Who knew that a three hour play about the infamous Oslo Peace Accord miraculously achieved by an overly optimistic Norwegian couple could be so riveting. From the moment Jefferson Mays and Jennifer Ehle walk on stage embodying this surprising couple, Terje Rod-Larsen, the director of the Fafo Institute, and his esteemed wife, Mona Juul, an official in the Foreign Ministry of Norway, we all lean in so we may catch every word and every reference within Oslo, the magnificent new play on the main stage at the Lincoln Center Theater. The information flys at us rapidly but, as written by the astonishing J. T. Rogers (Blood and Gifts), we follow every detail and every introduction. Meticulously constructed, this is an epic story of how two Norwegians got two ___ enemies, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to stand face to face in the Rose Garden on September 13, 1993 in the presence of President Clinton and shake hands. That in itself is the miracle that the world had given up on, but on that day, after over a year of secret talks near Oslo, these two would official sign into effect the Oslo Accord that would lead to the resolution of the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
What an amazing act of tight rope walking we are witness to as directed with the utmost skill and intelligence by Bartlett Sher. The Accord was a complex diplomatic enterprise with numerous players all working for hours upon hours struggling against history to come to some agreement. Each character entering into this beautiful sparse and well orchestrated stage, designed with a minimal and perfect eye for detail and meaning (sets: Michael Yeargan, costumes: Catherine Zuber, lighting: Donald Holder), are introduced to us with some form of contextual information given by Ehle, as the uncredited narrator. It is seamless and exacting, direct and thrilling. We feel like a lucky fly on the wall as we watch all the different players fight, squabble, and earnestly try to overcome decades of mistrust, fear, and hatred, while the outside world struggled with violence and death. We see the death and destruction projected on the back wall in gritty black and white (projections: 59 Productions). It adds tremendous weight to the proceedings, which turns this from an exercise to life and death.
The Palestine contingent, made up of Ahmed Qurie, the Finance Minister for the Palestine Liberation Organization, played passionately and exquisitely by Anthony Azizi, and the official PLO liaison with the Palestinian Delegation at the US sponsored talks going on in Paris during the same period, Hassan Asfour, portrayed with equal passion and an intense fire by Dariush Kashani are a powerful pair. Brought in to talk at first to two Isreali professors of economics at the university of Haifa, Yair Hirschfeld (a magnificently quirky Daniel Oreskes) and his colleague, Ron Pundak (an equally quirky and wonderful Daniel Jenkins). These four, with the help of the Norwegian couple, and two wonderful caretakers, the waffle making housekeeper and cook of the Borregaard estate, Toril Grandal (Henny Russell) and her groundsman husband, Finn Grandal (T. Ryder Smith), start the process of drafting the DOP, Declaration of Principals, that would eventually lead to the peace accord. The other players from Isreal that come in later as the process gains traction are Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister (Daniel Oreskes), Yossi Beilin, Deputy Foreign Minister (Adam Dannheisser), Joel Singer, Senior law partner for a Washington, D.C. firm, and my favorite character in the whole production, the intense but exciting Uri Savir, Director General of the Foreign Ministry, played with sexy appeal by the magnificent Michael Aronov. All have a pivotal and important role in the expansion and development of this historical accord. Before these first meetings, these men had never met face to face anyone from the opposing side. It was ground breaking what happened in that estate on the outskirts of Oslo. These men got to know each other, outside of the intense negotiations and learned to like and care for their enemy. The bond formed by Ahmed Qurie and Uri Savir is wonderfully emotional and powerfully engaging, as we literally ache for them to find resolution. It was an impressively brilliant piece of rule making by the organizer, Rod-Larsen, that the men could not speak politics once outside the conference room. They would have ‘red-line’ boundaries and only talk from a personal perspective over dinners and endless glasses of Johnnie Walker. “It is only through the sharing of the personal that we can see each other for who we truly are.” says Mays’s character, Rod-Larsen. Mays portrayal of this organizer is magnificent in its subtle and hopeful approach by an impressively passionate man, moved by the pain and fear of war he saw while visiting Gaza with his incredible devoted and intelligent wife, Mona. Ehle is spectacular in her important role as wife, diplomatic official, and inspirational role model for peace for both sides. In some ways, it is she who bridges the gap, at one point painting the picture for these two opposing men in a canvas as large and as deeply personal as she can. Without these two players intensely committed to a conflict far outside their personal world, this monumental peace accord would never have been completed.
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: A Dolls House: Arian Moayed and Jessica Chastain
I went with T2C’s editor to A Dolls House, which inspired this caricature. You can read Suzanna’s review of the show here.
T2C Sends Our Prayers to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lea Michele
Saturday, March 25, 2023
A Statement From Andrew Lloyd Webber
I am shattered to have to announce that my beloved elder son Nick died a few hours ago in Basingstoke Hospital. His whole family is gathered together and we are all totally bereft.
Thank you for all your thoughts during this difficult time.
The 75-year-old Oscar-winning composer son Nicholas followed in his father’s footsteps and was a successful composer in his own right, having written Fat Friends The Musical. He was married to musician Polly Wiltshire, who appeared on the soundtrack of his father’s 2019 movie Cats.
During his career, Nicholas also scored music for an adaption of The Little Prince as well as composing numerous TV and film scores, including for the BBC1 drama Loves, Lies, and Records.
Nicholas previously spoke about making his own way in the theatre world away from his famous family name in a 2011 unearthed interview.
He said he wanted to be ‘judged on his own merits’ so dropped his surname when working to see what the reaction would be.
Our hearts and prayers go out to his family.
Also on Saturday Lea Michele updated her fans on the status of her two-year-old’s health via her Instagram after he was hospitalized earlier this week. Her son Ever was in the hospital, but is now out due to a ‘scary health issue. She posted a picture backstage in her dressing room ahead of her Broadway performance in Funny Girl. Lea had been out to focus on her family.
“I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for just so much love and support this week. I really really appreciated it”.
Parade: A Musical That Asks Us Do We Have The Eyes And Ears To See.
Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt Photo by Joan Marcus
I have always loved Jason Robert Brown’s score for Parade. “You Don’t Know This Man,” “This Is Not Over Yet” and the wonderfully romantic “All the Wasted Time” are just the tip of the iceberg for music that stirs your soul and tells a tale of heartbreak. There is a reason this score won the Tony Award in 1999.
The musical now playing on Broadway dramatizes the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank (Ben Platt), who was accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan (Erin Rose Doyle). The trial was sensationalized by the media, newspaper reporter Britt Craig (Jay Armstrong Johnson) and Tom Watson (Manoel Feliciano), an extremist right-wing newspaper aroused antisemitic tensions in Atlanta and the U.S. state of Georgia. When Frank’s death sentence is commuted to life in prison thanks to his wife Lucille (Micaela Diamond), Leo was transferred to a prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, where a lynching party seized and kidnapped him. Frank was taken to Phagan’s hometown of Marietta, Georgia, and he was hanged from an oak tree.
The telling of this horrid true tale begins with the lush ode to the South in “The Old Red Hills of Home.” Leo has just moved from Brooklyn to in Marietta, where his wife is from and he has been given the job as as a manager at the National Pencil Co. He feels out of place as he sings “I thought that Jews were Jews, but I was wrong!” On Confederate Memorial Day as Lucille plans a picnic, Leo goes to work. In the meantime Mary goes to collect her pay from the pencil factory. The next day Leo is arrested on suspicion of killing Mary, whose body is found in the building. The police also suspect Newt Lee (Eddie Cooper), the African-American night watchman who discovered the body, but he inadvertently directs Starnes’ suspicion to Leo.
Across town, reporter Britt Craig see this story as (“Big News”). Mary’s suitor Frankie Epps (Jake Pederson), swears revenge on Mary’s killer, as does the reporter Watson. Governor John Slaton (Sean Allan Krill) pressures the local prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (the terrific smarmy Paul Alexander Nolan) to get to the bottom of the whole affair. Dorsey, an ambitious politician sees Leo as he ticket to being the Governor and though there are other suspects, he willfully ignores them and goes after Leo.
The trial of Leo Frank is presided over by Judge Roan (Howard McMillan). A series of witnesses, give trumped up evidence which was clearly is fed to them by Dorsey. Frankie testifies, falsely, that Mary said Leo “looks at her funny.” Her three teenage co-workers, Lola, Essie and Monteen (Sophia Manicone, Emily Rose DeMartino, Ashlyn Maddox), collaborate hauntingly as they harmonize their testimony (“The Factory Girls”). In a fantasy sequence, Leo becomes the lecherous seducer (“Come Up to My Office”). Testimony is heard from Mary’s mother (Kelli Barrett ) (“My Child Will Forgive Me”) and Minnie McKnight (Danielle Lee Greaves)before the prosecution’s star witness, Jim Conley (Alex Joseph Grayson ), takes the stand. He claims that he witnessed the murder and helped Leo conceal the crime (“That’s What He Said”). Leo is given the opportunity to deliver a statement (“It’s Hard to Speak My Heart”), but it is not enough. He is found guilty and sentenced to hang. The crowd breaks out into a jubilant circus.
Act 1, is not as strong as it should have been. I have attended three different incarnations, the last being with Jeremy Jordan as Leo and Joshua Henry as Jim in 2015. Part of the problem is Michael Arden’s direction. Instead of allowing his performers to act, he has them pantomime, as the solo goes forth. “Come Up to My Office” was not as haunting as in past productions. The same can be said of “That’s What He Said”. Who’s stands out in the first act is Jake Pederson as Frankie and Charlie Webb as the Young Soldier who sings “The Old Red Hills of Home.”
In Act 2, Lucille finds Governor Slaton at a party (the hypnotic “Pretty Music” sung wonderfully by Krill) and advocates for Leo. Watson approaches Dorsey and tells him he will support his bid for governor, as Judge Roan also offers his support. The governor agrees to re-open the case, as Leo and Lucille find hope. Slaton realizes what we all knew that the witnesses were coerced and lied and that Dorsey is at the helm. He agrees to commute Leo’s sentence to life in prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, which ends his political career. The citizens of Marietta, led by Dorsey and Watson, are enraged and riot. Leo is transferred to a prison work-farm. Lucille visits, and he realizes his deep love for his wife and how much he has underestimated her (“All the Wasted Time”). With hope in full blaze Lucille leaves as a party masked men kidnap Leo and take him to Marietta. They demand he confess and hang him from an oak tree.
In Act Two Parade comes together with heart and soul. Diamond, who shines brightly through out the piece is radiant, and her duets with Platt are romantic and devastating. Platt comes into his own and his huge following is thrilled to be seeing him live. Alex Joseph Grayson’s also nails his Second Act songs.
Dane Laffrey’s set works well with the lighting by Heather Gilbert.
Frank’s case was reopened in 2019 and is still ongoing.
Parade has multiple messages and the question is will audiences absorb it. I am so glad this show is on Broadway, making us think and see. This is a must see.
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Parade: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W 45th Street.