Connect with us

It was as good as her books.

To see the crowd gathered at the outdoor PIer 76 screen to see a documentary “Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story” was the stuff of a juicy book.

Jackie Collins’ daughters, Rory Green and Tiffany Lerman, joined director Laurie Fairrie on-stage after the screening to share their experience creating the documentary about their late mother, which included reading through her old diaries.

Directed by Laura Fairrie and produced by the Academy Award®-winning Passion Pictures, along with AGC Studios, CNN Films, BBC Arts, and John Battsek, ‘LADY BOSS: The Jackie Collins Story’ takes viewers on an immersive journey through the trailblazing life of novelist Jackie Collins.

Spinning together fact and fiction, this feature documentary reveals the untold story of a ground-breaking author and her mission to build a one-woman literary empire. Narrated by a cast of Jackie’s closest friends and family, the film shares the private struggles of a woman who became an icon of 1980s feminism whilst hiding her vulnerability behind a carefully crafted, powerful, public persona. The film evolves from a celebration of Jackie’s revolutionary novels – which placed female sexuality at the heart of their storytelling – into a multi-layered deliberation on feminism, family dynamics, and the universal quest to understand how our childhood experiences and early traumas ultimately make us who we are.

ElizaBeth Taylor is a journalist for Times Square Chronicles and is a frequent guest at film, fashion and art events throughout New York City and Los Angeles due to her stature as The Sensible Socialite.Passionate about people ElizaBeth spent many years working as a travel reporter and television producer after graduating with high honors from University of Southern California. The work has afforded her the opportunity to explore Europe, Russia, South America, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. It has greatly influenced the way in which ElizaBeth sees a story and has created a heightened awareness for the way people around the world live today.

Off Broadway

Ruth Stage’s “Lone Star” Guzzles Down Edgeless Revelations and Trauma at Theatre Row NYC




By Dennis W

Hey, grab yourself a six-pack and head out to Angel’s Bar (at NYC’s Theatre Row) where Ray, Roy, Cletis, and Elizabeth will meet you in the backyard.  It’s just a place to hang out, where tired old lawn furniture and a few milk crates hiding in the scrub go before they retire to the junk pile. It’s the early 1970s, and there isn’t much to do in the backwater town of Maynard, Texas, as a matter of fact, the town almost disappeared not too long ago.

The main players, Roy and Ray, in Ruth Stage’s Lone Starwritten by James McLure (Original Adaption by Ruth Stage) seem to be the brothers. They exist here, living out a dark comedy about a psychological casualty of war who comes home. It begins with a substantial monologue and mini-concert by Roy’s wife, Elizabeth, played by Ana Isabelle (Off-Broadway’s I Like It Like That).  She is trying to save her marriage to her high school sweetheart, a former soldier who came home from Vietnam two years ago and suffers from PTSD (which was not even acknowledged by the military until the 1980s). Isabelle gives an adequate performance but it feels very odd that she is alone on stage talking about how her husband’s condition has and is affecting her, him, their life together, their family, and their strained marriage. What’s odd is that when she’s finished she leaves, not to be seen again, until just before the final curtain.

Ana Isabelle in Ruth Stage’s LONE STAR at Theatre Row. Photo by Miles Skalli.

Ray, the somewhat dimwitted brother, played by Dan Amboyer (Netflix’s ‘Uncoupled‘) arrives first in the backyard of Angel’s Bar. Amboyer seems to have captured the “not so bright” tone of the younger brother who isn’t as dumb as you might expect. He’s actually pretty smart in handling some surprises that are about to unfold. Ray is followed out in the backyard by his alpha male brother, Roy with tattooed arms, a shirt with cut-off sleeves, and a bandanna, played by Matt de Rogatis (Off-Broadway’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof). The two “good old boys”, Ray and Roy (their names tell you a lot about them and their family as Ray points out), gear up for a night of beers and man talk. Tonight’s conversation begins with the questions; where was Roy and what he was doing these past two days after disappearing without a word – not that he hasn’t done that before. There’s a lot of hollering as the two boys talk about the good old days, Vietnam, Roy’s pink 1959 Thunderbird, sexual exploits, and love of country. The actors have good chemistry and you can see their combative sibling relationship living and breathing before us. It’s strong and honest, as they reminisce about growing up and raising hell together with Roy taking the lead, but all this talk doesn’t seem to take us anywhere new. Most of it is a rehash of what we found out during Elizabeth’s opening monologue.

Ryan McCartan and Dan Amboyer in Ruth Stage’s LONE STAR at Theatre Row. Photo by Miles Skalli.

Finally, there is some tension: Ray’s high school friend, Cletis, who Roy hates with a passion arrives. He’s the antithesis of Ray and Roy, and as played by Ryan McCartan (Roundabout’s Scotland, PA), Cletis is exactly what you might expect. He’s the perfect nerd with high-water pants, a buttoned-up shirt, loafers, and, of course, a pocket protector filled with pens. He comes in with what should be catastrophic news for Roy, but Ray has his own bombshell to toss into the mix. You would expect fireworks, especially from a veteran who is suffering from PTSD, but what you actually end up getting is ‘good old Roy’ who puts his arm around his brother’s shoulders and heads on home. You get quiet defeat. But, who knows how long that will last.

Director Joe Rosario (Off-Broadway’s Cat on a Hot Tim Roof) only has a small space to work with on that stage as designed by Matthew Imhoff. The set fills much of the space giving the effect of a rundown bar with the back door of Angel’s opening to a small porch leading to a narrow yard with ample clutter. Rosario’s direction is a bit linear but works within the space available.  

Lone Star loses its way as it propels forward, with slow brother Ray not really as out of touch as he seems, macho Roy dealing with the trauma of PTSD, long-suffering Elizabeth, and the nerd Cletis, who’s managing his father’s appliance store and is better off than the brothers. In many ways, the evening that we are privy to, out back behind Angel’s chugging Lone Stars, seems to be just like yesterday and probably just like tomorrow, even with all of its Lone Star revelations.

Matt de Rogatis and Dan Amboyer in Ruth Stage’s LONE STAR at Theatre Row. Photo by Miles Skalli.

For more go to

Continue Reading

Out of Town

“Angels in America” Cracks the Wall With Intimate Power at BuddiesTO




From the first lines spoken by that aging rabbi, played meticulously well by Brenda Bazinet (Citadel’s Equus), I breathed a huge internal sigh of relief. I had persuaded a good friend from New York City to fly to Toronto to see That Theatre Company‘s production of the epic Angels in America, probably my most beloved play ever written, which is currently playing a much too short run at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. He had never seen a production of this iconic play, and I really wanted his first experience to be epic and meaningful, as powerful an experience as it is to me. And I knew, from those first few spoken moments, that this play, written so beautifully by Tony Kushner (A Bright Room Called Day; Caroline, or Change) and directed with such grace by Craig Pike (Buddies’ Body Politic), was going to rise up as majestically and magnificently as I had hoped.

Allister MacDonald and Kaleb Alexander in That Theatre Company’s Angels in America. Photo by Nathan Nash.

The art of the play lies in the poetry of the words and the honoring of them all. If we can believe in them wholeheartedly, the play will fly forward on strong wings. Pike does exactly that. It’s not revolutionary, his approach, but it does play strong tribute to the words and how they are delivered. The rabbi tells us that he did not really know this woman who is being buried in that rectangular box of light before him, courtesy of some brilliant lighting design by Bonnie Beecher (Young People’s The Darkest Dark), but he knew her in a larger and more meaningful way; a grander idea of knowing, that this play resonates most profoundly outward with all of its cleverly constructed characters. We know them all, in some way or another, and believe in their words and actions. They carry emotional connections that feel personal; to ourselves and our loved ones, parts of those still with us and some that are not, and it is in the power of those words spoken at a funeral for a woman who plays no role in this majestic piece of theatre, we find our connection to Angels in America.

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was to have the opportunity to sit through another 7 1/2 hours of Angels in America this past weekend at Buddies with my friend from NYC.  I have seen this play numerous times before; on Broadway, twice (the original and the 2018 revival), the HBO film, the NTLive’s screening of the National Theatre‘s production that eventually transferred to Broadway, and an off-Broadway Signature Theatre production, all compelling in their own ways and means, but now, with my friend, I was going to be able to see it fresh through his eyes and in the glow of this magnificent play once again, this time in Toronto at the “largest and longest-running queer theatre in the world“, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. It seems completely appropriate, and if anyone doesn’t already have tickets, I suggest you get up off your butts and get them now.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of production that will move you beyond anything that you’ve seen before.

It is true that other actors and their performances in this play continue to haunt me as I take in any new production, whether I like it or not.  The Broadway stage ghosts of Stephen Spinella, Kathleen Chalfant, (the spectacular) Marcia Gay Harden, and Jeffrey Wright watch over me, as well as the HBO television spirits of Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, and Mary Louise Parker, poking around in my head, asking me to not forget them. But I must say that as I sat and watched this current production at Buddies, I quickly set aside anything beyond what was happening before me on that simple cracked runway of a stage, designed most magically by Brian Dudkiewicz (Neptune’s The Last Five Years). The music and electric soundwaves, courtesy of sound designer John Gzowski (Tarragon’s Post-Democracy), play with our senses, vibrating through us and ushering us in so completely that I lost my sense of time and space. The cascading of the soundscape within the highs and lows forces the past to leave me alone, and not intervene with this epic viewing.  Whatever the reason, this current revival is as solidly compelling and complete as one could wish for, and this is quite the understatement, if you ask me. Words can barely describe its wonder. And there shouldn’t be an empty seat in the house for this revival.

Listen to the world, to how fast it goes. That’s New York traffic, baby, that’s the sound of energy, the sound of time.


The heartbreaking and powerful 7 1/2 hours fly by, born on the energy and excitement of the audience and the intense power of an angel in battle, wrestling with a mortal for his salvation, and I was honored to be in its presence. Part One: Millennium Approaches is by far the most beautiful and far-reaching introduction to our shared History of Gay America in the 1980’s. The opening monologue mysteriously tells us all we need to know for the next 3 plus hours, and maybe for the entirety.  Not in terms of the old Jewish woman laying in the coffin, which it does, but about the world and people we are about to embrace.  It’s such a sly and wonderful piece of writing that sneaks into our collective soul and sets us up on almost all levels for what is in store.  It’s about death, love, and life, but it’s also about pain, suffering, guilt, and abandonment. One thing you can say about Kushner and his writing of Part One is that there isn’t a moment of excess or a wasted scene that could be edited out.  Every word seems meaningful and essential in this over three-hour beginning, and it is delivered to us compassionately and honestly.

The cast, as directed most beautifully and dynamically by Pike, is utterly connected, deepening and engaging our connection to them with every simple breath they take. Allister MacDonald (Neptune’s The Rocky Horror Show) as Prior gives us everything we could ever have hoped for from 1980s camp to the angry black-shrouded stalker looking for revenge, bruising, and a deeper understanding, artfully masking the frightened young gay boy beneath. His armored front is something exacting, and quite commonly donned as a shield against all that would want to harm in the world he lives in.  It’s a powerful statement against oppressive forces and one that feels as authentic and real as any.

MacDonald leads us through the dark and heaviness of this play with power and hysterical grace, giving us an unforgettable portrayal that is as deep and meaningful as it is funny and smart. Ben Sanders (Showtime’s “Fellow Travelers“) as his guilt-ridden Jewish boyfriend, Louis is fantastically annoying in his defensive wordplay, hiding quite simply behind the intellectual waterfall of concepts and ideas. He dutifully tries with all his might to be present, but those theories and conjectures don’t, in the end, protect him. This stalemate of sorts is most beautifully pointed out by Belize, archly portrayed by the absolutely perfect Kaleb Alexander (Obsidian’s Pass Over), who lets him know, quite clearly, that it does distract him just long enough for him to see how far he is from being engaged with the world around him.

Alexander as Belize, the nurse and friend of Prior (and travel agent for Harper) grounds the piece in sharpness and clarity that echoes throughout the play, filling it with an emotional heart that forever stays within. Wade Bogert-O’Brien (Grand’s Controlled Damage) is organically exacting as the desperately unhappy Joe, unearthing layers of skin and authentic pain throughout. The battle that plays out inside this Marlboro Man’s head ricochets throughout the theatre and into our hearts, clawing at us with his need, both to crush and live fully inside his darkness and sexuality. He is the one truly tragic figure of this play, left desperate and in need without any support or care from any one soul in his sad, unhappy life.

Christine Horne (Tarragon’s Light) as Joe’s tortured and torturing wife, Harper, tackles one of the hardest parts in this complex play and triumphs. Her dementia is clear, thoughtful, and profound, leading us carefully through her fear and mistrust with an intelligence and bravery that is awe-inspiring. “Weird stuff happens”, she knows. “Like you,” she says to the travel agent who appears out of nowhere offering her escape from the monsters that wait for her in the bedroom. Once again, I was awestruck by the scene that unfolds between Harper and Prior. Something about these two coming together as we watch MacDonald’s Prior gently caress her face with his makeup brush, is by far the most electric and emotionally engaging tie in the play, making that lump in my throat rear itself up for the first of many times. The thin hair of connective tissue between these two holds the piece together in the same way that their “threshold of revelations” sinks deep inside, destroying and freeing themselves all within the same breath. The fragile and intimate way they can see inside the other and know their pain is what creates that added weight and meaning to the whole. And it adds layers and layers of fierce and unfair constructs to the two that electrify their existence in the world.

Bazinet and the magnificent Soo Garay (Factory’s Belle) have the joy and the difficulty of playing numerous roles spanning from a caring nurse, a distraught Mormon neighbor, a perplexed male doctor, a homeless disturbed woman, a patient Ethel Rosenberg, Joe’s angry mother, to a Rabbi and an angel. Horne also is given the sweetest of opportunities to showcase her profound skills playing a smarmy male friend of Roy Cohn, as does Bogert-O’Brien and Mezon as previous Priors coming back around to help guide and enlighten. But some of the finest work in this play is done by both Bazinet in her assortment of characters, especially the doctor who knows that hooker wasn’t a female, and Garay, who majestically embodies both the thoughtful nurse and the compelling angel (and Harrah’s real estate agent and friend) with a power and force that is out of this world magnificent. They all perform Kushner’s profound poetry with an ease that makes it look so effortless, yet deeply personal and authentic. Jim Mezon (That Theatre Company’s A Number) is exacting and deliberate as the closeted horrible Roy Cohn. His Roy Cohn is as layered and fiery as one could hope for, devastating and cruel but desperate for some sort of masculine connection. He, and the others, bring clarity and connection to the front without distancing themselves from the pain and suffering that surrounds them all. For a production running fast and furious forward, their work is unparalleled.

I want the voice, it’s wonderful. It’s all that’s keeping me alive.

Kushner spoke often about Angels in America‘s need to be seen as artificial in a theatrical framework, with all the strings and artifice showing. And in that stance, That Theatre Company’s tender and intimate production succeeds gloriously. The landscape plays perfectly with space and time, with expert framing of light by Beecher and perfect costuming by Louise Bourret (DWYT’s The Producers), expanding and highlighting all aspects of this play. It engages the characters through effortless transitions and authentic arrangments, blending the emotionality expertly from one moment to another through connective tissues of delivery that feel simple and true. The intimacy is palpable, especially in the intricate engagements.

Greetings, Prophet. The Great Work Begins. The Messenger Has Arrived.

One of the striking things about Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika is just how epic and large Kushner’s stroke is as he paints his complicated and captivating canvas. He opens this second half with the oldest living Russian Bolshevik (Bazinet) delivering a speech about revolution, passion, and theory. It’s captivating in its wordplay, painting a deep psychological meaning about living life and moving forward. Not just for Russians, or people with AIDS, but for humanity as a whole. The Bolshevik spins words and ideas out into the space that are sometimes overwhelming in the moment, but never without passion and a heavy meaning on its even bigger canvas. Hanging on to these ideas and ideals for the next four hours through heaven and earth only adds to their power and brilliance.  Kushner shapes our minds with an expert hand, preparing us for what is to follow, unconsciously, and brilliantly, because the work really has begun for these souls, and we are ready to follow along.

I have heard from many theatergoers that Part Twoshould be edited down well beyond its four-plus hours’ length. They say the story could and would still be told with a good 30 minutes at least cut, and I agree with that point if story-telling is all we are here for. But like great works of Shakespeare and others, the piece would lose a great deal of its magic with each subtraction of text. Every poetic word and utterance feels utterly important somehow, and I truly believe they are in a way that is unconscious or unfathomable. When it is all said and done, the piece carries its weight well into the heavens, and beyond. The canvas is brilliantly textured; sad, terrifying, and confusing, but filled with desire, long after the last stroke is applied. And I wouldn’t want to lose one phrase for the sake of a few minutes here and there.

 “The fountain’s not flowing now, they turn it off in the winter. Ice in the pipes. But in the summer…it’s a sight to see, and I want to be around to see it. I plan to be, I hope to be.

Ben Sanders and Allister MacDonald in That Theatre Company’s Angels in America. Photo by Nathan Nash.

The lead actors are as magnificent in Part Two as they are in One. Not surprisingly, they dig deeper into our souls with each overlapping scene and interaction. MacDonald’s Prior becomes much more than a victim of AIDS but a prophet and brave forger for life and love. His surprising entanglement and deepening connection to Horne’s Harper makes my heart ache every moment these two souls collide with each other, noticing all the pain, grief, and desire that exists within. But the truly spectacular connection is the one Prior has with Bazinet’s Hannah Pitt, Joe’s mother. It’s “messy, but not dirty” on could say, as Hannah finds herself lost and adrift in Manhattan, with no connection to her absent son or her lost daughter-in-law. She has been abandoned by them just like Prior has by Louis, making it one of the most touching bonds formed in all the hours of Angels. At first, it is one helping the other out of an emergency need, but in the end, their comradery is equal and deeply needed by both. Watching Hannah open up to the magical possibilities of the world and beyond is compelling to witness, even if a bit underplayed, both in terms of the piece as a whole and for her character.

hat being said, a lot of the real magic of the second half lies in the hands of the two women who feel like supporting roles in Part One. Bazinet is not only perfect as the Mormon mother breaking the stereotypical mold and becoming more than the least-friendly Mormon out there, but she is equally mesmerizing as the Bolshevik and as Ethel Rosenberg watching over the hellaciously fantastic Mezon on his deathbed. There is forgiveness is the world here, even if it comes when no one is noticing. But it is Garay’s angel that carries the largest weight on her back next to those ripped-away wings.  As the angel that cracks the walls open and strides forward with power and pain, the actress creates something altogether that is stupendously theatrical and out-of-this-world fragile and in pain. The angel’s beauty and resplendent majesty resonate beyond the dramatics, especially when climbing over the bed to engage with the frightened Prior. The desperate pain hits deep, much deeper than one might expect.

Then there is that beautiful moment when Prior leaves Heaven for the real world, choosing life over freedom from suffering, making his way back to the discomfort in his body and his hospital bed. It’s inexplicably emotional, resonating down into our animalistic urges for survival as we see his walk shift from strong to sickenly weak as he gets closer and closer to that hospital bed.

This disease will be the end of many of us, but not nearly all. And the dead will be commemorated, and will struggle on with the living and we are not going away.

Heaven, it seems in Angels in America, is something far more than what is described in the text. The Shakespearean quality of the dialogue echoes through the theatre, adding a dynamic that connects Prior with the omnipresence of all, and to our collective spirit.  His desire to live, even with all the pain and suffering that he will have to endure, pulls on our heartstrings. It lives in that desire to stay in his body over all else, even when given a chance to end his suffering and remain in heaven. Just like many other moments in this wondrous conclusion, an overwhelming desire to live, move forward, and connect, even if that connection will bring pain, is the choice that is held onto. Harper’s beautiful monologue as she flies off through the sky in search of meaning, speaks, once again, to the collective.  The dead will rise, and join hands in a hopeful act of saving others. The level of forgiveness for all, except maybe fore Joe, is revealing. Fierce, and unfair, but plausible and revelatory, playing with the ideas of monsters and Mormons hiding under the bed with knives. So in the end, it is really just about creating something more meaningful and beautiful than what and how life is initially seen. Forgiveness and gloriousness can be found, even at the end of a person’s life, and at the end of this lovely heart-wrenching story.

We won’t die secret deaths anymore. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come.

Maybe it doesn’t feel as true as it did when I first heard those words thirty years ago. The world, at least in this America, feels less safe or less progressive than it did a number of years ago. I thought America, a country where I continue to spend a good chunk of my life, was heading somewhere better, but in these dark times, we have to believe, I guess, in the bigger picture of civilization.  We need to look beyond what we are stuck with now, just like these complex characters had to do back then. To “NOT STOP MOVING“, and as Pike writes in his director’s note: “to welcome with bravery and courage a new world rooted in love.

We can’t stand still. We will move forward. With all our might.

Bye now, you are fabulous each and everyone and I bless you. More life, the great work begins.

For more go to

Continue Reading

Out of Town

Boop! Leaps To Life In Chicago



Boop! the new musical officially opened its pre-Broadway tryout in Chicago last night. This is a delightful entertainment. Tony winning director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell has assembled a terrific cast, stunning visuals, strong movement and a heartfelt score into a seamless production that keeps the audience smiling at her antics.

Anastacia McCleskey (Carol Evans), Angelica Hale (Trisha), Jasmine Amy Rogers (Betty Boop), and Erich Bergen (Raymond Demarest)
Photo’s by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Betty Boop was first introduced to the world by the Fleisher Studios in 1930.  As a comedic representation of the free spirit of jazz age women. Betty has entertained and inspired audiences for over ninety years, even after being sanitized by the Hayes Code. Betty also has some real historical precedents, which are ignored by this creative team. As such, the character of Betty herself remains no more than a cute cartoon in the end.

Jasmine Amy Rogers (Betty Boop) Photo’s by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Betty is introduced in a brilliant montage of projections and cardboard cut outs, as if we are seeing her perform in a series of her black and white, 1930s cartoons. She recaps the scenarios in which she got to save the day with her song, “A Little Versatility”. Jasmine Amy Rogers, as Betty is a sexy, cuddly, and touching musical theater dynamo, who adds her own considerable personal warmth to the character.

Jasmine Amy Rogers (Betty Boop), Ainsley Anthony Melham (Dwayne), and Ensemble Photo’s by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

When the song ends, we are in the monochromatic world of the Max Fleischer cartoon movie studio. Betty complains to her director (Aubie Merrylees) and his megaphone-toting assistant (Ricky Schroeder) that she is suddenly feeling the pressures of cartoon stardom. She says she needs a vacation from herself. She also says she needs to find out who she really is, although nothing in particular has happened to incite that decision.

Stephen DeRosa (Grampy), Jasmine Amy Rogers (Betty Boop), Phillip Huber (Pudgy) Photo’s by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Actor Stephen DeRosa, in a deliberately cartoony depiction of Betty’s grandfather character, Grampy, who introduces Betty to a time and space machine, which is a Rube Goldberg contraption wedded to an overstuffed armchair. In an instant, Betty is transported from the world of black and white cartoons to the real world. She appears magically at the New York City Comicon 2023, which pulsates with Mr. Mitchell’s energetic choreography. There, Betty discovers the joys of life in living color.

Angelica Hale (Trisha), Jasmine Amy Rogers (Betty Boop), Ainsley Anthony Melham (Dwayne), and Ensemble Photo’s by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

At Comicon, Betty is befriended by a preteen girl, Trisha. This character is given a theater-shaking performance by petite sixteen year old Angelica Hale, who wowed the world on America’s Got Talent. Whenever she opens her mouth to sing, she literally brings the house down. If you are the parent of an aspiring young performer, you must bring your child to see this amazing young role model.

Jasmine Amy Rogers (Betty Boop) and Angelica Hale (Trisha) Photo’s by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

The problem is the story puts baby, or Betty, in the corner. Betty tells Trisha that she doesn’t want to be recognized as famous, she just wants to be normal. Betty asks Trisha to help her remove her signature makeup and make her look like a real girl, so we expect to see that happen. But it never does. Betty continues throughout the show looking and acting just as cartoony as she does from the beginning.

Ainsley Anthony Melham (Dwayne), Jasmine Amy Rogers (Betty Boop) Photo’s by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Also at Comicon, Betty meets Dwayne, an aspiring jazz trumpeter played with unforced charm and appeal by Ainsley Anthony Melham. Dwayne turns out to also be Trisha’s baby sitter, who comes over when her Aunt Carol (Anastacia McClesky) has to go to work as campaign manager for Raymond Demarest, a former city sanitation superintendent now running for mayor. Erich Bergen as Demarest is very funny and perfectly sleazy as this shady character, whose excremental campaign slogan is to “Doo doo” what needs to be done.

Anastacia McCleskey (Carol Evans) and Erich Bergen (Raymond Demarest) Photo’s by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Dwayne invites Betty to join him at a jazz club where he sits in as a trumpeter. After saying she doesn’t want to be recognized, Betty inexplicably outs herself, belting the joyous song, “Where I Want to Be.” As the first act closes, our expectation is that Betty will be pursuing a career as a performer in modern times. That doesn’t happen either. Instead, the second act opens with Dwayne doing another jazz number on the stairs in Times Square for Betty’s benefit. Betty just sits on the sidelines, watching passively. Then, Demarest enlists Betty to be his assistant mayor, and help generate publicity for his campaign. In her innocence, she allows Demarest to exploit her fame as a cartoon character because she hopes to help women’s causes. Demarest does not allow Betty to speak or express an opinion. This again makes Betty just a passive observer of the story she should be driving.

Young Trisha supposedly admires Betty for the various roles she was given to play in her cartoons, however Betty shows none of the initiative and accomplishment in New York which inspired her young fan from watching her cartoons. That’s a story shortcoming which could have been turned into a positive, if it elicited disappointment on Trisha’s part, and created a crisis between her and Betty in the second act, but the book skips over this issue, and misses a great opportunity to raise the emotional stakes in its story.

Stephen DeRosa (Grampy) and Faith Prince (Valentina) Photo’s by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Grampy is given an old flame to fan, in the form of Tony winning Broadway legend Faith Prince, as a once young scientist, Valentina. She is reunited with Grampy after a supposed forty year absence (an inexplicable timeline, given that the play takes place ninety years after the cartoons). They rekindle their romance with a charm song,“Together, You and Me”, and a little suggested senior sex. But Ms. Prince’s considerable comedic talents are vastly underutilized here.

Finally, Chicago puppeteer Phillip Huber of The Huber Marrionettes brilliantly and unobtrusively manipulates his marionette puppet of Betty’s dog, Pudgy. He delights us all with this fluffy white creature.

Apart from the wonderful cast, the real star and saving grace of this show is lyricist Susan Birkenhead (Jelly’s Last Jam, Working). Literally all the emotion and character development in this show are in her outstanding lyrics. Ms. Birkenhead says everything in song that the show’s book writer, Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaparone, The Prom), should have said in his libretto. Together with Grammy winner David Foster’s excellent music. This fine score is the beating heart of this musical, as it should be.

Mr. Martin’s book makes a joke or two about Betty’s cartoon origin as a dog character. But the glaring omission here is the lack of any reference to her real life origin story.

Betty Boop was a parody created by animator Max Fleisher of a white performer named Helen Kane. Unknown to Fleisher at the time, Ms. Kane had stolen the act of a very real black performer, 1920’s jazz singer Esther Jones, known as  “Baby Esther,” who first popularized the phrase, “Boo boop a doop”.  Ms. Kane had seen Ms. Jones in performance in 1928, and copied her signature expression. A lawsuit brought by Ms. Kane against Mr. Fleisher finally brought out the truth. Casting Ms. Rogers, a black performer, as a character who was initially a white misappropriation of another black performer’s identity, and give her no awareness of it, skirts the most sociologically and dramatically important story opportunities in the show. What if Trisha were to tell Betty that she is really based on a black singer who received no credit from history? What if Betty doesn’t know what color she really is? What if she feels white on the outside and black inside? So many interesting possibilities. Sadly, there is no consideration of any of them here. Even the program note, “About Betty Boop and Fleischer Studios,” blithely whitewashes her history and makes no mention of this.

In the beginning, Betty says she wants to take this journey to learn who she really is and yet, the creative team fails to let her explore the real answer to her question. Color is used in the end only to illustrate romantic passion. The story Bob Martin has crafted is cute, but insignificant.

The show ends with squeaky-voiced Betty inexplicably delivering a throaty power ballad, which states “I know I want something …but I don’t know what I want”.  That might have made sense for Betty to sing at the end of the first act, but it’s ridiculously out of place at the end of her story. Yes, Ms. Rogers stops the show with that song, just because she can, but they should cut the song, or move it to the first act, and give Betty a final number where she gets to really express what she has learned.

Chicago audiences are not easily manipulated by flash over substance. We’ve seen too much smart work. We demand depth, even from our cartoon characters.

There is much to appreciate in the fine sets by David Rockwell, delicious costumes for Betty by Gregg Barnes, flashy lighting by Philip S. Rosenberg,  clever projection design by Finn Ross, hair and wig design by Sabana Majeed, makeup design by Michael Clifton, and musical supervision by Daryl Walters.  The performances are all great, the songs are fun, and Mr. Mitchell makes everyone’s work look its best.

If Mr. Mitchell came to Chicago, as he has done in six previous productions, he would have learned something which only this city can teach him about Boop!, and that would be that Betty’s own story still needs a lot more fleshing out.

Jasmine Amy Rogers (Betty Boop) and Ensemble Photo’s by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Boop! continues through December 24 at the CIBC Theater, 18 West Monroe Street, in Chicago.  For tickets visit

Continue Reading


Countdown to Christmas Day: Map The Song Of Your Life



17 days to go! Every year people panic to find the perfect gift. We at T2C have been collecting idea’s all year long to bring you the perfect gift guide at all price levels. When you’re at the end of your rope trying to find the perfect Christmas present this year, come to this guide for some great suggestions.

How unique is this Spiral Song Lyric with Night Sky Map Clock.

Looking for a way to capture a meaningful day and text in one beautiful design? Grab a Personalized Star Map for you on a clock. Have questions about this design or how to personalize it for you or a gift? Message, as customer happiness is their #1 goal.

You give the company The Artist, Song Title or enter lyrics, a quote, names, address (for night sky) and the date and a spiral print will be printed showing the star map, alignment of the stars and constellations from your special day. Personally I think it is an amazing gift at $53.97 .

Free proofs are provided as well as quick edits to make sure you love your design before it’s printed. 

To personalize your night sky spiral print, click here. 

Continue Reading


Have You Begun Dreaming of It Yet?  (PART I) 



What else – White Christmas, of course! 

December is jampacked with great entertainment, so I hope you’re caught up on your shopping, because there are lots of treats for you this month. Here’s a stockingful of events that you shouldn’t miss.   

If you’re looking for probably the most glamorous gift of the season, drop by Doyle Galleries to at least look at The Ellin and Irving Berlin Sapphire and Diamond Ring.  Bidding is estimated to begin at $200,000 at the December 14th auction. 

Jason Henderson kicked off the month reprising his highly acclaimed latest venture, Getting to Noël You at Don’t Tell Mama on the 4th.  If you missed this evening, don’t worry – he’s back by popular demand—same time, same location—on January 24th and February 11th.  It’s quite a curious and fast-paced ride he takes us on, and it’s one not to be missed.   

The York Theatre has delivered a mitzvah–just in time for Christmas. Billed as a Musical Comedy of Biblical Proportions, The Jerusalem Syndrome certainly lived up to expectations.  You must see it to discover the meaning of the title, which is fact, not fiction. 

 While this has been in development for several years, the skilled midwifery of the York brought forth a little bundle of joy that had the audience laughing at its humor and touched by its message.  Sensitive to the current Middle East conflict, the York bravely went ahead with the project, which affords everyone a chance to marvel and understand the miracle that is Israel. 

 It’s running through the end of the year—visit the York website for more info. 

Urban Stages has announced its “2023 Winter Rhythms” series, the award-winning music festival at Urban Stages Theater (259 West 30th Street – between 7th & 8th Avenues). 

It began with a gala on December 6 entitled “Nights at the Algonquin: A Celebration of The Oak Room Supper Club,” featuring many legendary cabaret performers including  Natalie Douglas, Boots MalesonSteve Ross, and Daryl Sherman.  Hosted by Michael Colby (author of The Algonquin Kid), the evening began with a champagne and wine reception followed by the show at 7:30 with a post-show gathering to follow.  

On Sunday, December 10 at 3pm “Created at the Algonquin: Songs from Musicals Written at The Algonquin,” featuring performances by Craig Bierko, Shana Farr, Jenn Gambatese, Anita Gillette, Jon Peterson, Steve Ross and others. The program will be directed by Sara Louise Lazarus with Michael Lavine directing the music.   

As part of the festivities, Shana Farr will reprise her glorious Barbara Cook tribute on the 16th.   Ice Cream,. Anyone?   


Everyone’s favorite is Karen Mason, whose show Christmas!  Christmas! Christmas! is one night only at Birdland at 7 pm on the 11th.   

Stay tuned for Part II for Christmas romance, tradition, and good will! 

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2023 Times Square Chronicles