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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
NOVEMBER, 2010 ROUNDUP:
PASSING GLANCES AT SCENES SEEN:
•THE RIDE Will Take You for a Ride Around Midtown You Won’t Soon Forget!
•Vince Lombardi Wants Winners! Big City Reporters, Beware!
•John Guare Strikes Again! A Free Man of Color Is a Louisiana Hayride Through Drama Lit!
•The Last Castrato Sings Again! Why Aren’t the Monks Still Castrating for the Vatican Choir?
•G-d Speaks To Those Who Will Listen--But Neil LaBute Warns Us of the Consequences…
•Charles Busch Takes the Veil: A Superior Mother Superior at St. Veronica’s Convent!
•Pee Wee Herman Lives Again--But Only for a Limited Run at the Steve Sondheim Theatre.
•In The Wake--Not of the Red Witch--But of Recent Political Disasters: Unearned Empathy?
•What Do You Mean: Grand dad was a Commie Spy? After the Revolution & Then Some…
•What Can Be More Boring Than a Family Reunion Dinner? A Dysfunctional Family Buffet…
•Orphaned Welsh Demon Twins Drive Godmother to Distraction & Death: Don’t Drink the Punch!
•Lingua Franca: Teaching British--not American--English To Italians in Firenze…
•Al in a Tallis: But Don’t Forget That He’s the Money Lender, Not the Merchant of Venice!
•Watch Out for That White Horse! Trouble Down at the Mill Race for Rosmer in Rosmersholm.
•That Wasn’t Vanessa Redgrave We Saw? Maureen Anderman Played Miss Daisy?
•Three Weeks of ReHab in Mt. Siniai’s Klingenstein Pavilion: Déjá Vu with Wings.
•Tony Kushner’s "Gay Fantasia" Is Nothing Like Walt Disney’s Fantasia…
•Get the DVD of Pedro Almodóvar’s Women Fully To Appreciate the New Musical Version!
•Sing Along with Genocidal Andrew Jackson: Free Up the Frontier for Real Americans!
•ELF--Will Ferrell, Where Are You, Now That We Need You?
•You Threw the Wrong Baby in the Fire, Azucena! How Could a Mother Make Such a Mistake?
•Open Casket for Bernstein’s Quiet Place: Sex Angst of Dysfunctional Suburban Family.
•You Idiot! Why Dress Like Drusilla? Nero’s Men Will Kill You: Heroes Never Wear Heels…
•That Guy Who Looked Like Charlie Chaplin--Was He Twins or Something? No: He’s Raoul!
•BAM Books a Show from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival: Ping Chong’s Throne of Blood!
•Do Not Squirm at the Squirm Burpee Circus: Do Have a Great Time!
•Scott Siegel’s Broadway Unplugged: Vintage Songs Uncorked by Experts!
INTRO: April well may be--as that Eminent Phrase Maker, TS Eliot, once wrote--The Cruelest Month, but November is certainly Turkey Month.
So much so, in fact, that on Thanksgiving Day, all the Broadway Theatres were closed, so the only Turkeys on view were those served in Mid Town Restaurants such as Juniors…
THE RIDE [*****]
If you were in Times Square on V J Day, you might have seen that happy Sailor kissing that ecstatic Nurse, both overjoyed that the Japs had been Defeated at last!
But most Americans now know about that Historic Moment from Alfred Eisenstadt’s Iconic Photo…
Now you can experience that Times Square Moment all over again: Just get on THE RIDE & you’ll see The Kiss happening right before your eyes!
This is only one of the Midtown Moments you’ll see on the streets in front of your Stadium Seat on the very special bus that is the venue of THE RIDE.
If you are a Lifelong New Yorker, taking THE RIDE will show you the Gridlocked Streets & Teeming Avenues from a Higher Level, as you’ve never seen them before.
You’ll see wonderful Architectural & Decorative Details on major buildings--such as the Chrysler, Grand Central Station, & the Times/Chemical Tower--that you would never really see or study, just striding through, hurrying not to miss an 8 o’clock Curtain.
If you are a Tourist--especially in a Family Group, on your first visit to Manhattan!--you will ride right by all the major Broadway Theatres so you can decide which shows you must see. On the bus, the lively Guides will give you tips, but some of your Fellow Travelers will also shout out what’s really a good show!
If you are a Birthday Girl, everyone will sing along to wish you a very Happy Birthday!
The specially outfitted bus that will take you for THE RIDE stands outside the Marriott Marquis Hotel, opposite the Lunt Fontanne Theatre, better known as the Home of the Addams Family!
Not only are there Special Shows just for you, outside on the streets, but on the bus, there is a variety of Multi Media Effects showering you with a multitude of New York Facts & Oddities.
An entire History of Forty Second Street is shared on the Drive Through what was once called "The Theatre Block."
Moving the immense Empire Theatre closer to Eighth Avenue on scores of rolling logs is re capped for those who missed it.
Now the AMC Multiplex, the Empire was once the Julian Eltinge Theatre, built for this most handsome of Broadway Leading Men, who always had to put on Corsets & Fashionable Gowns to protect his Dearly Beloved from the Evil Machinations of Big City Con Men.
[Well, way back then, what did Ordinary People know about Sigmund Freud & Cross Dressing?]
When you board THE RIDE--after picking up your tickets from the nearby Marriott Marquis Box Office--you have a choice of seating in one of the three rising rows of stadium seats inside. All have excellent views through the large windows--there are no windows on the other side of this bus!--but there’s also a Glass Ceiling for Overhead Photos.
Opposite the Marriott Marquis, Times Square is--as always--ablaze with the Mega Wattages of Immense Glowing Signage, some of it like Monster TV Screens.
On one of these In Your Face Screens, you can see Yourself & your Bus in Actual Time! Wave to the Folks! Wave! Make Funny Faces!
Not only do Street Performers--scripted into THE RIDE, with Improvs encouraged--engage your attention, but Street Vendors now get into the act as well, cheering you along on your Info Packed Journey through Mid Manhattan.
Perhaps the Muffin Man knows you’ll soon come by to buy some of his excellent Cup Cakes!
For the Record: The specially constructed & outfitted buses for THE RIDE push the limits of what’s allowed on Manhattan’s crowded Avenues & Streets. They are 13 feet high, 45 feet long, & eight feet wide!
You can get your tickets at the Marriott Box Office [1535 Broadway, between 45th & 46th Streets], but last minute is never a good idea when seats are selling out. So Phone: 866 299 9682. Or go Online: experiencetheride.com.
BRING YOUR CAMERA!
Eric Simonson’s LOMBARDI [***]
John Guare’s A FREE MAN OF COLOR [***]
Guy Fredrick Glass’s THE LAST CASTRATO [***]
Neil LaBute’s THE BREAK OF NOON [****]
Charles Busch’s THE DIVINE SISTER [*****]
Paul Reubens’ THE PEE WEE HERMAN SHOW [***]
Lisa Kron’s IN THE WAKE [**]
Amy Herzog’s AFTER THE REVOLUTION [***]
Richard Nelson’s THAT HOPEY CHANGEY THING [***]
Hywel John’s PIECES [***]
Peter Nichols’ LINGUA FRANCA [***]
Old Plays in Revival:
Wm. Shakespeare/Chris Marlowe’s THE MERCHANT OF VENICE [*****]
Henrik Ibsen’s ROSMERSHOLM [***]
Alfred Uhry’s DRIVING MISS DAISY [****]
Arthur Kopit’s WINGS [***]
Tony Kushener’s ANGELS IN AMERICA: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes:
Part 1: Millennium Approaches [*****]
Part 2: Perestroika [*****]
WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN [***]
BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON [*****]
Other Entertainments/Other Venues:
Nights at the Opera:
Verdi’s IL TROVATORE [****]
Bernstein’s A QUIET PLACE [**]
Monteverdi’s L’INCORONAZIONE DI POPPEA [***]
Across the River To BAM:
James Thiérrée’s RAOUL [*****]
Ping Chong’s THRONE OF BLOOD [****]
New Show at the New Victory:
THE SQUIRM BURPEE CIRCUS [***]
Town Hall Tonight!
Scott Siegel’s BROADWAY UNPLUGGED [*****]
SHOW NOTES OVERVIEW:
Sports on Stage!
Who would have thought that a raging, rampaging Football Coach like Vince Lombardi could be humanized & made interesting to sports averse Theatre Goers?
Well, Eric Simonson has done just that. But he builds his portrait of Lombardi in Action around his LOOK magazine reporter’s rapport with the Coach’s loving--but long suffering--Wife, tartly, tautly played by the wonderful Judith Light.
Dan Lauria--as the Colon Cancer Invaded Lombardi--could get a Hernia from his furious expostulations to his Team Players. Or anyone who comes in range of his unbridled Temper…
But Lombardi did make the Green Bay Packers into Winners.
Keith Nobbs, as the understated, but determined LOOK Reporter, finally gets His Story. He gives it to Lombardi, not to His Editor, quitting his job. Lombardi & the Editor had a deal…
Scott Says: ****
Eric Simonson opens Lombardi with dialogue that implies that what is to follow is a football oriented biographical drama. The surprise is that we are presented with a well rounded, engaging character study of a remarkable man.
Vince Lombardi was one of the great pro football coaches in the National Football League who was known to have strong opinions and a hot temper. The portrait given the audience shows the private, gentler side, as seen through the eyes of a young reporter for LOOK magazine and Lombardi’s wife Marie.
Dan Lurie is dead on in his portrayal of Lombardi even to the point of physically resembling the coach. As Marie, Judith Light plays the deeply loving and totally supportive wife of Vince Lombardi with a characterization that illuminates and informs the non public side of Lombardi.
Rounding out the principals is Keith Nobbs as the young LOOK reporter looking to this exclusive interview time with Lombardi as his big break in sports journalism. Nobbs does a good job as the balance between Marie’s stories of the journey to Green Bay and Vince’s struggles with the remembering and accepting the details of that journey.
The rest of the cast do a terrific job in supporting this beautifully executed character study of one of the greatest coaches in pro football history.
Six Degrees of Separation from The House of Blue Leaves: John Guare’s A Free Man of Color…
First Things First!
Ann Hould Ward’s fantastic & fabulous costumes--semi demi hemi Baroque--for John Guare’s A Free Man of Color, now at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, are Works of Art in & of themselves.
Some of them should be sealed in glass cases & put on display in the International Costume Museum--even if such an institution has not yet been funded by some Hedge Fund or Bank of America ATM Outlet.
The much admired & always busy designer David Rockwell--the sets of ELF are also his this busy season!--has devised some of the most goldenly ornate set frames & props ever seen in Lincoln Center. They almost Out Zeffirelli Franco Zeffirelli’s best Met Opera shows…
Guare’s large cast is obviously talented, some having been asked to don different wigs to play different characters in this Panoply of Historical Figures & Comedic Stereotypes.
They work very hard, but they also have been asked, apparently, to shout their lines, rather than to speak them In Character. The raw Vocal Strain shows…
There are some elegant, even haunting, Processions & Parades in & around Rockwell’s Spanish Colonial New Orleans & Bayous.
The Problem is the Play text itself. Guare even indicates on the title page of the Playbill Program that he owes much to Ossian, Aphra Behn, Shakespeare, Susan Centlivre, Euripides, Milton, Wycherley, & Virgil.
Guare provides his ever dwindling audience with Too Much, Too Soon, & Too Long.
When first I glimpsed the baroquely clad Jacques Cornet [Jeffrey Wright] on stage, I thought immediately of Sir Fopling Flutter!
Of course, if you were so unfortunate as not to have studied Restoration & 18th Century Comedy at Stanford with the formidable Professor Marjorie Bailey--reading First Editions of these plays in Stanford’s Rare Book Room, wearing cotton gloves--you would understandably be Unfamiliar with some of Guare’s Plot Sources.
As if his Dramatic Offering were not already complicated enough, suggesting how & why Pres. Thos. Jefferson paid Good Money for the Louisiana Territory--Jefferson’s Folly!--as well as how & why Spain ceded that vast Unknown Land Mass to Napoleon & France, which just might, with its Roving Rivers, provide the long sought Water Route to the Orient that eluded Columbus & Hendrik Hudson, but provided Later Adventurers with Mercator Projection Maps of the New World, as well as examining Social Life in a supposedly Color Blind New Orleans, up to & including the recent Hurricane Devastation, John Guare also felt it necessary to borrow plots & character types from the extensive Annals of Dramatic Literature.
Not to overlook frequent references to the Noble Dimensions of his Hero’s Phallic Endowment…
To put this Penis into more vigorous Action, Guare adopts Ben Jonson’s ingenious device from Volpone. It is given out that Volpone is soon to Die--his Body Functions are on the wane: his Cock has Crowed its Last!
Volpone has his devious servant, Mosca, secretly advise a series of Wealthy Venetian Fools--Corbaccio, Corvino--that each of them is his Sole Heir.
To show their Gratitude, Mosca suggests, they might send their sexy wives to console Volpone in his Last Hour…
Well, you get The Idea…
This still makes Volpone the most popular of Jonson’s Elizabethan/Jacobean Comedies.
It might have been an even better idea, than staging A Free Man of Color, to have mounted a Venetian Baroque--using the same Rockwell Sets & Props--production of Volpone on the Beaumont stage…
In fact, that is what that stage was created for: To provide a Repertory Showcase for the best of Classic & Modern Drama, based on the European Model of State/City Subsidized Repertory Theatre.
Even while the Initial Ensemble was performing downtown in the temporary ANTA Washington Square Theatre--whose seats eventually went up to Providence, RI, for Adrian Hall’s Regional Trinity Square Theatre--the Lincoln Center Repertory Company, guided by Robert Whitehead & advised by Harold Clurman, among others, was producing a repertory of Classics & such modern classics as Arthur Miller’s drama about Marilyn Monroe, After the Fall.
There were High Hopes for the new Vivian Beaumont Allen stage up in Lincoln Center. Its design & construction had been dictated by the likes of the famed designer Jo Mielzner & Drama Critic Walter Kerr--who had taught drama at Catholic University in DC, along with his fellow playwright, Jean Kerr.
Arena Stages had become popular, thanks to Margo Jones & Zelda Fichhandler, so the Advisors thought Greek Theatre Amphitheatre Seating would be best for the Beaumont, combined with the popular Thrust Stage--adapted from the Apron Stage of Elizabethan, Jacobean, Restoration, 18th, & 19th Century Usages.
So far, so good…
But Major European Repertory Theatres usually had five or six different shows playing in Rep each week, so their Proscenium Stages had to have enough Storage Space backstage to accommodate all those sets, especially when a single production might have as many as three or four wagon stages, fully set up, to facilitate Scene Changes in seconds…
The Beaumont was duly equipped with these spaces, as well as a very Deep Stage, which is revealed in the current production, when Meriwether Lewis [Paul Dano] is lost out in the desolate reaches of the Louisiana Purchase.
European Rep Theatres also had/have Revolving Stages & Elevator Stages. Only the Radio City Music Hall stage has both in Manhattan.
But the Vivian Beaumont was given not One Revolve, but TWO: They can even revolve in opposite directions. Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia recently showed them In Action.
The Big Problem when the Repertory Theatre moved to the Beaumont was that Amphitheatre Seating doesn’t work with a deep, deep, deep Proscenium Stage.
Only those sitting front & center can see the entire Deep Stage Picture.
Those in the Side Pie Wedges of Seats see only a triangle of action inside the stage frame, although they can see everything on the Thrust.
When I asked Jo Mielziner how this Visual Disaster had come about, he said he’d warned the Committee that this was wrong, but they wouldn’t listen to him.
The Committee was largely composed of Very Wealthy Men--with some Rich Women--who knew little about Theatre Design & Technology.
I also asked Walter Kerr about this Visual Mistake, but he really had no idea that Amphitheatre Seating would be wrong for the kind of Proscernium Stage they’d insisted upon.
Oh, there was another Big Problem as well, which only gradually emerged.
Although Manhattan Lovers of Opera & Ballet were used to being able to see a different production each evening, Broadway audiences were not.
Some were furious to arrive, hoping to see, say, Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real, only to discover that something boring by Wm. Shakespeare was on the boards for that evening.
It also didn’t help that really long plays, like Danton’s Death, might begin half an hour earlier than You Can’t Take It With You…
Clurman, Miller, & Whitehead soon Jumped Ship.
Jules Irving & Herbie Blau were imported from San Francisco’s Actors Workshop--where I had also known them as professorial colleagues at San Francisco State College, as it then was known.
In the initial seasons, I pointed out to Jules that both he & Blau were casting their wives as Whores. He was a bit surprised to recognize that.
Only in his final season at the Beaumont--Blau having been dumped some time before--did Jules really achieve something like Success. His talented daughter, Amy Irving--as an ex Mrs. Stephen Spielberg--of course has enjoyed a distinguished career.
Jules went on to Hollywood, but he Died a Vegas Death: after winning the Pot at Black Jack, he keeled over with a Heart Attack…
The Beaumont has since had Richmond Crinkley, Hugh Southern, & Joe Papp as its producers, before the current crew came aboard: the estimable Bernie Gersten & Andre Bishop.
But at one point--in a desperate move to Do Something about all that Wasted Backstage Space--it was proposed that it be converted into a set of Cinemathèques.
This was averted by a series of Landmark Preservation Hearings, similar to those that saved Radio City Music Hall…
Harold Clurman--at that time my CUNY PhD in Theatre Program Colleague--joined me as an Advisor to the late Sarah Leigh Carney, who wrote her Doctoral Dissertation on all the Problems of the Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre: its Directors, its Ensemble, its Board, & its actual Theatre.
This was copied by University Microfilms, but it may well now be On Line. If you are interested…
My favorite play by John Guare is still To Wally Pantone, We Leave a Credenza…
Awful To Be an Orphan Boy in the Hands of Castrating Monks: But Maybe a Great Career Ahead?
How were Castrati created, when they were still needed for the Vatican Choir & the Opera Stages of Milan & London?
Well, of course, they were castrated. But at an early age, so their Boyish Trebles wouldn’t mature into Tenors or Baritones.
One of the amusing misapprehensions exposed in The Last Castrato is the innocent idea of an American Lady that something had been done to the Vocal Folds of Moreschi [Jacob Pinion], the real life Last Castrato.
She’s falling in love with him & he with her. But she doesn’t immediately understand that he can never give her Children. His Songs are his children…
Guy Glass has crafted a fascinating Behind the Scenes drama of Vatican Intrigues & Papal Priorities: The Castrati have to go…
They are to be replaced by Boys’ Voices in the Sistine Chapel, as no Mature Man--& especially not Mature Women--may sully the sound waves of that Sacred Space.
The Pope wants to hear only the Voices of Angels…
Moreschi--the last of these Mutilated Boys, but now a young man--is forbidden ever to sing again. But he will be Chorus Master of the Vatican & Sistine Choir.
He is such a Devout Catholic that he obeys these Papal Commands until the Victor Gramophone Company--"His Master’s Voice"--is recording in the Sistine Chapel.
Moreschi at last hears himself singing: His later recordings become both famous & popular.
You may have heard Moreschi? Initially recorded on shellac, his voice has been digitized.
The new production at the Connelly Theatre--way over on East Fourth Street, between Avenues A & B--is impressively performed, stunningly mounted, & handsomely costumed.
Kudos to director John Henry Davis & his excellent cast.
To Protestants, it may seem odd that God cannot bear to hear the Mature Voices of Married Women singing in one of his Greatest Cathedrals.
But once they have lost their Precious Virginity, they no longer sound like Angels, alas…
There’s a good reason they are called The Vienna Choir Boys & not the Austrian Castrati!
The Universal & Apostolic Holy Roman Catholic Church has had Problems with its Church Music over the Centuries. It has also had Problems with Protestants, but in such cases it was easier to Burn Them at the Stake than to castrate them…
For that matter--even earlier than the Moreschi Affair--St. Carlos Borromeo had to throw Palestrina into Prison to get him to compose the kind of music he wanted to hear in the Sistine Chapel. Gregorian Chant was all very well, but Polyphony was more interesting…
If you want to know more about this strange moment in Church History, Hans Pfitzner has created an opera about it, called quite simply: Palestrina. Check it out…
Dr. Glass is not only a Playwright. He’s also a practicing Psychiatrist! He has also lectured on Gay & Lesbian Mental Health. But, in his drama, that is not Moreschi’s Sexual Orientation.
Although a random kiss gets Moreschi into Very Serious Trouble with the Pope To Be…
If G-d Speaks Directly To You, Be Sure You Have a Good Connection!
Neil LaBute’s new drama of Ordinary People living Daily Lives doesn’t begin at Daybreak. Instead, it’s The Break of Noon.
It opens with David Duchovny, as "John Smith," monologizing about the terrifying experience of being the only Survivor of an Office Massacre at the hands of a fired & Gun Firing incompetent Minority Employee.
As he crouches by a desk, waiting to be murdered, The Voice of God speaks to him: Stay Put, John! Or words to that effect…
John--not previously a Believer or a Practicing Christian--suddenly Believes.
He also believes he has to Share God’s Good News with those Nearest & Dearest, as well as anyone else in Shouting Distance: that we should all try to be Good & to Tell the Truth.
OK. Nothing wrong about that, is there?
Well, yes. Most Devout Christian Theologians would immediately have asked themselves: "Is this really G-d speaking to me. Or is it Satan?"
If the Latter, then: "Get Thee Behind Me, Satan!"
Unfortunately, John is not much given to Retrospection, so he tries to bring his New Insights to his Ex Wife, his Mistress, & a very cute & sexy pert Maid Sex Worker, the daughter of the murdered office worker woman over whose body he crouched, awaiting Death.
His Message--as you might well imagine--Falls on Deaf Ears.
The real problem is not so much that no one will believe G$d actually talked to him, but that he is still the Selfish, Angry, Impulsive, Violent Prick he was before the Heavenly Visitation…
But John has also discovered TV Talk Shows where he is able to share his Revelations, hilariously challenged by a winking Lady Interviewer.
Who says LaBute’s Women are often mocked, even scorned?
In this show, he has certainly given them All the Breaks: Great Roles for Regional Theatre Ensembles & College & Community Theatre Groups!
Jo Bonney directed!
Jesus’ Older Sister, Joyce Christ, Secretly Buried Beneath Pittsburgh Convent!
The Hills are Alive with the Sound of St. Veronica’s Music!
Charles Busch is hilarious & outrageous in his new show--The Divine Sister--which spoofs Roman Catholic Beliefs & Superstitions--along with most anything else in his Line of Sight.
Ably supported by his outrageous & hilarious cast--including a Pittsburgh Postulant who can see
Divine Faces in the Urine Stains on Convent School Kiddies’ Jockey Shorts--he’s a worthy successor to Monty Python’s Life of Brian, without bags of stones for sale to hurl at Adulterous Women!
He’s not quite Charles Ludlam yet, but his racy & irreverent text includes references to the Da Vinci Code & Alfred Hitchcock Classics.
Rich Jews who drown Worthy Causes in floods of Philanthropic Cash could save crumbling old St. Veronica’s, but Busch’s Mother Superior insults as she begs…
But, at Bottom--you should excuse the Expression!--this Secular/Sacred Romp is about the Tragedy of Being Born Unwanted & Abandoned in Orphanages. More common than you might think…
Paul Reubens Makes Puppets Behave Like People & People Like Puppets: Just Like Life on TV…
Outside the Steve Sondheim Memorial Theatre on Broadway, a Pee Wee Herman Fan was being photographed with a Signature Herman Blue Chair & Pee Wee Puppet.
But she was not the only Pee Wee fan on hand. The theatre was crowded with them: most seemed to know all the Characters from Pee Wee’s five day weekly Kiddie Show, now touring to joyous laughter & applause.
Sad to relate, Your Reporter’s long term habit of avoiding Television in general & Daytime Shows in particular left him ill prepared to judge how accurately Paul Reubens has brought his famed Brand Name to the Living Theatre.
David Kerins’ recreation of Pee Wee’s Studio Set is a riot of Color & Puppetry--the latter wonderfully wrought by Basil Twist. But Ann Closs Farley’s riotously amusing Costumes are even better than those she has designed for Elf!
Actually, I had a very good time, but I must defer to my Editor & Colleague, Scott Bennett, who knows the shows inside out…
Scott Says: "Fun is the secret word for today," intones Pee Wee, and as anyone who knew the Pee Wee’s Playhouse it meant you have to scream every time the word is said.
Paul Reubens created Pee Wee Herman while a member of the LA comedy group The Groundlings. The skit was so successful that he continued the Pee Wee Herman Show at a theatre in LA for 5 months during which time HBO filmed a comedy special of the show. Next came the film Pee Wee’s Big Adventure which led to the CBS TV series Pee Wee’s Playhouse for 5 years and 22 Emmy’s. And now Broadway…
For fans of Pee Wee Herman including your reporter, this was an evening of the silliness, sensitivity, and fun (yaaaaaahhhhh) that marked the TV series but with a freshness underscored by the well timed topical humor.
Paul Reubens and John Paragon (Jambi) always wrote the show to work on a number of levels. There was as much fun (yaaaaaahhhhh) for kids as for their parents. All the familiar characters are represented with Lynne Marie Stewart reprising her Miss Yvonne from the original Groundlings period and the CBS series.
John Paragon as Jambi and John Moodi as Mailman Mike were part of the original Groundlings show and bring their special magic to the ensemble. The rest of the cast ably rose to the occasion in support of Pee Wee.
Last but not at all least are the puppeteer’s who were outstanding playing all the supporting characters from Chairy, to Pteri, to the Flowers at the window. This is a terrific show for all who loved Pee Wee and those who never experienced the wonder of his magic.
Framing News Clips of Bush/Gore/Rumsfeld for East Village Domestic Drama: Does This Work?
First Things First: Your Arts Reporter has long been an admirer of Playwright Lisa Kron. Her 2.5 Minute Ride was a Revelation. Her Award Winning Well--with an Outstanding Performance by Jane Houdyshell--was a small kind of Epiphany.
So I was looking forward to In the Wake. But I must have mis read that title, because I was looking forward to a lively dissection of Family Attitudes following the Death of a Loved One, as in an Irish Wake.
Well, No. Kron’s Lesbian Enriched play text shows us the Motor Mouthed Dumb Blonde Amy [Jenny Bacon], who is an Unthinking Liberal.
The production at the Public Theatre frames the onstage action with Night News Clips of the Gore/Bush Florida Stolen Election, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Lies, & so forth & so on.
What happens on stage, however, is not much illuminated by the Larger Political Picture, despite a Quote from James Baldwin, relating lack of Self Examination to the possibility of "one of the most distinguished & monumental failures in the history of nations."
That’s quite a stretch, considering that Kron’s East Villagers would have the same domestic & amorous problems had the Sitting President been Carter or Clinton…
They are generally an Uninteresting Lot, even with extended rants about Work among the 3rd World Helpless & Hopeless & the Failures of Democracy.
It is quite true that, over a century ago, The Tragedy of the Broken Teacup or The Adventure of a Walk Around the Block--although somewhat mockingly cited at the time--heralded a new Naturalist/Realist Focus on the Commonplace.
Amy must seem to Kron some kind of Heroine, as she opens this domestic drama with a Monologue & concludes it as well, but at the end, she is enshrined in a Halo of Light!
Most of the evening, I wanted to strangle her, just to stop her mouth…
What Did You Do in the War, Granddaddy? In the OSS, But You Gave US Secrets To the Soviets?
The young woman at the heart of Amy Herzog’s After the Revolution is a strong & welcome contrast to the over talkative self dramatizing anti heroine of Lisa Kron’s In the Wake.
She has created a Foundation in Memory of her Grandfather, a Passionate Defender of Liberal Causes. She is trying to free Abner Lumia from Death Row.
Unfortunately for her & her entire Family, an Academic has just published an Academic Tome that Outs her grandfather, not only as a Communist, but also as a trusted member of the OSS, who has passed our Military Secrets on to the Soviet Russians.
This Passionate, Argumentative Family is riven with the problems of Making Decisions in the wake of what has been revealed. Grandpa’s widow [Lois Smith] is still a committed Communist.
Playwright David Margulies plays a very wealthy & sympathetic former Fellow Traveler, who wants to help save the Foundation & its work.
There are also Love Issues that need to be Resolved. But Herzog’s characters are far more interesting than those Lisa Kron has put on stage…
After the Revolution also struck a Chord in Memory: when I was at UC/Berkeley in the late 1940s, Commie Hunting was a pre occupation with the Legislators up in Sacramento.
Senator Jack Tenney--of the Tenney Committee & later the Loyalty Oaths for UC Profs--sent "investigators" into our lectures & classes to trap Closet Commies & Fellow Travelers.
As a Senior Night Editor on the Daily Californian, I worked alongside GI Bill Veterans, some of whom still had Party Cards. A friend’s father had even been deported to Soviet Russia for alleged Un American Activities.
When I went home to the Sierras on holidays, the regular thigh slapping laugh getter was: HOW ARE THINGS AT THE RED SCHOOL AT BERKELEY?
Not Quite Dinner with the Family, But Real People Do Talk That Hopey Changey Way!
The inimitable Richard Nelson--would you really want to imitate his Themes & Style?--both wrote & directed That Hopey Changey Thing at the Public Theatre.
The tossed green salad looked limp, but so were some of the predictable Verbal Interactions of the Apple Family at a get together on 2 November 2010, shortly after the Election Results were known.
Talk about Timely!
This was not a case of One Bad Apple Spoiling the Barrel. That only happens in the US Military…
What made this show enjoyable was the hard working Cast: Jay O. Sanders, Maryann Plunkett, Laila Robins, J. Smith Cameron, Jon DeVries, & Shuler Hensley.
Brits Off Broadway at 59E59: Are US Playwrights Being Out Sourced by English Imports?
All the way from Cymru, in Wales, comes Clwyd Theatr’s darkly dire Pieces, by Hywel John. Jack & Beatrice’s Mom & Dad have died, leaving them Orphans. Their Godmother--whom they’ve not seen for a very long time--comes to care for them.
This Plot has whiffs of Henry James’ tale that became Benjamin Britten’s opera, The Turn of the Screw, which, oddly enough, has a somewhat Welsh Libretto by Myfanwy Piper. But Jack is not like Miles: he doesn’t see the Ghost of his dead Governess.
Nonetheless, both Jack [Steven Meo] & Beatrice [Louise Collins], from the first encounter, act very oddly: Soon they have put on their Dead Parents’ Clothes & kiss each other like Adults.
The old photos Jack has found upstairs seal Godmother Sophie’s Doom…
Kate Wasserburg staged. With Jennifer Kidd as the baffled, distraught Godmother. Stay away from Cymru, unless you can take the Heat & the Oddities.
London’s Cherub Company Imports Lingua Franca: Teaching British English in Florence!
Even in the 1950s--in Post War Western Europe--those who wanted to learn English really wanted to speak it like the Americans they were meeting.
Unfortunately, not only in Language Schools like that in Peter Nichols’ Lingua Franca, but also in Lycées, Gymnasiums, & Universities, Oxford English was the Standard.
But that’s a standard that’s difficult to achieve unless you’ve actually studied at Oxbridge. After World War II, Regional British Accents trumped Oxford & Cambridge.
Among the Struggling to Survive Teachers at Lingua Franca Firenze, there are not only Brit Regions on offer but also Germanized English & English strained through Italian by Marriage from an Emigrée Russian Jewess…
Difficulties develop, however, when Sex rears its Tumescent Head. Disaster ensues: Lingua Franca frankly has to close its doors.
Michael Gieleta directed this excellent cast!
Peter Nichols has always been a Playwright of the Unusual: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, The National Health, Privates on Parade. These dramas also offered Jim Dale some Signature Roles.
But whatever became of Jim? He was once a Broadway Star…
Merchant in the Park Nothing Like Merchant in a Proscenium: Pacino & Rabe Triumphant!
There are SOLD OUT signs posted at the Box Office of the Broadhurst Theatre.
If you missed the Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival’s Merchant of Venice at the Delacorte in Central Park last summer, you should bend every effort to see Al Pacino, Lily Rabe, & Byron Jennings in Dan Sullivan’s unique staging of this always controversial Comedy!
Yes, Shakespeare Novices! This possibly Anti Semitic show is framed as a Comedy, not a Tragedy. Not even a Melodrama, although Shylock could well have been seen as a Villain of Melodrama in previous eras.
After all, he does contrive to Kill a Christian, an Upstanding, Generous, Honorable Citizen of the Republic of Venice, whose Laws must be upheld, even if a Life may be forfeit…
The Happy Ending, of course, involves Antonio’s salvation from the Revengeful Knife of Shylock, crowned with Shylock’s Forcible Conversion to Christianity.
With the added joys of the Confiscation of all Shylock’s Wealth & Property!
All of which will go to the possibly profligate Husband of his once beloved daughter, Jessica, who has fled his House to become Christian & marry a Fortune Seeker.
[Once upon a time, at Lincoln Center, Ellis Raab presented this Opportunist as a Hustler, hanging around St. Mark’s Square, on the lookout for Americans of either Sex, with Travelers Checks in hand…]
That will teach you Aliens & Outsiders to respect the Laws of Venice, which protect all who live within Her Territories…
The current staging at the Broadhurst is the best production of this difficult drama I’ve ever seen.
Even better than Jonathan Miller’s Merchant with Lord Olivier…
At the close of that production, Miller had the distraught, baffled Jessica wander out onto the terrace alone, as Portia, Bassanio, & the rest frolicked in a merry dance.
In the distance, she heard the strains of a mournful Kaddish…
Last summer in the Park, the Merchant was OK, but the actors were straining to reach a large Outdoor Audience, with Police Helicopters flying overhead & the Belvedere looming in the background.
But now, on Broadway, Up close, concentrated, with the confining Circularity of Mark Wendland’s black rodded setting, Al Pacino is so powerful that he’s both empathetic & terrifying.
Lily Rabe now has a kind of Nervous Grace that makes her Court room Portia powerfully persuasive. She does not Orate or Declaim The Quality of Mercy. She is making a plea for compassion…
Although I’ve seen over sixty years of Merchants, this was the first time--as they say: "The Illusion of the First Time"--that I have actually believed the characters as they spoke: Rabe, Pacino, & Jennings, especially, inhabited their roles.
Henry Ibsen Strikes Again! Rosmersholm Proves a Pearl at the Pearl Theatre…
After Henrik Ibsen liberated Norwegian Women--with Nora slamming the door on Husband, Home, & Hearth--he began to have doubts about hitherto Repressed Females, seeking to fulfill or gratify themselves through Weak Males.
There was the imperious Man Destroyer, Hedda Gabler. Also Mrs. Alving, with her syphilitic son, Oswald.
Followed by Rebecca West, in Rosmersholm & Hilda Wangel, who urges Master Builder Solness on to his Death…
The taut, handsome revival of Ibsen’s Rosmersholm--now at the Pearl Theatre--still has resonances for our times: The strident Conflict between Rock Solid Conservatives & Passionate, Populist, even Opportunistic Reformers.
Scion of a Great Noble Norwegian Family, Johannes Rosmer [Bradford Cover] is a weak man, a Lutheran Priest who has lost his Faith & his Way…
Rebecca West [Margot White] begins to fill that vacuum in his Soul.
[Did the latter day Rebecca West, of Grey Lamb & Black Falcon fame, also do that for her lover, HG Wells?]
But there is an Ancestral Doom hanging over both Rebecca & Rosmer: The Specter of the White Horse at the Mill Race!
Did Rosmer’s dead wife, Beata, slip & fall into the rushing waters? Or did she jump, to free Rosmer & Rebecca to be together…
Elinor Renfield--wasn’t Renfield a character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula?--has deftly staged an excellent cast for the Pearl.
I have never before seen Austin Pendleton so convincing as he is here as the Arch Conservative Dr. Kroll, brother of the late lost Beata Rosmer.
But White Horses aren’t the only Animistic Messengers of Death:
The morning of the dark day that a crazed Italian Anarchist thrust his dagger into the Heart of Sissi, the Empress of Austria--just as she was boarding the Steamer on Lake Geneva--a black black Raven had flown through the window of her dressing room, perching quizzically on her Mirror…
Elizabeth of Austria was a Wittelsbach, cousin of Munich’s "Mad" King Ludwig. Ravens always foretold their deaths…
Just as a never before seen Black Hound always appeared on the Day of Death of one of the Anglo Irish Cliffords, a family connection of my Great Aunt Margaret Dangerfield.
Unless I mistake--being now of a Great Age myself--I do believe that Elly Renfield was once one of my CUNY Grad Students.
Driving Around Atlanta…
In Driving Miss Daisy, Alfred Uhry presents an essentially Racist Old South Atlanta whose Anti Semitism is very subtle.
But it is also an Atlanta whose various Stereotypical Prejudices about Blacks are actually shared by some well to do Jews, notably Miss Daisy. She gradually overcomes them, being driven about the city by Hoke [James Earl Jones], a kindly Colored Man who cannot read words but who can read Miss Daisy quite clearly.
The drama is set in the fevers of the Civil Rights Movement, when attitudes began to change. Your Reporter can testify, however, that some things don’t change so easily.
In the mid 1980s, when I was at an Atlanta party to celebrate some new art show at the High Museum, I was told that the word MARTA--blazoned on all the city buses--meant Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta.
Instead of Vanessa Redgrave, I saw Maureen Anderman as Miss Daisy. Although I would still like to see Vanessa--at least for Award Nomination Purposes--I was impressed with Anderman’s Daisy. She may be making a small scale Specialty of Understudying Redgrave, for, among her credits, is The Year of Magical Thinking.
I fondly remember Anderman as a Giant Reptile in Edward Albee’s Seascape. Albee may also be a Specialty: roles in Delicate Balance, Virginia Woolf, & Lady from Dubuque…
Boyd Gaines was charmingly frustrated as Boolie, Miss Daisy’s dutiful son. Gaines has come a long way from Juilliard & Spring Awakening!
Please Show Us Which of These Things Is Your Toothbrush: Jan Maxwell Selects in Rehab…
First & Foremost: Jan Maxwell is excellent in Arthur Kopit’s Wings.
Unfortunately, it’s all about an adventurous woman who once rode astride the wings of small airplanes to dazzle the Rubes below. That, in itself is not the Problem. Seeing her Do Her Stuff would be really arresting!
Unfortunately, also, she’s Had a Stroke, so we meet her first & solely in ReHab.
The Medical Interrogations, the Invasions of Private Memories, the Endless Lab Tests: all very Professionally & Stylishly Presented.
The Problem for me--as well as for the two women next to me, who left only seconds after they saw what was ahead--is that I fell down concrete stairs by the Golden Gate Bridge, landing on my head.
This meant Incarceration in San Francisco General, Lenox Hill--twice, as my brain was still bleeding, & three weeks of Rehab at Mt. Sinai’s excellent Klingenstein Pavilion.
But why revive this Hospital Horror? It was hard enough to watch the agony when it premiered years ago. I hadn’t at that time even suffered a Subdural Hematoma--which My Friendly HMO prompty labeled a PRE EXISITING CONDITION…
If All the Angels in the Bible Are Males, How Come Tony Kushner’s Angel Is Obviously a Female?
The Millennium approached. We now seem to be a Decade into it. So?
Part 2 of Tony Kushner’s fascinating satiric saga of American Sexual Awakenings & Dead Ends is titled Peristroika. Well, we saw what that did to the Soviet Empire…
Will some Truth Telling destroy our American Empire? Especially if our Angels are Abandoning us?
Signature Theatre’s admirable revival of Angels in America provokes all kinds of Questions.
Even before Part 1 got underway, the Question in some minds was: This theatre space has no fly gallery, no real room overhead. It looks like solid concrete up there, so how is that Glorious Angel going to break through the ceiling of Prior Walter’s bedroom?
Thanks to Mark Wendland’s fantastic design ingenuity, she seems to fly in from high up next door!
The cleverly devised scenic units rotate, interlock, & slide, creating a variety of locales.
Clint Ramos’ costumes recall an Historical Period that began with the Cold War & oozed into the dysfunctional family Reagan Era.
Michael Greif has directed an excellent cast: Christian Borle/Prior Walter, Bill Heck/Joe Pitt, Zoe Kazan/Harper Pitt, Billy Porter/Belize, Zachary Quinto/Louis Ironson, Robin Bartlett/Hannah Pitt, & Robin Weigert/Angel. Ensemble Awards for Everyone!
Audiences once again find out more about Roy Cohn [Frank Wood] than any Decent Christian ought to know. What we are not told is that he dated Barbara Walters & received many awards from Conservative Jewish Organizations.
In Part 1, there is no mention of how Roy Cohn became Roy Cohn. Notably, it was because he attached himself like a Limpet to Senator Joseph McCarthy, crusading against Commies & Fellow Travelers in the Department of State.
What most people have forgotten is that McCarthy had, in the beginning, two young Acolytes: Cohn & Robert Kennedy!
Cohn beat out Kennedy in the I Love Tail Gunner Joe Sweepstakes, so Kennedy had to become a Liberal. Possibly, this was All for the Best…
The Scourge of AIDS informs the conduct of many of Kushner’s characters, but Political Corruption & Gay Guilt are not far behind.
Was Roy Cohn a Cock Sucker? Is that why McCarthy favored him? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…
If Biblical Angels all have Maleness about them, are they completely Sexless? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…
Is there Sex in Heaven? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…
How can a Married Mormon Man be FRUITful & Multiply if he is really a Closeted Gay? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…
Did David Greenglass & the Rosenbergs really give Our Atomic Secrets to the Soviets? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…
Does Angels in America--both Parts--now seem over long & rather too fevered succinctly to Make Its Point?
Meanwhile, what will be the Topic of Next Sunday’s Sermon in the Kushner Memorial Chapel?
Angelic Bonus: Kushner’s Angel Evokes an Angel Memory!
Way back in the Depression Thirties, when I was young & small, I used to earn 50 cents a day during haying season by perching on Lee Frey’s hay wagon & spreading around the stacks of hay as they were forked up onto the wagon by Lee & his hired hands.
I wasn’t yet big enough to toss an entire forkful of hay onto the wagon. So there I was, dazed in a haze of hay dust, coughing & snorting, trying to keep up with the volleys of hay & spread them around on the wagon bed.
Once in a while, a live snake would get tossed up along with the hay, writhing & twitching. There was no place to run, so I’d frantically try to fork the snake off the wagon.
This wasn’t the worst of it, however.
Even though my eyes were itching & my face swollen, because I was the smallest on the hay crew, I had to climb up into the haymow when the wagon reached the barn.
Scratching & sneezing, I waited for the great overhead hay fork to loft big bundles of hay from the wagon into the barn & glide on its track to trip its load almost on top of me. Then I had to fork the hay around, so it would lie evenly in the haymow.
On a very cold March night in 2004, I thought I was sneezing & coughing once again, back on Lee Frey’s dairy farm in Penn Valley, California.
This was an awful dream to re visit, so I consciously decided to move away from the hay & take a look out the barn’s big upper opening.
When I looked down, I saw an endless stream of animals, two by two, slowly serpentining out from the door below me. They were life sized & moving with march like precision.
But they weren’t only the animals we know from the zoo or as house pets.
Among them were pairs of Fabulous Beasts: Rocs, Griffons, Wyverns, Sphinxes, with some I could not identify in this astonishing instant.
But what was really odd was that all these animals seemed to have been carved of wood by some 19th Century German Woodcarver! Yet they moved quite naturally…
I suddenly realized that I was on the Ark!
We had come to rest on dry land at last. The Great Flood was over: the Forty Days & Forty Nights had passed at last. Deep darkness & turbulent storms were past: Life would begin again!
At once I realized that this was a Visual Metaphor--in Dream life--for an end to my many uncertainties & Fears about the Future & the Survival my thousands of Photographs, Unpublished Books, & valuable Arts Collections.
At that moment, I turned back toward the haymow.
I was almost blinded by the brilliance of a Radiant Being in the center of the hay.
I thought it must be an Angel, but the brightness was so intense I could not see wings behind the pulsing white outlines of his glowing form.
He held his radiant arms upwards & outstretched, fingers extended.
I felt my arms & fingers powerfully drawn up to his.
When our fingers touched, I had the most overwhelming sensation of a Cosmic Orgasm--not Sexual, but Spiritual. My entire being was thrilled, ecstatic…
Then he spoke to me, but without moving his lips. His words sounded & echoed in my head: In four years, you will be Translated.
That was all. Suddenly I was wide awake.
I was certain that this was a Visitation & a Message, not an ordinary dream of a miserable childhood.
I had once dreamt of a potential Auto Accident, & a year and a half later, this dream--instantly recalled--saved my life.
Since then, I have often dreamt of places & events before I actually see or experience them.
But what did he mean by Translated? Not Taken Out or Transmuted: TRANSLATED!
As it is now 2010 & no sense of Translation--not even into Esperanto--had yet transpired, I had been thinking that this Dream Prophecy must be off by a couple of years or so.
Until my Colleague & Editor of these Show Notes, Scott Bennett, pointed out to me that the Translation surely had occurred when I fell on my head, photographing the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge.
With some Holes cut in my Skull to let the Still Flowing Blood Out, my Brain was certainly being Re Wired…
Belasco Theatre’s Over Lamped Stage on the Verge of a Technical Breakdown!
Even if they didn’t raise that scrim with the Gaspacho Recipe, you could still have a wonderful evening at the marvelously restored Belasco Theatre, formerly the Stuyvesant Theatre. Just look up at that glorious Ceiling!
The Shubert Organization has done a remarkably careful Restoration of almost every detail: especially the formerly faded & dusty Murals--some of them so Orgiastic that they are clearly unfit for the Eyes of Young Audiences.
Those jewel like stained glass Ceiling Lights with the colorful Coats of Arms have never shined so brightly!
But some of the stunning restorations are obscured by the Tons of Lighting Equipment that have been hung Out Front.
Inside the glittering Proscenium Arch, there are even more Acres of very sophisticated Lighting Instruments, so much so, that banks of them have to be raised to let some of the extremely complicated & constantly moving Stage Décor function…
Actually, the swiftly moving Projections of Signature Buildings in Madrid--thanks to Sven Ortel--are a Show in Themselves. I’d be very happy to sit in the Orchestra at the Belasco & watch Madrid float by, without the distractions of all the Built & Flown Scenery: also added tonnage.
Not to overlook those brightly colored Vertical & Horizontal Bars which keep moving Up & Down & Left & Right. They could well be another Show in Themselves, but this time a sort of Théâtre Méchanique show of Right Angled Abstractions.
In front of some of this--as well as often behind--the Actual Show, staged by Bartlett Sher, is effectively Up Staged. Even, at times, Eclipsed…
This Design Extravaganza is the handiwork of Michael Yeargan, who also overloaded the Met Opera Stage for Sher’s crammed Tales of Hofmann.
Never having seen Pedro Almodóvar’s celebrated film, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, I wasn’t quite sure what all the fuss was about. I need to rent the DVD, I guess…
In addition to the constantly moving scenery & set props, there are Outstanding Performances by Sherie Rene Scott, Laura Benanti, & Patti LuPone--who is almost in danger of being Upstaged by the Huge Hats of designer Catherine Zuber!
All three of these Nervous Women deserve Award Nominations! Their performances are reason enough to buy tickets. The Scenery thus becomes a Bonus!
Laura Benanti is especially Insane, sleeping with a grenade wearing Terrorist!
Some scenes dragged, possibly because librettist Jeffrey Lane was trying to get all the Plot of the Movie on stage.
Nor was the production moved rapidly along by the largely Unmemorable Songs--or the often darkly lit & Spasmodic Choreography.
At first I did not recognize the Womanizing Latinate Lover Ivan as the usually admirable Brian Stokes Mitchell. Of course, he was playing a Sexual Predator Rat, but it wasn’t clear why so many women were dying for his attentions.
If anything, he seemed old & tired, perhaps tired of Staying in the Game? Or it could have been his Make Up?
This show is metaphorically like a Christmas Fruit Cake: lots of good things in it!
A Hilarious Trail of Tears Leads from the Public Theatre on Astor Place Up to Broadway!
From Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, you can learn about Seminal Seminole Extermination.
Among other Quintessential American Horrors like those Eastern Elitists & the Mess in Washington!
[See previous Show Notes for extended commentaries made when Bloody Bloody was a Lab staging & then a Phyllis Newman Theatre production down at the Public…]
LOOK! Up in the Sky! It’s Not a Bird or a Plane…
It’s Santa’s Sleigh, Running Low on Green Energy!
Watching the High Octane Performances of the Talented Players on the stage of the historic Martin Beck Theatre--aka the Al Hirschfeld Theatre--Your Reporter was seized with a fit of déjù vu: This all looked so familiar!
Santa’s Sleigh was stalled Up in Central Park for want of an Audience Generated Charge of Green Energy!
Fortunately, Tinker Bell wasn’t in sight, so we weren’t urged to shout out that we all Believed in Fairies! But that’s a different Musical, suitable for all occasions. Not just for Christmas…
No, indeed! Elf is what Warner Bros. decreed Manhattan’s kiddies should have for Christmas!
If it looks familiar, that’s because it is based on the Elf Movie with Will Ferrell.
Unfortunately, he was not available to play the Overgrown Orphan Raised as an Elf in Santa’s Workshop at--where else: The North Pole!
On the surface, this energetic show has all the Basic Broadway Musical Elements: perky, quirky predictable Lyrics, bouncy derivative Show Tunes, High Rise Manhattan sliding & flying Settings by David Rockwell, plus dutiful direction & choreography by Casy Nicholaw.
Actually, the best thing about this eager to please show is the Costume Design by Ann Closs Farley! You might want to buy some of these Deliberately Cute Elfin esque Outfits for next Hallowe’en…
This is a Limited Run for the Holidays: 9 weeks only, so the cast will surely earn enough money for Xmas Gifts!
Burning at the Stake, or Burning the Steak?
Do Romas pose a threat to Opera Goers?
Not that they will come down off the stage & seduce you, like Carmen.
But what if a crazed Gypsy Woman like Azucena grabs your infant child from your arms & throws it into the fire?
Fortunately, there don’t seem to be Open Flames in the Met Auditorium. Not many on stage, either, although Marianne Cornetti’s Azucena simmers with rage & a thirst for Revenge.
Her Problem--in Verdi’s tempestuous Trovatore--is that she threw her own baby into the fire, instead of the tiny brother of her enemy, the Villainous Count de Luna [Zeljko Lucic].
Grown to Manhood as her son--as he mistakenly believes--Manrico [Marcelo Alvarez] is a Partisan, an enemy of the Royalist Forces of Count de Luna. This is an opera that could easily be set in Franco Spain! With Fédérico Garcia Lorca as Manrico, perhaps?
Manrico loves Leonora [Patricia Racette] so much that he’s constantly serenading her! Their love is Doomed, but Marco Armiliato saves the day for spectators, with his powerful baton in the pit.
A Very Noisy Quiet Place…
It may have been a mistake to attempt to compose a Three Act Opera, in which Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti is encased. Or the mistake may have been for the New York City Opera to present it on such a vast stage of what is now known as the David H. Koch [State] Theatre.
Bernstein’s librettist, Stephen Wadsworth, may really have created a Chamber Opera, which cannot effectively be expanded into a Big Stage Treatment. He imagines an essentially uninteresting Suburban Family, with an Alpha Male Dad & a tippling Mother & troubled son & daughter.
John Updike or John Cheever might have made these pathetic people Mini Tragic, instead of Hopeless.
Opening in a huge pink walled room of what must be some kind of Upscale Funeral Parlor--not Frank E. Campbell’s--Those Who Knew Her are mourning the auto crash death of Dinah [Patricia Risley], who may have been seeking Accidental Suicide.
There are some threads of melodies from West Side Story & references to themes in other Bernstein works, such as the Garden in Candide. But this is not a memorable score, nor is it a Suburban Story worth so much on stage concern.
Sorry about that: I do know we are all supposed to believe that everything Leonardo touched turned to Gold. Well, he always tried Very Hard, but what about 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?
Poppea Crowned Roman Empress in an Off the Strip Vegas Low Budget Ramada Inn!
The recent Juilliard Opera production of Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea was generally very well sung by the student cast.
But it was difficult for them to show their Acting Talents as well, given the dire Directorial Decision to revive this Early Opera vision of Ancient Rome in what is now laughingly called Modern Dress.
From long familiarity with the cost constraints in dressing both the Stage & the Singers adequately at the Juilliard Opera Theatre, I know how awkward it can be to recycle a Fireplace as a Bookshelf or an Open Window.
Nonetheless, even a slight whiff of Imperial Rome would have been better--Curtains suggesting Columns?--than the ragtag of Platforms, Panels, Ruined Pillars, Jerky Stairs, & Plants in Urns that provided an Off Strip Vegas style scenic environment for the cast.
Why--for Openers--did Nero’s Soldiers rush in, guns drawn?
The Modernity of both stage props & costumes visually undermined the Powers of the Narrative & the Glories of Monteverdi’s soaring Score.
Of course, it’s part of the Legend of Poppea that her spurned Lover, Ottone--ordered by Nero’s abandoned Empress, Ottavia, to kill her Rival--to gain access to the Imperial Presence, disguises himself in the clothing of his True Love, Drusilla.
Even in the 17th Century, audiences found it amusing to see a Man in Drag on stage. They were, of course, used to Castrati in all sorts of Drag…
But why choose to dress as the Woman You Love, when you will surely be immediately tackled by Nero’s gun toting Lieutenants?
If History & the Libretto require this Disguise, then why make it such an Ugly Shmatta?
If you are condemned to die under the most Awful of Tortures--even worse than Abu Ghraib--why go to your Death looking like something the Cat Dragged In?
Despite all such obstacles, the student performances were good to Outstanding: Haeran Hong was a lovely, seductive but Iron Willed Poppea, with Cecilia Hall a randy Nero.
Liam Moran was a Noble Seneca, in the opera’s most Noble Scene: Seneca’s Death at Nero’s Orders…
Daniel T. Curran as Poppea’s hilarious woman in waiting, Arnalta--just waiting for her chance to Lord it over others with her direct access to the Empress--wore his Drag with Pride!
Devon Guthrie was the love smitten Drusilla: if your Guy begins by begging to put on your dresses, this Love Match is in Real Trouble!
But, at least, don’t give him the Cleaning Woman’s Outfit to wear into Poppea’s Presence…
Ottone was sung/played by Nick Zammit: the rejected Empress, Ottavia, by Naomi O’Connell.
The admirable Harry Bickett conducted an orchestra replete with Early Instruments.
The Chaplin Twins: James Thiérrée Doubles Himself as Raoul:
It could be a Great Burden to be a Direct Descendant of Charlie Chaplin. But Michael Chaplin had a Moment. Geraldine had more than a Moment.
Hal Prince’s son, Charlie, is Chaplin’s great grandson. But you won’t see him flying through the air over in Brooklyn.
This one of the Special Skills of Charlie Chaplin’s grandson, James Thiérrée, who dazzled & amazed BAM audiences recently in Raoul.
Thiérrée was almost Born in a Trunk, appearing as a tot in his Parents’ Cirque Bonjour, later graduating to their Le Cirque Imaginaire & Le Cirque Invisible.
Victoria Chaplin & her actor husband, Jean Baptist Thiérrée, created these three editions of a magical Circus without Massive Animals or Three Rings.
Over at BAM, their son distinguished himself as an Acrobat, Actor, Dancer, Chaplinesque Pantomime Artist, Juggler, Illusionist, Athlete, & Imaginaire Extraordinaire…
When spectators enter the Harvey Theatre, the open stage is festooned with what seem to be Sails without Ships. These soon swoop up toward the flies, becoming a translucent fabric box with a curious structure of metal pipes standing stage right.
A desperate man runs toward it, vainly trying to climb it. This is Raoul--one of him, at least.
Before the shelter of pipes is reduced to a few shards--a huge bundle of them now hanging high overhead--Raoul has been visited by a scuttling, floor hugging Fish, an armored Insect, an animated Bird like Silhouette, & a Friendly Elephant--all constructed by Thiérrée’s mother, Victoria Chaplin.
Thiérrée’s supple body seems, at times, as loosely limbed as a Marionette. He can do amazing swoops & turns with his arms & hands.
At times, he looked less like either of the two Raouls than he did as his Grandfather in some of the sillier scenes in The Great Dictator!
If there is to be a DVD of Raoul, beg, buy, or borrow it!
But there’s nothing like seeing this astonishing show in Reality 3 D. If you missed it at BAM or abroad--it’s been touring since 2009--do plan to see it when it comes to a Theatre Near You!
Haikus from the Siskyou Mountains: Ashland’s Throne of Blood…
What was the Oregon Shakespeare Festival thinking? Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood as a 3D Live Performance?
Japan may be a long way off from Stratford & London’s Globe Theatre, but Throne is really Macbeth in beautiful Japanese Robes…
But could Actors from Ashland manage Pidgen Japanese Accents to give such a stage performance a quasi Authentic Nipponese Flavor?
Well, not exactly. This was the one Awkward Note in the recent BAM presentation.
Otherwise, the production was a brilliant visual adaptation of the original film.
It was understandably Underlit by Darren McCroom & his BAM Executors. The lovely Robes & gleaming Armors were by Stefani Mar, with the subtle, suggestive settings by Christopher Acebo. Spider Web Castle & various Power Struggles were ingeniously invoked with Videos & Projections by Maya Ciarrocchi.
The Macbeths--Washizu & Lady Asaji--were strongly presented by furiously prideful Kevin Kennerly & the haunting Ako.
Please! No Squirming at the Squirm Burpee Circus, But Burping & Farting Are OK!
The Foursome who comprise the troupe of The Handsome Little Devils--as they are pleased to call themselves--is scheduled, on 16 July 2011, to realign itself as a Twosome & Two Odd Men Out.
Handsome Michael Huling is to marry singer/tap dancer Cole Schneider on that day.
But first a word about the Vaudeville Melodrama they have brought to Manhattan!
The ingenious Wheeled Rube Goldbergian Contraptions & the Bizarre Props they have conceived for this eclectic show are themselves Worth the Price of Admission!
In fact, I would have been perfectly happy to watch the Arch Evil Villain, the Baron Vegan von Hamburger [Jason Knauf], pedaling & pushing several of these Fantastic Machines around the stage for the duration of this Emerging Show.
I’m hoping we can download some photos of these Infernal Machines from their Website, as it would take Servers & Servers to describe their Comical Complexities in mere words.
The program doesn’t give specific credit for the Machines, but one assumes they are the Brain Children of Dan & Michael Huling. If so, this is a Line of Creativity they should follow & develop!
Yes, the Performers are all more or less attractive, but The Show’s the Thing, isn’t it?
Not only for Your Reporter’s Talk Tolerance--but also for some of the squirming youngsters in the audience--there was too much talking. Also: too much Juggling--however Expert--& not enough Acrobatics & Sleight of Hand.
In Old Time Vaudeville, a Hook was often used to pull an annoying Vaudevillian off stage. How about Sawing a Woman in Half?
Film footage of the Explosion of the Luftschiff Hindenburg at Lakefield, NJ, offered an odd, dated reference, as did mention of the Kidnapped Lindbergh Baby: Time Capsule Fillers…
But at least all that shredded paper on the stage floor got swept up in the Interim.
Unfortunately for the Stage Crew--with an evening show ahead of them--the entire auditorium was inundated with wisps & coils of colored paper at the close, plus giant Inflatables to bat back & forth.
It was rather like Slava’s Snow Show--but without the Slavs…
The Seventh Annual Siegel Season at Town Hall:
Sensational Broadway Unplugged, Sung by Stars!
What a Cast! Marc Kudisch, Karen Mason, Ron Bohmer, Stephanie J. Block, William Michals, Euan Morton, Julia Murney, Jeffrey & Erin Denman, Bill Daugherty, James Barbour, Quentin Earl Darrinton, & Max von Essen!
Scott Siegel is a low key Genius Impresario! In person, he seems genial & even diffident, but up on stage at Town Hall, he is a consummate Master of Lively Musical Ceremonies.
After several seasons of tired, retreaded Juke Box Musicals, it’s a real treat to put a quarter in the slot & get Live Renditions of Old Favorites such as Tomorrow, Pretty Women, This Nearly Was Mine, Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise, If I Were a Rich Man, If Ever I Would Leave You, Bring Him Home, All That Jazz, & the ineffable Lloyd Webber Memory!
Your Reporter regrets having missed earlier editions of the Siegel Seasons, which have often saluted specific Decades in American Musical Theatre.
This was an Oversight, as I thought I shouldn’t be dabbling in Cabaret: there aren’t enough evenings now for reviewing plays. OK: I was wrong!
Coming Soon to Town Hall, courtesy of Scott Siegel: Marc Kudisch In Defense of the Baritone Voice, Jim Caruso’s Cast Party, & later Treats!
You can Google Scott: check out his shows!
Copyright Glenn Loney, 2011. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney, New York Theatre Wire." Reproduction rights please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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