Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Book by Alfred Uhry
Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Directed by Sean Murray
Old Town Theater
It has been over 5 years since I have seen a show here in San Diego and when I saw that the Cygnet Theater Company was to present Parade, I nearly lost my shiz. I love the story, the music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown holds one with breathless anticipation to what will happen next.
I would have loved to have seen this with Rhett as this is his favorite show, but I was joined by my other favorite Jew, Jack Aaronson as a Piano Player, composer and musical theater freak I knew I was in good company.
Parade tells the story of the trail of Leo Frank a New York Jew who was accused, put on trail and eventually hanged for the murder of 13 year old Mary Phagan on Confederate Memorial Day in 1913. What made this trial so infamous and sensational was that all the evidence against Leo Frank was circumstantial at best or just out right lies. Yankee educated and set up as the superintendent of a pencil factory in Atlanta Georgia Leo Frank was the last to see Mary Phagan, who came to pick up her pay envelope. When her dead body was found in the basement of the factory, Leo Frank and his African American night watchman Jim Conley came under suspicion, but through Jim Conley's lies, innuendo and manipulation of the suspicions white southerns he was able to steer the investigation to Leo Frank and off himself. Leo Frank was subsequently convicted of the murder and sentenced to hang. Shortly before the execution of Mr. Frank, Georgia Governor John Slaton commuted the sentence and reopened the case. After an extensive investigation Gov. Slaton was convinced that Leo Frank was falsely accused, and had him remanded to an undisclosed prison to await his final appeal, but on the night of June 21, 1915 a group of men abducted and lynched Leo Frank. This group of men comprised up of a former Gov. of Georgia, most of the Cobb County Sheriffs depart, and other prominent members of the community. The rampant Antisemitism surrounding this case was stirred up by fear, ignorance and yellow journalism, and nearly one hundred years later the Frank fascinates, confounds, and disturbs those who hear of the story.
With music written in his Iconic 6/4 timing, Jason Robert Brown takes us through a wide range of emotions, as he tries to impart the frustration and heartbreak of a miscarriage of justice and the tragic loss of a young life.
Sean Murray has done a passable job of directing this very emotional show, although were a few moments in which the cast seemed to be lost and not know what they should be doing, these moments few and the rest of the production was well staged.
Brandon Joel Maier who plays Leo Frank gives an interesting performance, his nebish, high strung performance and strong voice and well handling of the difficult score, made for a compelling evening.
Sandy Campbell as Lucille Frank, left me wanting more, her execution of the dialogue was fair and she was able convey the helplessness and love Mrs. Frank had for her husband during this difficult time. Unfortunately Ms. Campell does not have the vocal strength to pull off some of the songs that require the depth of emotion needed to effectively get the audience engaged.
Some notable performances include Jacob Caltrider as Frankie Epps, this young actor has the strong voice and was fully engaged in his character and his stunning rendition of the song "It don't make sense" had me in goosebumps, I look forward to seeing him in future productions. Bryan Barbarin floored me with his silky smooth voice, and his interpretation of the character Jim Conley, the night watchman who was also accused of killing Mary Phagan, but with lies he was able to avoid prosecution, his solo "That's What he Said " was well performed and made you really hate the character. Rounding out the cast were some San Diego Theater Icons, Steve Gunderson, Rick D. Meads, and Tom Stephenson, I have always enjoyed watching these men perform they lend credence and experience to any production.
A nod goes out to Chris Rynne for an excellent lighting design, Rosalee Barrientos's stage management made this production seem effortless as it transitioned from scene to scene.
So on a scale of Top, Bottom, or Versatile I have to give Parade a Versatile Bottom, with a little fine tuning of some scenes and recast of Lucille Frank this show could hold it's own with the best of any Broadway show.
After a very long intermission The Buzz on the Boards Top to Bottom, will resume it's theater reviews.
To fill you in on what's been going on, both Rhett and myself have left NYC, Rhett is Key West and I have moved back to my hometown of San Diego. Though we are on separate coasts we are still going to see shows in our respective cities and review them, some of these reviews will have guest contributors and some will not. I am excited to start seeing San Diego theater again and The Old Globe and La Jolla play have some provocative productions lined up and this should create some interesting reviews. I am also curious about some new theater groups on the scene and I look forward to the Cygnet Theater and the Intrepid Shakespeare Company's line up this year.
I will miss the pre theater drinks and rushing to make the curtain with Rhett, but I am hoping to get to San Diego for a visit and I planning at least one or two trips to NYC this summer.
But in the meantime,
let's bring the house lights to half, silence your cell phone, unwrap your hard candy, queue the orchestra and let's begin.
The Broadway Bitches
Carlos and Rhett
Monday, December 20, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
So it is the review that most of you have been curious about, to our 5's of fans I hope you enjoy what we have to say.
Spider-man: Turn off the Dark
Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
I guess I should begin with that my review will most likely be very short I am going to hand a majority of this review over to Rhett. He basically says everything thing that I wanted to say, and then some, and my review are mostly observations on the experience itself.
I was laying bed last Monday night, when I received a phone call from Rhett, which is a shocker, the man never rarely calls you on the phone with him it’s mostly a text thing. First thing I say to him when I answer is “Who’s dead?” “No one, want to go and see Spider-Man on Wednesday?” “Hell yes!” I respond. This was his Hanukkah/ Christmas present to me, who could ask for a better gift than that of a Broadway Show.
I am excited as I finish up work and make my way down to the newly renovated Foxwoods Theater. I have to say they did a bang up job on the refurbishments; it is a beautiful show piece for 42nd street. As I approached the theater I could already see a mob forming around the corner and with two haphazard lines forming and people jostling to get in, I felt like I was at the 5th race at Aqueduct. As we push our way in and saddle up to the bar for an $18.00 drink (thank you Rhett). We take our seats and I immediately notice a 6 year old in a Spider-man pajamas, in front of us, and I behind me a 7 year old with his mother. Now I am all for introducing children to the Theater, but for show’s like Mary Poppins, Elf, Imagin-Ocean (see prior review) but not Spider-man. As the lights dimmed and the overture began, the curtain goes up and behind me I still here this child talking with his mother and not in hushed tones. I turn around and shush the lady and she’s tells me in a very loud tone “That was rude, you’re an asshole!” I said to her “nice language to use in front of your child” I turn around and proceed to try and enjoy this first night of Hanukkah, and time with my friend.
Ok, (deep breath in) Spider-man: Turn off the dark, wow what an Epic fail, I was all excited for this show and was hoping for the best, even though a little of me wanted it to bad. I was not disappointed, with Music and Lyrics by Bono and the Edge you would think, great a cool rock style musical along the lines of The Who’s Tommy, or American Idiot, and with Julie Taymor writing the book and dircting this show you would think what a cool visual treat it will be. WRONG!!!!! Visual it was but that alone couldn’t carry the show.
I have seen my fair share of Broadway, off Broadway, regional, and Summer Stock Theater, some good, some bad, and some WTF, I left in tears at the travesty that was The Tale of Two Cities: the Musical. I give everything I see a fair chance to win we over and I am all for a vague and confusing plot i.e. Elmer Gantry the musical at the La Jolla Playhouse 1991, Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real, and most recently A Catered Affair, but at least these shows had some sort of story arc, and in the case of the music and lyrics, Bono and the Edge really should have seen a few more musicals or at least read some more scores to get a better idea of what works and doesn’t. The music isn’t bad, and the lyrics of the songs work to an extent, but not in the context of this story they are trying tell. I walked out not humming a song from this show but singing Populism yeah yeah from Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson. I am thinking that American Psycho: The Musical would be much better than this, at least Duncan Sheik already has a Broadway Musical under his belt. I really think that this would have worked better as a concept album, sort of like The Who’s Quadrophenia, or Elton John’s Aida. But with almost two different storylines between the first and second act I found myself asking what’s going on. I hope Ms. Taymor’s take on Shakespeare’s the Tempest is a much better project than this. I feel that this whole thing was way too rushed to hit Broadway, and realy should have taken more time to iron out the glitches, but I also understand they are in previews and this is the time to work out issues. The one thing I have to touch on is that prior to the curtain going up the Co-Producer comes out on stage and thanks us for showing up and said that since they didn’t have a theater to have an out of town try out in, for us to bear with them as they work things out, but that was a cop-out, this show could have used a Vegas Venue or Universal Studios Venue, that has the space and the technical crew to handle a show of this magnitude
The technical aspects of the show were cool to say the least, the flying over the audience, and the LED screens were amazing, but it just seemed so thrown together without any continuity. I have to give major props to the Ensemble of this show given with what they are working with and without; they pulled it together and delivered a show. Albeit a bad one and that is not their fault. As you will read Rhett gets into the nuts and bots of the show, and I say this go and see and judge for yourself. It’s a spectacle, and it’s something you can always take with you and be able to say I saw a 65 million dollar flop.
On a scale of Top, Bottom, or Versatile. I give this show an Arrogant Bottom, one who thinks he’s the hottest thing on Manhunt but is a dud in bed.
See you on the Boards
Take it away Rhett!!!!!!!!!!!!
Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark
Wednesday, Dec.1st, 2010
Here it is kids!...the review you've all been waiting for! Spider-man the Musical has arrived on the Great White Way, and your Broadway Bitches Rhett and Carlos were first on the scene to get you the dirt on the most expensive show in Broadway History! (And boy is there some Dirt to Dish!...lol)
So Carlos and I thought we were being smart in arriving at the newly named Foxwoods Theater an hour early to pick up our tickets, and avoid the rush. WRONG!...at 7:05pm, half a block from the theater, I saw a huge Motley Crew of Gamers and Sci-Fi Geeks in their Spider-man garb flooding the streets waiting to get in.
Finally grabbing our tix, we each grabbed an $18 COCKTAIL! from the bar (good thing I snuck in a flask to replenish mine!...lol), and we took our seats.
Just to be clear, the show has just started its previews, we saw the 2nd performance EVER, and it's not officially opening until January 11th.
At 8:04pm, one of the producers, Michael Cohl, took the stage. "We're only 4 minutes late tonight! You guys are definitely the best audience we've had so far!"
By now most of you have heard the horror stories about the 1st preview performance: The show started a half an hour late, it stopped dead 5 times for technical problems, including one 20 minute pause that was perforated by a woman in the audience screaming, "I feel like a Guinea Pig!...It's like a dress rehearsal!", and numerous other glitches.
Surprisingly most of those glitches were fixed by the 2nd performance, only stopping once for 5 minutes at 8:55pm to retrieve one of the aerialists who plays Spider-man, when he flew across the stage but didn't quite make it to his landing pad in the wings.
That being said, there were still a lot of problems: at least a half a dozen times stagehands in jeans and sweatshirts ran onstage in the middle of a scene, or even in the middle of a Ballad!, to unhook a wire, or manually close a trap door onstage. When Spiderman, played by Broadway newcomer Reeve Carney, with nice rock vocals and a certain amount of charm, but NO real theater/acting ability, and such bad enunciation we wondered exactly HOW MANY marbles were in his mouth!?, rescued Mary Jane for the 1st time she couldn't get herself unhooked from him and delivered 5 or 6 lines of dialogue into his neck while she tried to break free. Just before the Act 1 finale, Spidey defeats his nemesis, The Green Goblin, by pushing him off the top of the Chrysler building and crushing him with a piano. But Patrick Page, who plays the Goblin, A.K.A Dr. Norman Osborne, lay on the stage awaiting his impending doom, looking up at where a piano was SUPPOSED to fall, but after 15-20 seconds, a small piece of the piano jutted out from the catwalk over the stage and never fell. The Goblin eventually just "pretended" to get crushed as a tether attached to his back dragged him upstage into the darkness!
While these significant issues were annoying, they weren't the real problem. The biggest problem here is the show itself!: Music that doesn't fit the story, Lyrics that are unintelligible and don't propel any character development, and a Book that's barely existent, and what does exist is juvenile, uninspired, and confusing!.
The show starts with the curtain opening on a giant bridge, a damsel in distress dangling in midair, and our hero, in his familiar Spidey suit, running in SlowMo to save her, every person in the audience is immediately captivated by the promise of a beautiful and thrilling love story about to be retold in a new, spectacular, and epic way.
A Greek Chorus of nerds, known as 'The Geek Chorus', tells the tale of our mild-mannered boy turned superhero by referring back to the worlds 1st Spider-man, Spider-Woman, actually. Arachne is the well known character from Greek mythology, who was a better weaving artisan than the Goddess Athena, and was punished by being turned into a spider: forever weaving her beautiful tapestries, but cursed with 8 legs, and forced to live in darkness. In an odd twist Arachne now lives in solitary immortality, appearing in the present, in Queens, NY no less, to torment Spidey's dreams, and ultimately challenges him as his greatest Nemesis.
There is no rhyme or reason to this or to a lot of other very important and confusing plot points in the show. What the hell is Dr. Osborne working on, and why does a Dr. from Queens have a southern drawl, and why does he hate Spidey so much? No reason is ever given. Why does Mary Jane ever fall for Peter Parker? I Don’t Know!? And most importantly, we are shown that when Peter throws away his Spidey suit, he loses his powers, but wasn't he 'injected' with those powers by a radioactive mutant spider? And if he "throws away" his powers, how does he then defeat the 'Sinister Six' villains that join the, supposedly dead, Green Goblin to attack him?!
Ugh!...so many questions, and confusing twists, that aren't even interesting, they just seem to exist to lend reason to another fight sequence; or they are used as an excuse to bring out 6 GIANT floor to ceiling LED video screens, which broadcast thrilling footage of our Villains in action, but they clash in juxtaposition to the rest of the 2 dimensional black and white sketched 'comic book' inspired set.
I also want it to be known that this is NOT a show for young children! The signs in the theater and on the website clearly say "suitable for children 8 years and up". Even that may be a stretch but there's NO reason why Carlos and I should have been surrounded by 4 and 5 year olds crying, whimpering, and constantly asking, "Who dat? Wha happened?" Although I did ask those same questions a few times myself! Carlos almost bitch-slapped 1 obnoxious mother, whose toddler was kicking and talking. "Seriously!?" he asked the mom. "Shut up Asshole!" was what she considered a suitable response in front of her young child...Ugh. I weep for the future!
My Pet Peeves? Scene 2: early evening in Queens and Peter is walking home from another day of being bullied at school. Ok. But why devote ANY of the 65million dollars to a little, insignificant 2x2 foot wide rotating treadmill, just so we can see Peter actually walking in place!? WTF!? And then, a small ridiculous Lionel Train set pops up to resemble the NYC subway, but on this elaborate stage, it just sticks out as a silly toy!
Oh, and speaking of 'silly toy's: in the last scene of Act 1, Spider-man shoots a web up to a skyscraper to escape, and we are taunted with a tiny action figure Spidey on a string slowly rising up to a cardboard building!? Does anyone remember the Act 1 finale of Titanic the Musical?...yeah, it was just as cheesy as that little toy boat sinking!
I digress, and remind you all that THIS ISN'T EVEN THE REAL PROBLEM!!! IT'S JUST A BAD SHOW!
Probably the most upsetting thing is the amount of talent squandered on this stage.
The character of Mary Jane, played so brilliantly, but to no avail, by 'Next to Normal' Tony Nominee Jennifer Damiano, is never given much to work with. Her big 11 O'clock number "If The World Should End" is actually a really beautiful musical theater love ballad, and Damiano, of course, knocks it out of the park. BUT, it doesn't fit into a show full of songs that have no theatrical depth, character development, or even coherent lyrics! To pour salt on the wound, immediately after Damiano's "moment" we are relegated to Reeve Carney's big number "The Boy Falls from the Sky", with no time to absorb or appreciate the emotion that Damiano just worked so hard to convey!
A bigger problem (if you can believe there is one!) is with Patrick Page as the Green Goblin. Page is a seasoned and talented performer, and it is to his credit that he could make ANYTHING out of this ridiculous, underdeveloped "villain", I use that word generously. Are we supposed to be scared of the Goblin? Given some background scoring, lighting, costume and a mask, you would be give that impression. But it's hard to be frightened of a man who plays vaudeville patter songs on a piano singing "I'll Take Manhattan" (Paige's solo turn) acting like Liberace, and running on in his Britney Spears-meets-Miley Cyrus laughable UNNECESSARY southern twang!
I LOVED the stunt/flying sequences, and believe me; when Spider-man, the Green Goblin and Arachne soar over the crowd a mere inches from your heads at Breakneck speed, it truly is the kind of EXHILIRATING theater magic that only Director Julie Taymor can deliver! However, a Broadway Musical can not rest on those laurels alone. Without any interesting characters, a driven story, or any worthwhile songs to speak of, this piece would be a better fit as a Cirque show in Vegas, or even a Spectacular stunt show at a Universal Studios Theme Park.
Alan Cummings and Evan Rachel Wood were originally slated to star (as Goblin, and MJ), but reportedly dropped out last spring due to "scheduling conflicts". Hell, I would have scheduled a year of root canal surgeries just to avoid the critical backlash these poor actors most assuredly have coming to them!
I have to make it clear that no fault can be placed on the backs of these performers, or the rest of the brilliant HARD working cast of actors, singers, dancers, musicians, and aerial stunt men. They are doing their jobs to the best of their ability and that definitely shows. I wish my fellow employed actors a full paid contracted run, and hopefully enough press and opportunity to "cut their teeth" from this show that they can easily transfer to another gig that will utilize their gifts and talents better. Unfortunately, I can not, in good conscience, bestow the same good wishes on the Theatrical Assault that is, "Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark".
At an operating cost of 1 million dollars per week, Spiderman would need to sell out EVERY performance for over TWO AND A HALF YEARS just to break even! For the sake of Broadway credibility and theatergoers everywhere, I hope the show is not around that long.
This is just One Rotten Egg that needed to incubate for a few more months before being hatched!
On a scale of Top, Bottom, or Versatile, I give "Spider-man: Turn off The Dark" (now known as "The Forbidden Show"!...lol) a Sloppy Pig Bottom! You know, the kind of messy bottom that's too tweaked out to realize that 'The party's over, and it's time to pack up your harness and GO!'...lol.
See you on the Boards!
Friday, December 3, 2010
Good Luck to you all.
Stonewall Sensation Week 10
Staff and Such
Host- Brandon Cutrell: Cabaret Host and Hoosier at Large.
Tickling the Ivories-Kat Shurelle: Lobby Pianist Virtuoso, Blogger (www.ayearofstandards.blogspot.com) and all around cool hip cat.
DJ- CT: Handsome Clove Smoking guy giving the contestants their voices.
Bartenders- Mike and Lawrence. ( I must give a shout out to these guys, these two are some of New York City's finest. Even with at times 6, 7 people deep at the bar, they maintain a friendly approachable countenance, even when there are assholes at the bar these two know how to keep everyone happy and drunk.)
Miss Fire Island 1776: Ariel Sinclair
Comic and Firebrand: Poppi Kramer
T.O.N.Y.Theater Critic and Nudnik: Adam Feldman
Note: I missed the first round of the show due to the fact that I along with Rhett were stuck at the Foxwoods Theater trying to turn off the dark with Spiderman, that review to follow shortly.
Week 10 Contestants:
1. (1) New Song
2. (1) Song already performed
3. (1) Judges choice Song
Round 1: New Song
1. Sara Straw: Beautiful Disaster; Kelly Clarkson
2. Jeff Jones: No Air; Jordan Sparks
3. Sarah Cummings: Beautiful; Christina Aguilera
4. Creighton Fraker: Alone; Heart
Round 2: Song Performed Already in the Competition
1. Sara Straw: Someday; The Wedding Singer the Musical- This was a great redemption song for Sara, she originally sang the song during a bought with a sever chest cold. The judges felt that she should have picked a different song that could have shown off her talent. I enjoyed the song it's a sweet number and she added a little of her own bit of sugar to it.
2. Jeff Jones: Aquarius/ The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In); Hair- If you can sing this song well and have even an ounce of energy, you can get the audience going. Jeff Jones has the energy and the vocal power to pull this song off and get the crowd on their feet dancing singing and if it were allowed spark a DOOBY. Jeff has consistently been great this whole season, even with unfamiliar songs or genres. I have been a fan of his throughout the competition.
3. Sarah Cummings: Like a Prayer; Madonna- Sarah once again delivers a another solid performance.
4. Creighton Fraker: Wagon Wheel; Old Crow Medicine Show- O.K. so by now you have read my ranting and ribbing on this kid, and I have been verbally knocked around by Rhett saying that I don't know shit, and Creighton is amazing. In my own defense I have to say that I don't dislike him personally it's just the whole Johnny one tone aspect to his voice that bugs me. This song in particular had the makings of annoying the hell out of me, but I have to say I REALLY enjoyed his performance it was rocking and rolling, he added a cute guitar playing dude (with his own beer holster) to jazz up the piece. What I really liked about it was that he worked the arrangement around a bit, the original song a bit of a slower pace to it but Creighton sped it up a bit for an easily bored crowed at Stonewall. All of the Judges enjoyed his performance and two of the judges suggested to Creighton to not be afraid to leave his head voice and go into his chest voice. Great Performance Man!!!!!!
Round 3: Judges Pick
1. Sara Straw: Firework, Katy Perry; Picked by Poppi Kramer- I could tell that Sara was not very comfortable with this song and she struggled through it. The one thing I have to say about Miss. Straw is that she is not a professional singer. Poppi said it best that Sara is not a professional this is not her chosen career, but she likes to sing, she can sing, and decided WTF I am going to do this contest, and here is Sara down to the final four. Congrats Girl!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
2. Jeff Jones: Waterfalls, TLC; Picked by Adam Feldman- Yet again Jeff brought the crowd to their feet with this great version of a classic song. Getting into the grove and feeling the music Jeff channeled his inner Ghetto Girl, patted his weave and Brought IT. What was great was that it seemed like he would skip the "Rap" solo by Left Eye, but…he…didn't….. winding up for the big moment Jeff reaches up to his face and just below his left eye smears some black make-up under his left eye and goes into the best Left Eye rap I have ever heard a white boy do(which is not a lot). The audience lost their SHIT!!!!!!! Yesssss Queeen!!!!! Great job Jeff you really are a great showman I hope I have the pleasure of seeing you perform again the future.
3. Sarah Cummings: Superstar, The Carpenters; Picked by Ariel Sinclair- Miss Cummings, has a quality about her voice that makes her very easy to listen to and one of the top performers in this compititon. I hope that she will continue her pursuit of singing after this competion, take a few more voice lessons to help her fine tune her skills and I know we will see great things from her.
4. Creighton Fraker: A case of you, Joni Mitchell; Picked by Brandon Cutrell- This has always been one of those songs that I have liked from the first time I heard it but forget about it until I hear it somewhere random. The simple sweetness of the song with that underlying bitter sweet heart break and yearning just reaches in into your soul and rummages around. I was very impressed with Creighton for pulling this song off. There were a few high and freaky hard notes to pull off and one could go just horrible with it, but Creighton really held his own. This folksy type hippy chick music is perfect for his vocal register. Good Job Man.
The judges did an amazing job at picking songs for our contestants, each one gave I think some of their best performances to date. I am excited to see who will win this contest.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Bells Are Ringing
Friday November 19th at 8pm
So there were no "pre-show" cocktails to be had this week! :-(
I was invited by our friend David (who recently won 2 Emmys for his editing at NBC!...mazel tov Meshpucha!), to be in the VIP section of the pre-taping for the Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center-With Live Performances by Mariah Carey, and Annie Lennox!...unfortunately, Miss Preggers Mariah was 2 1/2 hours late, and I was NOT about to miss "Bells Are Ringing" with my bestie Carlos! (sorry Mrs. Nick Cannon...next time!)
You know the expression "things can change in a New York Minute"? It is the idea that in NYC things move and change so fast that you can hardly recognize them anymore.
This can definitely be a said about City Center Encores, in past years the "Encores" series was known as a quickly rehearsed "concert version" or "staged reading" of long forgotten musicals, this is not the case anymore. While the cast can still be seen carrying black binders, which we can only assume contain their script though I barely ever saw a cast member read from it, every other aspect of "Bells Are Ringing" just screams "fully fleshed out Broadway Revival!"
With amazing staging and choreography, by the now inimitable Kathleen Marshall-of 'The Producers' fame, and an all star cast including; Tony Nominee Kellie O’Hara, Will Chase of 'High Fidelity' sad face emoticon, Dylan Baker, Judy Kaye, Bobby Canavale, David Pittu, Brad Oscar, and the adorably identifiable voice of David Hyde Pierce, the much loved (and in my opinion UN-forgettable) 'Bells Are Ringing' gets new life.
O' Hara is perfection in the comic tour-de-force role of Ella, originated by Judy Holliday-not to be confused with Jennifer Holiday-'and I'm telling you!, with the comic timing and "Lucille Ball"-esque physicality this young diva exudes she gives us all hope for the future of Broadway! Chase, whose smooth, and peppy vocals, and his Sinatra-meets Mad Men- dapper sexy style, is a great match for O' Hara. When the two team up to perform “Better than a dream” with its haunting yet uplifting harmonies they create an exhilarating duet, a duet cut from the 1960 film. Add to this duo, a fabulously funny cast of quirky kooks, like Pittu as Sandor, the bookie turned Austrian music aficionado (massacring the German language-"Lybe-shin!"), Oscar as a dentist who composes songs on the air hose, & Cannavale as a second rate Brando impersonator (but hella sexy!), and this slapstick, mistaken identity, love story becomes a fairy tale.
The subject matter is a bit dated, for example Ella works at "Susanswerphone", a phone answering service--before the days of cell phones, or even answering machines. There are some songs that could have been re-orchestrated, or even cut, Mu Cha Cha!...ugh for lack of a better example, but for the most part this show remains timeless.
Both Carlos and I agreed that this show is definitely on the fast track to a Broadway revival/transfer.
On a scale of top, bottom, or versatile, I give Bells Are Ringing a "Submissive Top"...give it a little direction and motivation, and ride that party train all the way home!
See you on the Boards!
Bells Are Ringing
Friday, November 19, 2010
So humming "Just in Time" my industrious little co-writer Rhett bounded up 55th street, as usual with only minutes to spare before curtain. Rhett had a busy evening he had been attending a pre-taping of the Christmas Tree lighting at Rock Center with performances by Annie Lenox and Mariah Carey, thanks for the Invite David you little pisher (just kidding, congrats on your Emmy's) Needless to say there were no pre-theater cocktails which was not sitting well with me, but oh well one gets by.
So we made our way into the theater, I have to admit I was surprised by how cheap our tickets were, they were $20 dollars each, and I soon found out why they were so cheap. I found this out when I entered the first balcony and the lady took a breath in and asked "Honey you want the stairs or the elevator?" I opted for the stairs.
I went to appropriate stairwell and the young lady said “that will be 5 flights up”.
"Excuse me?" I replied,
"5 Flights up baby" She replied
So I began my trek up, about half way I made base camp, I had wondered why there were sherpa's for hire next to the bar in the lobby, and it was then I realized I should have hired one. So at dawn with a fresh oxygen tank I made it to the summit, and realized I still had one more flight to go to get to my seat, d'oh! After taking my place on the aisle and trying not to look down the almost sheer vertical drop towards the stage, I noticed an out of breath and laughing Rhett shaking his and saying to me "this is what $20 tickets gets you." So we settled in, but not comfortably into our seats and we scoped out our move to better seats after the first act. What! You know you have done the intermission seat switch!
So curtain up, light the lights, and cue the orchestra.
Bells Are Ringing, Lyrics and Book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green with music by Jule Styne. Takes place in late 1950's New York City and tells of the story of Ella Peterson, who works at "Susanwerphone" a telephone answering service, this good hearted busy body plays, matchmaker, guidance counselor, and all around helpful Hannah to the lovelorn, jobless, and friendless. Pining away for a voice on the other end of the phone Ella dreams of Mr. Plaza 0-4433, this tale spins out of control as mistaken identities, an investigation by the feds and a clandestine book making enterprise threatens to send them all up the river.
With such catchy tunes like "Just in Time", "The Party's Over" and "Long Before I knew You", these songs have since become a part of the American Standards songbook. Comden and Green transport us to a much simpler time where there were no cell phones, voice mail, or facebook, and phone numbers had names instead of numbers. With their wit and banter the characters come to life regardless of what decade this show is performed. I find some of the reviews of this show a bit condescending to New York audiences by suggesting it is to outdated and that most of the audience would not understand the references. I beg to differ, granted the audience I was in was of a generation or two older than myself but the story is still universal boy and girl meet fall in love, miscommunication they looses each other for a short bit but all is reconciled in the end. I like to give audiences the benefit of the doubt and to be honest, how many times can we see Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or any other specifically time stamped production?
Tony nominee Kellie O' Hara is joined by Mad Men handsome Will Chase, along side Judy Kaye, Jack Doyle, David Pittu, and the handsome Bobby Cannavale, to bring us a show that had all the trappings of a "Stage Reading" but delivered a ready for Broadway Production. The sweet vocal styling of Ms. O'Hara and her ability to effortlessly command the stage as a slap sticky Red-Head, then turn on a dime to become that vulnerable person who is looking to love and be loved is a talent that not many current actresses on Broadway can pull off. I have not had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Chase in other productions other than this one, but I was very impressed by his voice and from as high up as we were I think he looked handsome, maybe I should Google his picture and see what he looks like. I had waited in anticipation for the second act to hear one of my favorite songs, "Just in Time" and I wasn't disappointed by it, but there was one duet that I had not anticipated. "Better than a Dream" was so hauntingly beautiful and so well sung and the arraignment of the music and lyrics, shows that they don't write songs like this anymore. What is interesting is that this song was added about two weeks into the initial 1956 run, but was cut from the 1960 movie. Why they would cut this song is beyond me, maybe Dean Martin and Judy Holiday couldn’t pull it off? Who knows?
What makes a show great? Is a complex question a lot of factors are involved, book, music, lyrics, lead cast, ensemble, back stage help etc. No show can really be good without the workings of the other parts, and this show has something magical going for it, it has it all and for me the main stand out besides the lead characters is the supporting cast, I can't say enough about the ensemble of this show, this was a really tight group and their voices blended so well and really took on the sound of the music. Broadway shows of the 1950's have a unique sound to them and it is hard to replicate that, so I must give my hats off to Mr. Rob Berman for pulling everyone together as Music Director. I must say thank you to City Center for continuing the Encores program, because without it we would loose the heritage of our theater past.
Rhett and I agree that this should be fast tracked to a run on Broadway, it is a Hell of a lot better than that piece of crap Bye Bye Birdie that dared to pass itself off as a revival.
So on a scale of Top, Bottom or Versatile I give this show a "Versatile Top" the kind of show that you can take home to mom, but in the bedroom watch out.
See ya on the Boards