Call it the “wow” effect. Or, in the idiom of “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”,“Hosanna”. For what a glorious revival this is of August Wilson’s play about African Americans in a Pittsburgh boarding house in 1911. Here the melody of daily life juts up against religious and folkloric ritual, symbolism blends with realism, human and divine comedies merge.
When stage and screen legend Angela Lansbury makes her first entrance in the Broadway revival of Noel Coward’s frothy 1941 comedy Blithe Spirit nearly fifteen minutes into the performance, the multiple Tony award winning grande dame practically stops the show. The extended applause comes in waves that ebb and flow for a full two minutes or more drowning out the dialogue as the actors move right along with the enthusing action without skipping a beat. They carry on as if unaware of the stupendous outpouring of love coming across the footlights. The Broadway icon, now 83 years old, inhabits the eccentric Madame Arcati, the psychic medium who is the catalyst for the unfolding action.
Scott Siegel created The Nightlife Awards to gather the three separate Nightlife niches together – cabaret, jazz and comedy – “to give a more impressive example of the depth and diversity of New York’s club world.” On January 26, 2009 a splendid array of talent was on display at The Town Hall. What makes this Awards show different from all others, is that there are no acceptance speeches the winners strut their stuff and the audience then understands why they have been honored.
When PAL JOEY star, Cristian Hoff, injured his foot prior to the show’s opening, it revealed to me something about the old saying “break a leg” that lies at the heart of all superstitions, namely “be careful of what you wish for”.
The bracing revival of Martin McDonagh’s black comedy, The Cripple ofInishmaan, with a deeply moving Aaron Monaghan as the twisted orphan Billy at the center of the bleak tale, may be the least violent of McDonagh’s plays, even his most wistful infused with charming depictions of Gaelic eccentricities. But amidst McDonagh’s sweet ironic humor there is also his trademark pathos and savagery that becomes all the more disturbing in this quiet, yet unpredictable world set on the isolated Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland.
Now in prieviws at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway. Scheduled to open on April 2, 2009. (see listings). What follow is a a review of the Off Broadway production
Neil LaBute’s new comedy Reasons to be Pretty continues his examination of our obsession with physical beauty in what may be his most mature work to date. Making its world premier at the Lucille Lortel Theater in Greenwich Village, the MCC production is expertly directed by Terry Kinney. And while the play may not add up completely the actors with thrilling authority deliver visceral performances that hilariously cover the evening’s shortcomings.
Guild Hall Academy of the Arts presented their annual Lifetime Achievement Awards at Cipriani on 42nd Street. The 2008 honorees were Candice Bergen/performing arts, Ken Auletta/literary arts, Jennifer Bartlett/visual arts and Donald Zucker/ leadership & philanthropic endeavors. Ruth Appelhof, Executive Director of Guild Hall, East Hampton’s cultural center for decades, welcomed guests to the celebration of artistic achievement, where Marshall Brickman (Jersey’s Boys book scrbe) presided over the lavish dinner/ceremony.
The Drama League Annual Benefit Gala called A Musical Celebration of Broadway was a dazzling evening at The Rainbow Room high above Rockefeller Plaza, where Broadway producers, the husband and wife team of Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley, were honored. The star-studded evening hosted by Tony winners Donna Murphy and Julie White also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Drama League Directors Project.
Richard Greenberg’s drama The American Plan, set at a lakeside home in the Catskills during the summer of 1960, is an engrossing play with interesting spins on love and identity. When a handsome young man swims across the lake from a nearby resort hotel, he sets in motion an escalating series of conflicts between a beautiful young heiress and her German-Jewish emigrant mother.
As part of Black History month La MaMa e.t.c. is showcasing acclaimed playwright Leslie Lee with the world premiere of his surreal play The Book of Lambert, set in an abandoned NYC subway tunnel, where six lost souls drift in a dreamlike world haunted by the demons of their past. The Obie Awarding winning Lee is a founding artist of La MaMa e.t.c. and many of his plays have been staged there over the years. Lee is going through a bit of resurgence. His Tony Nominated The First Breeze of Summer, which was originally produced by the Negro Ensemble Company, was revived in a stunning 2008 Signature Theatre production starring Leslie Uggams.
The Metropolitan Room was packed for Jamie DeRoy’s Annual Celebration of The Academy Awards on Monday, February 16, 2009. Jamie opened up the show with a funny song called “Academy Awards” – a piece of special material of someone thanking everyone from their chiropractor to their dog walker and it set the tone for a festive evening with many of her talented “friends.” She also interspersed interesting facts about the Oscars over the years. Lanny Myers was the musical director at the piano and the show was directed by Barry Kleinbort.
Fresh from his thrilling performance this season in the new Broadway musical " ATale of Two Cities" James Barbour’s successful concert series at Sardis has been extended through March. His "Love Songs" concert, which began in January, is a unique opportunity to hear the powerful vocalist interpret a stellar list of classic love songs. The show varies every week, and Mr. Barbour always has a different special guest so you might want hear him more than once.
On Thursday, March 19, LongHouse Reserve of East Hampton will host an intimate evening benefit at one of the oldest literary clubs in the United States, The Lotos Club in New York City. Longtime supporter and Pulitzer Prize winning author Edward Albee will join Tony Award winning actress Marian Seldes for a dramatic reading of Edward Albee’s play Counting the Ways. Counting the Ways is a humorous and poignant exploration of a couple questioning their love for each other.
Different stars will appear every Sunday Night 6:30 PM at Birdland, 315 West 44th Street, where Scott Siegel will host a talented list of vocalists singing songs from Broadway"s Jukebox Musicals. Julia Murney (Wicked) pictured here with Scott was a special guest this Sunday at James Barbour’s "Love Songs" series at Sardis. Some of the other stars scheduled to perform in March for Mr. Siegel under the musical direction of Tedd Firth are Cheryl Freeman (The Acid Queen in the Who’s Tommy), AAaron Lazar (Tale of Two Cities), Brad Oscar (The Producers), Emily Skinner (Side Show) and more! For Reservations and more information call 212 581-3080