As an ode to the theater the new musical The Glorious Ones, stylishly directed and choreographed by Graciela Daniele, is a sublimely funny treat served with winning wit by a marvelous ensemble of seven headed by the divine Marc Kudisch. These are singers who act having a joyous blast breathing life into the bawdy little one act.
The backstage musical about a troupe of performers in the "commedia dell’Arte," a 16th century improvisation group touring Italy during the late Renaissance is quite smart. The talented team of Lynn Ahrens (Book and Lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (Music), who were responsible for "Dessa Rose," "A Man of No Importance," "Ragtime" and "Seussical," have written a consistently good score. The story about a real life band of performers is based on a novel by Francine Prose that tells how Flaminio Scala (Marc Kudisch) formed the group of touring comedians in which he played the charismatic leading man. The remaining characters were all archetypal as well. They included the sly harlequin Francesso (Jeremy Webb), the quack "docttore" (John Kassir), the old miser Plantalone (David Patrick Kelly), the voluptuous leading lady Columbina (Natalie Venetia Belcon), the devoted dwarf Armanda (Julyana Soelistyo) and the elegant moon woman Isabella (Erin Davie).
As time passes their improvisational comedy begins to lose favor and when Flaminio’s protégé Francesco brings Isabella, a playwright, into the group the two become lovers, and as their popularity increases the mature Flaminio and his leading lady are forced into supporting character roles.
When Isabella joins the company the mood of the evening shifts. She sings an excellent song, "The World She Writes," which is followed by several outstanding musical numbers that reveal the inner life of the characters. A ballad "My Body Wasn’t Why" sung by Ms. Belcon is a sensual delight and a highlight of the evening.
Kudisch appears to grow more confident with each new role, and as the egotistical Flaminio at the center of the story, he is marvelous bringing a sexy swagger and a beautiful voice. Every cast member adds their special sparkle to the wonderful ensemble. John Kassir is an outstanding mime, Julyana Soelistyo is delightful, Davie and Webb are winning as the young lovers, with special kudos going to Belcon, who makes a sexy leading lady with a strong voice.
Keeping with the tradition of the time the staging is simple, a red curtain, a wooden stage, and the orchestra on a balcony above the set, giving focus to the performers. Set designer Dan Ostling and lighting designer Stephen Strawbridge provide some interesting affects near the end opening up the stage up with a backdrop of a luminous sky that feels like Heaven. The well crafted low comedy has been given a first rate Lincoln Center production, the sixth by Flaherty and Ahrens, which appears to be a perfect fit for the Mitzi E. Newhouse. We liked it immensely.
By Gordin & Christiano
Originally Published in Dan's Papers
The Lincoln Center production of The Glorious Ones opened at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in Lincoln Center, 150 West 65th Street, on November 5, 2007. Tickets are available at the box office or on line at www.lct.org or Tele-charge at 212-239-6200.