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He Says: The Definitely Unsinkable Magnificent Molly Brown

He Says: The Definitely Unsinkable Magnificent Molly Brown

It was a big musical Sunday for Frontmezzjunkies last weekend. After being wow’d by an old time dark and delicious revival of Mack & Mabel at New York City Center Encores!, I went straight downtown to Abrons Arts Center to see another fantastic revival, the bright and brilliant The Unsinkable Molly Brown. It’s a 1960 Broadway musical that opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on November 3, 1960 and closed after 532 performances on February 10, 1962. It starred Tammy Grimes, Harve Presnell, and Jack Harrold, with the delightful and melodic music and lyrics by Meredith Wilson (The Music Man) and a fascinatingly fun book by Richard Morris (Thoroughly Modern Millie). The Transport Group has grabbed hold and dived into the fictional account of the life of Margaret Brown and gifted Michael Rafter (Broadway’s Violet) the task of giving it a slight update alongside the phenomenal Dick Scanlan (Whorl Inside a Loop) who is credited with book and new lyrics. Margaret (just call me Molly) Brown, played to spunky perfection by the magnificent Beth Malone (Broadway’s Fun Home) is surrounded immediately and most deliciously by a solidly talented pack of young miner men. Climbing up the ladder, Molly establishes herself strongly in the hearts of the whole town she wandered into, almost by accident. “I Ain’t Down Yet” she states. And we totally see that this woman, and this fantastically talented actress, will never be down for more than a minute or two. First told that she was ‘bad luck‘, particularly strongly by captain miner man, J.J. Brown, beautifully portrayed by the richly voiced David Aron Damane (CSC’s Carmen Jones), the tide quickly turns, explosively, and under the protective wing of widow Julia, gorgeously sung by Whitney Bashor (Keen Co.’s Ordinary Days), Molly finds her place in the wilderness and gets her wishes granted, one after the other.

PhotobyCarolRosegg (8)
The cast of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Directed with an eye for fun and pleasure by the impeccable Kathleen Marshall (Broadway’s Anything GoesIn Transit), with magnificent and fun dance arrangements by David Chase (Broadway’s Kiss Me, Kate), The Unsinkable Molly Brown floats high above all expectations. “Belly Up to the Bar, Boys“, they sing, and with a delectable trio of Saloon dancing girls, and a barber shop trifecta, made up of Alex Gibson (Broadway’s SpongeBob…) as Erich; Omar Lopez-Cepero (Broadway’s American Idiot) as the adorable Vincenzo; and Paolo Montalban (Broadway’s The King and I) as Arthur, the piece is as joyful and rich as Molly and her husband become. On a solidly strong, beautifully cracked, and ever evolving set designed by Brett J. Banakis (Broadway’s The Cher Show), with festive fun costuming by Sky Switser (Cape Playhouse’s Art) [Paul Tazewell (Broadway’s Hamilton) is credited with designing Ms. Malone’s gown], distinctive lighting by Peter Kaczorowski (Public/Broadway’s Sweat), and a solid sound design by Walter Trarbach (TG’s Broadbend, Arkansas), Molly Brown flourishes, never taking that smile off our collective faces. Better than a Washboard Music Festival, the production is pure pleasure and talent, rolled up and Gold plated for success.

PhotobyCarolRosegg (10)
David Aron Damane and Beth Malone. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Molly Brown is a firecracker of a character, and Malone finds every chance she can to charm us with her magnificence, always finding a way to stand up to Denver snobbery and “The Sacred Thirty-Six” dismissal, even when trapped in a lifeboat. She’s a trailblazer who always supports those in need of some help, whether it be striking union-seeking miners, Titanic survivors, or just the hungry and the poor of wherever she finds herself. She finds a way to “Share The Luck“, most wonderfully backed by music director Joey Chancey (Broadway’s An American in Paris) with strong orchestrations by Larry Hochman (Broadway’s The Prom). We feel as lucky as those who are in Molly’s Lifeboat No. 6 when she most famously survives the sinking of the RMS Titanic (I see and applaud you, Kathy Bates. Your depiction will never fade from my Titanic memory). Molly returns home stateside only to find more and more reasons to stand proud and strong. “I’d Like to Change Everything About You“, she and her loving husband sweetly sing, but in regards to the Transport Group‘s production, I wouldn’t touch a thing. So never say no to this show. “Are You Sure?“, some may ask “Just Becuz“. “If We Can-Can“, we will, is the only answer.

PhotobyCarolRosegg (9)

Beth Malone (left) and the cast of Transport Group‘s The Unsinkable Molly Brownat Abrons Arts Center. Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

For more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

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 last...so 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 frontmezzjunkies.com

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