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Howard Ashman, Alan Menken

Howard Ashman and Alan Menken

Ghostlight Records will release the premiere cast recording of the musical Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater – based on the recent production by the New York City Center’s Encores! Off-Center musical theater series – in digital and physical formats on Friday, July 28. The album will is available for pre-order. Adapted from Vonnegut’s 1965 novel, this was the first musical written by the blockbuster team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, before their theater success with Little Shop of Horrors and their animated Disney hits The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.  The production was directed by Michael Mayer and choreographed by Lorin Latarro. Chris Fenwick serves as Music Director. The CD’s 28-page full-color booklet includes complete lyrics, production photography, a synopsis and essays from director Michael Mayer and Thomas Schumacher, President of Disney Theatrical Group.  The album is produced by Alan Menken and Michael Kosarin, with Rick Kunis serving as executive producer. For more information on the recording, please visit sh-k-boom.com/god-bless-you-mr-rosewater.

Howard Ashman, Alan Menken, Santino Fontana, Skylar Astin and Ghostlight Records Bring God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater To Life, Howard Ashman, Alan Menken

The recent Encores! Off-Center production starred Skylar Astin, Derrick Baskin, Jeff Blumenkrantz, Nick Choksi, Eddie Cooper, Kevin Del Aguila, Santino Fontana, Clark Johnson, James Earl Jones, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Kevin Ligon, Marla Louissaint, Liz McCartney, Bonnie Milligan, Brynn O’Malley, and Kate Wetherhead. 

Santino Fontana, Skylar Astin

Santino Fontana, Skylar Astin

The 1979 musical God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater tells the story of Eliot Rosewater (Santino Fontana), a millionaire who drunkenly decides to blow his fortune on the inhabitants of an impoverished town after being inspired by the utopian vision of novelist Kilgore Trout (James Earl Jones). But there are forces who want to put the kibosh on Eliot’s philanthropy—like Norman Mushari (Skylar Astin), a lawyer plotting to have Eliot declared insane. With an irresistible crazy-quilt score that volleys between pop, ragtime, Gilbert & Sullivan, and proto-Disney ballads, the Encores! Off-Center production featured never-before heard orchestrations by Danny Troob.  

The show ran for five performances at City Center from July 27-30, 2016.

Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater features book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken, and additional lyrics by Dennis Green. It was originally presented by The WPA Theatre, where it was directed by Howard Ashman. 

Alan Menken is also represented on Ghostlight Records with the cast recordings of A Bronx TaleNewsiesSister ActThe Hunchback of Notre DameLeap of Faith and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. The label served as executive producer for Aladdin.  

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

Book Reviews

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

GORDON OH GORDON — (from The Guardian) In the 1960’s and 70’s, no serious rock fan viewed the drummer Jim Gordon with anything but awe. By the 80’s, none of them viewed him with anything but contempt, a 180-degree turn that led to his virtual erasure from the culture. Even four decades later, when the veteran music journalist Joel Selvin first tried to sell publishers on a book meant to tell Gordon’s story with nuance and depth, they balked. “They would debate it for months and then say, ‘Nope, can’t do it,’” Selvin said. “It was almost impossible for them because of what he had done.”

In 1983, he entered his mother’s house and began to attack her with a hammer, crashing it into her skull four times before grabbing a knife and stabbing her repeatedly, the final time with such force it pinned her to the floor. Soon after her resulting death, Gordon was arrested, charged and convicted of murder, and spent the next four decades in prison, before dying this past March at 77. Over the years, several prominent articles have been published that tried to trace the outlines of Gordon’s story, ascribing his heinous act to an diagnosed case of schizophrenia that forced him to hear voices and experience hallucinations. Yet only in Selvin’s new book, Drums & Demons, does the reader get a feel for the full horror of his disease and the mess it made of his mind. “In one of his hallucinations, he thought he was in a jail cell that was on fire,” Selvin said. “To me, that was a metaphor for Jim’s whole life. For him, life was a jail cell that was always on fire.”

Despite the chaos that created, both for Gordon, and increasingly, for those around him, Selvin aimed to tell his story with empathy. Only after the drummer’s death was, he able to finally convince a publisher to go along. “The guy got so little compassion,” he said. “I wanted readers to know just how impossible Jim’s life was and how brave he was in battling the disease.”

At the same time, the author meant to “restore Jim’s peerless legacy. Who has done more to put his mark on our music than Jim Gordon?” Selvin said. “What a playlist he was on!”

Just tracing the surface of Gordon’s contributions reveals more than 100 classic songs powered by his invention and finesse. In his early studio work, he appeared on an entire chart’s worth of pop hits, by acts like the Beach Boys, Ike & Tina Turner, the Byrds and Glen Campbell. By the 70’s, he became a key member of pivotal rock bands, including Delaney & Bonnie, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Derek and the Dominos and Traffic. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley of California, Gordon became entranced by the power of the beat from childhood. He played in bands by puberty and, by 17, helped flesh out demos for the publishing arm of Liberty Records. That same year, he joined the Everly Brothers on a tour of England and, afterwards, became part of the storied Wrecking Crew, a loose collection of studio musicians who played on a dizzying range of 60’s hits. “Back then, there were loads of great studio drummers,” said Lenny Waronker, a legendary producer and record executive whose career started in the same west coast studio milieu of the 60’s. “Jim was able to plow through that. All the other musicians were amazed by him.”

Gordon’s role on those storied sessions extended way beyond the simple task of keeping time. “He wasn’t just a backbeat guy,” Selvin said. “He was a fully musical drummer who embedded his playing into the core of the composition.”

For instance: in the 70’s hit, Grazing in the Grass, by the Friends of Distinction, Gordon’s drum elaborated the song. “Even though there was a chart in which every note was written out for him, he added a Latin boogaloo feel that exploded the whole record,” Selvin said.

The fills and intonations he added to Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain contoured the melody and directed the listener’s ear to the record’s subtler touches. “Jim orchestrated that entire song from the drum stool,” Selvin said. In Maria Muldaur’s number one smash Midnight at the Oasis, he added a key samba groove, while in Steely Dan’s Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, the tricky beat he devised deepened the song’s debt to jazz. In doing so, “Jim became an important part of the hit-making process,” Selvin said.

Mark Lindsay, frontman of the hit group Paul Revere & the Raiders, immediately noticed Gordon’s gift after he was hired to drum on their song The Great Airplane Strike. “He was doing this polyrhythmic thing with a kick, a snare and a high hat, accented by tom-toms,” Lindsay said. “He changed the song up so much that I wound up rewriting half of my lyrics to fit was he was doing! Jim became the conductor of the track.”

Waronker recognized the same level of creativity on Sundown, a song he produced for Gordon Lightfoot that became a number one hit. “His drum part made the song move in its own way,” he said. “It’s a specific rhythm that Jimmy picked up from Gordon’s guitar. It became one of the most important parts of the song.”

In the 70’s, Gordon expanded his range to work with rock’n’roll’s most cutting-edge bands on the road. “When you listen to his live work with Mad Dogs & Englishmen or Derek and the Dominos, he’s unleashed,” Selvin said. “The ideas just flow from him.”

At the same time, the voices that were roiling inside his head began to find disturbing external expression. In an infamous incident on the Mad Dogs tour, he hauled off and punched his then girlfriend, the singer Rita Coolidge, in the head. “Here was a guy who was noted for being gentle, smiling and laid back,” Selvin said. “But that was just the mask he wore.”

Some people were already beginning to see through it. “[The singer] Claudia Lennear said she always wondered about that smile,” Selvin said. “It was too simple. She felt he was hiding behind it.”

“Jim had such genius,” Lindsay said, “but I sensed there might be something lurking behind the curtain.”

To Selvin, Gordon’s talent can’t be separated from his torment. “The level of intuition that Jim displayed

in his playing requires a certain electro-chemical makeup,” he said. “His highly personal style had to come from the same place in the brain that produced his schizophrenia.”

At the same time, the focus and power involved in playing drums gave Gordon a refuge from the cyclone of thoughts whipping through his head. “The combination of the resonance of the drums and the rhythmic entertainment of the groove produces a hypnotic feeling that can lift you out,” Selvin said. “Nothing calms a schizophrenic faster than a Walkman and a pair of headphones. For Jim, the drums provided a place where the voices couldn’t follow.”

Strangely enough, the herculean amount of recreational drugs Gordon took at the time also had a calming effect. “You would think that the massive amounts of cocaine he did would make things worse,” Selvin said. “But I talked to psychiatrists who said that it would normalize his dopamine levels. He was doing blow to feel normal.”

Similarly, the crazy rock’n’roll lifestyle of the 70’s, which Gordon exemplified, served as a cover for his increasingly aberrant actions. “The rock scene of the time was nearly indistinguishable from psychotic behavior,” Selvin said with a rueful laugh. “Jim just blended into the background.”

It helped that, at the time, he was still soaring creatively. In 1973, Gordon devised a pair of drum patterns that proved crucial to the development of two separate genres. His work on the Hues Corporation’s smash Rock the Boat, with its high-hat syncopations and danceable beat, helped patent the rhythms of disco. Similarly, his extended break on the song Apache, paired with the congas of King Errisson, became a foundational pattern in hip-hop that was later sampled ad infinitum. “When Kool Herc found Jim’s long drum break on Apache, he discovered that he could make it bound from one turntable to another forever,” Selvin said. “He was driving crowds nuts with that sound.”

By late in 1973, however, Gordon’s beat, and sanity, were beginning to seriously waver. He viciously attacked his wife Renee Armand, cracking several ribs in the process, ending their marriage. His work with the would-be country-rock super group Souther-Hilman-Furay Band grew so erratic they had to sack him. While he managed to keep it together in the studio for a few more years, by 1978 Gordon proved too unreliable to be employed.

In a reporting coup, Selvin acquired research that helped fill in Gordon’s inner life during that pivotal time. He found two women who, in the late 80’s, had gained the drummer’s cooperation for a book that never got off the ground. The notes they took gave Selvin access to jail house interviews with Gordon along with his medical records and related court documents. (Selvin sent several written requests to interview Gordon himself but they went answered.) Regardless, the research he acquired from the women allowed him to put the reader deep inside the musician’s roiling mind.

The voices Gordon heard shamed him so deeply, he rarely told anyone about them, which contributed to him never getting a proper diagnosis. His mother, one of his closest witnesses, believed that drinking and drugs were his problem rather than a symptom of something far more corrosive. While Gordon began to imagine that many people were torturing him at the time, the main voice in his head was his mother’s. “Because Jim’s father was a practicing alcoholic, his mother became the sub rosa leader of the household,” Selvin said. “That’s why she became the major figure in this panoply of voices hectoring him.”

As a result, it was her voice that he felt the most urgent need to silence. Once details of the subsequent murder came out, some observers who knew Gordon in his high functioning days were floored. “When I knew him, he was a tremendously nice person,” Waronker said. “He was the all-American boy.”

Selvin’s book describes what led up to the murder in granular detail, but he doesn’t write much about Gordon’s subsequent decades in prison because, he said, he found it undramatic. Often keeping to himself, Gordon became a virtual zombie due to the anti-psychotic drugs the prison pumped him with. Rare as Gordon’s particular case was, one key reason Selvin said he wrote his book was to let readers know how common various forms of schizophrenia are. “To me, the single most astonishing fact of the research I did was that schizophrenia affects one in 100 people,” he said. “Let that sink in: Multiple sclerosis affects one in 10,000! We see these people out in the street, hearing voices all the time. Their world is totally frightening. And I have nothing but compassion for them. Unfortunately, society doesn’t.”

The other key reason Selvin wrote Drums & Demons, he said, was to restore Jim Gordon to the popular music world. “He’s gone,” he said, “and he needs to come back.”

Drums & Demons: The Tragic Journey of Jim Gordon is out on 27 February.

SHORT TAKES —New bio on the Bee Gees by music-wiz Bob Stanley. The group, one of my all-time favorites, were huge, but in many ways never got the respect they deserved. Many people don’t realize that Robert Stigwood, who masterminded them to the top, used to work for Brian Epstein.I’m eagerly waiting for this one. From Pegasus BooksWe watched Anatomy of a Fall and loved it. Its long, but fascinating and intense. A French legal drama, directed by Justine Triet from a screenplay she co-wrote with Arthur Harari. A great cast, especially Milo Machado-Graner, as the boy Daniel …

I watched the opening SNL monologue, with host Shane Gillis -who was fired from the cast for some racial slurs-. A sort of Adam Sandler-wanna be, I didn’t find him funny in the least. He actually reminded me of a low-rent Louis C.K. -remember him?

Lorne Michaels

I don’t know why Lorne Michaels would even want him back, except for some splashy ink – which wasn’t terribly kind. This appears to be Michael’s next-to-last year on the show and he’s clearly choosing to go out quietly. No more gas in the engine I fear …

AppleTV+ has a new show Constellation with Noomi Rapace. Stunningly done; reminds me of Gravity from a few years back … And, Happy Bday Paul Undersinger and George Harrison!

NAMES IN THE NEWS — William Schill; Anthony Noto; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Derek Taylor; Charles Comer; Howard Bloom; Mark Bego; Phil Goldstein; Tropique Records; Marsha Stern; Beth Wernick; Marion Perkins; Les Schwartz; Liz Rosenberg; Bob Merlis; Obi Steinman; Andrew Sandoval; Warren Lawrence; Jodi Ritzen; Jeremy Long; and CHIP!

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Art

Events for March

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St. Patrick’s Day, Women’s History Month, a Harlem Renaissance exhibit at the Met with160 works by Black artists. Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature,at The Morgan Library & Museum through 6/9. The Orchid show continues until 4/21 at the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Florals in Fashion highlights the work of designers Hilary Taymour (Collina Strada), Olivia Cheng (Dauphinette) and Kristen Alpaugh, aka FLWR PSTL Also Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz’s “Giants,”is at the Brooklyn Museum until 7/7. The exhibition features artists who have made and continue to make a significant impact on the art world and contemporary culture. The show features 98 artworks by Black American, African, and African artists including Gordon Parks, Kehinde Wiley, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mickalene Thomas, Hassan Hajjaj, Barkley L. Hendricks, Lorna Simpson, and Amy Sherald.

3/1 -3: The Vienna Philharmonic one of the world’s most celebrated orchestras, takes center stage at Carnegie Hall.

3/3 -5: Coffee Fest NY Javits.

3/3 -5: International Beauty Show Javits.

3/6 – 10: The New Colossus Festival provides a platform for new artists, including international bands making their NYC debuts. The festival will take place across multiple venues mostly spread throughout the Lower East Side and the East Village, including Bowery Electric, Mercury Lounge, Berlin, Heaven Can Wait, and others. This year’s artists include Cucamaras (UK), Ducks LTD (Canada), Heffner (US), Holiday Ghosts (UK), Hotel Lux (UK), Housewife (Canada), and more. You can check out the full lineup and schedule of events here.

3/8: International Women’s Day 

Steven Reineke by Michael Tammaro, Bryan Terrell Clark by Asher Angeles, Valisia LeKae by Antonio Navas

3/15: The New York Pops Hitsville: Celebrating Motown

3/1 -17: The Annual Flamenco Festival with 22 performances across 13 different venues all over the city.

3/1 -17: The New York International Children’s Film FestivalHappy St. Patricks Day
3/17: Join in on the 263rd celebration of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC. The parade kicks off at 11am, moving along Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 82nd Street. This year’s grand marshal, Maggie Timoney, president and CEO of Heineken USA, is only the fifth woman to lead the parade since its inception.

3/20 -24: Affordable Art Fair with over 400 living artists to discover you are sure to find your next perfect artwork.

3/23 – 11/: JAPAN Fes, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. This is the largest Japanese food festival in the world, with over 1,000 vendors.

The Macy Flower Show

3/24 – 4/7: The Annual Macy’s Flower Show created in partnership with Dior.

3/26 – 10/2: Apollo: When We Went to the Moon at The Intrepid Museum. The exhibit is included with museum admission.

3/29 – 4/7: The International Auto Show at the Javitts.

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Cabaret

Cabaret, Talks and Concerts For March

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Brave the rain and head out to the clubs for they abound in entertainment galore. Here are our top picks.

92 Street Y: 1395 Lexington Ave. 3/ 2 – 4: Soul Picnic: The Songs and Legacy of Laura Nyro; 3/ 11: Cabaret Conversations Sally Mayes and 3/18: The Ally: Josh Radnor and Playwright Itamar Moses in Conversation Co-presented with The Public Theater.

 

Karen Mason

Birdland Jazz: 315 West 44 St. Every Monday at 5:30 Vince Giordano and The Nighthawksand 9:30pm Jim Caruso’s Cast Party; Every Tuesday at 8:30pm The Lineup with Susie Mosher; 3/11: It’s De-Lovely: Jeff Harnar Sings Cole Porter and 3/25: Karen Mason In “Just In Styne: Karen Sings Jule”.

 

Orfeh

Cafe Carlyle: 35 E 76th St. 2/1-3: Through 3/2: Jennifer Holliday; 3/3 – 4: Mallory Portnoy and Nick Blaemire; 3/5 – 20: Hamilton Leithauser and 3/21 -23: Orfeh.

Steven Reineke by Michael Tammaro, Bryan Terrell Clark by Asher Angeles, Valisia LeKae by Antonio Navas

Carnegie Hall: 881 7th Ave at 57th St. 3/15: The New York Pops Hitsville: Celebrating Motown; 3/20: of Sinéad O’Connor and Shane MacGowan; 3/23: Meow, Meow and  3/27: Standard Time with Michael Feinstein.

Michael Feinstein

Chelsea Table + Stage: Hilton Fashion District Hotel, 152 W 26th St. 3/10: Klea Blackhurst; 3/11: Mark MacKillop and 3/16: Randy Edelman.

Klea Blackhurst

Don’t Tell Mama: 343 W. 46 St. 3/3: Marcus Simone & Tracy Stark and 3/16: Lucille Carr-Kaffashan.

The DJango: 2 Avenue of the Americas.

Ann Hampton Callaway

Dizzys Club Coca Cola: Frederick P. Rose Hall, Broadway at 60th Street. 3/8 – 10: Ann Hampton Callaway and 3/21; Songbook Sundays Rodgers and Hammerstein.

54 Below: 254 West 54 St. 3/1: The Leading Lady Club: A Celebration of Women on Broadway and Beyond; 3/2 – 3 : Alysha Umphress: 15 Stories; 3/4: Songs From Women At The Table; 3/6: Hugh Panaro: Man Without A Mask; 3/8- 9: Christine Andreas: Paris to Broadway; 3/15 – 16: Melba Moore: From Broadway, With Love; 3/19: 54 Celebrates The Marquis Theatre, feat. Kate Baldwin, John Bolton, & more!; 3/20 – 21 and 23: Leslie Uggams; 3/22: My First Sondheim; 3/24: A Gentleman’s Guide 10th Anniversary Celebration, feat. Lauren Worsham & more!; 3/25: The Wicked Stage: Songs About Show Business, Hosted by Christine Pedi;  3/26 – 27:  Nicole Henry: Decades of Diva; 3/28: Ute Lemper: Rendezvous with Marlene and 3/29 – 30: Andrea McArdle: Confessions of a Broadway Baby.

Andrea McArdle

Andrea McArdle Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

The Green Room 42: 570 10th Ave. 3/4: Figaro a New Musical; 3/22: An Acoustic Evening with Sondheim & Melissa Melissa Errico; 3/23: Nic and Desi: 3/23: Joshua Turchin Composers In The Green Room 42 and 3/24: Reeve Carney.

Sony Hall: 235 W. 46th St.

Theatre at the West Bank Café: 407 West 42 St. 3/2,3, 9,10, 16, 17, 23,24, 30 and 31: Lucky Cheng’s Drag Brunch.The Triad: 158 W. 72 St. 3/16: Stay Golden – The Golden Girls Drag Tribute!The Town Hall: 123 West 43rd Street. 3/4: RuPaul The House Of Hidden Meanings

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Cabaret

Moonlight and Love Songs 

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And so promised Steve Ross in his new show at Birdland, and he delivered both with his customary style, wit, and superb interpretations. This fabled music room takes on the hush of a cathedral when Steve performs there, evidenced by the silent reverence of the audience throughout his performance. Sporting his subtle homage to Cole Porter—a red carnation—Steve began the evening with tunes that described being on the brink of that most coveted of falls, and as the inevitable approached, his carefully curated selections become more tantalizing. Never has “On a Slow Boat to China” been more inviting– sign me up now! A few moon-titled songs followed, including one written by Steve himself. His guest star, Nina Wachenfeld, sang in German and seemed to conjure up Marlene as a bonus.    

Kurt Weill and his haunting melodies were presented next, with appropriate tribute given to that great American wordsmith, Ogden Nash. Another aspect of the topic of the evening was Steve’s review of a few songs about love at first sight. Messrs, Coward and Porter put their two cents in, with the penultimate and heartbreaking “This Nearly Was Mine” putting a twinge in the heart of everyone as only Rodgers & Hammerstein can. Cole then did what he does best: teased and tickled the memory with his thoughts on the matter. 

Steve’s ability to find new ways to make all these songs new for an audience is part of his wonder. He snapped us out of our dreamy reveries with a joke and then the ever-hilarious “Dolphins” and then encouraged everyone to do what we were aching to do—sing along to some classics from the 1940s. He has an uncanny ability to know what an audience wants and needs and switched the dial to drama with Dietz and Schwartz’s haunting “Dancing in the Dark”.  The charming conclusion to this Valentine was the duet of “Married”. I have tried many times to dissect the magic Steve brings to his music and never quite capture it with words. You just must see it for yourself! A performance by Steve Ross is indeed transformative, as his ever-full audiences will attest.   

In between engagements on both sides of the Atlantic, Steve appears regularly at Birdland. Check his website for future appearances, and possibly even a master class! 

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Music

Jason Robert Brown’s The Connector Is Intelligent, Thought Provoking and Musically Seamless

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“The truth is not about the facts – forgive me. The facts can always be manipulated, arranged, massaged – We are not purveyors of facts, we are tellers of truths.” …..Or are we?

The Connector now playing at at MCC’s Newman Mills Theater space, has twice been extended and in all honesty should move to Broadway this season. If it did it would stands a massive chance of being nominated or winning Best Musical, Best Score, Best Orchestration, Best Direction, Best Lead Actor and many of the technical awards. I wouldn’t be surprised if it sweeps the Drama Desk and The Outer Critics Circle Awards come award season.

Set in 1996 at a newspaper called “The Connector”, this unrivaled purveyor of “the truth and nothing but the truth,” is about to be put to the test. Enter Ethan Dobson (the remarkable Ben Levi Ross), fresh out of Princeton who’s arrived with talent, guts and a smarmy style.

Scott Bakula, Ben Levi Ross By Joan Marcus

Ethan has long admired and longs to work for the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Conrad O’Brien (welcome back to the fabulous Scott Bakula), who is being over run by new owners, who care more about circulation and the color turquoise, than facts.

Jessica Molaskey By Joan Marcus

The first person Ethan meets and the voice of a collective conscience is Robin Martinez (normally played by Hannah Cruz, but at my performance Ashley Pérez Flanagan). At first attracted to Ethan, Robin starts to see the cracks, as does fact checker, Muriel (a layered performance by Jessica Molaskey). Right from the start, she does not like or trust Ethan. Nor do we. In a strange way, this almost seems like a musicalized version of “The Talented Mr. Ripley”.

As Conrad takes Ethan under his wing, we see three of his stories, each done in a different musical style. The first is about an eccentric West Village scrabble player (the terrific Max Crumm). With a “Rhythm of Life” feel, Ethan becomes an over night success with circulation increasing and a fan by the name of Mona Bland (a memorable Mylinda Hull) who will end up being his downfall.

Fergie Philippe, Hannah Cruz, and Ben Levi Ross Photo: Joan Marcus

The next story is about the take down of the mayor of Jersey City, done in rap/ gangland style that gets him a nomination for the prestigious National Magazine Award. As his source Willis, Fergie Philippe gives his all, but the problem we soon find out, is that though the story is sensational, there are gaping holes in the facts, which Muriel, Robin and Mona glaringly see. 

In the end who is Ethan really? What is truth and what is fact? Does the public really care or do they just want sensationalism? Has the world really gotten over its sexism? It’s racialism? Sadly, I don’t think so. Everything becomes the movie of the week and then goes away until the next big scandal.

The Connector was conceived and directed by Daisy Prince, who does a remarkable job and asks some really intelligent questions. She has also gathered a fabulous cast, who makes this show seem real, relevant and up to date.

Ben Levi Ross By Joan Marcus

Ben Levi Ross will remind you of Jessie Einsenburg. He is loaded with talent. Not only does he posses a vocal prowess that is unmatched, his nuances and phenomenal acting choices make him so watchable. He is like an onion slowly peeling away each delicate layer. He is seriously brilliant.


As Robin, I saw the understudy who is about to take over the role, Ashley Pérez Flanagan. She sings and acts well, but lacks some of the nuances that originally made me want to see this show. I fell in love with the song “Cassandra” in 2017 and either Jason Robert Brown rewrote some of the notes or they were different in the production I saw. This song is pivotal to the show, as the lyrics talk about how women writers are written off.

“Half the stories of the world are left unwritten, half the stories have been lost along the way. And so the people of the world will not encounter, anything but one perspective, one reflection, one directive, male and white and unenlightened, every day. It’s easy for you, it’s easy for you and I’m missing it”

These are the lyrics by Jason Robert Brown for “Cassandra”. Not only is his music rich in rhythm and style, but it reaches into your soul to take capture. His lyrics hit at the heart of pain, truth, anger and honesty. Each song is a playlet with character-driven narratives and stand on their own. Smartly his band is electric and musically I could sit through this show every night of the week and hear new emotional tugs. I am so excited to announce the album will be released in late spring by Concord Theatricals Recording, because I want to listen to these songs again and again. A plus is JRB is on the piano playing with his band.

Jonathan Marc Sherman’s book is funny, terrifying and taps on timely issues, however I did want more as to the why’s and psychology of Ethan, but maybe that’s the point, we don’t understand the why’s and never will.

Not only is the show wonderfully done, but the raw masterful set by Beowulf Boritt, lighting by and projection design by Janette Oi-Suk Yew and choreography by Karla Puno Garcia are shear perfection.

You will not be able to stop thinking about this show, that is full of thought provoking ideas on journalistic integrity and the difference between fact and truth. This is a show not to be missed and that’s a fact.

The Connector: MCC Theater Space, 511 W 52nd Street, through March 17th.

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