GUEST REVIEWER: DEAR WORLD at The York Theatre

Small WORLD, isn’t it?

A Review of Musicals in Mufti’s concert production of

DEAR WORLD

At the York Theatre
by Moshe Bloxenheim 

Musicals in Mufti’s concert production of DEAR WORLD is one of those lovingly staged productions that can beguile an audience into wondering why this show didn’t work the first time? With a book based on Monsieur Jean Geraudoux’s play THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT and an often delightful score by Jerry Herman, DEAR WORLD relates how Countess Aurelia, Madwoman of Chaillot saves humanity from being overrun by the soulless seekers of money and power. In the Countess’ adventure the audience is introduced to the characters who make up her world and those who threaten it.

The Prospector and the three corporate Presidents seek to destroy the Countess’ beloved Paris for the lake of oil that they know is below the city. Mr. Gordon Stanley is a perfectly peevish Prospector who is driven by oil and cannot see any romance beside it. He fits perfectly in with the Presidents who are played with relish by Messrs. Stephen Mo Hanan, Peter Land and J. Bernard Calloway. All the gentlemen gleefully twirl a metaphysical villainous mustache with panache, bringing their best to their anthem of greed “Just A Little Bit More” and being merrily hissable in “The Spring of Next year” where they exult in the destruction of Paris.

The young executive Julian had been one of their crew until he realized that people would be hurt and Mr. Hunter Ryan Herdlicka manages to show this change of heart quite briefly and yet credibly. Indeed, under the Countess’ idealistic spell Julian goes from accomplice to uncertain to penitent to hero and lover and the handsome Mr. Herdlicka accomplishes the changes with charm and ease, most memorably in a tender scene where Julian pretends to be Adolphe Bertaut – the man who had broken the Countess’ heart many years in the past.
Nina is a waitress and general factotum at the Café Francis – the bistro where the Countess holds court and the place that the Prospector wants to destroy to start the oil drilling. Ms. Erika Henningsen makes a sweet and pretty Nina who clearly enjoys being a part of the Countess’ world. We root for her Nina and Julian to fall in love with each other and cheer when Ms. Henningsen sings “I Never Said I Love You” (even with its inept positioning in the show).

One of the Countess’ aides and links from the harsh real world to her romantic existence is Mr. Lenny Wolpe’s jovial Sewerman. From his number “Pretty Garbage” and onwards Mr. Wolpe creates a man who has his mind in the most delightful of gutters, giving cheerful denials about the outrageous world below that make it seem even more wonderful and fantastic. When the Sewerman gives a “sympathetic” defense of the rich in Act Two, Mr. Wolpe extracts some wonderfully timely comedy out of the moment.

It is a talent indeed to play a role without practically a word and Mr. Kristopher Thompson-Bolden makes a beautiful Mute – the observer of all and assistant to the Countess. For a man who will not speak, Mr. Kristopher Thompson-Bolden’s Mute is a real chatty soul and can even deliver a song with flair – allowing gesture and dance to supply the lyrics that are then picked up and sung by the other performers.

Other helpful men who brighten the stage are Mr. Dewey Caddell as the Police Sergeant and Ben Cherry who is the Waiter at the Café Francis.

Two other Madwomen assist the Countess: Ms. Alison Fraser gives us a striking and memorable Madame Constance, Madwoman of the Market. She could have jauntily stepped out of an Edward Gorey drawing but her fancies are less gothic and more aurally and erotically absurd.

Adding to the fun, Ms. Ann Harada’s superb Madmoiselle Gabrielle, Madwoman of Montmarte is relentlessly virginal and unsullied. Ms. Harada’s character could simply be childish and a bore about her imaginary lap dog, Dickie, but Ms. Harada makes us see why the others would care for her and even makes us wonder if we aren’t seeing the dog too, even though Mlle. Gabrielle then claims she hadn’t brought Dickie after all.

Finally, the Doyenne of Madwomen: Countess Aurelia, Madwoman of Chaillot.
Ms. Tyne Daly gives a definitive performance as the sanest Madwoman there ever was, living in a romantic dream that must be cruelly interrupted to save the beauty of the real world. As a Madwoman, Ms. Daly sensibly gives her Countess the only French Accent in this stage Paris and often seems to have to refocus her fantasy driven mind. Musically, Ms. Daly does not sing her songs prettily but delivers them to brilliant effect, making them truly enchanting. The Countess’ plea against reality “I Don’t Want to Know” is downright heart-stirring as Ms. Daly performs it. Then again, the Madwoman’s tea party in Act Two could easily become a scene stealing battle, but Ms. Daly is clearly at stage center joining in with Ms. Harada and Ms. Fraser in creating a wonderful piece of musical theater studded with comic gems. You want to hug and take care of Ms. Daly’s Countess even while knowing full well that she is more than capable of taking care of you.

Mr. Michael Montel directs DEAR WORLD with the clear understanding that the more intimate this show is, the better it will work and makes the most of the small York Theatre Stage with its basic setting by Mr. James Morgan and lighting by Brian Nason. He does his best to make us forget some of the bumpier moments of the book and well evokes the fairy tale atmosphere of this whimsical story.

There have been times when I have been to a musical that sadly manages to evoke earlier recording of the show by its current shortcomings. Happily, this cannot be said of DEAR WORLD where Mr. Christopher McGovern’s first-rate musical direction and piano playing – along with the fine bass and accordion skills of Mr. Louis Tucci – sound anything but spare.

Messrs. Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s original book for DEAR WORLD has been revised by Mr. David Thompson and he has made a noble effort of reworking and tightening the show, changing the song order, working with added material and introducing some numbers to better effect. While “Just a Little Bit More” is not my favorite number, it now gives a suitable way for our Villains to better define who they are and relocating “The Spring of Next Year” to Act Two gives these characters a number that lets them reestablish themselves to the audience as evil beings when they musically celebrate Paris’ impending ruin. The Countess’ “Kiss Her Now” has become a very satisfying moment, framing Julian and Nina’s love towards the end of Act Two. Still, even the concert premise cannot really overcome the clumsy placement of Nina’s lovely “I’ve Never Said I Love You” which suddenly erupts without rhyme or reason.

And then there is the Title Song.

Mr. Jerry Herman creates some unforgettable pieces: “I Don’t Want To Know”, “Each Tomorrow Morning”, “Kiss Her Now”, etc. – but the title song “Dear World” is one of those things that must be gotten through because it is a TITLE SONG. Messrs. Thompson and McGovern clearly have done their level best to make “Dear World” work as an anthem that will bring heart back to the protagonists but in spite of their efforts, it still feels like being beaten repeatedly between the eyes with a Hallmark Get Well card. One annoying aspect of the song is the fact that the people singing “Dear World” are the ones being forced save the world – it will not save itself like the song repeatedly insists. The song that immediately follows it, “One Person”, is actually more to the point and moves things forward. Perhaps it is heretical, but I think the show would be much better if “Dear World” was totally rewritten with more suitable lyrics or even dropped altogether.

Still, even in its current condition, DEAR WORLD is well worth it – as a marvelous entertainment with a great cast and as an appropriate fable for these times. Even the flaws are intriguing and some of the more creative spectators may leave the theater both thrilled with what they have seen and contemplating what might be done do to overcome the imperfections.

 Alas, DEAR WORLD closed March 5.

About the reviewer:

MOSHE BLOXENHEIM
I am a computer programmer, wannabe writer who loves theater and just got into the habit of inflicting my theatrical opinions.
I live in New York.
Moshe can be reached at MB1224@aol.com

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DEAR WORLD
Book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
New Version by David Thompson
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman

Based on The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux as adapted by Maurice Valency
Directed by Michael Montel
Music Directed by Christopher McGovern
Featuring Tyne Daly
With Dewey Cadell, J. Bernard Calloway, Ben Cherry, Alison Fraser, Stephen Mo Hanan, Ann Harada, Erika Henningsen, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Peter Land, Gordon Stanley, Kristopher Thompson-Bolden, Lenny Wolpe
 

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Watch DADDY LONG LEGS LIVE! HERE!

Daddylonglegs2

Hi there,

We are thrilled that our historic livestream of Daddy Long Legs is tonight!
We look forward to sharing our beautiful show with you all!

Just a reminder that our livestream will be played 4 times so theater fans across the globe can tune in.  Our schedule is below:
8pm Eastern Standard Time (LIVE), December 10th
8pm Pacific Standard Time, December 10th
8pm Greenwich Mean Time, December 11th
8pm Japan Standard Time, December 11th

Once the livestream begins, it will be available on: www.DaddyLongLegsMusical.com/watch, our digital doors open at 7:30pm.

We look forward to sharing this historic night with you.

Sincerely,
Ken Davenport and Michael Jackowitz
Producers of Daddy Long Legs

P.S. Share your thoughts with us on social media using #DaddyLongLegsLive for a chance to win a copy of the Daddy Long Legs cast album!

daddylonglegsflyer

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Guest Review of ONE NIGHT WITH FANNY BRICE

Oh! What a past.

A Guest Review of

“ONE NIGHT WITH FANNY BRICE”

at the 13th Street Repertory Company

November 10, 2014

How does one bring Fanny Brice back to the stage? The inspired insanity of her comedy departed with her. The ornate and riotous reviews in which she performed are a long gone memory. All that is left are very few films, some recordings and broadcast transcriptions of her “Baby Snooks” radio show. In ONE NIGHT WITH FANNY BRICE, Author Chip Deffaa realizes that attempting to minutely recapture that unique side of Fanny Brice would do no favors to either the subject or the actress who would have to make the attempt. To be sure ONE NIGHT WITH FANNY BRICE provides a good framework with an impressive song list that illustrates and comments on Fanny Brice’s life and career. The show even manages to invoke brief flashes of her stage presence and humor. But it is her life story backstage and out of the theater that drives this play. And what a story Fanny shares with the audience! She guides us along her girlhood start in the vaudeville amateur nights, works her way through the burlesque circuit and then makes her name as a star on Broadway and finally in radio. At the same time Fanny must copes with her dysfunctional but fascinating personal life. A lot is revealed – much of it surprising – that show what a complex woman Fanny Brice was, but Mr. Deffaa focuses largely on her relationship with Nicky Arnstein. This makes sense as Arnstein – gambler, swindler and lothario – was the love of Fanny’s life and so much has been romanticized about their love affair and marriage that part of the fun of the evening is having Fanny set the story straight. Still the glimpses of her dealings with her stage associates – producers such as Florenz Ziegfeld and friends like W.C. Fields, Eddie Cantor and Gypsy Rose Lee – or the rather offhand description of her final marriage with Billy Rose, offer up the promise of so much more that Fanny ought to be able to tell. But as the Show Business saying goes; always leave them wanting more.

Ms. Chloe Brooks gives an outstanding and memorable performance. Her Fanny Brice really comes to life in Mr. Chip Deffaa’s play; chatting with her audience and taking them through her life as if she is sharing their amazement and amusement on how it all happened. We see Fanny re-enact a crucial episode of the past, first as herself and then another person and then, in the middle of it all, toss an observation to the audience that really defines the situation. This Fanny Brice truly relishes a good story – including her own. Ms. Brooks also understands that an impression is better than a slavish imitation and if she only occasionally slips into the phrases and accents that Fanny was known for, it is because Fanny is telling her story – not giving a performance in a Ziegfeld production. It is the same for the singing as well: in ONE NIGHT WITH FANNY BRICE Fanny is using the songs to tell her story – not telling her story to sing the songs, and in Ms. Brooks’ hands the songs are nicely delivered whether with an amused detachment as in her burlesque number “Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee” or using “My Man” both seriously and ironically to punctuate how her biggest hit song capitalized on her troubled relationship with Nicky Arnstein. Ms. Brooks’ singing is adeptly aided by Music Director Richard Danley who deserves high praise for his skilled and delightful piano playing.

A good deal of credit for this exceptional presentation must also be shared with Director Rachel Hundert. She paces the proceedings extremely well, making it hard to believe that this is a nearly two hour performance of a one actor show. Every scene and number flows onwards believably even when Fanny is being Fanny imitating the other people who are talking to Fanny.

As Producing Artistic Director, Ms. Sandra Nordgren created a very simple but highly effective stage setting that always kept the focus on Fanny and perhaps it is she who provided Ms. Chloe Brooks with the costuming that allowed her to span Fanny’s life so effectively.

If anything significant was missing from ONE NIGHT WITH FANNY BRICE it was the way Fanny often used an exaggerated Yiddish accent in her sketches and songs. Perhaps there was fear that the ethnic side of her comedy might not play so well and needed to be diminished but it was an essential part of Fanny’s career. Now Ms. Chloe Brooks does give some idea of Fanny’s inflections in performance, but I think that had she been given the opportunity, Ms. Brooks would have marvelously captured Fanny Brice’s wonderfully incongruous onstage mixing of the Yiddish and the Uptown.

But even with that deficiency, this is still very much a fascinating telling of Fanny Brice’s story, but even more, it is truly Ms. Chloe Brooks’ show and should not be missed.

One Night with Fanny Brice
Monday, November 24, 2014 at 7:00PM

Tickets available here


13th Street Repertory Company
50 West 13th Street
New York, NY 10011
The theatre is located between 5th Ave and 6th Ave.
Take the 1, 2, 3, F, M train to 14th Street; A, C, E to West 4th Street; 4, 5, 6, N, Q, R, W to Union Square; L to 6th Avenue.
 
One Night with Fanny Brice Written and Arranged by Chip Deffaa Starring Chloe Brooks Directed by Rachel Hundert Musical Direction by Phillip Cheah The legendary Fanny Brice–whose life inspired Funny Girl–rose from poverty to become America’s highest-paid singing comedienne. ASCAP award-winning writer Chip Deffaa has crafted a solo show featuring songs Brice made famous, from Second-Hand Rose to My Man. “Deffaa has distilled Fanny Brice’s busy life and career into a well-paced two-hour show.” The Associated Press. This show “delves deeper into Brice’s story than Funny Girl ever did” The New York Times.

About the reviewer:

I am a computer programmer, wannabe writer who loves theater and just got into the habit of inflicting my theatrical opinions.
I live in New York.
Moshe can be reached at MB1224@aol.com

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REVIEW: MURDER FOR TWO at NEW WORLD STAGE

Duet to the Death

A review of
MURDER FOR TWO
At NEW WORLD STAGE

January 11, 2014

MURDER FOR TWO is a cutely tongue-in-cheek musical parody of the classic murder mystery. Marcus, an up-and-coming police officer with a dark past is called to the scene of the crime. A well-known author has been killed and Marcus must deal with the throng of the victim’s loving relatives and friends all of whom have some sinister revelation and all of whom are portrayed by a second actor.

Therein lays the gimmick; the two man play with the cast of thousands!

This is a very self-referential operation that could easily collapse into an uncomfortable mess of rushing actors and weird impersonations – a party piece that goes on too long and wrongly. Happily the authors of MURDER FOR TWO, Messrs. Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair know how to charge the show with enough irreverence that even apparent weaknesses contribute to the fun and the sometimes groaning laughter of the evening.

The prime driving forces that keep this sustained sketch romping merrily along are the stars Brett Ryback and Jeff Blumentkrantz.
As Marcus, the eager young hero, Mr. Ryback exudes a rampant gee-whiz enthusiasm that makes one wonder if there is a barn somewhere for this attractive young lawman to put on a show in. Of course, his barn is the very home in which this murder most foul has occurred. Mr. Ryback understands that charm and smugness have to be applied with care and he usually knows when to turn them off. Whenever he forgets to, there is always the wonderfully capricious Mr. Jeff Blumenkrantz, who can bring him to total exasperation with a shift of characterization. Indeed, Mr. Jeff Blumenkrantz not only hurls himself into all the other roles, from matron to fireman to small choir boy with a change of prop, voice or demeanor, but he also knows how to deploy each recognizable persona as a comic weapon, whether he is annoying Marcus as a garrulous doctor or refusing to shift into the appropriate suspect at Marcus’ bidding.

Additionally, both Messrs. Blumenkrantz and Ryback perform their songs with flair and abandon. This is considerable achievement when one considers that the two gentlemen form the orchestra as well, using the music as accompaniment, a dramatic device and a way to push each other’s buttons.

Our duo do not, however, take tickets or usher in the audience, though I am sure they would be more than a match for those tasks as well, but even in their current range of duties, they practically crowd the stage with characters to the delight of the audience.

The score of MURDER FOR TWO is pleasant enough. With music by Mr. Joe Kinosian and lyrics by Mr. Kellen Blair, there are enjoyable and funny pieces, but as is often the case these days, very little in the way of memorable tunes to take out of the theater. Then again that seems part and parcel of MURDER FOR TWO’s amusingly tossed-off atmosphere.

If the actors take honors for their diverting performances, it is due to Director Scott Schwartz that the show moves along in a rollicking way. This is a piece that might wilt under too much critical examination and Mr. Schwartz makes sure that the audience is not left alone for a moment to indulge in such a fatal activity. He ensures that the comedy is always there and that the one-upmanship between the two actors keeps us grinning even when things are at their silliest.

While the set might appear to be a bare stage with only the essentials, Mr. Beowulf Boritt has created an ingenious design that, through his props and Mr. Jason Lyons’ creative lighting, supply everything that is needed to create havoc at the old homestead.

Ms. Jill BC Du Boff also contributes mightily with well applied sound effects and recorded musical bits. Still with such a small theater, why did the cast need not only body mikes but external microphones? Are people in the production SO insecure about being audible?

On the other hand, Ms. Andrea Lauer’s costumes seemed like nice enough street clothes but as the show moves forward these garments provide their own plot points and humorous diversions.

In all MURDER FOR TWO is an enjoyable 90 minute comic juggling act that is very much time well wasted.

MURDER FOR TWO is currently playing at
New World Stages / Stage 5
340 West 50th Street
Between 8th and 9th Avenues
New York NY 10019
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission

Tickets are currently on sale through March 16, 2014
Please call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250 for ticketing assistance.
More info at: http://murderfortwomusical.com/

About the reviewer:
I am a computer programmer, wannabe writer who loves theater and just got into the habit of inflicting my theatrical opinions.
I live in New York.
Moshe can be reached at MB1224@aol.com

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REVIEW: BECOMING DR. RUTH starring Debra Jo Rupp

The Doctor is in.

 A review of

at the WestSide Theatre

With all the of persona-driven notoriety that fills the media, Mr. Mark St. Germain’s play BECOMING DR. RUTH is a refreshing reminder of how a celebrity can actually have a real background of work and achievement behind their fame.  Indeed, the title character, Dr. Ruth Westheimer has lived and worked eventfully enough to provide for several life stories.  This is a real surprise for those people who had perhaps giggled immaturely at Dr. Ruth’s sex advice show (hey, I was in high school and sex was ALWAYS something to snicker at) as well as the newer generations who may recall her quirky grammarian persona – Dr. Ruth “Wordheimer” – on Public Television

 Mr. St. Germain’s funny and thoughtful script presents a very matter of fact lady who has seen it all: the rise of the Third Reich, the founding of Israel, student life in Postwar Paris and the challenges of being taken seriously in the academic world as a very petite woman.  Fascinating as this all may be, BECOMING DR. RUTH could have easily become one woman-one note biographical lecture.  Instead the playwright ingeniously frames the evening as a visit to Dr. Ruth’s apartment at a rather chaotic time in her life: we meet the good Doctor while she prepares to leave her home of thirty years.  What with the calls from movers, agents and family and surrounded by boxes and items to be packed, Dr. Ruth is more than happy to be distracted by some company – even a theater full of people.  Indeed, the media savvy Dr. Ruth is not above smashing the fourth wall if it will permit her to cut off an annoying phone call, make a point, or simply let her guests feel more at home.

 A one person show can be a daunting task for an actor and Ms. Debra Jo Rupp brilliantly meets the challenges of BECOMING DR. RUTH.  With never a moment’s respite, Ms. Rupp deftly goes from phone call to packing to recollection, never losing the audience while she spins out the thread of Dr. Ruth’s life touching on: the surprise marriage of her parents, the fears of escaping Nazi Germany on a Kindertransport, being a refugee in pre-Israel Palestine, trying to achieve a doctorate while seeking the right partner AND raising her children.  Ms. Rupp truly becomes the survivor and adoring mother and wife who is still surprised that her desire to help people with sex education has led to such great media fame as “Dr. Ruth.”  Yet even if Ms. Rupp shows the amazement and the often mischievous delight in the Doctor’s celebrity, she is also the little girl who still expects to return to the family she had lost.  Dr. Ruth may not wear her heart on her sleeve, but you knowthat she feels deeply.

It would have been all too easy to fake a tuetonic caricature of Dr. Ruth’s famed accent, but under the dialect coaching of Mr. Stephen Gabis, I think that Ms. Rupp’s enunciation truly adds to the sense of “Ruthfulness” without any sense of parody or stereotype.

Ms. Rupp’s virtuosity also allows Ms. Jennifer Moeller to avoid the shortcut of heavy makeup and chic suit.  Instead Ms. Moeller costumes the Doctor within what she probably wears in the confines of her own home: comfortable apparel, yet presentable enough should anyone drop in.

 The excellent Ms. Julianne Boyd is the director of this tour-de-force.  She truly understands the workings of Mr. St. Germain’s script on both an emotional and technical level and beautifully paces Ms. Rupp’s performance.   Never is the fascinating Dr. Ruth anything but perfectly natural and believable even at the play’s more theatrical moments.

 Scenic Designer Brian Prather has provided Dr. Ruth with a credibly home-like New York apartment living room that has been furnished with the items that are so essential in triggering each of Dr. Ruth’s memories.  Additionally, Mr Daniel Brodie’s impressive projections and Mr. Scott Pinkney’s valuable lighting designs permit the apartment to most effectively assist Dr. Ruth while she entertains her rather large crowd of guests.  Ms. Jessica Paz also ensures the intimacy of the visit with vocal levels and musical underscoring that are clear but never overwhelming: After all, in a New York apartment, Dr. Ruth would never risk annoying her neighbors by being too loud.

 Not being very much interested in contemporary celebrity histories, I must confess that I did not enter the theater with the greatest of expectations, but minutes into the first act I was delighted and amazed to discover an incredible play that is full of sly humor, surprising laughs and heartfelt emotion.  BECOMING DR. RUTH is not simply the story of a famous person, but truly a historical and inspirational life that is opened up for all to see and savor.

About the reviewer:
I am a computer programmer, wannabe writer who loves theater and just got into the habit of inflicting my theatrical opinions.
I live in New York.

Moshe can be reached at MB1224@aol.com

Becoming Dr. Ruth is playing through Jan. 12 at
the Westside Theater, 407 West 43rd Street, NY
Tickets by phoning (212) 239-6200, or at www.telecharge.com
www.becomingdrruth.com

Running time:  90 minutes (no intermission).

Follow the Show here:
@BecomingDrRuth! http://on.fb.me/18WFZLH  @DJRupp @AskDrRuth
More about Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruth_Westheimer

Editor’s Note:
I have also seen the show and cannot recommend it enough.
I laughed, I cried and I shared some life changing moments with Debra Jo Rupp as Dr. Ruth.
You will be amazed at how much life this larger than life figure has lived in her 85 years, and hear stories about her life, loves and fears that you never knew. It is truly a worthwhile evening of theater. I suggest you RUN to see it, and take the teens too.
Caution: There is some frank sexual terminology used.
-elli-

View a bit of the show here:

Grenade:Haganah EDIT.mp4 from Ryan Gielen (Believe, LTD) on Vimeo.

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PRESS RELEASE: FORBIDDEN BROADWAY RETURNS TO NYC FOR A LIMITED ENGAGEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

GERARD ALESSANDRINI’S FORBIDDEN BROADWAY

RETURNS TO NEW YORK

FOR A LIMITED ENGAGEMENT

WITH

FORBIDDEN BROADWAY:
ALIVE AND KICKING

NOW IN PREVIEWS

AT THE 47TH STREET THEATRE

OPENING SET FOR SEPTEMBER 6TH

 

After a three-year absence, Gerard Alessandrini’s FORBIDDEN BROADWAY, one of NYC’s best-loved and highly anticipated productions, returns to the 47th Street Theatre (304 West 47th Street – just west of Eighth Avenue) with a brand new edition, FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: ALIVE AND KICKING. The show is now in previews,  with an opening set for Thursday, September 6th.    FORBIDDEN BROADWAY; ALIVE AND KICKING will play a limited engagement through January 6, 2013.  This production will mark FORBIDDEN BROADWAY’s 30th Anniversary, as well as its 21st edition.

FORBIDDEN BROADWAY; ALIVE AND KICKING returns with Gerard Alessandrini’s take on Porgy and Bess, Once, Evita, Anything Goes, Follies, Spiderman, Newsies, Book of Mormon, Nice Work if You Can Get It, and Death of a Salesman, among others.

Featured in the cast are Natalie Charlé Ellis, Scott Richard Foster, Jenny Lee Stern and Marcus Stevens.

 In a statement, Gerard Alessandrini said: “Over the past three years, I sat through show after show, with no outlet at all. Finally, I couldn’t take it any more. Now I have 3 years worth of pent-up parodies, and am blessed with a season that has practically written itself. We were able to get our favorite Forbidden Broadway theatre again, but only for a limited chunk of time. But that should more than long enough to say everything we have to say, and then come back to New York again, from time to time. ”

This edition is created and written by Gerard Alessandrini, and directed by Mr. Alessandrini and Phillip George, with musical direction by David Caldwell.  Costumes are designed by Philip Heckman, with set design by Jesse Poleshuck, lighting design by Mark T. Simpson and wig design by Bobbie Cliffton Zlotnik.  The show is produced by John Freedson, Harriet Yellin and Paul Bartz, in association with Paul G. Rice, Carol Ostrow, Paxton Quigley, Robert Driemeyer, Jamie DeRoy, Lawrence Poster and Tweiss Productions.

FORBIDDEN BROADWAY has been an unstoppable force in theatre since 1982, when Gerard Alessandrini created the first edition that lampooned the Broadway shows and stars of the day.  It has been a favorite among theatre lovers, as well as the Broadway stars themselves (Carol Channing, Angela Lansbury, Patti Lupone, Stephen Sondheim, Raul Esparza, Tyne Daly, Christine Ebersole, Bernadette Peters, Whoopi Goldberg Cameron Mackintosh, and Hal Prince, to name a few) who often stop by to laugh at themselves alongside the public.  FORBIDDEN BROADWAY has won numerous awards in its history including a Special Tony® Award as well as Drama Critics’ Circle, Obie, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Drama League, and Lucille Lortel Awards.  A theatrical institution, FORBIDDEN BROADWAY has received national and international notoriety having performed in over 200 US cities as well as engagements in Tokyo, Singapore, Sydney and London’s Meniere Chocolate Factory.

GERARD ALESSANDRINI (Creator, Writer & Director) is best known for writing and directing all the editions of Forbidden Broadway and Forbidden Hollywood in New York, Los Angeles, and London and around the world. He was also a member of the original cast of Forbidden Broadway. Gerard is from Needham, Massachusetts and the Boston area, where he graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music. In 1982, he created Forbidden Broadway, which has spawned 18 editions, 8 cast albums and a record-breaking 30-year- run in New York. Television credits include writing comedy specials for Bob Hope and Angela Lansbury on NBC, Carol Burnett on CBS and “Masterpiece Tonight,” a satirical revue saluting “Masterpiece Theatre” on PBS. He can be heard on four of the eight FB cast albums and on the soundtracks of Disney’s Aladdin & Pocahontas. Directing credits include many corporate industrials and regional musicals, including a production of Maury Yeston’s musical In the Beginning. Gerard also co-directed a revival of Irving Berlin’s final musical Mr. President, which he updated & “politically corrected.” Gerard is the recipient of an Obie Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, two Lucille Lortel Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Drama League and three Drama Desk Awards for Best Lyrics for Forbidden Broadway. He received the 2006 Tony® Honor for Excellence in the Theatre. Most recently his Madame X: The Musical won acclaim and multiple awards at the 2011 NYMF Festival; his holiday extravaganza The Nutcracker and I, written with Peter Brash was a smash at the George Street Theatre, and he is currently collaborating with Paul Mazursky and Bill Conti on a musical version of Mr. Mazursky’s film Moon Over Parador.

PHILLIP GEORGE (Director) is a director and writer.  As director Off-Broadway: Shout!, The Road to Qatar (York Theatre Company), Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab, Forbidden Broadway SVU, Forbidden Hollywood, Whoop-Dee-Doo (Drama Desk Award, Best Musical Revue), Forbidden Broadway Twentieth Anniversary Edition, and many other editions of this infamous revue series.  Along the way, Forbidden Broadway was also honored with a special Tony for long time achievement.  He has also directed musicals in London, Los Angeles, Toronto, Boston, etc., with Forbidden Broadway transferring to the West End.   With his longstanding collaborator Peter Morris, Phill also wrote Frankly Scarlett, which played at the Kings Head Theatre in London.  In addition to his directing assignments, he is also one of the writers of High Hair and Jalapenos, which skewers all things Texas and is currently preparing for the fifth edition.   When not directing and writing, Phill is on the staff of the American Musical and Dramatics Academy where he passes on some of the wisdom he acquired along the way.

DAVID CALDWELL (Music Director) has been the music director of Forbidden Broadway since 2004. He composed music and lyrics for All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and Uh-Oh Here Comes Christmas, both based on the writing of Robert Fulghum. He also composed music for Fulghum’s novel Third Wish. He conducted the American premiere of Stephen Schwartz’s Children of Eden. He recently music-directed two shows in China, with Inner Mongolian authors and casts. He arranged and orchestrated Marvin Hamlisch’s new song “I’m Really Dancing” for Career Transitions for Dancers’ 25th Anniversary Gala, featuring Angela Lansbury, Chita Rivera and Bebe Neuwirth. His new show, Gotta Getta Girl, was featured in the NYMF Reading Series. He is interviewed at length in Oliver Sacks’ book about music and the brain, Musicophilia.

PHILIP HECKMAN  (Costume Designer) is an Emmy-nominated costume designer for daytime television’s As the World Turns. He recently completed the New York run of My Big Gay Italian Wedding. Other Off-Broadway credits include SHOUT! The Mod Musical, Go-Go Beach, We’re Still Hot!, Are You There God? It’s Me, Ann-Margret, Marry Me A Little, I Love My Wife, Enough About Me and The Very Worst of Varla Jean Merman (Garland Award). Television credits include commercials, promos and shorts for LOGO, MTV, and VH1. Philip has also worked on several Broadway productions as a costume design assistant including Born Yesterday, The Boy From Oz, Chicago, Cry Baby, Democracy, Flower Drum Song, Follies, Frost/Nixon, The Graduate, Kiss Me Kate, Mamma Mia, Sideshow and Spamalot. Philip received his MFA in costume design from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

The playing schedule for FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: ALIVE AND KICKING is as follows: Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7:30pm, with matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2pm.  Tickets are $29-$79. Premium Tickets are available at $110.Tickets can be purchased by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or by visiting www.telecharge.com

 

www.forbiddenbroadway.com

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Arje Shaw’s “MOOLAH” An Industry Reading May 7th 2012

On Monday, May 7th 2012, I was privileged to be invited to a reading of Arje Shaw’s newest play, Moolah starring Joe Pantoliano and Mario Cantone.

Directed by Charles Messina, (The Accidental Pervert), Moolah is fast moving, one word, Who’s On First type vaudvilian humor and it’s very enjoyable. Here’s what the invitation said about it:

MOOLAH tells the story of two con men who fall out of favor with the Mob.
Ant’ny is a dandy, sharp-talking shyster and small-time bookie.
His younger cousin Sonny, a gay hit man, runs a hair salon by day and moonlights as a contract killer by night. Sonny’s salon slogan: cut by day, clip by night.

This darkest of comedies reveals the fortunes and misfortunes of the two in a “Waiting for Godot” meets “The Sopranos” thriller which penetrates the core issues of love, money and sexuality.

These men are desperate.
Each one with a bounty on his head.
Each one conning the other only to discover they have only conned themselves.

I got a chance to chat with Messrs Pantoliano, Cantone and Shaw after the reading and they were wonderful to chat with as you will see below. Enjoy!

Oh, and if you’d like to become a Producer of Moolah and help see this marvelous piece go to Broadway by investing, please contact Mr. Shaw by email and tell him Elli at broadwaykingdom sent you!

Special thanks to Chinua Thomas for Videography.

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Boeing-Boeing at The Paper Mill Playhouse

“Boeing-Boeing”
Paper Mill Playhouse, Milburn, NJ – January 22, 2012 – 7:00 pm
by Elli – The King Of Broadway

Beth Leavel! Beth Leavel! Beth Leavel! If you need more reasons to go see  “Boeing-Boeing” at The Paper Mill Playhouse they would be John Scherer (as Robert), Matt Walton (as Bernard), Anne Horak (as Gretchen), Brynn O’Malley (as Gabriella), and Heather Parcells (as Gloria). Did I mention Tony® Award-winner Beth Leavel (as Bertha)?

James Brennan’s direction of this almost forgotten French farce will surely become the standard by which all future productions will be measured.

The original 1962 French version by Marc Camoletti played in France for 19 years. After being translated into English by Beverley Cross (Maggie Smith’s 2nd husband) it had an amazing run of 7 years on London’s West End; but when brought to Broadway in 1965 it ran for only 23 performances. It was however, made into a funny, if not forgotten, film starring Tony Curtis, Jerry Lewis with Thelma Ritter as Bertha the maid. In 1991,the play was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most performed French play throughout the world. “Boeing-Boeing” was revived in London in at the Comedy Theatre running from February 2007, through January 2008 at which time the London production was once again brought back to Broadway where it had a run of 279 performances.

Which brings us back to: Beth Leavel! Beth Leavel! Beth Leavel!

Beth Leavel in Boeing-Boeing at the Paper Mill Playhouse

Ms. Leavel’s brilliance in this role had me laughing so hard it brought me to tears. Typically Ms. Leavel is dressed to the nines in all of the roles I’ve seen her play, but here she is dressed down to become the schleppy, dowdy  and completely unglamorous maid, Bertha, playing the role as over the top as she can. (She confided in me that her “French” accent is based on the late Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau character). Ms. Level is loud and physical using every body part to convey her disapproval at her boss’s shenanigans, going as far as pratfalls and sloshing around on the floor to the delight of the audience.

Lest you think this review(er) is all about Beth Leavel (sigh), the entire cast shines bright as well.

Matt Walton plays Bernard, a suave and easy on the eyes playboy living the high life in Paris and juggling 3 stewardesses from 3 different airlines with 3 different schedules. Each one thinks that she is engaged to Bernard, until the 747 comes along to modernize the sky and complicate his life. When the ladies’ perfect schedules come undone, so does Bernard.

Lucky for him Robert, an old buddy from college (wonderfully played  by John Scherer as a nebish who comes through in a pinch), decides to look him up on his first trip to Paris. Being invited to stay there after Bernard brags about his  perfect arrangement , Robert is able to witness first hand how the system works and then helps to try and hold it all together when it all comes crashing down.

As the three Stewardesses/Fiancées, Gretchen (Anne Horak), Gabriella (Brynn O’Malley), and Gloria (Heather Parcells), bring their own brand of quirks and madness to the mix making this an outstanding evening of comedy and fun.

I strongly suggest you take a trip out to the Paper Mill Playhouse to see this wonderful production.

Matt Walton, Heather Parcells, Tony® Award-winner Beth Leavel, Anne Horak, Brynn O'Malley and John Scherer

Boeing-Boeing will be performed eight times a week, Wednesday through Sunday until February 12th. Tickets are on sale starting at $25 and may be purchased by calling 973-376-4343, or in person at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, NJ or online at www.papermill.org.

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Charles Busch’s “Olive & The Bitter Herbs” Opening Night Red Carpet

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Tomorrow Morning – Meets the Press

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