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The Seeing Place Theater presents two masterful plays that highlight parent child relationships. Both plays have something to say about grief, mental health, and how the desire to connect can affect a person’s life. Thematically, it makes for a heavy night, but it’s not without faults or comedic moments.

Brandon Walker and Michael Stephen Clay in A Number by Caryl Churchill.
Photo by Russ Rowland

A Number by Caryl Churchill lays out the long term aftermath of a father’s decision and desire to hold on to a child he wanted and thought he lost.

Initially, the dialogue was not quick enough to generate the driving tone that is characteristic of Churchill’s body of work, and it came to pace occasionally. Unfortunately Michael Stephen Clay is a one tone actor, while Brandon Walker is working in every scene to heighten the urgency by reacting to what Mr. Clay is not giving him. Mr. Walker’s talents are apparent; he created three genuine characters through subtle mannerisms, postures and vocal qualities.

Carla Brandberg and Erin Cronican in ‘Night Mother by Marsha Norman
Photo by Russ Rowland

‘Night, Mother by Marsha Norman chronicles Jessie’s (Erin Cronican) last night at home with her mother (Carla Brandberg) before she commits suicide.

Carla Brandberg and Erin Cronican are excellent scene partners. Despite her hoarse voice, Erin Cronican created a busy yet apathetic caregiver, who simply wanted to check off her list. Ms. Brandberg is absolutely brilliant, her Mama has a warm presence and an icy tongue – two things necessary to highlight the unique cruelty only mothers can deliver.

Lighting designer Joyce Liao played a heavy role in ‘Night, Mother. It was very subtle, but the lights were slowly turn red as the play progressed – leading to the inevitable suicide. As sound designer, Brandon Walker also snuck in a ticking clock that stopped with the gun shot.

The set (designed by Erin Cronican) was a detriment to both plays. It was not the design that failed the actors here, it was the layout of the design. All of the furniture was set up in a diagonal row, pinning two corners of the stage with furniture that was rarely used, and leaving the other two corners with no excuse to occupy them. While the directors’ intent in both plays is present, the physically limited playing space stifles the dramatic potential. Additionally, the actors’ movement did not always feel natural because of the set layout; a few times they seemed to invent movement or activity that didn’t made sense in the context of the moment.

Despite the often awkward movement, the pairing of these two plays makes for an intriguing evening of theatre, and demonstrates the unified vision of The Seeing Place Theater.

A Number/ ‘Night Mother, The Seeing Place Theater, The Paradise Factory, 64 East 4th St. Closes January 20.

Virginia Jimenez is a writer, dancer and teaching artist in New York City. She teaches for various companies focusing on dancing for musical theatre, ballroom dancing, theatrical skills and story building. Bringing arts education to students in NYC is incredibly rewarding for her because she is passionate about arts integration and using the arts to facilitate an emotional education. As a writer, Virginia believes in the power of words and stories to challenge and encourage audiences to seek growth and modes of expression. She likes tequila and ice cream - though not necessarily together. www.vmjimenez.com

Cabaret

My View: Norm Lewis…. “SUMMERTIME” at 54 Below… Spike Lee & Celebs Attend

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In all my years of going to shows, whether theatre, concerts, clubs, cabaret, etc., I have never done what I did this past week and I’m not sure I can even explain. I went to see Norm Lewis at 54 Below on June 6th and didn’t just love it, I was somehow hypnotized by the man and the material. That night, Miss Melba Moore was his Special Guest and invited to share the stage and something magical happened. The program was all showtunes and treasure from Broadway-current, past and even a little in between, with one brilliant piece of Off-Broadway gold, TRY TO REMEMBER, dedicated to the memory of the late, great Jerry Orbach. Then, upon finding out the Guest List for the entire 7 shows, we just decided we wanted to be there and it was the right decision. Night after night, added and/or subtracted songs to adapt to the desired length of the show. Every night, Norm’s longtime friend and trusted Director, Richard Jay-Alexander, on the scene, along with Musical Director/Arranger Joseph Joubert on keys, Perry Cavari on drums and percussion and a very cool Dylan Shamat on both electric and acoustic bass. Each night a different kind of magic and, lucky me, living so nearby, I was able to capture all the Award Winning Guests and high=profile friends. So, here for Norm Lewis, who brought summer early to all of us at 54 Below, is a scrapbook of his seven nights and special guests, both on stage and off. Now that the run is over, what will Eda and I do tonight??? Bravo!

BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL & NORM LEWIS

54 BELOW

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ & NORM LEWIS

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ & WALTER MARKS

PASTOR BOBBY LEWIS & NORM LEWIS

MARC SHAIMAN

MARC SHAIMAN & NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS (Sweeney Todd)

NORM LEWIS

LEN CARIOU

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS & ALICE RIPLEY

ALICE RIPLEY & NORM LEWIS

WILL SWENSON & NORM LEWIS

WILL SWENSON

WILL SWENSON

BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL & NORM LEWIS

BRIAN STOKES MITHCELL & NORM LEWIS

NOVA PAYTON & NORM LEWIS

NOVA PAYTON & NORM LEWIS

OLIVIA ELEASE  HARDY

OLIVIA ELEASE HARDY & NORM LEWIS

OLIVIA HARDY

THE DRINKWATER BROTHERS

THE DRINKWATER BROTHERS

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

SPIKE LEE & NORM LEWIS

SPIKE LEE & NORM LEWIS

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & SPIKE LEE

LEN CARIOU

MARC SHAIMAN

SPIKE LEE

MARILYN MAYE

MELISSA ERRICO

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL

JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER, SPIKE LEE, TONY DANZA

LEN CARIOU, NORM LEWIS, MARC SHAIMAN

HUGH PANARO, EDA SOROKOFF, STEVEN REINEKE, ERIC GABBARD

54 BELOW

CARLOS CLEMENZ

NORM LEWIS

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Cabaret

My View: SUMMERTIME Starring Norm Lewis Just Keeps Getting HOTTER!

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I don’t usually post multiple photo essays of the same show/event, but, in this case, I simply must or I wouldn’t be doing my job of “reporting” here in Times Square Chronicles. The fact of the matter is that my wife, Eda, and I have been to Norm Lewis’s new show SUMMERTIME (Special Tony Edition) 3 times now and it has been “delivering” on a nightly basis more thrills and excitement than any other run of a show we have previously witnessed. The show is beautifully directed by the gifted Richard Jay-Alexander, with musical direction and arrangements from the equally gifted Joseph Joubert. What Norm and his artistic posse have put together is so satisfying that you get drawn in and forget you’ve already seen it. Add to this unexplainable phenomenon the array of Broadway Guests and each night has been a delight for so many different reasons. Because I live conveniently close, I am able to capture historic pairings of creative giants and I had to put this together so you could witness the kind of history that has already been made each of these nights at 54 Below. Norm has 4 more shows and many more Special Guests on June 10, 11, 12 and 13 and I can only heartily recommend you go see this man who is so comfortable in his stardom, that he easily seduces you into his world of music and Broadway. You will not be disappointed. I must also note that there has been as much star power in his audiences as there are on stage, adding extra excitement to every night.

( I couldn’t catch all the celebs in the audience but here are a few photo highlights)

NORM LEWIS & LEN CARIOU

NORM LEWIS (Sweeny Todd)

LEN CARIOU

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ & WALTER MARKS

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ & NORM LEWIS

MARC SHAIMAN & NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS & MARC SHAIMAN

LEN CARIOU, NORM LEWIS, MARC SHAIMAN

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

MALBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

MARILYN MAYE & NORM LEWIS

MARILYN MAYE

LEE ROY REAMS & MARILYN MAYE

WALTER MARKS, JENNIFER HALLIE DIAMOND, ROBERT DIAMOND, founder/owner BROADWAYWORLD, RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER

NORM LEWIS, ROBERT DIAMOND, JENNIFER HALLIE DIAMOND

HUGH PANARO, EDA SOROKOFF, STEVEN REINEKE, music director/conductor The New York Pops, ERIC GABBARD

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER, EDA SOROKOFF, STEVEN REINEKE, ERIC GABBARD

LORNA DALLAS BROWN, LEE ROY REAMS, MARILYN MAYE

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & NORM LEWIS

PASTOR BOBBY LEWIS (Norm’s cousin) & NORM LEWIS

JOSEPH JOUBERT, music director

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER, NORM LEWIS, CATHERINE ADLER

JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER & RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER

MARK SENDROFF, RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER, RICHARD SKIPPER

54 BELOW

MACON PRICKETT

CARLOS CLEMENZ & MARC SHAIMAN

NORM LEWIS

EDA SOROKOFF & CATHERINE ADLER

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Cabaret

My View: Norm Lewis Brings On The Summer Heat at 54 Below

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“The Heat is On” at 54 Below with a new show Norm Lewis is performing, called SUMMERTIME (Special TONY Edition). From his dazzling entrance to his beautiful “goodnight” the evening is wall-to wall Broadway treasure. Yes, summer arrived early ,last night, and whatever the kinship and connection between the star, his musical director Joseph Joubert and his director Richard Jay-Alexander, is, it bathed us in magic with stunning music, beautiful arrangements, humor, glamour, stories and vocals that are, quite honestly, beyond just having a powerful skill set. Norm is a sublime actor who happens to possess a magnificent voice and he uses every dimension of it.

During the run he will have special guests who are both friends and Broadway royalty. Last night, he “blew up” this concept by introducing us to the legendary TONY winner, Melba Moore. I don’t usually write about specific material, but when your brain can’t comprehend that Miss Moore tore into “Aquarius” and “Let The Sunshine In” from HAIR with Mr. Lewis, hearts were jumping and joy exploded in the room. Only to be followed by Melba singing “I Got Love” from PURLIE (wait for it) in the original key! The 3 piece band, led by Joubert, also consisted of Perry Cavari on drums and percussion and Dylan Shamat on both acoustic and electric bass. The sounds they made all night were as versatile as could be accomplished and have become a trademark, of sorts, for Norm. Don’t hesitate to get to 54 Below and start your summer early. This man brings the heat with him onto the stage. 

Norm Lewis

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE

MELBA MOORE

54 BELOW

54 BELOW

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award

JOSEPH JOUBERT

54 BELOW

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

HUGH PANARO, EDA SOROKOFF, STEVEN REINEKE, ERIC GABBARD

STEVEN REINEKE, ERIC GABBARD, NORM LEWIS

RICHARD SKIPPER, RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER, NORM LEWIS, MARK SENDROFF

CARLOS CLEMENZ & NORM LEWIS

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & NORM LEWIS

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Broadway

My View:Times Square Moved A Bit North Last Night…Happy Belated Birthday Richard Jay-Alexander

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Happy to report that Times Square moved a little bit North, last night, to the Upper West Side and it was with good reason to celebrate a Broadway Baby’s Birthday.

Richard Jay-Alexander affects a room by filling it with excitement, creativity, artistry, humor, intelligence, along with love and respect, just by entering it.  And so it was, last night, as his friends and often time hosts while in New York, Lisa Sharkey and Paul Gleicher, hosted a birthday (actual was May 24th) party for him in their spectacular town home in Manhattan. Ms. Sharkey, who works at Harper Collins decided to call the gathering “71 on 71st Street,” filling its rooms with (as RJ emotionally put it) “ people who are important in my life and who I love dearly.” Richard, as Eda and I are more recent additions to his tribe of friends, have witnessed, many times, his kindness, authenticity and specific communication skills in a world of fake news and casual showbiz fraternity. He is truly a beacon of humanity and has always been a people person. Once he’s a true friend, it seems to last a lifetime and that’s what we observed last night and ever since we’ve known him, striking up “our” famous friendship, while living in Florida. Happy Birthday Richard Jay-Alexander and now on with the show……here are some photos of a special night for a special guy. I’m only sorry I was so distracted by everything that was going on, that I often forgot to pick up my camera. Forgive me. Maybe it was the BESPOKE JELL-O SHOTS?????

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & LISA SHARKEY

LISA SHARKEY

RICHIE RIDGE, RJA, ROBERT DIAMOND, JENNIFER HALLEY DIAMOND

RJA & HUGH PANARO

RJA & MARK SENDROFF

MO ROCCA, LISA SHARKEY,

RJA & JULIE

RJA & CARLOS

BRUCE GLIKAS & RJA

RJA

CARLOS CLEMENZ

SSTEPHEN SOROKOFF, RJA, EDA SOROKOFF

JENNIFER HALLEY DIAMOND & RJA

RICHIE RIDGE & TOM VIOLA

RJA & TOM VIOLA

RJA, LISA SHARKEY, MO ROCCA

RJA & LISA SHARKEY

J

J

MARK SENDROFF & RJA

JENNIFER HALLEY DIAMOND & MO ROCCA

PAUL GLEICHER & LISA SHARKEY

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RJA

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER

 

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Cabaret

My View: 54 Below At It’s Best…..The Staff Show

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I had no idea that 54 DOES 54 has been an annual event for many years, but I am so glad I was there on Sunday night to witness the range of talents and the performances from so many of the staff of the club and personnel from the offices upstairs of 54 Below. The legendary room was packed and you know it’s gonna be a big night when all 3 owners are there to cheer their “home team” on. The musical direction and the band were flying through all kinds of styles and tempos, never relenting in their power or rhythmic drive. That, alone, was truly amazing.

Now, I must say REMEMBER THESE NAMES: ALEX MARTINS, RU CABRALIS, KATIE O’DONNELL, SHANIA MUNDY, JAMES KLAPAK (their Executive Chef), DEJA-SIMONE CRUMPTON, GRETCHEN SCHNEIDER, GRACE FLAVIEN, ELIZABETH PRECIUS, HANNAH ROSE PICKLE, BRIANNA JUSTINE, MARK BEYER, ADELINA CORREA, GABRIEL GENERALLY, CASSI MIKAT,

LUIS PALOMINO, MACON PRICKETT and MANDISA BOXILL. On any given night, at 54 Below, this fantastic family of individuals are your Servers, Bartenders, Hosts, Guest Relations folks, Marketing Managers, Digital Marketing Associates, Back Servers, Guest Relations Managers, Maitre D’s, Assistant Programming Directors and, of course, General Manager. Also spotted in the room were the club’s Jennifer Ashley Tepper (with her mom) and Nella Vera, as well as drop-in regulars who work at 54 quite a bit – Mr. Lee Roy Reams, Mr. Richard Jay-Alexander and Mr. Ron Abel. On lights and sound, we saw Amanda Raymond & KJ Hardy, who are absolutely beloved by everyone who plays that room. Friends, family and fans brought the club, repeatedly, to a fever pitch, and the warmth, love and good will in the room were palpable. Plenty of showstoppers, plenty of surprises and some “specialties” that were unexpected. The room was so alive and it was a thrill to be there. But, I wouldn’t be fairly representing, with just my photos, if I didn’t tell you that they saved General Manager of 54 Below, Mandisa Boxill, for last, and it was no surprise why. Macon Prickett put the evening together and he told us everyone really worked hard over the month it took to put the show together, but, nothing could have prepared us for Ms. Boxill killing it with Beyoncés “Crazy In Love.” The place just exploded, like the finale in a fireworks display, when you know “this is it” you have hit the zenith. I am happy to share with you many photos here to “take you there” and this may have been my first time, but you can rest assured, I will be there next year, too! Congratulations to all! You should be really, really proud.

LOUIS PALOMNO, server

MACON PRICKETT, host/producer

ALEX MARTINS

RU CABRALIS

KATIE O’DONNELL

SHANIA MUNDY

JAMES KLAPAK

DEJA-SIMONE CRUMPTON

GRETCHEN SCHNEIDER

GRACE FLAVIEN

ELIZABETH PRECIUS

HANNAH ROSE PICKLE

BRIANNA JUSTINE

MARK BEYER

ADELINA CORREA

GABRIEL GENERALLY

CASSI MIKAT

LOUIS PALOMINO

MACON PRICKETT

MANDISA BOXILL

MANDISA BOXILL

MANDISA BOXILL

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER

JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER

STEVE BARUCH, EDA BARUCH, RICHARD FRANKEL

RON ABEL, EDA SOROKOFF, RICHARD FRANKEL

MANDISA BOXILL

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & MANDISA BOXILL

STEPHEN SOROKOFF, EDA SOROKOFF, JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPPER, MOM, RON ABEL

 

54 DOES 54

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