As the orchestra plays the opening strains from the Transport Group’s revival of Once Upon a Mattress, a smile will start to spread all over your face and will stay there for more than 2½ hours. Ah…an old fashion musical done well. What makes this production such a delight is the new orchestrations by Frank Galgano and Matt Castle. Featuring music by the late Mary Rodgers (daughter of Richard), with lyrics by Marshall Barer this score comes alive, as we learn the true story of “The Princess and the Pea.” With the Transport Group Theatre Company, it is more like the fractured fairy tale version with Jackie Hoffman, John “Lypsinka” Epperson and set illustrations by theatre caricaturist Ken Fallin.
The show opens as a minstrel (the golden voiced Hunter Ryan Herdlicka) singing about how we don’t quite know the fairy tale of old, as The Jester (Cory Lingner) presents visuals (by Ken Fallin). He brings us back to where it all took place, a mythical kingdom in a desperate search for a suitable princess for Prince Dauntless (the vocally robust Jason SweetTooth Williams). Queen Aggravain (John “Lypsinka” Epperson), is determined that no one is good enough for her son. However, no one can marry until Dauntless does. This is a problem for Lady Larken (Jessica Fontana), who is pregnant by Sir Harry (Zak Resnick), so Harry goes in search of a princess. Enter
Winifred, Fred for short (Jackie Hoffman) anxious for a mate swims past the moat, over the castle walls, singing the most know of the songs from the show “Shy.” Dauntless and Fred immediately have a connection, which makes the Queen and her lackey The Wizard (the delightfully quirky Jay Rodgers) come up with a sensitivity test of a pea under-20-mattresses to sabotage the union. The lecherous mute King Sextimus (David Greenspan) along with the rest of the kingdom find out the plan and load the mattress’s with more than just a pea and the Kingdom is finally set right.
The chorography by Scott Rink, is lively but his number for Cory Lingner, “Very Soft Shoes” nearly steals the show.
As the lovers Ms. Fontana and Mr. Resnick sing with perfection.
Jackie Hoffman (Xanadu, The Addams Family, On the Town) makes this role her very own. This is not an easy task as it made the young Carol Burnett a break out star. Ms. Hoffman does vocal gymnastics and shows an amazing range. Her dead pan, I don’t care approach is hilarious as are her inserted one-liners. The visual contrast between Ms. Hoffman and John “Lypsinka” Epperson is funny enough, but these two play so well off each other it is delightful. Lypsinka makes his Queen a cross of all those famous Hollywood Diva’s, Channeling Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn and Gloria Swanson. He can kill with just one glance or a tap on those red nails.
Jack Cummings III’s, love of this piece shows in his direction as he bring the audience along on his journey.
What has always been the week link is the book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Mr. Barer, but it is such a welcome treat to see musical theatre history re-done with such panache.
Once Upon a Mattress: Transport Group Theatre Company at the Abrons Arts Center 466 Grand St. until Jan. 3rd.
Storm Large Brings The Sexual Heat Along With Powerhouse Vocals To 54 Below
Doris Day’s “Que Sera, Que Sera, takes on a hint of sexual subversive overtone as flower child Storm Large makes her way through the audience at 54 Below handing out possies.
If you do not know who Storm Large is, she is a musician, actor, playwright and author, who shot to national prominence in 2006 as a finalist on the CBS show Rock Star: Supernova. Large currently performs nationally with her own band, and tours internationally with the Portland-based band Pink Martini. Large also appeared on America’s Got Talent on June 14, 2021, performing a cover of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” which is when I became obsessed.
Large is raw, real, human, and oh so female, and her new show has her explaining her life and how she empathize with all of us during being locked down. Her take on Jay Livingston and Ray Evans “Crazy Train” took on a deeper and more profound epiphany.
Lauper’s and Large’s ode to self-gratification, brought back the 80’s “She Bop“. Large talks between the numbers and we learn how Ms. Large dealt with not performing, in Prince’s “Nothing Compares To You“.
You will never think of Grease’s “Hopelessly Devoted to You” in the same way again after the “Carrie: version Storm maps out. You definitely get a glimpse of the demons that she battles or rather plays with.
Connecting so strongly to lyric and having a range that is unbelievable, Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Shovels & Rope’s “After The Storm” and The Kinks “Strangers” told of heartbreak, longing, loss as Storm played the drums and ukulele. She is multi-talented and it is mind boggling how she is not more nationally and internationally beloved.
A lot of the audience knew Storm’s “8 Mile Wide” from her hit one-woman show Crazy Enough. This song is a female empowerment ode of being who she is and she does not apologize. Despite the song being about her anatomy, this was her father’s favorite song. She sang it to him before he died.
The Hollies “Air That I Breathe” and a song by Storm and her amazing musical director James Beaton, “Angels in The Gas Station” were dedicated to her father. Beaton is also who does Storm’s arrangements including the fabulous “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, that sadly she did not grace us with,
Playing in her band are musicians that are all stellar in the own rights with Matt Brown on Bass, Scott Weddle on Guitar and Greg Uklund on Drums.
You can catch Storm Large: Loving Storm, tonight at 54 Below and I highly recommend you do. If you have never experienced this super nova you will be glad you did.
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: New York Pops and Marvelous Marilyn Maye
“The astonishing Marilyn Maye sings with the magnificent New York Pops led by Maestro Steve Reineke this Friday evening, March 24th at Carnegie Hall. They are remarkable talents and remarkable people.
Cabaret legend Marilyn Maye takes the stage with The New York Pops for a program of standards and musical theater classics that make clear why she’s been celebrated as one of America’s greatest jazz singers for more than 50 years. Hear favorites by composers who include Porter, Lerner and Loewe, Loesser, and Sondheim, as well as Maye’s special version of “Too Late Now,” which was selected by the Smithsonian Institution for its permanent collection of 20th-century recordings.
The Glorious Corner
WOODSTOCK COVER STARS — (Via Best Classic Bands) — Bobbi Ercoline’s name may not be familiar to most, but millions own her photograph: Bobbi, whose last name at the time was Kelly, and her then-boyfriend, Nick Ercoline, were huddled together under a quilt at the 1969 Woodstock festival when photographer Burk Uzzle snapped their picture. The couple, both then 20, were unaware that their photo had even been taken until several months later, when the three-LP Woodstock soundtrack album was released. They were among friends when they first realized the couple on the album cover was them.
“We were passing the jacket around when someone pointed out the staff with the orange and yellow butterfly,” Nick told AARP in 2019 for the organization’s magazine. “That belonged to Herbie, a guy from Huntington Beach, Calif. He was lost and having a bad trip, and we hooked arms with him until he was clear-headed. Then we saw the blanket. Oh my lord, that’s us!”
Bobbi and Nick only lasted one night at Woodstock, and never even got near the stage. They had given it their all trying to get to the festival, ditching their car when traffic became snarled and walking the final two miles. They spent most of their single day there on the hillside where the famous photo was taken.
Two years later, in 1971, they married. They remained together until Bobbi Ercoline’s death Saturday (March 18, 2023).
Nick posted the news on Facebook: “It’s with beyond great sadness that I tell my FB family and friends, that after 54 years of life together, of the death of my beautiful wife, Bobbi, last night surrounded by her family. She lived her life well, and left this world in a much better place. If you knew her, you loved her. She lived by her saying, ‘Be kind.’ As a School Nurse she always championed the kids … ALWAYS! As a person, she always gave. ‘How much do you really need if you have all you need or want?’ So she gave and gave and gave. She didn’t deserve this past year’s nightmare, but she isn’t suffering from the physical pain anymore and that brings some comfort to us.”
We’ve spoken much over the years about how that Woodstock event was so cataclysmic – culturally; musically; and certainly philosophically. Elliot Tiber wrote beautifully about it in his first book Taking Woodstock – a classic if you’ve never read it.
They tried to re-create it in 1994 and though it was good, it just didn’t have that magical flavor of the first one. I wasn’t at either, but as you can imagine, music from that 1969 concert still lives passionately today. I was, however, at Live Aid and that was my Woodstock for sure.
Not to get too poetic, but I came across a great quote yesterday: It’s worth being older now, to have been young then.
SHORT TAKES — Derek & The Dominoes Bobby Whitlock on Jim Gordon: “Carl Radle and Jim Gordon … Didn’t get any better than that. The only other alternative [for Derek and the Dominoes] was Jim Keltner. And that’s who should have been the guy and who was supposed to be the guy. But it didn’t turn out that way. He was busy. The rhythm section of Carl and Jim propelled the songs we put together. Jim Gordon is the most musical drummer I ever heard. All of the drums were in tune. literally tuned to a key on the piano. Big kit. But Jim had this wonderful ability to interpret the nuances you could feel but not hear. Carl was solid as a rock. A downbeat player and right on it. So, we have Carl who is solid and down and Jim who is up and on it. So, it was perpetual motion” …
Do you remember “Vehicle” by The Idea of March back in 1970? It became the fastest-selling single in Warner Brothers history. A little-known fact is that 14 seconds of the completed master of “Vehicle” was accidentally erased in the recording studio, (primarily the guitar solo), and the missing section was spliced in from a previously discarded take. The song reached #2 in Billboard, and #1 in Cashbox. The album “Vehicle” reached #55 nationally … Dolly Parton sings with Elton John on “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” on her forthcoming rock ‘n roll album. I bet it’ll sound great, but how many covers of that song has there been? Maybe they should have picked a John/Taupin deep-cut like “Come Down In Time” or “Amoreena.” Just saying … Does the phrase DLYZECOMKIN mean anything to you?
Believe it or not, in one of those crazy-jumble games online, the phrase translates into Micky Dolenz. Crazy, right? See for yourself: https://invasion24.com/2023/03/19/daily-jumble-puzzle-answers-march-19-2023/
… Speaking of Dolenz, he departs Thursday on a Flower Power Cruise; then starts his Headquarters-tour on April 1 in Orlando …
Charles F. Rosenay does the Zach Martin Big Fat American Podcast next week, for his new release, The Book of Top 10 Beatles Lists (KIWI Publishing) … HAPPY BDAY Gia Ramsey!
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Carol Geiser; Bob Meyerowitz; eYada; Andy Rosen; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Paul Haig; Terry Jastrow; Anthony Pomes; Mark Bego; Charles F. Rosenay; Bill Graham; Kip Cohen; Heather Moore; Charley Crespo; [Robert Miller; John Luongo; LIME; Carl Strube; Jen Ramos; and CHIP!
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