Champagne & Oysters at Isabella’s Farm

Present Laughter ***

By: Isa Goldberg

With Kevin Kline and Kate Burton as the happily divorced couple at the center of the Noel Coward revival, Present Laughter, the entertainment is abundantly frothy. As you may recall, Gary Essendine (Klein) is a famous British actor, philanderer, and narcissist.  His ex-wife, Liz (Burton), does everything for him, including, literally, helping him keep his pants on. Incidentally, she is lovely in the role, exuding a warmth and vitality that have amplified with maturity. And Klein clowns, broods, mimics and performs the physical pratfalls for which he, like Gary, are so well known.

By: Isa Goldberg

With Kevin Kline and Kate Burton as the happily divorced couple at the center of the Noel Coward revival, Present Laughter, the entertainment is abundantly frothy. As you may recall, Gary Essendine (Klein) is a famous British actor, philanderer, and narcissist.  His ex-wife, Liz (Burton), does everything for him, including, literally, helping him keep his pants on. Incidentally, she is lovely in the role, exuding a warmth and vitality that have amplified with maturity. And Klein clowns, broods, mimics and performs the physical pratfalls for which he, like Gary, are so well known.

In Moritz Von Stuelpnagel’s production, however, the characters who won’t go away – and literally will not leave Gary alone – are the most intriguing. Foremost among them is Roland Maule (pronounced as spelled). In Bhavesh Patel’s hands, this wannabe playwright and clinging fan, is the one to watch! Seemingly innocent to the point of being dense, Maule turns from a worm into a vicious monster, taking control of events in the most frightening and unexpected fashion.

Thriving on comedy, as is her wont, Kristine Nielsen is devilishly alive here. Playing Klein’s assistant, she deflects cross fire and near catastrophe with discernable chagrin. No one twists like Nielsen, whose stage personae are unique to her.

Other interlopers come and go with shameless adoration and contempt for the famous star. Among them, Daphne Stillngton, (Tedra MIllan), is an ingénue who knows no innocence, and Joanna Lyppiatt, (Cobie Smulders), a two timing wife. Both revolve in time with the swinging doors. Along with Gary’s business associates, an absolutely agitating Morris Dixon (outstandingly portrayed by Reg Rogers), and a far too stuffy Henry Lyppiatt (Peter Francis James), the stage is a boiling pot of combustible energy.

Kevin Kline

Present Laughter ***
St. James Theatre
245 W. 44th Street, NYC
Tue, Thu, 7 pm; Wed, Fri—Sat, 8 pm; Wed, Sat, 2 pm; Sun, 3 pm.
Running time: two hours and 30 mins. including intermission.
$55—$150. (877) 250-2929. www.ticketmaster.com.
April 5—July 2, 2017
Photos: Joan Marcus

The Glass Menagerie ***

Sam Gold’s ill-conceived staging at Broadway’s Belasco strips Williams’ classic of lyricism and more.

By: Patrick Christiano

Near the start of The Glass Menagerie Joe Mantello, as the story’s narrator Tom Wingfield, informs the audience, with the stage lights fully on, that what is to follow is a memory play and nothing is realistic, indicating his bare surroundings to emphasis the point.  Apparently, this is the concept Sam Gold intended for his audacious deconstruction of William’s classic 1944 breakthrough play. Nothing is authentic and the result, despite Sally Field’s gallant performance, is an unconvincing evening that fails to engage with emotional impact.

Sam Gold’s ill-conceived staging at Broadway’s Belasco strips Williams’ classic of lyricism and more.

By: Patrick Christiano

Near the start of The Glass Menagerie Joe Mantello, as the story’s narrator Tom Wingfield, informs the audience, with the stage lights fully on, that what is to follow is a memory play and nothing is realistic, indicating his bare surroundings to emphasis the point.  Apparently, this is the concept Sam Gold intended for his audacious deconstruction of William’s classic 1944 breakthrough play. Nothing is authentic and the result, despite Sally Field’s gallant performance, is an unconvincing evening that fails to engage with emotional impact.

Working on a naked stage with only one long table, a few chairs, a minimum of props, and limited lighting, Gold further strips Williams’ masterpiece of every period detail so carefully specified in his text. The actors dispense with southern accents and wear modern day clothing in a lumbering production that feels barren, without a hint of charm or Williams’s characteristic grace. 

The director’s choice to cast a disabled actress with muscular dystrophy, the lovely and brave Madison Ferris in a wheelchair, as the excruciatingly shy Laura, who is described in the play as walking with a limp, contradicts the text by putting the emphasis on her physical defect. When not in the wheelchair or sitting on the floor, Ferris walks on her hands and feet by thrusting her buttocks high into the air. This is almost painful to watch, which I guess is what Gold intended, to use a broad stroke to shed light on the emotionally crippled aspect of Laura’s nature. Broad strokes, however, do not serve Williams, and further undercut the touching complexities of Williams’ writing.  Laura’s acute anxiety turns her into a tragic figure, not her physical deformity. 

Famous directors of late have taken to imposing extreme choices onto plays in a clear attempt to create a staging that deconstructs the playwright’s original intention. This is the opposite of his function and when done feels ego driven. The effect more often disengages the audience from the emotional through line of the play by distancing us from the conflicts inherent in the action. The director’s task is to illuminate the text, not to reconceive what is already on the page.

Gold further neglects to guide his actors with caution allowing Sally Field to rush many of her speeches without nuance, depth, or struggle.  And on several occasions, he permits her to hunch over oppressively as she scolds her children instead of standing confidently in her convictions by attempting to shake them into an awareness of their shared plight.  In these moments, she turns into an overbearing old hag as opposed to a caring mother at her wits end.  Mr. Mantello’s performance, under Gold’s direction, (let’s not even go into the age factor) is overly mannered, punctuated by an excessive shaking of his head and physical gestures. And as the gentlemen caller Jim O’Connor, Finn Wittrock’s earnest efforts are obvious and broad turning the character into a blustery parody played for laughs like much of the director’s impractical approach.

Mr. Gold, who won a Tony award for his wonderful direction of the Tony award winning musical Fun Home, which moved to Broadway from the Public, has established a well-deserved and distinguished reputation in the theater.  His meddling here, however, turns the playwright’s dreamlike-meditation into an unrelenting nightmare. The evening comes across as a bare bones dress rehearsal rather than a fully realized staging of the Williams classic.

The Glass Menagerie ***
Belasco Theater
111 West 44 Street
Runnng Time 2 Hours, 5 Minutes
Opening Night March 9, 2017
Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Finn Wittrock, Madison Ferris
Madison Ferris, Sally Field, Joe Mantello

War Paint ***1/2

By: Isa Goldberg

That the women who portray Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden in Doug Wright’s new musical, War Paint on Broadway, are titans in their own right, is the obvious understatement. Patti LuPone, as the vampire-like Jewish immigrant (Rubenstein), and Christine Ebersole, as the Episcopalian socialite (Arden), each reveal the vulnerability of these two over achievers, who created an industry. Had their names been Henry Ford, they indeed would be remembered in just that way. In their case, however, it takes Wright to rediscover them.

By: Isa Goldberg

That the women who portray Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden in Doug Wright’s new musical, War Paint on Broadway, are titans in their own right, is the obvious understatement. Patti LuPone, as the vampire-like Jewish immigrant (Rubenstein), and Christine Ebersole, as the Episcopalian socialite (Arden), each reveal the vulnerability of these two over achievers, who created an industry. Had their names been Henry Ford, they indeed would be remembered in just that way. In their case, however, it takes Wright to rediscover them.

Writing about women as “outliers” is a recurring theme for him. His award-winning Gray Gardens, which he wrote, with music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie, who are also his collaborators here, follows the lives of Jacqueline Kennedy’s cousins, Little Edie and Big Edie Bouvier Beale (played by Christine Ebersole who won the Tony Award for her role). It follows the two women from their heyday as socialites to their pitiful estrangement. And in his one-man play, I Am My Own Wife, Wright explores the life of an eccentric German transvestite, who hid from the Nazis, in plain sight, as a woman.

Here, LuPone’s and Ebersole’s first act duet says it all quite simply, and sadly. “I sleep alone/If I’d been a man, I’d make the rules,” LuPone’s Rubenstein sings. When rejected from purchasing an apartment in a prestigious Manhattan apartment building, however, she eventually buys the building. And when someone tells her “war is a mind game,” she throws it off with a swift come back. “Tell that to Joan of Arc.” Even the title turns the world of specifically feminine products, cosmetics, into a masculine image.

Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden in “War Paint”

In Ebersole’s most outstanding number “Pink,” about the Arden brand signature, the entrepreneur reflects on that which was both her success and her nemesis. “Pink – the only shred of me they want,” Ebersole’s Arden decries. While filled with bathos, it’s a comic gem, in which the stereotypical color gets what it deserves.

Patti Lupone as Helena Rubinstein in “War Paint”

LuPone’s Rubenstein, however, is more blatantly emasculating. When Arden divorces her husband and business partner, Tommy Lewis (John Dossett), he runs to Rubenstein to share Arden’s business secrets and secure his own future. Confiding to her designer dog, she laments, “You know how I took you to the Veterinarian and he took out your testicles? She did the same to him.” Indeed, both women left their significant others and business partners, in the wings.

Following the upward rise of their businesses in the ‘30s is the focus of Act I. The second act fast-forwards through history, starting with World War II, and their support of the war effort, leading into the decline of their businesses in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Unable to keep up with the times – the advent of television, Madison Avenue, and mass production, Rubenstein and Arden became the dinosaurs, “Epidermis Rex,” of an ever-expanding market.

While the book unearths their lives, what stands out here is the extraordinary singing. LuPone, balancing classical gusto with characteristic bravura, and Ebersole, sweetly and openly alive in show stopping musical numbers, are legendary. And while the men in their lives were their lesser halves, John Dossett and Doug Sills (Harry Fleming) are in fine form here, as well.

Catherine Zuber’s costumes, with LuPone weighted down by enormous necklaces, and Ebersole, in Arden’s signature color – add to the parade. David Korins scenic design serves as a mirror to their large egos. Fortunately, director Michael Greif recognizes what we’ve come to see, and delivers it joyfully.

War Paint ***1/2
Nederlander Theater
208 West 41 Street
For Tickets Click Here
Photos: Joan Marcus

Sweat ****1/2

By: Isa Goldberg

“Number 1, I’m representing for women, and No. 2, I’m representing for playwrights of color,” Lynn Nottage expressed in an interview with The Los Angeles Times, following the announcement of her second Pulitzer win for drama. Indeed, Nottage is the first woman in history to receive two Pulitzers.

By: Isa Goldberg

“Number 1, I’m representing for women, and No. 2, I’m representing for playwrights of color,” Lynn Nottage expressed in an interview with The Los Angeles Times, following the announcement of her second Pulitzer win for drama. Indeed, Nottage is the first woman in history to receive two Pulitzers.

As with Ruined, for which she won her first, Sweat was developed through interviews with the people whose plight she represents on stage. Regarded as the first post Trump-era drama, the play takes place in Reading, PA, a steel-manufacturing town, where the factory is closing. Set in 2000 – 2008, the human drama reflects the issues that explain Trump’s Presidential victory – joblessness and economic despair, racism, immigration and hatred of the other, drug addiction.

Watching these characters transform from hopeful to deadened, is the playwright’s coup de theatre. Here, Khris Davis plays a young man about to start college, and a man condemned to prison for an act of violence. That they are both the same character is difficult to see at first. One wonders how the haggard criminal and the idealistic youth could be the same person. His partner in crime, played by Will Pullen, is even more disguised.

More potently, the victim of that violence, Stan, sensitively played by James Colby, turns from the pillar of the community – a warm, friendly, supportive bartender – into a brain dead restaurant worker. And the amazing Johanna Day, in a role that is significantly different from any other she has played on stage, takes a fall from a salaried factory worker who embraces life, to a hardened drug addict. The other characters who we meet in the bar are also convincingly portrayed by Carlo Alban, Michelle Wilson, and John Earl Jelks, among others.

Director, Kate Whoriskey, who also directed Ruined, helms this seamless production. Still, it’s the depth of humanity that Nottage brings to her characters that makes us feel as if everything that happens on stage happens in the moment.

Will Pullen, Khris Davis

Sweat ****1/2
Studio 54
Roundabout Theatre Company
254 W 54th Street in NYC (between Broadway and 8th Avenue)
Two hours and 25 minutes, including one intermission

The Hairy Ape ***** – Sweat ***1/2 – The Play That Goes Wrong ***

By: David Sheward

There’s more than a tinge of irony in the fact that two current NYC productions depict the  travails of the American working class and none of the characters could probably afford the price of a ticket. Aside from this economic consideration, both The Hairy Ape and Sweat offer insightful looks at their struggling subjects.

By: David Sheward

There’s more than a tinge of irony in the fact that two current NYC productions depict the  travails of the American working class and none of the characters could probably afford the price of a ticket. Aside from this economic consideration, both The Hairy Ape and Sweat offer insightful looks at their struggling subjects. Though written nearly a century apart and from different dramatic perspectives, both shows portrait their protagonists at the mercy of gigantic forces beyond their control. Yank, the bull-headed coal stoker at the center of Eugene O’Neill’s 1922 expressionist drama Ape, starts out as the king of the lower decks, proclaiming he is the engine that drives the mighty ocean liner where he works. Likewise, the habitués of a Reading, Pennsylvania bar in Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Sweat, now at Studio 54 after a hit run Off-Broadway at the Public earlier this season, imagine their jobs in a tubing factory are secure because of their generation-old seniority. (There is another layer of irony in this tale of proletariat woe taking place in the former headquarters of elitist disco revelry.) Both O’Neill and Nottage’s regular Joes are in for a rude awakening.

“Sweat”

Another similarity is the high-caliber direction, design and acting each play receives. Richard Jones’ brilliantly bizarre production of the O’Neill take full advantage of the cavernous Park Avenue Armory space. Designer Stewart Laing places set pieces on a circular conveyor belt which glide into place before the audience like the stations on an assembly line or cages in an exhibition. Yank and his fellow toilers are tiny figures in a huge, nearly empty warehouse, lit like a jungle nightmare by Mimi Jordan Sherin and supplied with a frightening soundscape by Sarah Angliss. Yank (a magnificently robust Bobby Cannavale) is the alpha male swinging from the roof of his enclosure, flaunting his muscles and dominating the rest of the crew. But when a millionaire’s spoiled daughter (an appropriately bratty Catherine Combs) calls him a “filthy beast,” he loses his sense of belonging and vainly attempt to regain it in various locations symbolic of the rich (Fifth Avenue), labor (a radical union hall), and his animal instincts (the Central Park Zoo). Jones turns Yank’s journey into a road trip to hell, creating one amazing encounter after another. A noir-ish jazz age dance number (Aletta Collins provided the frantic choreography) is followed by a riot in a cell-block, then we get a Metropolis-like vision of faceless wage slaves trudging in rhythm as a heedless rich couple drunkenly falls over themselves and a huge balloon with the face of the shipping line CEO floats heedlessly above it all.

While Hairy Ape is a daring example of unconventional theatrical forms, Sweat is a relatively safe specimen of the kitchen-sink genre (in another ironic instance, the older play is the more adventurous). Nevertheless, Lynn Nottage’s slice-of-lifer is moving and impactful even if the plot is somewhat melodramatic, thanks to Kate Whoriskey’s detailed direction and the cast’s compassionate performances. The play opens in 2008 with parallel scenes of a parole officer interviewing Jason and Chris, two recent ex-cons, on their difficult readjustment to life on the outside. Then we switch back to 2000 when Jason and Chris, along with their respective mothers, are all working for the local factory. Prospects for the future seem rosy with their wages secure and the union strong, but trouble begins to brew as management downsizes and workers clash along ethnic and racial lines. Based on interviews with real Rust-Belters, Nottage’s script feelingly captures the plight of the working class, frozen out by internationalism and technological advances. Monologues by Tracey, Jason’s mom, recalling the beauty of her grandfather’s carpentry skills, and co-worker Jessie on her regretted life choices, are particularly moving.

Yet too much of the action feels like a checklist as topics such as opiate addiction, immigration, and automation are crossed off. The story cumulates in a soap-operatic, tragic act of violence connecting the two timelines with lives shattered by the uncaring actions of the unseen factory owners. (The play probably would have been more powerful and true-to-life if Nottage had not created such an obviously theatrical, tearjerking finish.) Kudos to Johanna Day’s flinty Tracey, Alison Wright’s wistful Jessie, John Earl Jenks’ conflicted Brucie (Chris’ drug-addicted dad), Michelle Wilson’s fiery Cynthia (Chris’ determined mom), and to Will Pullen and Khris Davis who convincingly portray Jason and Chris at different stages of their lives. John Lee Beatty’s set captures the gritty atmosphere and Jeff Sugg’s video projections provide the political and social context.

Jonathan Sayer, Greg Tannahill, Henry Lewis, Dave Hearn, Charlie Russell “The Play That Goes Wrong.”

For bracing comic relief to all this gloom, the Mischief Theatre Company, a troupe of British loonies, have brought two hours of hilarity to the Lyceum Theater with The Play That Goes Wrong. A college theater troupe mounts a cliche-ridden murder mystery and everything goes south. Cues are missed, props go missing, the set falls apart (Nigel Hook designed the “deathtrap” of an old mansion). A fellow theatergoer best described it as “Noises Off on steroids.” You would think this one-joke premise would run out steam after an hour, but Mark Bell’s breakneck staging keep the guffaws building and as the play-within-a-play keeps deteriorating. The English company is an inspired lot of buffoons with playwrights Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Chris Bean pulling double duty as a prime suspect, frazzled butler, and nincompoop police inspector. I particularly enjoyed Dave Hearn as an upper-class twit and the brainless actor playing him. He smiles goofily at every flub and basks in audience laughter as if it were approval rather than mockery. The Play That Goes Wrong is marvelously right with English visitors giving us Americans a welcome break from the Trumpian onslaught predicted by Sweat and Hairy Ape.

 The Hairy Ape *****
March 30—April 22. Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Ave., NYC. Tue—Thu, 7:30 pm; Fri, Sat, 8 pm; Wed, Sat, Sun, 2 pm; Running time: 90 mins. with no intermission. $60—$195. (212) 616-3930. www.armoryonpark.org. Photos: Stephanie Berger

Bobby Carnavale in “The Hairy Ape”

Sweat ***
Opened March 26 for an open run. Studio 54, 254 W. 54th St., NYC. Tue, Thu, 7pm; Wed, Fri, Sat, 8 pm; Wed, Sat, 2 pm; Sun, 3 pm. Running time: two hours, ten mins. including intermission. $59—$149. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com. Photos: Joan Marcus

“Sweat”

The Play That Goes Wrong ***
Opened April 2 for an open run. Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th St., NYC. Tue—Thu, 7 pm; Fri, Sat, 8 pm; sat, 2 pm; Sun, 3 and 7:30 pm. Running time: two hours including intermission. $30—$139. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com. Photos: Jeremy Daniel

Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields, Dave Hearn “The Play That Goes Wrong”

 

 

 

The Play That Goes Wrong ***

Transfer of West End farce opens at Lyceum Theatre.

By: Patrick Christiano

The setting is an isolated mansion in a snowstorm with the owner’s corpse in the drawing room, and his killer at large. Enter a bumbling group of actors, who create a manic slapstick whodunit that is relentlessly hysterical, or is it?  One thing for sure the London import is relentlessly well performed. The entire ensemble is brilliant as they pull out all the stops in a physical comedy that never lets the air out for a second while delivering a persistent attack on our funny bone.

Transfer of West End farce opens at Lyceum Theatre.

By: Patrick Christiano

The setting is an isolated mansion in a snowstorm with the owner’s corpse in the drawing room, and his killer at large. Enter a bumbling group of actors, who create a manic slapstick whodunit that is relentlessly hysterical, or is it?  One thing for sure the London import is relentlessly well performed. The entire ensemble is brilliant as they pull out all the stops in a physical comedy that never lets the air out for a second while delivering a persistent attack on our funny bone.

The show is a big hit in London where it has been running for over two years, and has won several awards including the 2015 Olivier Award for best new comedy. Conceived by a group of graduates from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) calling themselves Mischief Theatre, The Play That Went Wrong makes its American debut with the original West End cast fully intact.

The premise of the comedy is that the play is a farcical play-within-a-play. The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society is presenting a new vintage-style murder mystery called ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’.  At the top of the show when the stage manager attempts to secure a falling mantelpiece, we realize that nothing is going to go as planned, which is exactly what happens as the production crescendos into raucous chaos. Everything possible goes wrong from dropped lines to collapsing sets replete with a series of technical mishaps and cast in-fighting.

Written by three members of the cast, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields, the show is in the tradition of British slapstick and owes a huge debt to Michael Frayn’s classic farce, Noises Off, about theatrical mix-ups. The difference being that Noises Off simultaneously showed us what was happening backstage as well as on and was filled with characters you actually-cared about.  The effort here is pure slapstick from the very first moment to the eventual fadeout, and over a two hour-plus running time the repetitive conceit becomes preciously thin. The play began as a fringe show in a theater located at a pub, where I am sure with a few drinks and played at half the running time the slight comedy fared much better.

The ensemble however is remarkable at being bad and sublime at performing the outrageous physical comedy. They are Rob Falconer, Dave Hearn, Henry Lewis, Charlie Russell, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields, Greg Tannahill, and Nancy Zamit. Director Mark Bell stages the action with impeccable precision allowing us on several occasions to fear for the actor’s safety, while laughing at their plight.  Nigel Hook’s flimsy set design that collapses with meticulous timing is a marvel of inventiveness and a technical success.

 

The Play That Goes Wrong *** opened on April 2, 2017 and is scheduled to run through December 30, 2017
Lyceum Theatre
149 West 45th Street
212 239-6200
Photo: Jeremy Daniel
For Tickets and Information Click Here

The New York Pops Gala

On Monday, May 1, 2017, The New York Pops will celebrate its 34th birthday with a grand gala evening honoring Karen van Bergen, the CEO of Omnicom Public Relations Group, and Tony Award winners Kelli O’Hara and Bartlett Sher

On Monday, May 1, 2017, The New York Pops will celebrate its 34th birthday with a grand gala evening honoring Karen van Bergen, the CEO of Omnicom Public Relations Group, and Tony Award winners Kelli O’Hara and Bartlett Sher, whose collaborations over the last decade have won universal acclaim and whose individual careers represent pinnacles of achievement in the world of theatre. The concert will celebrate the multiyear partnership between the actress and stage director and will bring together artists from the stage and screen.

The event begins at 7:00 PM with a concert at Carnegie Hall, featuring a spectacular lineup of guest artists under the baton of Music Director Steven Reineke. Broadway stars Judy Kuhn, Rebecca Luker, and Marin Mazzie join the previously announced Matthew Broderick, Danny Burstein, Brian d’Arcy James, Adam Kantor, Ruthie Ann Miles, Laura Osnes, Steven Pasquale, Chris Sullivan, and Paulo Szot. The concert will also include compositions by Jason Robert Brown and Nico Muhly.

Following the concert, a black tie dinner dance will be held at the elegant Mandarin Oriental New York.

TICKETS

Tickets to the concert-only range from $68 to $160 and can be purchased at at the Carnegie Hall Box Office, at 57th Street and Seventh Avenue, or can be charged to major credit cards by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800 or by visiting the Carnegie Hall website, carnegiehall.org.

Tickets to the full gala evening range from $1,350 (concert and dinner seating for one) to $50,000 (premier concert seating and dinner table for eight). For more information about the black-tie dinner and dance at the Mandarin Oriental New York, call 212-765-7677 or visit www.newyorkpops.org.

THE NEW YORK POPS is the largest independent pops orchestra in the United States, and the only professional symphonic orchestra in New York City specializing in popular music. Under the leadership of dynamic Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke, The New York Pops continues to re-imagine orchestral pops music. The orchestra performs an annual subscription series and birthday gala at Carnegie Hall, as well as a summer concert series at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY. The New York Pops is dedicated to lifelong learning, and collaborates with public schools, community organizations, children’s hospitals, and senior centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City. PopsEd allows thousands of New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds to participate in fully customizable music programs that blend traditional education with pure fun. Visit www.newyorkpops.org for more information. Follow The New York Pops on Facebook (facebook.com/newyorkpops), Instagram (@thenewyorkpops), and Twitter (@newyorkpops).

Steven Reineke is the Music Director of The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, Principal Pops Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Principal Pops Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the Principal Pops Conductor Designate for the Houston Symphony, beginning in the 2017-2018 season. Mr. Reineke is a frequent guest conductor with The Philadelphia Orchestra and has been on the podium with the Boston Pops, The Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia. His extensive North American conducting appearances include San Francisco, Houston, Seattle, Edmonton and Pittsburgh. As the creator of more than one hundred orchestral arrangements for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Mr. Reineke’s work has been performed worldwide, and can be heard on numerous Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recordings on the Telarc label. His symphonic works Celebration FanfareLegend of Sleepy Hollow and Casey at the Bat are performed frequently in North America. His numerous wind ensemble compositions are published by the C.L. Barnhouse Company and are performed by concert bands around the world. A native of Ohio, Mr. Reineke is a graduate of Miami University of Ohio, where he earned bachelor of music degrees with honors in both trumpet performance and music composition.  He currently resides in New York City with his husband, Eric Gabbard.

THE HONOREES

KELLI O’HARA

Kelli O’Hara has unequivocally established herself as one of Broadway’s great leading ladies. Her portrayal of Anna Leonowens in the critically acclaimed revival of The King and I recently garnered her the 2015 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, along with Drama League and Outer Critics nominations. The year before was an exceptionally busy year.  She starred as Mrs. Darling in NBC’s Live Telecast of Peter Pan, alongside Allison Williams, Christopher Walken, and Christian Borle and on New Year’s Eve, Kelli made her Metropolitan Opera debut in the production of The Merry Widow with Renée Fleming.  In 2015 she opened in Broadway’s musical adaptation of The Bridges of Madison County. Her performance of Francesca earned her nominations for a Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. Recently, she joined Showtime’s Master of Sex as Michael Sheen’s long-lost love, Dody, completed shooting the upcoming series The Accidental Wolf, and can be seen in on CBS All Access’ The Good Fight. A native of Oklahoma, Kelli received a degree in opera, and after winning the State Metropolitan Opera Competition, moved to New York, and enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Institute. She made her Broadway debut in Jekyll & Hyde and followed it with Sondheim’s Follies, Sweet Smell of Success opposite John Lithgow, and Dracula.  In 2003 Kelli committed to a production of The Light in the Piazza at Seattle’s Intiman Theatre, beginning a sixteen year working relationship with Bartlett Sher. The show landed on Broadway in 2005 and earned Kelli her first Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations.  She moved from one critical and commercial success to another when she joined Harry Connick on Broadway in the 2006 Tony Award-winning production of The Pajama Game, for which Kelli received Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Award nominations. Kelli starred in the Tony Award-winning revival of South Pacific at Lincoln Center, enrapturing audiences and critics alike with her soulful and complex interpretation of Nellie Forbush, and garnering Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Award nominations. She later teamed up with Matthew Broderick in Broadway’s musical comedy Nice Work if You Can Get it, earning Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle nominations, as well as the Fred Astaire Nomination for dance. Kelli has worked regionally & Off-Broadway in Far from Heaven at Williamstown Theater Festival & Playwrights Horizons, King Lear at the Public Theater, Bells Are Ringing at City Center Encores!, Sunday in the Park with George at Reprise, My Life With Albertine at Playwrights Horizons, and Beauty at the La Jolla Playhouse.  Kelli received critical acclaim for her performances at the New York Philharmonic’s productions of Carousel & My Fair Lady as both Julie Jordan and Eliza Doolittle, respectively. She has sold out her solo show at Carnegie Hall & Town Hall and performed with symphonies and orchestras across the country.She is a frequent guest artist on the PBS Memorial Day and July 4th telecast and has performed several times as part of the Kennedy Honor tributes for Barbara Cook, Jerry Herman, and Barbra Streisand. Her solo concerts continue to sell out and receive critical acclaim across the country. Among her film and television credits are Blue Bloods, Sex & The City 2, Martin Scorsese’s short The Key to Reserva opposite Simon Baker, The Dying Gaul, All Rise (NBC pilot), Alexander Hamilton (Maria Reynolds) starring Brian F. O’Byrne (PBS), NUMB3RS (CBS), All My Children, the animated series Car Talk, and numerous live performances on national television shows. Kelli’s voice can be heard on many cast album recordings including The Bridges of Madison Country, Nice Work if You Can Get it, South Pacific (Sony), The Light in the Piazza (Nonesuch Records; Grammy nomination), The Pajama Game (Sony; Grammy nomination), The Sweet Smell of Success (Sony), My Life with Albertine (PS Classics), Dream True (PS Classics), and Jule Styne Goes Hollywood (PS Classics). She has released two solo albums including Always and Wonder in the World.

BARTLETT SHER

Bartlett Sher is Resident Director of Lincoln Center Theater, where he has directed the theater’s current hit, J.T. Rogers’ Oslo, at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, as well as the Tony Award-winning revivals of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I (Tony Award nomination for Best Director) and South Pacific (Tony Award – Best Director),  Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy and Awake and Sing! (Tony Award nominations for both productions),  Blood and Gifts by J.T. Rogers, the new musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown by Jeffrey Lane and David Yazbek, August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (Tony Award nomination), and The Light in the Piazza by Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel (Tony Award nomination). He has directed operas for the Metropolitan Opera (Roméo et Juliette, Otello, Two Boys, L’Elisir d’Amore, Le Comte Ory, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, and Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Roméo et Juliette for Salzburg Opera in 2008, and Seattle Opera/New York City Opera (Mourning Becomes Electra, 2003-2004). From 2000-2010, Mr. Sher was Artistic Director of Seattle’s Intiman Theatre, where his credits include the world premieres of Prayer for My Enemy and Singing Forest by Craig Lucas and Nickel and Dimed, Joan Holden’s adaptation of the nonfiction bestseller by Barbara Ehrenreich, and plays by Chekhov, Shakespeare, Goldoni, and Tony Kushner, among other credits. His New York credits include the Theatre for a New Audience productions of Cymbeline, which premiered in England and was the first American Shakespeare production at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and for which he received the 2001 Callaway Award; and the American premiere of Harley Granville-Barker’s Waste, winner of the 2000 Best Play Obie. He is a graduate of Holy Cross College and received his graduate training as the only American in a class of international theatre artists at the University of Leeds in England. Mr. Sher currently serves on the Board of Theatre Communications Group and has held positions as Associate Artistic Director at Hartford Stage and Company Director at The Guthrie Theater under his mentor, Garland Wright.   His Broadway productions include the musical The Bridges of Madison County and the recent revival of Fiddler on the Roof.  He will direct a new production of Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady for Lincoln Center Theater in Spring 2018 and is also at work on the new musical Millions.

KAREN VAN BERGEN

Karen van Bergen brings more than 30 years of agency- and client-side experience to her role as CEO of Omnicom Public Relations Group. She holds responsibility for all public relations and public affairs firms within Omnicom, encompassing more than 6,300 employees. Prior to Omnicom PR Group, Karen served as CEO of Porter Novelli. Over a three-year period, Karen led the agency on a path of significant transformation—marked by growth and award-winning work and capped by recognition as a 2014 PRWeek Best Place to Work—a result of Karen’s steadfast focus on talent. She served as managing director of Porter Novelli’s New York office from 2011-2012. Before Porter Novelli, Karen spent four years at FleishmanHillard, most recently as senior partner, senior vice president and global lead for OneVoice, an integrated Omnicom team serving Royal Philips Electronics. As the global leader for OneVoice, van Bergen grew a 600-person consulting team across more than 80 countries. Before running OneVoice, Karen was regional director for the Netherlands and Central and Eastern Europe for FleishmanHillard, working with global clients like NBC Universal, VISA and Unilever, among others. Before FleishmanHillard, Karen served two stints with McDonald’s totaling more than 13 years.  She was chief of staff, vice president of corporate affairs for McDonald’s Europe, joining as part of a new management team that introduced and executed a highly successful new European strategy. She also held the director of marketing, communications and government relations post for McDonald’s Central Europe/Central Asia division. Karen worked in-house at The Coca-Cola Company as director of corporate affairs, Benelux. Earlier in her career, she was director of corporate affairs in Europe for the Outboard Marine Corporation. Karen has been recognized with awards including PRWeek PR Professional of the Year – Agency (2016), named an Ad Age “Woman to Watch” and New York Business Journal “Woman of Influence” and inducted into the PRWeek Hall of Femme, ICCO Hall of Fame and PR News Hall of Fame. In 2016, she was the highest ranking woman on PRWeek’s “Power List” at #6. Karen is a truly international leader. She speaks and does business in four languages and is an outspoken advocate for diversity and women’s rights—both within the PR industry and across the business landscape. She is a founding member of Omniwomen, a group of female Omnicom leaders that aims to increase the influence and number of women leaders throughout the Omnicom network. She has served as a juror for the top awards programs in the public relations industry, and in 2017 was appointed PR jury president for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity taking place in June. Karen gives back through work with a variety of nonprofit organizations. She currently serves on the board of Not Impossible, which aims to solve some of the world’s most entrenched problems through technology for the sake of humanity. She has served on the board of Kids@Home, an organization that runs family-like homes for foster children, as well as the board of Inspire@live, an organization bringing together scientists from all over the world to advance cancer research by sharing information and putting the patient in the center. Karen is passionate about music, including opera and jazz; she plays the piano and regularly attends musical performances throughout the city.

London’s West End 42nd Street

London’s West End Gives the 42nd Street Danceathon Revival a Five-Star Welcome

By: Ellis Nassour

The billboards all over London have it right: 42nd Street, “Broadway’s biggest show on London’s biggest stage.” The lavish revival at the historic (1812) Theatre Royal Drury Lane, where it premiered in 1984, winning the Olivier for Best Musical, has been given a royal welcome not only by critics and audiences but also by HRH the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.

London’s West End Gives the 42nd Street Danceathon Revival a Five-Star Welcome

By: Ellis Nassour

The billboards all over London have it right: 42nd Street, “Broadway’s biggest show on London’s biggest stage.” The lavish revival at the historic (1812) Theatre Royal Drury Lane, where it premiered in 1984, winning the Olivier for Best Musical, has been given a royal welcome not only by critics and audiences but also by HRH the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.

Opening Night was a benefit for the Duchess’ charity, Each [East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice, which supports families/children with life-threatening conditions across Cambridgeshire and three other areas]; and she was the guest of honor in the Royal Box. At the curtain, the Duchess was presented with a pair of tap shoes. Among the celebrities in attendance was Oscar winner Morgan Freeman.

Based on the 1931 musical film noir directed by Lloyd Bacon with groundbreaking

choreography by Busby Berkeley. The plot is set against a producer’s comeback effort at the height of the 30s Depression with a big musical, which on the eve of its opening loses its leading lady to an unfortunate accident. With no time to spare and as it appears the show will close, the ingénue steps in, goes out, and, yes, returns a star.

Its score of Tin Pan Alley hits include “About a Quarter to Nine,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Dames,” “Getting Out of Town,” “I Only Have  Eyes for You,”  “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me,” “With Plenty of Money and You,” and showstoppers “42nd Street,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” and “We’re in the Money.”

There’s a stage-filling cast of 55 plus, which includes the largest dance ensemble ever, and orchestra of 20 plus.

The musical is headlined by two-time Grammy winner Sheena Easton – 

with over 200-million records sold, as comeback diva Dorothy Brock. Halse (Kathy Selden in Paris’ Théâtre du Chatêlet’s Singin’ in the Rain) as Peggy Sawyer is joined by Tom Lister (U.K. stage veteran and TV star) as Julian Marsh; Stewart Neal (Young Ben in Follies, Pippin, Lord of the Rings) as tapper Billy Lawler; scene-stealing Jasha Ivir (Mrs. Gloop, West End Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, many more) as brassy belting co-composer Maggie Jones, and Christopher Howell (West End Wicked, Hairspray) as her partner.

Directing is Mark Bramble, with choreography by Randy Skinner. Todd Ellison is music supervisor, with music direction by the lively veteran Jae Alexander. Sets are by Douglas Schmidt.

To say it’s is merely a revival would be incorrect. It features enhanced production numbers, more songs, bigger sets, non-Depression era lavish costumes, and an unforgettable tap finale that explodes in razzle dazzle.

There’s Champion’s choreography and new choreography by four-time Tony and three Drama Desk-nominee Skinner, who with Karin Baker, was Champion’s tap associate on the Tony-winning 1980 Broadway original. Skinner was choreographer for the Tony and DD-winning 2001 Broadway revival, as well as national tours and international productions.

“Opening Night was thrilling for the cast to hear the audience response after weeks and weeks of drilling,” Skinner says. “It’s been wonderful to watch as they absorbed this style of dancing. They’re certainly being rewarded by the overwhelming audience response and supportive reviews.”

He and Bramble have long been associated with 42nd Street productions worldwide and have high praise for Easton and tapper extraordinaire Halse.

Photo: Brinkoff & Moegenburg

“How appropriate for a pop diva to be portraying a Broadway diva,” says Skinner of Easton. “She’s incredible and seems born to the stage. [Easton took a long leave from show business to raise her children.] Mark and I knew she had that great belt, but her strong soprano was a surprise.”

Halse is “one of the finest dancers I’ve come across,” he adds, “and quite a quick study, which has made working with her such a joy. She can do anything! I know we’ll be seeing a lot more of her.”

The Telegraph headlined their review: “Achingly beautiful revival of an American classic.” Their Dominic Cavendish gave it five stars, writing it was a “stampeding frenzy of a tightly-drilled army of hoofers in the grandest, most palatial theatre in town.” He called the tap beat “an extraordinary, spine-tingling sound.” He added, “David Merrick . . . said he was after the ‘biggest musical since the Second World War.’ And size is absolutely everything in this shiny, streamlined homage to a vanished world of razzmatazz . . . It’s miles apart from Hamilton in terms of diversity . . . almost the un-reinvention of the musical.”

He had special praise for Skinner’s staging of a Berkeley-esque number “that sets a circle of prone, scantily-clad chorines on a revolve beneath a giant mirror, splaying and closing their legs as they turn: an absurd, tasteful floral arrangement of fleshy suggestiveness.” 

The Times’ Ann Treneman, bestowing another five stars, noted, “The show begins with the conductor Jae Alexander rising out of the pit, turning and shooting us a big fat smile, as the curtain rises an inch or two to reveal a row of shoes, all in Popsicle pastels, tapping up a storm. Think a stenographer after 42 coffees. And they are all in perfect harmony. This is an old-fashioned glamour musical that keeps on giving when others would have called it quits.”

Photo: Brinkoff & Moegenburg

In his five-star Express review, Neil Norman called 42nd Street the 30s equivalent of the blockbuster movie: “It’s designed to blow you away. Its key ingredients may seem like clichés but this is the musical that invented them: the Busby Berkeley dance routines performed by scores of girls in feathers, sequins and not much else, the backstage backstabbing, the desperation of the chorus girls and boys in the Great Depression when to be out of a job meant not just hardship but destitution

. . . The show offers more spectacle than Cecil B. DeMille and so much glitz you’ll need to wear sunglasses. This is old-fashioned entertainment on an epic scale. ”

Skinner said the timing couldn’t be better for a show like 42nd Street. “With all the turmoil and uncertainty in the world, this is a show where people can sit back and relish in the energy and joy radiating from the stage – and not just from Douglas Schmidt’s fabulous recreation of the New York Theatre District of old.”

He adds, “Because I have tapped my entire career, I have to remind myself how powerful it is to see our company of 40 dancers in Roger Kirk’s stunning array of gorgeous costumes taking over the entire stage and tapping on giant coins and up and down staircases.”

There have been several attempts to bring this elaborate revival of 42nd Street to London. “There was always the problem of not finding a theatre that could accommodate the size of the production. How extremely ideal it is to be able to return to the show’s original West End home. The Drury Lane is perfect. The stage is so much larger than any on Broadway. The depth and wing and fly space are unbelievable.”

Skinner relates that he’s had a great time visiting the Drury Lane’s art and mural-covered hallways, Royal Circle anterooms, and the Royal Box. “Such history!” he says.

He’s reunited on the show with longtime associate choreographer Kelli Barclay (White Christmas, State Fair, Ain’t Broadway Grand); and a creative that Broadway musicals don’t have, the resident choreographer, young, tall Simon Adkins (Bob Crewe in Jersey Boys; Wicked; The Producers; and Don Lockwood in Singin’ in the Rain; so many more).

“My job is to work closely with our associate director Stephen Whitson and do what Kelli would be doing if she was allowed (under British Equity rules) to stay over here,” he points out.

“Simon and I had never met,” laughs Barclay, “but I feel I’ve known him my entire life – in my heart. He knows the territory from the incredible number of shows he’s done.”As it turns out, he’d done a production of 42nd Street and was adept at tap.

“When Simon auditioned,” states Skinner, “Kelli called my attention to him. When I watched him, I immediately sensed there was a maturity about him in addition to his excellent dance technique. I pulled him aside to see if he’d be interested in being considered for resident choreographer. He was. The next day, I had him assist. He met every challenge. Simon’s doing a terrific job watching over and maintaining the dancers and all that goes along with a musical this size.”

Dance comes naturally for Adkins because his mother was a dance teacher. “So, I’ve been dancing since about age three and acting, singing, and all sorts of dance competitions and shows from there! At university, I took math, biology, and geography to make sure I had something to fall back on. Straight out of college, though, I got my first Equity show, Chicago, and have been fortunate to be in a number of American musicals, some of which played right here. So, the Drury Lane’s like a second home.” 

Barclay was in awe of the huge Drury Lane auditorium, and wondered how the show would play. No worries. She notes, “This production has been designed with a slightly raked stage that makes you feel close no matter where you are; and it’s done to a degree that doesn’t make it difficult on the dancers.”

Theater in London – Part One

Theater in London: Home-grown Classics; Broadway Drama, Comedy, Musicals, and Epics

By: Ellis Nassour  

Many are aware of Shakespeare’s works and his Globe, first built in 1599 for the opening of the Bard’s Henry V. However, maybe not as many know of the Rose “playhouse” on London’s Bankside. It’s where for over 50 years, during the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I, an early theatreland thrived – from the 1570s to the closure of theatres in 1642, with the outbreak of civil war..

Theater in London: Home-grown Classics; Broadway Drama, Comedy, Musicals, and Epics

By: Ellis Nassour  

Many are aware of Shakespeare’s works and his Globe, first built in 1599 for the opening of the Bard’s Henry V. However, maybe not as many know of the Rose “playhouse” on London’s Bankside. It’s where for over 50 years, during the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I, an early theatreland thrived – from the 1570s to the closure of theatres in 1642, with the outbreak of civil war.

Without these playhouses, it’s said that London’s vast/spread out theatreland known as the West End wouldn’t have been possible. 

The Globe was destroyed in a 1613 fire and rebuilt; but was closed, as above, in 1642.  In 1997, near the original site, the Globe was reconstructed and later named to honor Sir John Gielgud. It sits on Park Street in the Southwark/London Bridge area known as Market Borough, adjacent to the Thames and not far from historic Southwark Cathedral.

Quite nearby remnants of the original Rose discovered in 1989 led to a campaign by Lord Laurence Olivier to protect the site. The Rose Playhouse (56 Park Street, London SE1 9AR) continues the tradition of that great era. For site history, event scheduling, such as their May 24 A Night in Vienna and August 1 – 26 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and tours, follow on Facebook and visit www.roseplayhouse.org.uk.

American theatrical footprints are all over London theater – just as West End footprints are all over Broadway.

Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes

Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize, Tony, and Drama Desk-winning double-header Angels in America, the gripping epic of America in the mid-80s in the midst of the AIDS crisis, is being revived at the National’s Lyttelton, with Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches beginning April 11; and Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika, on the 24th.

Directing is Olivier, Tony, and two-time DD winner Marianne Elliott (War Horse; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). The cast includes Oscar and Golden Globe nominee Andrew Garfield as Prior Walter, Denise Gough, Tony and Drama Desk winner and six-time Emmy nominee Nathan Lane as Roy Cohn, James McArdle, and Russell Tovey.

Part One was first produced at the National in 1992; Part Two, the following year.

Angels in America, Part One will telecast live in cineplexes July 20; Part Two, July 27. [Manhattan’s Beekman is among area theatres screening the play.]


Complicite Theatre’s The Kid Stays in the Picture

There has been much talk about two-time Tony and three-time DD nominee Simon McBurney and his Complicite Theatre’s experimental, multi-media production The Kid Stays in the Picture, which just ended its limited engagement at the award-winning Royal Court Theatre. Co-directed by James Yeatman, it delves into the rise and fall of actor/studio chief/film producer Robert Evans. It’s rumored to be transferring to Broadway. 

McBurney (Director, 2008 All My Sons; The Chairs; Film roles, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, many more), earlier this season created quite an event on Broadway with his The Encounter. His and Yeatman’s adaptation is based on producer/actor/studio chief Robert Evans’ 1994 blistering memoir, written following three strokes. A critic referred to it as “a contemporary Rake’s Progress.” It was adapted into a 2002 film.

The title comes from what 20th Century-Fox studio chief Daryl F Zanuck shouted when he visited the Mexico set of the adaptation of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1957) when director Henry King and cast members (including Tyrone Power and Ava Gardner, but not Errol Flynn) wanted Evans, playing a fiery matador, fired.

Evans, now 87, was a stunningly handsome actor who segued into becoming a major Tinseltown power broker as head of Paramount Pictures and saved it from collapse green-lighting Rosemary’s Baby, Love Story, The Godfather, Parts One and Two, Chinatown, Marathon Man; and then there was the infamous Cotton Club.

U.S. cast members Heather Burns, Christian Camargo, Max Casella, Danny Huston, and Ajay Naidu appeared with notable Brit actors Thomas Arnold, Cline Dyer, and Madeleine Potter.

The play, fast-paced, often hilarious, and certainly unique given McBurney’s flair and intense obsession with sound and video, unfolds live and via shadow acting, projections in/on a giant glass box which can go opaque for projections.

Evans, whose father was a Jewish dentist in Harlem, chose to follow his older brother selling women’s clothing; when they became millionaires and sold the business, he headed West to pursue an acting career.

His break came when screen icon Norma Shearer noticed the scantily-clad sportswear model at a Beverly Hills pool and chose him for the role of her late husband, celebrated M-G-M producer Irving Thalberg, in the Lon Chaney bio-pic Man of a Thousand Faces (Universal Studios).

Film writer David Thomson has an uncannily apt description of young Evans’ beauty and infectious narcissism: “His smile had the unshy self-love of a man seeing his own dazzle in the mirror.” 

Evans wasn’t shy about making headlines. There were seven tumultuous marriages – one to Ali McGraw, an 80s conviction for involvement in cocaine trafficking, and an implication in a murder. Insider tidbits include his shrewd plan to get Francis Ford Coppola to make The Godfather into the family epic he wanted; Marlon Brando’s refusal to attend the Oscars on his nomination as Best Actor; Evans enlisting Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as a sort of conciliatory; McGraw’s attraction to “dirty” Steve McQueen [her future husband in an abusive marriage]; and how no one understood what Chinatown was about.

The cast of characters include Paramount/Gulf & Western boss Charles Bluhdorn. Faye Dunaway, Mia Farrow, Ava Gardner, Richard Gere, Hemingway, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Roman Polanski, Mario Puzo, and Sharon Tate.

Evans was as famous as producer Samuel Goldwyn for his quips. One summed up his philosophy: “What matters most is the story. I subscribe to the idea that if you can sum up your story in a paragraph, your film will be a hit. If you can reduce it to a sentence, it will be a blockbuster.”

While 90% of reviews and audience reaction were favorable, some audience members, especially those clueless of cinema history, had difficulty keeping up with the abstractness of presenting different aspects of Evans – son, brother, actor, lover, husband, producer – portrayed by various cast members, including an actress, in “a cantata for voices.” 

Michael Arditti in the Express wrote: “With a mixture of live performance and film clips, [McBurney and Yeatman] create a suitably ornate visual equivalent for Evans’s high-octane prose. The actors’ constant use of microphones is a telling symbol of Hollywood inauthenticity. The result is that rarest of things: a profound exploration of superficiality.”

Time Out’s Andrzej Lukowski noted, “The great Simon McBurney offers a haunting, sense-overloading tribute to Hollywood producer Robert Evans. If  La La Land celebrates Hollywood’s all-singing, all-dancing, Technicolor facade, this production from Complicite’s mastermind is a delve into its brutal black-and-white heart.”

Leslie Felperin noted in the Hollywood Reporter, “As befits the avant-garde reputation of Complicite, this dynamic production is almost constantly in tightly choreographed motion. Projectors, closed-circuit cameras, and audio effects collaborate playfully to amplify, multiply, and distort the action while footage from some of Evans’ films flickers  . . . The whole noisy, giddy shebang is masterful rather than migraine-inducing.”

“It’s a cautionary tale with uncontroversial morals,” stated the Guardian’s Kate Kellaway. “For all its skilful finesse, the production is, by Complicite standards, static. What is most underwhelming is that Evans – workaholic in designer specs, is a colorful cipher . . . It’s hard to feel anything for Evans. He remains as dimensionless as his silhouette. The story stands, but does not run.”

Huston, 54, is the grandson of Walter and son of John (who co-starred in Chinatown as villain Noah Cross and literally stole the movie). Because of his linage, he was very familiar with most of those featured in the play. “I was visited by ghosts,” he said, “some are still alive, but a lot more are not.” He was born in Rome, but spent most of his childhood at the family retreat in Ireland where visitors included Lauren Bacall, Brando, Robert Mitchum, Peter O’Toole, and, among others, author John Steinbeck. “It was a hard-drinking and decadent time!”

The Kid Stays in the Picture was produced in association with Evans, theater/film producer Barbara Broccoli (eight James Bond films; West End/Broadway, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), Brian Carmody, Patrick Milling Smith, and Michael G. Wilson.

Amelie ***

Phillipa Soo stars in musical adaptation of beloved French film at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

By: Patrick Christiano

The French film Amelie enchanted audiences in 2001 winning five Oscar nominations, including one for Best Foreign Language Film. And now last week a whimsical new musical adaptation, starring Tony nominee Phillipa Soo (Hamilton) in the title role, opened on Broadway directed by Pam MacKinnon with a lovely, yet bland score by Daniel Messe that features precious lyrics by Nathan Tysen.

Phillipa Soo stars in musical adaptation of beloved French film at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

By: Patrick Christiano

The French film Amelie enchanted audiences in 2001 winning five Oscar nominations, including one for Best Foreign Language Film. And now last week a whimsical new musical adaptation, starring Tony nominee Phillipa Soo (Hamilton) in the title role, opened on Broadway directed by Pam MacKinnon with a lovely, yet bland score by Daniel Messe that features precious lyrics by Nathan Tysen.

Although the musical begins in 1975 when Amelie, played with spunk by Savvy Crawford, was just a little girl with frigid parents, most of the story about the painfully reticent, yet imaginative Amelie, who decides to dedicate herself to enriching the lives of others, is set in 1997 Paris, where the young woman is a waitress in a café with a group of oddball characters. Amelie is befriended by her reclusive neighbor, an artist played by Tony Sheldon with amusing heart, however the core of the tale is about Amelie’s attraction to an eccentric named Nino, who collects discarded photos, played by Adam Chanler-Berat. The unfolding tale concerns the hurdles each must overcome for these apparent sole mates to come together.

Based on a much-loved film, and starring one of Broadway’s most lauded new stars guided by Tony Award winner Pam MacKinnon expectations for Amelie were high, however with a book by three-time Tony nominee Craig Lucas that barely exists, a colorless score, which like the set by David Zinn, although appealing doesn’t give the slightest hint of Paris, the musical is decidedly dull relying on a unrelenting playfulness that boarders more on corny than original.

MacKinnon’s pleasant staging is imaginative enough so that the evening is painless, but nothing is truly exciting or even consistently witty. The new Broadway star Phillipa Soo sings beautifully, while inhabiting the character with a persistently lovey sweetness, but nothing really happens. She is basically the same at the beginning of the story as at the end with only the slightest hint of transformation. The musical like her journey is served with proficient flair that feels consistently saccharin. 

Amelie ***
Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W. 48th St., NYC.
Tue—Thu, 7:30 pm; Fri—Sat, 8pm; Wed, Sat, 2 pm; Sun, 3pm.
Running time: one hour and 40 mins. with no intermission. $49.50—$169.50. (800) 745-3000. www.ticketmaster.com.
Opened April 3, 2017 for an open run. Photography: Joan Marcus

Theater in London – Part Two

Theater in London: Home-grown Classics; Broadway Drama, Comedy, Musicals, and Epics

By: Ellis Nassour

American theatrical footprints are all over London theater – just as West End footprints are all over Broadway.

Theater in London: Home-grown Classics; Broadway Drama, Comedy, Musicals, and Epics

By: Ellis Nassour

American theatrical footprints are all over London theater – just as West End footprints are all over Broadway.

Besides American musicals Aladdin, An American in Paris, Beautiful, The Book of Mormon, Five Guys Named Moe, 42nd Street, Kinky Boots, The Lion  King, Motown, Stomp, and Wicked, there’s a revival of Annie opening in May, the eagerly-anticipated arrival in June of Audra McDonald in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, and, in September, Young Frankenstein, choreographed and directed by Susan Stroman. On the Town will have a 12-week run in Regent Park beginning May 19.

A production of Cy Coleman, Ira Gasman, and David Newman’s 1997 The Life was just presented, but not to the type of reviews that had been hoped for [maybe this show is one uniquely-suited for Manhattan]. [Through April 15, original Tony-winning co-star of the musical Lillias White is headlining the Fats Waller revue This Joint is Jumpin’ at The Other Palace.]

Hamilton will open in November in the shadow of Victoria Station and shopping mall at the historic Victoria Palace, undergoing a multi-million pound renovation and reconstruction in anticipation.

Then, there are the American plays, which include Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie; two from Edward Albee, The Goat or Who’s Sylvia and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; and Stephen Karam’s Speech & Debate.

One of the problems of being a theaterlover (maybe even a critic) in London is the amazing number of shows by all manner of past and present playwrights presented in limited engagements – when one is loading out, another is loading in. A huge difference in London is the number of daily papers and Time Out, with numerous reviewers and, thus, numerous viewpoints.

Home-grown musicals still do socko business on the West End: Half a Sixpence, Les Miz, Mamma Mia, Matilda,The Phantom of the Opera, and School of Rock.

There’s still the official Half-Price Ticket Booth in Leicester Square, but many shows on the board don’t offer 50% off. There’s a huge amount of confusion on the Square with several unofficial discount ticket sellers. The price of West End tickets has gradually crept up and aren’t too far off the Broadway mark.

There’s a vibe scene at a number of theatres which have nice lobby spaces for tea, coffee, and drinks and are open during non-performance hours; and post-office, pre- and post-theater restaurants where drinks are available. The small West End Arts Theatre not only has a historic private membership club but a very attractive street level café for beverages and snacks.

Two of the most popular are The Other Naughty Piglet at The Other Palace [formerly the St. James, and now owned by the Really Useful Company; 15 Palace Street, SW1E 5JA] [recently presented there was John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe’s The Wild Party] and the vast downstairs space at the Royal Court on busy Sloane Square. One of the most posh is pre-theater and interval service at the historic Theatre Royal Drury Lane (currently home of the lavish 42nd Street revival).

There’s a bit of sad news: Joe Allen’s in the shadow of The Lion King at the colonnaded Lyceum Theatre will soon be closing after 42 years at 13 Exeter Street, due to Robert De Niro’s purchase of the entire block, which will be demolished. The good news is that it will be relocated “quite nearby.”  Orso is still just around the corner.

Olivier-nominated Cherry Jones Makes West End Debut

If you’ve wondered where the heck Tony and Drama Desk winner Cherry Jones has been, wonder no more. She’s making her long-awaited West End debut, reviving her Amanda Wingfield in John Tiffany’s production of Tennessee Williams’
The Glass Menagerie (through April 29) at the Duke of York – seen on Broadway in 2015. It has paid off handsomely with Olivier nominations for Jones, Best Revival, and co-stars Brian J. Smith [from the Broadway cast] and Kate O’Flynn. Michael Esper is Tom. It had a brief run summer, 2016 in Edinburgh.



Tiffany is having quite a hot London season as he’s double Olivier-nominated: for The Glass Menagerie and the Olivier-nominated smash hit adapted from
J.K. Rowling’s book  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two, arriving on Broadway next Spring at the Ambassador Group’s Lyric Theatre (which, on the close of Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour) also will undergo a transformation that will not only remove seating but also relocate the entrance to 43rd Street.

The Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish raved, “Although it’s often revived, John Tiffany’s production casts a greater, more shiver-making spell than most . . . It has been said before that American stage star Cherry Jones is perfect as Amanda, the former Southern belle who frets night and day about her troublesome two [children], clinging to memories of the gentlemen callers who once courted her  . . .  Hers is a wonderfully animated performance . . . Kate O’Flynn remains an understated, introverted marvel as Laura  . . . The late-evening brief encounter between her and Brian J Smith as Jim, her long-time high school crush, begins on a note of tender tragi-comedy, moves into a register of romance as glorious as anything you’ll see in La La Land, and ends up with all hopes shattered.”


And now to Edward Albee

Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, starring celebrated TV star Damian Lewis has become an established hit at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Want more Albee? There’s the revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Harold Pinter starring the indefatigable Imelda Staunton (Gypsy revival) as motor mouth monster Martha, Conleth Hill as George. Of the cast, co-starring Luke Treadaway as Nick and Imogen Poots as Honey, “a sabre-toothed pussycat,” a critic wrote “It is hard to imagine a cast that could be bettered.”

James Macdonald directed the production which is being hailed as “pitch-perfect” and “not only the most affecting and intelligent, but the most enjoyable evening in the West End.”

Of this 60s landmark play, Michael Arditti in the Express wrote, “It’s a moot point as to who is in the tighter corner: Nick and Honey, the young academic and his wife, invited for late-night drinks by the college president’s daughter [Martha] to watch her marriage [to George] unravel. Their discomfort is matched by the audience’s delight . . . With the action unfolding over a single night in George and Martha’s sitting room, as well as its conscious echoes of Eugene O’Neill, [it] might well be subtitled Long Night’s Journey Into Day . . .  It’s the magnificent Conleth Hill’s raw pain and simmering resentment as George that provide the abiding image of the night . . . It offers one of the most intricate and intimate portraits of marriage seen on stage.”.

 

Two of the Bard’s lesser characters make a comeback

At the Old Vic, two of the Bard’s bit players find themselves center stage as the world’s most celebrated tragedy [Hamlet] is reworked by director David Leveaux into an absurdist comedy in Tom Stoppard’s “scintillating” Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which a reviewer noted, “unleashes a coruscating cascade of wordplay and ideas [such as questions about predestination and free will].”

Daniel Radcliffe, “one of the most recognizable young actors on the planet,” as Rosencrantz, is partnered by Joshua McGuire as the more suspicious and cynical Guildenstern.” Several critics have compared the punkish characters to a cross between Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot, even Lewis Carroll’s Tweedledum and Tweedledee.


Early Stephen Karam

Recent runs included Tom Attenborough’s production of Stephen Karam’s 2006 dark comedy with music Speech & Debate, which featured Gideon Glick (Significant Other) as Howie. There’s now a film adaptation starring Sarah Steele [from the original cast], Austin McKenzie, and Liam James with appearances by Kristin Chenoweth, Darren Criss, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.


London as Theater

Many attractions are free or ask for a donation. An absolute must is a visit to the humongous V&A Museum (Victoria and Albert).  It would take days to capture it all, but you can manage some exciting and eye-catching exhibits in a day visit.

In Trafalgar Square is the huge National Gallery, with floors of coveted masterpieces and sculpture from around the world. Currently, through June 25, is a beyond-dazzling retrospective, Michelangelo and Sebastiano, which not only has dozens of canvases from both artists but also details their long friendship – and sad falling out – in expressive letters.

It’s hard to escape theater in London, especially if you wander into the adventure, scents, clothing, and arts and crafts on sale at Covent Garden. There’s plenty of street theater.

Adjacent to Covent Garden is the must-visit Actors’ Church, St. Paul’s, with an array of memorial tributes to the Who’s Who of British Theatre on the walls. Nearby, the popular Transit Museum will take you railroading way back into time.

A lesser known area of the city to a majority of tourists is Market Borough [London Bridge Underground station], situated adjacent to the Thames on the remaining bulwark of old London Bridge. Dozens of restaurants and pubs offer great food at bargain prices. You can even find Louisiana gumbo and pulled pork BBQ! Worthy stops are at the Brood, Boro Bistro, and the vastly popular Italian Padella.

Next to the horror that replaced the old bridge is an octagon-shaped three-story building, Globe Tavern.  On the second floor above the pub is a theater of food courtesy of young Newcastle chef Luke Hawkins. A great time to visit is on Sundays when he carries on the tradition of Sunday Roasties. Popular choices are the rump of beef and roast chicken – both come with old-fashioned Yorkshire Pudding and gravy.

Nearby is the aptly named Old Thameside Inn, with a large bankside outdoor patio. It sits right across from Sir Thomas Drake’s famous galleon, The Golden Hinde II.

Look around and you’ll note the lack of residential buildings in the immediate area. One reason might be that mornings and late afternoons historic and vaulted Southwark Cathedral provides a half-hour concert from its magnificent bell tower.

Guild Hall 2017 Artists Members Exhibition

On Saturday April 8, Guild Hall presented the winners of the 79th Artist Members Exhibition that featured 383 local artists in the oldest non-juried museum exhibition on Long Island. Judge Ruba Katrib, Curator, SculptureCenter, awarded Joyce Kubat Top Honors for her ink on paper piece Armour (2016).

On Saturday April 8, Guild Hall presented the winners of the 79th Artist Members Exhibition that featured 383 local artists in the oldest non-juried museum exhibition on Long Island. Judge Ruba Katrib, Curator, SculptureCenter, awarded Joyce Kubat Top Honors for her ink on paper piece Armour (2016).

Other honorees included: Pam L. Nolan for Best Abstract; Anne Drager for Best Representational Work; Neil Kraft for Best Photograph; Melinda Hackett for Best Work on Paper; Ruby Jackson for Best Sculpture; Luk Zulu for Best Mixed Media; Doug Reina for the Catherine and Theo Hios Best Landscape Award; Gustavo Bonevardi for Best New Artist. Honorable Mentions were Sara M. Kriendler, Alan Lucks, Patti Who, Jeffrey S. Muhs, Ruth Poniarski, Olivia August, Aurelio Torres, and Lawrence & Cornelia Randolph. Many of the works are available for sale.

The installation design is by Christina Strassfield, Director/Chief Curator, Guild Hall Museum and will be on view through June 3, 2017

Olivier Awards

Olivier Awards: Top Prizes Go to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Groundhog Day

By: Ellis Nassour

Going in, U.K.’s Olivier Awards, handed out yesterday at London’s Royal Albert Hall, looked to be a Harry Potter-dominated affair. It turned out to be true. On the West End’s biggest theater occasion, John Tiffany’s smash two-part production of J.K. Rowling’s book Harry Potter and the Curse Child led the pack with a record-breaking 11 nominations. It won nine: Best New Play, Director, Best Actor – Jamie Parker, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Costumes, Design, Lighting, and Sound.

Olivier Awards: Top Prizes Go to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Groundhog Day

By: Ellis Nassour

Going in, U.K.’s Olivier Awards, handed out yesterday at London’s Royal Albert Hall, looked to be a Harry Potter-dominated affair. It turned out to be true. On the West End’s biggest theater occasion, John Tiffany’s smash two-part production of J.K. Rowling’s book Harry Potter and the Curse Child led the pack with a record-breaking 11 nominations. It won nine: Best New Play, Director, Best Actor – Jamie Parker, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Costumes, Design, Lighting, and Sound.

It arrives for its Broadway debut next Spring at Ambassador Theatre Group’s Lyric Theatre, which will undergo massive renovations upon the close of Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour – one major redo will be relocating the entrance to 43rd Street.

Tiffany was twice blessed with director nominations for Harry Potter… and the revival of The Glass Menagerie, starring Best Actress nominee Cherry Jones.

In the musical category, the stage adaptation of the 1993 film Groundhog Day, which has a huge cult following, by Tim Minchin and Danny Rubin (book) picked up eight nominations. It took trophies for Best New Musical and Best Actor – Andy Karl, who’s reprising his role here. The show is in previews for its opening next Monday [April 17].

The much-belated London premiere of Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen classic musical Dreamgirls landed five nominations, with Amber Riley (Glee) named Best Actress for her powerhouse turn as Effie. It also scored a Supporting Actor win.

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar received six nominations, and took the award for Best Musical Revival, for a highly-acclaimed production in Regent’s Park, being revived again this summer.


After a 25-year absence from the stage, Glenda Jackson earned her first nomination since 1984 as King Lear in the play of the same nameIan McKellen picked up his 10th nomination for best actor for No Man’s Land, reprising a role he played on Broadway.

Other notable U.S. nominees included Glenn Close and Ed Harris.

Top winners: 

Best New Play
Elegy – Nick Payne
The Flick – Annie Baker
* Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Jack Thorne, John Tiffany,
and J.K. Rowling One Night in Miami – Kemp Powers


Best Actress
Glenda Jackson, King Lear 
Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie
* Billie Piper, Yerma
Ruth Wilson, Hedda Gabler 


Best Actor
Ed Harris, Buried Child
Tom Hollander, Travesties
Ian McKellen, No Man’s Land
* Jamie Parker, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Best Supporting Actress
The ensemble of Melissa Allan, Caroline Deyga, Kirsty Findlay, Karen Fishwick, Kirsty MacLaren, Frances Mayli McCann, Joanne McGuinness, and Dawn Sievewright, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour
* Noma Dumezweni, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Clare Foster, Travesties
Kate O’Flynn, The Glass Menagerie 

Best Supporting Actor
*
Anthony Boyle, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Freddie Fox, Travesties
Brian J Smith, The Glass Menagerie
Rafe Spall, Hedda Gabler

Best New Comedy
The Comedy about a Bank Robbery – Henry Lewis, Henry Shields, and Jonathan Sayer
Nice Fish – Mark Rylance and Louis Jenkins
* Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour – Lee Hall
The Truth – Florian Zeller  

Best Play Revival
The Glass Menagerie – Tennessee Williams
This House – James Graham
Travesties – Tom Stoppard
* Yerma – Federico Garcia Lorca

Best New Musical
Dreamgirls – Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen
The Girls – Gary Barlow
* Groundhog Day – Tim Minchin and Danny Rubin
School of Rock – Andrew Lloyd Webber, Glenn Slater, and Julian Fellowes


Best Actress, Musical
Glenn Close, Sunset Boulevard
The ensemble of Debbie Chazen, Sophie-Louise Dann, Michele Dotrice, Claire Machin, Claire Moore, and Joanna Riding, The Girls
* Amber Riley, Dreamgirls
Sheridan Smith, Funny Girl

Best Actor, Musical
David Fynn, School of Rock
Tyrone Huntley, Jesus Christ Superstar
* Andy Karl, Groundhog Day
Charlie Stemp, Half a Sixpence


Best Supporting Actress, Musical
Haydn Gwynne, The Threepenny Opera
Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, Murder Ballad
* Rebecca Trehearn, Show Boat
Emma Williams, Half a Sixpence 

Best Supporting Actor, Musical
Ian Bartholomew, Half a Sixpence
* Adam J Bernard, Dreamgirls
Ben Hunter, The Girls
Andrew Langtree, Groundhog Day 

Best Director
Simon Stone, Yerma
* John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Matthew Warchus, Groundhog Day

Outstanding Achievement in Music
Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen’s  Dreamgirls
Imogen Heap, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child  
Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar – “The band and company creating the gig-like rock vibe of the original concept album”
* Andrew Lloyd Webber, Glen Slater’s School of Rock – “Three children’s bands, playing instruments live at every performance”

The Oliviers are produced/presented by the Society of London Theater. For a complete list of nominations and winners, visit www.OlivierAwards.com.

Present Laughter *** – Amelie **** – How to Transcend a Happy Marriage ***

By: David Sheward

Charm and whimsy are the main ingredients in three recent theatrical offerings on and Off-Broadway. Each has its own unique tastes and flavors—one is a reliable old favorite, the second a delightfully frothy new dessert and the third a strangely interesting souffle of emotions, ideas, and observations on modern life.

By: David Sheward

Charm and whimsy are the main ingredients in three recent theatrical offerings on and Off-Broadway. Each has its own unique tastes and flavors—one is a reliable old favorite, the second a delightfully frothy new dessert and the third a strangely interesting souffle of emotions, ideas, and observations on modern life. The most charming and familiar of this trio is Noel Coward’s Present Laughter (1939), an autobiographical romp centering on Garry Essendine, a comically vain British stage star, not unlike Coward himself, as he prepares for a whirlwind theatrical tour of Africa and untangles a web of friends, lovers, and crazed fans. I missed the first two American Broadway stagings with Clifton Webb (1946) and Coward himself (1958) since they were put on before I was born, but I did see it with productions starring George C. Scott (1982), Frank Langella (1996) and Victor Garber (2010). Kevin Kline, still dashing and trim at nearly 70, makes a joyously pompous Garry. He is full of funny, over-the-top bits meant to convey Garry’s inflated ego and tendency to histrionics. Watch as he puffs up like an offended pigeon when accused of overacting or when he stops to check out his thinning hair in front of a hall mirror, even when answering a frantically rung doorbell.

But Moritz von Stuelpnagel’s uneven direction makes this production not nearly as dizzying a knockabout farce as Scott’s self-directed show or the highly sexualized almost-orgy Scott Eliot made of the Frank Langella version. This is more along the lines of Nicholas Martin’s mildly amusing 2010 Victor Garber edition for Roundabout Theatre Company, fun but not wildly so. There are several fits and starts as the comic engine of Coward’s intricately constructed plot warms up in the first act. It isn’t until the hilarious second act when Garry must juggle two lovers, his former wife, a jealous husband, an kooky stalker, and a dignified titled visitor that the action really gets going. After that pinnacle of merriment and confusion, the engine runs down and the evening ends on an anticlimactic note.

The reliable Kristine Nielsen nearly steals the show as Garry’s sarcastic secretary. She matches Kline gesture for gesture and expression for expression. Kate Burton, who made her Broadway debut in the 1982 production as the ingenue (here played winningly by Tedra Millan), returns with dry wit as Liz, Garry’s former, but still loving wife. Ellen Harvey does a delicious deadpan as the chain-smoking Swedish housekeeper. Not quite as successful are Bhavesh Patel (overplaying the nutty adoring fan), Cobie Smulders (lacking allure and passion as the temptress Joanna), and Reg Rogers (using the same Cowardly Lion/Snaggletooth voice he’s employed in numerous other roles). David Zinn’s stylish set and Susan Hilferty’s gorgeous costumes provide the perfect atmosphere for this light entertainment.

Equally bubbly, but with an emphasis on whimsy rather than charm, is Amélie, the new musical based on Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant’s 2001 French hit film. The title character is sort of like Garry. She’s a dreamy waitress at the center of an odd assortment of friends, but instead of complaining about their eccentricities, she performs secret good deeds for them. Director Pam MacKinnon proves she is as adept at staging enchanting adult fables as she is at enlivening dramas such as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and A Delicate Balance. The Gallic bon-bon features a sweet score by Daniel Messe and Nathan Tysen, a tidy book by Craig Lucas, and an enchanting lead performances by a spritely Phillipa Soo. The boyishly endearing Adam Chanler-Berat makes a sweetly off-beat love interest. A versatile ensemble delivering memorable work includes Tony Sheldon as a reclusive artist, Paul Whitty as a friendly fish and an amorous plumber, Randy Blair as Elton John-like rock star and a struggling writer, and Alyse Alan Louis as a daffy hypochondriac.

Present Laughter’s David Zinn designed the candy-colored costumes and the adorable set suggesting a fantasy version of Paris, lit like a Renoir by Jane Cox and Mark Barton. At a fast 100 minutes, Amélie is a sweet and tasty creme brûlée of a show.

 Sarah Ruhl’s awkwardly-titled How to Transcend a Happy Marriage starts out as neither whimsical nor charming. The audience is greeted by the carcass of slaughtered goat hanging over the smart contemporary set designed by (who else?) David Zinn. The first act unravels like a tacky sex farce as two straight couples voyeuristically discuss a charismatic temp worker who lives in a triad arrangement with two men and kills her own meat (hence the animal corpse). They invite the threesome (or throuple) over for New Year’s Eve for bicurious games. Sexual and spiritual complications follow in the deeper second act. The characters gain dimension and the proceedings acquire a fantastic, whimsical—and yes, somewhat charming—tinge as the participants consider the serious consequences of their salacious actions and the tempting temp undergoes a magical transformation. The play becomes much more than a dissertation on the trendy topic of polyamorous arrangements, addressing the very nature of family. Director Rebecca Taichman and an adept cast handle the transition with dexterity, shifting from naughty jokes to existential sorrow to communal joy. As George, one of the straight wives and the play’s confused narrator, Marisa Tomei paints the stage with a palette-full of emotional colors—bright comic reds, deep sad blues, and fascinating purples when they get mixed together. It’s a startlingly affecting performance in a surprisingly effective play which transcends categories.

Present Laughter ***
 April 5—July 2. St. James Theatre, 245 W. 44th St., NYC. Tue, Thu, 7 pm; Wed, Fri—Sat, 8 pm; Wed, Sat, 2 pm; Sun, 3 pm. Running time: two hours and 30 mins. including intermission. $55—$150. (877) 250-2929. www.ticketmaster.com. Photos: Joan Marcus

Cobie Smulders, Kevin Kline “Present Laughter”

Amelie ****
Opened April 3 for an open run. Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W. 48th St., NYC. Tue—Thu, 7:30 pm; Fri—Sat, 8pm; Wed, Sat, 2 pm; Sun, 3pm. Running time: one hour and 40 mins. with no intermission. $49.50—$169.50. (800) 745-3000. www.ticketmaster.com. Photo: Joan Marcus

Adam Chanler-Berat, Phillipa Soo. “Amélie”

How to Transcend a Happy Marriage ***
March 20—May 7. Lincoln Center Theater at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre, 150 W. 65th St., NYC. Tue—Sat, 8pm; Wed, Sat, 2 pm; Sun, 3 pm. Running time: two hours with one intermission. $87. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com.  Photo: Kyle Froman

Omar Metwally, Marisa Tomei, Lena Hall, Austin Smith, David McElwee “How to Transcend a Happy Marriage”