I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change *****

By: Iris Wiener

The new, updated version of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, needs to do anything but change. The off-Broadway hit musical, which ran from 1996 through 2008 for a remarkable 5,003 performances, has been revamped to reflect the current marriage of technology and dating, as well as the many ways in which social media and apps subsume love and family. In a rare feat, Tony Award winner Joe DiPietro’s book and lyrics and Jimmy Roberts’ music is as fresh, affecting and delightfully funny as it was when it debuted 21 years ago.

By: Iris Wiener

The new, updated version of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, needs to do anything but change. The off-Broadway hit musical, which ran from 1996 through 2008 for a remarkable 5,003 performances, has been revamped to reflect the current marriage of technology and dating, as well as the many ways in which social media and apps subsume love and family. In a rare feat, Tony Award winner Joe DiPietro’s book and lyrics and Jimmy Roberts’ music is as fresh, affecting and delightfully funny as it was when it debuted 21 years ago.

Mitchell Jarvis, Lindsay Nicole Chambers, George Merrick, Karen Burthwright

From “Googling” someone before meeting them for a date, to weathering parents’ opinions about love lives (or lack thereof), I Love You includes something relatable for everyone. The universality of the themes is engaging and unitive, while the uplifting, playful music marks it as especially creative and memorable. A series of vignettes covering everything from crushes, dating, marriage, babies and bereavement, I Love You is a director’s dream: a canvas filled with four actors awaiting exceptional vision. George Street Playhouse’s Artistic Director David Saint is nothing short of brilliant in the way he orchestrates Charlie Williams’ choreography, quick costume changes, and transformative nature of each scene. Coupled with Jim Youmans’ innovative projections and scenic design, the show is appealing both thematically and aesthetically.

Some might consider the show safe within its stereotypical pathos, but its execution and ability to connect with its audience make it truly special. The actors slide fluidly from movie theatres to restaurants to shopping malls, transforming as seamlessly as the sets. Every performance is extraordinary; look for George Merrick’s (Clever Little Lies) hysterical lament over his frustration over being dragged to the latest chick flick, and his heart-tugging diatribe with Lindsay Nicole Chambers as they play an elderly pair who make a connection at a funeral. “I Can Live with That” is an 11 o’clock number that won’t soon be forgotten. Chambers (Lysistrata Jones) is exceptional in her fast-paced Act II opener “Always a Bridesmaid,” in which she reviews the contents of her closet, bewailing, “All those husbands are gone, but those dresses live on.” Get ready for the waterworks when Mitchell Jarvis (Rock of Ages) breaks into “The Baby Song,” contemplating the change in his and his husband’s persona after they become fathers. (Though it should be noted that the images behind him in this scene are a bit cringe worthy- teddy bears geared up for S&M? Not necessary.) Karen Burthwright’s (Jesus Christ Superstar) divorcee in a scene titled “The First Dating Video of Rose Ritz” is a perfect exhibit of Joe DiPietro’s talent for enmeshing humor (the dating site is called “EndoftheRoad.com) with poignancy.

It is possible that those scenes that have not been updated still pack the most powerful punches, and that is not to the show’s detriment. Mentions of Trump, Twitter and Tinder allow for a more contemporary feel, especially when coupled with a number about men sending dick pics as a viable way to impress women. However, the heart of I Love You lies in its timeless sentiment, such as Jarvis’ “Shouldn’t I Be Less in Love with You?” an aside as a middle-aged husband considers his wife and their standard lives. There is no question as to why I Love You has withstood the test of time, and with a fresh coat of paint at George Street Playhouse’s new, intimate home, it is clear that the endearing musical is here to stay.

The George Street Playhouse’s interim venue while its regular location is being transformed into a new performing arts center is 103 College Farm Road. Visit www.GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org for more information.

Follow Iris Wiener on Twitter @Iris_Wiener or visit her at www.IrisWiener.comPhotography: T. Charles Erickson

Karen Burthwright, Mitchell Jarvic

Big Apple Circus

Big Apple Circus Schedules Performances for Children with Special Needs and Autism in November

By: Ellis Nassour

The Big Apple Circus, beloved by thousands since its 1977debut, returns to Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park October 27 – January 7. Also returning are their community outreach programs, Circus of the Senses and a performance for children with autism.

Big Apple Circus Schedules Performances for Children with Special Needs and Autism in November

By: Ellis Nassour

The Big Apple Circus, beloved by thousands since its 1977 debut, returns to Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park October 27 – January 7. Also returning are their community outreach programs, Circus of the Senses and a performance for children with autism.

Circus of the Senses has its beginning in 2007 when theater executive Anne Tramon arranged for Broadway theatres to invite blind students for audio-descriptive performances. It was such a success that the Big Apple Circus asked her to expand the program for special family shows.

Big Apple Circus will host two Circus of the Senses for those blind, deaf, with vision impairment and cognitive challenges: 75-minute school matinees November 2 and 3 at 11 A.M. [all seats priced at $10]. On November at 7 P.M. there will be a full family show.

These feature an exciting, multi-dimensional performing arts experience, integrating theater, dance, and live music with the circus arts. There will be ASL-interpreted performances for children with visual, auditory, and sensory impairments and hands-on experiences with Big Apple artists, and Jenny Videl’s rescues dogs and horses. In addition, there’s pre- and post-show touch therapy experiences, Braille programs, and large print books.

Tramon’s company G Pass provides wireless infared assistive listening devices with live audio narration by ASL interpreters.

On Saturday, November 18 at 11 A.M. there’ll be a performance for children with autism, which will feature live audio description and sensory adaptations for ASD patrons and their families that include modifications to sound and lighting, and a professionally-staffed calming area. Fox TV news anchor Ernie Anastos will be welcoming the audience as guest ringmaster.

For more information, individual tickets and group pricing and pricing for November 18, contact Lisa Lewis at llewis@BigAppleCircus.com.

As part of the Big Apple Circus outreach initiative, there will be 11 Circus for All initiative performances throughout the ten-week run. Every seat in the house will be offered to underprivileged children and underserved schools for $10 tickets.

The Treasurer ****

By: Isa Goldberg

Currently, at Playwrights Horizons, The Treasurer, takes us into the lives of a hellish mother son relationship. One which the son, at least, wishes were over.

By: Isa Goldberg

Currently, at Playwrights Horizons, The Treasurer, takes us into the lives of a hellish mother son relationship. One which the son, at least, wishes were over.

A story told primarily through cell phone conversations, Max Posner’s new play implores us to consider the use of the phone as dramatic device. In fact, these cells are so dramatic as to be unstoppable, a tried and true means to eradicating human connection. But that is just a detail, here.

While standing right next to each other, the siblings argue, over the phone, about their aging mother’s care. As portrayed by Deanna Dunagan, Ida Armstrong is an utterly narcissistic personality. Dunagan, who won the Tony Award for her role as an addicted, violently disruptive mother in August: Osage County, delivers a seamless performance here. One feels as though she disappears into the role.

Having left her children at a young age to marry a newspaper editor and local politician, Ida believes she is an icon of social prestige. And she spends money as if she were.

But it’s her decent into dementia, which Dunagan captures with incredible truthfulness, that brings the family situation to a head. And the person to whom they appoint the responsibility of Treasurer, is the one who already feels guilty at his inability to love his mother.

This character, who we know only as The Son, does not suffer these indignities with ease. Even though Peter Friedman plays the role in a very understated way, we know he’s virtually hemorrhaging with disquietude and anger. Much of this he vents while riding his bike, in bouts of pained inner monologue, directed to the audience, of course. Some of it is also quite humorous.

It is a weird and surprising production, imaginatively directed by David Cromer. The mirrors crack, the walls become increasingly unfinished (sets by Laura Jellinek), and the characters become more strange and estranged as the action continues.

Posner brings a mix of mysticism and quirky realism in the telling of a familiar family crisis that makes for a captivating evening of theater.

The Treasurer ****
Playwrights Horizons
Peter Jay Sharp Theater
416 West 42 Street
September 6, 2017 – November 5, 2017
Photo: Joan Marcus

Peter Friedman, Marinda Anderson
Deanna Dunagan, Pun Bandhu

Cabaret Convention

3rd night of the Mabel Mercer Foundation’s Cabaret Convention at Rose Hall celebrated the ‘The Golden Age of Cabaret’ hosted by author James Gavin and dedicated to the memory of the late Barbara Carroll.

By: Linda Amiel Burns

In 2006 James Gavin wrote the book “Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of NY Cabaret,” a loving tribute to what has been called a “fragile and endangered” art form. On October 18, 2017, James hosted the 3rd evening of the Cabaret Convention, celebrating the history of cabaret and paying tribute to the great performers and clubs of the past.

3rd night of the Mabel Mercer Foundation’s Cabaret Convention at Rose Hall celebrated the ‘The Golden Age of Cabaret’ hosted by author James Gavin and dedicated to the memory of the late Barbara Carroll.

By: Linda Amiel Burns

In 2006 James Gavin wrote the book “Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of NY Cabaret,” a loving tribute to what has been called a “fragile and endangered” art form. On October 18, 2017, James hosted the 3rd evening of the Cabaret Convention, celebrating the history of cabaret and paying tribute to the great performers and clubs of the past. For those of us who were around then, it was good to hear about The Grand Finale, Freddy’s, Danny’s Skylight Room, Ted Hook’s Back Stage (and On Stage) and so many more.  The Trio for the evening was: John Martino on keyboards, Jon Burr on bass and Dave Silliman on drums.

Cabaret veterans Ricky Ritzel and Spider Saloff opened with “This Joint Is Jumpin” and Spider performed Cole Porter’s “Tale of the Oyster” as a tribute to Julie Wilson, the late beloved legend of the cabaret world. Maude Maggart’s voice has the sound of the great singers of the past, and her “Why Was I Born” evoked the renowned Helen Morgan. She also sang a Mabel Mercer classic “Once in a Blue Moon.” Representing the cherished pianist/singers  of the past was the terrific Ronny Whyte who talked about the one and only Bobby Short and sang “Hooray For Love/Sand In My Shoes/ Slummin’ On Park Avenue” in his honor. He also sang a song I never heard before, “New York Coloring Book” from a revue with the same title presented by the late Jan Wallman that he starred in.

Barbara Brussel evoked the spirit of Felicia Sanders with a beautiful medley of “This Nearly Was Mine/Once Upon a Time” and a haunting “Strangers Once Again” that was sung at Danny’s Skylight Room. Charles Cochran has been working as a pianist/singer in NYC nightclubs since 1957 and it was a joy to hear him play “Miss Johnson Phoned Again Today” sung originally by Jerri Southern, and then Dave Frischberg’s “Do You Miss New York.” James talked about Lena Horne’s start in cabaret and introduced Natalie Douglas (with Mark Hartman on piano) to sing “I Love to Love” and an unforgettable rendition of “Stormy Weather.”

Molly Pope performed Fran Landesman’s “Ballad of the Sad Young Men” introduced in cabaret and later became a gay anthem. She sang a moving rendition of June Christy’s 1953 hit “Something Cool.”  Donald Smith, the founder of the Mabel Mercer Foundation, never allowed “drag queens” or “female impersonators” in the any of the conventions, so it was refreshing to hear Charles Busch talk about those who became famous in cabaret such as Charles Pierce, Jim Bailey and many others. Charles (with Tom Judson on piano) has been performing lately as himself, but the “women” that he has portrayed and payed tribute to have been sensational.  He sang a rousing “Those Were The Days” and the audience couldn’t help but join in at the end.  A real change of pace was the comedy of Bruce Villanch who has written material for the Tonys, Grammys and Emmys as well as the for many stars, entering with the line, “I am Amy Shumer.”  He recalled the early days at Reno Sweeney’s in the Village where many stars got their start. Ethel Merman told him that they named the club for her….. as that was the name of her character in Anything Goes.

Nellie McKay, Tracy Stark

The versatile singer/pianist/composer Nellie McKay started in small clubs and has had a big career ever since.  She sang two of her own compositions “The Dog Song” and “Listen Here.”  Knowing that James Gavin likes “edgy” performers, I was not surprise to see Carol Lipnik (with Matt Kanelos on piano) on the bill. She may not be everyone’s cup of tea but The NY Times called her an “ethereal vocal phenomenon.” She performed a dramatic “Lifeline” echoing herself, and an unusual version of “Moon River.” Laura Kenyon starred in the 1983 Broadway show Nine and sang “Pretty, Pretty.” Chairs and tables were placed on the stage to create a cabaret setting for the second act, and the charming French singer Lilianne Montevecchi (who just turned 85) was brought on stage and sat down. Laura sang “Paris You’re My Big Affair” to her as Lilianne sang some of the song with her.

Carol Lipnik
Lillian Montevecci

In my opinion, the star of the night was Sidney Myer known as “the most beloved man in cabaret.” Sidney has been booking Don’t Tell Mama for many years and performing occasionally. However,  for the first time in nearly three decades he performed his solo act at the Beechman to great acclaim. He opened with Murray Grand’s hysterical “I’d Rather Cha Cha Than Eat” and sang it to perfection, continually moving to the Latin Beat as Tracy Stark accompanied him at the piano. Then as a tribute to Blossom Dearie, he ordered us, in the nicest possible way, to “Peel Me a Grape.” No other singer but Sidney gets all the brilliant rhymes and meanings out of that song.  As all the performers sat on the stage, each one got up to sing a shortened version of a song from the past.  Jame’s final thoughts was that cabaret will continue to thrive as people will always have the need to express their individuality and perform live. One of the icons of cabaret was the late John Wallowitch and I was privileged to call him my friend, even spoke at his funeral. One of his most enduring and heartfelt songs was “This Moment” and to close the evening, Sidney Myer quietly sang this powerful song without any adornments. He simply stood center stage, and let the song do its job expressing what life is all about, about time passing and appreciating what we have. The last line is “I can only guarantee this moment” and as Sidney finished the song, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place!

Sidney Myer

The history of NY cabaret is long and varied, but the evening provided us with memories of the past, a history that helps us understand and embrace the future of live entertainment.

Photography: MaryAnn Lopinto

Molly Pope
Spider Saloff, Natalie Douglas, Laura Kenyon

 

Time and the Conways ***1/2 – Measure for Measure**1/2 – A Clockwork Orange **

By: David Sheward

Experiments with time, space, and staging can illuminate or obscure a playwright’s intent. Three current productions on and Off-Broadway juggle with traditional concepts with varying results.

By: David Sheward

Experiments with time, space, and staging can illuminate or obscure a playwright’s intent. Three current productions on and Off-Broadway juggle with traditional concepts with varying results. The most conventional of the three is Roundabout Theater Company’s revival of J.B. Priestley’s Time and the Conways. This is the first time the time-tripping British family drama has been seen on Broadway since 1938. Priestley had written several plays exploring in heavily ironic terms how seemingly unimportant acts can have devastating effects. Stephen Daldry’s surrealistic interpretation of Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, wherein an upper-middle-class family is indicted for lack of social responsibility by a mysterious policeman, proved a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1990s.

Rebecca Taichman’s production of Conways for Roundabout Theater Company is far less way-out than Daldry’s nightmarish vision and the impact is not as devastating, yet it still produces a sting of recognition and sadness. The story is relatively simple: a contented bourgeois clan in an English provincial town looks forward to a bright future as World War I ends and daughter Kay celebrates her 21st birthday. The twist comes in the second act as we jump forward almost 20 years to 1937. Not surprisingly each of the six Conway offspring and their flightly mother are leading miserable lives. For the third act, we double back to Kay’s party in 1919. All their rosy predictions ring hollow since we know the dismal outcome. Kay and her sanguine elder brother Alan may have a chance at happiness since both have a glimmering of the second-act vision.

Taichman’s direction is tight and measured, though she does allow some of the cast to limn their upper-crust cluelessness a bit too broadly. There is an arresting coup de theatre between the two eras as Neil Patel’s golden-hued living room (brightly lit by Christopher Akerlind) recedes into the back of the theater to be replaced by a melancholy, blue version descending from the flies. The 1919 version of the set can be glimpsed through the windows creating a visual equivalent of Priestley’s vision of the past and the present overlapping each other.

As the matriarch, Elizabeth McGovern gets top billing and the only solo curtain call because of her Downton Abbey fame. She delivers a creditable portrait of the impulsive, child-like Mrs. Conway. But the bulwark of this production is Charlotte Parry’s conflicted Kay, the only sibling aware of the crushing demands adulthood can bring. She intensely charts Kay’s struggle to comprehend the vagaries of life and her final moments of attempting to reconcile youthful optimism with mature reality are heartbreaking. There are also moving moments from Gabriel Ebert’s compassionate but weak Alan, Steven Boyer’s blustery son-in-law, Brooke Bloom’s disappointed radical daughter, and Anna Baryshnikov’s life-affirming, yet doomed Carol, the youngest. Though the ironic storyline is predictable, particularly in the third act, this is Time well spent.

Elevator Repair Service takes a more radical approach in its breakneck rendering of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. ERS has previously tackled such literary giants as Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner in imaginative realizations of these authors’ classic works. In this bizarre production at the Public, they take on the Bard for the first time armed with projections of the text and a caffeinated pace. Director John Collins imposes a meta sensibility, throwing out conventional staging. He assumes we know the plot of the publicly moral and privately corrupt Angelo forcing himself on the virginal Isabella in return for her brother Claudio’s life. (With the recent revelation about Harvey Weinstein, these forced seduction scenes are particularly relevant.)

With the words of the script rapidly scrolling on Jim Findlay’s utilitarian set, the cast races through the dialogue striking exaggerated stereotypical poses and posturing in mock “Shakespearean” style. Some speak with stagey British accents like Monty Python characters on amphetamines. The idea may be to comment on overused methods of Elizabethan stagings and there is a sort of fascinating slickness to the approach, but it negates the wit and the still-relevant sharp commentary on government hypocrisy. Yet just as Collins’ quirky concept wears thin, the speed-freak patter slows down during the jailhouse scene between Isabella and Claudio (a stunningly real Rinne Groff and Greig Sargeant). She has to tell her brother he must die because she’s refusing Angelo’s vile offer. Speaking deliberately and slowly on old-fashioned French telephones, they connect on such an honest level it’s as if they’re in a different production. The contrast with the self-conscious previous scenes increases the emotional resonance and temporarily brings a stunning authenticity to this Measure, but the rest is a showy, if interesting gimmick.

The message is also lost amidst flashy direction in the stage version of Anthony Burgess’s groundbreaking dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange, now at the multiplex theater New World Stages in a transfer from London’s West End. Alexandra Spencer-Jones’ highly-stylized staging employs sleekly choreographed mayhem and fisticuffs to Emma Wilk’s ear-splitting soundscape incorporating classical musical and ’90s pop tunes. The all-male ensemble displays impressive pecs and abs as they go through their perfectly timed gut punches and kicks to the groin. Jono Davies, who also serves as fight captain, exudes a raw, nasty charisma as Alex, the rancid-soulled teen transformed via a government experiment into a law-abider, ending up as out of place as the title oxymoron. It’s entertaining and flashy, yet Burgess’ themes of free will versus social safety are lost amid the biceps and jetes. It’s an attempt at combining a Chippendales revue with 1984, but only the former emerges strongly.

Time and the Conways: *** 1/2
Oct. 10—Nov. 26. Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St., NYC. Tue 8pm, Wed 2pm & 8pm, Thu—Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 3pm. Running time: two hours and 30 mins. including intermission. $39—$149. (212) 719-1300. www.roundabouttheatre.org.
Photos: Jeremy Daniel

Anna Baryshnikov, Charlotte Parry, Anna Camp “Time and the Conways”

Measure for Measure **1/2
Oct. 10—Nov. 12. The Public Theater/Elevator Repair Service at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., NYC. Tue—Fri 7pm, Sat 1pm & 7pm, Sun 1 pm. Running time: two hours and 10 mins. with no intermission. $45-$165. (212) 967-7555. www.publictheater.org.
Photos: Richard Termine

Scott Shepherd, Maggie Hoffman “Measure For Measure”
Pete Simpson,  Rinne Groff”Measure For Measure”

A Clockwork Orange **
Sept. 25—Jan. 6, 2018. New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St., NYC. Mon, Wed—Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 3pm & 7:30pm. Running time: one hour and 30 mins. with no intermission. $59-$99. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com.
Photos: Caitlin McNaney

Sean Patrick Higgins, Matt Doyle, Misha Osherovich and Jonno Davies “A Clockwork Orange”
“A Clockwork Orange”
Cast “A Clockwork Orange”

 

Mary Jane ****

By: Isa Goldberg

Playwright, Amy Herzog traffics in the simple realities of human experience — the dailyness that both masks and reveals an inner drama. And while the style of her realism is highly detailed and finely textured, her works sustain a contemporary sensibility.

By: Isa Goldberg

Playwright, Amy Herzog traffics in the simple realities of human experience — the dailyness that both masks and reveals an inner drama. And while the style of her realism is highly detailed and finely textured, her works sustain a contemporary sensibility.

In, 4000 Miles, she garnered a 2011 Pulitzer nomination. That story about the relationship between a young man and his grandmother reveals the existential throes of a young man’s coming of age.

Yet, the feeling of lovelessness and longing that characterizes his journey is told with such simplicity that it appears almost banal. Were it not for the relationship with his grandmother, through whom he discovers his emotional awakening, it truly would be just that, and nothing more.

In a similar fashion, her new play, Mary Jane, at New York Theater Workshop, follows the titular character, a single mother, played by Carrie Coon. Coon, whose roles on television’s The Leftovers and Fargo have brought critical acclaim, delivers a stellar, albeit subtle performance.

When we first meet her, Coon’s Mary Jane is chatting with her landlady (Brenda Wehle) who is fixing the clog in the kitchen sink. Obviously, Mary Jane is so hungry for the companionship that the conversation, even though it’s about cancer, has a charming, light hearted air.

Meanwhile, the whir and buzz of the monitoring equipment in the living room where she lives and sleeps, alerts us to the fact that her 3-year-old son, Alex, is still breathing. Born after just 25 weeks of gestation, the child whom we never meet, but whom we experience in many unspoken ways, raises nitty gritty issues about life. Incapable of speaking, suffering from cerebral palsy, he requires around the clock care.

Everything here revolves around the child’s illness. The mother’s aspirations are put on hold; she loses her job; and her husband walks out on them because it’s too hard to handle. And she, apparently, takes all of it with an easy going, forgiving air.

Indeed, Coon brings an uncanny sense of reality to the role. Even her sense of humor prevails. Clearly, it takes a lot to break her, but when she cracks, we recognize the world weary gaze, the underlying angst, as well as the frailty of life.

As directed by Anne Kauffman, Herzog’s play surprises us with just that sort of emotional depth. Mary Jane’s ability to love a terminally ill child; her selflessness; her need to be a caregiver — these are all quintessential traits of being a woman. And none of them are diminished here. None of them are too big or too small, and all of them demand her uncompromising presence.

In addition to Coon, Brenda Wehle, portrays the landlady at the beginning, and the hospital chaplain toward the end. While they are two completely different characters, Wehle mines the soulfulness in each of them.

Similarly, Danaya Esperanza, as the nurse’s adult daughter is skeptical of the breezy, nonchalant way Mary Jane accepts the alarming sounds of monitors that signal an emergency. While later, in the hospital, as Alex’s music therapist, she is empathic about the crushing weight of the mother’s predicament.

The others, Susan Pourfar and Liza Colon-Zayas, also deliver nuanced performances. Lara Jellinek’s set unfolds from apartment life to hospital, where normalcy is shattered.

A beautiful production of a well crafted work!

Mary Jane ****
New York Theatre Workshop
79 East 4th Street
212 460-5475
Through October 29, 2017
Photos: Joan Marcus

Liza Colon-Zayas, Carrie Coon

Desperate Measures ****1/2

By: Paulanne Simmons

There’s no shortage of Shakespearean plays that have been turned into musicals. George Abbott, Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers’ The Boys from Syracuse is based on The Comedy of Errors. Cole Porter and the Speweck’s Kiss Me Kate is the trio’s version of The Taming of the Shrew. Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story is a 20th century musical interpretation of Romeo and Juliet.

By: Paulanne Simmons

There’s no shortage of Shakespearean plays that have been turned into musicals. George Abbott, Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers’ The Boys from Syracuse is based on The Comedy of Errors. Cole Porter and the Speweck’s Kiss Me Kate is the trio’s version of The Taming of the Shrew. Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story is a 20th century musical interpretation of Romeo and Juliet.

Now, Peter Kellogg (book and lyrics) and David Friedman (music) have done the same with another Shakespearean comedy. The show, making its premiere at York Theatre, is called Desperate Measures and it’s about a young cowboy named Johnny Blood (Conor Ryan) who is sentenced to hang for killing a man in a bar fight. 

Sherif Martin Green calls upon Johnny’s sister, Susanna (Emma Degerstedt), who is just about to take her final vows at a convent, to beg the lascivious Nazi-like Governor von Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber (Nick Wyman) for his life. After one look at the comely Susanna (also known as Sister Mary Jo), the governor agrees he will spare Johnny, but only if Susanna will spend the night with him.

If all this sounds familiar, it should. Set the musical in Vienna and Desperate Measures is Measure for Measure, with a few changes. For instance, Mistress Overdone, who runs a local brothel in Measure for Measure, is now Johnny’s girlfriend, Bella Rose (Lauren Molina), who performs in a local bar, and it is she who executes the “bed trick,” substituting for Susanna at the crucial moment.

Desperate Measures is directed and choreographed by Bill Castellino with great zest. The musical makes a sly nod not only to the Bard but also to such musical westerns as Oklahoma! and Annie Get Your Gun. At the same time, it is richly sentimental with songs like Susanna’s “What Is this Feeling?” celebrating her growing love for the sheriff.

The show also has lots of rowdy singing and dancing, mostly left up to Molina and Ryan. And more than a bit of broad comedy thanks to the game Wyman.

If you want one side-splitting, foot stomping, hand-clapping good time, get on your horse and ride over to The York.

Desperate Measures runs through Oct. 29 at York Theatre Company, 619 Lexington Ave., http://www.yorktheatre.org.
Photos: Carol Rosegg

Peter Saide, Emma Degerstedt, Conor Ryan
Peter Saide, Emma Degerstedt, Conor Ryan, Gary Marachek

 

Hamptons International Film Festival 2017

Hamptons International Film Festival honored Julie Andrews and Patrick Stewart.

By: Patrick Christiano

October 9, 2017:  The Hamptons International Film Festival, now in its 25th season, was a smashing success over a four-day period from October 5-9 in East Hampton and Sag Harbor, where a diverse range of over 115 films from countries all over the world were screened. Provocative discussions with well-respected film artists, Rob Riener, Patrick Stewart, and Annette Bening, were amongst the festivals highlights, along with the awards.

Hamptons International Film Festival honored Julie Andrews and Patrick Stewart.

By: Patrick Christiano

October 9, 2017:  The Hamptons International Film Festival, now in its 25th season, was a smashing success over a four-day period from October 5-9 in East Hampton and Sag Harbor, where a diverse range of over 115 films from countries all over the world were screened. Provocative discussions with well-respected film artists, Rob Riener, Patrick Stewart, and Annette Bening, were amongst the festivals highlights, along with the awards.

Rob Riener, Artistic Director HIFF David Nugent
Alec Baldwin, Annette Bening, Bob Balaban, Artistic Director HIFF David Nugent
Rob Riener

The World Premiere of Alison Chernick’s documentary ITZHAK, an examination of the life and music of Itzhak Perlman, considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest living violinists, opened the festival.  I TONYA directed by Craig Gillespie and starring Margot Robbie, closed the festival. I TONYA is an outrageous and surprising look at the players behind the scenes of the attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan leading up to the 1994 Winter Olympics. The revelations that followed the event turned Tonya Harding into one of the most iconic villains in sports history.

In between the opening film on Thursday evening and the closing film on Monday night, the festival presented a non-stop choice of terrific films, events with film makers and parties.


Alec Baldwin, the Festival Board Co-Chair, presented Julie Andrews with a lifetime achievement award and sat down with the icon for an insightful chat afterwards on the stage of Guild Hall in East Hampton. In addition, Patrick Stewart was presented with Variety’s Creative Impact in Acting Award, and Dick Cavett was honored with the inaugural “The Dick Cavett Artistic Champion Award.”

For 25 years now, the Festival has been bringing the best in cinema from all over the world to the East end of Long Island. David Nugent, HIFF Artistic Director, said “This year’s lineup offered audiences new cinematic worlds through thought-provoking, entertaining, stories.” And Alec Baldwin said, “We wanted to pull out all the stops for the 25th Anniversary.”

Partnering with Variety for the sixth time and the New York Film Critics Circle for the ninth year the festival presented the 2017 awards at a ceremony.

Photography: Barry Gordin

Filmakers  Party with HIFF Executive Director Anne Chaisson

2017 HIFF WINNERS:

 The HIFF Award Winner for Best Narrative Feature

UNDER THE TREE, directed by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson

HIFF Award Winner for Best Documentary Feature sponsored by ID Films

LOTS OF KIDS, A MONKEY AND A CASTLE, directed by Gustavo Salmerón

The HIFF Award Winner for Best Narrative Short Film

DEKALB ELEMENTARY, directed by Reed Van Dyk

The HIFF Award Winner for Best Documentary Short Film sponsored by ID Films

EDITH+EDDIE, directed by Laura Checkoway

Honorable Mention for Best Documentary Short Film sponsored by ID Films

COMMODITY CITY, directed by Jessica Kingdon

Tangerine Entertainment Juice Fund Award

NOVITIATE, directed by Maggie Betts

Suffolk County Film Commission Next Exposure Grant

WANDERLAND, directed by Josh Klausner

The 2017 Brizzolara Family Foundation Award for a Film of Conflict and Resolution
HONDROS, directed by Greg Campbell

The Zelda Penzel “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” Award: Dedicated to Those Who Suffer in Silence

THE LAST PIG, directed by Allison Argo

Victor Rabinowitz and Joanne Grant Award for Social Justice

I AM EVIDENCE, Trish Adlesic and Geeta Gandbhir & producer Mariska Hargitay

The audience awards, which were announced a day later, went to MR AND MRS ADELMAN, directed by Nicolas Bedos for Narrative Feature, and LOVE, CECIL, directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland for Documentary Feature.  LONG SHOT, directed by Jacob LaMendola won the Audience Award for Best Short Film.

ARF Stroll to the Sea

24th Annual Stroll to the Sea Dog Walk benefits Animal Rescue Find of the Hamptons.

October 7, 2017: This year the annual ARF Stoll to the Sea Benefit was proceeded by a kick-off cocktail party on Friday, the night before the walk. The party was hosted by Candy and Mark Udell of London Jewelers at their Main Street location in East Hampton.

24th Annual Stroll to the Sea Dog Walk benefits Animal Rescue Find of the Hamptons.

October 7, 2017: This year the annual ARF Stoll to the Sea Benefit was proceeded by a kick-off cocktail party on Friday, the night before the walk. The party was hosted by Candy and Mark Udell of London Jewelers at their Main Street location in East Hampton.

Mark & Candy Udell
Patrick Campion and Richard Ziegelasch, 2016 Top Fundraisers cut the ribbon to start the 2017 Stroll to the Sea Dog Walk.

The walk promotes responsible dog ownership and brings awareness to ARF. The family event is a fun outing that feels like a country fair, and this year again like last year the event is set against the backdrop of the Annual Hamptons International Film Festival, which takes place on the same weekend.

Sandy Rapp

The two-mile walk to the ocean and back began at the historic Mulford Farm in the heart of East Hampton Village. All registrants for the walk to the sea and back received free nail clippings for their dogs, a free event tee shirt featuring artwork by designer ISAAC MIZRAHI and tote bag along with refreshments including Starbucks Coffee, Dreesen’s Famous Donuts and dog treats from South Fork Pet Company.

The walk was followed by contests that included DOG/COMPANION LOOK ALIKE, THE POOCH WHO CAN SMOOCH and STUPID PET TRICKS. A dog agility course was also set up for everyone to try out. A silent and Lucky #’s auction with many exciting products, services and experiences for owners and pets was offered as well.

Founded in 1974, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons is the leading animal welfare organization on the East End of Long Island. Each year we take in over 1,500 cats and dogs and provide food, exercise, a warm place to sleep and excellent veterinary care in our state-of-the-art Adoption Center. Since inception ARF has found homes for over 25,000 dogs and cats. ARF is dedicated to finding loving homes for our precious pets not only to improve their lives but also the lives of the families who adopt them. The ARF Adoption Center is located at 91 Daniels Hole Road in Wainscott, next to the East Hampton Airport.

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Photography: Barry Gordin

Executive Director ARF Scott Howe
Barbara Slifka
Patrick Campion, Richard Ziegelasch

Jeff Vilensky and Jimmy Norton with their dog Emma win 2nd prize in fundraising
Susan Macy was the 2017 Top Fundraiser
Nancy Buscemi, seen here with ARFan Paco takes 3rd prize in fundraising
Raleigh Skye Sipkin wins top child fundraiser

OCTOBER 22, 2017  11AM-2PM

The African Mean Girls Play

It was press day October 10 for MCC Theater’s World Premiere of School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play. Tony Award winning director Rebecca Taichman and 2017-18 Tow Playwright-in-Residence Jocelyn Bloh and the cast were on hand to speak with the press and give some insight into what the play is about as well as their roles.

It was press day October 10 for MCC Theater’s World Premiere of School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play. Tony Award winning director Rebecca Taichman and 2017-18 Tow Playwright-in-Residence Jocelyn Bloh and the cast were on hand to speak with the press and give some insight into what the play is about as well as their roles.

The cast includes Nablyah Be, Maame Yaa Boafo, Paige Gilbert, Zainab Jah, Nike Kadri, Abena Mensah-Bonsu, Mirirai Sithole, Myra Lucretia Taylor.  MCC’s artistic directors Robert LuPone, Bernard Kelsey and William Cantler, as well as Executive Director Blake West were all on hand for the occasion.

Zainab Jah

Paige Gilbert,Mirirai Sithole

Nablyah Be

Myra Lucretia Taylor

Abena Mensah-Bonsu

Nike Kadri

The play centers around an exclusive girls boarding school in Ghana where the reigning Queen Bee has her sights set on the Miss Universe pageant, until Ericka, a new student, arrives who has lots of talent, beauty that captures the attention of the pageant recruiter and Paulina’s friends. It’s a buoyant and biting comedy exploring the similarities and differences facing teenage girls across the globe.

Previews begin Nov. 1 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street, NY, opening night Nov. 16 and scheduled thru Dec. 10. www.mcctheater.org 

Photos: Anna Letson

Video/Edits/Interviews: Sandi Durell

Wurlitzer

Better Days Ahead for the Wurlitzer and the Brooklyn Paramount

By: Paulanne Simmons

If you’re a fan of organ music, there are only two places in New York City you can enjoy the sounds of the magnificent Wurlitzer theater organ. One is in Radio City Music Hall. The other is in the Schwartz Athletic Center at Long Island University, formerly the Brooklyn Paramount Theater. And in the latter, the sound of a dribbled basketball and running feet most often replaces the swelling music of the mighty organ. But not for long.

Better Days Ahead for the Wurlitzer and the Brooklyn Paramount

By: Paulanne Simmons

If you’re a fan of organ music, there are only two places in New York City you can enjoy the sounds of the magnificent Wurlitzer theater organ. One is in Radio City Music Hall. The other is in the Schwartz Athletic Center at Long Island University, formerly the Brooklyn Paramount Theater. And in the latter, the sound of a dribbled basketball and running feet most often replaces the swelling music of the mighty organ. But not for long.

The Paramount opened in 1928 with Nancy Carroll in the silent film Manhattan Cocktail, as well as a 10-act variety show featuring vaudeville star Eddie Cantor. It had 4,500 seats covered in purple velvet. The ornate lobby was covered by a vaulted ceiling and graced with chandeliers and fountains. Side walls had arches that were decorated with artificial foliage and conceal the lights of the Wilfred Color Organ, a device that subtly changed the color of the whole theater. Long velvet draperies were everywhere. 

The theater helped introduce jazz to Brooklyn audiences, with such stars as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald. But it is best remembered for Allan Freed’s 1950s rock ‘n’ roll concerts, featuring the likes of Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Buddy Holly.

The Wurlitzer cost $60,000 in 1928. It is a four-manual, 26-rank organ with 2,000 pipes and 257 stops. It can rise from or descend into the orchestra pit. It’s network of pipers, wires, cables, bells, drums, symbols and other mechanisms replicate the sound of a full orchestra. The sound it makes is rich, overpowering and soul-stirring.

LIU purchased the building in 1950 and was already occupying much of the building when the university decided to use the theater as well. They removed the marquee, roof and blade signage, and placed a new entrance into the building. The lobby was transformed into a student canteen. The lounges in the basement were made into office and meeting spaces. 

As for the auditorium, the orchestra floor was leveled and made into a basketball court. The mezzanine and loge levels were removed. And The rear balcony was closed off for office space. 

But they kept the organ. 

Joe Amato is the organ curator today. If it were his own creation he couldn’t be more proud of the instrument. If you’re lucky (or a member of the press), he’ll take you on a tour that includes the many, many pipes (some as narrow as a pencil, others wide enough to accommodate a man), the relay room (which houses a computer-like apparatus that connects the keyboard to the pipes), and the bowels of the building where the 89-year-old motor resides. Warning: you’ll have to climb lots of ladders and get used to lots of dust.

If the theater today is a forlorn shadow of its former self, help is on the way. Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov (owners of the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets) are planning a three-year, $50 million renovation to restore the auditorium, while preserving many of the original architectural details. During this time the Wurlitzer will be hibernating in the orchestra pit.

And so, on Oct. 8, the mighty Wurlitzer bid farewell (temporarily) to an enthusiastic audience. The event was produced by The New York Organ Society and featured Mark Herman at the keyboard. Herman played many of the great standards from the 20s, 30s and 40s, songs by Irving Berlin, Harry Warren, and Hammerstein and Kern. 

From the sorrowful tones of “Ol’ Man River” to the riotous chords of “When the Saints Go Marching In” to the plaintiff strains of “Danny Boy,” it was an afternoon to remember.

The Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ Pipes

 

“After Louie” @ HIFF

NY premiere of Vincent Gagliostro film with Alan Cumming at Hamptons International Film Festival.

NY premiere of Vincent Gagliostro film with Alan Cumming at Hamptons International Film Festival.

October 7, 2017:  On Saturday evening the centerpiece at the Hamptons International Film Festival, a screening of Blake Edward’s classic film Victor Victoria was happening at Guild Hall in East Hampton. The screening would be followed by a conversation with Julie Andrews, the legendary star of the film and the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, who afterwards sat down with Alec Baldwin to chat about her illustrious career.

Around the same time on Saturday at the UA theater on Main Street in East Hampton a little known film, After Louie written by Vincent Gagliostro and Anthony Johnston, presented in partnership with NewFest was having its NY premiere. Alan Cumming, the movie’s star, had come to the festival to be present at the screening by the longtime gay activist and first-time film maker Vincent Gagliostro. Also in attendance was Zachary Booth, one of Cumming’s co-stars in the weepy Aids Drama.  After Louie is a sensitive and poignant story of generational differences centered around Cumming’s character, who is still reeling from survivor’s guild in the years following the AIDS epidemic and has been spending his days working on a never ending tribute to the partner he lost.

Photography: Barry Gordin

Director Vincent Gagliostro
Producer Laurn Belfer, Director Vincent Gagliostro, Alan Cumming,Zachary Booth, HIFF Artistic Director David Nugent
Lauren Belfer, VIncent Gagliostro, Alan Cumming with Lala, Zachary Booth
Director Vincent Gagliostro , Alan Cumming with Lala
Vincent Gagliostro, Alan Cumming with Lala, Zachary Booth