News & Reviews from New York

October 31, 2002

AMOUR is closing, and it's too bad. It's a unique, original, entertaining romantic fantasy about a shy young man who can walk thru walls and the woman he loves from a distance, with some of the cleverest lyrics in town by Dieier van Cauwelaert, translated by Jeremy Sams, fine tunes by Michel Legrand and brilliant vocal arrangements by Todd Ellison. Some of the songs are Gilbert and Sullivanesque, some are Dr. Seuss. Direction by James Lapine is brisk, bright, imaginative. Design by Scott Pask is clever, lighting by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer makes its own artistic statement. The nine member cast, including Malcolm Gets, Melissa Errico, Sarah Litzsinger and John Cunningham, is wonderful, and I sat there smiling
for ninety-five minutes.

*** 1/2 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER

A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, now at Lincoln Center, is another simple, character-based musical that deserves a long life. The story of a bus conductor in Dublin who directs a little theatre group is full of original charm and imagination. The book by Terrence McNally is totally engaging, and ultimately quite moving, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens give a contemporary lilt to
Stephen Flaherty's music, from the comic "Books" and "Cuddles" to the final "Love Who You Love." The cast, including Roger Rees, Ronn Carroll, Jessica Molaskey and Faith Prince, is flawless, and Joe Mantello's
sensitive direction fulfills the potential of this unusual musical, played on Loy Arcenas turning set that gives the feel of the movements of a large city on the small stage. Based on the film of the same name, the program gives no credit to the original author who dreamed up the story that became this
lovely little musical which is so well done in this show. Shame on the producers Andre Bishop and Bernard Gersten for this omission. In a way the show goes beyond the show- it captures some of the soul and heart of Ireland in song and dance.

**** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER


October 18, 2002

There's only one FLOWER DRUM SONG now playing on Broadway. Somehow, the reviewer for the NY Times seems more concerned with a production 40 years ago than the one now playing. Maybe he has a time
machine, and that's why he persists in advising us to see a show that no longer exists. The new production is a terrific show about a Chinese girl's try at becoming an American, with spectacular staging by Robert Longbottom and flashy, inventive, humorous costuming by Gregg Barnes. Lea Salonga's clear beautiful voice enchants, Sandra Allen's beauty, sexuality and fine voice is a turn on, Randall Duk Kim as the classical square who is transformed is delightful, and Jodi Long's brassy Rosalind Russell character, all provide us with a joyous musical evening. With a stylized Tai Chi opening, a splashy first act, a too plotty predictable second act and a strong finish, the audience walked out of the Virginia Theatre smiling, and humming "I Enjoy Being a Girl." After all, this IS a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical,
and they are the song combo for the ages, regardless of plot.

*** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER


October 14, 2002

BETTY RULES, written and performed by Alyson Palmer, Amy Ziff and Elizabeth Ziff, the trio who make up the extremely entertaining singing group BETTY, and directed by Michael Grief, is a terrific, personal musical show about the struggles, setbacks, successes, and, indeed, the lives of the three women singers as they showcase their talents, individually and as a
group. Each is a strong singer, actress and musician, each a unique personality-- together they soar. Filled with humor and charm, the show is a feast for the eyes (they're sexy) and the ears (good, toe-tappin' contemporary music that cooks). The venue, the new Zipper Theatre on West 37th St., is the most comfortable performance space in town- the seats are the back seats of cars; the design of the whole place is colorful, tasteful, cozy.

***1/2 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER,

The Japanese movement theatre troupe MIZUTO-ABURA MIME COMPANY just did two shows at the Japan Society. The four member company, all of whom are as agile as a willow and a worm, give us an abstraction of a man and his soup in (mostly) dance, some silent comedy with props, and mime. Their movements are clean, precise, and exciting to watch as the environment and characters change in this exuberant, surreal, fifty minute expression of communication thru movement, accompanied by a sound and light-scape that lift the action.

***1/2 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER

HARLEM SONG at The Apollo on 125th St., written and directed by George C. Wolfe, is a mixture of fascinating photographic history of Harlem, narrative (by older long-time residents) and musical numbers, some of which are splashy and some balladic, all derivative. The show is uneven, and is perhaps another clear example that a writer shouldn't direct his own show. The first two numbers are bland; the fun starts about ten minutes into the show when David St. Louis, dressed in white, comes down the steps and tap dancers enter and lift our spirits. From there on it's the very lively, attractive sixteen member cast in an engaging show full of good dancing and singing, especially by B.J. Crosby, whose beautiful voice, pacing and range are thrilling. She alone is worth the price of admission. Lighting by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer is Broadway caliber, and, of course enhances everything.

*** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER


October 07, 2002

MY OLD LADY, Israel Horovitz's new play, basically involves us in moral considerations, and a mixture of American and French culture and views. This is a highly-charged drama, filled with humor, about a 94 year old woman, the son of her long-time lover, who has inherited her apartment, and her daughter. This story of French permissiveness of extra-marital
relationships, the odd conditions of real estate ownership in Paris, the lives of people connected by their relationships with others not present, is all
spun out with bright, witty, incisive writing and top level acting by Sian Phillips, Peter Friedman and Jan Maxwell. Horovits has continued to grow and expand as a playwright, and it's a pleasure to spend time with his intelligence as he opens cans of moral worms and leaves the final judgements to us. John Lee Beatty's marvelous set, which is clearly over two hundred years old, perfectly reflects the play, and Peter Kaczorowski's lighting enhances all, including Elizabeth Hope Clancy's fine costumes. Director David Esbjornson has staged and paced the play with both vigor and sensitivity.

**** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER

There are entertaining moments in George S. Kaufman's THE BUTTER AND EGG MAN, but you can see clearly why Kaufman joined with other writers in his subsequent works. There are good gags in this play about a novice going into showbusiness, and some clever lines, but it's a creaky antique that doesn't work any more. In Act 2 the director, David Pittu, has everybody
shouting, but that doesn't engage us as we are asked to identify with a lucky idiot. John Ellison Conlee's acting gives the play a better balance towards the end, but "the play's the thing," and this ain't it.

* 1/2 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER

An antique that does work is the 94 year old THE CHARITY THAT BEGAN AT HOME by St John Hankin now at the Mint Theatre. Director Gus Kaikkonen has assembled a cast of twelve fine actors, including the
excellent Kristin Griffith, and somehow finds room for all of them on the small stage in this dramatic comedy about the foibles of misplaced philanthropy and its possible romantic consequences. Perfect period
costumes by Henry Shaffer, set by Charles F. Morgan and lighting by William Armstrong are all just right. The final scene between Harmony Schuttler and Karl Kenzler is one of the most touching theatrical moments
I've seen. It's a piece of theatre history that works as well today as it did in 1906 when it was first performed.

*** 1/4 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER

If you want to see a show with a moving, heart-warming story, great jokes performed by a master comedian with the rare sense of timing that only a few of the greatest have, a show that does not have a moment that isn't entertaining, go see SAY GOODNIGHT GRACIE, written by Rupert Holmes and starring the incomparable Frank Gorshin. Aided by the wonderful Didi Conn as the voice of Gracie, this show, about 100 year old comedian George Burns and his adventures in romance and showbusiness, directed by John Tillinger, is captivating, joyous, brilliant comedy. What more can
I say?

**** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER


September 14, 2002

A revival of Lanford Wilson's BURN THIS just opened at the Union Square Theatre. This review is in two parts: What it is and What it could (perhaps should) be. What it is: The first half hour of chatter among a former dancer, her gay roommate and her boyfriend as they relive the funeral of a third roommate who, with his boyfriend, perished in a boating accident, is static, boring, without style or energy, poorly cast and directed (by James Houghton). Over thirty minutes of exposition with not much happening. Catherine Keener as the dancer, who is now a choreographer, has none of the body language, poise, movements, musculature, of someone who at any time in her life was a dancer. Her performance throughout is somewhat
lumpy, lacking sharpness, crispness. The actor who plays her boyfriend, Ty Burrell, comes across as gay, and when the director has him kiss her gay roommate on the lips, all tilts further out of balance. The first emotion appears when Edward Norton, as the brother of the deceased, breezes in- he's alive. However, although he's engaging, as played here he lacks the
cajones the part needs- cute but not scary, not dangerous, which defeats the character. He gets all the good lines in the play and gives an intelligent,
interesting delivery, but plays it like a quirky kid, not the fearful animal the part needs, and so there seems to be no real reason for Keener to fall into bed with him. In the physical contest of masculinity between Burton and Norton late in the play, it is won by Burton.

What it should be: The character of Pale, the tornado that enters the scene, should be a Stanley Kowalski, an elemental force of nature, not a little boy. BURN THIS is about a woman awakened to passion by an animal who is a magnet drawing her to him, and about the animal tamed. I didn't see that. Although I only lost interest during the first half hour of this three hour and ten minute show, I didn't feel that this production fulfilled the potential of the play.

**1/2 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER

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