The Jerry Orbach Theater, New York • 18 July 2007 • 2pm
Book & Lyrics by Tom Jones. Music by Harvey Schmidt.
Directed by Tom Jones. With Stuart Marland (El Gallo), Anthony Fedorov (Matt), Whitney Bashor (Luisa), John Deyle (The Boy’s Father), Martin Vidnovic (The Girl’s Father), Tom Jones (The Old Actor [as Thomas Bruce]), Robert R. Oliver (Mortimer), Nick Spangler (The Mute).
This show is still as fresh and charming as when I first saw it at the Sullivan Street Playhouse during my first-ever trip to New York in 1997, five years before the original 42 year long run ended. It has the right mixture of comedic flair from the older characters and of innocence and grace from the two young actors, who are delightful. And of course the score is non-stop bliss from the first to the last note.
While seeing the show, I was trying to figure what it must have been for the theatregoers of 1960 to see something so conceptual and probably so different from anything they had ever seen. Nobody can quite tell when the concept musical was born (Lady in the Dark? Company?), but The Fantasticks certainly belongs in that list somewhere.
Studio 54, New York • 14 July 2007 • 2pm
Book by N. Richard Nash, based on his play, The Rainmaker. Music by Harvey Schmidt. Lyrics by Tom Jones.
Directed by Lonny Price. Music Direction by Paul Gemignani. With Audra McDonald (Lizzie Curry), Steve Kazee (Starbuck), Christopher Innvar (File), John Cullum (H. C. Curry), Chris Butler (Noah Curry), Bobby Steggert (Jimmy Curry), Carla Duren (Snookie)…
I’d already seen a production of 110 in the Shade at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA a few years ago and I’d enjoyed it tremendously. The show has a strong book (adapted from his own play by the original author, which always bodes well) and an enchanting Schmidt & Jones score.
This production boasts two more assets: the strong directorial touch of Lonny Price and a star turn if ever there was one by the irresistible and obscenely talented Audra McDonald. Not that the rest of the cast aren’t great; everybody gives a first-class performance.
Starbuck’s “Rain Song” has always been a favourite of mine — one of those songs that I turn to when I need to be cheered up. To hear it in such ideal conditions was a superlative thrill.