April, 2014

Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.

Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
Report for The Month of April 2014
Ted Shen's A SECOND CHANCE [★★★] *
Lanie Robertson's LADY DAY AT EMERSON'S BAR & GRILL [★★★★] *
Tom Kitt & Brian Yorkey's IF/THEN [★★★★] *
Woody Allen's BULLETS OVER BROADWAY [★★★★★] *
John Steinbeck's OF MICE & MEN [★★★★] *
David Ives' THE HEIR APPARENT [★★★★★] *
Bert Brecht & Kurt Weill's THE THREEPENNY OPERA [★★★★★] *
Scott Z. Burns & Steven Soderburgh's THE LIBRARY [★★★★★] *
Kander, Ebb, & Masteroff's CABARET [★★★★] *
Kander & Ebb's CABARET [★★★★★] *
Jeanine Tesori & Brian Crawley's VIOLET [★★★★] *
Martin McDonagh's THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN [★★★★★] *
John Cameron Mitchcell & Stephen Trask's HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH [★★★★★] *
Harvey Fierstein's CASA VALENTINA [★★] *
Eric Coble's THE VELOCITY OF AUTUMN [★★★] *
Stephen Cole's INVENTING MARY MARTIN: The Revue of a Lifetime [★★★★] *
Charles Ludlam's THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP: A Penny Dreadful [★★★★★] *
Jules Massenet's CENDRILLON [★★★] *
David Grimm's TALES OF RED VIENNA [★★★★★] *
Robert Sickinger & Alaric Jans' NICHOLAS NICKLEBY: A New Musical [★★★★] *
James Lapine's Adaptation of Moss Hart's ACT ONE [★★★★] *
Joseph Haydn's ORLANDO PALADINO [★★★★] *


April Fool! April Fool! April Fool!

New Yorkers may have thought that Spring had already Sprung.

But they were still a Bit Under the Weather by the Approach of May…

The Rotten & Ever Changeable Weather did not make Play Going any easier either, both for Ticket Buying Theatre Lovers & Press Freebie Drama Critics.

What was Especially Challenging, however, was the Oscar Like Proliferation of Play Openings in the Two Weeks leading up to Award Nominations & Voting.



Not To Complain!

Most of the Plays, Musicals, Revues, Solo Performances, & Revivals were well worth Braving the Elements, as well as the Epic Fifth Avenue Traffic Jams caused by Spring Break & Easter.

Here is a List of some of the Outstanding Productions more fully described below:

Woody Allen's BULLETS OVER BROADWAY [★★★★★]

David Ives' THE HEIR APPARENT [★★★★★]

Bert Brecht & Kurt Weill's THE THREEPENNY OPERA [★★★★★]

Scott Z. Burns & Steven Soderburgh's THE LIBRARY [★★★★★]

Martin McDonagh's THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN [★★★★★]

John Cameron Mitchcell & Stephen Trask's HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH [★★★★★]

Charles Ludlam's THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP: A Penny Dreadful [★★★★★]

David Grimm's TALES OF RED VIENNA [★★★★★]


Now! On with the Shows!

Ted Shen's A SECOND CHANCE [★★★]

Lovelorn But Wary Singles Sing Their Way Into a Relationship--With Central Park Projections…

Seeing this Small But Sweet Show on April Fool's Day may have made me a Bit Foolish…

When Brian Sutherland first ambled out on the Shiva Stage--furnished sparely with several White Plastic Chairs & Three Sided by Black & White Projections, largely of Central Park--I was prepared for The Worst.

Having recently been Visually & Verbally Attacked by Wally Shawn on this Very Same Stage…

The Rigidly Orthodox don't call it Sitting Shiva for nothing.

When Diane Sutherland strolled along, wearing some kind of Alarmingly Patterned Shoulder Throw & began Singing about being at this Party, where she had been Set Up To Meet Someone, My Heart Sank.

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg Indoors or Something Like That at the Public?

Slowly, however, My Heart Began To Thaw, even, as the Latins & the Popes say: Sursum Corda!

I think I must have fallen In Love with Diane/Jenna, partly because she so much reminded me of a Late & Good Friend, with whom it would have been wonderful to have had a Relationship, had she not been Married to My Best Friend…

As for the Suffering Sad & Lonely Dan, who feels a Weight of Betrayal, he seemed the Kind of Guy you would like to have for a Best Friend.

Especially as he is really Interested in Architecture!

People who are Architecture Fanatics & Preservation Maniacs cannot be All Bad. Even if they Sing a Lot…

In any case, Singing Sutherlands were much more interesting than Another Go with Wally Shawn, Singing or Not.

Jonathan Butterell staged, with Projections by Stacy Renee Morrison & Eric Weeks.


Lanie Robertson's LADY DAY AT EMERSON'S BAR & GRILL [★★★★]

Audra Mcdonald Drunkenly Deconstructs as Billie Holiday at the End of the Road…

How do you sing a Great Song greatly when you are Already High & Increasingly Drunk?

Some Lucky Ducks got Table Tickets down in the Arena of Circle in the Square, currently doing Double Duty as a South Philly Dive, where Billie Holiday is making an Almost Final Appearance.

So they not only got to get Drinks with the Show, but also to see how Audra McDonald somehow manages to render Strange Fruit, God Bless the Child, When a Woman Loves a Man, & What a Little Moonlight Can Do, between Drinks, Collapses, & Recalling the Dire Events of her Troubled Life.

Not so long ago, Broadway already had a Billie Holiday Rerun, but this was DeeDee Bridgewater, beginning with Billie's Early Childhood & closing with an Elegant Holiday in London.

Lanie Robertson based her Lady Day Play on a Memory of Billie & her Chihuahua, fading fast, at Emerson's. Lonny Price staged, with Production Values provided by James Noone & a Translucent Rear Scrim.


Tom Kitt & Brian Yorkey's IF/THEN [★★★★]

Idina Menzel Is Leading a Double Life in New York: Pay Attention! It's a Bit Confusing at First…

The Good News is that Idina Menzel is Back on Broadway!

The Bad News--at least for Older Folks, who may not be paying Close Attention--is that she is Leading a Double Life.

Our Darling Idina is Sleeping Around!

She gets into Bed with One Man, only to arise with Another Guy at her side!

See, it's like this: She has just arrived in New York, to hook up with an Old College Buddy, who is into Activist Protests, the kind where you get Handcuffed & Knocked Around.

But she also hooks up with Management Types & proves a Natural in City Planning & Urban Architecture.

As we can see Every Day in the Headlines--if you still can find a Newspaper--Protest is Going Nowhere: Whatever became of Occupy Wall Street?

But Stuff like developing the West Side Yards & the Old Domino Factory over in Brooklyn is really Where It's At.

Plus: Great Graphics & Innovative Displays…

In fact, the Production Values of IF/Then are one of its Chief Delights.

There is this Great Mirror Wall that can be a Reflective Roof--wonderful for Doubling the Choreographic Effects of Larry Keigwen's Dancer/Singers--or Pivot to provide an entirely New Landscape.

There are also Huge Leafy Trees onstage--a Feature of several new Broadway Shows, including Bridges of Madison County & Casa Valentina--which suggest Madison Square Park, Where It All Begins!

Idina Menzel & her Predominantly Youthful Cast can be grateful to Design Wizards Mark Wendland [Scenic Design], Emily Rebholz [Costumes], & Kenneth Posner [Lighting].

As for the Sound Design of Brian Ronan: well, there is Room for Improvement…

A Longtime Admirer of Idina Menzel--loved her as the Green Faced Wicked Witch in Wicked--I was a bit surprised to notice, for the First Time, an Odd Nasality in her Otherwise Brilliant Voice.

Later, it was pointed out to me that she was Incorrectly Miked--with that Tiny Microphone just jutting a teeny little bit from her Front Hairline, instead of being positioned by her Ear, which would have prevented the Nasal Resonance from being So Strong.

Among the Hit Songs--which are Not Listed in the Playbill Program!--for which I want the Sheet Music, so I can play them at home, is the rousing ditty, What the Fuck, delivered from Beth/Liz's Bed…

What is it with Tom Kitt & Brian Yorkey that they don't want their Lively Songs listed by Name in the Playbill?

Anyway, in addition to that Protest Guy & those Management Types, there is also a GI with whom Idina--or Liz/Beth--falls in Love, as well as into Bed.

But he is, unfortunately, Totaled in one of our Foreign Wars, Iraq or Afghanistan--I forget which, as there was so much Interchangability going on--so there is also the Problem of the Honor Guard for his Returning Coffin, etc.

Several Leading Critics have hailed If/Then as the Herald or Forerunner or Harbinger of an Entirely New Kind of Musical!

Perhaps not exactly what Oklahoma! & Agnes de Mille meant to Broadway way back when, but, well, Something New, not like Motown or Bridges of Madison County.

Nonetheless, it would have helped to have had a Score Card or a Road Map to follow Liz/Beth's Double Life more carefully.

Still, it was Great Fun to see the Likes of LaChanze, Anthony Rapp, Jerry Dixon, Jenn Colella, James Snyder & Jason Tam together with Idina Menzel up on the Historic Stage of what once was the 46th Street Theatre, directed by Michael Greif, who once gave us Rent, but not Grief.


Woody Allen's BULLETS OVER BROADWAY [★★★★★]

Golden Oldies Musicalize Woody's Film on Stage: No Composer/Lyricist Credits!

If you are one of those Woody Allen Haters--who cannot forgive him for Breaking Mia Farrow's Heart, as well as being Incredibly Clever--if you are a Paid Critic, you will possibly dismiss this Hilarious Musical as Contrived Rubbish.


It's even More Fun than the Movie on which it is based, especially thanks to the Brilliant Choreography & Staging of Susan Stroman.

Her Colorful & Dynamic Recreations of Jazz Age Dance Routines--set to such Ditties as Tiger Rag, Runnin' Wild, Good Old New York, & I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You--are worth Repeated Visits to the St. James Theatre.

Frankly, I'd go again & again just to see Marin Mazzie as the Faded But Still Twinkling Broadway Star, Helen Sinclair.

Mazzie/Sinclair is an Elegant Comic Wonder: Nominations are Necessary!

Also Sinister/Wonderful is Nick Cordero as Gangster Cheech, who Snuffs Out the Dumb Blonde Would Be Star who is ruining his World Premiere.

Cheech didn't start out to be a Playwright. He's supposed to be Shadowing his Mob Boss's Dumb Blonde Mistress Onstage & Off.

Unfortunately, she can't act worth Shite

Even less Competent is Zach Braff, as David Shayne, who has just written a Bad New Play that a Desperate Producer--Hungry for Production Money--is desperate to Produce on Broadway.

Wait! Wait a minute!

That doesn't sound quite right: it is the Playwright David Shayne who is incompetent.

Zach Braff's Problem--even though he is supposed, somehow, to be the Leading Man--is that, while he is generally OK, playing a Nerdish Dweeb, is that he doesn't Radiate Enough Energy & Charm out into the Audience.

During the Hilariously Disastrous Rehearsals, it's all too clear that The Play Isn't Working.

So Cheech begins making Helpful Suggestions to the Frantic Playwright.

So They Have a Hit & One Dead Dumb Blonde…

Fortunately, in addition to Cheech, the Ensemble also had Woody Allen on hand every night of Rehearsals & Previews, adding Jokes. But not Snuffing Dumb Blondes…

Stroman & Allen have been good to most Cast Members, including the always admirable Karen Ziemba.

Why Woody thought it was a Laff Riot to have the usually amusing Brooks Ashmanskas--impersonating a Self Loving & Gourmandizing Character Actor--push around an Immense Bulging Belly in front of himself must remain a Broadway Mystery…


John Steinbeck's OF MICE & MEN [★★★★]

Depression Era Salinas Valley Lives Again: George & Lennie at the Longacre, Not the Gabilans…

Thanks to the Banksters & Fraudsters, we are on the Margins of another Great Depression, although No one seems to recognize that.

There is also a Drought in California's Great Valley. The Broccoli Crop is dying…

What's Bad for the San Joaquin Valley is even Worse for the Salinas Valley, the Historic Setting for John Steinbeck's Of Mice & Men.

But it's surely not the Endangered Broccoli--nor the Shrivelling Rivers around Salinas, Watsonville, & Monterey--that have impelled The Shuberts & a Host of Other Producers to revive Steinbeck's Minor Classic on Broadway?

No, No! It must be the Necessity for James Franco to show his Acting Chops on the Great White Way, along with the admirable Chris O'Dowd, as the Giant Retard, Lennie.

Franco, as George, a Depression Era Migrant Worker, travels from Farm to Farm, from Ranch to Ranch, hoping for some Employment.

George hikes along the dusty California highways & side roads with his Chum & Burden, Lennie.

He looks after Lennie, who has no one else in the World to care for him.

There is No Suggestion of Homosexuality in their Relationship. That's not Steinbeck Territory…

Lennie likes to pet Soft Things, especially Rabbits.

Unfortunately, he often Crushes them with his Affection…

When Lennie & George finally find Temporary Employment at a Ranch, there's a Problem.

The Rancher's Son has married a Slutty Blonde, who likes to come down to the Bunk House to present herself for whatever…

Lennie likes her Soft Blonde Hair. He wants to Stroke It.

Well, you can Guess the Rest.

If you cannot, you can Buy a Ticket to the Revival at the Longacre Theatre.

But it would be much, much Cheaper to buy Of Mice & Men in Paperback!

Anna D. Shapiro staged in the Bunkhouse of Todd Rosenthal, who also offered a grimly dark Salinas Valley for On the Road & By the River--near Soledad, which means Solitude.


Incidental Information: There is also an Operatic Version of Of Mice & Men.

When this Powerful Work was given its European Premiere at the Bregenz Festival in Austria, I was asked to provide a Slide Show relating to Steinbeck & the Salinas Valley.

Soon, these Print & Slide Images will be On Line in an Interactive Photo book, to be called Steinbeck Country.

On Facing Pages will be Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY™ Images of what is often called "The Long Valley," as well as of the Gabilans, the Pacific Coast, Monterey, & Carmel.

Anyone who knows & loves Steinbeck's Salinas Stories will be invited to post--on the Blank Page Opposite--an appropriate but brief Illustrative Quote from a Steinbeck Source that relates to the Photo.

Added Info: I should note here that My Mother's Family--who Emigrated from Ohio to Salinas--definitely did not like John Steinbeck nor his Salinas Novels & Stories.

Cousin Ruth Clough was outraged when I took her to see that impressive Steinbeck Film, East of Eden.

"We were the First to ship Lettuce back East in Refrigerated Box Cars! Not Adam Trask!"

Forget about Raymond Massey, James Dean, or Julie Harris…

We shipped that Ice Cold Iceberg Lettuce First!

Steinbeck had a Bad Habit of using Local Folks' Real Names & True Stories.

My Cousin Carl Abbott was the Sheriff of Monterey County.

He's that Law Officer who was always harassing Madame Flora & Her Girls at the Cat House in Cannery Row, as well as the Bums in Sweet Thursday.

Pace!, John Steinbeck--who is buried only a few yards from Cousins Carl & Bertha Abbott…


David Ives' THE HEIR APPARENT [★★★★★]

Misers Galore: Jonson's Volpone, Molière's Miser, Now an Old Ivesian Skinflint, Waiting To Die…

If you didn't look at your Playbill before those Bewigged Players came out into that Mini Versailles Salon in Heir Apparent, you could easily believe this is a CSC Production of Molière's Malade imaginaire.

But No! No, Indeed!

This is David Ives' ingenious new version of Le Légataire universel, which was, in its Era, something of an Elegant Rip Off [©1708] of Le Malade imaginaire.

It was crafted by Jean François Regnard, who is currently fortunate not only to have Ives bring him Back to Life, but also to have Paxton Whitehead impersonate his Commedia Inspired Character, Geronte, a Rich Old Geezer, who looks ready to Die at Any Moment.

The Central Problem of this Comic Clockwork Plot is that Geronte has named No Heir!

The Heir Apparent is his Clever Nephew, Crispin [an equally clever Carson Elrod], who wants to make certain that he will be Properly Named in the As Yet To Be Written Document.

To That End, he enlists Geronte's Clever Servants, Lisette [Claire Karpen] & Eraste [David Quay].

Eraste will dress up like Geronte, to deceive the Comically Short Lawyer, Scruple, who is played by David Pittu--shuffling about on his Knees, under his Legal Gown.

No One knows where Geronte has hidden his Wealth, but there is this Chest with Heavy Chains on it.

There is also an Ugly Old Grandfather Clock, but what of that…

The Charming Crispin is in love with Isabelle [Amelia Pedlow], the Lovely Daughter of the Grand Dame, Madame Argante [an imperious Suzanne Bertish], but he does need an Inheritance to finance his Plans for Wedded Bliss.

Oddly enough, Crispin presents himself as Geronte's American Nephew--dressed as a Backwoodsman--at one point in Ives' Revised Plot.

From New York, no less!

Unfortunately, after a Will is written to Crispin's Satisfaction--with Eraste making sure that he & Lisette are well remembered--Geronte appears, wonderfully restored, in Elegant Court Costume.

He is by no means prepared to Shufffle Off This Mortal Coil.

But, as Mme. Argante is a Handsome Widow, All will Work Out Very Well!

Not exactly the way Ben Jonson's Volpone deals with his Greedy Would Be Heirs or how Puccini's Gianni Schichi manages to impersonate an Intestate who's already Dead

What makes Le Légataire universel such a Charming Comic Interlude is the way in which David Ives has somewhat Modernized some Eighteenth Century References, as well as Englished some of Regnard's Elegant French Rhyming Couplets. Or Doubled Couplets…

How about: She whom the Prince of Darkness couldn't daunt,

She next to whom a Rock looks Nonchalant.

Who makes Godzilla seem a Mad Bacchante…

You can be sure that neither Molière nor Regnard had ever heard of Godzilla.

How about: Oh, he's a tetchy one, thanks to his size,

A Kaiser's Ego in a Pygmy's guize.

Well, you get The Idea.


Bert Brecht & Kurt Weill's THE THREEPENNY OPERA [★★★★★]

Brecht Might Have Problems With Martha Clarke's Highly Eroticised Vision of London Thievery…

Nonetheless, Martha Clarke has at least adopted a Fundamental Element of Brecht's own Staging Practice: the Half Curtain which slides across the Stage to reveal Scene after Scene.

When Brecht had finally established his Berliner Ensemble in the former Revue Theatre on Schiffbauerdamm in East Berlin, there were Stalinist Inspired Moral Constraints that discouraged Brecht from evoking Weimar Era Berlin, as well as the Criminal Aspects of Victoria's London.

Fortunately Martha Clarke is no Stalinist, nor is she a Prude.

Even though her Threepenny Opera is essentially a Stripped Down Period Piece, she gives the Peachum Family, "Pirate" Jenny, Tiger Brown, & Macheath a very Modern Sexuality & Sensibility.

When John Gay originally brought his Beggars' Opera to Mr. Rich, at the Drury Lane in London, this Astute Manager was delighted:

Not only had Gay replaced Traditional Upper Class Heroes & Heroines with Commoners, but he had also used Folk Tunes, with New Lyrics--so there were No Composer Issues.

It is said that the Thunderous Success of Beggars' Opera made Gay Rich & Rich Gay…

Brecht's own Composer/Collaborator Kurt Weill--who left Berlin for Broadway long before Hitler--would surely admire what Martha Clarke has done with a Cast that includes F. Murray Abraham as Peachum, Leader of a Gang of Thieves & Street People, with Laura Osnes as his Daughter Polly, who weds the Womanizing Macheath of Michael Park.

Yes, this is the Show with Mack the Knife!

But it's also the Odd Musical with the Ballad of Sexual Dependency, sung by Mary Beth Peil as Mrs. Peachum.

In German, Sexual Dependency is rendered as Sexualle Hörigkeit, which somehow sounds even more Depraved…

The talented John Kelly is Filch, with Jenny wonderfully embodied by Sally Murphy.

Queen Victoria--whose Coronation is going to help the Peachum Gang make a Killing--is played by Romeo, a Happy Hound.

Somewhere in all this Rumble & Jumble, Macheath is Betrayed, Arrested, Incarcerated, & Condemned to Death.

Will this leave Unhappy Polly a Widow?

You need to rush off to the Atlantic Theatre to find out how It All Comes Out,

As well as to savor some great Kurt Weill/Bert Brecht Jazz Age Songs…

Scott Z. Burns & Steven Soderburgh's THE LIBRARY [★★★★★]

Most Outstanding Lighting Design Award To David Lander for Another School Shooting Fest!

The Stark Stage is outfitted with two rows of Morgue Tables: the Blazing Light is Pitiless--until it dies down.

Watching & Hearing this Clinically Stripped Down Production, I was initially certain it was about a School Shooting that we'd already heard too much about some time ago.

Didn't some Unhappy High School Crazy go Berzerk & Shoot Teachers & Students at random in a School Library somewhere Out West or Down South?

You never hear about Shooting Sprees at, say, Dalton, Chapin, or Collegiate in Manhattan.

Not because their Privileged Students cannot afford Colts, Lügers, Magnums, or a Smith & Wesson…

No Amount or Kind of Gun Control is going to stop this Wide Spread Scholastic Mayhem

But Multi Award Winners Burns & Soderburgh aren't dredging up some Almost Forgotten Tragedy.

The Library is set in The Future!

What they may have Neglected to Notice, however, is that, in the Very Near Future, it will no longer be necessary to have School Libraries, as all the Class Texts the Already Disaffected Students will need will be readily available on their Mobiles & their iPads, if not quite yet on their Wristwatches.

But The Library isn't really so much about The Dead & The Dying as it is about a Lie, a Fib, or an Incorrectly Observed or Reported Event, which then becomes a Viral Truth.

Which Girl really told The Shooter that the Students were hiding in that Closet?

As revealed in The Library, the Girl who tried to Save Her Life by telling The Shooter, is transformed into a Minor Saint, with her Grieving Mother getting a Big Book Deal.

But the Girl who didn't tell & who is gradually dying of Her Wounds is named instead & becomes something of a Villain, whom No One will believe.

So, in a subtle way, this Play becomes a Sly Indictment of Mega Church Evangelical Pieties.

Forget about Gun Control & School Libraries!

How about some Piety Control?


Look Where Will Eno Comes Again! Clichéd Comments Provide Dialogue for Human Burn Outs…

When you seem to live on the Edge of a "Smallish Town not far from Some Mountains"--rather than in a Doorman Condo in the Big City--as do The Elder Joneses, as impersonated by Tracy Letts & Toni Collette, then you really have No Choice about New Neighbors moving in Next Door.

Realistic Joneses No. 2--the New Neighbor Horrors--are John Jones, impersonated by Michael C. Hall as a Thoughtless Fuck Up & Pony Jones, totally inhabited by Marisa Tomei, as a Mindless Fuck Up.

Tracy Letts, as Bob Jones--not that Reverend Bob Jones that founded Bob Jones University, however--seems to be an Unhappy Senior, Waiting to Die.

His Bob Jones is Mean Spirited & Indifferent by turns, both to his Patient Wife, Jennifer Jones--whose Name Choice reminds us of Wonderful Movies such as Duel in the Sun & Producer David O. Selznick, who married Jones, after being initially wed to Louis B. Mayer's Daughter, Irene--as well as to the Unwelcome but Always on Hand Second Hand Joneses.

Tracy's Spiteful Bob also reminds Regular Theatre Goers of another Will Eno Anti Hero, on view down at Signature Theatre, where Will Eno is a House Speciality.

Enough Eno for One Season, One might think, but Eno has been Singled Out as an Emerging Playwright, enough so to make him Residency Five Playwright at the Signature, so there is sure to be More To Come!

I wish I liked Will Eno's Suburban Dramaturgy more, for his Middletown--premiered at Manhattan's Vineyard Theatre--won the Horton Foote Award.

Way back when, Eno's Thom Paine (based on nothing) was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist.

It did not win in 2005, but Greatness is sure to be Thrust Upon Eno 'ere long.

Gnit--obviously Demonically Inspired by Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt--was premiered at the Humana Festival down at Actors Theatre Louisville in 2013.

It seems like Only Yesterday!

Ibsen would have Hated It…but he has No Agent to protect him now.

Will Eno made the New York Times' Best Plays List Twice in 2013!

Signature's Title & Deed, as well as the current Realistic Joneses, made the List!

There must be Some Kind of Fix operating here?

The Admirable & Award Winning Sam Gold staged, as he has done for Fun Home, Picnic, Seminar, The Flick, The Big Meal, & Circle Mirror Transformation.

What does Sam see that I cannot Grasp?

Just like most Middle Class Americans in Will Eno Plays, I'm afraid of not "Keeping Up with the Joneses."

Don't Forget the Anagram: One Neo Eno!


Kander, Ebb, & Masteroff's CABARET [★★★★]

Tomorrow Belongs To the Liquor Sales: Studio 54 Reprises Alan Cumming, with Drinks at Tables!

Studio 54 was long ago re conformed from Traditional Theatre Seating to Tiny Tables, with Four Chairs scrunched in between Other Tables, so that Drinks Can Be Sold.

As well as Theatre Tickets…

This wouldn't Work Well for King Lear or Clytemnestra, but it's OK for shows like Cabaret, which thrive on a Cabaret Set Up.

This surely must have been The Reason that The Roundabout decided to bring back to Studio 54 the Original Revival Production of Sam Mendes & Rob Marshall's Cabaret?

Starring, of course, Alan Cumming!

A smirking Alan Cumming--with Rouged Nipples--in somewhat Informal Formal Undress as the MC of the infamous Weimar Era Berlin Kit Kat Kabaret; Alan Cumming in Sexy S&M Black Leather; Alan Cumming in a Nazi Inflected Outfit; Alan Cumming in Swaggy Black Dress Drag, with Drooping Diamond Earrings; & Alan Cumming in Striped Konzentrations Lager Prison Uniform, complete with Yellow Jewish Star & Pink Homosexual Triangle: the Whole Nine Yards, so to speak…

But Jewish Homosexuals? How could that be Possible? Jewish Boys can't be Homos; their Mothers won't let them.

Maybe the David Stern & the Pink Triangle on the same Prison Drag are Symbolic?

Anyway, you have Alan Cumming & Going, at a Frantic Pace, with a somewhat Semi Nude Mostly Male Orchestra, preening about, with Kit Kat Maedchen baring a Tit or Two, totally Erotic & Abandoned.

Also: a Male Drag Chorus of High Kickers!

The kind of Colorful Production Numbers you have Come To Expect from the Always Ingenious Rob Marshall.

Then there's the Sally Bowles of the very blonde Michelle Williams.

She Sings & Dances with Erotic Dynamism.

Even near the End--which should be the End of the Road for Sally Bowles--Michelle has a Radiant Pre Final Sub Finale, which suggests that Sally Bowles will somehow Survive.

You don't want Studio 54 Audiences going home Depressed, do you?

After Exposure to Suggestions of Male Female, Male Male, & Female Female Sexual Encounters Onstage, some in the Audience might well be Ready for Action?

Even if Christopher Isherwood--No Relation to The New York Time's Critic Charles Isherwood?--as the Fictional Cliff Bradshaw [Bill Heck], shelters the Pregnant Sally Bowles, it is made Clear that Chris/Cliff is a Pink Triangle Candidate.

The Doomed/Shattered Romance of Fräulein Schneider & Herr Schultz is lovingly Made Real by Linda Emond & Danny Burstein.

With the Triumph of Hitler's Will & with Dachau & Auschitz looming in the Middle Distance, even the Lilting Tunes of Kander & the Witty Lyrics of Ebb, Ebb Away if Anyone with an Historical Memory confronts this Horror Story with Candor.

Meanwhile, on the Level below my Cramped & Crowded Table, there were Three Sisters, One of them in a Wheelchair. Her Two Loving Siblings were feeding her Fresh Berries from a Plastic Bowl they'd brought with them into Studio 54.

A Cabaret Costumed Waitress remonstrated: No Outside Food or Drink!

So One of the Three Sisters went over to the Nearby Bar to fulfill her Drinks Duties with Cash.

Life may be a Cabaret, but the Reality over at Studio 54 is that it's also about Catering.


For the Record: Arts Archive's Scott Bennett & I saw an Astonishing Production of Cabaret this past Summer in Munich, where it had never before been performed.

So, here is My Report:

Historic Gärtnerplatz Theater Now in Disused Bavarian Cavalry Reithalle


Kander & Ebb's CABARET [★★★★★]

Stunning Evocation of the Rise of the Nazis, Never Seen Here Before, Shocks German Audiences!

Joel Grey, you never came near the Real Decadence of Weimar Era Berlin that is so vividly suggested on the simple Mirror Walled Stage set up in Munich's Reithalle

Both the Boys & the Girls--garishly made up & near nakedness--look readily available for any kind of Kinky Fun you might have in mind.

They can surely show you how to do Things you had no idea Decent Germans could even imagine.

As the Boys gripped & stroked their Crotches, the Girls shimmied in 1920s Style & stuck out their Tongues.

Hal Prince! Your Broadway Vision of Jazz Age Berlin Decadence was much too sanitized!

Liza Minelli! Your Sally Bowles was a Sentimental Softie, compared to the dissolute & desperate Sally of the shattering Nadine Zeinti.

Her final Farewell is not just The End of the Line, but The End of the World

The current Munich Cabaret production is the most Overtly Sexual & Implicitly Violent that I've ever seen.

I suspect that Christopher Isherwood--whose I Am a Camera & Goodbye to Berlin inspired Kander & Ebb--might himself feel both Sexually & Politically Threatened by Werner Sobotka's savage staging.

The Conférencier of Dustin Smailes makes Joel Grey's look like a Pussy Cat in comparison.

His Wilkommen is more of a Challenge than an Invitation.

As Fräulein Schneider & Herr Schultz, those two Aging Love Birds--so memorably once played on Broadway by Lotte Lenya & Jack Gilford--that wonderful Veteran Actress, Gisela Ehrensperger, & Franz Wyzner were both superb & touching in their Loss…

Of course, New Yorkers in Munich for the Opera Festival know all about the Rise of the Nazis. As well as knowing various versions of Cabaret, both on Broadway & on the Silver Screen.

But just imagine what a Shock this Staging was to German Friends who had never before seen Cabaret or, for that matter, had not lived through the Thousand Year Reich that lasted only from 1933 to 1945.

When the genial Ernst Ludwig [Ferdinand Stahl]--who had been so helpful to the Young American Writer, Cliff Bradshaw [Dominik Hees]--revealed his Swastika Armband, there was an Audible Gasp.

Even more horrifying for our Friends was the very Blond, very Aryan Hitler Jugend singing Tomorrow Belongs To Me… [Not in the Broadway Production, for some Odd Reason of Deliberate Omission!]

This was a Doomed Period in German History that had been Blacked Out in Post War West Germany.

In the Schools, one read almost nothing about it. Nor did Families talk much about it at home.

"What did you do in the War, Daddy?"

That was a Question you did not ask…

When I was teaching in West Germany in the Late 1950s, all the Wehrmacht Vets I met had fought on the Eastern Front, against Godless Atheistic Communism.

After our Landing on Omaha Beach, why did it take us so long to reach Berlin--if all the Good Germans were fighting the Soviets?


Jeanine Tesori & Brian Crawley's VIOLET [★★★★]

Not The Color of Purple: As Initially Damaged Goods, Sutton Foster Not Quite a Shrinking Violet.

When we last saw Sutton Foster on Broadway, she was a dynamic Reno Sweeney, in Anything Goes.

What a Difference another Broadway Musical can make!

Also produced by the Roundabout & quite a Difference from its Vivid Revival of Cabaret, this Hill Billy Production of Violet presents Foster as a Non Violent Violet, who is nonetheless surging with Inner Anger.

In her Almost Orphaned Childhood--with a Difficult Dad--her Face had been marred, so much so, that she fears No One will ever Want Her.

Watching a Charismatic Faith Healer on TV, she believes Only He Can Heal Her, but not via Broadcast Wave Lengths.

So Violet begins a Transformative Bus Ride through the Southeastern States, in which she bonds with Two GI's.

One of them is Black--or Colored--which Violet Verbally Notes, meaning No Offense, for she sees through to the Essential Good Person that he really is.

No One Else, even in his Family, has seen the Real Flick [Joshua Henry], his Real Monicker, not a Movie.

Violet also sees the Shallow But Charming Essence of the Army Corporal, Montgomery [Colin Donnell], who insists on being called Monty--possibly after Clift, not Python…

When I entered the Ornate Selwyn Theatre--now renamed the American Airlines Theatre: No Baggage Checks!--I was astonished to see a Hill Billy Stage Band in a Honky Honky Tonk I'd seen before.

Was this a Setting--by David Zinn--from a Show I'd seen long before, somewhere else?

The Humana Festival, perhaps?

Often, nowadays, when the Curtain Rises or the Lights Go Up, I have the Sense that I must have Dreamt about what I see Onstage sometime before. I somehow know what is Going To Happen.

Not so much Déjà Vue as Pre Ja Vue

But not this time out: No, No, No!

I had already seen & enjoyed Violet down on Theatre Row, at Playwrights Horizons, way back in 1997!

But the Southern Roots of Violet go all the way back to that Intriguing Novel: Doris Betts' The Ugliest Pilgrim!

Jeanine Tesori composed the Often Affecting & Hill Inflected Music for Violet, quite a Change from her Scores for Thoroughly Modern Millie, Caroline, Shrek, & Fun Home. [Wasn't' Sutton Foster a Modern Millie?]

Brian Crawley--who crafted the Book & Lyrics for Violet--did likewise for A Little Princess, not in the same Ballpark…

Nonetheless, for his work on Violet, he won/shared the Lucile Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical, the Kleban Award, the Richard Rodgers Musical Production Award, & the prestigious Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical.

It has taken a long time for Violet to move East on Forty Second Street--with a City Center Encore in between--but the Wait Was Worth It!

Essentially based on that Encore Production--all of the Encores deal in Bare Bones Essentials--as staged by Leigh Silverman, this is a Bus Ride of Self Discovery worth the Ticket Price.

Violet believes, passionately & hopelessly, that she is Ugly.

What she does not see is that she is Elementally Beautiful, inside & out. Despite her Self Doubt & Plain Speaking.

Flick sees this; Monty does not…

When Violet finally reaches the Stage of the TV Healing Broadcast, she believes she's Had a Healing. She also realizes that that Charimatic Preacher is a Fraud.

Violet is healed by Faith, not by a Faith Healer.

When a Whole Violet again meets her Men Friends, Flick sees this; Monty does not…

So she Pairs with the Loving Flick: even back in 1997, a bit Daring & Risky in the Southeastern United States.

In the meantime, however, American Airlines Ticket Holders have had their Flight Cancelled, in favor of a wonderfully Revelatory Greyhound Bus Ride, made both amusing & intriguing by a Talented Ensemble who assemble Metal Chairs in Story Theatre Conformations, to take us through Shreveport, & other Bus Stops on the Southern Route.

Not only do they Learn a Lot along the way about Southerners, but--like Violet--possibly also Something About Themselves…

With some Wonderful Songs between Bus Stops!


Martin McDonagh's THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN [★★★★★]

Being Harry Potter Has Not Crippled Daniel Radcliffe as an Actor: He Totally Inhabits Cripple Billy!

Once again, Irish Poet/Playwright William Butler Yeats is proven right about the Irish in the West Country: They are all Crazy.

But Martin McDonagh makes the Locals of Inishmaan seem especially Insular & Dotty.

Among the Generally Ignorant Natives, is the Orphaned Cripple Billy, ably embodied by Daniel Radcliffe, who is definitely Not Making a Harry Potter Star Turn.

Being a Cripple, Cripple Billy has never had much hope of Going Out Walking with a Girl.

So he Looks at Cows…

Cripple Billy's Doting Aunties, Eileen & Kate Osbourne, look after him in their Small Shop & Home.

But Cripple Billy can read & imagine Other Lives, Other Places…

The Time is 1934 & Robert Flaherty has been busy filming Man of Aran--later projected for the Villagers.

The Hollywooders give Cripple Billy the chance to go off to Hollywood for a Screen Test.

Cripple Billy fakes a Doctor's Note about a Presumed Fatal Illness to get Babbybobby to help him escape the Island & his Doting Aunties.

But Cripple Billy's Dreams of a Hollywood Career go up in Peat Smoke when he is told it's cheaper & easier to engage an Actor who can act a Cripple than a Cripple who can't act.

On his Unexpected Return, the Angry Babbybobby beats him severely for deceiving him.

This doesn't much help Cripple Billy, who now seems to be spitting up blood.

Staged by Michael Grandage, this looks very much like the Visual Production--designed by Christopher Oram for a Revolving Stage--that I saw some time ago in England & Ireland.

Because this is the Production of the Michael Grandage Company, I assume it is Always on Tour?

In the Excellent Cast are Gillian Hanna & Ingrid Craigie, as the Aunties, one of whom communes with a Stone; Pat Shortt. as the garrulous & drunken Johnnypateenmike; Conor MacNeill & Sarah Greene, as Cripple Billy's Occasional Tormentors, Egg Haired Bartley & Red Haired Helen McCormick; June Watson, as Johnnypateenmike's Drink Sodden & Foul Mouthed Mammy, & Gary Lilburn as the Village Doctor, the only Sane Irishman of the Lot.

It's all too easy to make fun of the Irish of the Western Isles, but Martin McDonagh is no John Millington Singe nor Sean O'Casey.

Nor is Cripple Billy the Playboy of the Western World.

Nonetheless, Daniel Radcliffe's Performance as Cripple Billy is worth a Night Out.

You may well ask: What does Harry Potter look like, as a Cripple?

Buy a Ticket!


Speaking of Cripples:

Amazingly, there are No Cripple Toilets in the Cort Theatre, where Cripple of Inishmaan is playing!

Being myself somewhat of an Irish American Cripple, bumbling about with a Cane, I was told to go across Traffic Challenged 48th Street to Chipotle--apparently a sort of Fast Food Mexican Restaurant--to use their Handicapped Toilet.

Unfortunately, their Men's Room had but One Urinal, all broken & taped up.

The Actual Handicapped Toilet--the Sole Toilet in the Men's Room--had No Toilet Paper & a Broken Door Latch that could not be Locked.

One Guy--in the Line waiting for me to finish up--apparently couldn't Wait & was Urinating in the Wash Stand when I came out…

So, it would seem that whether you are in Ireland or in Mexico, you are always Shite Out of Luck…

Metaphorically Speaking, of course!


John Cameron Mitchcell & Stephen Trask's HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH [★★★★★]

Botched East Berlin Sex Change Operation Leaves Hedwig with an Itch & an Angry Inch!

Years & years ago, there were Long Lines outside the Historic Jane Hotel: Everyone was trying to get in to see John Cameron Mitchell as the Tragic but Triumphant Hedwig Strut & Rock His/Her Way to Transgender Glory.

Now, there are every night, Long, Long Lines stretching outside the Historic Belasco Theatre around the Corner & Up Sixth Avenue.

Everyone is trying to get in to see Neil Patrick Harris Rock the Sox off the Eager Audience, as Harris' Hedwig--with many a Wig Change--musically explains how an East Berliner Girlie Boy fell in love with an American Army Sergeant.

He wanted Hedwig to have a Sex Change Fix, but it didn't work, leaving Hedwig with Nothing down there but an Angry Inch.

As often happened, when an American GI in Occupied Berlin knocked up a Local Girl or Boy--Don't Ask, Don't Tell!--Hedwig's Ticket to America moved on.

But Hedwig isn't about to Give Up!

So it is that we now see Hedwig Onstage Live at the Belasco Theatre, in the Abandoned Setting for Hurt Locker: The Musical--Strutting Her Elegant Glittering Stuff, with Wig Changes Galore!

Who knew that Neil Patrick Harris could Outfox, Outshout, & Outstomp both Lady Gaga & Madonna!

And he doesn't even have Tits!

Nor Pecs nor Abs…

Talk about Glamour! Talk about Heartbreak!

Talk about Fantastic Rock Show Sounds & Lights!

Talk about Pounding, Thumping, Stomping, Heart Attacking Music & Singing!

Talk about Ticket Prices! Talk about Long, Long, Long Lines!

Talk about David Belasco, the "Bishop of Broadway," & his Ghost, whom Hedwig invokes, while telling the Audience some History about this Famous Broadway Theatre, that is really Not on Broadway, but just a bit to the East…

Famous Players have appeared on the Belasco Stage, Hedwig informs us, breathing deeply when mentioning Barrymore & Mark Rylance, but expectorating when remembering a Female Semi Star who also Trod These Boards recently…

The Elaborately Designed Hurt Locker Settings--a Shattered Baghdad, as imagined by Julian Crouch--Hedwig dismissively shoves aside, revealing the Naked Back Wall of the Belasco Stage.

This will be a very Stripped Down Night to Howl!

Among Hedwig's Show Stoppers: Tear Me Down, Sugar Daddy, Angry Inch, & Wicked Little Town.

When the Expectant Audience enters the Belasco, up on the Open Stage are not only the Ruins of an Ancient City--like Berlin, destroyed by American Military Interventions--but also a Ruined Automobile, with hundreds of Auto Parts scattered about in the Air above.

The Hood of this Abandoned Auto provides a Mini Stage for Hedwig, but it also recalls those Abandoned East German Trabant Autos that strewed the Streets of East Berlin, when the Infamous Berlin Wall was torn down in November 1989.

With the Wall gone, it is, as the East Germans used to say: Bahnfrei für Hedwig!

Abused, Assaulted, Abandoned, Attacked--Hedwig is going to Put the Past Behind Her…

What else could she do about the Past when it is definitively Past?

So Hedwig is on her way to Rock Show Glory!

To borrow an Old Berliner Phrase from Leni Riefenstahl, this is Hedwig's Dancing Demo of Die Macht des Willen--The Triumph of the Will!

Hedwig is ably supported onstage by a Super Dynamic Five Person Combo, headed by Yitzhak [the admirably Cross Dressed Lena Hall], for whom an Understudy is listed.

But there is No Understudy for Neil Patrick Harris!

If you can even manage somehow to get Tickets to Hedwig, pray that Hedwig Harris' Vocal Cords are OK on the Night…

Oh! Not to overlook Martin Mayer, who staged what is essentially a Rock Concert with a Narrative Line…

Incidental Information: Long, long before Hedwig & the Angry Inch packed people into the Performance Space of the Jane Hotel--just across the West Side Highway from the Hudson--it was once filled with the Surviving Crew of the Ill Fated "Unsinkable" Cunard Ocean Liner, The Titanic!

Added Info: Scott Bennett & Your Roving Arts Reporter--aka Prof. Dr. Glenn Loney--have made a Video Report about the Restoration of the Historic Interiors of the Belasco Theatre by the Shubert Organization.

You can Check This Out, Free of Charge, at: [Web Address?]


Harvey Fierstein's CASA VALENTINA [★★]

Why Do Straight Men Who Cross Dress Look Like Parodies of Middle Aged Harridans?

It was mildly interesting, if not fundamentally revelatory, to see such Broadway Talents as Patrick Page, John Cullum, Larry Pine, & Reed Birney don Female Attire--Awful Wigs & all that Frumpery--to bring to the Non Profit Broadway Stage Michael Hurst & Robert Swope's book, Casa Susanna.

Was this costly Scott Pask Designed Production really Necessary?

Was there something Especially Compelling in that True Story Book that made Harvey Fierstein believe it was his Moral Duty to bring its Message to the Non Profit Public?

Wouldn't it have been both Cheaper & Easier to have given all Manhattan Theatre Club Subscribers Paperback Copies of Casa Susanna, so they could read about it in the Privacy of Their Own Homes?

Truth is, Page, Cullum, Pine, & Birney all look better in Male Drag.

How about casting them in a Revival of 1776?

The Point is repeatedly made that the Men in Drag are not Homosexuals.

Some even Hate & Despise Homosexuals, possibly fearing them?

What's more, most of these Heterosexual Men seem to be Married, with Page/Valentina wedded to an apparently Super Understanding Rita [Mare Winningham], who helps him run a Run Down Resort in the Catskills that caters to Heterosexual Cross Dressers & Deer Hunters, in Season.

As the Fight to Establish Nationwide Sororities of Cross Dressers like Valentina raged, my Interest & Attention waned.

Piqued, now & then, by an Unspoken Question: What is in all this for Rita? Why is she so cheerfully enabling her Husband George/Valentina?

At the somewhat Unresolved Close, she asks him if he really is George? Or Valentina?

Patrick Page goes upstairs to shed his Male Drag & put on some Lipstick…

Really somewhat Sad, after all, but So What?

The Previous Evening, I had just seen Neil Patrick Harris don Fabulous Drag--in Hedwig & The Angry Inch--which was Transformative!

Why is it that Gay Drag Queens so often look so Glamorous: not at all Middle Aged Pathetic, like the Men in Casa Valentina?

Do Cross Dressing Gays possibly have a Smarter Fashion Sense than Hetero Trannies?

Just Asking…

As for Poor Rita--who once ran a Woman's Wig Shop--when she fell in love with George, did she perhaps believe that Love was Enough?

Did she--as so many Hopeful Brides--think that, over time, she could Change Him?

Just Asking…

Joe Mantello directed, with Frocks by Rita Ryack & Hair, Wigs, & Makeup by Jason P. Hayes.



For the Over Eighties, Autumn Comes Along All Too Fast--But Estelle Parsons is Still On Stage!

Alexandra is now very Old & Crochety & Forgetful, not to Overlook her Incendiary Tendencies…

Alexandra has Barricaded herself in her Very Valuable Park Slope Town House, which she threatens to Set on Fire with Photo Developing Fluid in Bottles equipped with Home Made Wicks.

Alexandra's Unseen Son, Michael, & Daughter, Jennifer, are down in the Street, threatening to Call the Police, Break Down the Front Door & Cart Her Off to an Assisted Living Facility.

Alexandra prefers Death Before Dishonor: she is prepared to Go Up in Flames with her Town House!

Alexandra is Positively Wagnerian!

But, over in Park Slope, the Town Houses are Brick & Stone, which do not burn readily…

Fortunately for Real Estate Values & the Whole Park Slope Block, Alexandra's Wayward Son, Chris [Stephen Spinella], climbs up a Tree & through the Window.

They Bond once again. Trips to the Brooklyn Museum & the Guggenheim loom…

What's especially wonderful about this Theatre Experience is that the Over Eighty Alexandra is played by Another Over Eighty: Estelle Parsons is said to be 86 or 88.

Even Older than I am, at 85!

The Always Feisty Estelle is Alexandra Eight Times a Week!


I just wish the Play were more Interesting…

Too many Home Truths about Aging: like Daggers into My Heart!

Eugene Lee designed for Director Molly Smith, who is surely younger than both Estelle & Your Roving Arts Reporter.


Stephen Cole's INVENTING MARY MARTIN: The Revue of a Lifetime [★★★★]

From Sugar Daddies in Hollywood To Enchanted Evenings, Flying Peters, & Singing Nuns…

Over at the York Theatre--a Living Musical Theatre Archive--there's a Charming Revue of the Career of Broadway's Beloved Musical Star, Mary Martin.

As Mary is buried in her Texas Hometown of Weatherton--beside her Loving Husband, Richard Halliday--she is Divided into Thirds for this Photo Projection Enhanced Performance Survey.

The Martin Triad is enthusiastically embodied by Cameron Adams, Emily Skinner, & Lynne Halliday.

Jason Grae makes a Debonair Musical MC, but he's also capable of some Mary Martin Clowning.

Because My Mother disapproved of Motion Pictures on Religious Grounds, I had No Idea of the many Hollywood Films Mary Martin had made--with Bing Crosby, yet!--before she found her Proper Place on the Broadway Stage.

But once she reached her Venus--long before she reached her Zenith--she was Courted to sing the Songs of such Musical Masters as Irving Berlin, Noël Coward, Cole Porter, Jule Styne, & Kurt Weill, as well as those of Dietz & Schwartz, Duke & Dietz, Jones & Schmidt, & Rodgers & Hammerstein--for whom she was More Than a Muse.

Mary Martin became a kind of Singing Rival to Ethel Merman, but she was Never a Belter.

Although Julie Andrews is best remembered as the Singing Nun in Sound of Music--thanks to the Magic of Movies--Mary Martin was Maria First.

Not the First Maria, of course, for the Salzburg Maria was only a Novice, a Postulant, not The Mother of God, although She has also been seen Flying Over the Mönschberg by Pious Salzburghers.

Nonetheless, it was actually from the Motion Pictures that Maria made her way to the Broadway Stage.

Only afterward, back onto the Silver Screen…

Way back when, Ruth Leuwerick--a Beloved West German Film Star--appeared in a modest movie called Die Trapp Familie, which became so popular that it was soon followed by Die Trapp Familie, Zweiter Teile.

These Two Films about the Singing Von Trapps inspired Rodgers & Hammerstein to create one their Greatest Hits. Also, one of Mary Martin's!

"What do you do about a Girl like Maria? How do you hold a Tony Award in your hand?"

To Paraphrase…


Charles Ludlam's THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP: A Penny Dreadful [★★★★★]

The Ghost of Charles Ludlam & The Theatre of the Riduclous Hovers Over the Lucile Lortel!

Lucile Lortel would never have done anything the Least Bit Ridiculous, but she surely would have loved what Quick Change Artists Arnie Burton & Robert Sella are currently pulling off on her Own Personal Stage, down on Christopher Street

Directed by Ludlam's Longtime Muse & Co Star, Everett Quinton--who has been, since Ludlam's Tragic Death from AIDS, keeping The Flame Alive--Sella & Burton embody, by Frantic Turns, Jane Twisden, Nicodemus Underwood, Lady Enid Hillcrest, Lord Edgar Hillcrest, Alcazar, Pev Amri--don't ask, don't tell, with the Mysterious Irma Vep, whose Over the Mantle Portrait actually Bleeds, portrayed by ???????.

Those Question Marks are taken from the actual Playbill, itself now Steeped in Mystery, if only down on Christopher Street…

Obviously, as the Original Playwright of Irma Vep, Charles Ludlam was steeped in the Swirling Fogs & Hysteric Winds that once engulfed Manderly, haunted by the Memory of Rebecca, so the Isolated Manor House of Hillcrest surely must be a Stand In for a Daphne DuMaurier English Estate.

In an Odd Way, Arnie Burton, as Lady Enid--preening herself graciously as she swirls about the Intimate Stage of the Lucile Lortel, possibly recalling Long Ago Stage Triumphs, before she replaced the Mysteriously Dead but Not Dead Lady Irma, whose Ghost & Portrait still Haunt both Hillcrest & Lord Edgar--is a Ringer for Everett Quinton in this very same Role.

There is a Werewolf at Large on the Desolate Heaths of Hillcrest, striking Without Warning: Who or Whom can it be?

Could it be Lady Irma, returned from her Unmarked Grave, or Lady Irma, possibly Imprisoned Alive behind that Trick Bookcase, next to that Mantlepiece featuring both Lady Irma's Bleeding Portrait & a Votive Candle that Lord Edgar has finally blown out, at the Behest of Lady Enid, who does not want any Remembrances of Things Past in her New Domain?

Charles Ludlam was a Devoted Devourer of the Romantic Classics & Poe Inspired Poetry, so Irma Vep is rich with Borrowed Quotations.

The Mystery of Irma Vep is a Hoot!

Do Not Miss It. On Pain of Werewolfian Fangs

Or, as Charles Himself might well have said: Fangs for The Memory!

Jules Massenet's CENDRILLON [★★★]

Why Dump Cinderella Down in the Drab Postwar Paris of 1947? Past the Time of French Princes…

There are certainly more than enough Stage Versions of the Folkloric Cinderella Tale, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella--now on Broadway--being one of the Most Recent.

So it makes a Certain Sense for the Juilliard Opera to explore in the Archives of Western European Music for Forgotten Cinderellas.

After all, what Big Time Opera Company--The Met? Chicago's Lyric? The Houston Grand Opera?--is going to waste Time & Money on such Raisings from the Dead?

They have Season Subscribers to think about.

The Juilliard School & the Juilliard Opera, on the other hand, are ideally positioned for such Exploratory Adventures: One Fall Production & One Spring Production.

Nor do either have to worry about Subscribers, for their Admission Prices are geared to the Social Security Purses of many Manhattan Seniors. Not to overlook the Juilliard's many Free Performances!

Speaking of Seniors, Shock Headed Opera Innovator Peter Sellers was in attendance at the Juilliard Cendrillon!

Rossini's Cenerentola is already in the Met's Repertoire, so there was no real Opera Performance Experience to be gained from the Juilliard Ensemble mounting a Rossini Echo.

But Massenet's little known Cendrillon has been neglected or forgotten for a Reason.

It is, unfortunately, not all that Wonderful, Musically or Theatrically.

A Music Critic seated near me announced that he'd completed a Wikkipedia Search, only to discover that, even in Massenet's Time, there had never been many Productions of Cendrillon, nor many Performances of those Productions…

True, there are some Delicate Duets, but the Score seems somehow Impressionistic, rather than Romantic.

But, that being so, why choose to revive Cendrillon in Post War Paris, in a Grungy, Drab 1947?

The Rationale--according to Stage Director Peter Kazaras & Costume Designer Gabriel Berry--is the Introduction of the New Look in Parisian Fashion, which occurred way back in 1947.

That being so, why, then, was the Wicked Step Mother wearing the only really Stunning Fashions to be seen onstage?

Avery Amereau--as the Overbearing Café Owner, Mme. de la Haltière--was an amazing Fashion Plate for the Prince's Ball, wearing a Flowing Black Pants Skirt Ensemble, set off with Fluttering Pink Ribbons on each Shoulder.

The Unkind Stepsisters were generally Dowdy, but for the Ball, they had Unflattering Bouffant Ball Gowns--which is OK, for their Advances to the Prince should repel him anyway.

Elizabeth Sutphen, as La Fée, looked rather like a 1947 High School Librarian on her Night Out.

For some Odd Reason, her Attendant Spirits were all costumed as Red Capped Hotel Bellboys, but then some of the Fantasy Scenes took place in a 1947 Paris Cinema, with the Juilliard Chorus dressed as Dowdy 1947 Parisites.

The Program suggested that they might be watching Les Enfants du Paradis, a popular Art Film of that Period.

An Annoyed Viewer near me said he'd rather be watching Les Enfants du Paradis than looking at Cinderella in Such Surroundings.

Indeed, although Massenett's Cendrillon dates from 1899--almost the Jahrhundertwende, the Fin de Siècle, the Turn of the Century, the Dawning of a New Age--it does have a faintly Modernist Impressionist Quality about it.

This being so, why 1947?

But, if being 1947, why were the Towering, Skewed, Empty Windowed Walls Expressionistic?

The Viewer Experience was rather like looking at a Fritz Lang Setting for Metropolis

Nonetheless, the Singer/Actors were generally admirable, especially Elizabeth Sutphen as the Overbearing Stepmother.

Julia Bullock's Cendrillon/Lucette was visually & vocally engaging & endearing, even if almost always costumed in a Dowdy Dress.

As Le Prince Charmant, Lacey Jo Benter was Cross Dressed, but not Star Crossed, singing stoutly.

Curiously, Cinderella's Beaten Down Father, Pandolfe [a stalwart Szymon Komasa] looked Younger than his Wife, his Step Daughters, & even Cinderella.

When he took her on his lap to console her, I feared she might crush him…

Direct from Paris, Emmanuel Villaume conducted briskly, but he had a Surprise in Store for the Juilliard Audience.

Approaching the Climax of this Cinderella Story, he donned an Official Cap--as a Huge French Tricolor plummeted down from the Flies; then he turned to the Spectators & delivered an Impassioned Prelude to the Events to Follow: the Arrival of the King, the Prince, & the Glass Slipper!

Nonetheless, at the Intermission, several Couples near me took up their Coats & Departed.

"You're not going already?"

"We know how it comes out."

Incidental Information: I can forgive Massenet a lot, not only because he composed an attractive Manon & an interesting Werther, but also because he created the Score for Thaïs, which gave us that Famous Meditation Melody which I early learnt to play on the Pianoforte.

Also: Massenet's Operatic Muse was Sybil Sanderson, born in Sacramento, CA, as was I, but much, much earlier.

Sybil is not to be confused with Emma Nevada, who was born near my Home Town of Nevada City, CA.

Emma--the First American Soprano to Triumph in Europe--was Muse to Ambroise Thoma, who composed Mignon for her.

Emma returned the Favor, not only by starring as Mignon, but also in naming her daughter Mignon Nevada!


David Grimm's TALES OF RED VIENNA [★★★★★]

Austro Hungary Is Over: Commies Control Vienna: Honorable Women Become Streetwalkers…

What can a desperate Austrian War Widow do when her Main Anchor & Defender is gone?

Not only the K.u.K Austrian Empire but also War Widows' Pensions: Vom Winde verweht

Gone with the Wind, as they say

So, even in her stark black Widow's Weeds, Heléna Altman [an intriguing Nina Arianda], is receiving Ungentlemanly Callers in her Handsomely Wiener Werkstätte Jugendstil Decorated Vienna Apartment.

One of them, the charming Béla Hoyos [a rascally Michael Esper], an Investigative Journalist & Lusty Lover, becomes infatuated with her.

And she with him…

Meanwhile, her elegantly clad friend, Mutzi von Fessendorf [Victoria Frings, on this performance night], also Available, has become Pregnant.

Heléna's Housekeeper & Best Friend, Edda Schmidt [a stalwart Kathleen Chalfant], does what she can to protect Heléna & help sell off the Biedermeier Furniture to make ends meet.

Thanks to Set Designer John Lee Beatty, Imperial Vienna & Innovative Jugendstil are instantly evoked in Heléna's Apartment, although she has too many Competing & Complicated Patterns on the walls.

Beatty also remarkably recreates an Historic Section of Vienna's Zentralfriedhof, where Heléna has gone to pray at her Late Husband's Grave Marker.

That charming Austro Hungarian Béla finds her here & they have Lusty Sex at her Hubby's Memorial.

Mutzi turns up, with Heléna's Not Yet Dead Soldier Husband in her Wake.

What is Heléna to do?

It is now Too Late for you to discover that In Person, for the Limited Run of this Wonderfully Designed & High Powered Production has come to an End.

Nonetheless, you should know that the Reds didn't stay in Power in Vienna so very long as a new Political Faction was on the rise: the National Sozalist Arbeiter Partie

Few on This Side of the Atlantic really understand that the Nazis were essentially a Socialist Workers & Farmers Party.

Although the Nazis--led by the Austrian Corporal, Adolf Hitler--were first Elected into Office in Germany in the late 1920s, they were strongly supported across the Austrian Border from the first.

Anschluss with Grosses Deutschland finally occurred in 1938, Two Decades after Heléna's Love & Marital Problems began.

But the Political Pot was always simmering, after that Lost War & Lost Empire…


The Czech American Marionette Theatre's


Mozart Returns to Prague--with Puppets, But Don Juan Goes Down to the Pyt of Perdytion!

In the Midst of all Manhattan's High Tech, High Gloss, High Amp, High Tension Theatre Productions, it's always Refreshing to spend an evening with something Folkloric & Unpretentious.

Vit Horejs' Czech American Marionettes--some of them Very Old--are Very Special.

But they usually Dance to Tunes that are not Distinctively Czech: most recently, we were with the Puppets at Socrates' Last Supper--the One where Hemlock was served!

Vit Horejs is Socially Conscious, even if his Marionettes have No Say in such Matters: How about Lee Harvey Oswald or Ethel & Julius Rosenberg as Wooden Stars?

Now, however, the Czech American Marionettes are dancing to a Mozartian Tune that belongs especially to Prague: Mozart's Don Juan, which was premiered in Prague at the Tyl Theatre. Not in Vienna!

If you've ever seen Don Giovanni at the Met, you might be a bit surprised to see that Famous Fable acted out by a Handful of Marionettes, plus their Always in Evidence Handlers.

This is in an Old European Tradition: Kids get to see how & why the Puppets Move, Fall in Love, Fight Duels, & even, as with Mozart's Don Juan, Fornicate…

The Puppeteers are always in view, agonizing with their Little Friends, whose Voices they provide.

In the current Don Juan, the somewhat Demonic Vit Horejs is ably assisted by Deborah Beshaw Farrell, Otis Cotton, Tess Wonson, & Theresa Linnihan.

Cotton even offers some Mozartian Melodies!

Best of All: The Czech American Marionettes are performing in Jan Hus House, named for the Famed Czech Protestant Martyr.

Wasn't Hus Defenestrated from a Window in the Hradschin in Prague? Or was that Someone Else?


Robert Sickinger & Alaric Jans' NICHOLAS NICKLEBY: A New Musical [★★★★]

Chas. Dickens' Sprawling Story Makes a Musical Crammed with Incident & Sentimental Songs!

There are those of us who still remember that Three Evening Marathon, which made Roger Rees an American Star, if imported from Britain, as was that Memorable Nicholas Nickleby.

Robert Sickinger has managed to Compress--or Edit Out Some of--the Epic Sufferings of the Naïve Young Nick, His Widowed Mom, sadly & suddenly Reduced in Station, & His Pretty Sister--forced into Manual Labor & exposed to the Naked Lusts of London Dandies--at the Hands of an Unscrupulous, Unfeeling, & Unctious Uncle.

Although the Printed Program--possibly produced on an HP Inkjet Printer--celebrates Robert Sickinger inside its Decorative Cartouche, flanked by Victorian Images of High Society, it is the Music & Lyrics of Alaric Jans that really make this "New Musical" a Possible Contender!

When the Flimsy Curtain at Theatre for a New City "went up" or "drew back," at first it seemed that a Huge Community Theatre Group had decided to Honor Chas Dickens with whatever Props, Furniture, & Costumes they had at hand.

In fact, this looked very very much like a really Low Low Budget Les Mis

It took me a while to realize that I had seen many of these Lusty Performers before, Off & Off Off Broadway.

Even with some Young Performers initially scuttling & cavorting about the Performance Space--or Launching Handsprings--as Events Unfolded, I soon understood that there was actually some Interesting Choreography involved, not to Overlook the Intuitive Direction of Lissa Moira, who had to deal with some Major Performers in Doubled or Multiple Roles.

What especially surprised me were some of the Lilting or Sentimental Songs of Alaric Jans--No Alaric the Goth, he!--that could be Broadway Show Stoppers!

How about: Let Me Be an Angel, Learn To Improvise, A New Day, Tracking the Wind, Sail, Sail Away?

What this Nicholas Nickleby now needs is/are Broadway Production Values, as well as some Revised Crowd Management.

Although Avenue Q moved to Broadway from the Vineyard on East 15th, & with Once moving to Broadway--where it remains to this day--from NY Theatre Workshop on East Fourth Street, a Broadway Move from Theatre for a New City way over on First Avenue & East Ninth seems Highly Unlikely.

What Nicholas Nickleby now needs is a Newly Devised Staging, with Broadway Production Values, such as Lionel Bart's Oliver recently received at the Paper Mill Playhouse, over in Milburn, NJ.

Oliver, as many Book Readers will remember was also filched from the Charles Dickens Archives & charmingly Musicalized--with Long Runs both in London & on Broadway years & years ago.

Sadly, Paper Mill's Oliver did not move to Broadway--though it should have--to delight hundreds & hundreds of Theatre Lovers who aren't fond of Juke Box Musicals.

Theatre for a New City's new Nicholas Nickleby has a Monster Cast, with only a Few Performers actually impersonating Human Monsters--which throng Dicken's Fictions, but which were based on Real Victorian Life.

So, to avoid all those Key Strokes, I'm hoping Interested Readers will Click onto the Nicholas Nickleby Website, for Further Details.

For The Record: Nicholas Nickleby was stalwartly played by Douglas McDonnell, both a Lover & a Singer!

His Uncle Antagonist--the fearsome William Broderick--was a Metaphorically Moustache Stroking Unfeeling Villain, with Deep Grease Paint Lines on his Forehead to Prove It.

Admirable Others: Karen Kohler, Becca Gottlieb, David F. Stone, Esq., Stephanie Leone, Jonathan Fox Powers, Rachel Day Adams, Chris Neher, &&&&


James Lapine's Adaptation of Moss Hart's ACT ONE [★★★★]

How To Break into the Broadway Theatre: Either by the Stage Door Or by Writing a Play!

Just imagine! Moss Hart--a Desperately Poor Kid from the Bronx Tenements--believes he can become Rich & Famous by becoming an Actor!

Well! It didn't turn out that way at all!

Instead, Moss becomes Rich & Famous by collaborating with George S. Kaufman, Broadway's Most Celebrated Play Doctor!

Moss & Kaufman have their First Big Success in 1930, just after the Catastrophic Stock Market Crash.

Through the Depression Era, onward through World War II, & into the Glorious Post War 1950s, Moss has Hit after Hit, also winning Awards & Laurels as a Stage Director: notably My Fair Lady & Camelot.

Then, in 1959, he recalls his Early Struggles in Act One, on The New York Times Best Seller List for almost a Year.

There is to be no Act Two, for Moss dies in 1961, from Heart Failure.

It is said that Act One has inspired many a Lad & Lassie to seek a Life in Show Business. Even Frank Rich, former "Butcher of Broadway" Drama Critic for The New York Times

The Travails of Writing, Rewriting, Casting, Rewriting, Rehearsing, Rewriting, Previewing Out of Town, Rewriting, Having Second Thoughts, & Rewriting the Initial Kaufman & Hart Broadway Hit, Once in a Lifetime, are all Frenetically, Amusingly, & Heart Breakingly Documented in Act One.

James Lapine--like His Idol, Moss Hart, also a Playwright & Director--has brought All of Those Travails to the Immense Revolving Stage of the Vivian Beaumont Theatre.

Nor has Lapine neglected the Early Life Struggles of Moss Hart, providing not One but Three Editions of Moss Hart: Matthew Schechter, Santino Fontana, & Tony Shaloub!

On the Beaumont's Immense Revolve, the estimable Beowulf Boritt has constructed what is surely one of the Most Complicated Metropolitan Architectural Surveys seen in Recent Years.

Nor has Interior Decoration--from the Meanest Tenement to the Grandest Hotel been Overlooked.

The Visual Problem--as this Real Estate Merry Go Round Swirls back & forth--is that it is Much Too Complicated for the Artistic Effect it surely must have been Intended to Achieve.

The same may be said of Lapine's Faithful Reproduction of the Details of the Process of Preparing Once in a Lifetime for Broadway Greatness: that it is Much Too Complicated for the Artistic Effect it surely must have been Intended to Achieve.

Surely the Focus would have been Sharper, the Effect more Striking, had there been Less Detail in both Set & Plot.

At one point, One almost wished for a Period Revival of Once in a Lifetime, rather than Marching Through All the Steps Leading Up to It…

Nonetheless, not just the Three Moss Harts, but All the Cast were admirable, especially Chuck Cooper, as Charles Gilpin, as Eugene O'Neill's Emperor Jones.

Just Imagine! Moss Hart making a Stage Debut in a Drama by Eugene O'Neill!

Not only that: Dore Schary is also in the Cast, but as a Character, not an Actual Actor of that Famous Name…

One could wish that the charming Kitty Carlisle Hart could have been Brought Back to Life in this Show as well, but that's really more Act Two--which Moss didn't live to write.


Joseph Haydn's ORLANDO PALADINO [★★★★]

Orlando Has Every Right To Be Furious: What's All This TV Show Business Anyway?

It must be Catching, this Fad of Modernizing Historic Operas completely out of their Original Contexts?

Not only has the Juilliard Opera updated Massenet's Cendrillon to a Grim Post War Paris of 1947, but, only days later, the Manhattan School of Music has transplanted Haydn's Orlando Paladino from a Romantic Neverland to a New York Reality TV Studio!

Director Robin Guarino--who is Very Big at the Met Opera--has set the First Half of Orlando Paladino on the Sound Stage of The Bachelor & the Bachelorette, "…somewhere between reality & 'Reality.'"

As Guarino explains her Production Concept, the Idea came from an Article in The New Yorker, by Andrew Marantz, entitled "Unreality Star," describing the impact of Technology & the Culture of Surveillance, Reality TV, & Instant Celebrity on "informing the Content of Delusion."

Apparently, Watching Too Much TV not only Makes the Baby Go Blind, but it also drives John Q. Public over the edge into Certifiable Madness.

Because Orlando Paladino was inspired--at One Remove--by Ludovico Ariosto's Epic Poem, Orlando Furioso, MSM's Orlando, a Truculent Giant [a resonant Elliott Page], seated alone, apparently Meditating, in a Chair, Downstage Left, must also be deemed Mad.

Furioso doesn't mean that Orlando is Furious--although he is Very Angry that his Love for Angelica is Blocked--but that he has indeed been Driven Insane.

In that New Yorker Article, Marantz described the Treatment of a Man who believed he was the Star of a Reality Television Show, being Broadcast Live Twenty Four Hours a Day!

Not only to avoid Madness, but also to stave off Boredom, when I retired, I swore off watching TV.

So I must have missed that Real TV Show that had in its Décor a number of Panels with a kind of Updated Art Deco Eye on them, thanks to Set Designer Laura Jellinek.

The Visual Problem with this All Too Busy Design Concept is that the Stage is filled with TV Technicians--some of them having Coffee now & then--as well as Wall Mounted TV Cameras & Hand Held TV Cameras.

At one point, the TV Crew seems to be filming the Back of Angelica's Hair do, as they have to be Upstage of her, not in Front, blocking the Audience View.

It is, however, a Cute Idea to have that Mythical Sorceress, Alcina [Margaret Newcomb: a Thrilling Voice & Presence], as a Show Runner!

All this Visual Fuss & Feathers distracts from Our Focusing on the Central Romantic Plot--which is, unfortunately, Itself rather Boring & Formulaic.

But it would be Good to Sharpen the Focus on the Actual Actor/Singers, especially Angelica [Leela Subramaniam, she of the Divine Voice!] & the fascinating & Totally Athletic Pasquale [Cameron Johnson: already Clearly a Star!], who Lights Up the Stage with his Clowning & Many Moves.

The Audience clearly Loved Him, especially the MSM Students, who were often Shrieking with Laughter, as well as Cheering On their More Accomplished Classmates in the Opera Theatre Program.

In the Interval, all those Eye Panels disappeared.

Suddenly, the Stage was a Clinical White: we seemed to be in a Nervenklinik, as the Germans say.

But this could have been an Ante Room in the Klingenstein Pavilion of Mount Sinai, or down some Corridor of the Mayo Clinic.

At any rate, Orlando is finally Healed of his Madness & his Hopeless Infatuation with Angelica & All Is Made Well with All…

Thomas Mulder was Angelica's Shy Love Interest, but His Voice seemed Turned Down a Few Decibels, compared with the other Student Singers. Perhaps he should be working on Diaphragmatic Breathing & Projection?

Kerstin Bauer & Kidon Choi completed the Admirable Cast, which was enthusiastically conducted by Christian Capocaccia.

Oddly enough, although there are Cast Bios, as well as Professional Credits for Costume Designer Gabriel Berry, Lighting Designer Mark Barton--who kept changing colors on that Rear Vertical Venetian Blind for No Apparent Reason, & for Cookie Jordan, who did the Hair & Makeup, there was Absolutely No Bio for Joseph Haydn!

That does seem Unfair, both Musically & Historically…

After all, didn't Mozart plunder that Papageno Theme, as well as that Leporello Catalogue Aria Melody, from Orlando Paladino?

Poor Old Papa Haydn!

He came into His Own, when he came to London, but back in Eisenstadt, as Court Composer for the Great Austro Hungarian Magnates, the Eszterhazys, he had to wear Court Livery, just like his Court Orchestra.

Poor Old Haydn!

When he Died, they Cut Off His Head!

In Vienna, at last they Understood that Haydn was a Genius, but Phrenology was then Very Big, so why not Explore the Bumps on His Skull?

The Remainder of Haydn's Remains were Ceremonially Entombed in Eisenstadt, virtually across the Avenue from the Magnificent Eszterhazy Palace.

But, at the End of World War II, when the Soviet Troops came to Occupy Vienna, the Russkis took Haydn's Head back to Leningrad or Moscow.

Shortly before the Collapse of Communism, they gave it back to Austria, some Authorities of which then opened Haydn's Sarcophagus in Eisenstadt, to put Haydn's Head back where it belonged…

However Miserable Mozart was in his Last Days & Final Hours, at least they didn't Decapitate Wolfie!

Caricature of Glenn Loney in header is by Sam Norkin.

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