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Diana: The Musical Where Charles and Camilla Steal The Show

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I’ve been saying for a long time, that it does Broadway a disservice to show Broadway shows on cable and streaming services before they open on Broadway. Diana: The Musical was supposed to open on Broadway March 31, 2020, but was cancelled due to COVID? So now it’s debuting on Netflix, before it actually hitting the stage November 2, 2021.

Diana: The Musical, wants to be like the musical Chess, but lacks in almost every aspect. First Joe DiPietro’s book and Jeanna de Waal’s, portrayal make Diana unappealing and unattractive in oh so many ways. de Waal can sing but her Diana is in some kind of Barbara Cartland novel. Her fairytale romance is doomed from moment one, so she seems unintelligent and a little unhinged. The sparkling creature the world fell in love with, falls flat.

The musical follows Diana (de Waal) from her first meeting with Charles (Roe Hartrampf) through her divorce and tragic death. We get her greatest hits in a rapid succession. Her marriage, births, her self abuse, working with AIDS patients and her affair with James Hewitt (Gareth Keegan). Diana seems mentally unstable so Camilla (Erin Davies) and Charles come off in a much better light.

Jeanna de Waal, Roe Hartrampf

Christopher Ashley’s direction seems disjointed and the music and lyrics by Bon Jovi’s keyboardist David Bryan and Joe DiPietro, makes this show seem that it is 3 shows in one. There is the rock score that is sung mostly by the ensemble and the reporters, then there are the ballads that go nowhere and are blasé, then there are the lyrics that are inane.

The only highlights are Erin Davies, who is consistently good and gives a moving performance, Roe Hartrampf, who is find and I look forward to seeing him in something else. Judy Kaye who does double duty as both the Queen and Diana’s step-grandmother, Barbara Cartland, does better as the later bringing moments of fun. The role of the Queen is just poorly written, so it take until the second half for this Broadway veteran to hit her stride.

What we do get is a show of Princess Di’s greatest hits in fashion, which are recreated splendidly by William Ivey Long.

Netflix’s filmed Diana: The Musical, at the Longacre theatre last summer with no audience. Here is hoping on stage with an audience the show will fare much better, after all this is suppose to be live theatre.

 Diana: The Musical is available on Netflix.

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

Broadway

Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ Is Looking For Bob Fosse

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Where are the Sandahl Bergman, René Ceballos, Christopher Chadman, Vicki Frederick, John Mineo and Ann Reinking’s? They are not in Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ now playing on Broadway right now. Only Wayne Cilento, who was in the original, has become the director and  Musical stager of the show on Broadway now.

Dancin originally was created, directed, and choreographed by Bob Fosse and originally produced on Broadway in 1978. This new version holds very little of what Fosse stood for or represented.

I went to show score and someone wrote: Lots of dancin. very little Fosse. See it if You’ve never seen real Fosse. Don’t see it if You’ve seen real Fosse.

This is so true. I came to New York in 1978 and I knew most of the cast of Dancin. If you auditioned for a Fosse show, you did what was known as “Tea For Two” routine. It was the first in a round of cuts. Everyone knew the routine. It was about placement. Your arms and hands had to be a certain way, your fingers, head, legs, Fosse was about precision. This is what Casey Nicholaw, does in spades in Some Like it Hot and it is a joy to behold! Somehow Wayne Cilento has forgotten his training, because what is on stage at the Music Box is a sloppy, over indulgent mess. Only Peter John Chursin who is fabulous, Dylis Croman, Manuel Herrera and Kolton Krouse have an understanding of how a Fosse dancer moved and kept it so easily under control. For that matter why is it called Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ when this reviewer didn’t see a lot of Bob Fosse’s dancing.

Except for the costumes for “Sing, Sing Sing” they are seriously unflattering and ugly. The set list, though a lot is taken from the original is disappointing and unrecognizable. We have music supervision, orchestrations, incidental music, and vocal arrangements by Jim Abbott, music direction by Darryl Archibald and dance arrangements and additional music by David Dabbon to thank. Kirsten Childs has given the show a script that is banal. Robert Brill’s set design, Finn Ross’s projection design, go from utilitarian to stark reality.

In Act 1 we are “treated” to “Big City Mime”, that seemed more sleazy than steamy. When you watch Fosse’s “Take Off With Us” number from “All That Jazz” its erotic, not like moves in a strip joint in the 70’s 42nd Street. Also notice the precise placement of all body parts.

In this piece they did add elements of the “Snake in The Grass” number from “The Little Prince”, and the Pippin “Glory ” ‘ Manson Trio .’Also the choreography of Bob Fosse and Tommy Rall’s “Duet from My Sister Eileen” one of my favorite pieces of dance to watch. That was extremely well done by Peter John Chursin and Manuel Herrera.

Ending the first act is the crowd pleaser “Dancin Man,” but again sloppy.

Jacob Guzman, Ron Todorowski, Karli Dinardo, and Peter Chursin in Bob Fosse’s Dancin’. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

The second-act opener “Sing, Sing, Sing,” is performed very close to the original, except the female solo goes to the excellent Kolton Krouse who is a they/their. As a matter a fact most of the female solo’s are given to others. Why? During the number the marvelous Gary Seligson is on drums.

Kolton Krouse by Julieta Cervantes

Selections from Sweet Charity‘s “The Rich Man’s Frug”, “Hey Big Spender” and “I’m a Brass Band,” “From This Moment On” from the film version of “Kiss Me Kate” are included.

It was wonderful to see Fosse’s Big Deal back on the stage.

The cast also includes; Ioana Alfonso, Yeman Brown, Tony d’Alelio, Jōvan Dansberry, Karli Dinardo, Jacob Guzman, Mattie Love, Yani Marin, Nando Morland, Khori Michelle Petinaud, Ida Saki and Ron Todorowski.

I am a huge fan of choreography. My go to video’s to wind down are “Whose Got The Pain” from Damn Yankee’s, “Sing, Sing, Sing” from the original Dancin’, “Duet from My Sister Eileen,” “Lets Take a Glass Together” from Grand Hotel and “Turkey Lurkey Time” from Promises, Promises. When Dancing is done well, it is euphoric, but it seems lately on Broadway dancing is going freestyle and technique no longer counts. I miss the days of Bob Fosse.

Bob Fosse’s Dancin: The Music Box Theatre, 239 W 45th Street.

 

 

 

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Broadway’s Life of Pi Sails Strong and Magically Over From the West End

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Will you join us?” This is the compelling question asked within the new Broadway adaptation of Life of Pi by an engaging young man who has just survived a trauma more intense than any of us, most likely, could imagine, let alone survive. He has wound up in a Mexican hospital room and is being asked, most insistently, to tell his story to two interested parties; a representative of the Canadian Embassy, Lulu Chen, played strongly by Kirstin Louie (PBS’s “Endeavour“), and a representative of the shipping company, Mr. Okamoto, captivatingly portrayed by Daisuke Tsuji (“Invasion“), who are not exactly on the same exact page. Or share the same interest.

Hiran Abeysekera, Mahira Kakkar, and the company of Broadway’s Life of Pi. Photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

Crawling out from underneath, the boy, exceptionally well played by Hiran Abeysekera (RSC’s Hamlet), tells them that his name is Pi and that he has “had a terrible trip,” which is the understatement of the Broadway season. All this, just before the stage swells and crashes forward most majestically into a world that draws us in most completely. The transformations, and I definitely mean each and everyone, are utterly magnificent and awe-inspiring, but that first one tells us so much, but not all, about the voyage we have all signed up for, pretty much in the same way that The Lion King found its way to overwhelm our senses back in the day. But this play and this production are just so much more than all that. It delivers in a way that must be seen to be believed, as the stage moves, flows, opens, and emotes in the most astounding of ways, leaving you tantalized at almost every turn.

Rajesh Bose and Hiran Abeysekera in Broadway’s Life of Pi. Photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

Butterflies and giraffes emerge, drawing us into a zoo so small that it can fit inside Pi’s head, as this exceptionally well-crafted production, based most lovingly on the award-winning novel by Yann Martel (Beatrice and Virgil), invites us into a visual that is outrageously tender yet profoundly beautiful. Adapted most engagingly by Lolita Chakrabarti (Red Velvet), this epic journey through the ocean is both surprisingly gorgeous in its delivery and emotionally gut-punching in its connection. We begin to see as we are instructed, and feel the way the weight and depths of the tragedy that unfolds.

A cargo ship sets out from India, filled with an assortment of wild caged animals from the zoo, alongside Pi’s tender and gloriously embodied family. Their destination is Canada, where Pi’s father, played with wise warm by Rajesh Bose (RTC’s Indian Ink), hopes to create a more safe life for the whole menagerie. They are escaping the violent unrest in their homeland, but when a storm comes somewhere in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, far from any land that might save them, the escape becomes something quite the opposite, leaving the sweet-natured sixteen-year-old boy stranded on a lifeboat with four other survivors, a hungry hyena, a broken zebra, a protective orangutan, and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Sonya Venugopal, Celia Mei Rubin, and Hiran Abeysekera in Broadway’s Life of Pi. Photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

The story is fantastical, and utterly hard to believe, Mr. Okamoto tells Pi. This straight-laced all-business man from Japan requires the true story, not this manufactured one. He needs to know the details of the sinking of the ship. The ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’ and as directed most beautifully by the wondrously talented Max Webster (Regent’s Park’s Antigone), the “better” story that is given astounds, just like it did within the pages of the Man Booker Prize-winning book. Walking in, knowing the book, one of the most pronounced questions that floated around my curious mind was how were they going to tell this complicated tale. Would it work on the stage? Would we believe in the tale we are being told?

The simple answer is yes, most assuredly and most magically. And that, no surprise here, is due to the fine cast that has been assembled, including Brian Thomas Abraham (West End/Broadway’s Harry Potter…) as the Cook/Voice of Richard Parker; Avery Glymph (Broadway’s The Skin of Our Teeth) as Father Martin/Russian Sailor/Admiral Jackson; Mahira Kakkar (“The Blacklist“) as Nurse, Amma, Orange Juice; Salma Qarnain (off-Broadway’s Acquittal) as Mrs. Biology Kumar/Zaida Khan; Sathya Sridharan (NYTW’s An Ordinary Muslim); and Sonya Venugopal (NCT’s Annie) as Rani, as well as the others already mentioned. They bring a level of connectivity that radiates out, filling our collective hearts with understanding and love.

The emotional engagement is phenomenal in its weight and how well the tale resonates across the ocean and the stage, but none of that would work as well as it does if not for the phenomenal talent of the whole production/design team, namely; the breathtaking scenic and costume design by Tim Hatley (West End/Broadway’s Travesties), the detailed and dynamic puppet designs by Finn Caldwell and Nick Barnes, the exceptionally vivid video design by Andrzej Goulding (Broadway’s & Juliet), the beautifully integrated lighting design of Tim Lutkin (West End’s Back to the Future) and the impeccable work of the sound designer Carolyn Downing (NT/PH’s Downstate). The staging morphs, expanding and contracting like living and breathing animals, unpacking environments and emotions using the magic of stagecraft, unlike anything I’ve seen before. It surprises and engages, giving you more and more moments of clarity and connection, as he dives deeper and deeper into the trauma of fear and the desire to survive.

Hiran Abeysekera and Richard Parker (Fred Davis, Scarlet Wilderink, Andrew Wilson) in Broadway’s Life of Pi. Photo by Matthew Murphy & Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

Don’t you want to know what happened to Richard Parker?” Yes, yes we do. Most definitely, as the survival tactics spin forward, on a boat that magically appears out of nowhere time and time again. We can’t look away, thanks to the strong performances enlivened by the talented crew of puppeteers; Richard Parker, Nikki Calonge, Fred Davis, Jonathan David Martin, Betsy Rosen, Celia Mei Rubin, Scarlet Wilderink, and Andrew Wilson, creating visuals that elevate and expand over and over again. The waves crash over the bow, shifting the boy, his boat, and its occupants through a hardship that is ever so emotionally overwhelming to take in. The production takes us on a journey, from the most idyllic space through a story that lands on the powerful shore of determination, tackling animalistic fear and a personal belief in self that resonates. Man, really is “the most dangerous animal in the zoo“, make no mistake about that, but Life of Pi knows exactly where to take us, and doesn’t fail us in the voyage.

Drunk on water, ” Pi unpacks his voyage of survival to those two who are needing to know, where fear can poison everything, yet can also lead a man to stand up tall to a tiger. Or a hyena. I can’t even begin to describe how wonderfully engaging Abeysekera is in the lead role, nor how magically the stage shifts and floats from one continent to another. It is one of those ‘you must see it to believe it‘ kinda theatrical events, filled to the rim with emotionally powerful moments and unbelievably telling bits of magic and wonder, enhanced most touchingly by the original music of Andrew T. Mackay. Endurance and hope are at its core, but the structuring and the visual engagement of the voyage are what truly delivers this tale onto our shore, and into our heart. Having won five Olivier Awards including Best Play in the West End, Life of Pi makes the journey over the other ocean to find its place at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway. And for that, we must stand up and all cheer, “this is my boat” as strongly as Pi does. Buy your tickets asap (try to sit in the front mezz, not the orchestra), because is one ride you want to experience. But trust me, this ship isn’t going to sink anytime soon. It’s just far too strongly built.

Broadway’s Life of Pi. For information and tickets, click here.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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T2C Talks With Rajesh Bose on Life Of Pi’s Opening Night and More

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Lolita Chakrabarti’s Life Of Pi, the new drama is adapted from the novel by Yann Martel makes its Broadway debut  tonight at the Gerald Schoenfeld theatre. T2C talked with Rajesh Bose who plays Pi’s father.

Rajesh is an actor who has worked regional and Off-Broadway. He performed with The Bedlam Theatre Company in The Crucible and Pygmalion, Henry VI forNAATCO),  Against The Hillside for the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Indian Ink at the Roundabout, Oslo at St. Louis Rep, Mary Stuart at the Folger Theatre, Guards at the Taj for Capital Stage, Disgraced at Playmakers Rep, Huntington Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre winning the  Connecticut Critics Circle Award and an IRNE Nomination. The Who & The What at Gulfshore Playhouse and The Invisible Hand at the Westport Country Playhouse and Hartford TheaterWorks.

Rajesh’s film and television roles include “Quantico”, “Blue Bloods”, “Elementary”, “Blacklist”, “Damages”, “Nurse Jackie”, “Madame Secretary”, “The Good Wife”, “Law & Order: SVU”, “Criminal Minds”, the series finale of “The Sopranos”, and the Academy Award nominated film Frozen River. 

T2C wish the Life of Pi and very happy opening.

Video by Magda Katz

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