Off Broadway

He Says: MTC’s Be!!a Be!!a Wins Big in Her Losing

He Says: MTC’s Be!!a Be!!a Wins Big in Her Losing

What a gift to the stage. Harvey Fierstein enters, and the audience is his. He can do what ever he pleases with them. He can make them laugh. He can inspire, and he can play, donning the hat of, without a word of discontent, a 1970’s version of the celebrated politician and feminist, Bell Abzug. It’s his Bella Bella for the win, and even though on this singular night, September 1976, that we are invited into for a very personal private space for a wee tête-à-tête with the trail-blazer, winning is what is hoped for, but not necessary what she gets in the end.  What we do get though is a wonderfully endearing and smartly written and performed piece by Fierstein (Torch Song) that is both influential, engaging, and charming, centering itself most deliciously around the world, words, and works of celebrated politician and feminist, Bella Abzug.

As directed with a breezy free flowing air by Kimberly Senior (Broadway’s Disgraced), the dynamic engagement is non-stop. A 90 minute private meeting with the woman who changed politics in America, delivered by that endearing gravely-voiced persona who changed theatre for the better.  Bella has a lot to tell us, about herself and the way she thinks things should be.  Hearing her opinions through our 2019 ears is both wonderfully powerful, and somewhat saddening, as she would most likely be horrified with what happened just three years ago to modern day America.  “Where were the women?” she said and maybe would have said. We ingest that thought and wonder ourselves, particularly because we needed them in 2016 to stand up and be heard in just the way Bella demands of them back then.

bella bella 5
Harvey Fierstein in Bella Bella. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Through the very unique voice of Fierstein, both vocally and the written word, Bella Bella goes through the litany of past presidents, and how the system, that she worked so hard for, was designed to exclude. “We see things men don’t“. Women are “more fluid“, “we adjust“, and in that moment of recognition, beautifully presented in this dynamic one person monologue, we must concede. Bella, and Fierstein are right, “unalike is no excuse for unequal“. And the idea hits home with a force.

Backed by the 1970’s modern rectangles and ovals of the Summit Hotel, courtesy of the detailed work of scenic designer John Lee Beatty (Broadway’s Sweat), with straight forward costuming by Rita Ryack (Broadway’s Hillary and Clinton), clear lighting by Tyler Micoleau (Broadway’s The Band’s Visit), touching projections by Caite Hevner (Broadway’s In Transit), and the solid sound design by Jill BC Du Boff (Broadway’s Derren Brown: Secret), Bella Bella is a must see revelation. Not so much about Fierstein, as we know he is a character of epic warm and engagement, able to manipulate our senses and emotion with simplicity and comic energy, but that Bella was such an inspiration.  We need more Bellas in our America.  This Be!!a Be!!a is a most loving tribute to a strong minded force of nature, and even in her losing, she, and Fierstein win big.


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Off Broadway

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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