By William Wolf
MY MAÑANA COMES Send This Review to a Friend
A searing, ultimately upsetting superbly enacted four- person ensemble drama, “My Mañana Comes,” written by Elizabeth Irwin, offers something poignant to say about those who struggle behind the scenes in tough
restaurant jobs, especially if they are illegal immigrants.
The play, directed with compelling intensity by Chay Yew, introduces us to Jason Bowen as Peter, an African-American working hard to support his family, and three co-workers—José Joaquín Pérez as Jorge, Brian Quijada as Whalid and Reza Salazar as
The kitchen set by Wilson Chin establishes an atmosphere of realism, augmented by the men rushing in and out to serve patrons and working
after the meals to do assorted chores. The playwright gives them opportunities to take the spotlight and face the audience as they express their dreams about the lives they are trying to build, as for example, getting enough money to return to home to loved ones.
With the extraordinarily convincing performances, we get to know the men and their aspirations. But all is thrown into turmoil when management decides to cut their working hours and thereby reduce the
pay they need so badly.
Peter wants to lead a work stoppage and counts on the solidarity of the other three. When that doesn’t happen, he is consumed by anger and does something unforgivably terrible.
The play, although it has its share of humor, invites us to think about so many who toil in assorted jobs and
the daily struggles they endure, sometimes under perilous circumstances.
“My Mañana Comes” is an offering by The Playwrights Realm. At the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, 416 West 42nd Street. Reviewed September 18, 2014.
THE FATAL WEAKNESS Send This Review to a Friend
Reliable playwright George Kelly in his 1946 “The Fatal Weakness,” his last play on Broadway, examined with sophistication aspects of marriage and infidelity. It is now getting a suitably stylish revival by the Mint Theater Company. The casting rises to the occasion and Vicki R. Davis has designed a smartly constructed apartment setting in which the complications unravel.
Kristin Griffith is splendid as Mrs. Ollie Espenshade, a wife who has been in a long-time marriage with her financially successful husband Paul (Cliff Bemis). But their relationship has been devoid of spark and is taken for granted. A letter she receives shakes things up. It gossips that her husband has been having an affair.
Her exuberant friend, Mrs. Mabel Wentz (Cynthia Darlow), when consulted, all too eagerly is prepared to investigate by following Paul to see what he is up to with his osteopath. As played by Bemis, Paul is a smooth character who tries to cover up by talking in detail about his golf playing at his club when there is finally a showdown with his wife, who by then is aware of the evidence and has decided, after much deliberation, to confront him with his infidelity.
We also meet their daughter Penny (Victoria Mack), who is having problems with her husband Vernon (Sean Patrick Hopkins) in their increasingly distant relationship. Penny comes across as spoiled, sullen and complaining, someone from whom a husband could easily become estranged.
The characterization of Mrs. Espenshade is interestingly delineated. She has had a kind of romantic vision of marriage, faithfulness without the emotional interconnection that makes a good liaison, and this apparently is what has prompted Paul to seek fulfillment elsewhere. There is an excellent confrontation scene, but Kelly doesn’t leave it at that. Always attuned to the possibility of comedy, he jumps ahead to the point at which Paul is to become remarried.
His ex is determined to attend the wedding uninvited, ostensibly to demonstrate her new-found independence and sense of self-worth, but without admitting it to herself, also to pursue a measure of jealousy. Her friend Mabel mocks her plan. Kelly provides a good line to the effect that divorced people sometimes go to an ex’s funeral, but not to a wedding. The humor is ramped up by the showy outfit in which Ollie plans to make her appearance.
I don’t want to overlook the performance by Patricia Kilgarriff as the housekeeper. She has just the right tone, and some expressions that are in themselves comments about what she perceives around her.
Jesse Marchese has directed with the finesse one especially needs for a Kelly play. At the Mint Theater, 311 West 43rd Street. Reviewed September 16, 2014.
THE WAYSIDE MOTOR INN Send This Review to a Friend
Playwrights have used the same set as the locations for different characters in calling upon our imaginations. But in “The Wayside Motor Inn” A.R. Gurney goes whole hog. He deposits 10 different characters making their way in and out of one motel room as if we were looking into various rooms. It works.
The Signature Theatre revival of Gurney’s amusing and sometimes poignant investigation of different lives and encounters is presented with style, from scenic designer Andrew Lieberman’s typically ordinary motel on the outskirts of Boston in the late 1970s to Lila Neugebaur’s generally effective direction. An excellent cast provides smooth insights into the character assortment. At times the direction could use more intensity, but Neugebaur is obviously eager to keep matters realistically understated except for moments of obligatory flare-ups.
The folks who check into the motel include an elderly couple, Jessie and Frank, nicely played by Lizbeth MacKay and Jon DeVries, who show the wear and tear of a long marriage, with the husband having heart problems and being crotchety and the wife dissatisfied with where they live. They are there to visit their daughter and grandchildren, with whom Jessie would rather be staying.
In the opposite age bracket are two students, Sally and Phil, played by Ismenia Mendes and David McElwee. Phil is gung ho for sex to see how compatible they are in an audition for a further relationship. Sally resents the idea of such a tryout, but gradually we watch them easing into compatibility and into bed.
Hostility flares between father and son, as the overbearing dad Vince, superbly played by Marc Kudisch, has dragged his reluctant son Mark to meet someone with clout to help get the lad into Harvard, where he has no interest in going. Will Pullen as the beleaguered youth makes us feel for him, even to the point of concern as to whether he might become suicidal under the intense pressure he has apparently faced throughout his life.
We also get a couple seemingly in the throes of a nasty breakup—Ruth and Andy, portrayed by Rebecca Henderson and Kelly AuCoin. They quarrel fiercely with the most resentment pouring out of the wife, and yet beneath it all looms the possibility of reconciliation.
Quincy Dunn-Baker plays Ray, who is on a sales trip. Having marital problems, he is intrigued by the waitress who comes to deliver room service. Jenn Lyon as the strikingly attractive Sharon gives an especially entertaining performance. She delivers hilarious sermons about how unhealthy the food she serves is and pontificates on her conspiracy theories about the whole world being run by an evil a conglomerate. Ray is a bit of a jerk, ruining the possibility of building a relationship with the willing-to-date Sharon by his all-or-nothing determination to get her into bed that night.
There you have it—a potpourri of interesting people interacting in ways that grab and hold our attention and enable us to admire Gurney’s creativity and flair for smart dialogue and observations, all brought to life by an appealing cast. At the Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street. Phone: 212-244-7529. Reviewed September 15, 2014.
THIS IS OUR YOUTH Send This Review to a Friend
Even before the spirited Steppenwolf revival of Kenneth Lonergan’s 1996 play “This Is Our Youth” begins, a note of reality is telegraphed by Todd Rosenthal’s scenic design. Not only is there a very convincing look of a New York Upper West Side apartment, but in the background are three stories of an apartment building, complete with through-the-wall air conditioners and a few window units as well. It all connotes accuracy.
The excellent cast members--Kieran Culkin, Michael Cera and Tavi Gevinson—take over and bring convincing life to Lonergan’s troubled characters. Dennis Ziegler (Culkin) is relatively the most together, but is arrogant and mired in dealing drugs. His friend Warren Straub (Cera), is the most messed up, stealing money from his father, who has kicked him out of the house, spending some of the loot and then needing to sell drugs and his record collection to get it back. Ziegler belittles him as a loser. Timid Jessica Goldman (Gevinson) is unsure of herself and whether or not to have sex with Warren. They do after Warren convinces her to join him in a room and an expensive binge at the Plaza Hotel, which he can suddenly afford with his stolen cash. Things are not so rosy between them the next day.
The overall portrait is of young people struggling to find themselves as they mess up, indulge themselves and get into trouble both emotionally and in their relationships, such as they exist. I suspect the play will have its basic appeal to young audiences who can identify with the characters in some way or another, as well as to those who are familiar with the cast members from their varied other exposures.
Although I appreciate some of the smart bursts dialogue Lonergan provides here and there, these are not characters with whom I sympathize very much. I don’t find them especially interesting. Dennis is boring with his pontificating. Warren is more sympathetic, but not with his drug dealing, theft and blabbing to Dennis about his having had sex with Jessica. And she is more to be pitied than enjoyed as an interesting person. The actors become more interesting than the characters they portray.
That said, this production, directed with intensity by Anna D. Shapiro, does justice to what Lonergan has written, and provides a fresh chance to evaluate the work that was considered a coup for the playwright when firsts staged. At the Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th Street. Phone: 212-239-6200. Reviewed September 14, 2014.
KING LEAR Send This Review to a Friend
Accomplished actor John Lithgow is scaling the heights in performing
one of the theater’s greatest roles, that of “King Lear” in the Public
Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park production (July 22-August 17).
The good news is that he is both powerful and poignant and does
himself proud as Lear within the stunningly effective staging by
director Daniel Sullivan at the Delacorte Theater. Get thee to it if
at all possible.
In this interpretation Lithgow starts off with bluster when he rages
at his daughter Cordelia (Jessica Collins) for not verbalizing her
love for him, as his opportunistic daughters Goneril (Annette Bening)
and Regan (Jessica Hecht) crassly do. Stripping Cordelia of her
inheritance will come to haunt him.
The vigor of his performance at this point may seem a bit much for a
ruler who is beginning to lose it, but it is a starting point from
which Lithgow can make the descent into senility and powerless all the
more upsetting and sad. By the time he carries the body of Cordelia on
stage near the play’s end, he is a broken man, with visible anguish
that touches our hearts. That is the moment that sums up his
performance and leaves us with the appreciation for what this superb
actor has wrought.
(John Gielgud, when once asked what the secret of playing Lear was, he
is reported to have replied, “Get a light Cordelia.”)
It was a pleasure to see Bening on stage after enjoying her various
film performances. She effectively communicates the wickedness of this
sister. Hecht also succeeded in depicting the viciousness of Regan,
but I have to say that her voice, more New York-sounding than
Shakespearean, often annoyed me.
Among other cast members who excel include Clarke Peters as the Earl
of Gloucester, whose eyes are cruelly stamped out; Chukwudi Iwuji as
Gloucester’s son Edgar, later disguised as Poor Tom; Steven Boyer as
Lear’s Fool, and Jay O. Sanders as the Earl of Kent, later disguised
John Lee Beatty’s appropriate scenic design is grimly spare. The
lighting designed by Jeff Croiter is smartly used in the context of
the park location. One also has to commend the sound design, by Acme
Sound Partners, both for enhancing the drama and for the absolute
clarity with which the amplified dialogue can be heard throughout.
Whenever one sees “King Lear,” and that goes for other plays of the
Bard as well, it is delighgtful to encounter the extent of the wit
Shakespeare achieved in his dialogue as well as in his plotting. It is
essential that once again the Bard be especially applauded along with
those who successfully interpret his work. His being dead for all
these centuries is no excuse for leaving him out. At the Delacorte
Theater in Central Park, accessed from Central Park West at 81st
Street, and Fifth Avenue at 79th Street. Reviewed August 6, 2014.
PIECE OF MY HEART Send This Review to a Friend
The music is paramount in “Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story,” a Merged Work Productions presentation aiming to boost the reputation of pop-rock composer Bert Berns, whose songs are remembered better than the man who composed them. Berns died at the age of 38 in 1967 after growing up with heart problems. The new jukebox musical is a lively collection from his voluminous numbers held together by a story involving the daughter who never got to know her father, and wants to gain control of his music to preserve it, fighting her mother, who wants to sell the rights that would kill his legacy, mixed with a portrait of Berns. As often happens in all kinds of musicals, the book by Daniel Goldfarb has its awkward moments, but the music, for those with a taste for songs of the Berns variety, the good acting and the lively staging by director and choreographer Denis Jones overshadow such problems.
Many will recognize such numbers as “Twist and Shout,” “Cry to Me,” “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” “I’ll be a Liar” and others brought freshly to life. The story on which the m6usical trajectory is built, involves Berns’s 30-year-old daughter, Jessie (Leslie Kritzer), coming to New York against the wishes of her bitter mother, Ilene (Linda Hart), in response to an urgent appeal by her father’s old colleague Wazzel (Joseph Siravo), who knows about Ilene’s plans. The plot flips between that point and back in time to when Berns came into his prime, sometimes with the principals on stage watching what unfolds in the past.
The key to the musical’s impact is the all-around terrific singing. Zak Resnick as Berns is magnetic interpreting the composer’s songs and the passionate love for his work and desire to be remembered. Kritzer as Jessie is very appealing when she sings, and Teal Wicks as the beautiful young Ilene with whom Berns falls in love and marries after she gets pregnant also sings strongly. Hart as the older Ilene makes a torrid impression when she has her biggest moment in the spotlight. Other impressive singing is done by Derrick Baskin as Berns’s buddy and intended recording star who is shunted aside in the dog-eat-dog music business, and by de’Adre Aziza as a sexy woman with whom Berns has an early fling.
One element that bothered me some was the huge difference between depictions of the charm and love expressed by the attractive young Ilene toward Berns and the mean-spirited, bitchy dishonesty that the older widowed Ilene expressed toward her daughter. They hardly seemed like the same women.
An excellent job was done weaving the songs appropriately into the right plot turns. Also, compliments go to the versatile ensemble, to costume designer David C. Woolard and to the excellent orchestra doing justice to the score, with compelling arrangements by Garry Sherman.
Some of the others of the 26 songs performed include the title number “Piece of My Heart,” “Are You Lonely for Me Baby,” “Here Comes the Night,” “I’m Gonna Run Away from You,” and “Tell Him.” At the Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street. Phone: 212-279-4200. Reviewed July 14, 2014.
MAESTRO BERNSTEIN Send This Review to a Friend
There was a risky introduction that occurred before Hershey Felder plunged into “Maestro Bernstein,” the play he has written and has been performing about the legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. Film clips of the real Bernstein were projected as audience members took their seats and awaited the actual show at The Town Hall on July 17, 2014, the New York premiere of a work already presented in many cities and was now being done as part of The Town Hall’s summer season. But once Felder took the stage as Bernstein, his charm and expertise soon earned acceptance in the role even though the visual memory of the real man lingered.
In the show, directed by Joel Zwick, Felder as Bernstein recounted his life and career, interspersed with his playing music Bernstein composed or performed, spanning Broadway to the classics. Felder is an accomplished pianist in his own right, as well as an actor able to assume the role and involve an audience in the aspirations of Bernstein, fulfilled and unfulfilled.
There was great beauty in the performing of “Maria” from “West Side Story,” yet at the same time it represented a frustration, symbolizing Bernstein’s disappointment at perhaps being remembered more for that than for more complex composing and the overall composing career he would have preferred more than for his fame at conducting. Bernstein’s variety of talent spread him thin, as also reflected. His achievement in bringing more music to television, for example, can be seen in clips of his educating youngsters, another area that earned him respect.
Felder mined humor out of recounting Bernstein’s early lfie and his father’s initial skepticism about his desire for a career in music. Also there was amusement in Felder’s demonstration of Jewish sounding roots derived from classics.
Poignancy was achieved in recounting in personal terms Bernstein’s marriage, and then the upheaval resulting when he found love for a man and pursued that phase of his life.
The performance was extended beyond a few possible endings, but by the time the show was over, Felder had succeeded in reprising an important life in the world of music, punctuated with performance samplings of the very music that dominated that life. Felder has accomplished quite a feat in creating this show, and it is regrettable that this was a one-night only New York performance, which merits being done for a longer run here. At The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street. Reviewed July 20, 2014.
THE LONG SHRIFT Send This Review to a Friend
Playwright Robert Boswell, who is also a novelist, is concerned with a subject that resonates today as rape stories keep gathering headlines. The core of the plot in Boswell’s “The Long Shrift,” is a high school sexual encounter that resulted in Richard, whom we meet ten years later, serving five years in prison on a rape conviction. In the drama, a presentation by the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, his accuser, Beth, turns up to make amends, which Richard angrily rejects. In the course of the drama, the truth is not so clear, which makes the situation interesting.
The play commands added attention because it is directed by the very busy James Franco. His best achievement is the sparks elicited from an excellent cast. However, there are moments that sag and need more crispness, although he works up to sharp dramatic results in the major confrontation scenes.
Boswell keeps one’s interest, mainly due to the topic, but he packs in far too much and confronts us with some situations that seem very contrived. However, his characters hold attention for the rage that inhabits them as the efforts to deal with the past and move forward in the present are explored.
Before we meet Richard, we meet his parents, Henry and Sarah, effectively played by Brian Lally and Ally Sheedy. Sarah is very bitter and refuses to see her son in prison because she assumes his guilt. But Henry has faith in him. There are other reasons for bitterness. Sarah is furious that all the money spent on litigation has compelled them to sell their house and move into a dumpy place. (We later learn something that would have added to the bitterness.) Sheedy is excellent in spewing her discontent at Henry, and the playwright is on target here. He is less successful creating an awkward sequence in which Henry has an unsettling dream.
When we do meet Richard, Scott Haze in the role is a bundle of fierce anger. Richard’s life has been ruined, he suffered in prison and has been unable to get things together since his release. Haze does the character justice in his interpretation, and I thought during the play’s unfolding that it was the kind of role Franco also might have played.
Beth is also well acted by Ahna O’Reilly. Beth’s mission is partly to show how much she suffered and partly to make Richard recognize the truth of what occurred on the fateful night and afterward. Given what happened to him, he has no patience for her suffering.
There is a very contrived scene when a friend of Beth, a rather ditsy Macy, played accordingly by Allie Gallerani, convinces both Beth and Richard, to speak at a high school reunion. Before they go, Richard comes on to Macy by playing upon her sexual vulnerability and extracts a passionate kiss, which he duly reports on the stage at the reunion to nastily embarrass her. He also uses the platform to vent his anger at everybody in a long, mean-spirited rant that in real life, if the incident would have happened at all, would have most likely resulted in a speedy ejection.
All of this leads to the inevitable private confrontation between Richard and Beth, and here the play becomes most interesting. What really happened? The line between escalating passion to the point of sex is examined. Ultimately Beth apparently said “no.” But given her actions, Richard felt she really wanted him to continue. Beth wants him to recognize that the sex was really against her will. But she claims she would never had taken him to court had it not been for the pressure of a student boyfriend and her parents that drove her into it. Class played a role here too, with Beth belonging to an upper echelon. The issue of young people flirting, coming on to one another and sex occurring under cloudy circumstances constantly crops up, with difficulty of proving guilt or innocence. Such situations are not to be confused with instances in which a student who may drink too much supposedly gets gang-banged and the alleged rape is allegedly covered up by a university. Still, no is no.
While Boswell’s play is over-packed and sometimes strains credibility, the author is sincerely attempting to pose important issues, both intensely personal and of general concern, and explore the problems of coming to terms with actions and the results that tear lives apart. The situation between Richard and Beth is left in limbo, with an unlikely proposal that Beth makes. Even with such flaws “The Long Shrift” held my interest throughout, along with the respect generated for the fine performances. At the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place. Phone: 886-811-4111. Reviewed July 16, 2014.
BROADWAY'S RISING STARS 2014 Send This Review to a Friend
The 19-member company of the 2014 edition of “Broadway’s Rising Stars” took the stage and looked great as an ensemble singing “Show Stoppers” and “All I Need,” flashily demonstrating the longing for the big break that can lead the way to stardom. Individual performances that followed pointed to an avalanche of talent demonstrating how well-deserved such big breaks would be. The show last night (July 14, 2014) unfurled under the auspices of The Town Hall’s “Broadway by the Year” series, created, written and hosted by the ever-affable Scott Siegel, who gave performers introductions highlighting their backgrounds and routes to honing their talent at the various schools from which they were chosen. Songs selected were from the shows of John Kander and the late Fred Ebb.
All of the “Rising Stars” revealed know-how, bumped up under the savvy direction by Scott Coutler, with musical direction by John Fischer, choreography by Holly Cruz and assistant direction by Rick Hinkson. By now it is evident how much talent abounds in the competition for the limelight, and this performance underscored the perception.
The performers were given a colorful opportunity to interplay with guest star Bill Irwin in a number near the end. Irwin, with his well-known elasticity romped clown-like before the group and the appreciative audience, with individual performers getting into the act. Irwin’s very appearance had the effect of an endorsement of the talent filling the stage.
Getting down to the individual delights, I was especially moved, for example, by Keziah Niambi John-Paul, powerfully singing “But the World Goes ‘Round” from “New York, New York.” No need to talk about her potential. It is already there.
Samantha Owen did a delicate, moving rendition of Kander and Ebb’s “My Coloring Book.” Meredith Lesley was effective singing “Maybe This Time,” which Kander and Ebb wrote for Kaye Ballard. I enjoyed hearing Amy Wheeler singing “Isn’t This Better?” from “Funny Lady.” Tiffany Gray was another standout with “My Own Best Friend” from “Chicago.”
Among the men, Stephen Orr, with his very strong voice, was extremely impressive singing “Kiss of the Spider Woman” from the show of that name, and so was Michael Romeo Ruocco, singing the challenging “The Day After That,” also from “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” A few of the men demonstrated extra pizzazz. Alexander Parrish stormed the stage with his interpretation of “Ring Them Bells” from “Liza With a Z,” an amusing saga of finding true love in the apartment next door after prowling the world in search of it. John Edgar Moser had loads of fun with “Sara Lee,” and Noah J. Ricketts was especially entertaining with “City Lights” from “The Act.” I liked Jacob Carll's heartfelt “I Miss the Music” from “Curtains” and Matt Hill’s “She’s A Woman,” another from “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”
Singling out the above is only showing a portion of the every impressive collection of turns in this gratifying showcase, and not meant to shortchange the others. I would like to add my enthusiastic applause for all of the following: Emma Gannon-Salomon, performing “Sing Happy” from “Flora, the Red Menace;” Jon Hacker for “Mamie in the Afternoon” from “A Family Affair” (that one a collaboration of Kander and James Goldman); Daisy Carnelia with “Seeing Things” from “The Happy Time;” Matt Weinstein for “Sometimes a Day Goes By” from “Woman of the Year;” Trevor James, singing “Over the Wall (Marta)” from “Kiss of the Spider Woman;” Madeline Hamlet impressing with “A Quiet Thing” from “Flora, the Red Menace” and Erica Vlahinos signing “How Lucky Can You Get?” from “Funny Lady.” All deserve an ovation.
Plaudits to musical director Fischer’s skill at the piano, and musicians Tom Hubbard on bass, Dan Gross on drums and Jeremy Clayton on reeds, and of course, to Scott Siegel for his genius in developing the series and his appealing manner as host, and to the unlisted Barbara Siegel, Scott’s wife, whom he generously and lovingly credits at every show. At The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street. Reviewed July 15, 2014.
THE AMBASSADOR REVUE Send This Review to a Friend
An historic event occurred last night (June 27, 2014) at The Town Hall in New York as part of its Summer Season: Broadway Preludes. “The Ambassador Revue” by Cole Porter, which played the chic Café des Ambassadeurs in Paris in 1928 but had never been performed on an American stage, was revived using the discovered original arrangements and featuring a seasoned cast doing the singing and dancing interpretations.
Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks Orchestra, a 17-piece entourage that made a powerful impression on The Town Hall stage, provided the music. There was choreography by Randy Skinner, with Ken Bloom directing. It was definitely an evening to remember, and if there is any justice, the show should be revived for more than this one-night-only run.
With such a big orchestra, in the beginning it seemed that its power would overwhelm the singers, but soon a proper balance was achieved, at least for the most part. At one point the musicians played the gentle number titled “Rippling Stream,” for which no lyrics were found.
Some Porter songs went on to become familiar, but others were rare. Also, when “The Ambassador Revue” was performed in Paris, Frances Gershwin, sister of George Gershwin was in the cast, and her brother accompanied her at the piano on opening night. Accordingly, the audience last night heard a Gershwin medley, including “The Man I Love,” sung by one of the evening’s stars, Catherine Russell.
There were many highlights. Jason Graae, who has established himself as an excellent character singer with leading man chops as well, entertainingly performed “Pilot Me,” an amusing number about love in a plane for two, as well as a playful song called “Fish” and another, the romantic “Looking at You.”
Tony-nominated Broadway star Anita Gillette, exhibiting her customary flair and vibrant stage personality, was a big hit of the night, especially with her solo number “Alpine Rose,” in which she contributed a bit of entertaining yodeling to enhance her Swiss maiden aura. She also took part in the “Military Maids” number with Amy Burton and Russell, as well as in the amusing “Hans” with Graae.
Tom Wopat, another star of the evening, impressively sang “In a Moorish Garden,” in addition to other chores. Ted Louis Levy started things rolling with “Keep Moving,” and Burton followed as an amusingly limp Statue of Liberty singing “The Lost Liberty Blues,” a number with a socially-conscious thrust. Among other songs in the rich Porter trove were “Almiro” (sung by Russell); “You and Me” (Burton); “Looking at You” (Graae); “An Old-Fashioned Boy/An Old-Fashioned Girl” (Russell and Wopat) and “Fountain of Youth” (Graae and Company).
A major touch of elegance was created by striking looking, dancers Sara Brians and Mary Giattino-Styles, along with choreographer Randy Skinner, appearing at interludes to add visual, rhythmic spice to the show. Overall, the various performers injected enjoyable posturing with one another under Bloom’s direction, thus providing a free-wheeling tone that made much seem spontaneous whether or not it was. Since this was a one-night event there was not the opportunity to become ultra-smooth, as when elements can be worked out in a longer run.
One moment I especially enjoyed was when Bria Skonberg, who had a prime solo trumpet number as a member of the orchestra, descended to the stage and sang “Nuit et Jours,” a French translation of “Night and Day,” adding a bit of the continental to the Paris revue.
The original orchestrations by Freddy Buck were discovered at the Fred Waring archive at Penn State. Thus there was no need for Vince Giordano to do new orchestrations in the spirit of the revue. Giordano and the Nighthawks excelled in providing the sparkle of the originals, with the mix of violins, trumpets, trombones, clarinets, saxes, flute, piccolo, piano, guitar, banjo and drums, with Giordano himself on string bass, tuba and bass sax. At The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street. Phone: 800-982-2787. Reviewed June 28, 2014.
(Coming Up: "Broadway’s Rising Stars," July 14, and “Maestro Bernstein, a Play With Music," starring Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein, July 17.)