News & Reviews from New York

February 18th, 2005

WE'RE STILL HOT, book lyrics and co-composition by J.J.McCall, Rueben Gurr co-composer, a musical about menopause, features four terrific singers, all "women of a certain age", all with long stage and musical experience. Led by the charismatic Deborah Jean Templin, whose strength and subtleties in her interpretations of the songs holds it all together, the other three are also powerful performers: Jane Seaman, Deirdre Kingsbury and Marnee Hollis, and each has her moments to shine. The four part harmony in "Ninety-Seven Percent" is top drawer. Most of the musical numbers, which have a wide range of influences, are quite good; the scenes about the lives of these women, their marriages, their sensibilities, don't reach the same level of entertainment. Set by
Diego Studios, costumes by Philip Heckman, lighting by Greg Cohen, are all fine and appropriate, but direction by Sue Wolf could bring a bit more reality instead of caricature to some of the scenes, and it might play better. I believe women would appreciate the show even more than I since they most probably can identify with the tribulations of menopause more than I can.
I enjoyed WE'RE STILL HOT because of the singers.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and

was a great event. Featuring the star duos from some of the world's best companies, it was a wonderful look at the variety of work and styles the ballet world has to offer. American Ballet Theatre: grace, fluidity, precision (Xiomara Reyes), thrilling leaps, twists and balon- what every male ballet dancer aspires to
(Herman Cornejo). Paris Opera Ballet: liquid fluidity (Eleonora Abbagnato), quicksilver movements (Alessio Carbone) a great choreographer (Roland Petit) who cuts through the rhythm. And other favorites: the powerful dynamic Angel Corella as "Le Corsaire," Lucia Lacarra as "Carmen" and in "La Prisonniere"--- her
body goes beyond most dancers, and Alina Cojocaru-- clean, sparkling and radiant in "Don Quixote." And, as a contrast, to start Act Two, the Martha Graham Company- twelve women playing with steps and visual images. All in all a great evening of world class dance.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and


February 15th, 2005

A quick view of Act One of GOOD VIBRATIONS, the Beach Boys musical on Broadway: shallow, inane book by Richard Dresser; great set by Heidi Ettinger; some good singing voices; boring, unengaging. Director/choreographer John Carrafa's work had no
dynamic in it. We escaped at Intermission.

-* Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER,and


February 14th, 2005

SHIFT CHANGE, by Ben Carlin, now at Producers Club II on Ninth Ave, gives us a very good production of an Absurdist play with a solid performance by Chet Carlin. There is a Beckettesque duo in this (mostly) linguistically clever Genie-in-the-bottle switch, and
Carlin is captivating and quite strong and varied in the shifts he goes through. Explanations aren't really necessary in Absurdist theatre, and there are theatrical hints in the play as it progresses, like a tricycle appearing (perhaps a foreshadowing of playful things to come), but the play needs more seeds planted: a clue, a hint. A lot of the banter and word play is fun, some seems deliberately obscure and overly prolonged. In Act Two it begins to expand into theatricality, thanks in part to the fine, many-layered set by Kevin Lock, but it sinks into not very profound philosophy. Tony Angelini has created a musical soundscape that lifts the production, and Sean Linehan's lighting fits perfectly. Shawn Rozsa has directed the piece with as much clarity and theatrical
zip as one could hope for, keeping the action flowing and jumping. Ultimately, it is that rare bird: an interesting Absurdist drama.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and

1966, the resurrection concert, now at Flamingo a Go-Go on West 21st St. Saturday nights at 8: PM, is a showcase for this contemporary rock band with an ear to the past. The show starts with recorded songs from the era, and a bevy of very beautiful girls in terrific sparkly, shimmering, fringey costumes by Robert Guy, dancing, spotlighted in corners and balconies of the club. Then the live band comes on, arranged by the brilliant Doug Katsaros, with lead singer Jamie Gustis, a rather good, rough-voiced rock singer. The songs are 60's, the look and feel is now,
forty years later. It's not a peek at an antique, not a nostalgia trip- it's entertainment for today- a current take on the 60's. (I loved Katsaros's arrangement of Weill's "Moon of Alabama.) Director Judy Jacksina takes us on a fun musical journey (and I
got to dance with a beautiful blonde).

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and


January 30th, 2005

John Rubinstein gives a powerful performance as the lawyer, the central figure in Elmer Rice's 1931 play COUNSELLOR-AT-LAW. He brings a dynamic vitality to the part that fills the theatre. His acting has the depth, dimension, strength and charisma of a star, and that is must what this old, fascinating look into the life and office of an up-from-the-gutter achiever in the '30's needs. (Paul Muni did it on Broadway, and John Barrymore did the movie.) With a good surrounding cast including Robert O'Gorman, Beth Glover, Lanie MacEwan, Mary Carver and Tara Sands, Director Dan Wackerman keeps things clicking and jumping as the twenty-one people in the cast enter, react, exit, and we're on to the next crisis- all well-costumed with 30's flavor and flair by Amy
Bradshaw. Chris Jones' excellent set and Tyler Micoleau's subtle lighting are just right. Sit back and visit the views, the energy of our grandparents' era. It's a soap for all time, and the audience loved it.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and


January 25th, 2005

You'd have to be really jaded not to enjoy the new musical LITTLE WOMEN (book by Allan Knee, music by Jason Howland, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein). The tall but elfin Sutton Foster as the leader of the sisters is lively, endearing, and a spunky 19th Century example of a woman with a will, a way, and universal
good looks and charm. She has great comic timing, intonation and physicality. All of the cast are really good singers (as is apropos on Broadway), and then there is Maureen McGovern as the mother. When she sings in Act One it's sublime, and when she opens up her pipes for her big number in Act Two it's a killer. With the fine performances by the entire cast, an imaginative active set by Derek McLane, Catherine Zuber's costumes and Kenneth Posner's lighting, director Susan H. Schulman draws us into
this family until we feel we are part of it. It's a long show, but as it ended I said to my date, "I'd love to stay for one more chapter."

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and

Geraldine Hughes was brought up in poverty in Northern Ireland during the time of "The Troubles," and is now performing her one-woman show based on her experiences at The Culture Project in The Village. Besides herself, the lively Ms. Hughes plays a dozen or so characters of all ages, each with its own physicality,
manner of speech and attitude. The terrible impact of the senseless killing between Catholics and Protestants hits the audience in the gut, as well as the hope and final victory of this one spunky (and lucky) girl to leave all that behind and begin her
climb up the Showbusiness ladder. She's a fascinating performer, and with the enhancement of her stories by Jonathan Christman's scenic digital imagery which gives visual context to the verbal descriptions, we are there- in her environment. It's a gripping show.


January 16th, 2005

Shift your consciousness back about 230 years, to a different, somewhat stilted style of writing, and soon the universality of the humor in this ancient soap opera begins to work, and the laughs emerge in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's THE RIVALS, now at Lincoln Center. Sheridan is a master of wordplay, and his Mrs. Malaprop's ridiculous inappropriateness in her use of words has become part of our common language. Mischief makers, fools, lovers- and Sheridan's trick is that here and there a hint of almost malapropism slips into everyone's speech. Dana Ivey's Mrs. M
lifts the play with her every appearance, and her clear diction underlines the jokes. Jeremy Shamos makes a powerful idiot, Richard Easton is the ultimate martinet of a father, and the lovers, Matt Letscher and Emily Bergl are appropriately attractive and sincere. The entire cast is excellent, and costumes by Jess Goldstein help set the era quite well until the caricature dresses of Ivey and Bergl late in the play which try to underline the ridiculousness of the scene, and so undermine it. John Lee Beatty's classic Commedia set is just right, and Mark Lamos has
directed THE RIVALS with a sure sense of comedy timing.

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

Ed Dixon, a strong-voiced overweight old man with a barrel of charm, is the strong center of Kathie Lee Gifford's children's musical UNDER THE BRIDGE about a tramp under a Paris bridge and the three fatherless children whose mother leaves them in his care. She did the lyrics and adaptation from Natalie Savage
Carson's book, contributed to the music by David Pomerantz, and helped (along with Paul Raiman) with the very good vocal arrangements. While the dialogue is simplistic, the songs are rather charming, and the singers can really sing. Outstanding are Jacquelyn Piro as the mother and Maggie Watts as the oldest
child. I'd like to see what this songwriting team could do with a more interesting and exciting book. As we went further into Act Two, I began to look for other descriptive words- trite? Familiar?
Derivative? Stereotypical? Eventually the saccharin sentiments became a bit tedious. Thank goodness for the high-quality singing. The set by Jim Kronzer is a bit bulky for the small Zipper Theatre stage, and Chris Lee's lighting is weird, with strange and sudden changes. Director Eric Schaeffer keeps it all moving
quite well.

** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and

Get out a pen. Write this down: Kim Cea, the singer/comedienne, has reached star level, and will be at Studio 54, 254 W. 54t St., on Saturdays, February 19th and March 19th, at 10:30 PM. This Broadway ("Smokey Joe's Café") and off Broadway ("Newsical")
star has been building and honing her solo act, and it's achieved what she reached for. I saw her perform it twice in the last couple of years, and now, in her January performance at Studio 54, it has grown to the level of a star turn in Vegas or Atlantic City. She sings beautifully, whether in her own voice or in
several absurd/right-on impressions of well-known singers, and her comic observations on her life are hilarious. Looks- 10, voice- 10, comedy- 10. This is a polished, totally entertaining act. Go. You'll laugh, you'll shed a tear, you'll have a drink--
you'll walk out smiling.

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


January 14th, 2005

August Wilson's remarkable play GEM OF THE OCEAN, part of his cycle of plays about the black experience in Pittsburg, gives us a working class family in 1904, not all that long after slavery was ended. Starting with flavorful ordinary conversation, like Horton
Foote, the play grows and expands into Real Theatre with unforgettable characters. There is lots of exposition, but it's grand, and the stories are vivid, with a sprinkling of folk humor. The fine ensemble cast, including an extraordinary Phylicia Rashad, who burns up the stage as a very old seer, draws us into
this drama through Wilson's insight into the good, the bad and the weird. The old survivor, played by Anthony Chisolm, the dynamic antagonist, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, feisty LisaGay Hamilton with young rebel John Earl Jelks- they and all of the cast are
fascinating characters. In Act Two a mystical spell is cast-a surreal dreamlike voodooish spell-- an exorcism that is a very far-out trip to experience on a Broadway stage. The fine set by David Gallo, creative, defining costumes by Constanza Romero and
super lighting by Donald Holder all help make director Kenny Leon's vivid vision come alive. Yes, love will go a long way in making you right with yourself. This play really is a gem.

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

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