News & Reviews from New York

December 20th, 2003

NEVER GONNA DANCE, based on the film "Swing Time," with marvelous songs by some of the best old timers, is a show about tap dancing, and some of the numbers are breathtaking as choreographed by Jerry Mitchell-the rest are merely superb. The leading man, Noah Racey, charming and tasteful, is almost an Astaire, and there are fine comic turns by Peter
Bartlett and Peter Gerety. David Pittu is a delight as an absurd Latin Lover, and the real charisma is Karen Ziemba, who lights up the theatre whenever she's on stage. And Second Bananas Eugene Fleming and Deidre Goodwin dance up a storm. The imaginative set by Robin Wagner and costumes by Wiliam Ivey Long, with lighting by Paul Gallo, all enhance this all dance,
all fun, zany musical, ably directed by Michael Greif. The final duet between Racey and leading lady Nancy Lemenager was heartwarming, and brought a sentimental tear to an old, sometimes jaded, critic. If you like dance-this is one of the best. You'll walk out smiling, and maybe humming "The Way You Look Tonight."

***3/4 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and


December 18th, 2003

Wonderful Murphy in WONDERFUL TOWN: Donna Murphy will win the Tony for Best Performance by a Woman in a Musical. She lights up the stage with a comic flair seldom seen anywhere, her body is a rubber band, and
her magnificent voice fills the theatre with warmth and beauty. The play, with book by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, from stories by Ruth McKenney, is just a bit of delightful fluff about sisters coming from Ohio to live in Greenwich Village. Although the rest of the cast is a bit uneven, some
bordering on community theatre level, basically the show is nicely directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall and well designed by John Lee Beatty- set, Martin Pakledinaz- costumes, and Peter Kaczorowski- lighting. With the vivid Donna Murphy in the lead, WONDERFL TOWN fulfills its full potential and becomes a truly entertaining evening of Musical Theatre.

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

PRIVATE JOKES PUBLIC PLACES is a remarkable show-the first one I've ever seen that skewers the Architecture industry. It's smart, funny, insightful, and with a Broadway level cast directed by Maria Mileaf including
Anthony Rapp, M.J.Kang, Sebastian Roche and Geoffrey Wade, with innovative design, including some bizarre architectural design samples, by Neil Patel, this is a play any theatregoer with a brain will enjoy for its wit, its satiric thrusts and its earnest performances. It's playing in the proper place for it: the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Pl., 212/354-6510.

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


November 27th, 2003

I AM MY OWN WIFE, by Doug Wright, is an amazing show. Based on 1992 thru '93 interviews with a German transvestite who built, kept and guarded a collection of phonographs, clocks, and furniture thru the Nazi and the Communist regimes, is gripping, fascinating, vastly entertaining, and reaches down into the human spirit more that anything I have seen recently. In a
remarkable performance, Jefferson Mays plays the woman, several Americans, other Germans, switching body postures, accents, attitudes, in a flash-each a complete characterization transformed in the blink of an eye. Moises Kaufman has masterfully directed this splendid piece of theatre, and the brilliant set by Derek McLane, aspects of which are stunningly revealed as the play progresses, with lighting by David Lander
and costume design by Janice Pytel, all add up to the theatrical peak of this season so far.

**** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER,

Jackie Mason's LAUGHING ROOM ONLY is two shows: one is Jackie doing his usual conversational schtick with the audience in his subdued tone with physical absurdities sprinkled in; the second is bright entertaining musical numbers by the sparkling Doug Katsaros performed by a first rate Broadway quintet of
singer-dancers. There is only one number that integrates the two, and that is the high point of the show: "Tea Time," wherein Jackie plays a waiter overhearing and misunderstanding a conversation between two women in a tea room. That's the show. If there were more of that, if Katsaros's brilliance and
gift for the humor of incongruity were the core of the production instead of the musical breaks, the show might have worked. As it is, Jackie's material is a rehash of his former shows, and it closes this weekend.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and

Manhattan Theatre Club's IRON, by Rona Munro, directed by Anna D. Shapiro, deals with a working class woman who killed her husband and visits from her daughter whom she has not seen in fifteen years. Unfortunately, a play about prison visits can only be mostly exposition-a touch of action or emotion here and there-but mostly talk talk talk (and these are not fascinating minds). Lisa Emery is a marvelous actress with great range, and her portrayal of the mother is rich and full. Jennifer Dundas is fine as the daughter. The set, a visiting (sort of) room by Mark
Wendland is imaginative and works. But ultimately the prisoner's reaction to the possibility of an appeal is dumb (and annoying), and although Emery's acting is great, she's playing a character I don't want to spend ten minutes with-certainly not two and a half hours.

** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and

I saw a World Class show with great artistry and beauty at the Theater for the New City recently. It's closed now, but you might encounter it somewhere: "ROMEO AND JULIET-a non-verbal visual tale for our times," presented by Theatre Tsvete of Sofia, Bulgaria
and Bond Street Theatre of New York. This is a commedia version of the familiar tale with stick fighting, black light, acrobatics, stilts, mime, puppetry, juggling, sword fighting, with a wonderful
soundscape by Sean Nowell and Alexandre Fortuit. Brilliantly directed by Joanna Sherman and Tsvete Yaneva, performed by masters of their crafts, with great artistry , gracefulness and elegance, this is an uncommon spectacle that crosses cultures and boundaries to heights rarely achieved anywhere.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and


November 15th, 2003

THE SHOW MIGHT GO ON, David Kosh's play based on Roger
Bowen's novel is a domestic drama/comedy about the formation of a theatre company, and it has some entertaining moments. Performed in a cabaret setting, Dillon's on West 54th St., it almost works. The product of a bright new theatre group, The Michael Chekhov Theatre Company, and directed by Ann Bowen,
there are some good performances from Audrey Moore, Raymond Hill and Michael Bullrich, and some humor sprinkled through the play, but this overlong show, which does have theatrical potential, need reworking to succeed. Roger Bowen was an early member of the group of creators of the improvisation movement in
America, and one of the things missing from the play is a communication of what the essence of improvisational theatre is. This could be any business enterprise that needs financing from a mother which causes moral compromises. I wish this new theatre company good fortune in their continuing endeavors.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and


November 9th, 2003

CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, which explores family relationships, sexuality, and even life and death, is one of Tennessee Williams' best plays. Broadway now has, except for a few performances, an inept production of the play running. Poor Ashley Judd
gives it her all, but is basically betrayed by her director, Anthony Page, as she, in Act One, recites all her lines with verve and energy and no subtext. How could he allow that? Saying all the words is not enough on Broadway. Her performance passes boredom into pain-she stirs no empathy and no passion-its only
noise. The only life in Act one is Margo Martindale as Big Mama. Jason Patric is okay, but his mannered, underplaying of the role of the depressed, alcoholic husband doesn't really cut it for me. Continual withdrawal, much of it rather lifelessly, seems to me
to be the wrong choice. Thank goodness for Ned Beatty. He comes on as Big Daddy in Act Two and is a breath of fresh air-strength, power, humor. He's a dynamo that lifts the production to the height it deserves, going far beyond the capability of folk
singer Burl Ives whom I saw do the original. Amy Horn and Michael Mastro are fine as Sister and Gooper, and Judd is good enough in Act Three where she has no long speeches. The set by Maria Bjornson looks like a bunch of sticks with one great flaw: the big bed, upstage center, with a white bedcover and light constantly shining on it is either the misconception of Bjornson, or the director, Page, or the lighting designer, Howard Harrison. It is distracting, and if it is intended as a metaphor, the light could be
lowered after we get it. The play stands-Williams' poetic language, Southerninity and insight into the human heart with its family conflicts, rivalries and mendacity is still a great piece of writing. Save the $96 ticket price and go rent the film with Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman.

*1/2 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER

WICKED, songs by Stephen Schwartz, book by Winnie Holzman, about the friendship between Glinda the Good and The Wicked Witch of the West in "The Wizard of Oz," is, as we say in New England, "wicked good." Kristin Chenowith is the greatest comedienne Broadway has seen in a long time- she isn't "Glinda the Good," she's "Glinda the Great." With superb comic timing
that takes her lines far beyond the text, inventive character quirks that delight, and a singing voice that can chill you with its beauty, she is a star not to be missed. Idina Menzel as a green Wicked Witch is also a powerhouse, and deserves her costar billing-her lovely, powerful voice is a perfect counterpoint for
Chenowith. They are a matched pair. And then there's Carole Shelley, the mature Broadway star who brings warmth, strength and humor to her role as manipulator. As a bonus, there's Joel Grey as The Wizard. He sings, he dances, he's cute, he's adorable, he's still a star who brings a smile to all who watch and hear him. The set by Eugene Lee is magnificent, evoking the time when the Oz books were written-a Jules Verne world a hundred years ago, and lighting by Kenneth Posner is super. Costumes by Susan Hilferry have flair, panache, humor, originality and brilliance. Joe Mantello, the director, guides with a true sense
of how to delight an audience.

***3/4 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER

"Road House, " the movie with Patrick Swayze, wasn't very good. The show ROAD HOUSE, now playing at CSV on Suffolk Street, is terrific. They call it a "Fightsical," and that's what it is: a bunch of stunt people, martial artists and acrobats in a barroom-plenty of openings for fights and mayhem. They jump., they fly, they punch, they fall, they bounce, they make love-it's a dazzler! Staring Taimak Guarriello, a handsome, sexy, genuine martial artist, who did the spectacular fight choreography, and with a
fun, enthusiastic, agile cast including the charming Ago the MagiChef, the beautiful and sensuous Rachael Roberts, Rolando Zuniga, and Nicholas Arens, this is a show for anyone who wants to have a good time. 2121/868-4444 thru November 22nd.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER

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