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Bette Midler, Hello Dolly!

Bette Midler, David Hyde Pierce

What do we need another review of Hello, Dolly! for? To tell you that the shows a classic? Hardly. To describe the score? Not so much. To talk about it culturally, as an icon of its era, the mid 60s, and as the perhaps archetypal Jerry Herman-Michael Stewart musical?  You know that already.

Beanie  Feldstein, Taylor Trensch, Kate Baldwin, Gavin Creel

Beanie Feldstein, Taylor Trensch, Kate Baldwin, Gavin Creel

No, the reason for a new review of Hello, Dolly! from a source such as myself, who won’t tell you anything historical or analytical that you could possibly need to know, much as I could deliver that, is because the current revival is destined to go down in theatrical history as one of those Holy Grail moments that grand legitimate bragging rights to anyone who has seen it. Like the original Follies or Laurette Taylor’s portrayal of Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie.  And that’s because it is the ideal synthesis of pitch-perfect sensibility infusing an inspired production surrounding a superstar performer giving 110% of herself in a legendary performance.

I’ve had very mixed feelings about the work of director Jerry Zaks, whose musical theater revivals of the last two decades have usually seemed to me of high technical proficiency and cool bloodlessness. But here he breaks the cold streak, having found the beating heart and emotional center of the material,  without sacrificing any of his high octane craftsmanship. Tacitly taking permission from the monologues that break the fourth wall and address the audience directly (a stylistic conceit borne of the original source play, Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker),  Zaks  frames the evening in a storybook  ambience (abetted by brilliant sets and costumes by Santo Loquasto), full of stage accoutrements such as curtains acknowledged as curtains, and scenery that acts  transparently, shamelessly and extravagantly like scenery.  Pacing, comedy timing, and choreography (Warren Carlyle) are razor sharp, yet  not delivered so relentlessly that the emotional beats aren’t given their proper  room  to really breathe.  There are even new orchestrations by Larry Hochman that  subtly replicate the period charge of the originals by Philip J Lang,  while bringing to bear the more contemporary techniques  of the last several decades. The best way to describe the experience is as  a venerable classic that has been taken back to the shop, not to be  altered in any way that would compromise or make less pure the entity which has always worked, but for a stem to stern refurbishing—all the old elements re-oiled,  replacement parts swapped in to do the same work with fresher energy,  shined and polished and repainted—that brings it back  as the ultimate iteration of what it already is.
Bette Midler, Hello Dolly!

David Hyde Pierce, Bette Midler

Bette Midler is the perfect Dolly. With what deceptively seems like ease,  she molds of the Midler persona to the character such that she’s naughty but never salacious, sexy but never explicit, adorable but never…no, she’s just always adorable.  Her interplay with the audience is as delightful as her interplay with her fellow actors  and always perfectly proportionate to the stylistic permissions of the event. As to her fellow actors,  they are all not only extraordinary,  but extraordinarily onboard as foils for Midler. And holding his own as a costar who manages the miracle of both being an ideal romantic foil as well as a fully defined presence of equal comic prowess is David Hyde Pierce as the stuffy skinflint Horace Vandergelder. However versatile Mr. Pierce may have seemed in previous roles  in the theater or on television, virtually nothing he has done before prepares you for the extreme leap away from the familiar or even the vaguely related, that he demonstrates here.  What marks his Vandergelder as different from those of his famous predecessors, such as David Burns and Eddie Bracken and Max Showalter, is that they we’re playing extensions of themselves as old timey veterans of burlesque and vaudeville style. Pierce, on the other hand, puts forth that sensibility not as an amplification of the Pierce persona, but as a brilliantly structured and wholly conceived character construct. Special mention should also go to those playing the younger comic romantic couples, Gavin Creel and Kate Baldwin (who might well have been cast as the expected usual suspects in their roles) plus newcomers Taylor Trensch  and Beanie  Feldstein.

One last observation about all this: while Hello, Dolly! has always been a revered classic that delivers a good time at the theater with a lot of laughs, classic show tune vigor, and good old-fashioned showmanship, it has never previously  been a show you think of being moved by. Yet my experience, and that of dozens of others I’ve spoken to, has been, at this revival, a profound  emotional response. It may be the show’s honesty in a climate of political degeneracy; it may be  the combination of generational  discovery and rediscovery of  a particular classic style delivered so lovingly and unapologetically; it may be the greater sophistication of audiences these days, who can put all that in a wider context that never previously existed.  All I know for sure is that the joy of the show elicits generates as many  happy tears as laughs.

David Spencer is an award-winning composer-lyricist, lyricist-librettist, author and musical theatre teacher. He has written music and lyrics for the Richard Rodgers Development Award-winning musical The Fabulist, which also contributed to his winning a Kleban lyrics award and several Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation grants. He is also lyricist-librettist for two musicals with composer Alan Menken: Weird Romance (WPA 1992, York 2004) and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, which had its sold out, extended world premiere in Montreal in Summer 2015; cast album release soon. He made his professional debut in 1984 with the English Adaptation of La Bohéme at the Public Theatre; and he has since written music and lyrics for Theatreworks/USA’s all-new, award-winning Young Audience versions of The Phantom of the Opera (1996) and Les Misérables (1999) (book and direction for both by Rob Barron). Currently he is writing book, music and lyrics for a musical based on the iconic Russian novel The Golden Calf. Spencer’s published books are the Alien Nation novel Passing Fancy (Pocket, 1994), The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide (Heinemann, 2005, a regularly reprinted industry standard) and the script of Weird Romance (Samuel French, 1993). He is on faculty and teaches at the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop and has taught at HB Studio, the Workshop Studio Theater and Goldsmith’s College in London. His primary professional affiliations are BMI, The Dramatists Guild and The International Association of Media Tie-in Writers.


Head To The The Algonquin Hotel For Some Holiday Cheer



As we head into the holiday season, The Algonquin Hotel’s December event lineup is open to both hotel guests and New York City locals. The hotel will spread holiday cheer with a variety of festive performances, cocktails, and experiences including:

  • Cocoa and Carols Happy Hour: Daily, 5-8PM, Every evening this December, all are invited to enjoy Specialty Cocoa while Christmas carols chime at the Blue Bar. Drinks will include Mexican Hot Chocolate spiked with mezcal
  • KT Sullivan Cabaret:  December 5th, 12th and 19th, Sullivan will perform her iconic Christmas Cabaret. As noted by The New York Times, Sullivan is a thrilling Off-Broadway performer with over eight published albums
  • Rocco Dellaneve’s Rat Pack Christmas: December 7th, 14th and 21st, Rocco Dellaneve will perform iconic songs from the Rat Pack Christmas album with special inclusions of Santa with Sinatra, Rocco of the Snow, Rudolph and the Rat pack
  • The Serafina’s and Broadway Vocalists: December 8th, 15th and 22nd, enjoy the high kicking – precision line dancing Christmas tradition around The Algonquin tree. The Serafina’s will be available for pictures and autographs from 6pm to 7pm, followed by special Broadway vocalists

A portion of proceeds from all events will be donated to Toys for Tots.

Beyond the December events, The Algonquin Hotel is located in a prime position nestled in the heart of Times Square and Fifth Avenue, making it the perfect launchpad for a New York City holiday experience. The hotel is a historical jewel that emphasizes the importance of making unique, storied experiences. Since its opening in 1902, The Algonquin Hotel is famous for its timeless style and desire to honor the literary and cultural elite. The distinguished Round Table Restaurant and Blue Bar offer tasteful dining inclusions and curated cocktails that are sure to excite everyone.

Photo credit: The Algonquin Hotel, Autograph Collection


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Book Reviews

Countdown to Christmas: For The Dancer and Theatre Lover Chita Rivera



2o days to go! Every year people panic to find the perfect gift. We at T2C have been collecting idea’s all year long to bring you the perfect gift guide at all price levels. When you’re at the end of your rope trying to find the perfect Christmas present this year, come to this guide for some great suggestions.

Chita & Patrick Pacheco at Drama Book Shop event May 15, 2023 Photo by Merle Frimark

There are a lot of books out there this year but we highly recommend Chita: A Memoir , the critically-acclaimed book is written by the legendary Broadway icon Chita Rivera with arts journalist Patrick Pacheco. Chita takes fans behind-the-scenes of all her shows and cabaret acts, she shares candid stories of her many colleagues, friends, and lovers. She speaks with empathy and hindsight of her deep associations with complicated geniuses like Fosse and Robbins, as well as with the mega-talent Liza Minnelli, with whom she co-starred in The Rink. She openly discusses her affair with Sammy Davis, Jr. as well as her marriage to Tony Mordente and her subsequent off-the-radar relationships. Chita revisits the terrible car accident that threatened to end her career as a dancer forever. Center stage to Chita’s story are John Kander and Fred Ebb, the songwriters and dear friends indelibly tied to her career through some of her most enduring work: Chicago, The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and The Visit.

Chita’s love of performing began as a child in Washington, D.C., when her mother enrolled her in a local ballet school to channel her boundless energy. Still a teenager, she moved to New York to attend the School of American Ballet after an audition for George Balanchine himself and winning a scholarship. But Broadway beckoned, and by twenty she was appearing in the choruses of Golden Age shows like Guys and Dolls and Can-Can. In the latter, she received special encouragement from its star Gwen Verdon, forging a personal and professional friendship that would help shape her career. The groundbreaking West Side Story brought her into the orbit of Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents, Hal Prince, and Stephen Sondheim.  After Bye Bye Birdie further burnished her rising star, she reunited with Verdon and her then-husband Bob Fosse to work on the film version of Sweet Charity and the celebrated original Broadway production of Chicago.

Chita: A Memoir was published in English and Spanish and the English audio version of the Memoir was recorded by Chita.  A Spanish audio version is also available. 

“Chita Rivera blazed a trail where none existed so the rest of us could see a path forward. She has been part of some of the greatest musicals in the history of the form, from Anita in the trailblazing West Side Story through Claire Zachanassian in the underrated masterpiece The Visit, over 60 years later. She is a Puerto Rican Broadway icon and the original ‘triple threat.’ We’re so lucky to be alive in the same timeline as Chita Rivera.” — Lin-Manuel Miranda.

“A frank and fascinating memoir from one of the truly great artists of the American Theater. Lots of stories … Lots of insight … and quite a few caustic statements from Chita’s alter ego, Dolores. An illuminating history and a guaranteed pleasure!” John Kander

Broadway legend and national treasure Chita Rivera, multi-Tony Award winner, Kennedy Center honoree, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom – has taken no prisoners on stage or screen for seven decades. From her trailblazing performance as the original Anita in West Side Story—for which she tapped her own Puerto Rican roots—to her haunting 2015 star turn in The Visit. Chita has proven to be much more than just a captivating dancer, singer, and actress beloved by audiences and casts alike. In her equally captivating and one-of-a-kind memoir, Written with Patrick Pacheco, the woman born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero shares an incomparable life, both on stage and behind the curtain.

By the way this Memoir has won a Gold Medal for “Best Autobiography – English” at the 2023 International Latino Book Awards.

Click here to buy your copy.

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Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Spamalot



Here is the amazing cast of Spamalot. Christopher Fitzgerald as Patsy, James Monroe Iglehart as King Arthur, Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer as The Lady of the Lake, Ethan Slater as The Historian/Prince Herbert, Jimmy Smagula as Sir Bedevere, Michael Urie as Sir Robin, Nik Walker as Sir Galahad andTaran Killam as Lancelot.

I was so inspired I drew the whole cast.

To read T2C’s review click here.

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Ahead of the Broadway Opening of Lempicka The Longacre Theatre Is Showcasing Art Work By Tamara de Lempicka



The Longacre Theatre (220 W 48th St.), soon-to-be home of the sweeping new musical, Lempicka, is showcasing a curated selection of renowned artist Tamara de Lempicka’s most famous works. Eschewing traditional theatrical front-of-house advertising, the Longacre’s façade now boasts prints, creating a museum-quality exhibition right in the heart of Times Square. The musical opens on Broadway on April 14, 2024 at the same venue.

The Longacre’s outdoor exhibition includes works of Self Portrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti) (1929), Young Girl in Green (1927), Nu Adossé I (1925), The Red Tunic (1927), The Blue Scarf (1930), The Green Turban (1930), Portrait of Marjorie Ferry (1932), Portrait of Ira P. (1930), Portrait of Romana de la Salle (1928), and Adam and Eve (1932).

Starring Eden Espinosa and directed by Tony Award winner Rachel Chavkin, Lempicka features book, lyrics, and original concept by Carson Kreitzer, book and music by Matt Gould, and choreography by Raja Feather Kelly.

Spanning decades of political and personal turmoil and told through a thrilling, pop-infused score, Lempicka boldly explores the contradictions of a world in crisis, a woman ahead of her era, and an artist whose time has finally come.

Young Girl in Green painted by Tamara de Lempicka (1927). Oil on plywood.