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Paulanne Simmons

"Glimpses of the Moon" Is Jazzy and Juicy

"Glimpses of the Moon"
Directed by Marc Bruni
The Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel
59 West 44th St. between 5th and 6th avenues
Opened Jan. 21, 3008
Mondays 8 p.m.
$50, plus $30 food and beverage minimum (A prix fixe dinner available for $50)
(212) 419-9331
Closes March 10, 2008
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Feb. 4, 2008

The Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, with its wood-paneled walls and carpeted floors that recall the glamorous 20s and 30s, is so perfect for a jazz age musical one wonders why it took so long for someone to pick up the idea. Fortunately, that eventually did happen. And "Glimpses of the Moon" a jazz age musical created specifically for the Oak Room, is playing for eight glorious weeks, accompanied by an elegant dinner or cocktail.

Based on a novel by Edith Wharton, "Glimpses of the Moon" has a book and lyrics by Tajlei Levis and music by John Mercurio. Composer and lyricist have created a score with clever lines and catchy melodies that pay tribute to the likes of Cole Porter and the Gershwins.

Director Marc Bruni and choreographer Denis Jones make extraordinarily good use of a space that that is so small it makes intimate look huge. And they do this with no scenery and a minimum of props, although Lisa Zinni's lavish period costumes go a long way toward setting the time and tone.

The plot of "Glimpses of the Moon" is frivolous and predictable. But this is the Jazz Age, so who cares? Nick Lansing (Stephen Plankett 1/21-2/11, Michael Minarek 2/19-3/10) and Susy Branch (Patti Murin) are two penniless sycophants who like to associate with the rich. One day they concoct a plan to fake a marriage so they will get lots of gifts they will quickly sell before their eventual divorce.

One look at this handsome couple will convince anyone who has any sense of romance or who knows anything about musical theater that true love is in the air. Only slightly less predictable are the complications.

Winthrop Strefford (Glenn Peters), a feckless young man who comes into his inheritance just on time, whisks Susy off her feet with expensive meals and glamorous parties. Coral Hicks (Laura Jordan) who majored in Ancient History because Nick was her tutor, transforms herself from a bespectacled academic to a sexy bombshell so he will go searching for antiquities with her in Greece.

Despite the cautionary and highly amusing examples of what high society is really like provided by Ursula Gillow (Jordan again), and Ellie Vanderlyn (Beth Glover) and her husband Nelson (Daren Kelly), it takes a long time for Susy and Nick to come to the inevitable conclusion that money isn't everything. That time is filled with jazzy tunes with complicated lyrics like "I loved her before you/so now I implore you/and if it's me or you." The dialogue is equally flip and smart. "Genius is wasted on a woman who can't do anything with her hair," Ellie comments on seeing Coral.

One of the high points of the show is the appearance of a special guest star who sings the cabaret show-stopper "Right Here, Right Now" in a scene that takes place-- where else?-- in the Algonquin Oak Room. Different singers will be featured throughout the show (Jana Robbins, star of Broadway, off-Broadway and her own one-woman shows, performed the night of this review). So stay tuned.

With its slick direction, polished cast and agreeable storyline, it's hard to imagine "Glimpses of the Moon" not finding another home after its run is over at the Oak Room. Hopefully, the show will lose none of its intimacy and originality when it hits the big time.



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