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Boris Akunin,Hamlet Hamlet

Boris Akunin’s rendition of Hamlet, Hamlet. A Version, is probably the most intriguing version of Hamlet I have ever seen. The retelling focuses on political corruption and thirst for power.

Khris Lewin, Joy Hermalyn

Khris Lewin and Joy Hermalyn in Hamlet, A Version. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

The story of Hamlet is told in such a way that themes of political corruption and maneuvering are highlighted. The key word here is character motivation. Akunin highlights and creates new motivations for the characters, making every character much stronger and more interesting than originally written. Instead of happenstance and accident, choices are made.

Polonious (Alan I. Ross) thirsts and plots for the throne with the help of Laertes (Michael Sweeney Hammond); Gertrude (Joy Hermalyn) is a spiteful accomplice in her husband’s murder, but she also desires to protect Hamlet. Claudius (James Phillip Gates) will keep the throne at any cost. Hamlet (Matt Weiss) seeks revenge for his father’s murder. Horatio (Khris Lewin) is a loyal mastermind and confidant of nearly all the others. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Owen Scott and Michael Propster) are pawns in everyone’s game and comic relief. Ophelia (Clair Brownell) doesn’t do anything except go crazy after her father’s death and to die, giving Laertes one more reason to blame Hamlet.

The cast moves swiftly on a bare stage in front of a string curtain that allows for symbolic moments of who is in front of the curtain and who is behind. The projections onto the string curtain are symbolic and sometimes feel nebulous. It seems to create a sort of subliminal messaging for the audience, even though the audience will see themselves projected onto the curtain as well. The backdrop however does not distract from the incredible actors, it adds to nearly every scene. Heather Klar’s colorful costume design is worth noting because they force use to pay attention to the people, and not their surroundings – which is not often the case with politics.

On the whole, the cast is so easy to watch that we are swept into their characters immediately. Though none of the actors are weak, Joy Hermalyn as Gertrude and Khris Lewin as Horatio stand out above the rest, and the scene between them, in which one cunningly manipulates the other to the edge of their comfortable lies, is masterful. Matt Weiss plays Hamlet with un-athletic drunkenness that is both concerning and comedic, which to me is an achievement. Each of them weaves Akunin’s words into Shakespeare’s language with such ease that there are only a few moments where I can tell them apart.

Hamlet. A Version is politically relevant, entertaining and intriguing. The production is cohesive and cast is exceptional. Overall, Akunin’s reworking of an well-known story is riveting.

Hamlet. A Version: Red Lab in assoc. with Roust Theatre Company, Theatre at St. Clement’s, 423 W. 46th St. Closes May 7th.

 

 

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: Happily Ever Laughter at 54 Below……Liz Callaway & Jason Graae

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At first glance they might seem like a musical and personality mismatch, but the chemistry between Liz Callaway and Jason Graae is far from problematic.  It is an enormously entertaining integration of these two artists musicianship, acting, and comedic expertise. Liz Callaway’s once in a lifetime voice and vocal dexterity doesn’t just sing in tune.  It lands in the middle of the middle of a note with a clarity that pierces your soul.  Jason, once he gets his oboe in tune (that’s a double entenndre) also possesses excellent vocal technique, and my camera, no matter how many photos I snap is incapable of capturing his enormously expressive facial movements that glide between comical and the heartfelt with such ease. His rendition of William Finn’s “What More Can I Say” brought tears.  The duets from “BABY” for which Ms Callaway was nominated for a Tony and her two songs from the animated film Anastasia (in which she starred) were highlights.  This evening’s friendship (they’ve been for forty years) was the perfect blendship, together with the masterful Alex Rybeck on the piano at 54 Below last night. The show was very appropriately titled “Happily Ever Laughter” and it has two more performances, July 5 & 6.

Speaking of friendship and blendship, my table of KT Sullivan, Eda, and Debbie Gravitte was pretty special too.

JASON GRAAE & LIZ CALLAWAY

LIZ CALLAWAY & JASON GRAAE

LIZ CALLAWAY & JASON GRAAE

LIZ CALLAWAY & JASON GRAAE

JASON GRAAE

JASON GRAAE

JASON GRAAE & LIZ CALLAWAY

JASON GRAAE & LIZ CALLAWAY

LIZ CALLAWAY

JASON GRAAE & LIZ CALLAWAY

54 BELOW

LIZ CALLAWAY & JASON GRAAE

ALEX RYBECK, LIZ CALLAWAY, JASON GRAAE

54 BELOW

JASON GRAAE & RICHARD SKIPPER

KT SULLIVAN, DEBBIE GRAVITTE, EDA SOROKOFF

HAPPILY EVER LAUGHTER

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Cabaret

My View: Jamie deRoy & Her Friends….Who’s Like Them….Damm few

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There wasn’t a sign on the door that said “ Private Party…you have to know Jamie deRoy to get in”, but it seemed that way last night as all the tables in Birdland were filled with Jamie’s friends. They came for another edition of her long running (34 years) variety show.  Jamie as usual hosted the evening and presented a talented line up of performer friends which included: Jason Graae, Jason Henderson, Cory Kahaney, MOIPEI, A.J. Shively, and Jim Vallance & Catherine Porter. The evening, which benefited the Entertainment Community Fund, was directed by Barry Kleinbort with musical direction by Ron Abel.

A show tends to be well received when an audience is mainly comprised of friends. However, even an audience of strangers would have become Jamie’s friends after watching this outstanding cast creating a highly enjoyable evening of music and humor.  As the song says.. “ya’ got to have friends”, and to answer the question asked by the many friends who couldn’t snag a ticket…yes, Jamie sang “Jews Don’t Camp”.

Check out the show photos and the Cast Party

JAMIE deROY

A.J.SHIVELY

JASON HENDERSON

CORY KAHANEY

CATHERINE PORTER & JIM VALLANCE

CATHERINE PORTER

JASON GRAAE

JASON GRAAE

JASON GRAAE

RON ABEL, music director

RON ABEL

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Cabaret

My View: If She Were On The Debate Stage Tonight…Age Would Not Be An Issue

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It’s not my photography skills, nor the lighting, camera, or lens that make these photos taken last night of Christine Andreas appear to be similar to the ones I shot 10 years ago.  Madame Andreas ( who speaks lots of French during her show at 54 Below) has found the secret of ageless, timeless beauty.  You can also say the same about her glorious voice and shimmering vibrato which she so effectively joined with her energetic acting and verbal skills to sing the timeless songs of Paris and Broadway.  Her Cabaret show Paris to Broadway is a gem and husband/music director Martin Silvestri is a superb composer/arranger/pianist/ and accordionist, who helped create the musical authenticity for her show stopping set list. 

One thing for sure, if Christine Andreas was on that debate stage tonight, age would not be an issue.

CHRISTINE ANDREAS

CHRSTINE ANDREAS

CHRISTINE ANDREAS

MARTIN SILVESTRI & CHRISTINE ANDREAS

MARTIN SILVESTRI

CHRSTINE ANDREAS

MARTIN SILVESTRI & CHRISTINE ANDREAS

CHRISTINE ANDREAS

CHRISTINE ANDREAS

STANDING OVATION

54 BELOW

LORNA DALLAS BROWN & LEE ROY REAMS

EDA SOROKOFF & CHRISTINE ANDREAS

EDA SOROKOFF, CHRISTINE ANDREAS, STEPHEN SOROKOFF

MARIA VON NICOLAI

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Cabaret

My View: Linda Lavin Visits Linda Eder at 54 Below

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It isn’t often on a hot summer night that I get chills and goose bumps, but that happened at Linda Eder’s performance at 54 Below last night.  The voice, the breath control, the phrasing, spunky personality and physical beauty of this icon all combining with an impeccable song list brought me back to the golden age of nightclubs.  Simply a great singer, singing great songs and a musician’s musician like Billy Stritch at the helm supplying the musical accompaniments (and on occasion vocal harmonies).  Having Linda Lavin as our table mate and hearing about a new Hulu TV pilot starring Linda, Nathan Lane and Matt Bomer added to the excitement of the evening.  BTW Linda absolutely loved Linda.

LINDA LAVIN, BILLY STRITCH, EDA SOROKOFF

LINDA EDER

LINDA EDER

BILLY STRITCH & LINDA EDER

LINDA EDER

LINDA EDER

LINDA EDER, BILLY STRITCH, LINDA LAVIN

LINDA EDER & BILLY STRITCH

EDA SOROKOFF & LINDA LAVIN

BILLY STRITCH, LINDA EDER, LINDA LAVIN

BILLY STRITCH, LINDA EDER, STEPHEN SOROKOFF

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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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