin Berne

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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SAM GOLD’S THE GLASS MENAGERIE – Controversial Revival Stuns

March 15th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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What the world needs now is NOT another revival of Tennessee Williams’ THE GLASS MENAGERIE so soon after the excellent Cherry Jones/Zachary Quinto revival of 2013 superbly directed by John Tiffany.  Or so I thought.

This new unexpected avant-garde revival ensconced in the ghostlike Belasco Theatre belongs heart and wounded souls to Sam Gold its director – the creative mind behind this riveting, stark, explosive, controversial and ultimately tragic production starring Sally Field, Joe Mantello, Madison Ferris and Finn Wittrock with Mr. Williams’ text intact.

There aren’t any dead bodies at the end of this swiftly moving two hour plus production – without an intermission – just extremely wounded human beings.  And you will feel for them like you have never felt before.

Not immediately.  There is the rehearsal room like set design by Andrew Lieberman to contend with as you enter.  More a non-set.  A table and some chairs.  A small pile of records.  A metal unit holding some essential props – a telephone, a candelabrum, a year book, dinner plates, a gramophone, a neon sign, a typewriter  among other bric-a-brac that the actors will fetch and use during the show.

The house lights remain up as Joe Mantello, a world weary Tom Wingfield speaks to us – explaining that what we are about to see is a memory.  His.  Not realistic.  The tricks up his sleeve are figurative not literal and we slowly begin our journey into the past.  St Louis.  The depression.

His delusional mother Amanda (a spritely and tormented Sally Field) enters from the audience dragging a wheel chair up a few steps (their fire escape) and then helping her incapacitated and painfully shy daughter Laura (Madison Ferris – a fine actress – who suffers from muscular dystrophy giving a brave and heart wrenching performance) and we are drawn slowly into their tragic tale of survival.

Somehow you will feel that you are hearing Tennessee Williams’ dialogue for the first time.  How alive and vicious.  How wickedly funny.  How fierce.  How sad.  How relevant.

Especially when the “Gentleman Caller” arrives – the handsome, chipper and optimistic Finn Wittrock to bolster Laura’s lack of self-esteem in a candle lit scene that forces you to pay very close attention as rain pummels part of the stage in darkness.

We wonder how the about-to-explode Tom has lasted this long in the household with his demanding and overpowering mother.  He needs, he longs for adventure – something more than just having a job in a factory.  He dreams of becoming a writer.  And to escape.

Amanda is a woman of many faces and moods.  Sally Field doesn’t hold back one iota.  This bitter, frustrated woman whose husband abandoned her relishes in taking it all out on Tom and his sister in the guise of love.  Tough love.  Resulting in a truly tragic outcome in this fierce battle of wills.

Her latent Southern charm emerges along with a frightful Princess Pink gown when Tom’s co-worker arrives for dinner.  Her drawl all but oozes from very pore with unexpected results.

Background musical selections are perfect.

If you have any qualms about seeing this production – set them aside.  Forget any preconceived notions and meet the Wingfields through a new set of eyes.

www.glassmenagerieonbroadway.com

Photos:  Julieta Cervantes

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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SUNSET BOULEVARD – Revival starring Glenn Close – a magic in the making moment

February 18th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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I can’t ever remember witnessing a world famous star or anyone for that matter eliciting such a thunderous and prolonged ovation as Glenn Close did on Thursday (2/16/2017) evening after singing “As If We Never Said Goodbye” as Norma Desmond in The English National Opera Production of SUNSET BOULEVARD – the Andrew Lloyd Webber revival now at the Palace Theatre through June 25th.

Everything clicked.  All the stars aligned as she entered in a stunning black and white outfit (one of many eye popping ensembles designed by Anthony Powell) to meet Cecil B. DeMille (Paul Schoeffler) mistakenly thinking he wants to film her comeback (rather her “return”) in a screenplay she has written starring herself after being absent and mostly forgotten in Hollywood after being the reigning Queen of the Silent Movies – where facial expressions were paramount in telling the story.

She is overwhelmed by her reception once the “extras” realize who she is.  What she was and what she has meant to the industry.  She sits.  She becomes emotional. Slowly one by one the sound stage lights focus on her.  It is truly a magic in the making moment.  She is young again.  She is a star once more as she hesitantly begins what turns out to be the highlight of this production.  The long ovation is well deserved.  It is the reason you should not miss this once in a lifetime performance.

It takes great courage and stamina and extraordinary talent to tackle the demanding role of Norma Desmond.  For the second time.  Glenn Close won a Tony for her performance twenty three years ago.  She has now returned older and wiser and more than spectacular.  Watch her descent into madness with complete fascination.

A bit shaky in Act I receiving star entrance applause and a mini ovation for her performance of the other hit song from the show “With One Look” we tend to overlook that the book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton are not up to the original screenplay by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett upon which they based this almost sung through version.

Her supporting players are all more than adequate without having that certain charisma to make them special.  Norma’s boy-toy Joe Gillis (Michael Xavier) a handsome, broke, down and almost out screenwriter with a great voice is surprisingly bland as narrator of the tale, her butler Max (Fred Johanson) excels with his “The Greatest Star of All” and Siobhan Dillon as Betty Schaeffer who works at the studio and falls for Joe makes the best of what she has to work with which isn’t much.

Director Lonny Price has come up with a Hollywood Sound Stage bare bones concept – Set design (James Noone) with a 40 piece orchestra in full view reminding us of an Encores! Production.  Opulent it is not but it works.   The sound doesn’t.  The lush music sounds recorded.  What a shame.

Some vintage black and white film projections add some nice nostalgic flavor to the mix.

Andrew Lloyd Weber’s score is quite wonderful to hear but certain aspects of a disappointing Act I need to be endured as we await the return to stage center of Glenn Close whose commanding performance is sublime.  We wish she could be in every scene.  After all that’s what the people out there in the dark are paying top price to see.  Just ask Norma Desmond.

www.sunsetboulevardthemusical.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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