Category Archives: New York

“Curtains”

Al Hirschfeld Theatre, New York • 12 July 2007 • 8pm
Book by Rupert Holmes. Music by John Kander. Lyrics by Fred Ebb. Original Book & Concept by Peter Stone. Additional Lyrics by John Kander & Rupert Holmes.

Directed by Scott Ellis. Choreography by Rob Ashford. Music Director: David Loud. With David Hyde Pierce (Lieutenant Frank Cioffi), Debra Monk (Carmen Bernstein), Karen Ziemba (Georgia Hendricks), Jason Danieley (Aaron Fox), Edward Hibbert (Christopher Belling), Jill Paice (Niki Harris), Megan Sikora (Bambi Bernét), Ernie Sabella (Sidney Bernstein)…

I’d seen Curtains in Los Angeles in August of 2006 and had failed to enjoy it very much in spite of some strong points. Strangely enough, I found the show a lot more convincing this time around, although I don’t think it has changed much since LA.

Sure, the repetitious score isn’t top-drawer Kander and the book relies heavily on not-too-subtle jokes. But it’s difficult to resist what is after all a love song to the Broadway musical. I occasionally couldn’t resist shedding a tear, first during “Show People,” and later during “A Tough Act to Follow,” a rather wonderful tribute to the movie musicals of yesteryears — and a title that, as Ben Brantley noticed, aptly describes the legacy of Kander & Ebb.

David Hyde Pierce is perfect as the theatre-stricken detective who solves the murder mystery while fixing the show-within-the-show. His fellow cast members all give great performances, with special mentions for Debra Monk as the dry, foul-mouthed producer, Jason Danieley and his delightful singing voice and Edward Hibbert as the stiff director who gracefully accepts the ideas thrown his way by the policeman.

There is a general feeling of good-heartedness and dedication that contributes to the show’s appeal, as well as some crisp and clever directorial touches. I had been critical of Scott Ellis & Rob Ashford’s work when I first saw the show, but either they’ve managed to tighten everything or the huge Ahmanson Theatre was not the ideal place to appreciate their efforts.

In any case, Curtains comes across as a good and enjoyable musical comedy, which could have the potential to delight audiences for some time.

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“The Apple Tree”

Studio 54, New York • 2 December 2006 • 8pm (preview)

Music: Jerry Bock. Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick. Book: J. Bock & S. Harnick.
Directed by Gary Griffin. Musical Director: Rob Fisher. With Kristin Chenoweth, Brian d’Arcy James, Marc Kudisch…

Funny how this trip to New York has allowed me to see three of my all-time favourite shows: A Chorus Line, Company and The Apple Tree, a show I thought I’d never see in a major production. (I did see a very good production of it at the tiny Landor Theatre in London.)

Of course, The Apple Tree needs a strong leading lady, somebody who is at the same time a first-rate comedian and a first-rate singer… and certainly Kristin Chenoweth fits the bill magnificently. She is the perfect choice to step in Barbara Harris’s shoes. Chenoweth would be a star if we still had stars. She had already played the three parts of the show in the Encores! production, which I’d been unable to attend, much to my sorrow.

Thank God the Roundabout decided to produce the show at Studio 54, one of the most charming venues in New York. I can hardly describe my joy at being able to see what is in my book one of the most charming shows ever written. The staging is cute and respectful; Jonathan Tunick’s orchestrations are wonderful; and there are not enough superlatives to describe Kristin Chenoweth’s performance. Her co-stars, Brian d’Arcy James and Marc Kudisch, also deliver strong performances. (I’m not a big fan of Mr. Kudisch… but I have to admit he’s fine in the show.)

The next show at Studio 54 will be another dream come true: 110 in the Shade, starring the incomparable Audra McDonald. Now if somebody would please revive The Rothschilds, I would be a happy man…

“Company”

Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York • 2 December 2006 • 2pm

Book by George Furth. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
Directed by John Doyle. With Raúl Esparza (Robert), Barbara Walsh (Joanne),…

Company may be one my favourite scores ever and, in my book, to deprive it of its original Jonathan Tunick charts amounts to high treason. And indeed I sorely missed the original sound during the title song or during “What Would We Do Without You?”

John Doyle continues to explore his concept of a musical without musicians, in which the music is played by the actors themselves. A concept he developed in order to be able to produce musicals in the small English theatre for which he is (or was?) the artistic director. A concept that, in my mind, has no justification whatsoever in a larger, more traditional space.

It worked to some degree with Sweeney Todd, which I enjoyed in London at the intimate Trafalgar Studios… but hated when it transfered to Broadway, in spite of the talent involved. Doyle’s concept then did a lot of harm to Mack & Mabel, in a UK touring production that played the West End.

And now, Company. And it didn’t work for me, in spite of Raúl Esparza and Barbara Walsh, who both give brilliant performances. I’ve been a fan of Esparza ever since I saw him in tick, tick… BOOM! at the tiny Jane Street Theatre. He doesn’t have a very strong voice, but he manages to cheat pretty nicely with it. And what an actor! He did wonders with the character of Bobby. As for Barbara Walsh, well, it was a pity there was no space for applause after “The Ladies Who Lunch” because she would have got quite an ovation — and deservedly.

The staging didn’t do much for me. Too many people walking around all the time. London’s Donmar Warehouse did it better and in a much more convincing way ten years ago. And at least the actors didn’t have to carry musical instruments around.

John Doyle redeems himself by ending the show on a great idea, the sort of stuff that to me symbolises the magic of theatre… a simple and poetic idea that reduced me to tears instantly. And for that, at least, I am grateful.

“A Chorus Line”

Schoenfeld Theatre, New York • 1 December 2006 • 8pm

Book by James Kirkwood & Nicholas Dante. Music by Marvin Hamlisch. Lyrics by Edward Kleban.
Directed by Bob Avian. Musical Direction: Patrick Vaccariello.With Michael Berresse (Zach), Charlotte d’Amboise (Cassie),…

There were those who thought that it was too early to revive this iconic musical, whose original Broadway production closed in 1990 after nearly 15 years on the Great White Way. And then there were those who found the show too dated for the 21st century.

Me, I will never have enough of A Chorus Line. I must have played the original cast recording more than any other CD in my collection, and I more than welcomed the opportunity to see a Broadway production of the show, since I only started coming to New York in 1997.

The producers of this revival very wisely decided to stick to the original staging and choreography, which is all for the best — even the very few tiny departures from the original made me cringe. The “Montage” sequence was especially powerful; so was “All I Did For Love,” the emotional apex of the show.

Good cast overall. I thought Natalie Cortez did an especially good job of walking in Priscilla Lopez’ shoes as Diana Morales. I was also quite impressed by Charlotte d’Amboise as Cassie. And Paul’s monologue, as delivered by Jason Tam, was absolutely fantastic.